"I don't really have time for the whole ugly soap opera. I mean, the telenovela stuff has got nothing on this." A raspy laugh. "Okay, the short version is that she's a really distant cousin. She got hurt this winter, and someone who knows somebody else saw her name on the paperwork and they started asking questions, and my freakazoid relatives finally started talking, and somebody finally told me. I mean, come on, I find out I have a girl cousin my own age that nobody ever told me existed. Wouldn't you make contact? Us against the world kind of thing?"
Su-Ma's instinctive response was to say Sue-Marie no longer worked here, or she had found the phone or borrowed it, or a dozen other weak lies that might just work if this previously unknown, very distant cousin was as uncomfortable as she sounded. She could just say this was a wrong number. After all, chances were this alleged cousin was just as bad as the rest of the family and she had really only made contact because she thought she could profit from the connection. After all, so many people seemed to think the Arc Foundation was made out of money, and they all wanted a share.
Yet what if this girl felt just as unwanted, unwelcome, awkward and inconvenient as Su-Ma had been made to feel, growing up? She was quite ready to believe someone in her attenuated, easily offended family had known there was another girl she could have grown up with. They had denied the two of them a chance at a pleasant family situation.
"Everybody calls me Su-Ma," she said instead, and stopped with the toes of her sneakers against the edge of the long reflecting pool fountain one level down from the patio.
Maybe this cousin had changed her mind.
"Uh -- hi, Su-Ma. I'm Nia. Short for Lavinia. They named me for Great-great-granny Cooper-Smythe." An awkward, raspy laugh. "Did they even tell you about her?"