“That’s a lie!”
Fury burned through me, made me restless with the need to move. But I held my ground, my gaze moving to Eva. This time, she nodded at me.
“What’s the lie, Mother? That I was raped? Or that you chose to ignore it?”
“Stop saying that!” she snapped, straightening. “I took you to be examined. I tried to find the proof—”
“Because my word wasn’t enough?”
“You were a disturbed child! You lied about everything. Anything. The most obvious things.”
“That gave me some control! I had no power over anything in my life—aside from the words that came out of my mouth.”
“And I was supposed to just magically divine what was truth and what was a lie?” She leaned forward, taking the offensive. “You were seen by two doctors. You wouldn’t let the one anywhere near you—”
“And have another man touch me there? Can you even grasp how terrifying that thought was to me?”
“You let Dr. Lucas—”
“Ah, yes. Dr. Lucas.” I smiled coldly. “Where did you get his name, Mother? From the man molesting me? Or from your doctor, who was overseeing his dissertation? Either way, he steered you right toward his brother-in-law, knowing the well-respected Dr. Lucas would say anything to protect the reputation of his family.”
She recoiled, stumbling back until she bumped into the chair behind her.
“He sedated me,” I went on, remembering it still. The prick of the needle. The cold table. The shame as he poked and prodded a part of my body that made me tremble with revulsion. “He examined me. Then he lied.”
“How would I know that?” she whispered, her eyes so strikingly blue in her pale face.
“You knew,” I said flatly. “I remember your face afterward, when you told me Hugh wasn’t coming back and to never bring it up again. You could barely look at me, but when you did, I saw it in your eyes.”
I looked at Eva. She was crying, with her arms wrapped tight around herself. My eyes stung, but she was the one who wept for me.
“Did you think Chris would leave you?” I wondered aloud. “Did you think it was too much for your new family to take? For years, I thought you told him—I heard you mention Dr. Lucas to him—but Chris didn’t know. Tell me what reason a wife would have to keep something like that from her husband.”
My mother didn’t speak, just shook her head over and over, as if that silent denial answered everything.
My fist hit my desk, rattling everything on top of it. “Say something!”
“You’re wrong. Wrong. It’s all twisted up for you. You don’t …” She shook her head again. “It didn’t happen that way. You’re confused …”
Eva stared at my mother’s back with a visible, heated rage. Loathing tightened her mouth and jaw. It hit me then that I could let her carry that burden for me. I had to put it down. I didn’t need it anymore. Didn’t want it.
I had done the same for her in a different sense, with Nathan. The action I’d taken had chased the shadows from her eyes. They lived in me now, as they should. She’d been haunted by them long enough.
My chest expanded on a deep, slow breath. When I let it out, all the anger and disgust went with it. I stood there for a long moment, absorbing the dizzying lightness I felt. There was grief, a profound anguish that burned in my chest. And resignation. A clarifying, terrible acceptance. But it weighed on me so much less than the desperate hope I’d harbored: that one day my mother would love me enough to accept the truth.
That hope was dead.
I cleared my throat. “Let’s end this. I won’t be going to see Corinne. And I won’t apologize for telling the truth. I’m done with that.”
My mother didn’t move for a long moment.
Then she turned away from me without a word and walked to the door. A moment more and she was gone, lost on the other side of the frosted glass.
I looked at Eva. She started toward me and I went to her, rounding my desk to meet her partway. She hugged me so tightly I could hardly breathe.
But I didn’t need air. I had her.
As I straightened Gideon’s bow tie, I asked, “Are you sure you’re okay?”
He caught my wrists and applied steady, solid pressure.
The familiar authoritative grip spurred a conditioned response. It grounded me. Heightened my awareness of him, of me. Of us. My breathing quickened.
“Stop asking.” His voice was soft. “I’m fine.”
“When a woman says she’s fine, it means she’s anything but.”