The Obsession Page 20

She could admit to herself, and now to Mason, a huge sense of disappointment with their mother. Mixed in with the sincere effort to make some sort of a life had been lies and deception. And over a man who’d taken lives, ruined others.

Was it love that drove her? Naomi wondered.

If it was, she didn’t want any part of it.

She’d try sex, because whatever the books and songs and movies said, she knew one didn’t have to walk arm in arm with the other. She considered the best way to go about it, knew there was no way she’d discuss birth control with her mother. And as much as she loved Seth and Harry, such a conversation would be mortifying.

So the next time she went to the doctor, she’d ask. Then when she decided to have sex, she’d be prepared.

Maybe Mason was right, and if she put it, or tried to put it, all behind her, it meant the whole ugly business could rush up to nip at her heels anytime it wanted.

Like with the movie.

So as fall came to New York, she set it aside. She didn’t like the idea of keeping it straight in front of her—couldn’t you just trip over it then? But setting aside seemed like a good compromise.

And for right now her mother got out of bed every day, got dressed, went to work. Naomi kept busy with school, her yearbook and school paper assignments, and considering which boy it made the most sense to have sex with when the time came.

But she made it a point to get her uncle alone and speak to him about the movie.

“It’s coming out in just a few weeks now.”

“Honey, I know. Harry and I planned to talk to you and Mason about it.”

“But not Mama?”

“I’ll talk with her. I hate having to. She’s doing so well right now. But the movie doesn’t change anything. Your lives are here now. That part of your lives is over.”

“Not for her. You need to talk with Mason.”


“You need to talk with him. It’s his to tell.”

Naomi didn’t know what her uncle said to her mother, but after a couple of dark days, Susan came out again.

She took Naomi shopping for a new dress for homecoming, insisted on making a day of it. A rare thing.

“Anything looks good on you, honey, you’re so tall and slim, but don’t you want something with some color?”

Naomi turned in the dressing room, checked front and back on the short black dress with its cinched waist and square-necked bodice.

“I’ll be taking pictures more than dancing. The black’s better for that than the pink.”

“You ought to have a date,” Susan insisted. “Why aren’t you going out with that nice boy anymore? Mark.”

“Oh.” Naomi just shrugged. Her mother wasn’t the type you told a boy hadn’t been satisfied just touching your breast. “He’s all right, but I didn’t want a date for homecoming.”

“Well, when I was your age, having a date for homecoming was the most important thing in the world. So maybe you’re smarter than I was. But I just love the pink, and it has that sparkle on the skirt.”

“I don’t know if I’m a sparkle-pink girl.”

“Every girl deserves some sparkle pink. You want the black, that’s fine. Gosh, you’re so grown-up it takes my breath. But we’re getting the pink, too.”

“Mama, you can’t buy both.”

“I can. You can wear the black since you’ll be taking pictures, and save the pink for something special. I haven’t given you and Mason enough special.”

“Sure you have.”

“Not nearly enough, but I’m going to. We’re going to buy those dresses, and have a fancy lunch. Then we’re going to hunt up the perfect accessories.”

Naomi laughed, happy to see some sparkle—not on the pink but in her mother’s eyes. “My camera’s my accessory.”

“Not this time. You’d probably be better off with Seth and Harry there, but we’ll find just the right things. Shoes and a bag, and earrings. I know you wanted to go shopping with your girlfriends today, but—”

“Mama, I love doing this with you.”

“It all went so fast. I see that now. It seemed so slow, and some days—and nights—lasted forever. But I see now, looking at you, so grown-up, how fast it all went. I wasn’t with you.”

No, no, the sparkle was dying out. “You always were.”

“No.” Susan laid her hands on Naomi’s cheeks. “I wasn’t. I’m really going to try to be. I . . . I’m sorry about the movie.”

“It doesn’t matter. Don’t worry.”

“I love you so much.”

“I love you back.”

“I’m going to take the pink dress out to the saleslady, have her get started. You go on and change, then we’ll have lunch.”

They bought the dresses, and shoes, and a pretty bag that sparkled—and made her mother smile again. At Naomi’s urging Susan bought herself a red sweater and suede boots. They came home flushed and exhausted, modeled everything all over again.

When Naomi dropped into bed that night, she thought she’d had the best day of her life.

October turned brisk, and the light Naomi loved best slanted gold over the burnished trees of the parks.

To please her mother she wore the pink instead of the black to homecoming, and though it wasn’t a date, she asked Anson Chaffins, a friend—and the editor of the school paper—to pick her up.

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