Graduation Night, continued...
Adam didn’t wind up leaving Maggie’s apartment until the next day. They spent the entire day in bed together, talking and making love. When it was finally time to leave, Maggie came down with him to help him past those three steps to get him out of the building. Adam felt a little embarrassed having to ask for her help, but if they were going to be husband and wife soon, this definitely wouldn’t be the first time she’d be pulling him up or down some stairs.
“Does this bother you?” Adam asked her, as she let go of his chair on the final step. He looked up at her nervously.
Maggie grabbed a handful of her belly. “Does this bother you?” she retorted.
Adam laughed and pulled her by her shirt down to his level so that he could kiss her again. “I can’t wait for you to move in with me,” he said. “Not to brag or anything, but my place is like ten times the size of yours.”
“Yes, I know my apartment sucks.”
“Well, I’m just saying... yeah, it sucks.”
“I guess I got lucky landing a rich computer nerd,” Maggie said.
“You got lucky all right,” Adam said, gently smacking her ass.
“Hey, watch it, buster,” Maggie said, feigning indignance.
When Adam got home, he couldn’t help but think about how Maggie would fit into his apartment and his life. His apartment, although only one bedroom, was very large, probably too big for just one person. And it was lonely. Having Maggie here would fill the empty space. He couldn’t wait.
He heard the phone ring in the living room and wheeled into the room to pick it up. He was hoping it was Maggie. “Hey.”
Definitely not Maggie. It was a male’s voice. “Yeah? What is it?”
“This is Brad Richards.”
Adam shuddered involuntarily. He remembered what David Richards had told him about his son. “What do you want? I already told your father I’m going to testify.”
“Yeah, lot of good that does.”
“What are you talking about?”
“You were in a fucking mental hospital,” Brad Richards said. None of that innocent nervousness from his last visit was present. Apparently, that was all an act. “Who’s going to believe you now?”
“I was released...” Adam pointed out.
“No, you blew it,” Brad said. “And now you and your buddy Roger Jacobson are going to pay.”
“Are you threatening me?”
“I told you, it’s not up to me. I’m just warning you.”
With that, Brad Richards hung up the phone.
Adam stared at the receiver, a feeling of dread washing over him. In a way, it was the same threat from before. But there was something more terrifying about it now. There was no way to escape from this. The police were no help, that was obvious.
How did Brad Richards know he had been in a psychiatric unit anyway? Was he following him? It was a frightening thought. Brad knew where he lived, where he worked, his phone numbers, and even his email address. How did a fifteen year old kid get that sort of information? Who would even have access to...
Adam frowned, the answer coming to him slowly. There was one person who had access to all that information. One person who knew where he worked and could easily use their authority and inside track to find out all sorts of personal information about him:
The more Adam thought about it, the more clear it became. Brynne had access to all his information through the computers at work. And once they were “dating”, she had access to all his personal information too, including his recent hospital stay. And if he didn’t do what she wanted, it would have been very easy for her to gain entry into his apartment and follow through on her threats. No wonder she had been so upset when he broke it off with her.
Brynne must have thought it would be quite an easy task. All she had to do was convince a pathetic, impotent cripple to fall in love with her. And he had almost bought it too. He had almost been convinced that Brynne really did like him. He supposed this way made more sense.
But the question remained: why? What interest did Brynne have in getting revenge on the people who killed Shannon Richards?
Adam closed his eyes and thought back to eleven years ago. That damn trial where Roger had sat back and let his best friend take the fall for a murder he had committed. Shannon Richards whole family had been there to see the kid who had killed her. Her parents, her husband, and...
A younger sister. Who was blonde like Shannon was. Like Brynne was.
Adam tried hard to remember what that sister had looked like, but it wasn’t coming back to him. All he remembered was that she was a young girl who sat quietly and didn’t say anything to him. Brynne was twenty-one now, so she would have been ten years old back then... of course, Brynne probably looked like a high school girl at age ten. It was so hard to remember... but that was undoubtedly what Brynne had been counting on.
But now that he suspected the truth, he had no idea what to do with this information. He could try to avoid Brynne, but it wasn’t as if he could sic the police on her. If Brynne really wanted her revenge, she’d have it.
But there was one thing he could do. He could warn Roger.
Adam picked up the phone and dialed the number he had scribbled down on a piece of paper next to the name “Rog”. He heard Joy’s voice pick up. Roger must have still been at work. “Hello?”
“Hi... Joy? It’s Adam.”
“Adam!” Joy exclaimed. “When are you going to come over to our place for dinner?”
Joy was still in the dark about everything Roger had done. Adam realized at that moment that Joy deserved to know the truth as much as Roger did. She deserved to know what sort of man she was marrying. “Actually,” Adam said. “I was hoping I could come over tomorrow night. There’s something I need to talk to you and Roger about.”
“Nothing serious, I hope?” He could hear the concern in Joy’s voice.
“It is sort of serious, unfortunately,” Adam told her.
“What is it?”
“I’ll explain tomorrow,” he promised her. “I want to talk to you and Roger together.”
Joy agreed to the meeting, but Adam couldn’t help but feel like he was making a mistake somehow. Roger had tried to poison Adam in order to stop him from testifying... what would he do now when there was a chance his fiancee might find out the truth? And if Joy found out what really happened, would her life be in danger too?
Still, Adam felt that this was the right thing to do. Everybody had been lying for too long now. The only way for all this to work out was to admit what really happened.
Thanks to Adam and his fist, Roger had to walk around all week with two black eyes. His nose, thankfully, wasn’t broken, but it swelled up like he was a drunk and the lower lids of both his eyes turned purple. When his secretary saw him the next day, she actually gasped. Roger wisely decided to postpone his trials for that week.
He told Joy he had been mugged. He hated lying to her like that again, and now it was lies to cover up his lies. He didn’t know what sort of person he was turning into. He almost considered asking Pete Amsterdam for another bottle of Visine to do himself in, before someone really got hurt. But instead he clung to the naïve hope that somehow it would all work out.
Now his black eyes had faded into a greenish-yellow. He still looked like he had been in a fight, but it was an improvement from a few days earlier. As he sat at his desk working, he decided he didn’t need to reschedule his trials for the next week.
“Mr. Jacobson,” his secretary’s voice crackled over the speaker. “I’ve got a Brynne Bower on the line for you.”
Brynne. Adam’s girlfriend. “Okay, put her through,” Roger instructed her. He picked up the phone.
“Roger? It’s Brynne.” She sounded a little breathless.
“Hey, Brynne. What’s up?” They had spoken on the phone earlier in the week, when he had told her that Adam had been sent to the hospital. She had swallowed his lie without question.
“Roger, I’m really worried about Adam,” Brynne said. “I don’t know what to do...”
“What’s wrong?” Roger asked, using his most concerned voice.
Brynne sighed. “I just... I think he might have really lost it.”
“Well, he’s home now.”
“I know,” Brynne said.
Roger hesitated. “What exactly are you worried about?”
“I really... I can’t discuss this over the phone,” Brynne said. “Do you think you could meet me somewhere to talk? Tonight?”
“Tonight... I, uh... I don’t know...” Roger wasn’t sure how Joy would feel about him meeting with a beautiful girl like Brynne. Not too good, he guessed.
“Tomorrow night then.” It wasn’t a question anymore.
“All right,” Roger agreed reluctantly. After all, the poor girl seemed really worried. He’d just talk to her a little and calm her down. “Where do you want to meet?”
“How about my apartment?” Brynne suggested. “It’s quiet there.”
If Roger didn’t know better, he’d have thought Brynne was coming on to him. But years of rejection had taught him that when he thought a woman was coming on to him, he was usually mistaken. “Okay, just give me the address,” Roger said. “I’ll be there.”
Adam was taking the rest of the week off from work, so he suggested Maggie start moving in with him the very next day. He already had an extra copy of his key that he had intended to give to Brynne and he had cleared some drawer and closet space. He didn’t intend to let Maggie know that Brynne had been planning to move in with him only a short time earlier—she’d just act like typical Maggie and freak out. Besides, Brynne wasn’t a topic he wanted to think about right now. He hoped that once he met with Roger and Joy, they’d figure out a way to deal with her so nobody would get hurt.
Adam had told Maggie to show up at 11AM, but he was surprised when he heard his doorbell ring fifteen minutes before that. Maggie had notoriously always been late, always showing up with a guilty look on her face and no explanation of what had taken her an extra half hour to arrive. Maybe she had changed since then though. He certainly had.
But it wasn’t Maggie standing at the door when he opened it. It was his mother.
“Adam.” Nina Harding’s brows furrowed as she reached out to touch his shoulder. “Are you all right, honey? The hospital told me you were discharged.”
“I’m fine,” Adam assured her. He looked up at his mother and saw the wrinkles around her eyes. She worried about him so much—it really wasn’t fair what he put her through. She was all gray now under her reddish brown hair dye. She was getting old, yes, but he knew he had also been a factor in her aging process.
It was, in fact, during the first two years following Adam’s accident that Nina’s hair had gone from her natural brown to completely gray. She had visited him every day in rehab, helping her only child struggle with the realization that he was now disabled, watching him lose thirty pounds over that first year, purchasing packages of Depends for him when he came home, which he accepted with a red face and averted gaze.
And now every time she saw him, she could read the unhappiness on his face. Despite his lies to her, she recognized that he was very lonely. And he knew it pained her to see him like this.
“Mom, there’s something I need to tell you,” Adam said. “Can you sit down a minute.”
“Of course,” Nina said, the worried lines on her face deepening. She sat down on his couch. “What is it, honey?”
“Mom, I... I’m getting married.”
Nina stared at him. It was obviously the last thing she had expected him to say. “What?”
“I said, I’m getting married. I don’t know exactly when but... soon. Very soon.”
Nina shook her head and he could see the wheels turning. Probably wondering how her son could be engaged when he didn’t even have a girlfriend. Wondering if it was all in his head, or maybe it was just some girl who was taking advantage of a poor lonely cripple for his money. “Adam, I don’t understand. I didn’t even know you were seeing anyone...”
“I wasn’t, but—”
“Adam, honey,” Nina put her hand on his. “You have to be careful of what you’re doing. You’re marrying a girl you don’t even know? I know you’re lonely, but... you don’t want to get stuck with—”
“Mom, it’s Maggie McConnelly. Remember her?”
Now Nina was staring at him in total disbelief. “You mean that girl you were in love with back in high school?”
Adam blushed. He didn’t realize his mother knew he liked Maggie, although in retrospect it was probably very obvious to the entire world. “Yeah, her.”
At that moment, the doorbell rang again. Adam placed his hand on one wheel, preparing to move toward the door, but Nina jumped up and beat him to it. “I’ll get it,” she volunteered.
When Nina answered the door, Maggie was standing there, holding two suitcases. Nina looked her up and down, taking in all 360 pounds, the cropped hair, the nervous smile. And her shoulders finally relaxed. “Maggie,” Nina sighed. “It’s good to see you again.”
Maggie looked over at Adam, who was grinning at her. “Hi, Mrs. Harding,” she said softly. “It’s good to see you too.”
Then Nina did something very unexpected. She took Maggie into her arms in an embrace. Nina whispered something inaudible in Maggie’s ear, and when she pulled away, her eyes were filled with tears. “I guess I’ll leave you two alone then,” she choked.
When Nina was gone, Adam wheeled over to Maggie and took her hand in his. “You’re late,” he said to her, staring up into her eyes.
“I couldn’t get a taxi,” she said.
Adam shook his head. Typical Maggie excuse. “What did she whisper to you?”
Maggie smiled. “She said, ‘Call me Mom.’”
To be continued...