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Bureaucratic red tape had its purpose, but not in this case. Both Reagan’s biological parents were dead, and just days ago, Judge Gonzalez had confirmed Bette as her legal guardian. In any reasonable system, a single stroke of the pen by the same judge should declare Bette as Reagan’s legal parent. But as Bette had encountered often in her job, reasonable outcomes seldom materialized without considerable intervention and required navigating many frustrating government hoops.
Arriving at the bank of elevators in the lobby of San Francisco’s federal building, Bette repositioned her cell phone along her ear. “How soon can Social Services conduct the home study, Kadin?”
“If we pay for a private contractor, we can have it done this week.” Kadin’s voice faded out once when the chatter of a group of men near the elevator got louder.
“Do it.” Eric mumbling something forced Bette to press a finger against her other ear to better hear Kadin. “I want this done as quickly as possible.”
“Consider it done. I have to warn you. Once I file, the court will notify both sets of grandparents of your petition. We may have a fight on our hands with the Santoses.”
“You’re probably right, but I have two words for them: Bring it.” Stronger and more determined, Bette would make Avery’s wish come true. And despite her homophobic in-laws, she would become Reagan’s legal parent.
“I like your style, Bette. I’ll let you know when I line it up.”
Bette ended the call and slid her iPhone in her coat pocket.
After boarding the elevator, Eric brushed back the flaps of his tailored dark blue suit coat. He accentuated his brawny shoulders by locking both hands on his trim waist to size up Bette. “You seem different.”
“Different good or different bad?” Bette asked, tilting her head once.
She felt different. The old Bette before the wildfire fixated on the past and what she had lost. Without the burden of guilt weighing her down, the new Bette considered the future and options she previously labeled inconceivable, such as single parenting and turning in her badge. While putting bad guys away still called her, the long, irregular hours and dangerous situations she sometimes found herself in didn’t have the same appeal. Reagan came first with Tina as a close second.