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Authors: Tracy L Carbone

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BOOK: Hope House
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After
her dinner with Donna Mallory, after a couple of glasses of Merlot to numb her, she’d stuff it all back into place. Put it behind her, hidden deep away like a bad family secret.

6.

Law Office of Alierdi, Moss, and Carpenter, Miami, late afternoon

 

Tommy got up and peeked out at his secretary. “I need a few minutes. Absolutely no interruptions.” He shut his door, locked it, and then slumped into his high-priced leather chair. His solid mahogany desk and Mont Blanc pen taunted him, reminding him of what he’d had to do for this corner office and the perks that accompanied it.

He opened his bottom drawer and pulled a five by seven inch glossy picture out of a file in the back: Gloria on their wedding day. God, she was so gorgeous and so full of hope. Most likely, just as beautiful now, but thanks to him, jaded. Disillusioned by life.
Damn it!
He had loved her so much; but what
they
offered him had been too tempting. Besides, he knew that he could never have gotten this far on his own, not without trading the baby. He’d convinced himself that he’d done it for Gloria, but she’d never know that, not ever. Not with the way things turned out.

How the hell could he have known that she’d react the way she did, saying the baby kicked? How could he have known that she’d lose her ability to have more children, or that she’d go crazy?

He wiped the tears that threatened to overflow his eyes and spoke to her photo.

“I am so sorry, Gloria. So sorry. I’ll never stop loving you.”

He put the picture back in his drawer and beheld the expensive portrait on his desk. His new family standing in front of their enormous house. This was the life he had chosen, for better or worse, and despite his feelings for Gloria and the life he once had, this is what mattered now.

7.

New York City, early evening

Donna Mallory left Barnes and Noble
where she’d just had a book signing for her most recent thriller,
The Identity of Clara.
The gorgeous brunette with chocolate eyes hailed a cab to the airport to meet Gloria Hanes.  It was only a half hour flight on the Delta shuttle to Logan so she could make it by six if there weren’t any delays.

From the phone conversations they’d shared, Gloria relayed the same experience as Donna
’s own: an uneventful pregnancy followed by the insistence of an amniocentesis by a young doctor she’d only met a couple of times, and then an emergency D&E even though she insisted her baby was alive. She hadn’t had the courage to ask for an ultrasound as Gloria had but she
knew.
And since her fetus too was removed while she was anesthetized, she never got closure either. No body to see. No burial even though the age exceeded the legal limit and should have been reported as a stillbirth.

After the feature on Kelli’s TV show, many women contacted her about what she’d had to say, but two in particular startled her. Two women from foreign countries came forward with the exact history. Each woman’s episode within a few months of her and Gloria’s miscarriages. Both exceptionally pretty, college-educated women. And all served by Donna’s doctor, Tad Boucher. Different hospitals, different countries, but the same man! Coincidence? Four women whose babies were stolen alive, all by the same doctor. Something sinister had happened, and mostly likely
continued. This wasn’t in their combined imaginations. They weren’t having a shared hallucination or delusion. They needed to get the police and media involved.

But first, she needed to tell Gloria—

A sudden sharp pain jabbed her throat. She moved her hand to her Burberry scarf. Warm liquid tricked down red-smeared fingers.
Blood.
Red drips hit the snow-covered ground.
I’ve been shot.

 

Chapter Two

 

1.

Suburban neighborhood, Massachusetts, late morning

 

Gloria clutched a stuffed Eeyore as she carefully maneuvered down the icy walkway of Alison Gander’s home. She’d fluffed her hair for a half hour this morning and gotten her makeup just right. She wanted Alison’s first impression to be of a gorgeous, classy woman in high-heeled boots and a long leather coat but now she hesitated. Too Matrix? Well, too late now.  Maybe it was stupid trying to impress a five-year-old girl, but so what? She couldn’t have her own kids, but in a way she had given this child life; or at least a second chance at it.

Since her outburst that day in the hospital, she had renounced her suspicions. Tommy had convinced her, once again, that her wishful thinking bordered on self-delusion and paranoia. And Donna . . . poor Donna, had been shot and killed by someone in New York on her way to the airport. A random gang shooting, the police surmised. Tragic. Gloria had never gotten to speak to her. She was saddened by the tragic death of such a good person and talented actress, but she admitted relief that whatever concerns Donna had wanted to discuss with Gloria, they’d died with her. Gloria needed to be at peace, and to that end, she had convinced herself that she could indeed put all her doubts behind her.

A few days after her hospital visit, Gloria had undergone the bone marrow donation and the still little faceless Alison had gotten the transplant.

Gloria would have walked away then and resumed her life knowing she had helped a child. But then she got the unexpected call from Mrs. Gander, the child’s mother.

“Please come meet Alison,” the woman had said. “It would mean a lot to her. We’re so grateful.” Gloria had been surprised
, knowing donor/patient contact was classified and impossible, but jumped at the chance. She took the two-hour drive to western Massachusetts on slick roads.

When she arrived, Gloria knocked on the door of the small blue weathered Cape Cod with her gloved hands, which made a muffled
whump-whump
.

A short, attractive woman with mousy hair came to the door. She
was about forty and wore a light blue angora sweater and faded jeans. “You must be Gloria. Come in. I’m Mary.”

Gloria stepped inside and Mary took her coat. The house was nice. Cozy. Not ostentatious bu
t not run-down either. It seemed a lot bigger from the inside and smelled like sugar cookies.

“George, Gloria’s here. Come on.”

A tired engineer type walked out. Tall and thin with glasses. Curly brown hair. “Thank you for coming all the way out here. We just wanted to meet you. Wanted to see if Alison, well, you know.”

Gloria shook her head. “If she what?” She asked.

“Oh, there’s plenty of time for that,” Mary said. “Come into the living room.”

Mary ushered Gloria to a big plaid couch by a roaring wood stove. A Springer Spaniel jumped up and nestled next to her. The dog helped her to relax.

He seemed to say, “Don’t worry. We’re all friends here.” She petted his speckled fur and he moaned with content.

The couple sat across from her in a love seat, studying her. “I’ve put coffee on,” Mary said. “It’s not quite ready yet. And here are some cookies. Ali and I made them just for you.” She pushed the plate toward Gloria.

“You and Ali have the same nose,” George said.

“We do?” Gloria took a cookie and held it to her mouth, just ready to bite. She wasn’t hungry but didn’t want to appear impolite.

“Sure do,” Mary said. “When we adopted Alison we promised ourselves we’d never try to find the birth parents or even—”

Gloria dropped her cookie on her lap and the dog caught it before it bounced to the floor. Crumbs littered Gloria’s slacks.

“Snooker, stop it,” Mary commanded. But the dog kept chewing, and then pawed at Gloria’s leg for more.

She pushed him away. “When you
adopted
her?” Gloria felt her throat constrict. Snooker pawed her leg again, so she picked up another cookie from the plate and tossed it across the room. The dog darted and no one seemed to care. There were bigger issues here.

“We adopted her from a firm in Miami. New Age Adoption Agency. I thought you knew.”

Gloria shook her head. “I thought she was yours.”

Mary folded her arms. “Well, she is ours. Now. She was only two weeks old when we got her. But we were in touch with the agency throughout most of the biological mother’s pregnancy. Poor thing had a terrible time of it and ended up needing months of bed rest and a C-section. It set us back financially for a long time, all those unexpected medical bi
lls for the mother—but it was worth it. She’s ours now and we never think of her as anything but.”

Hairs stood up on Gloria’s neck. “Who was the mother?”

“Oh, we never met her. A college girl who couldn’t handle the burden of a baby just then. Smart girl from the Midwest. We have her name written down somewhere.”

“You know it, honey,” George said.

Mary shot him a look. “No, I’d have to look it up but it doesn’t matter. It’s just that when Doctor Norris said you were such a close match we thought maybe you were an aunt or something and it might be all right for Alison to meet someone who was, well, you know, blood-related. We tried to track down the mother for her marrow but without luck. She really didn’t want to be found. It’s like she never existed.”

“Mommy?” A beautiful little girl with recently grown tufts of blond hair walked into the room then and Gloria almost fainted. Alison wore a thin surgical mask because her immune system was down, but what Gloria could make out of Allison’s face was the spitting image of Gloria at five-years-old. “Is this my maybe Auntie?”

Gloria blinked back tears and tried to look anywhere but at the child. Instead she drew her attention to portraits on the wall. Christmas department store poses. Until the chemo, Alison had sported the same thick straight blond hair that Gloria had as a child. She also had the Hanes dimple on her right cheek, just like Gloria.

“Well, are you? Are you my auntie Gloria?” The child grinned and the corners of her mouth turned up around the edges of the white mask.

“Yes, Sweetie, we think so. She sure looks like you doesn’t she?” George asked.

Alison pulled off the mask and smiled, and Gloria gasped.  The little girl indeed had Gloria’s every feature.

“Put the mask back on, Ali. You know the rules,” Mary commanded.

She shrugged and put it on. “She’s my auntie, but you’re still my mommy and daddy right?”

Mary protectively hugged her. “Of course. Always.”

“I’m going to
give you my kindergarten photo. Would you like that, Auntie Gloria?”

“I’d love that! Thank you.”

The girl left the room. Still weak from surgery, she walked slowly, but appeared well on her way to recovery, thank God.

“What was the name of the biological mother?” Warning bells were going off in Gloria’s head.

“I said we’d have to look it up,” Mary replied, a tinge of irritation rising.

“Was it Gloria Hanes-Carpenter?”

“No,” Mary and George said in unison.

“I don’t know what they told you but I am
not
her aunt,” Gloria said as soon as Alison left.  “Alison is my daughter,” she said barely above a whisper. “A fill in doctor told me my fetus died. But she didn’t. I felt her kick and then they put me under anesthesia. I never saw the body. That child is mine.” She got up and started toward Alison’s direction.

All those fucking therapists were wrong. She was not imagining things. This little girl
proved that her memories were real. Her daughter was not dead!

George jumped up and took Gloria’s arm and roughly guided her toward the door. “Doctor Norris told us you had a miscarriage and were a little paranoid but we wanted to do the right thing. Wanted to give you hope that you had a relative. We felt for you, we really did.  Read that book you put out and the Foreword about your own experience. Listen, Alison is not yours. We got her from a reputable agency. We brought you here as a courtesy, thinking maybe she was your niece or something and you might like to be a part of her life.”

“She’s my
daughter.
There’s a lot I didn’t write in the book.”

Mary leapt in, saying, “Doctor Norris broke I don’t know how many rules giving us your information and begged us not to contact you but I insisted,” Mary said. “I wish now we had listened to the professionals. We made a mistake bringing you here.”

Mary and George stood now like a wall between her and Allison. Mary firmly said, “I had three miscarriages before I gave up on childbirth and adopted Ali so I know what how much losing a child damages you. I’m sorry we called you at all and got your hopes up. Doctor Norris said he explained to you that she is not your daughter. Please leave and don’t come back again.”

George handed her the long coat and urged her out the door.

She heard Alison on the other side of the door. “But I didn’t say goodbye and I know she wants my picture.”

“She’s not your auntie
, honey,” George said.

“We were wrong,
” Mary added

“Just give her my picture. Please!”

The door opened and George handed the picture to Gloria. “Don’t come back here again. Please. Thank you for saving Ali’s life but she’s been through enough without this paranoid drama.”

He shut the door, leaving Gloria on the icy stoop.

She looked down at the school picture. The tiny teeth, the dimple, the straight blond hair. And those bright blue eyes. It could have been a picture of Gloria at five-years-old.

Maybe six years ago the doctors had conspired to keep Gloria quiet, to make her accept the truth, but
it wouldn’t work this time. She wasn’t crazy or paranoid. That little girl behind the door was her daughter, and she’d get her back or die trying.

 

2.

Maison D’Espoir, Haiti, late morning

 

Martine smiled as she sat in the padded rocking chair in Maison’s nursery. Teddy bears were painted on the pale yellow walls and soft music played. She closed her eyes and smiled as she nuzzled her infant sons, blond and blue-eyed, their skin pale as the moon.

Just like her little Luke. Three years gone. Martine had named him Luke because he was white as light, like all the others born in Maison. But God cursed Luke and Mr. Puglisi took him away. Martine pinched her eyes shut to stop the tears of rage that always came when she thought of him.

Martine knew all the babies came from someone named Gloria, a
name Dr. Tad revealed only to her. She knew this Gloria must be as light as a ghost, pale as the babies that came out of Martine and the others. But what kind of woman would give up so many to strangers?

Martine had asked him how one woman could have so many babies, and he said it was a tricky science thing she wouldn’t understand. Maybe Gloria too
lived in a compound somewhere, and had no choice in what she did. Poor Ghost Gloria, she thought, as she rocked her little babies in her arms. So beautiful. Martine would love them as much as she could until—

Dr. Tad walked in and smiled at her as she held the twins. 

“Amelie is having her C-Section at noon. Can you fill out the paperwork? I’ll write in the time and measurements after her twins are born.”

She set the twins in their bassinets and then took two papers from the cabinet. She
read the official hospital forms. Hope House, Windy Key, Florida.

“If the babies are born here, why do the hospital papers say Florida?”

“I knew you’d eventually ask that,” Doctor Tad said as he took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. “Mr. Puglisi makes more money if I say they’re born in Florida. A lot of questions and trouble for us all if we say they are born in Haiti.”

“Is
that against the law?”

He nodded. “
Yes. Mick would kill me if he knew I told you.”

“Kill you? I thought he was like your brother?”

“His dad took me in when my father died because I had no where else to go, but it’s not the same as being part of the family. Not really. If I did anything to threaten the family’s enterprise, he wouldn’t think twice about getting rid of me.”

“But he breaks the law too, no?”

“His family is very powerful and sometimes controls what the police do.”

“Like the Tonton Macoute?”

He sighed. “Yes, like the militia Papa Doc Duvalier used when he was in power, but smaller.”

“You have word for these Macoute, for these kinds of family like Mr. Puglisi’s?”

“In America we call them Mafia.”

Martine had always known Mr. Puglisi was a terrible man, but she had assumed Dr. Tad to be safe, above his cruelty. Now she understood his fear. Mafia, she thought. A word she had to remember. She needed to lie down, to think about all Dr. Tad had told her.

“I am tired. May I take a nap before Amelie’s surgery?”

“Of course.” He kissed the top of her head. “I’m sorry if I upset you but I need you to understand why I can’t walk away from Maison, why I won’t defy Mick and his family and say ‘to hell with the rules, I want to marry Martine.’”

BOOK: Hope House
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