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Authors: Susan Crawford

The Other Widow

BOOK: The Other Widow
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DEDICATION

For Linda, a fellow dreamer

EPIGRAPH

Love is a shadow.

How you lie and cry after it.

Listen: these are its hooves: it has gone off, like a horse.

—“Elm,” Sylvia Plath

CONTENTS

Dedication

Epigraph

Acknowledgments

Chapter I

Chapter II

Chapter III

Chapter IV

Chapter V

Chapter VI

Chapter VII

Chapter VIII

Chapter IX

Chapter X

Chapter XI

Chapter XII

Chapter XIII

Chapter XIV

Chapter XV

Chapter XVI

Chapter XVII

Chapter XVIII

Chapter XVIX

Chapter XX

Chapter XXI

Chapter XXII

Chapter XXIII

Chapter XXIV

Chapter XXV

Chapter XXVI

Chapter XXVII

Chapter XXVIII

Chapter XXIX

Chapter XXX

Chapter XXXI

Chapter XXXII

Chapter XXXIII

Chapter XXXIV

Chapter XXXV

Chapter XXXVI

Chapter XXXVII

Chapter XXXVIII

Chapter XXXIX

Chapter XL

Chapter XLI

Chapter XLII

Chapter XLIII

Chapter XLIV

Chapter XLV

Chapter XLVI

About the Author

By Susan Crawford

Credits

Copyright

About the Publisher

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I
am deeply grateful to my brilliant agent, Jenny Bent, for nudging me to make this a better book. I'm equally grateful to my amazing editor, Carrie Feron, for her vision and suggestions. Thanks to Victoria Lowes and Charlee Hoffman at the Bent Agency for answering my countless questions, to Nicole Fischer for her numerous calming explanations, and to Ashley Marudas, Kelly Rudolph, Paul Lamb, and the rest of the team at HarperCollins, both in New York and Canada, for their help and ingenuity. Heartfelt thanks to UK agent Nicola Barr for her support, and to Hannah Griffiths at Faber & Faber for her thoughtful editorial suggestions.

Thanks to my critique group members who are, as always, remarkably helpful. Special thanks to Bethany Armstrong for her insightful advice as we munched our way through markups and omelets at the Galaxy Diner and to Kimberly Nave, for fielding middle-of-the-night questions and for reading my manuscript with the eye of a thriller aficionado.

Thanks to Ginger Collins for her feedback on these characters in their first stages and to Nancy Blum for the early reading. Thanks to Deborah Mantella for her patience and camaraderie, to Peggy Skolnick for her confidence and common sense, and to both of them for dropping everything to “just please take a quick look” at countless blogs and chapters.

Thanks to Jill Evans for setting up my web page, Stephe Koontz for midnight computer saves, and to Katie Crawford for all her generous help with social media. I'm grateful to Stuart Anderson and Thomas Hart for their expertise in all matters of car engines, to Dan Crawford for his insurance knowledge, Lily Iglehart for sharing the particulars of Boston and Jamaica Plain, to Bob Angles for his support through the years, and to John Angles, who always has the answer. Thanks to Jonny and Amy Davis and to other family members and friends for putting up with my writing-oriented absences. And of course I am so very grateful to all my readers!

Lastly, thank you, Ben and my beautiful girls.

I

DORRIE

T
he Audi skids on a slick street. Black ice. Dorrie bends to sip hot chocolate from a Starbucks cup. Too hot, it burns her tongue, and she jerks the cup back, sloshing several drops across her coat. “Sorry!” She feels around his seat, wipes the spilled drink with her sleeve, glancing at Joe with his hands tight around the steering wheel. He looks angry, his jaw rigid in the disjointed, nearly absent light, the scraps from streetlights hazy and distorted as snow starts to fall sideways on the wind. She keeps her face a blank, determined not to break, no matter what he says. An actress since the age of five, she's learned to handle almost everything that comes her way, or at least appear to. Even this.

She nearly hadn't met him. She'd let his message go to voice mail—his un-Joe-like, desperate voice on the burner phone he'd bought her when he bought his own—insisting that she catch a train to Back Bay.
Please, sweetheart. I wouldn't ask you if it wasn't an emergency.

And then his text,
That Starbucks on Boylston
.

Fine,
she'd texted him.
You're the boss.

She'd grabbed an old coat from the back of the hall closet—a heavy, ugly, too-large coat, discovered at Goodwill some years before, picked up as an afterthought and tossed on the pile of things her daughter had stacked on the counter. She'd meant to buy it for the coat drive at the school. But somehow it got lost in the closet. An extra, Samuel said, but no one ever wore it. Until tonight. She'd stuck one black leather glove in the pocket and felt through all her other coats for its mate but hadn't found it. She always seems to have only one of things—gloves, socks, earrings. She'd scribbled
Gone to grab a bite with Jeananne—Emergency
and taped the note to the front door for Samuel and Lily. It was a lie, but at least Jeananne worked at the office.
My boss called me back in,
Dorrie might have written, which would have been the truth.
Emergency, he said,
she could have added for the urgency, but she'd felt safer with a lie.

She pulls her knitted hat over her ears to ward off the cruel Boston cold that jabs its way inside the front seat through tiny lines around the windows, unnoticed gaps at the doors. The hat is silly, blue-and-white striped, her daughter's hat, Lily's, frivolous and whimsical, the opposite of this outrageous coat that makes her feel as if she's in a bad play. Still, it serves its purpose—enormous, heavy; it blocks the cold. And it disguises her, cloaks her betrayal. She reaches in her pocket, touching the one glove with the tips of her cold fingers. She takes it out, sets it on the seat beside her and silence hugs the car, crouches in the cracked leather of the seat. She rolls up her too-long, bulky sleeves and three bright bangle bracelets slide up her thin arm.

Joe sighs. She gazes at the side of his face, watches as he squints through the windshield at a road vague and fading, like a dream. Even with the car lurching, sliding, even with the gray murk that envelopes them, he seems preoccupied. He has been for weeks. Dorrie raises the hot chocolate to her lips, the cup from Starbucks, where earlier they'd sat and sipped their drinks, like strangers, barely speaking. His gait had been rigid as he'd squeezed past the inviting velvet chairs to simple wooden tables in the back. He'd looked distracted, rumpled, in his work clothes, his starched white shirt untucked in places, his heavy wool coat slightly atilt.

What?
she'd said, but he'd just shaken his head.
Not here.
And she'd babbled on about the weather, the coffee, drowning out the voice at the back of her head—her mother's voice, cautionary, clear, even after all these years.

She turns to look out the car window, seeing only a great swirl of white with the night behind it. She flinches, shrinking back against the seat as the car pitches forward. Her mother died in snow like this, when her car collided with a hurtling van. Killed instantly, she'd taken part of Dorrie's father with her, changed him in some basic and essential way, left him sobbing, lost at the kitchen table, a wall phone swinging by his knees, the policeman's words shooting through the mouthpiece like bullets. It was then that Dorrie learned to be an actress, a happy child, a smiling face stuck to her father's thick black wall of grief.

Later, starring in a handful of her high school plays and summer theater, a short run at the Charles Playhouse, she'd found that acting was as natural to her as breathing. She nearly always gets the parts at her auditions and turned down the one understudy role she was offered. Ironic, because with Joe she's only ever been an understudy.
Understudyfork,
her screen name when she e-mails him. Understudy for Karen.

She sets her drink in a cup holder on the console, glances around for the dropped lid, and sticks her hand over the hot chocolate. The car lurches along, sliding, as the tires seek out tracks imprinted on the icy road. “So.” She puts her palm down on the seat to steady herself. Her bracelets jangle and clang. She wishes now she'd listened to her mother.

“There isn't any easy way to do this, Dorrie.” Joe doesn't look at her. He stares through the windshield at the stormy night. “We have to stop seeing each other, at least for now,” and even though she'd sensed this was coming, for a second Dorrie can't speak. She wants to cry, to scream, to grab the wheel.

“Karen?”

“No,” he says. His voice is hoarse. “It isn't safe. For
us
.” He turns toward her, and even in the darkened car she sees his fear. It's in his eyes—in the lines across his forehead. “Not now. I've started digging around, but until I figure out exactly what's going on—”

“With
what
? Going on with
what
?” She turns to face him. She doesn't shout. She takes a breath and then another and she musters all her acting skills to make her face a blank. Curious, nothing more. “I don't understand.”

Joe shakes his head. “I know,” he says, and he speeds up. Too fast, she thinks. He stares back at the blur of road as he turns onto Newbury Street, and Dorrie glances toward the white-capped outdoor seating she can barely see, the banisters collecting snow. “It's dangerous. For both of us. Believe me, if there was any other—”

Before he finishes, a bright light catches in the air and spreads out like a blanket as a car crosses over into their lane, swerves back, and disappears. Joe clutches the wheel. He brakes. The old Audi slides sideways as he struggles for control. “Jesus! I can't—”

Dorrie digs her nails into the seat and wills the car to stay on the road. She can't breathe. The tires squeal, staining the air with an ugly shrieking sound that cuts the night in two. Before and after. Sliced clean like a melon. The car spins, pulling forward to the left, flying sideways. Dorrie grabs at air, grabs for Joe, her screams stopped in her throat as the car pitches finally off the road into a tree. Her airbag smacks her like a punch above the eye, the windshield crackles, her glove flies out through broken glass.

For a second there's no sound. No place. No life. For a second the world stops on its axis and there is only snow and night stretched to its limit. A white hand reaches back inside the shattered window—a woman's hand—her mother's hand. A wisp of thick dark hair, a trick of light, a glittering shawl, her mother, who is always there when Dorrie needs her most. And then she knows.
No,
she whispers.
No, Mama. Please,
but her mother only nods and reaches for her daughter in the ruined car.

BOOK: The Other Widow
9.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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