The Obsession Page 14

“He was cutting you off from everyone who loved you.”

“He said how we were what was important. We needed to make our own lives, and then Mason came along, and he was so strict about how things had to be. But he worked hard, and paid the bills. He never laid a hand on me, I swear it. Or on the children. How he thought, what he wanted, what he said, it just seeped in. I missed Mom and Dad. I missed you so much, but . . .”

He got out another glass, poured wine, set it in front of her.

“I haven’t had anything but church wine since I was carrying Naomi. I used to be like her, didn’t I? Strong and brave and a little bit fierce.”

“You were, yeah.”

“I lost that, Seth. I lost all that.”

“You can find it again.”

She shook her head. “I’m so tired. If I could sleep, just sleep until it all went away. She meant what she said, Naomi did. She wouldn’t go with me. Or if I made her, she’d run off—take Mason with her. She wouldn’t leave him. Not like I left you. She’d make me choose between my children and my husband.”

“You chose him over your family once before.”

“A woman cleaves to her husband.” On a sigh she picked up the glass, drank. “Oh, that’s good. I’d forgotten. I did take vows, Seth. I know he broke them, I know he did unspeakable things—at least sometimes I know. But it’s hard for me to break those promises, to accept that the person I made them to is the man in prison now. I’m just so tired. All the time. If I could, I’d sleep the rest of my life.”

“It’s depression, honey. You have to give the therapy and the medication time. You have to give yourself time.”

“It feels like years already. Seth, every time I drive up to Hazelton, I tell myself it’s the last time. I don’t want to see those walls, to go through those guards. Sit there, talk to him through the glass. To have those reporters and the others who wait for me to come, try to talk to me. They yell out things. You don’t know.”

“Then stop being their target.”

She only shook her head. “But then . . . Tom’s got a way of turning me around, of making me doubt myself. I’ll end up doing just what he says to do. I knew talking to those reporters was wrong. I knew signing that contract was wrong. But I’m not strong and brave and fierce, so I did just what he told me. He said, take that money, sign those papers. I was to put money on his prison account and get a house close by. I was to keep coming every week, and bringing the children once a month to start.”

“I’d fight you on that. I might lose, but I’d fight you on taking those kids there.”

“She’d fight me. My girl.” On a half sob, Susan knuckled a fresh tear away. “She wouldn’t go and she’d fight me like a tiger to keep Mason away. I’ve got to do better by them. I know it.”

“Don’t go back.” He laid a hand over hers, felt hers stiffen. “Get stronger. Take a few weeks, then see. Talk to the therapist about it.”

“I’ll try. I swear. I’m so grateful to you and Harry. I’m so sorry I did what Tom told me, after all you’ve done for us.”

“We’ll get through it.”

“I’m going to go up, talk to the kids for a minute. Then we’ll come down, finish making dinner.”

“That’s a good start. I love you, Suze.”

“God knows you must.” She rose, reached for him. “I love you. Don’t give up on me.”

“Never happen.”

She gave him a hard squeeze, then walked out, walked up the stairs. The hardest walk of her life, she thought. Even harder than that horrible walk through the prison to the visiting area.

She stepped to Naomi’s door and looked at her children, sitting on the floor with Mason frowning over his pencil and worksheet.

He’d been crying, and that broke her heart because she’d brought those tears on.

But not Naomi. Her eyes were dry and hot when they lifted, met hers.

“I want to say first I was wrong. What I said down there about your uncle and Harry. It was a wrong and ugly thing to say. I hope you’ll forgive me. And I want to say you were right. Both of you were right. We won’t be moving away from Seth and Harry. I was wrong about talking to those people. The paper, and the magazine, and the book writer. I can’t go back and not do it, but I’ll never do it again. I’m so sorry, Naomi, for letting them have your picture. I don’t know how to make it up to you. But I’m going to try to do better. I promise, I’m going to try. It’s easy to say that. What I have to do is show you. You need to give me a chance to show you I’ll do better.”

“I’ll give you a chance, Mama.” Mason sprang up, ran into her arms.

“I love you so much, my little man.” She kissed the top of his head, then looked at Naomi. “I understand it’s going to take longer for you.”

Naomi only shook her head and ran to her mother.

She did better, though there were dips, and some of them deep. She’d opened a door her brother had tried to close by giving the interviews, selling the photographs.

It engendered more, with side stories on the serial killer’s gay brother-in-law, and with reporters stalking him to and from his office. Paparazzi captured photos of Naomi leaving school for the day, one of Mason on the playground.

TV talk shows fueled the machine with discussion, with “experts,” and the tabloids were relentless.

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