Convicted, стр. 27

Before Emily could say more, Dr. Brown began, “I’ve asked Dr. Fairfield to join us today because he’s a research professor at Princeton, specializing in traumatic brain injuries. I heard him speak a few weeks ago at a conference and believe he could give us a fresh perspective on Claire.”

Emily sat taller. “Research? I’m sorry, Doctor, but I don’t want anyone experimenting on my sister. She’s been through enough already.”

Dr. Fairfield spoke—with a thick English accent, “Mrs. Vandersol, I assure you, I’m only here to offer my opinion. I won’t use any of the data regarding Mrs. Rawlings without your permission.”

“Ms. Nichols, Doctor, I need you to understand that the name Rawlings may never be used in the presence of my sister—No exceptions.”

Dr. Fairfield looked toward Dr. Brown. Dr. Brown smiled and spoke, “Emily, I’ve only shared the medical information with Dr. Fairfield—nothing personal. I promise we’ll review all of that before he examines Claire. Currently, he’s only seen her CT scans and read my notes. I believe there’s something I’m missing. I don’t know what it is; however, Dr. Fairfield has documented cases of spontaneous recovery—”

Emily interrupted, “I’ve done my research. Most recoveries occur within the first year. After that, the likelihood is greatly diminished. Isn’t that right?”

Dr. Fairfield replied, “That’s correct; however, the cases to which Dr. Brown is referring were significantly outside the normal time period for recovery.” Emily contemplated his words as he added, “One case was four years out.”

Four years! Emily thought about that. It’d already been over two. She’d come to terms with the idea that Claire would never recover, but was that a life? “What does this mean? What will you do to Claire?”

Dr. Brown replied, “We need your permission for Dr. Fairfield to examine Claire and possibly perform more tests.”

“More tests? What other tests could you possibly perform which other doctors haven’t already done?”

The doctors spent the next forty minutes explaining Dr. Fairfield’s research. The tests weren’t invasive, and Emily’s rules would be maintained. They may introduce some medications or combination of medications that have been previously untried. First, Dr. Fairfield wanted to determine if the cause of her psychosis was indeed head injury, or if it could be something else.

Emily reluctantly shared Claire’s history. She didn’t like the idea of more treatment. After all, Claire was content. Why make her uncomfortable or uneasy? Then again, if there was even a remote possibility—Emily couldn’t say no.

That night, at home with John and the kids, she watched as Michael and Nichol played. When she looked at her niece, she saw Claire and the same carefree ambition her sister once possessed. She also saw the dark eyes of Anthony Rawlings. There were times she detested those eyes. When that negativity crept in, Emily reminded herself—nurture verses nature. Nichol wouldn’t know the life of revenge that her father had allowed to destroy him and anyone else unfortunate enough to be within his sphere of influence. Her eyes would see the world as a place of endless possibilities where love and forgiveness prevail. Emily vowed that with her and John’s help Nichol would see the world as her mother once had—before—

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July 15, 2016

I finally did it, but I don’t know if I’m happy or not...I delivered Claire’s lunch and was able to talk to her. When I entered her room, she was sitting at the window, looking out at the bright skies. Although I spoke and made noise, she didn’t acknowledge my entrance. At first, I hesitated to make eye contact.

What I didn’t realize was that I couldn’t. I stepped in front of Claire, but her expression didn’t change. She continued her gaze, exactly as it had been, as if I weren’t there at all. I tried speaking, quietly at first; then louder. Although she didn’t speak or look at me, she eventually got up and walked to the table where she allowed me to feed her.

After Claire ate about half of the lunch, she abruptly stood and walked back to the chair by the window.

Truthfully, I’d been so emotional while she ate that I’d forgotten to speak. When I looked at my watch, I realized I still had ten minutes before I was expected back to the kitchen, so I went back to her. Kneeling in front of her, I touched her knee...

“Claire, can you hear me?” Meredith desperately tried to keep emotion out of her voice; however, with the tears sliding down her cheeks, she wasn’t sure it was possible. Intellectually, Meredith knew the rules regarding Ms. Nichols. Truthfully, she wasn’t thinking. Her heart was breaking at the sight of her friend, now a shell of the vivacious woman she’d once been. “Claire, it’s me, Meredith. Don’t you remember me? We went to Valparaiso together...” Meredith was careful not to mention Anthony, Nichol, or anything else from the last six years. She did, however, ramble on for ten minutes about life as it had been when they were college students.

Never once did Claire’s expression change; although, at some point, she began humming. Undeterred, Meredith rambled about their sorority house and Chicago. It wasn’t until Meredith was out of Claire’s room, nearing the kitchen, that Claire’s tune resonated in her mind. Meredith recognized the song: Take Me Out To The Ball Game—the seventh inning stretch at Wrigley.

July 15 th , 2016 continued:

I want to believe she heard and understood. I don’t know; maybe I’m grasping at straws. After all, most of what I’ve read says that if recovery isn’t made in the first year, it rarely happens—but that song! I was talking about Chicago and baseball games. I don’t think I even mentioned the Cubs or Wrigley, but I know I mentioned baseball...

Without a doubt, I know she was humming “Take Me Out To The Ball Game!”

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Contentment consists not in adding more fuel, but in taking away some fire.

—Baldwin Fuller

Claire marveled at the shades of blue as the small plane circled over the island, completing the final leg of their journey. Although her mind constantly went back to her honeymoon, Claire reminded herself this was another place and another time. On her honeymoon in Fiji, Tony was with her, and he was in control.

Here, instead of Tony, she had Phil by her side. With each passing day, Claire appreciated his devotion and presence more and more. His honesty exposed her true threat, and his skills freed her from Catherine and the FBI, keeping her and her baby safe. She knew, without a doubt, she wouldn’t be where she was without him, yet despite all they’d experienced, their roles were so different than anything she’d ever known with Tony. In every matter of importance, Claire had control. After all, her money purchased this paradise retreat. Phil presented her with choices, but every decision was hers. At times, that power was intoxicating; at other times, it was daunting. After years of submission, it was a whole new way to live. Surprisingly, there were times she found herself missing the sense of security that accompanies that loss of responsibility.

As the scenes below her—those of a tropical paradise—bright blues, greens, and whites faded from her consciousness, Claire recalled memories of her recent life in Iowa—the one she left, walked away from, or more accurately, the one from which she ran. In the depths of her heart, she knew, for a short time, she had everything she wanted and more. She and Tony had an understanding; he had the control he needed, but so did she. She came and went as she pleased. Yes, she informed him first, but that was it. Claire informed Tony—she didn’t ask permission—nor did she seek his approval. He allowed it because they trusted one another. In the pit of her stomach, Claire knew she’d been the one to break that trust—to break the promise they’d made in their meadow of confessions. Perhaps that was Catherine’s plan; by convincing Claire to flee, Catherine successfully broke the trust she and Tony had built. Even if Tony contacted her, Claire wondered, could it be rebuilt?