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Authors: Steena Holmes

The Memory Child

BOOK: The Memory Child
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

Text copyright © 2014 Steena Holmes

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.

Published by Lake Union Publishing, Seattle

www.apub.com

Amazon, the Amazon logo, and Lake Union Publishing are trademarks of
Amazon.com
, Inc., or its affiliates.

ISBN-13: 9781477818428

ISBN-10: 1477818421

Library of Congress Control Number: 2013917820

A mother’s love is patient and forgiving when all others are forsaking, it never fails or falters, even though the heart is breaking.

—Helen Rice

CHAPTER ONE

Diane

Present–February

T
his was a perfect moment. In the silence, with the hint of dawn peeking through the curtains, where promises of a better day were
offered.

I stared down at the twinkling blue eyes of my sweet darling baby and knew hope for the first time in a long, long time. Grace was everything I didn’t deserve and everything I longed for. Just one look at her bow-shaped lips, wispy blond hair, and sweeping eyelashes and I knew, from the moment I first saw her, that I could never go back to the way I us
ed to be.

“I’m so sorry I have to leave you,” I whispered, not wanting to wake her. We had a rough night and at least one of us deserved s
ome rest.

I drew my newborn daughter close and breathed in the smell of fresh baby powder. To think I never wanted this experience, to never feel the slight weight of my child in my arms, to never see the twinkle in her eyes as she stared up at me and recognized me for who I was. Her mother. The thought that I never wanted to be a mother…how selfish could I have been? Everything I’d ever worried about became insignificant the moment I
held her.

Grace’s lashes fluttered for a few moments before resting on her cheeks. I could have stood there for hours and held her while she slept, but instead, I gently placed her down in the bassinet and stepped away, careful to keep my ste
ps light.

What was I thinking? To leave her after only one month? I wasn’t ready. She wasn’t ready. My heart splintered into tiny cracks with each ste
p I took.

What kind of a mother was I? I was abandoning my child for my career. I thought I could do it, that it wouldn’t be difficult for me, that like many others, I could find a way to juggle motherhood with my p
rofession.

What if I’d made
a mistake?

“Are w
e ready?”

My breath caught as Nina’s voice carried up the stairs. I gently closed Grace’s bedroom door. Nina, our nanny/housekeeper/sometimes jailer, stood at the bottom. She held my travel mug in one hand and brown leather messenger bag in t
he other.

Was I ready? Not really. This was the hardest thing I’d ever had to do in
my life.

Nina’s face softened as she smiled. I liked to call her the grey dragon on my bad days. On my good days, she was my best friend. I’m not sure what I would have done wit
hout her.

“Does it ever get easier?” I reached for the coffee, took a sip, then grimaced. “Come on, Nina, not today of all days. Didn’t you get any of the French vanilla creamer I asked you to
pick up?”

There was a look on Nina’s face that I wasn’t too sure about. Pit
y, maybe?

I didn’t care. In the past three months since Nina first came to help while I was on bed rest, she’d been trying to get me to eliminate sugar from
my diet.

“It’ll get easier. I promise.” Nina reached out and touched the sleeve on my jacket. “I need you to trust me. We talked about this, remember? One step at a time. Just like changing your diet to lessen the effects of your med
ication.”

I took a deep breath and straightened my jacket before smoothing out the one black pencil skirt I could still
fit into.

“I’m not sure this is a step I can take today.” I knew I should, that was normal for most mothers to head back to work so soon after giving birth, but I’m not most mothers. I’m Diane Wright, CEO of HK Solutions, a cutting-edge firm that creates software for the blind. I needed to snap out of it but my feet were rooted to the floor as if cemented there. I listened for a sound, any sound, to come out of Grace’s room. All it would take was a small sigh, the beginning of a cry, and I would cancel everything and s
tay home.

“Just come with me into the kitchen. Grace will be fine.” Nina walked ahead of me and I followed ob
ediently.

“Do you need my monitor, or do you have yours?” As insane as it sounded, I had a deathly fear that something was going to happen to Grace if I wasn’t there. She could cough and ended up choking, or smother in her blanket, or e
ven…

“Everything’s going to be okay.” Nina gave me a mother
ly smile.

“I’m sorry, I know I’m being…” What was the word I was trying to find? Overprotective? Distrusting? S
mothering?

“Perfectly normal. You have a busy day today, full of appointments and a new schedule to get used to. Let’s concentrate on that, shall we? Everything else will be fine.” Nina held open the fridge door and pulled out the creamer. “Here, maybe a gradual withdrawal will be easier for you to
handle.”

“I told you so,” I muttered beneath m
y breath.

“Don’t be like that. We’ve had this talk. You were the one who asked me to hold you accountable.” Nina glared at me. I gla
red back.

“We also talked about how I wasn’t willing to give up my
coffees.”

“You don’t seem to be willing to give up much when push comes to shove,” Nina
mumbled.

I only
shrugged.

Losing the baby weight wasn’t as easy as I thought it would have been, and while I was desperate to make it into my pre-baby clothing before Brian came home from opening the London office, I also had to be realistic. I loved food. I always have. It was one of Brian’s and my passions. But I worked hard to make sure it didn’t show on my b
ody, too.

Brian had left the country just before I went into labor and wasn’t scheduled to return for another week or so. I know it must have killed him not to be there, but everything had happened so fast that by the time his flight arrived in London, she’d already been born. I e-mailed him videos and photos of Grace daily but made sure not to include any full-length images of myself. Not until the pudge around my waistline
was gone.

“Are you ready for today?” Nina smoothed her sweater over h
er pants.

Since I’ve known Nina, I’ve always been home. She came on board as my nurse when I went on bed rest two months before Grace was due. I had some complications, and since Brian had to travel to London at the same time, we hired a nurse to stay with me. Mainly for Brian’s peace of mind. Nina worked out so well that we asked her to stay on board as nanny until I felt capable enough to do it on my own. Plus we were all to travel to London and stay with Brian for a bit, since I had some
time off.

Except that part of the plan hadn’t worke
d out yet.

“Am I ready for today? Not really. I have a feeling Walter won’t accept my conditions and it’ll be a struggle. Knowing him, he’ll devise a strategy to have me come in ev
ery day.”

Nina’s lips quirked. “Really? I thought for sure he was the one telling you to st
ay home.”

“He’s just saying that. I can tell he needs me there.” My relationship with Walter was a special one. Not only was he my boss, but he was like a father to me. There wasn’t anything I wouldn’t do for him.
Anything.

“Or maybe you’re just using that as an excuse? Remember, I’m here if you need me.” Nina laid her hand on my arm and smiled. She really was pretty. She’d been a nurse for years, and it amazed me that she would stay by my side when she could go back to her previous job in a
hospital.

“Thank you. I’m not exactly sure when I’ll be back.” I checked my watch and sighed. I needed to go. “I’ll try to be home as early as possible. Brian might call and I don’t want to miss him again. I love reading his cards and letters, but they just aren’t the same. I need to hear h
is voice.”

“If anyone calls, I’ll be sure to take a detailed message.” Nina stood there, calm and composed, while inside I felt like I was being torn into two. I almost hated her in that moment. She was able to stay home with my daughter while I had to go to a job I wasn’t even sure I wanted
anymore.

Funny how having a child changed things so drastically. Once upon a time, I used to know what my focus was, where I wanted to be in life. Having children was never part of the plan. But the moment I held Grace, all that disappeared. I’d been unprepared for the changes having a baby meant, and still it didn’t seem real. Grace was only a few months old and already I was heading back into work? Where were my priorities? Why couldn’t I just stay home and take care of my daughter? It was like I was being split into two different perso
nalities.

The doorbell rang and in that moment, I was tempted to rush back upstairs, sit in the rocker, and be content to watch my daughter all
day long.

The sound of heels tapping on the hardwood floors stopped me, though. The soft cadence of voices when Nina answered the door filtered through the
hallway.

“Mandy, come on in. She’s almost rea
dy to go.”

“Amanda?” Seeing her was a jolt. She was a reminder that I had commitments to keep; responsibilities that didn’t stop just because I gave birth to the most precious thing in my life. Brian says that I am the master of masks. If so, then it was time to don a mask I wasn’t sure I wanted to wear anymore. I pushed back my shoulders, took a deep breath, and began the process of compartmentalizing my life. It was the only way I’d be able to get through today. I placed my briefcase down on the entranceway table and faced my assistant. Her coming to my home, while I was on my way to work, didn’t ma
ke sense.

A tentative smile grew on Amanda’s lips and stayed there while I just stared. She looked…different. Olde
r, maybe?

“Did you cut your hair? And lose
weight?”

She didn’t say
anything.

“Why are you here?” Never, in the three years that we’d worked together, had Amanda come to my home u
ninvited.

I’d hired timid little Amanda Bell to be my new assistant when I first received the promotion to vice president at HK Solutions a few years ago. The idea of molding an assistant to suit my needs rather than retraining one seemed appealing. Amanda had been straight out of college but had the highest grades in the class. Her work ethic proved it, even though, at the time, her wardrobe
did not.

It took almost a year for Amanda to realize she needed to dress the part before she could command the attention and respect from others in the office. Gone was the little girl who wore loafers and cardigans into work each day. In her place rose a woman of stature, in pencil skirts, blouses, and heels. For her birthday last year, I’d even gifted her with a pearl necklace and earrings, proud of the woman she
’d become.

But that still didn’t excuse her adding chaperone to her list
of duties.

The glance between Nina and Amanda didn’t go
unnoticed.

“Mandy wanted to help make your first day back as stress-free as possible,” Nina
answered.

Really? “Did Walter send you to be my ch
auffeur?”

Amanda shrugged, and in that moment, I realized I was missing a bigge
r picture.

“I do not need to be babysat.” I fished my keys out of my purse, grabbed my bag, and walked past both women with my head
held high.

“Considering you’re going to be late now to work”—I stopped just as I reached the door—“you might as well pick up some coffee for us both since we’ll be spending the morning together, and be sure to buy enough muffins for everyone in the
office.”

My hand trembled as I gripped the doorknob and pulled it open. I couldn’t help myself from glancing over my shoulder and up the stairs. All I needed was a small cry, a whimper, anything to prove that being a mother was more important than being a busin
esswoman.

Grace was sleeping. She was safe and loved and would be fine. So why did I feel like such a failure for le
aving her?

BOOK: The Memory Child
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ads

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