On the first day of September, Alison and Daisy were eating breakfast when Alexei brought the newspaper in and laid it on the table. Alison picked it up and gasped in shock right away.
"What is wrong?" asked Alexei.
"Princess Diana's dead!" Alison's eyes hungrily scanned the front-page story, eager to absorb all the relevant information. "It says here she was a passenger in a car that led the paparazzi on a high speed chase through a tunnel in Paris. Aw, how sad!"
Alexei frowned. "What is papa - "
"Paparazzi. Photographers from magazines. They can be pretty aggressive when they're trying to get a photograph of a celebrity."
"Ah, that is very sad. She is wife of heir to English throne, yes?"
"She was his wife. They got divorced last year."
"And she have children, yes?"
Alison nodded. "She had two sons. William is fifteen, and Harry is almost thirteen."
"That makes it even sadder."
"I know." The news stayed with her as she got herself and Daisy ready and drove Daisy to Elspeth's.
"Did you see the news this morning?" she asked Elspeth after entering the house.
"About Princess Di? That was terrible, wasn't it!"
"Hi, Daisy." Ryan looked up from his coloring book to greet his friend.
"Can I color with you?" Daisy asked him.
"Sure!" Daisy climbed up into the chair beside his and grabbed a crayon.
"I saw it in the newspaper when Yuri brought it in this morning," Elspeth was saying to the younger woman. "I couldn't believe it! Gone so suddenly, and her only thirty-six years old!"
"The driver and her fiance were killed as well, and her bodyguard was severely injured," added Alison. "He was the only one wearing a seat belt."
"The driver was drunk," Elspeth put in. "I can't believe they could have been so foolish."
"Neither can I," Alison replied. "It's still very sad."
"Of course it is!"
At the library, everyone was talking about the tragedy. A pall of gloom seemed to hang over the whole building.
When Alison went to pick Daisy up after work, Zoya opened the door to let her in.
"Hi, Zoya! Did you have a good day at work?" Zoya had graduated cosmetology school in June and had started working for a local salon shortly afterwards. She hoped to own her own salon someday.
She smiled. "It is going well. I did two permanents today."
Daisy heard her voice and came running. "Hi, Mommy!"
"Hi, sweetie!" Alison scooped her up and kissed her cheek. "Did you have fun today?"
"Uh huh! Me and Ryan played cowboys and Indians."
For dinner, Alison made one of Alexei's favorites, chicken Kiev. While she was cooking, she heard him enter the kitchen. "Something smells delicious." He walked up behind her and began to kiss her neck, and she felt the stresses of the day just melt away.
On Saturday, she and Alexei watched Princess Diana's funeral together while Daisy, too young to understand, played with her blocks. "What are all those flowers for, Mommy?" she asked as the camera spanned over all the memorial tributes left by mourners.
"People put them there because somebody died," Alison told her.
"A lady named Princess Diana."
Daisy's eyes grew wide. "Was she really a princess?"
"Yes, she was."
Daisy scampered out of the living room and returned a few seconds later with one of her coloring books, opened to a page on which was a picture of a woman dressed as royalty and wearing a crown. She showed it to her mother.
"Right, just like that!" said Alison.
Daisy looked as if she might cry.
"Want me to color with you?" asked Alison.
Daisy grinned. "OK, Mommy!"
On Thanksgiving day, Denny and Darya came over for dinner like they always did. The family had just sat down to eat when Denny spoke. "Darya and I have some big news," he announced.
Darya smiled. "I just found out from doctor I will have baby in July next year."
Alison and Alexei were startled for just a moment, then both grinned. "So we will be grandparents, Alisonka, you and me!" Alexei exulted. "That is wonderful news, yes?"
"That's great!" Alison agreed. "Perhaps we can soon start shopping for all the things you're gonna need," she said to Darya.
"I look forward to it," Darya replied.
Later, after their guests had left, Alison joined her husband on the sofa in the living room, and he pulled her close.
"I can't believe we're gonna have a grandchild this summer," she remarked. "It seems only yesterday I was changing Denny's diapers!"
"And for me as well." Alexei chuckled. "Nadya would have been so happy!"
At first Alison didn't reply. She was thinking of Dennis, of Fawn with Pavel in Russia. Although Alexei stayed in touch with Katya through email, Alison hadn't spoken to her sister-in-law or nieces and nephew since they'd returned to Russia after her father's funeral. She wondered whether Pavel and Fawn had started their own family yet. She felt the familiar jealousy creep up inside her and quickly squashed it.
"Dennis would have been happy, too," she told her husband.