Roxie had been so ill when she first got to Fairmont, haunted by terrible dreams about Andrew and gripped by daily panic attacks. I mustn’t allow Summer’s visit to set me back. It had taken weeks for her to accept that it was Teddy, her beloved father, who had shot and killed the man she loved. But knowing the truth and changing all one’s emotions to fit it were two very different things. Why couldn’t it have been Alexia? Hating her mother was easy. It had become a habit, like slipping on a familiar overcoat. For the better part of a decade, Roxie had defined herself as a victim of Alexia’s cruelty and selfishness. That had become her identity, her self. But now, in the midst of her shock and grief over Andrew, she was supposed to do a complete about-face. To accept that Alexia had been loving and unselfish all along. Acknowledging that fact meant negating her whole adult life. As Dr. Woods said, it was like another death. Like her death. No wonder it was frightening.
In the course of a few months, Roxie had lost her brother, her father, and Andrew, all over again. Everything she’d believed for the last ten years of her life had been a lie. Nothing was what it seemed. The world outside of Fairmont House had become a frightening place. And now Summer Meyer was arriving to bring her news of it. To remind her that it was still there . . . that one day she would have to go back.
“Wow, Rox. You look so well.”
Summer had walked into the room unannounced. Before Roxie had time to think about it, she found herself enveloped in a hug. Instinctively she hugged her friend back.
Roxie felt relieved. The real Summer was nothing like the frightening visitor of her imagination. Having her here felt right. She smiled.
“It’s a gorgeous day out there. Shall we go for a walk?”
Summer stretched and swung her arms as she strolled down toward the lake, with Roxie wheeling her chair beside her. At Fairmont House, everything was all about helping oneself, becoming independent physically and emotionally. Roxanne’s days of being wheeled around by other people were over.
It had been a long, hot drive down from London. Summer’s joints ached from being cramped up in her tiny Fiat Punto, so the fresh air and space felt like a luxury. European cars all seemed to have been designed for either Munchkins or children.
“This place is stunning.” She sighed. “No wonder you don’t want to leave.”
“I’m not on vacation, you know,” Roxie said defensively. “It’s a hospital. I’m here because I need to be.”
“I know that,” said Summer. “I only meant that it’s a beautiful setting. Peaceful. I didn’t mean to imply anything.”
“Sorry. I guess I’m a little tense. It is peaceful. And you’re right in a way. I am lucky to be here.”
“Is it very expensive?”
Roxie shrugged. “Probably. Dad’s health insurance pays for it, so I haven’t seen a bill.”
The mention of Teddy was unexpected. Part of the reason for Summer’s visit was that it was Teddy’s sentencing next week. Alexia was due to fly to London for the hearing and had asked Summer to sound Roxie out in advance, to see if she might be willing to meet her mother face-to-face.
As Roxie had brought him up first, Summer asked cautiously, “Have you had any contact with Teddy? Since . . . you know.”
Roxie looked away. “No. Absolutely not.”
They walked on in silence for a while. Then Roxie said, “I’ve tried to forgive him. I want to forgive him. It would be easier for me if I could. But I don’t think I can.”
Summer nodded. “I understand.”
“I doubt you do understand,” said Roxie, although she wasn’t angry. “All those years of him comforting me, supporting me, pretending to care.”
Summer played devil’s advocate. “Do you think he was pretending? I’m sure he loved you, Roxie.”
“Maybe. But love’s not enough. He knew what he’d done. He let me believe the worst of Mummy, and of poor Andrew, just to save his own skin. How selfish is that? I thought I knew him as well as I knew myself.” She gave a short, empty laugh, “Then again, knowing myself hasn’t exactly been my biggest forte.”
“You need to cut yourself some slack,” said Summer. “You’ve been through hell, more pain than most people suffer in a lifetime. You’re doing okay.”
Roxie smiled. “Thank you. Anyway, enough about me. What’s been happening in your life? Are you writing again?”
They talked about Summer’s work for a while, until inevitably conversation turned to Michael. Summer still couldn’t bring herself to discuss with anyone what Tommy Lyon had told her about Michael’s mistress. It wouldn’t be fair to burden poor Roxie, or to sully her memories of her brother. But she chatted about his new care facility, the nurses, the encouraging articles she’d read on long-term coma patients making miraculous recoveries.
Eventually, with some trepidation, Summer brought up the subject of Alexia, and how the two of them had become close in recent months.
“She’s flying over for your father’s sentencing next week. She’d like to see you.”
Roxie’s shoulders tensed. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“She misses you,” said Summer. “Your mother has a hard shell, but underneath it all she’s a good person. A compassionate person.”
“You never used to think so.”
“I misjudged her. I didn’t know the facts. Look, Roxie, I know she’s made mistakes.”
“That’s a bit of an understatement, don’t you think?” Roxie spluttered.
“Okay, big mistakes. But she wants to put things right. Won’t you meet her, just for a few minutes?”
Roxie shook her head vigorously. “I can’t.”
“She never meant to hurt you.”
“I know that.” Roxie looked up at Summer with tears in her eyes. “But she did. She did hurt me. Okay, so she didn’t drive Andrew away like I thought. But she’s not blameless, Summer. She still lied. She lied, and lied, and I built my life on those lies! You can’t imagine what it’s like, realizing that everything you thought you knew about yourself and your family was just smoke and mirrors!”
Summer thought, I understand more than you think. Everything I thought I knew about me and Michael was a lie. But here I am still living that lie, too pathetically in love with him to move on.
“Your family’s so wholesome, so normal,” Roxie went on. “You have no idea how lucky you are to have Lucy for a mother. To have two happy, functional parents.”
“I know,” said Summer.
They walked back up to the house, and the staff served them tea and homemade walnut cake in Roxie’s room. Before Summer left she promised to send Roxie pictures of Michael and to keep in closer touch.
Folding her long legs back into the minuscule car, Summer said, “Think about what I said. Your mother gets here next Friday. She’s desperate to see you. At the end of the day, Rox, whatever her faults, she’s the only mother you’ve got.”
Speeding back down the tree-lined drive, Summer thought about Roxanne. Their lives had taken such different paths. But certain things bound them together.
We’ve both been fools for love. Me for Michael. Roxanne for Andrew Beesley. Even Alexia, standing by Teddy after everything that had happened, was living proof that love was blind.
Roxie was right. Her mother had lied to her.
But aren’t we all liars when it comes to love? Liars to others and liars to ourselves?
She drove on.
The drive back to town was a nightmare, with the single-lane A303 winding endlessly into the distance like the Yellow Brick Road of Oz.
NO SERVICES FOR 35 MILES read the sign. Summer hadn’t been hungry before, but the unexpected announcement that no food would be available for at least an hour suddenly started her stomach rumbling. Reaching across to the passenger side of the car, she began rummaging in the glove box for candy, accidentally sending papers fluttering all around. Picking one up, she saw it was the registration document for Michael’s Ducati, the one she’d taken from Kingsmere almost a year ago now, the night she had dinner with Teddy.
It listed the name of the dealership that had delivered the bike: Drake Motors. There was an address too, in Surrey, just off the A3. She was going to drive right by it.
Since the evening at the Savoy when she met Tommy Lyon, Summer had abandoned her investigation into Michael’s accident. Her feelings were still so conflicted, and in any case the whole thing had begun to feel like a monumental waste of time. She wasn’t ready to leave England, to turn her back on Michael completely. But in other respects she’d decided to take her mother’s advice and focus on her own life, her own future. Michael had behaved selfishly, after all. Why should she sacrifice her every waking moment trying to get justice for him?