The Obsession Page 25

“Does everyone know?”

“Like I said, I heard the cops talking, and I knew who they were talking about, and I’d read the book. I did some research—more, I mean. You’re Naomi Bowes.”

“Carson. That’s my legal name.”

“Yeah, I get that. Look, I didn’t say anything to anybody.”

“Don’t. I just want to finish school. Mason needs to finish school.”

“I haven’t told anybody, but look, other people can do research, especially now that the movie’s such a big hit. Hell, lots of kids who don’t read go to the movies. What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to finish school. I’m going to go to college.”

“I won’t tell anybody, right?” He shoved his glasses back up his nose. “It’s just between you and me, okay? I want you to tell me the story. Hold on.”

He held up a hand, edged closer with his glasses sliding down again. He just took them off.

“From your point of view, your story, Carson. We can keep where you live and all that out of it. I won’t tell anybody—and that’s a lot, right, because I want to be a journalist and this is a really big story. But I’ll hold back some details.”

He picked up his glasses, sat back, pushed them on. “I don’t have to do that.”

“My mother just died.”

“Yeah. Otherwise I wouldn’t have put it together. I don’t tell anybody, and you give me the whole story—first person. We’ll go out a few times, somewhere quiet, and I’ll record your story. It’s a big deal, and if I do it right, it could land me an internship at the Times. You’ve never talked to anybody, not Simon Vance, not the scriptwriter, the director, the actors. Your father did. Your mom, too, but not you. I did my research.”

They were friends—she thought they were friends. He’d been with her when she’d found her mother. He’d called the ambulance. And now . . .

“Simon Vance and the screenwriter beat you to it, Chaffins. Nobody’s going to care.”

“Shit, are you kidding me? Everybody’s going to care. Look, we’ll meet up. You can come to my place during the day, after school. My parents will be at work, and nobody has to know. I gotta split. I’ll text you when and where.”

When he rushed off, she sat a moment, a little stunned, a little sick. Why was she surprised? she wondered. Because she’d thought he was, at least a little bit, a friend? Should she be grateful he hadn’t already published what he knew in the school paper?

The hell with it, she thought. Just the hell with all of it.

She got up—before someone could sit down and try to comfort her—and made her way back to the kitchen. She could slip into the storeroom from there for the belated alone.

But Harry was right behind her.

He pointed to a stool. “Sit.” And sat himself on a stack of boxes. “Now tell me what that boy said to upset you.”

“It wasn’t anything.”

“Don’t lie to me.”

She jerked back. He never used that sharp, angry tone. “Harry.”

“We’re going to stop lying to each other. I knew your mother was lying about going to the prison, about keeping in contact. I knew, and I kept it from Seth. I didn’t tell him because it would upset him. And that’s a lie. Omission is a lie.”

“You knew?”

“And maybe if I’d said something . . .” He rubbed his tired eyes. “We’ll never know.”

“We knew. Mason found out and told me. We didn’t say either.”

“Well, where did all that get us, baby? Look where we are now. No more lies, no more omissions.” He leaned forward, took her hands. His eyes, so blue against the caramel, held that innate kindness he showed her every day. “When Seth asked me about taking you, your brother, your mother into the home in D.C., I said of course. But I thought, It won’t be for long. Of course we have to help—Seth needs to help his family—but they’ll get on their feet and get their own in, oh, six months or a year. I could open our home for a year. I did it because I love Seth.”

“I know you do.”

“What I didn’t count on was falling in love with you. With Mason. With your mother. That’s what happened. When we talked about selling the house, moving to New York, I didn’t do it just for Seth. I did it for all of us. Because we’d become a family. You’re my girl, Naomi. Same as if we were blood. I mean that.”

“I love you, Harry. I do, so much.” The tears came then, hot but clean. “I know how much you’ve done for us, all you’ve given us.”

“I don’t want to hear about that. I could tell you what you’ve done for me, what you’ve given me. I bet it balances out pretty square. What I want, and need, I think what we all want and need from today on, my baby, is truth. Let’s start right here. What did Anson say to put that look on your face?”

“He knows who we are. He heard some of the police talking, and he figured it out. He wants to be a journalist, and he wants the story. From me.”

“I’ll have a talk with him.”

“No, sir. No, Harry. What’s the point? He knows, and you can’t make it so he doesn’t. He said he wouldn’t say where I—we are, would leave out some details, but—”

“You don’t trust him. Why should you?”

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