Made for You Page 49

My apology is lost under a snort of laughter. She’s laughing in that unrestrained way that I’ve so rarely seen, and I can’t look away. My mother is beautiful when she’s real like this. In the midst of everything that’s so very wrong, I’m exceptionally grateful for this moment.

“Oh my goodness, Eva,” she says a few snorts later. “No one—and I do mean no one—has the sheer nerve to mention that other than Daddy. I swear they all think the whole of Jessup is going to go all cattywampus if they bring up my checkered past.”

She grabs the handle of the pitcher of orange juice and sits down; her poise is already returning, and if I hadn’t just heard those very unrefined noises, I would’ve never guessed that she had laughed. The pitcher and two glasses are in front of her, and she watches me attentively.

I pull out my two chairs. I sit on the first, and I raise my leg to prop it up on the second chair. “You don’t seem much like a troublemaker, but I figure my ‘difficult streak’ has to come from somewhere.”

My mother smiles. “I was determined to be my own person, and after years of Daddy having so many of the church ladies lecturing me on my manners and my dress and everything under the sun, I had a fierce urge to prove I wasn’t a good girl.” She shakes her head. “I don’t imagine it makes a lot of sense considering who I ended up with, but I just wanted to be someone other than Lizzy Cooper, daughter of the great Davis Cooper IV.”

“I get that.” I stare at her, wondering how I didn’t know this before. “I feel like that sometimes. I’m his granddaughter, your daughter, and granddaughter to the Reverend Tilling.”

She sighs. “I’m sorry. You seem so confident all the time that it didn’t occur to me that you felt that way.”

“I’m fine. I just hate the way people watch me. It’ll be worse now when the news about the killer gets out.”

“They’ll catch him,” my mother says, and it feels somewhere between a wish and a promise.

We sit quietly for a few minutes, and I realize that despite all the wrong happening now, I have some right with my mother. Our peace is interrupted by the doorbell, and we both startle at the sound. For a moment, I see my own fears in her eyes, but then she pats my hand.

I brace myself for the vision, for falling into her death, but nothing happens. There is no death, no slipping into her future self, and I’m speechless at the absence. I don’t want to feel her die, but I don’t understand why it didn’t happen.

Then her hand is gone from mine already, and she’s heading to answer the door.

A few moments later, she returns, carrying a vase of flowers and a small package wrapped in brown paper. Her hands are shaking as she sets them on the counter.

“There are flowers,” she says, pointing out the obvious. “There are flowers here at our house.”

I look at them. A gladiolus and a scarlet lily are surrounded by honeysuckle. It’s an oddly beautiful bouquet, but it fills me with horror. The package that came with it is too small to be chocolates. If it were from a friend, I’d think it was jewelry. It’s about that size. Part of me is oddly distant, trying not to get scared. I think of my friends, of the death visions that I now suspect are real, and I am resolved to figure this out. I have clues the police won’t believe.

My hands tremble as I look at the bouquet. The killer knows where I live, knows I’m out of the hospital, and sent me flowers. After talking to the detective, I know these flowers are a message.

“I’m calling her now,” Mom says. Her phone is already at her ear, and she walks out of the room as she begins to speak: “Detective? This is Mrs. Tilling.”

My mother’s voice grows faint as she walks farther into the house, and I debate what I’m about to do. I need to know what’s in that package. I don’t want my mother to open it and find something awful there. I think back to every police procedural I’ve watched with my father. I don’t want to destroy evidence. So far, the delivery person and my mother’s fingerprints are on it.

I get up, grab my crutches, and hobble to the walk-in pantry. There in the far back, beside the tinfoil and storage bags, is an unopened package of the thick yellow gloves my mother wears if she hand-washes any dishes. I balance on one foot as I open the plastic bag and put on the gloves.

Once I’ve hobbled to the counter, I carefully open the small white envelope with my yellow-gloved hands. It’s a standard card, one of the “thinking of you” ones, and on it are five letters in tight block print: YOURS.

My hands are shaking as I set the card aside and turn my attention to the tiny box. Visions of severed fingers or ears fill my mind, and by the time I open the package, I’m expecting something gross. Inside the tiny box, which is actually a white cardboard jewelry box, is a dead cicada.

I don’t get it. The killer sent me a dead bug. It’s clearly a message, but I have less than no idea what it means. Is it a threat? Is it something else?

When my mother returns, I look away from the bug in the box to tell her, “I need my laptop.”

“What are you . . .” Her words fade as she comes to stand by my side. “He sent you a cicada?”

“I need my laptop,” I repeat.

She looks down at the card and gasps. Suddenly, my mother hugs me with one arm, and again, I don’t fall into her death.

When Nate arrives a few minutes later, I’m at my laptop typing. I hear my mother explaining that she’s not going to work.

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