Home > Cross My Heart, Hope To Die (The Lying Game #5)(12)

Cross My Heart, Hope To Die (The Lying Game #5)(12)
Author: Sara Shepard

He reached across the table and took her hand. “Sutton, believe me, I know how you feel. Your mom and I have never stopped talking about this. Wondering if we could have done more for her, wondering if any of her … of her behavior is our fault. But some people just have a hard time in the world, no matter how many advantages they have, no matter how loved they are. Someday you’ll understand that. Not everybody is as strong as you are.”

Emma pulled her hand from his. “You’re talking like she’s damaged. Like she’s some kind of freak.”

Again he hesitated. Then he turned back to his appetizer and gracefully speared another piece of calamari with his fork. “She’s not a freak. You shouldn’t talk about anyone that way—especially not Becky. But, honey, she has a lot of problems. Difficulties socializing or living with other people. It’s one of the reasons she’s moved so often, one of the reasons she keeps to herself. She can be unpredictable when she’s not on her medication.”

Emma’s blood chilled. Becky took medication? For how long? “Unpredictable how?” she asked.

Mr. Mercer shifted in his seat. “Well, sometimes she’d be despondent for days on end. Hiding in her room, crying at the drop of a hat. Sometimes she was destructive. She broke things out of spite. She punched a hole in the wall, just because she was asked to clear the table.”

“Oh,” Emma said quietly. She thought about her mother’s habits, things she’d always thought of as strange or irresponsible more than dangerous. Like how she’d spend a week at a time in the same pair of pajama bottoms. How she’d stolen candy by the pocketful from the corner store, or gleefully lit their unopened utilities bills on fire with a match.

Mr. Mercer cleared his throat uncomfortably. “But despite all that, Becky can also be creative and warm and wonderful. In her own way she loves you—I know she does. That’s why she gave you to us, because she knew we’d take better care of you than she could. She wanted to talk to you that night in the canyon, but she wasn’t ready. Maybe she’s watching you now because she’s trying to build up the courage to finally see you.”

I wasn’t so sure about that. Becky hadn’t looked shy or nervous, exactly, more like caught. Or annoyed, perhaps, that Emma was running after her.

Emma was thinking the same thing. And she couldn’t help thinking about what Ethan had said at the studio, about how Becky might have played a role in Sutton’s disappearance. More memories started flooding back as though released from a dam, all the ones Emma usually tried not to think about. Like the night Becky caught her boyfriend Joe cheating. He was a mild-mannered guy with a goatee who watched Saturday morning cartoons with Emma before Becky crawled out of bed. Becky had intercepted a call on his phone from someone named “Rainbow” and had gone crazy, her eyes rolling madly as she paced the apartment and screamed at Joe. Emma hid under the bed when Becky picked up a folding chair to clobber her boyfriend over the head. Emma could still remember the terrible crunch of impact. She’d curled up, hugging her Socktopus for dear life and praying for everything to be over soon.

She shuddered. She wanted to be able to dismiss Ethan’s suspicions, but maybe she didn’t actually know what her mother was capable of.

The waitress appeared again, this time with their entrées. Just as Emma was twirling a bite of pasta, Mr. Mercer’s phone jangled from his pocket. He glanced at the screen and frowned. “The hospital,” he murmured. “Sorry, honey, I need to grab this.”

Even through the bustle and clatter of the busy dining room, Emma could hear the crisp, calm voice on the other end of the phone. “Dr. Mercer, I’m with the University of Arizona Hospital. We have your daughter. We have Rebecca. There’s been an incident. Can you come in right away?”

Almost before the woman had finished her sentence, Mr. Mercer was scrambling for his crutches. Emma knocked over her chair as she jumped to her feet to help him. A single thought cycled in her mind again and again. Something has happened to Becky.

I flew behind them both as they hurried out of the club, straining my ears to hear what else the nurse had to say and bracing for whatever they’d find in that hospital bed only a few miles away.



Mr. Mercer found a parking spot near the entrance of the University of Arizona Hospital and Medical Center, and they hurried into the lobby of the ER. A blast of air conditioning greeted them. “We’re here for Rebecca Mercer, please,” Mr. Mercer said to the woman at the triage desk.

Emma looked around, wrinkling her nose at the antiseptic hospital smell. Just one week before, she’d come here to investigate her grandfather’s involvement in Sutton’s disappearance, breaking into his office in the orthopedic wing and rifling through his desk—that was how she’d tracked down Becky in the first place.

The ER lobby was full of orange plastic chairs, dilapidated coffee tables, and out-of-date magazines. A young man sat with a bloody towel wrapped around one finger, a woman who must have been his mother speaking rapidly in Spanish at his side. A man with several small children sat under a poster that showed how to sneeze in to your elbow to prevent spreading germs. A TV bolted to the ceiling was tuned to a classic movie channel—Emma recognized Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak from Vertigo, which she’d seen in a class a few years before in Henderson.

Something has happened to Becky. She and her grandfather hadn’t spoken a word on the drive over, both of them too terrified of what might greet them when they got here, but Emma’s imagination had whipped through a thousand terrible scenarios. She pictured Becky’s legs crushed under the wheels of a car, Becky sick with a mystery illness no one could cure, Becky missing limbs or plugged into life-support machines. Twenty minutes earlier she’d been angry and frustrated with her mother, but now she hated herself for even thinking it. What if she was going to lose her for real?

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