Dirty Red

Page 53

I went home ready to talk to Caleb about the possibility of starting a family. Before the words were out of my mouth, he told me he was moving back to his condo.

“You’re leaving me?” I said, in disbelief. “We were happy … before the trial. We stopped working on things, Caleb. We can get counseling.”

“You were happy. I’m not sure what I was.”

“So you were lying to me?”

“You never asked, Leah. You close your eyes to what you don’t want to see.”

“Is this about the Prenavene? Those people who died?”

He flinched. “It’s really hard for me wrap my head around the decisions you made.”

“Did it make you look at me differently?”

He laughed coldly. “I knew when I married you, that there were issues.” He sighed and looked almost sad. “It made me look at myself differently.”

I didn’t understand. My father manipulated me. Surely, he realized that. What exactly did he mean by “issues”?

Twenty-four hours later, Caleb was gone.

Depression doesn’t even begin to describe what I went through. I’d lost my father, my career and my husband all in the span of a year. I curled up in a ball and wept for days … weeks. No one came. I tried to call my sister, but she hardly picked up her phone anymore. Katine was seeing some new guy and couldn’t be bothered. My mother moved to our summer house in Michigan as soon as the verdict was read.

I called Seth. I shouldn’t have.

Chapter Thirty-Three


I agonize over Cash’s phone call. I eat more chocolate covered raisins. I watch more Nancy Grace. I search the internet for pictures of cats with funny captions underneath. No one knows I like those; it’s a secret. Sam catches me.

“Are you kidding?”

I close my laptop. “You can’t tell.”

“Who am I going to tell? Your book club?”

“I have friends,” I insist. “And none of them read.” I’m pretty strung out on sugar, so I giggle. Sam raises his eyebrow. “And you’re proud of this?”

I turn away, hugging my knees to my chest. The Manny turns everything fun into a criticism. “No, Sam,” I sigh. And then as an afterthought, I add, “I used to read a lot … in high school.”


He’s folding laundry — he’s always folding laundry. “Don’t you ever get tired of doing that?”

“Yup. But, it’s my job.”

Oh yeah.

“I read novels. But, then I got too busy.”

I ease a few more candies between my lips and stare at the muted TV screen. I got too busy f**king boys-I wanted to say.



“What was in that box Olivia opened on her birthday?”

He shakes out a blanket and folds it expertly into a small square. “Why do you care?”

“What if it was from Caleb?” I say softly.

He won’t look at me. “Cammie says it was,” he says. “But, I don’t know what it was, so don’t ask.”

I eat a lot more chocolate covered raisins. I pretend to bite my tongue and yell Ouch! to cover for the tears that spring to my eyes.

“Leah,” he says, “it’s okay if it hurts you. You should tell him that it does. Also, if you’re considering a career in acting — don’t.”

“Why would he buy her a birthday present?”

When Sam doesn’t answer, I start thinking about Cash again. It’s an endlessly unhealthy reel of thoughts: Cash … Caleb … Olivia … Cash … Caleb … Olivia.

The last time I had spoken to Cash was right after my trial. After seeing her on the Prosecution’s witness list, Olivia did some impressive detective work and discovered that Cash was actually Charles Smith’s bastard. Olivia had taken no pleasure in telling me, much to my surprise. She'd even said that she was sorry. I'd reeled for a day, fitting all the pieces together in my mind until they made perfect sense. I had not told my mother what I knew. I waited until Olivia exposed Cash’s paternity while cross-examining her, completely discrediting her testimony. I'd looked at my mother's face when my attorney dropped the ball. It had registered nothing. She knew, I thought. She knew and she stayed with him. The Prosecution was mortified. Olivia won another round. Courtney began sobbing hysterically in the courtroom. I glared at Cash from where I sat, my blood boiling for all of the wrong reasons. She had knowingly betrayed me. For him. I should have been mad at him, but all of my anger was directed at her tacky, blonde hair and pink lipstick.

After the debacle in the courtroom, she called my cell phone, pleading with me to meet with her. But, she had allowed my father to use her to destroy my life. When I wouldn’t respond to her begging, she mailed me a handwritten ten-page letter, detailing her life from the moment she was born to the day my father asked her to come work for him. I ate an entire bag of frozen peas and smoked three cigarettes while reading that damn letter.

Her mother had been my father’s secretary in 1981, and according to Cash, she was conceived on his desk. When my father couldn’t convince her mother to have an abortion, he reluctantly agreed to pay her a monthly dividend to make her and her unborn child go away. But, despite his initial feelings, he’d made yearly visits to see Cash and had even paid her way through college. He told her about Courtney and me when she was little. She had grown up knowing her daddy had two other little girls, and when he was gone from her, he was with them. Cash had admitted that she developed a fascination with us early on. She used to daydream about what it would be like to have sisters. My father had even shown her pictures of us, which she kept taped to her wall. I was more surprised by the fact that my father carried pictures of us, than anything else. Since when had Charles Smith developed an affinity for fatherhood? After I read the last word, I burned the letter. I couldn’t let Courtney see it. She wasn’t dealing with things well as it was. Courtney was too much like my mother. She had an addictive personality, and she emotionally collapsed under stress.

“Leah … Leah?”

I jerk back to Sam, who is still folding the damn laundry.

“What?” I hiss. I wish he’d do that in another room and stop stressing me out.

“Your phone is ringing,” he says.

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