Page 52 of What Lies Beneath

With the slam of the hospital room door, the last remaining fragments of love and hope left in Adrienne’s heart shattered, and she could no longer hold back the tears.

* * *

“You can stay with me as long as you need to. Or can stand to. My apartment is a fifth-floor walkup and only four hundred square feet, so I expect you to be gone by Wednesday.”

Gwen held out a key and a slip of paper with her address. “You just make yourself at home. Eat whatever you like. You can probably fit in some of my clothes, too, although the pants might run a little short on you since I come from a family of elves. I’ll be home around six in the morning.”

Adrienne leaned in and hugged Gwen fiercely. When it was all said and done, the only friend she’d made since her accident was the only one she had left. It had been less than twenty four hours since the news of Cynthia’s death, and already the world had lost interest in Adrienne Lockhart.

“You don’t know how much I appreciate this,” Adrienne said, fighting the tears that were a constant threat of late.

“Not a problem, honey. Now, keep an eye on your jaw and that lump of yours. It’s a good excuse to have a milkshake for dinner. I’ll check on you in the morning to make sure you don’t need to see the doctor again.”

After being discharged Monday afternoon, Adrienne had gone to meet Gwen. Her plans were to go to her apartment, surprise her aunt with the news of her miraculous resurrection and ask her to wire some money to her. From there, she could buy a change of clothes and hopefully get a bus ticket. Trains were too expensive, and planes were out of the question.

She waved to Gwen and headed for the elevator. When she walked out of the hospital, she stopped short as a black town car pulled directly in front of her. The window rolled down in the back, and she was surprised to find Pauline Dempsey looking out at her.

“Mrs. Dempsey?”

“Pauline, dear, please. Do you have a ride to wherever you’re going?”

The answer was no. Gwen had given her ten bucks for the subway and a strawberry milkshake. “I was going to take the subway.”

The older woman looked appalled. “Absolutely not. You’re a magnet for trouble, my dear. You’ll get mugged again.”

The door of the town car flew open and Adrienne had to leap back to keep from getting hit. “Are you sure?” She wasn’t entirely comfortable around Cynthia’s family now. Things had to be awkward for everyone.

“Get in the car, please.”

Adrienne did as she was told, the authoritative and motherly tone leaving no question. She imagined it was hard for Pauline to look at her and not see her daughter. To not want to treat her the way she treated Cynthia.

Once inside, she shut the door and found Pauline was alone. “Do you have an address to give Henry?”

Adrienne passed the slip of paper over the seat to the driver and the car pulled away from the hospital.

“I called to find out what time you were being discharged. I wanted to talk to you before you went home to Wisconsin.”

“Talk to me about what? I told the doctors I don’t remember much.” Adrienne had hoped her memory of the day of the accident and meeting Cynthia would return, but it continued to be a black hole. She figured it was probably better that way if she was ever going to get on a plane again.

“Dear, I’m not fishing for information. I’m concerned for you. Whether or not you are my daughter, I sat in that hospital every day for five weeks drinking bad coffee and praying for you to recover. I was so proud of you Saturday night at your party. You are a beautiful, talented young woman, and your parentage doesn’t change that.”

“Thank you.” She was mildly uncomfortable with the woman’s compliments. “I’m very sorry about Cynthia.”

The older woman nodded and looked down at the hands folded in her lap. “I loved my oldest daughter very much, but she could be very difficult sometimes. There were days I thought Will was a saint to even tolerate her, much less marry her.

“But these past few weeks with you have been so nice. Even through the tears and anxiety of the accident, you were always such a sweet person. I should’ve known then you weren’t my daughter, but I hoped she’d made a change for the better. I think maybe I’ll keep those memories as my last memories of Cynthia. End our relationship on a more positive note.”

Adrienne nodded but took a moment to figure out how to respond. “My mother died in a car accident when I was eight. She loved to sew, and I spent hours watching her make dresses and play clothes for me and my dolls. After her accident, I climbed up to her sewing machine and continued her work. That’s where I got my passion for designing clothes.