Now that the truth has left his lips, he seems calmer. He’s not sweating anymore. He’s my confident husband again.
“You don’t know what she was like.” The bitterness seeps through his voice. “She was insane. My father died when I was a kid, and he got off easy as far as I’m concerned. She was always extremely anxious, always accusing people around her of being out to get her. Including me.”
He pauses to look disdainfully at the fire. “She was an alcoholic too. When she drank, she always thought I was stealing her stuff, and she’d corner me and accuse me. She would tell me I was rotten. A rotten kid who would never amount to anything.”
“I’m sorry,” I murmur.
“To be fair, I was stealing her stuff some of the time. I figured if she was going to accuse me either way, I may as well do it.”
This is the other side of my husband. The one he never lets me see. A little thrill goes through me. “So what happened?”
“I needed money.” He looks down at his hands. “She never gave me any money. Never gave me anything because she didn’t trust anyone besides herself. But she had that insurance policy. And you know what? I wouldn’t have even done it, except she was so drunk that night. She was yelling at me about what a terrible son I was, and I couldn’t help myself. I pushed her down the stairs.”
He lifts his eyes slowly. “I had parked around the back. I got the hell out of there and didn’t call the police until a day
later. I told them I couldn’t reach her, and I was worried. She was long gone by then.”
Now that he’s told me the whole story, he drops onto the couch and buries his face in his hands. I sit down beside him and lower my hand onto his back. His shoulders are trembling.
“You hate me now,” he murmurs. “I can’t blame you.” “No,” I say.
He lifts his face from his hands. His eyes are damp. “I love you so much, Tricia. I didn’t know I was capable of it. I spent my entire childhood hating that woman, and I didn’t know I had it in me to love another person. Then I met you, and it was like, you’re my soulmate.”
“Then why didn’t you tell me the truth?”
“I couldn’t tell you! You would have left me if you found out.”
“That’s not true.” I reach out and take his hand in mine. “The truth is…”
“I already knew.”
His face fills with confusion. This is the moment to tell him everything. I’ve been scared to, but I don’t have a choice. If there was ever a time to tell him, it is now.
So I start at the beginning. About Cody and Alexis. How I became Dr. Hale’s patient. How she blackmailed me and forced me to do her bidding. The identity of the body under the floorboards. Finally, the true fate of Dr. Adrienne Hale and my goal in coming here this weekend.
Ethan listens to the entire story, his face an emotionless mask. At some point, he pulls his hand away from mine and puts it in his lap. He doesn’t interrupt me once. He lets me tell him everything, and there’s a moment when I’m afraid I’ve gone too far. He killed his mother, yes. But I killed six people and was responsible for the death of one other. One might argue that my sins outweigh his—if they were keeping track.
When I finish talking, Ethan just sits there for a while, staring at the fireplace. I let him mull over what I just told him. He deserves a few minutes to think it over. I quietly cross my fingers and my toes. He will understand. I know he will.
“Wow,” he finally says. He’s still staring at the fire.
What is he thinking? Is he going to turn me in to the police? I took a massive chance here tonight. But I thought he loved me too much. And now his child is growing inside me. He would never do that to me.
He wouldn’t. I’m almost sure of it. But I’m not certain.
“So what do you think?” I say.
“I…” His eyes reflect the flames from the fire. “I think…”
I misjudged him. I’ve made a terrible mistake. I thought he would understand, but I was wrong. He doesn’t understand. Nobody can.
“Ethan?” I whisper.
He rips his blue eyes away from the fire and looks straight into mine. “I think that guy Luke is going to be a big problem. He knows way too much.”
My heart flutters. “Yes. Yes. I was thinking the same thing.”
“And also…” He is the one who reaches for my hand this time. “I’m glad I’m here to help you. We can take care of this problem the right way. Together.”
I squeeze his big, warm hand. “I knew you would know exactly what to do.”
We stand up simultaneously. Ethan walks over to the bookcase, and he picks up the carving knife he left there. He grips the handle with his right hand. His face glows eerily in the crackling light of the fire. I’ve always wanted a fireplace, but it’s not the sort of thing you could have in Manhattan. And this is a beautiful fireplace.
“You know,” I say thoughtfully, “this house is kind of growing on me. Maybe I could see myself living here after all.”
“Yeah?” His face lights up. “I was hoping you would say that. Because I feel the same way.” He raises his eyebrows. “You coming, Tricia?”
“Yes. Just a moment.”
I find my wool coat, draped on the edge of the couch. I rifle around in the pockets and my fingers make contact with the cassette tape I stashed there. I pull it out, looking at my initials on the side of the tape. I’m a different person now than the girl on the tape. But in other ways, I haven’t changed at all.
I close my fingers around the cassette. I walk over to the fireplace, my cheeks absorbing the heat radiating out of the small space. I toss the tape in with the others, onto the slowly disintegrating pile. For a moment, I stand there and watch it burn.
Then I join my husband.