The Midwife’s Confession
Also by DIANE CHAMBERLAIN
THE LIES WE TOLD
SECRETS SHE LEFT BEHIND
BEFORE THE STORM
THE SECRET LIFE OF CEECEE WILKES
THE BAY AT MIDNIGHT
HER MOTHER’S SHADOW
KEEPER OF THE LIGHT
THE SHADOW WIFE
(Formerly published as CYPRESS POINT)
THE COURAGE TREE
BREAKING THE SILENCE
The Midwife’s Confession
Part Two: Anna
Part Three: Grace
Wilmington, North Carolina
She sat on the top step of the front porch of her Sunset Park bungalow, leaning against the post, her eyes on the full moon. She would miss all this. The night sky. Spanish moss hanging from the live oaks. September air that felt like satin against her skin. She resisted the pull of her bedroom. The pills. Not yet. She had time. She could sit here all night if she wanted.
Lifting her arm, she outlined the circle of the moon with her fingertip. Felt her eyes burn. “I love you, world,” she whispered.
The weight of the secret pressed down on her suddenly, and she dropped her hand to her lap, heavy as a stone. When she’d awakened this morning, she’d had no idea that this would be the day she could no longer carry that weight. As recently as this evening, she’d hummed as she chopped celery and cucumbers and tomatoes for her salad, thinking of the fair-haired preemie born the day before—a fragile little life who needed her help. But when she sat down with her salad in front of the computer, it was as though two beefy, muscular arms reached out from her monitor and pressed their hands down hard on her head, her shoulders, compressing her lungs so that she couldn’t pull in a full breath.
The very shape of the letters on her screen clawed at her brain and she knew it was time. She felt no fear—certainly no panic—as she turned off the computer. She left the salad, barely touched, on her desk. No need for it now. No desire for it. She got everything ready; it wasn’t difficult. She’d been preparing for this night for a long time. Once all was in order, she came out to the porch to watch the moon and feel the satin air and fill her eyes and lungs and ears with the world one last time. She had no expectation of a change of heart. The relief in her decision was too great, so great that by the time she finally got to her feet, just as the moon slipped behind the trees across the street, she was very nearly smiling.
Going upstairs to call Grace for dinner was becoming a habit. I knew I’d find her sitting at her computer, earbuds in her ears so she couldn’t hear me when I tried to call her from the kitchen. Did she do that on purpose? I knocked on her door, then pushed it open a few inches when she didn’t answer. She was typing, her attention glued to her monitor. “Dinner’s almost ready, Grace,” I said. “Please come set the table.”
Twitter, our goldendoodle, had been stretched out beneath Grace’s bare feet, but at the mention of “dinner” he was instantly at my side. Not so my daughter.
“In a minute,” she said. “I have to finish this.”
I couldn’t see the screen from where I stood, but I was quite sure she was typing an email rather than doing her homework. I knew she was still behind. That was what happened when you taught at your child’s high school; you always knew what was going on academically. Grace had been an excellent student and one of the best writers at Hunter High, but that all changed when Sam died in March. Everyone cut her slack during the spring and I was hoping she’d pull it together this fall, but then Cleve broke up with her before he left for college, sending her into a tailspin. At least, I assumed it was the breakup that had pulled her deeper into her shell. How could I really know what was going on with her? She wouldn’t talk to me. My daughter had become a mystery. A closed book. I was starting to think of her as the stranger who lived upstairs.
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