The Obsession Page 23

“Do you know who my father is?”

“Yes, Naomi, I do. And I know that for the second time in your life you had to face something no one should ever have to.”

“Will everyone know now? Even though we changed our names, will everyone know?”

“We’re going to do the best we can to keep that out of the press.” Rossini waited a moment. “Do you know how often your mother and your father communicated?”

“She wrote to him, and went to see him a few times, too, since we moved to New York. Mason found out, and he told me. She pretended she wasn’t, but she was. We didn’t tell Uncle Seth or Harry. The movie—she talked to the movie people because he wanted her to. Mason found that out, too. But she’d been trying really hard, and for a couple months or more, she’d been doing good. She’d been happy. Happier. I don’t guess she’s ever been happy since that night I found . . .”

“All right. Your uncle said he’d call your grandparents, and Mr. Dobbs is right downstairs. Do you want me to have him come up, stay with you?”

“No, not right now. Ma’am? You asked about them communicating. Did Mama talk to him today? This morning?”

“I don’t believe your mother and father spoke today.”

“But there’s something. He wrote something to her, didn’t he? Something that had her coming home, after she’d been doing so well, and taking those pills.”

“We’re asking questions so we can give you answers,” Rossini said as she rose.

“You have some. I didn’t see a note in her room. I wasn’t looking. I was trying to . . . I didn’t see a note, but she had to write one. She had to say good-bye.” The sob wanted to rip out of her chest. “However sad she was, she loved us. She did. She’d say good-bye.”

“I’m sure she loved you. She did leave a note, addressed to all of you. It was in your uncle’s room. She put it on his dresser.”

“I want to see it. I have a right to read it. It was addressed to me. I want to read what she wrote before she took those pills and left us.”

“Your uncle said you would. Wait here.”

What had he done? Naomi wondered, and the rage began to root. What had he done to make her mother so sad, so fast? So fatally?

She stood up when Rossini came back in. She wouldn’t read this last thing her mother said to her curled in a chair, but on her feet.

“You’ll need to read it through the evidence bag. It still needs to be processed.”

“It doesn’t matter.” Naomi took the bag, stepped to the window and the thin winter light.

I’m so sorry. I made so many mistakes, so many bad choices, told so many lies. I told lies to the people who deserved me to tell the truth. I told them because he said I should. No matter how many times I tried to break free, I just couldn’t. Now he has, after all the mistakes I made, all the hurt I caused because Tom said I should. He’s divorcing me so he can try to marry some other woman. One who’s been writing him and coming to see him for more than two years. He sent me papers from a lawyer for a divorce, and a letter that said such cruel and awful things. But some of those things are true. I am weak and stupid. I am useless. I didn’t protect my children when I had the chance. Seth, you did that. You did that, Harry. You gave us a home, and I know you’ll look after Naomi and Mason, do right by them as I never have. Mason, you’re so smart, and you made me proud every day. I hope one day you’ll understand why Mama had to go away. Naomi, I’m not strong and brave like you. It’s so hard to try to be. I’m so tired, honey. I just want to go to sleep. You’ll look after Mason, and both of you will listen to Seth and Harry. You’ll have a better life now. One day you’ll know that’s true. One day you’ll forgive me.

“Why should I forgive her? She left us because he didn’t want her anymore? She came home and took all those pills because she was tired?”


“No, no! Don’t make excuses. You’re the police. You didn’t know her, you don’t know me or any of us. But you know what this is?” She threw the bag on her bed, fisted her hands as if she could fight something. “It’s what a coward does. He killed her. He killed her just like he killed all those other women. But they didn’t have a choice. She did. She let it happen. She let him kill her when we were all right here.”

“You’re right. I think you’re right. But there are other means of torture besides physical. I can’t tell you how to feel, but I can tell you I think you have a right to be angry. You have a right to be mad as hell. When some of the mad wears off, I hope you’ll talk to someone.”

“Another therapist. I’m done with that. Done. A lot of good it did her.”

“You’re not your mother. But if you don’t want to talk to a therapist, to a friend, to a priest, to your uncle.” She took a card out of her pocket. “You can talk to me.”

“You’re the second cop who’s given me a card and said that.”

“Did you talk to the other cop?”

“We moved away.”

“Well.” Rossini set the card on Naomi’s dresser, then walked over and picked up the evidence bag. “Cops are good listeners. Detective Angela Rossini. Anytime.”

So three days later, Naomi put on the black dress. She used the curling iron because her mother had liked it best when she wore her hair long with some waves in it. She didn’t give any of her angry words to Seth—he looked sickly and shaken. She didn’t give them to Mason, not with the hollow look in his eyes. Or to Harry, who seemed to need to tend to all of them at once.

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