POD: Set in the future
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Louise Ferguson was married to Colin Ferguson for close to thirty years. She had three children: Rob, the eldest, Vanessa, the middle child and Marshall, the youngest. Over the years the two grew apart until Louise left Colin for her aerobics instructor Teo Acosta.
As part of the divorce settlement, Colin kept the family home while Louise received most of the rest of the family assets but no alimony. Since none of their children were minors and Marshall the only one still in school, there was no child support. Instead, Colin paid Marshall's tuition directly and a monthly living allowance, first in-residence and then off campus.
Louise lived with Teo in his condo, for some time using the family savings awarded her to supplement Teo's earnings. However, she eventually sought office work and got a job at the American headquarters of a Japanese ramen noddle importer. Her boss was Mr. Nobashi, a typical salaryman. Aside from updating spreadsheets, her other main duty was to serve him his coffee and sweet rolls or tea and rice or sashimi or anything else he need to keep going.
Due to Louise's age she became careless in her use of diaphragms thinking it unlikely she would become pregnant. However, a few months after the Yellowstone Supervolcano erupted, she felt unusually sleepy at the ramen works despite having a good night's sleep. In addition, her coffee tasted harsh and metallic and didn't help keep her awake. She realized the last time she felt this way was when she had been pregnant with Marshall. At lunch, she bought a home pregnancy kit and tested herself in the washroom. The test indicated she was pregnant.
That night, Louise told Teo who did not take the news well. He urged her to have an abortion since he wasn't the father type but Louise put him off. They didn't talk the following morning and when Louise returned that evening she discovered Teo had cleaned out his possessions from the condo and left her a note. In it, he apologized, reiterated he wasn't made to be a father and left the condo to her if she could make the payments. Louise sought help from her ex Colin but he told her that their relationship was over and that he was trying to make a go of it with Kelly Birnbaum. He did offer any extra money he had to help her out and would do what he could as a police Lieutenant to try to track down Teo but that was it. Louise was upset but saw that there was nothing she could do to change Colin's mind.
Just to spite Teo, Louise did not abort the baby and gave birth to a half-Mexican son, James Henry Ferguson. When her maternity leave ran out she returned to the ramen importer and hired Marshall to babysit James Henry. Marshall had been reluctant since he blamed his mother for the breakup of his parents' marriage but he did find James Henry's development fascinating and the infant was about as well behaved as could be expected.
Louise continued to work at the ramen importer until the spring, two and a half years after the eruption. The effects that had on the U.S. economy caused the company home office to decide to close the U.S. operation. Mr. Nobashi was place in the embarrassing position to inform the staff they were being laid-off. While he promised her a "most excellent letter of recommendation", Louise was out of work and forced to take unemployment payments from the Employment Development Department. Given she was staying home more, Louise reduced the amount of babysitting she had Marshall do, cutting his income as well.
Louise continued to look for work and early the following winter went into Van Slyke Pharmacy to see if they were hiring. The pharmacist, Jared Watt, happened to have let his assistant go the previous week and was looking for a replacement. He interviewed Louise immediately and decided to give her a chance.