Mothers and Daughters will be a series of diary entries from Grace, Esther, Abigail, and notes to Annie from Margaret Bennett leading up to Oliver and Grace's wedding. I wanted to write a fic where even though each person is addressing their diary or a person it feels like they are talking to the reader. Hopefully everyone feels the same way. :-)

Sequel to Declarations, Hesitations, and Realizations!

I noted it on my profile page awhile ago but I updated my username, changing it from colee41 to NikitaKaralis for personal reasons. Thanks for your understanding and I hope the change didn't cause too much confusion! :-) :-/

On a side note, July 4th 1933 actually occurred on a Monday but for my purposes I'm making it a Sunday for my fic! :-)

Many thanks to markaleen, Sis21K, and The Unnamed Avatar for previewing, proofing, and giving sound advice on making this story flow well. I have a bit of writer's block but wanted to post to see how many people would be interested in me continuing this story line. I know my previewers have given their opinions. ;-)


July 4th 1933 (10:30 a.m. – free time for the ladies prior to Annie's adoption party)

Dear Bessie,

It's just under 12 hours until Annie's Adoption Party and I am still on cloud nine! Not only am I gaining a daughter but I'm also engaged to my one true love! Bessie, can you believe it?! Oliver loves me! Me?! Grace Farrell!

Oh Bessie, where to begin?! It's been such a whirlwind these past few days, come to think of it, I don't think I've written to you since the night after the movies. I guess I'll just catch you up starting with a few nights ago, I just didn't have the heart to write down my sorrows and fears that we would most likely lose Annie. After all, that night, I felt so sure I could convince Oliver to keep Annie especially after we tucked her into bed together, and I did; however, I never dreamed that Annie might have parents still out there and she would want to find them. Not only turning Oliver and the rest of us down but also breaking our hearts in the process.

When Oliver started barking all those orders, instead of shouting off the rooftops with glee, I just knew something was wrong; BUT, I think I fell in love with him a little bit more that day when he put his own pain to the side in order to help Annie. I remember the look on her face when he informed us of the purpose of his orders, it was one of adoration and awe which people often display when they are looking up at their personal hero; however, when I glanced at Oliver, even though his voice was cool and steady, I could still read the hurt and pain in his eyes. Once he concluded, I immediately took his cue and mimicked his outer disposition in order to help Annie, but I'm sure my eyes reflected the same pain and hurt as his.

Oh Bessie! It was horrible, all those people lied about being her parents and when we gained some hope that she may still be ours it was quickly dashed when Rooster Hannigan and his 'dame,' as Annie likes to refer to her, duped us. If it weren't for … if it weren't for the other orphans running and I mean running for over an hour (at least) to warn us … I don't even want to think what could have happened to Annie. She'd probably … well, she wouldn't be here because Punjab wouldn't have been there to rescue her! Bessie, I need to get off this subject!

Okay, okay, okay! Let's see after her rescue and after the chief of police left, I could tell Annie was trying to shield her pain and fear from us with her fake bravo, but I just couldn't let her feel like she had to hide it from us. I quickly hauled her up into my arms, and before long we both were sobbing uncontrollably. If it wasn't for Oliver, I would have lost my balance. He then guided us over to the sofa in the office and as I held Annie in my arms, he confirmed to her and to me, in a manner of speaking, that he still wanted her. I was so relieved! Then the most wonderful thing happened, not only did Annie fall asleep in my embrace again like a babe in her mother' arms, but Oliver also cuddled with us as we too succumbed to the sandman! It was the most wonderful five hours of my life up until Oliver's proposal/'sealing the deal' as Annie likes to put it!

Oh Bessie, he's loved me almost as long as I've loved him! It's invigorating as well as nerve racking that we've wasted so much time thinking we weren't good enough for one another! However, if I'm looking for the silver lining in our long wait, it would have to be Annie! That little girl has stolen all our hearts. I've also figured out for the most part, that all her happiness, charm, and gusto for life are truly her personality, but they are also shields to hide the neglect and hurt she's felt over the years. This morning as I laid awake with her sandwiched in between us, I had an epiphany; Oliver hired me about the same time her parents gave her up!

Bessie, my thoughts are all over the place, but I have so much to tell you, please bear with me! It was confirmed by Mr. Donatelli yesterday morning that Annie's birth parents were indeed dead which burst the proposal euphoria! Thank goodness, Mama Esther, Abigail, and I had just finished discussing wedding ideas when Oliver came back into his office with Mr Donatelli. He then signaled that I should stay as Mama Esther and Abigail discretely bid us a farewell to attend to the party details, and I am sure to start wedding preparations (after all, I know them all too well). I know my fear must have been etched on my face because instead of sitting behind his desk Oliver lead Mr. Donatelli to the sitting area of his office. Oliver then sat down next to me as he grasped my hand while Mr. Donatelli sat in the adjacent chair.

Mr. Dontatelli placed his briefcase on the floor then proceeded to tell us of his deepest regrets concerning Annie's abduction in addition to an investigation of Miss Hannigan's actions and conduct the night before as well as in the past. He stated that he and several other board members went to her office yesterday in order to do some much needed research, filing, and house cleaning. He indicated he and the others were appalled at the living conditions the girls were in and that the organization of the paperwork in the office may take days; however, he did have the files on the girls currently staying with us. He stated at least Miss Hannigan kept the intake records straight. Mr. Donatelli said that the girls earthly possessions would be harder to comb through because Miss Hannigan had just stashed them in the closet with little organization, but he reassured us that he had staff assigned to do the task. After all he truly believed each girl in the orphanage had a right to hold onto something from her past.

Before Oliver and I could ask what spurred on Mr. Donatelli's investigation, he supplied the information to us without preamble. He stated that the photographs of Annie and her birth parents in addition to the fake birth certificate had him out his front door ten minutes after reading the newspaper as well as making several phone calls to his staff. The anticipation of Annie's records were driving my already fried nerves over the edge. I know Oliver could feel my body start to tremble as we shared the same thought that we could lose her again.

After Mr Donatelli's apology and explanation, he wasted no time in opening his briefcase going straight for Annie's file first, most likely knowing that reviewing any of the other girls' file first would go right over our heads. When Oliver was handed her file, we briskly flipped through the documents while he explained its continents. In the file was a copy of her birth certificate that was tracked down by a staff member after she was placed in their care (He stated that it's protocol, especially if a child is placed in a home by people other than family). It also had the reason why her father placed her in the orphanage in addition to the note that Annie referred to about how they would return for her. Behind the note was a well sketched graphite picture of the three of them. We both glanced at it a bit longer before flipping to the next document. The last pieces of paper clipped in her file were her birth parents' death certificates and a news article about the fire they died in as well as the location.

After we quickly flipped through the papers, we returned to the birth certificate to fully peruse it. Our baby girl's real name is Anne Margaret Bennett, not Anne Marie, the daughter of David and Margaret Bennett. The reason she was placed in the orphanage was her mother had barely survived a late miscarriage that resulted with severe hemorrhaging and a long hospital stay. It also stated that Mr. Bennett struggled to pay the hospital and sitter bills in addition to putting food on the table for Annie and himself. Mr. Donatelli stated that David made the hard decision to give her a chance, but made sure that Miss Turner understood they would be back for her when they had the means to support her. Mr. Donatelli stated that Miss Turner was the original caretaker before Miss Hannigan took over. He stated that she did a much better job taking notes on the girls' background when they came into the orphanage that's why there was more information on Annie (unfortunately, only Kate and Duffy have similar files because Miss Hannigan did the other girls' intakes).

Toward the bottom of Annie's intake was a note made by Miss Turner about how Mr. Bennett was illiterate and only able to sign with his initials DB, however, on a good note he was able to copy and write words down on paper. The famous note read, "We love you and we'll be back! Hold on to your momma's locket because when we return to you that's how you'll know it's us. Love Papa." Then under it Miss Turner described the scene that must have occurred when he scribbled down his message. "Mr. Bennett was distraught, as he humbly asked me to write out the message so he could copy it down while he bounced the baby in his arms with silent tears streaking down his cheeks. He stated, 'I want her to know I wrote it for her." I remember feeling like I just got sucker punched in the stomach after reading the heart wrenching statement. I could just picture the 'young papa' feeling like he failed both his wife and daughter at the very same moment, and not wanting to part with his child but making the ultimate sacrifice to give Annie a chance!

Our breaths hitched at the same time when we turned to the graphite picture again and it had the initials DB at the bottom of it. David must have sketched it! I must say Annie's birth parents were a handsome young couple and in the picture Margaret Bennett wore the infamous broken locket which appeared very whole (I wonder if David broke it some how? I guess we will never know!). I have to say Annie clearly got her round face, curly locks, and freckles from Margaret, but she definitely got her grin and dimples from David. Unfortunately, it was black and white so I am not sure where she got the color of her eyes nor if her hair color completely matched Margaret's. I knew that once Annie saw the picture she would plead to have it framed and placed in her room.

Our gazes naturally lifted toward each other as we shared a nonverbal conversation that we would finish memorizing the graphite picture with our little girl. Oh, Bessie it was electrifying yet endearing that we were starting to understand and communicate on a whole new personal level! Anyway, once we affectionately squeezed each other's hands and supplied each other with soft grins of support (after all we didn't want to give Mr. Donatelli a show) we continued to the death certificates and the newspaper clipping. Their death certificates stated David and Margaret passed away in a house fire on April 4th, 1928 that would have been when Annie was just five years old! Oh Bessie, that's not the worst of it, they lived just six blocks away from Annie and their death's were due to foul play!

If it hadn't been for Oliver's arm around me for support I'm sure I would have completely crumbled in front of Mr. Donatelli. I remember looking up at Oliver and he too had the same thought as me because he whispered it out loud, "to live so close yet so far." Oh, Bessie it was almost like they wanted to be close to Annie or later I even thought if I were them I would have moved closer in order to get a glance of her every once in awhile.

After a few minutes of our shared sorrow for the Bennetts' plight, Mr. Donatelli cleared his throat to gain our attentions again. He then proceeded to share the rest of the girl's files and stories with us. Who to begin with? Obviously all of them ended up in the orphanage so their stories are similar but so different. Bessie you can tell Miss Turner cared about each girl's story when she took their intake because she went above and beyond Miss Hannigan. I'm going to write a synopsis of each girl's intake below and you will see how Miss Hannigan and Miss Turner differed in their paperwork skills:

July Davis

-three year old dropped off by non-relative

-no father

-mother died from malnutrition that lead to illness and death

-child not scrawny or skin and bone (mother must of fed child)

-no extended family to claim her or willing to financially support her at this time

-no siblings

-adoptable

-Miss Hannigan

Molly Clark

-four year old dropped off by neighbor

-mother and father died in automobile accident returning home from movie

-well kept, nourishment, and good manners

-no extended family to claim her or willing to financially support her at this time

-no siblings

-adoptable

-Miss Hannigan

Pepper Lee

-six year old dropped off by paternal father

-father relinquished custody

-mother died two days prior

-father kept boys and stated "worthless little whore has no value in my home!'

-father stated placement here or placing her on Orphan Train

-scrawny, malnourished, welts on body, plausible mental and physical abuse

-adoptable

-Miss Hannigan

Oh Bessie, all the girls' files were horrid, but I felt Oliver nearly come out of his seat when he read what Mr. Lee said about his own daughter. I digress but no wonder she has a chip on her shoulder!

Tessie Johnson

-five year old transfer from Buffalo, NY girls orphanage due to it being overcrowded

-father died due to work related accident

-mother died six months after birth due to pneumonia

-no extended family to claim her or willing to financially support her at this time

-no siblings

-adoptable

-Miss Hannigan

Duffy Smith

-two year old relinquished by maternal Aunt

-Duffy's father, Charles, died in horrific work accident and her mother, Julia, attempted to continue to support herself and her beautiful daughter, however, Mrs. Smith died six months after her husband due to complications of influenza.

-Per her Aunt Addie (mother's sister), no extended family is able to financially support another child, therefore, they relinquished the sweet toddler to our care in order to give her a fighting chance as well as a possible adoption due to her young age.

-Duffy is an adorable strawberry blonde with dimples and striking brown eyes as well as a bubbly infectious personality.

-No siblings

-Pictures and family mementos were left by her Aunt to give to Duffy at a suitable age. They are in envelope marked with her name on it.

-adoptable

-Miss Turner

Kate Wilson

-four year old relinquished by family friend

-Mother and father died in horrific mining accident. They both worked to support large family with neighbor/co-worker's wife watching their four children during the work hours (3 boys and 1 girl).

-Mrs. Wallace relinquished Kate into our care because she heard our orphanage would avoid child labor/Orphan Trains.

-Mrs. Wallace attempted to search for extended relatives for the Wilson children but was unable to locate any that were willing to take them on financially; and, unfortunately she was unable to provide appropriate nourishment and financial support herself for all the Wilson children.

-Mrs. Wallace left the mine and her address for future contacting. She hoped Kate would be able to keep in contact with her brothers in the future, because the Wilson boys would be staying with the Wallace family due to their age and two out of the three would be able to work in the mines part-time to assist financially.

-Mrs. Wallace hoped that one day Kate and the boys would be reunited.

-She also left a few family items for Kate to have in the future.

-Kate is an adorable brunette with big expressive doe eyes and has a sweet disposition that any parent would love in a child.

-adoptable

-Miss Turner

Bessie, as you can see Miss Turner's paperwork was far superior to Miss Hannigan's. After, Oliver and I reviewed each girl's file, Mr. Donatelli assured us that each girl would be given their rightful items once they located them in the storage closet. Unfortunately the only three that definitely had items listed in their files were Annie, Duffy, and Kate. Mr. Donatelli feared what Oliver implied verbally that Miss Hannigan's poor record taking could possibly indicate her pawning off the more valuable items of all the orphans.

Once Oliver and I calmed down enough to wrap our minds around all the girls' stories, Mr. Donatelli pulled out release papers for the girls for the weekend. Oliver immediately signed all six forms, and as he was signing them Mr. Donatelli started to pack up all the files in his briefcase. I at once asked, "Mr. Donatelli, what are you doing?" My question instantly had Oliver's attention as well, and his glare definitely stopped Mr. Donatelli in his tracks. Mr. Donatelli even cleared his throat a few times and it almost looked like sweat was beading from his mustache.

I found this situation quite invigorating, one, because I've been present on multiple occasions to watch Oliver successfully render mighty businessmen speechless just by using his glare tactics and, two, we were now a united front when it came to personal matters. "W-w-well, I-I just thought … I just thought I would collect these and …," stuttered Mr. Donatelli as he started to pull at his collar uncomfortably.

Oliver squeezed my hand to give me the hint to take the lead on this subject. It sent 'warm fuzzy feelings' throughout my whole body, Bessie! "Mr. Donatelli, we appreciate you sharing the girls' files, but I believe they are also entitled to know their backgrounds as well. After all, the majority of them were too young to fully understand or recall the reasons they were given up for adoption." I saw Mr. Donatelli attempting to make a statement, but I manipulatively continued on, "Mr. Donatelli, I realize your concern for some of the girls because their stories are not as detailed or pretty as the others, but I believe each one is stronger than you think! After all, their compassion and devotion toward our daughter brilliantly showed last night when they ran from the orphanage all the way here just to warn her and us of the heist! Not only do they care about Annie but they also showed their courage by defying Miss Hannigan as well. They did this fully knowing their plight should they get caught by their caretaker. Their run and warning just goes to show us all what great charisma and champion personalities they all have! I believe, as well as Oliver, that they can all handle their stories, even Pepper! I also have a feeling that when each one learns of their story, the others will rally around her … believe it or not those girls have created their own little family with each other."

Bessie, to say each man in the room was silent after my speech was an understatement! It was quite exhilarating that I charged on before they could respond to my next plan of action, "Now, I'm going to go retrieve all the girls from the garden and I totally expect their files to still be out ready for us to share their stories with them." I then stood up and squared my shoulders as I left the office in order to retrieve the girls. Bessie, I remember wanting to deflate right outside the door, but I had to remain strong for all the girls. They so deserved to know their stories!

Once I moved to the lower landing, I spotted Drake and inquired about Cecile, Annette, Jane, and Mabel's whereabouts. I figured it would be better to have some reinforcements when the girls learned of their pasts, especially since they had started to form better bonds with the girls. I guess you could say to have more shoulders to cry on or bodies to embrace if required. However, Drake informed me that Mrs. Greer sent them out to get one or two more outfits for each girl as well as their own swimming suit. I told Drake, before I headed toward the back terrace, to send them to Oliver's office once they returned because I would need their assistance with all the girls.

Oh Bessie, the closer I got to the terrace the more nervous I became because not only would I watch my baby girl shatter a bit more that day, but we would also shatter and rock a few of the other girls' foundations as well! When I stepped out on the to the terrace ,I saw Jack, Dexter, Michael, and Rolland out with the girls. It appeared like they were attempting to make kites, and Annie confirmed my suspicions when she ran up to me in greeting once she saw me. "Mom! We're makin' kites! None of us have ever flown a kite 'fore! Jack said that ya can make'em dance in the air too! Have ya ever flown a kite?!" Annie asked with so much excitement she was nearly jumping out of her skin but her enthusiasm was so catching all I could do was chuckle as I returned her infectious hug.

"Yes, my dear, I've flown a kite before but not recently! I'm sure we'll have plenty of time to fly kites this weekend. It also appears some men are willing to relive their childhood through you girls!" Oh Bessie, you should have seen all the sheepish looks coming from the men, but the girls' responses were priceless because they were just beaming from ear to ear with excitement.

It was actually the very reserved and shy Dexter that respond to my suspicions. "Miss Farrell, it was my idea this morning so I ran into town and purchased five kites. Unfortunately they only had five color schemes but the girls have assured us they are willing to share," Dexter stated softly with red tinged ears as all the girls nodded their heads in agreement, "I also figured it would be something to do besides swimming to keep the girls from being under foot during the party set-up tomorrow."

"That's so sweet and thoughtful Dexter! However, 'boys' if you don't mind, I need all these lovely young ladies to follow me upstairs. Mr. Donatelli from the board of orphanages has come to congratulate all of them on their heroics last night as well as to share with each of them their stories." You would have thought the sails in the all the kites ripped after my statement. All the girls even, my Annie, blanched a bit after hearing that their backgrounds would be revealed to them, however, my 'tough tenacious' Annie puffed up with false bravo and a brave face after a few moments.

"Mom, you'll be there right?" Oh Bessie, I will never tire of hearing her refer to me as mom! Even though the atmosphere was tense, I still felt warm fuzzy feelings flow through me every time Annie called me mom.

"Yes, Annie! Your father and I have already reviewed everyone's file, so we will both be there as well. I've also asked Drake to send up Cecile, Annette, Jane, and Mabel when they return from their shopping excursion."

Once I made my last statement, the men and the girls both relaxed a bit. I could tell the men were growing attached to respective girls their wives had already grown close to last night because they had either tucked them under their arms in a supportive embrace or placed a comforting hand on their shoulders. However, knowing each of them like I do, I knew they weren't ready to be the 'adult' to comfort each girl after learning of their past, so I let them off the hook (as Annie would say), "Gentlemen, we'll leave you to kite building while we ladies head up to Mr. Warbucks' office to learn of our pasts, so from now on we can set sail toward new horizons without dark clouds in our skies."

"Huh," was the response I received from my daughter, Bessie. I was trying so hard to sound nonchalant as well as eloquent, however, the men did catch onto my meaning even though the girls didn't understand my metaphor.

"Annie … girls, just follow me so we can review each of your stories so we can put our pasts behind us and move forward."

"Oh, why didn'tcha just say so mom?" Annie said as the other girls nodded in agreement as they filed in behind Annie. Oh Bessie, I felt like a goose leading all her gosling to the butcher! The girls followed me up to Mr. Warbucks - I mean Oliver's office - with so much trust, and as we entered, I just had to hug each one. This, of course, caused some confusion for some as alarm bells were going off in the others. Bessie, I swear if Annie didn't want us to be civil with Miss Hannigan, I would gladly wring her neck for all the love and security she robbed the girls while they were in her care!

I started the session off slyly as I saw both men struggling to start our meeting. "Mr. Warbucks, Mr. Donatelli, here are the heroes of last night! Mr. Donatelli, I know you wanted to thank each girl for her bravery as well as Mr. Warbucks." Oliver initially gave me a funny look when I addressed him formally, but I eased his mind quickly by giving him a wink. Bessie, thank goodness the men weren't too dense and took my lead. Mr. Donatelli and Oliver both went up to each girl and shook their hands as well as telling each of them 'a job well done.' Most of the younger girls 'puffed up like a blow fish' (another phrase Annie uses) with pride and honor, but one or two (mainly Pepper) appeared to remain very guarded. I would say Annie, Kate, and Duffy were also unsure how to respond due to the vibes Pepper was putting off.

It didn't take long to figure out what was setting off Pepper as she got the ball rolling for each girl's backstory. "Soooo, enough of the congratulations … already! Whatcha really wanta talk 'bout is how each of us were dumped off at the orphanage! Well I already knows my story so you can just skip it!"

All the girls' eyes bugged out as well as mine! Duffy and Annie immediately pinched Pepper's arm in an attempt, I'm sure, to nonverbally tell her to mind her manners in addition to keeping her mouth shut! This only caused Pepper to 'plow full steam ahead' (another Annieism); however, just as she started her next monologue, the door to Oliver's office slowly opened behind us.

"Well, I can tell'ya what mine says! You don't have'ta figure 'way'ta sugar coat it, my pa said 'I was a worthless little whore who had no value in his household' and kept my brothers," Pepper stated nonchalantly with steel in her voice; however, just as she made that comment, Jane stepped into the room followed by Cecile, Annette, and Mabel. They clearly heard her statement because gasps alerted us of their return and presence in the office.

The room fell silent with shock; you could hear a pin drop, Bessie. Not only that but I also instantly saw a change in sweet Jane when venom sparked in her eyes. After all, Pepper was the child she and Dexter had been caring for since the girls arrival! However, the most intriguing moment was shortly after when all the girls flanked themselves around Pepper in order to provide her with silent support; that's when all of the adults in the room realized that these girls may not have 'parents,' but they definitely had created their own little family among themselves.

Finally, someone spoke up to break the silence. "Pepper, I want you to know that we can never go back to that moment when your 'pa' caused all that hurt and pain, but as a man I am sorry for what he said and that you heard it." Of all the people to step up and give a pep talk to Pepper in that moment was none other than 'The Oliver Warbucks,' also known as my future husband and the very man who was scared to death of little girls just a little over a week ago.

He then stepped in front of Pepper then nodded to the other girls for their approval before crouching lower to be closer to her level as he continued, "I also know what it's like to have a father abandon you as well as too make you feel worthless, but just like you I found a family in some of the shipmates I worked along side as a mere lad." During his comment about 'family' he gestured toward the girls standing around her, and then our sweet perceptive Annie stepped up beside Oliver in order to give him a supportive side hug after he laid out his 'heart and pain on the table' for not only Pepper but everyone else to see in the room as well.

During his dialogue, Jane glided across the room with a determined stride as she stoically hid her detest for Mr. Lee and replaced it with love and comfort. "Pepper," Jane's soft yet even voice floated above Oliver's head as she captured her attention and continued to hold her gaze as she continued, "I agree with Mr. Warbucks, what your 'pa' said was horrid and no little girl should hear those comments, ever! Each of you has a purpose on this earth, and it's a shame the adults in your life, up until now, have had a negative impact on them!"

It was amazing, Bessie, as Jane stated those words it was as if each girl felt affirmation that they weren't 'life's mistakes,' however, the greatest moment was when Jane opened her arms for Pepper and she willingly fell into her comforting embrace. Then all of us heard the telltale sign that Pepper finally released the flood gates to her tear ducts as years of pent up hurt were quickly shed in the comfort of Jane's arms. Initially, the other girls were a bit shocked and fearful when Pepper started to cry … and after little Molly's comments earlier about getting whipped for crying I don't blame them for their reactions. However, Cecile, Annette, and Mabel immediately added their boxes and bags to Jane's pile by the door before they swooped in toward 'their overnight charges' to comfort them as they too noticed their lips were beginning to tremble in sympathy for their friend as well as for their own pain.

By then Oliver had hoisted Annie up into his arms, and I had lovingly joined them in a group hug as we all shared knowing looks that crying is very soul soothing. Poor Mr. Donatelli looked so out of place, like a brown suit among tuxedos, as we all attended to the girls' immediate needs as they released some of their bottled-up hurt and pain from their loss or abandonment. Once, the girls appeared to have calmed down, Oliver and I had a silent conversation about how to continue as he handed Annie over to me as he motioned for me to take a seat on the sofa. He then signaled Mr. Donatelli to assist him as he started to pull chairs around the office toward the sitting area in order to make a circle.

Oliver then motioned for all the women and girls to sit on the different pieces of furniture before motioning toward Mr. Donatelli to take the remaining chair. He then sat down next to me after he scooped Annie up and placed her on his lap all while collecting his thoughts about how to proceed. Bessie, it's amazing how much I can read him; he was going into his business mode but I could also tell that he was trying to figure out how to sugar coat his opening commentary for the girls' benefit.

Oliver cleared his throat and tugged on his collar a bit, but I hastily grabbed on to his hand to show him that from now on we were a united front during trying times like this. He gave me a side ways glance and then we both glanced toward our ginger haired cherub who was sporting an ear-to-ear grin. She then surprised us both as her smile slightly faded when she bravely requested, "Daddy Warbucks, mom, and Mr. Donatelli, why don't we start with my file? After all, I've been the biggest sucker holdin' onta false hope!"

Oh Bessie, as she confessed this, she was scanning all her friends and their looks were priceless; but, not one of them had an expression of gloating or appeared to be relishing in her pain (not even Pepper). It was actually Pepper who responded to her request, "Annie, ya sure? I mean I'm pretty sure mine will say what I just said so that one would be easiest'ta get through first."

"It's okay Pepper, I figured we'd be goin' in alphabet order anyway, and since my name starts with an A, I getta go first … I mean Mr. Donatelli that's what you were intended'ta do right? We getta hear about each other's stories in alphabet order?"

Of course, Mr. Donatelli didn't get be the chairman of the board of orphanages due to stupidity so he grasped onto Annie's suggestion quickly and went with it. "That's absolutely right Annie, and I wouldn't say you were a sucker but unfortunately mislead. Miss Hannigan should have informed you of your parents death especially since you were old enough to understand it, no matter how hard the news is to hear at any age. On that note, I'll let your new parents read the contents of your file," Mr. Donatelli stated as he handed us Annie's file.

Oh Bessie, when Oliver started to read Annie's file we could feel her start to stiffen on Oliver's lap as silent tears started to roll down her cheeks as well as the other girls. Once, Oliver was done reciting Annie's file, Mr. Donatelli handed Duffy's file to Mabel who had already tucked Duffy under her arm as Oliver reported Annie's story. Then Mr. Donatelli handed July's to Annette who had both July and Tessie on her lap in one of the over stuffed chairs as they comfortably lounged back against her for support and reassurance, I'm sure.

After, Annette read July's information, Mr. Donatelli handed Cecile, who was sitting next to me on the couch with Molly on her lap and Kate tucked under her side, two files. She continued the alphabetical order as she shared each of the girls' stories as they snuggled into her. Following Molly's history was Pepper's and just like the other women Jane read Pepper's as she cuddled her with comfort. Then lastly, Annette was handed Tessie's which ended all of the girls' stories.

I wasn't sure what to think nor did the others in the room when the only sound during the whole ordeal was the voice of the adult reading each girl's file. I mean, all of the girls silently cried throughout the whole session but not once did they utter a sound, a true testament that bawling would find you instantly in trouble with Miss Hannigan, I guess.

Once Annette finished, all the girls looked at one another then rose simultaneously from their seats, even Annie, as they silently communicated to each other to line up at the door. However, Oliver was the first of the adults to quickly came to his senses and attempted to verbally stop them in their tracks. "Where do you think you girls are going?" His inquiry stopped Annie in her tracks as she back pedaled to answer Oliver's question, but the others continued their little procession toward the door with their heads held low.

"Daddy War-war-bucks, i-i-t's what w-w-we do when we are feelin' melon-ka-lee or sad … once we know it's o-o-kay'ta slip away … w-w-we head'ta our room or a safe area'ta …"

However, during Annie's rambling all the adults in the room figured out what they were intending to do! They were going to go off somewhere in the mansion to bawl their eyes out and console each other! Jane, Mabel, Cecile, and Annette immediately darted out of their seats in order to comfort and embrace the other girls, and as Cecile passed me she gave me a silent look asking for their permission to leave the office in order to attend to the girls' needs. Of course, I instantly gave it as I too knew I would be hauling my daughter into my arms again to allow her to bawl her eyes out on my shoulder if needed, however, I had to wait my turn since Oliver already pulled Annie into his tight embrace.

This left four of us in the office and one member in the office appeared very out of place, so I took the initiative and replaced my 'momma bear hat' with my 'secretary hat' to attend to our guest. I stood up from my place on the sofa and asked Mr. Donatelli if he wanted a refreshment. He politely declined, and when I asked if there was anything else we needed to do at the moment, he stated there wasn't, but he would stay in touch especially once his staff located the girls' personal effects. Mr. Donatelli also stated that he would send someone to retrieve the girls on Monday afternoon, as I lead him toward the door where Drake just happened to be standing on the other side in order to guide him out. I thanked him quickly for the girls' files and his time.

Once, the door was closed I hastily returned to my family on the sofa! 'My family,' Bessie! Anyway, I joined them back on the sofa and was instantly engulfed in their embrace as Oliver and I shared soft looks of comfort and understanding that our little girl still had a lot of healing to do, but we were making progress. Our position also allowed us to give each other soft kisses over Annie's head, and the most adorable thing occurred almost 10 minutes later. Soft snores were heard coming from Annie who was snuggled into Oliver's chest, eliciting soft grins from both Oliver and I. We agreed silently that a nice family nap was in order so I reached for the ottoman and pulled it toward us then re-tucked myself into 'my family.'

Oh Bessie, this is getting so long, but I have so much more too tell you! I'm glad I bought a larger diary this year because I'm liable to fill it up by October at the rate I'm going! Anyway, we took a two hour nap together before our little cherub woke up, needing to use the facility. Once we were up, we rang for Mrs. Greer to learn the whereabouts of the other girls and the party planning.

She informed us that several carpenters and electricians were setting up outside to start working on 'Mama Esther's' grand backyard stage and lighting idea. Then she told us about how Annette, Cecile, Jane, and Mabel had attended to the other girls' needs as well as their husbands joining them to console the girls. She stated that the mood was very somber around the girls, but by tomorrow, the excitement of the party would ward off any sorrow or disappointment. Mrs. Greer also handed us an itinerary for the evening and tomorrow in order to keep the girls as well as the men from being underfoot! I have to admit I snickered a bit when Oliver inhaled with bewilderment that 'Mama Esther' would think he, THE GREAT OLIVER WARBUCKS, would get in the way. My snicker elicited a playful glare from my fiancé, but he stated the itinerary looked ideal, however, he would need to look over some business accounts ASAP in order to fulfill 'Mama Esther's' orders.

(Knock, knock)

"Grace, it's Cecile. The cars are loaded with the 'boys' and the 'girls' to go to the park. Are you coming?"

"Yes! I'll be out in a minute!" replied Grace, then quickly added under her breath toward her diary, "Well, Bessie, it looks like this is a good stopping point for now. I'll return to you during our free time, I have so much more to tell you!"

Until this afternoon friend!

Grace