Never Give Up
Written for the following prompt, femgenficathon 2010: The triumph can't be had without the struggle. - Wilma Rudolph (1940-1994), African-American Olympian athlete. First American woman to win three gold medals in track and field...and she won while running on a sprained ankle.
Standard disclaimer applies; not my characters or settings or backgrounds. But they are my words.
"I'll never give up! Never!" The screen blanked as the petite woman, tense with fury, punched at the key on the side of the screen. Running her hand through her long dark hair, she wished there was something nearby to slam; a door or a window. All the windows on Mars were hermetically sealed. It made things terribly unsatisfying sometimes, even in a home as nice as hers.
The first thing Lise Hampton-Edgars had done when her husband's estate was settled was to sell the opulent dome in which they had lived and he had died. She had her agents purchase a simpler, but still comfortably uxorious, home for her use. When she'd become Lise Hampton-Edgars Garibaldi, she'd been able to offer Michael a place to live which was unconnected with her previous life. Michael had accepted her decision to go with the three-barrelled name with good grace. Keeping the Edgars name was a reminder of her authority in the corporation. Keeping the Hampton name was a connection to her past. She smiled. Garibaldi, of course, was her future. Then the smile faltered; she had nothing left from her first marriage. There had only been one good thing that had come of that, and nothing but blood connected her to Deborah.
Lise drummed her fingers absently on the mahogany desktop. Bill had bought her the desk; a joke gift in a way, since she had been working as his administrative assistant when they had first met. William Edgars had believed in rewarding hard work. Co-ordinating schedules and managing communications for the head of a multiplanetary corporation hadn't been easy. Bill had eventually trusted her with sensitive information and secret negotiations. She had been silent witness to many private meetings and deals, and in the process had gained a good basic knowledge of the inner workings of Edgars Corporation. Not that Bill had ever expected Lise to be in charge of his massive corporate empire, but then he hadn't expected to be killed either.
The stack of papers and files on her desk had nothing to do with business. The day-to-day running of the gigantic company she had been glad to turn over to Michael. He made an excellent CEO, and she maintained discreet control from her position as Chairman of the Board. It was a separation of powers, and that was the way she liked it. So far it worked for Michael, and it left her largely free to pursue her own interests and passions. Lise turned over a folder, stuffing a dry and crackly flimsy inside, then carefully labeling the outside with the date, and 'CLOSED' in red letters. It was old-fashioned, but after years dealing with high tech data filing and electronic records, she found the shuffling of paper and thin plastic records oddly comforting. She'd gotten into the habit after Michael had finally gotten the last of his effects shipped to Mars from Babylon 5. There had been a few plasteel cases filled with case notes and personal records, largely on paper, some even hand-written. He had confessed, shame-faced, that even with his expertise with computers, sometimes he was able to think things out better when the facts were spread out around him on scraps of paper.
Michael had offered to help her find Deborah, the long-missing child of her short-lived first marriage. Deborah's father, Franz, had come along when Lise was still hurting over Michael's choice to leave her and Mars. What a mistake that ill-fated marriage had been! The pain of dissolution had been ratcheted up a thousand-fold when Franz sued for custody of their infant daughter, gained it from the biased Earth-friendly courts, and then re-located with the baby back to Earth. Deborah had been raised by another woman, Franz's second wife, on another world. Franz had been working at the University of Geneva during Earth's troubles, and somehow, in all the confusion and civil unrest, he and his wife had been killed, and Deborah had disappeared.
Although Michael had made his offer of assistance out of his love for her and his certainty of his investigative abilities, Lise had refused. Advice she would accept, and introductions to his contacts on Earth and Mars, but she needed to do this herself. Deborah was her daughter, and her responsibility. Lise knew Deborah didn't even know her, and might be perfectly happy living her life in another family. Everything might be fine, but Lise had to know. If there was anything she could do to help Deborah, even if just to secure her child's future with a few of the millions of credits she had inherited, Lise felt she had to try.
The query came from the front hallway, and Lise dashed angry tears quickly from her eyes as Michael entered the room, a bundle of repressed energy, almost vibrating with life and bouncing off his heels as he flew towards her. He kissed the top of her head, then moved his lips down to her neck before rocking backward to look intently at her face.
"Hey, what's wrong?"
Lise saw him glance down at the folders, note the brightly colored despairing letters, and shake his head.
"Another lead shot down, huh?" Michael took hold of a chair and turned it around and sat down, folding his arms across the top of the chair back, resting his chin on his arms. "Tell me about it."
Lise felt her anxiety and tension drain away as she recounted the results of the last fruitless search. There had been an official program encouraging adoption of Earth children by couples in the colony worlds. It was meant to ease the bitterness that remained from Clark's war of aggression, and to renew the ties between the colonies and the homeworld. The limits on family size in the colonies had left them eager to accept the gesture. Records of these placements, only a few hundred, were somewhat incomplete on Earth, and Lise had detectives following up each child that had been relocated. None of the girls were Deborah's age or matched the scanty description they had managed to scrape up from Geneva. Her baby girl hadn't even started school when she'd gone missing.
"Lise, have you thought any more about what we were talking about last night?" Michael's voice was hesitant, almost shy.
Lise thought he looked terribly appealing in his vulnerability. She reached over and lightly touched his arm, still resting on the back of the chair. "I think it would be a great idea for us to try and have a child. But understand, Michael. I'll never give up trying to find Deborah. Never. I need to find her. I need to know that she's all right."
"I know that." Michael took her hand in his, and kissed it fondly. "I know because you never gave up on me."
Lise smiled. "No, I didn't. It might have seemed like it sometimes, but I never did."
Michael stood and pulled her up from her chair and into his arms. "Nope. God knows why." Locking his arms around her, he kissed her once, then twice, then said, "I'm starving. Let's go to the kitchen and I'll make you some dinner. We've still got some of that last shipment from Earth. Gotta use the fresh garlic before it goes bad."
Lise started to laugh. "There's the real reason right there. Who would give up on a man who can cook like you can?" As they walked towards the kitchen, arm in arm, Lise thought maybe that was the very essence of love. When you love someone, you never give up.