Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
It was unusually warm for late April, and raining. Jean Wyatt, standing by the phone in the fluorescent-eggplant-colored 1970's kitchen she hated, took one last drag on the cigarette and stubbed it out. She took a few breaths to calm herself, and tried to focus on being friendly, open, not pushy. Just asking a favor. A simple favor.
She called the number.
"Hello, who's there?" The voice was of a middle-aged woman, with a very slight Spanish accent.
"Hello, this is Jean Wyatt. Is this Rosa Kees?"
"Well, you don't know me, but..." Jean paused, and then pushed on -- too late to back out now -- "well, we're actually related."
"Look, I'm from the United States, I'm -- I'm emigrating. I'm really sorry to bother you. It's just -- well, I don't have any family, and I'm moving to the Free States, and I was doing some genealogy and I found out I had relatives... and I found your name."
Rosa didn't say anything, so Jean kept going: "I don't want to impose on you or anything, I'm sure you're very busy with your family and all... But I thought maybe you'd be interested in getting together and comparing notes, and maybe you had some advice on helping me settle in?"
There was a long pause, and then, "Well sure, Jean. As it happens I don't have any family, either. I mean, I was married, but my husband died a few years back, and I have some cousins, but I don't see them much. So yes, that would be lovely. Do you have a place to stay?"
"Not yet. Immigration is going to help set me up with an apartment and a job, but I need to choose the city, and I haven't decided where I want to live yet..."
"So why are you emigrating, may I ask? I mean... since the United States and the Free States are going to reunify anyway?"
Jean breathed in, out, tried to relax. She'd never been any good at lying. So... tell part of the truth. "Oh sure, but who knows how long that will take? You see, my father just died last year, and he was sick for years, and really I don't have much money left. It's been so hard here in the US. I don't know if you've seen on the news, but after the troubles a few years ago the economy has just been awful and the welfare checks are never enough..."
Rosa accepted Jean's half-lie, and started asking when she would be visiting and for how long and whether she'd been to the Free States before and how, exactly, they were related, and talking about how beautiful her home in Savannah was, and how wonderful her cats were, and...
Jean listened, the phone cradled on her shoulder, while her hands slowly took her pistol out of her pocket, and unloaded it, and reloaded it, and unloaded it, and reloaded it...