Every morning during those first weeks at my mom's house, I woke up in my pink, frilly twin bed—the comforter still preserved from my childhood room. It felt like again, I had woken up to a whole new story and I was a different main character, stumbling through, trying to understand my new role.
I had expected that not having to concern myself constantly with how I would take care of myself and how I would survive on my own if it came to that would help me heal even more. But in fact, not having that anxiety allowed my mind to spend time probing areas I'd somewhat successfully neglected up until then, like skirting around the edges of a fading bruise only to find the pain remained. I hurt. It felt like I ached all the time that first month at my mom's house. I still hadn't yet told my mom or Molly about Calder because I simply didn't know if I was strong enough to talk about him to anyone. It was another step I'd have to feel ready to take—I guessed I'd know when that time came. But my mom didn't seem to want to discuss Acadia very much anyway. We'd talked about it that first day, but anytime I made any reference to it now, she changed the subject. I wasn't sure if she was trying to protect me from the sadness she thought it brought me to discuss it, or if she herself preferred not to think about it. I suspected the latter.
My mom had a piano in her living room and so I started back up with a couple lessons. And if I didn't have a lesson, I played anyway. Some days it helped more than others.
When I wasn't playing the piano, I filled my time by walking through my mom's neighborhood admiring the old homes, browsing through shops with no intention of buying anything—acquainting myself with the outside world in portions I controlled. I visited Marissa, finally telling her where I'd come from, and I looked things up online I still didn't understand. In a nutshell, I existed. Was this the life I was meant to be living? Was this my destiny . . . to walk through all my days feeling a constant void deep inside, a constant wanting? If I was moving when the question arose in my mind, I would stop and pause, the very small whisper of a feeling telling me it wasn't. What then?
Although my mom didn't seem to want to discuss grown-up topics with me, it seemed she was constantly where I was, constantly reaching out to touch me, looking at me with almost fearful eyes, as if I could evaporate into thin air at any second. I understood it, and part of me appreciated her continual mothering. After all, I'd lived without any for so long. I had yearned for a mother's love for what seemed like forever. But another part of me finally had some freedom and I wanted to try to figure out who I could be on my own. I wanted to be treated like the twenty-one-year-old woman I was, not the child she often seemed to still want me to be. We were both struggling with the dynamic between us. I guessed that would just take time.
In many ways I felt like I'd always be a captive, even if in very different forms: first with Hector, then by the fear Clive Richter created, then of my own doing, and now by my mother. It felt as though I'd never be free to be myself. I'd only ever experienced that with Calder, and I only ever would. With the thought, despair gripped me.
One beautiful early fall morning, I woke up just after dawn and took my coffee out on the patio. The air was cool so I grabbed a throw sitting on the edge of the couch and took that with me. I wrapped it around my shoulders and sipped the strong, hot liquid as I admired the chrysanthemum and ivy-filled planters. I could tell the garden was my mother's therapy. I could tell she nourished it as if it was her own heart - a tangible thing to keep loved and well cared for, beautiful. I supposed we all needed something like that. For me, it was my music. It was where I went to fill up and feel alive.
When I had finished half my cup of coffee, Molly came stumbling outside in a pair of yoga pants and a long-sleeved T-shirt.
"Hey," Molly mumbled.
"Good morning. You're up early."
"So are you. I thought I might go to the Zumba class at the gym. It starts at seven. You in?"
"Zumba?" I raised one eyebrow.
"Yeah, it's this Latin-based dance workout. It's really fun. You should come."
"I'm not up for fun at seven in the morning."
Molly snorted. "Maybe you're right." She eyed me over her own cup of coffee.
"So are you okay with the garden party Carolyn has planned?"
My mom was planning what she called a very small garden party for a few of her very closest, most trustworthy friends. She had agreed not to call the police just yet, but she was bursting to tell those she loved I was back. I couldn't bring myself to deny her that. I gnawed on my lip for a minute. "It makes me a little nervous," I said. "But I'm trusting Carolyn."
Molly nodded, taking a sip of her coffee.
"I think it'll be fine," she said. She paused. "The party part anyway. You might want to be aware that Carolyn has set-up plans though." She raised her eyebrows.
Molly nodded. "She has this grand scheme to have you fall in love with her neighbor's son, Bentley."
I raised an eyebrow. "Bentley?"
She nodded, picking up her coffee cup again and furrowing her brow. "Yeah, Bentley Von Dorn—that's a mouthful, right?" She snorted. "He's actually very good looking, but he's completely horrible." She looked away, but before she did, I thought I saw some type of possessiveness in her expression.
I raised an eyebrow. "My mom wants to set me up with someone horrible? Well, that's nice."
She looked back at me and waved her hand around in front of her face. "Oh, well, horrible might be an exaggeration. Distasteful is probably a better word. And I'm sure Carolyn has no idea." She looked down at her fingernails, studying them. "Anyway, heads up. I'd stay away." I kept my eyes on her for a minute, but didn't say anything. I had a feeling there was a lot more to Molly's take on Bentley than she was saying, and that perhaps Molly didn't think he was horrible at all.
As we sat there, under the covered patio, soft raindrops began to fall. I watched them, the sadness approaching me slowly like a hesitant friend. Just the talk of a set-up, dating, the subject of love in general made me melancholy. I'd never have that again. Not ever. Nor did I want it. Calder had been my one true love, the other half of my heart. He was gone now and so was that part of my life.
There's a spring. I'll wait for you.
I felt Molly's eyes on me as I stared out over the raindrop ripples on the surface of the sparkling pool water.
"I wish you'd share it all with us, Eden. Maybe it would help. You've been here for a month now, and I hope you know that we already love you so much."
I looked over at her, surprised she had read my mood so well and nodded. "I know," I said quietly, "and I love you both, too. And just being here, having you, has helped me so much. I can't even tell you." I met her eyes, offering her a small smile. I took a sip of my coffee and put it down on the table in front of me.
"I know, honey, but that's not what I meant. I meant I wish you'd let me help you with your sadness. Perhaps—"
"No one can help with that," I said softly. "I wish you could."
I looked back out at the rain. "I know Felix found you and my mom for me," I said quietly. "But I like to think he guided me to you." I paused. "If that kind of thing is possible."
"He? Who?" Molly asked, grabbing my hand in hers.
I looked at her, not answering her question, just letting the words finally flow. "Sometimes I imagine the rain is him." I laughed softly. "If I'm alone, I turn my face into it," I mimicked raising my face to the heavens, "and I can feel him." I closed my eyes. "I'll never have a place where I can visit him, and so I'm with him in the rain." I looked at Molly again. "But then it brings me back there, too. I never know which I'm going to get."
She looked down at our hands and then up into my eyes. "Acadia," she whispered.
I looked out across the pool again and nodded my head. "I've heard it called a cult so often on the news. And I guess it was." I bit my lip for a minute thinking of all the horror that had taken place there in those final days. "To me it was home though. I loved people there. And that's the hardest part."
"There was a boy," Molly said. It wasn't a question.
"Yes," I said.
Molly looked down, biting her own lip. "Oh, Eden. No wonder. You were in love. Oh, I'm so, so sorry."
I nodded, a single tear escaping my eye.
Molly leaned forward. "Is there any chance that he got out, too? I mean, you didn't go to the police . . ."
I shook my head, wiping the wetness from my cheek. "The whole place was flattened. Underwater. I know you probably saw it on the news, but to be there . . ." I shivered, wrapping my arms around myself. "The water and then the collapse. No."
"Oh God." She stood up and leaned down to hug me, squeezing me tightly to her. When she returned to her chair, there were tears in her eyes, too.
We both wiped our tears away just as my mom walked through the patio doors. "Good morning, girls," she sing-songed. She was fully dressed, coiffed, and looking like she'd been awake for hours. She came over and kissed me on my cheek, bringing her face close to mine and gazing at me with a smile on her face for a good ten seconds. Her powdery, floral scent wafted all around me. I couldn't help but smile back at her, my mood lifting just a little. "What?" I asked.
"You!" she said, pinching my cheek. "You bring joy to my day. And you're so gorgeous, even with bed head." She grinned.
Molly snorted. "Well, gee, what am I? Chopped liver here?"
"Oh," my mom said, standing and clapping her hands together. "You're gorgeous, too. I'm just used to you." She went over and kissed Molly and pinched her cheek as well. She plopped down in a chair next to me and said, "I have so much to do before the party."
I bit my lip. "Do you really think your friends will be discreet?" I asked. "I mean, these people can definitely be trusted not to go to the police, right? Until we're ready?"
My mom's eyes widened. "Oh yes. I've sworn them all to secrecy for now. They know exactly how much I've suffered, and now how much you've suffered, too. They would never." She paused, looking concerned. "But Eden, we'll have to tell the police you're back at some point, my darling. They'll want to close the case, investigate and whatever it is they do in situations like this."
I worried my brow, nodding. "You can't get in trouble for not telling them right away, can you?"
Molly cut in, "I can't think of any law you're breaking, no, and I highly doubt they'd do anything about it anyway. How would that look? Anyone in their right mind will understand." She glanced at Carolyn who was nodding. "Still, you can't live with it hanging over your head. The sooner you get the whole hoopla over with, the sooner you can move on with your life."
I frowned again, nodding. "Hoopla," I whispered.
"Oh yes, it will be a media circus. You have to be prepared for that." Carolyn frowned slightly. As I studied her face, sympathy filled me. If anyone was familiar with a media circus, it was her I imagined.
I nodded again, even more determined now to put off going to the police. Police. As always, just the word alone had fear skittering down my spine. A captive to fear.
"Well anyway," Carolyn said brightly, "we can talk about all that after the party. We'll make a decision together.”
I smiled, but I was still a little concerned. "Okay. So speaking of this party, I thought you said it was a very small intimate group of friends?"
"Oh, it is, just twenty. But my garden parties are infamous, so I have a reputation to uphold." She winked. "Plus, since it will be chilly, there's more to do. Heat lamps, twinkle lights . . . It's going to be beautiful. It will be like making up for all the birthday parties I didn't get to throw for you."
I laughed softly. "Okay." I started to stand and Molly and my mom did, too. "I'm going to go in and take a shower," I said.
"All right. I've laid your outfit out on your bed," my mom said as I turned away. I turned back.
"For the party."
I heard Molly groan and my eyes darted to her. She widened them slightly as if to say that Carolyn had really lost her mind. What could it really hurt though? I turned back to my mom and smiled. "Thanks, how nice of you," I said.
Her expression brightened and she smiled, clapping her hands together.
"Eden," Molly called. "It was so nice talking to you." She smiled warmly if not a little sadly.
I gave her a small smile back. "You, too, Molly," I said.
I went back upstairs to my room trying my best not to gasp out in horrified shock when I saw the sheer, light pink, sleeveless dress with the huge flower at the neckline. I held the hanger up, my eyes widening as the flower seemed to grow before my very eyes. Well.
I laid it back down on my bed, a feeling of rebellion coursing through my body. This is not the same, I reminded myself, picturing a white, lace dress. This is not the same. I hung the dress up in my closet and closed the door firmly behind me.
I scrolled through the Internet page in front of me, taking a few notes here and there when something seemed important, but mostly reading the content and pausing when I needed to digest something. The information filled my mind, blocking out everything else and bringing with it a peace I craved, at least for the moment.