The Obsession Page 15

Word leaked that Pulitzer Prize–winning author Simon Vance had a book deal in cooperation with Thomas David Bowes and his wife, and the media circus began anew.

As the new year began they all sat together in the front parlor, with a fire snapping, and the glittering holiday tree shining like hope in the window.

Harry made hot chocolate, and Mason sat on the floor with his fondest wish: a puppy that had greeted him on Christmas morning. He’d named the pup Kong after his favorite game.

It should have felt good, Naomi thought. The puppy, the hot chocolate, and the tree Harry said would stay up until Twelfth Night.

But something was wrong, and she felt it deep inside. So her chocolate sat, going cold in the tall mug.

“Harry and I have some news,” Seth began, and Naomi’s stomach knotted.

They’d be sent away. Too much trouble, all the reporters, and the people who walked or drove by to stare.

Someone had egged the house on Halloween, and worse, written on Seth’s car:


Mama lost her job at the café because they found out where she worked, and the manager let her go.

“It’s big news,” he continued, taking Harry’s hand.

Naomi couldn’t look up, couldn’t stand to see his face when he said they had to live somewhere else.

“Harry and I are opening a restaurant.”

She looked up then, stunned. Felt the knots begin to uncoil.

“We found a great space, and figured it was time to have our own.” Harry winked. “We’ve even got the name. The Spot.”

“Spot’s a dog,” Mason said, and wrestled with the deliriously happy puppy.

“Not this spot. It’s The Spot because that’s just what it’s going to be. The spot everyone wants to go.”

“Where is it?” As delirious as the puppy, Naomi picked up her chocolate. “Can we go see it?”

“You bet. The thing is, it’s in New York.”

“You’re moving away.”

“We’re all moving. To New York City. The West Village. New place, new house, new start.”

Naomi looked at her mother, who only sat with her fingers twisted together.

“But you have this house. This is your house.”

“The one in New York will be our house. All of us.” Still smiling, Seth patted Harry’s leg. “Wait until you see it. It’s fabulous.”

“You’re moving because of us. Because of the people who won’t leave us alone.”

Before Seth could speak, Harry shook his head. “That’s not altogether wrong, not altogether right. I’ve wanted my own restaurant for a long time, and this feels like the right time, the right place. The fact is, it’s been hard for Seth to work while being bothered, and we both feel the house here? It’s closed in now.”

“We’ve talked it all out, Harry, me, your mama. This is best for all of us. If you don’t object to it, we’ll have your names changed legally to Carson. I’ve given my notice at work, and so has Harry. I’m not pretending when I say I’m pretty excited about this. I know you’ll have to change schools again.”

“It doesn’t matter.” Naomi sent Mason a sharp look in case he said different.

“And therapists,” Seth continued, “but we have good recommendations there.”

“I don’t need to go anymore. I don’t,” Naomi insisted. “I’d say if I did. If this is a new place and all that, I can be new, too. I want to cut my hair.”

“Oh, Naomi,” Susan said.

“I want to. I don’t want to look like the girl they’ve been taking pictures of. I can do it myself.”

“Oh, no, you don’t!” Seth gave his good laugh. “I draw that line. We’ll take you to the salon, and get it done right. She’s heading toward thirteen, Suze. It should be up to her.”

“They can still find us. But maybe they won’t if I don’t look the same. Mason already looks some different than he did, ’cause he’s bigger and his hair’s longer now. And it’s darker than it was. I don’t care what my name is, as long as it’s not Bowes. I’m sorry if that hurts your feelings, Mama.”

Susan said nothing, only continued to stare down at her hands, fingers twisting in her lap.

“Can Kong go to New York? I can’t leave him.”

“Mason, my man.” Harry snatched the puppy up from where it waggled. “This here is one urban-canine-to-be. Of course he’s going.”

“I know this is uprooting everyone, and it’s my doing.”

“No, Susie. I think they would have run us to ground sooner or later anyway. We didn’t take enough precautions. Now we will. New place, new start.” Seth grinned at Naomi. “New look.”

“When?” Naomi asked.

“The house goes on the market tomorrow, and the agent is champing at the bit. One way or the other, we move over your spring break. It’s a four-bedroom, so, Mason, you’ll have your own room. How about that?”

“Me and Kong!”

“You and Kong.”

“Can we have bunk beds?”

“Bunk beds it is. Naomi? You okay with this?”

“I’m fine with it. You can have friends over again. You’ll have to make some new ones, but you can have parties again. You couldn’t have your annual Christmas party this year or go out on New Year’s like you always do.”

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