Chapter no 12

Hidden Pictures

The next morning I walk over to the main house and Teddy is waiting for me at the sliding glass patio doors, holding a small notepad and pencil. “Good morning and welcome to my restaurant,” he says. “How many are in your party?”

“Just one, Monsieur.” “Right this way.”

All his stuffed animals are seated in chairs around the kitchen table. Teddy leads me to an empty seat between Godzilla and Blue Elephant. He pulls out a chair and hands me a paper napkin. I can hear Caroline upstairs, frantically crisscrossing her bedroom. It sounds like she’ll be late leaving the house again.

Teddy stands patiently at my side, pencil and notepad in hand, ready to take my order. “We don’t really have a menu,” he says. “We can make anything you want.”

“In that case I’ll have scrambled eggs. With bacon and pancakes and spaghetti and ice cream.” This makes him laugh, so I milk the joke for all it’s worth. “And carrots, hamburgers, tacos, and watermelon.”

He doubles over with giggles. The kid has a way of making me feel like Kate McKinnon on SNL, like everything I do is comedy gold. “If you say so!” he says, and then he wobbles over to his play chest to fill my plate with plastic food.

The landline starts ringing and Caroline calls downstairs to me. “Let that go to voice mail, please, I don’t have time!”

After three rings, the machine picks up, and I can hear the message being recorded: “Good morning! This is Diana Farrell at Spring Brook Elementary…”

It’s their third message in a week and Caroline swoops into the kitchen, hurrying to catch the caller before she hangs up. “Hello, this is Caroline.” She shoots me an exasperated look—can you believe this freaking school system??—and carries the phone into the den. Meanwhile Teddy brings me a plate that’s piled high with play toys: plastic eggs and plastic spaghetti and several scoops of plastic ice cream. I shake my head and pretend to be outraged. “I’m pretty sure I ordered bacon!”

Teddy laughs, runs across the room to his toy chest, and returns with a strip of plastic bacon. I’m trying to eavesdrop on Caroline’s call but she’s not saying very much. It’s like the conversations happening at Quiet Time in Teddy’s bedroom, where the other person is doing most of the talking. She’s just saying “Right, right” and “of course” and “no, thank you.”

I pretend to stuff myself with plastic food like a fat hog at a trough. I make a lot of snuffing and snorting noises, and Teddy roars with laughter. Caroline enters the kitchen with the cordless phone and puts it back in the cradle.

“That was your new school principal,” she tells Teddy. “She cannot wait to meet you!”

Then she gives him a big hug and kiss and hurries out the door, because it’s already 7:38 and she’s crazy-late.

After I’ve finished “eating” my breakfast, I pay my pretend bill with pretend money and ask Teddy what he feels like doing. And I guess he’s really in the mood to pretend because he wants to play Enchanted Forest again.

We follow Yellow Brick Road and Dragon Pass down to the Royal River, and then we climb the branches of the Giant Beanstalk until we’re ten feet above the ground. There’s a small hollow in one of the limbs, and Teddy dutifully fills it

with small rocks and sharp sticks—an arsenal of weapons, in case we’re ever attacked by goblins.

“Goblins can’t climb trees because their arms are too short,” Teddy explains. “So we can hide in these branches and throw stones at them.”

We spend the morning immersed in a game of endless invention and improvisation. In the Enchanted Forest, everything is possible, nothing is off-limits. Teddy stops on the banks of the Royal River and tells me I should drink the water. He says the river has magical properties that will keep us from getting captured.

“I already have a gallon back at my cottage,” I tell him. “I’ll share it with you when we get home.”

“Perfect!” he exclaims.

And then he skips off down the path, leading the way to the next discovery.

“By the way,” I call after him. “I found the pictures you left for me.”

Teddy looks back and smiles, waiting for me to elaborate. “The pictures you left on my porch.”

“Of the goblins?”

“No, Teddy, the pictures of Anya being buried. They’re really well done. Did someone help you?”

Now he looks confused—like I’ve abruptly changed the rules of the game without telling him.

“I don’t draw Anya anymore.” “It’s okay. I’m not upset.” “But I didn’t do it.”

“You left them on my porch. Under a rock.”

He throws up his hands in exasperation. “Can we just play regular Enchanted Forest? Please? I don’t like this other way.”


I realize that maybe I’ve introduced the subject at the wrong time. But after we head back to the house for lunch, I don’t want to bring it up anymore. I make us some chicken

nuggets and Teddy goes upstairs for Quiet Time. I wait a little while, and then I follow him upstairs and put my ear to his bedroom door. And I can hear the whisper of his pencil moving across the page, scritch scritch scritch.



Later that afternoon Russell calls and invites me to dinner. I’m still tired from the night before so I suggest pushing it off, but Russell says he’s leaving for a two-week vacation—it has to be tonight. “I found a restaurant near your house. A Cheesecake Factory.”

I almost laugh because Russell is such a stickler for healthful eating. His diet is almost entirely plants and proteins—no added sugars or carbs, just occasional spoonfuls of carob chips and organic honey.

“Cheesecake? You’re serious?”

“I already booked a table. Seven thirty.”

So after Caroline goes home, I shower and put on a dress and on my way out of the cottage I reach for the pile of Teddy’s latest drawings. And then I stop in the doorway, hesitating. After sharing the whole story with Adrian at the bookstore, I know I’d need an hour to get through everything. And so I decide to leave the drawings at home. I want Russell to feel proud of me. I want to project the image of a strong, capable woman thriving in recovery. I don’t want to burden him with all my worries. So I stash the drawings in my nightstand.

The restaurant is big, crowded, thrumming with energy— a typical Cheesecake Factory. The hostess leads me to a table where Russell is waiting. He’s dressed in a navy-blue tracksuit and his favorite HOKA sneakers, the ones he wore in the New York City Marathon. “There she is!” He gives me a hug, then looks me up and down. “What happened, Quinn? You look wiped out.”

“Thanks, Coach. You look good, too.”

We settle down in our seats, and I order a seltzer. “I’m serious,” he says. “Are you sleeping okay?”

“I’m fine. The cottage is a little noisy at night. But I’m managing.”

“Have you told the Maxwells? Maybe they can do something.”

“They offered me a room in the main house. But I told you, I’m fine.”

“You can’t train if you’re not resting.” “It was just one bad night. I swear.”

I try changing the subject to the menu, which has calorie counts and nutritional information under every entrée. “Did you see the Pasta Napolitano? It’s twenty-five hundred calories.”

Russell orders a tossed green salad with grilled chicken and vinaigrette dressing on the side. I get the Glamburger with a side of sweet potato fries. We talk a bit about his upcoming vacation—two weeks in Las Vegas with his lady friend, Doreen, a personal trainer at his YMCA. But I can tell he’s still troubled. After we’ve finished eating, he steers the conversation back to me.

“So how’s Spring Brook? How are the NA meetings?” “It’s an older crowd, Russell. No offense.”

“Are you going once a week?” “Don’t need to. I’m steady.”

I can tell he doesn’t like this answer, but he doesn’t give me any flak.

“How about friends? Are you meeting people?” “I went out with a friend last night.”

“Where’d you meet her?”

He is a student at Rutgers, and he’s home for the summer.”

My sponsor narrows his eyes, concerned. “It’s a little early for dating, Quinn. You’re only eighteen months sober.”

“We’re just friends.”

“So he knows you’re sober?”

“Yes, Russell, that was our very first topic of conversation. I told him how I nearly overdosed in the back of an Uber. Then we talked about the nights I slept at the train station.”

He shrugs, like these would be perfectly sensible things to discuss. “I’ve sponsored a lot of college kids, Mallory. These campuses—the fraternities, the binge drinking— they’re breeding grounds for addicts.”

“We had a very quiet evening in a bookstore. We drank seltzer water and listened to music. Then he walked me back to the Maxwells’ house. It was nice.”

“The next time you see him, you should tell him the truth. This is part of your identity, Mallory, you need to embrace it. The longer you wait, the harder it gets.”

“Is this why you invited me here? To lecture me?”

“No, I invited you here because Caroline called me. She’s worried about you.”

I’m blindsided. “Seriously?”

“She said you started off great. She called you a dynamo, Quinn. She was really happy with your performance. But the last few days, she said she’s noticed a change. And anytime I hear those words—”

“I’m not using, Russell.” “Good, okay, that’s good.” “Did she say I was using?”

“She said you were acting strangely. She saw you outside at seven in the morning, digging through her trash cans. What the heck was that all about?”

I realize Caroline must have spotted me through her bedroom window. “It was nothing. I threw something away by mistake. I had to get it back. Big deal.”

“She says you’re talking about ghosts. You think maybe her son is possessed?”

“No, I never said that. She misunderstood me.”

“She says you’re getting chummy with a user who lives next door.”

“You mean Mitzi? I’ve talked to Mitzi two times. In four weeks. Does that make us BFFs?”

Russell gestures for me to keep my voice down. Even in the crowded noisy dining room, some of our neighbors are turning to stare. “I’m here to help you, okay? Is there anything you want to talk about?”

Can I really tell him? Can I really outline all my concerns about Annie Barrett? No, I cannot. Because I know all my worries sound ridiculous. And I just want my sponsor to be proud of me.

“Let’s talk about dessert. I’m thinking Chocolate Hazelnut Cheesecake.”

I offer him a laminated menu, but he won’t accept it. “Don’t change the subject. You need this job. If you get fired, there’s no going back to Safe Harbor. They’ve got a wait list longer than your arm.”

“I’m not going back to Safe Harbor. I’m going to do an amazing job, and Caroline is going to rave about me to all her neighbors, and when the summer’s over I bet she keeps me on. Or I’ll go work for another family in Spring Brook. That’s the plan.”

“What about the father? How’s Ted?” “What about him?”

“Is he nice?” “Yes.”

“Is he too nice? Maybe a little handsy?” “Did you really just use the word handsy?”

“You know what I’m talking about. Sometimes these guys lose sight of boundaries. Or they see the boundary and they don’t care.”

I think back to my swimming lesson from two weeks ago, the night Ted complimented me on my tattoo. I guess he’d put a hand on my shoulder, but it’s not like he grabbed my ass. “He’s not handsy, Russell. He’s fine. I’m fine. We’re all fine. Now can we please order dessert?”

This time, he grudgingly accepts a menu. “Which one are we looking at?”

“Chocolate Hazelnut.”

He flips to the back of the menu, to the index listing all the nutritional information. “Fourteen hundred calories? Are you shitting me?”

“And ninety-two grams of sugar.”

“Good lord, Quinn. People must die in this restaurant every week. They must have heart attacks walking out to their cars. There should be medics in the parking lot, waiting to revive them.”

Our waitress sees Russell browsing the desserts. She’s a teenager, smiling and cheerful. “Looks like someone’s thinking cheesecake!”

“Not a chance,” he says. “But my friend’s going to have some. She’s healthy and strong and she has her whole life ahead of her.”



After dessert Russell insists on driving me back to the Maxwells’, so I won’t have to cross the highway after dark. It’s almost nine thirty when we pull up to the house.

“Thank you for the cheesecake,” I tell him. “I hope you have a great vacation.”

I open the door to the car and Russell stops me. “Listen, are you sure you’re okay?”

“How many times are you going to ask me?” “Just tell me why you’re shaking.”

Why am I shaking? Because I’m nervous. I’m afraid I’m going to walk up to the cottage and find more drawings on the porch—that’s why I’m shaking. But I’m not about to explain any of this to Russell.

“I just ate fifty grams of saturated fat. My body’s going into shock.”

He looks skeptical. This is the classic sponsor’s dilemma: You need to trust your sponsee, you need to show you believe in them and have absolute faith in their recovery. But when they start acting weird—when they start shivering in cars on hot summer nights—you need to be the bad guy. You need to ask the tough questions.

I open his glove box and it’s still full of dip cards. “You want to test me?”

“No, Mallory. Of course not.” “You’re obviously worried.”

“I am, but I trust you. Those cards are not for you.” “Let me do it anyway. Let me prove I’m fine.”

He’s got a sleeve of paper cups rattling around the floor of the back seat so I reach down and grab one. Russell takes a dip card from the glove box and we both get out of the car. More than anything, I just want company walking back to my cottage. I’m afraid to go home by myself.

Once again, the backyard is dark. I still haven’t replaced the dead bulb that’s over my porch. “Where are we going?” Russell asks. “Where’s your house?”

I point toward the trees. “Back here. You’ll see.”

We step closer and I begin to discern its shape. I already have my keys in hand, so I test-fire the Viper and it makes a loud crackling noise, illuminating the backyard like a flash of lightning.

“Jesus,” Russell says. “What the hell is that?” “Caroline gave me a stun gun.”

“There’s no crime in Spring Brook. What do you need a stun gun for?”

“She’s a mom, Russell. She worries about stuff. I promised her I would keep it on my key chain.”

The Viper has a tiny LED flashlight and I use it to scan the cottage porch: no new rocks and no new pictures. I unlock the door and turn on the lights and lead Russell into the cottage. His eyes wander the room—ostensibly he’s admiring what I’ve done with the place, but Russell is a

veteran sponsor and I know he’s also scanning the room for signs of trouble. “This is really nice, Quinn. Did you do all this work yourself?”

“No, the Maxwells decorated before I moved in.” I take the plastic cup from his hand. “Give me a minute. Make yourself at home.”

You might think it’s gross, coming home from a nice dinner and peeing into a paper cup and then sharing that cup with a close friend so he can analyze its contents. But if you spend any time in rehab you get used to it pretty fast. I go into the bathroom and do what needs to happen. Then I wash my hands and return with the sample.

Russell is waiting anxiously. Since my living room is also my bedroom, I think he’s feeling a little awkward, like he’s breached some kind of sponsor-sponsee protocol. “I’m only doing this because you volunteered,” he reminds me. “I’m not really worried.”

“I know.”

He dips the card in the cup, holding it in place until the strips are saturated, and then he lays it across the top of the cup while we await the results. He talks a little more about his vacation, about his hopes of hiking down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon if his knees cooperate. But we don’t have to wait very long. The test panels show single lines for negatives and double lines for positives—and negative results always appear quickly.

“Squeaky clean, just like you said.”

He takes the cup, walks it back to my bathroom, and flushes the urine down the toilet. Then he crumples it up and pushes it deep down into my wastebasket, along with the test card. Finally he washes his hands, patiently and methodically, under warm water. “I’m proud of you, Quinn. I’ll call you when I’m back. Two weeks, okay?”

After he leaves, I lock the door and change into my pajamas, full of delicious cheesecake and feeling rather proud of myself. I’ve left my tablet computer charging in the

kitchen, and since it’s still early I think I might watch a movie. But as I walk around the kitchen counter to retrieve the tablet, I see the drawings I’ve been dreading—not pinned by a rock to my porch, but pinned by magnets to my refrigerator.







I yank the drawings off the refrigerator and the magnets clatter to the floor. The pages are limp with moisture and a little warm, like they’ve just come from an oven. I put them facedown on the counter so I won’t have to look at them.

Then I hurry around my cottage and lock both my windows. The night ahead will be warm and stuffy and possibly sleepless but after my discovery I’m not taking any chances. I roll back the rug and check the hatch in the floor

—it’s still securely nailed shut. Then I drag my bed across the cottage and use it to barricade the door. If anyone tries to open it, the door will bang into the footboard and jolt me awake.

As I see it, there are three possible ways these drawings ended up on my refrigerator.

#1: The Maxwells. I know they have a key to my cottage. I suppose it’s possible that Ted or Caroline drew these pictures and then—while I was out having dinner with Russell—one of them entered my cottage and left the drawings on my refrigerator. But why? I can’t think of a single plausible reason for either one of them to do this. I’m responsible for the safety and welfare of their child. Why would they want to gaslight me, to make me feel like I’m going crazy?

#2: Teddy. Perhaps this sweet five-year-old child swiped a spare key from his parents, then sneaked out of his bedroom, crept across the backyard, and carried the drawings inside my cottage. But to believe this theory, you also have to believe that Teddy is some kind of magical artistic savant—that he’s gone from drawing stick figures to fully realistic three-dimensional illustrations with convincing light and shadow—all in a matter of days.

#3. Anya. I have no idea what happens in Teddy’s bedroom during Quiet Time—but what if Anya really is controlling him? Taking possession of his body and using his hand to draw these pictures? And then somehow “carrying” these finished drawings into my cottage?

I know, I know: It sounds crazy.

But when I look at all three theories? When I compare them to each other? The most impossible explanation seems like the most likely explanation.

And that night—while I’m tossing and turning in bed, struggling to fall asleep—I figure out a way to prove I’m right.

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