She remembered it as clearly as if it were yesterday. How many times had she gone over the plan in her mind, the critical moments, the aspects most likely to fail? Had she known, then, exactly how much was at stake? Would she have done things differently if she’d known? She’d spent hours on this question since; pondering, agonizing, begging some higher power to tell her if what she’d done was right. Since no higher power had answered her questions, she’d come to find out for herself.
One long slender leg entered the room, then another. The family, who were all listening to Amy intently, didn’t notice at first. They thought it was Sophia with the coffee, or else the maid coming in to begin her shift. But out of the corner of one person’s eye a black trimmed suit could be seen, another person vaguely noticed the petite statute of the newcomer, and yet others were unsettled by a slight shift in the room’s energy, a feeling of disturbance that rippled through the room. One by one the family turned their heads to see Catherine standing by the door.
Amy’s mouth, which had been in the middle of forming a word, suddenly lost sound. John James looked as though he was staring at a ghost, and Victoria, dumbfounded, looked quickly back at the doorway as if hoping to see her dead husband following close behind. Granny had turned white. Her nails were digging into the leather couch, and her eyes were hard as iron, but she said nothing. Catherine looked around at her family members, seeing the familiar faces that she trusted for years, and her resolve faltered slightly. Then a trembling voice came from the doorway.
Tanya shattered the room’s still silence. Catherine gasped and rushed over to her daughter, hugging her tightly. Amy jumped up and shouted for Sophia and the rest of the family to come into the library. Finally John James stood and addressed Catherine. Distant, hostile, and nervous, he loudly demanded that she explain herself. Catherine sat down on the couch next to Tanya, pressing her daughter’s hands in her own as she spoke.
She told them a long story, which culminated on the night of her “death” all those years ago. She had been young, too young, when she’d married John James. She spun a tale of desperation, of feeling trapped, chained to an existence of dinner parties and aristocratic airs. Faking her suicide had seemed like her only option at the time, although she had realized a lot since then. She desperately wished she hadn’t done it, but she’d been young – she kept repeating this – and foolish, very foolish. She teared up at the appropriate moments, and apologized profusely to everyone she’d hurt, especially Tanya. But then she paused in her story and looked around the room.
Amy started laughing, John James looked as though he’d been punched in the stomach. Victoria looked at Catherine with hatred.
“I don’t know what to think of your reappearance, Cathy,” she said evenly. “But I do know there’s more to tell than you’ve said in your pretty little sob story there. Why have you waited so long to come back? Why come back at all?” She drummed her long red fingernails on the side of her teacup. “Victor is dead. He died tonight, at the dinner table. The hospital says he was poisoned.”
Catherine released Tanya’s hands as she put her own hands over her mouth. “Oh my god.” She turned to look at Tanya again and then quickly back to Victoria, who was looking almost triumphant.
“You can be honest with us or not, Cathy, but I don’t believe in coincidences.”
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