The Husbands Secret Page 104

\Jesus. Swimming.\ John-Paul\s whole body heaved and he pressed his palm to the centre of his chest as if he was in the throes of a heart attack.

\Don\ drop dead on me,\ said Cecilia sharply.

She pushed the heels of her hands deep into her eye sockets and turned them in a circular motion. She could taste so much salt from all her tears, it was like she\d been swimming in the sea.

\Why did you tell Rachel?\ said John-Paul. \Why now?\

She dropped her hands from her face and looked at him. She lowered her voice to a whisper. \Because she thought Connor Whitby killed Janie. She was trying to hit Connor.\

She watched John-Paul\s face as his mind travelled from A to B and finally to the horrendous responsibility of C.

He pressed his fist to his mouth. \F*k,\ he said quietly into his knuckles and he began to rock back and forth like an autistic child.

\This was my fault,\ he mumbled into his hand. \I made this happen. Oh God, Cecilia. I should have confessed. I should have told Rachel Crowley.\

\Stop it,\ hissed Cecilia. \Polly might hear.\

He stood up and walked towards the door of the hospital room. He turned back and looked at Polly, his face ravaged with despair. He looked away, plucked helplessly at the fabric of his shirt. Then he suddenly crouched down, his head bent, his hands interlocked at the back of his neck.

Cecilia watched him dispassionately. She remembered how he\d sobbed on Good Friday morning. The pain and regret he felt for what he\d done to another man\s daughter was nothing compared to what he felt for his own daughter.

She looked away from him and back at Polly. You could try as hard as possible to imagine someone else\s tragedy - drowning in icy waters, living in a city split by a wall - but nothing truly hurt until it happened to you. Most of all, to your child.

\Get up, John-Paul,\ she said without looking at him. Her eyes stayed on Polly.

She thought of Isabel and Esther, who were at home with her parents and John-Paul\s mother right now, along with various other relatives. John-Paul and Cecilia had made it clear that they didn\ want any visitors at the hospital yet, so everyone was gathered at the house. Isabel and Esther were being kept distracted for now, but the siblings always got neglected when something like this happened to a family. She would have to make sure she found a way to be a mother to all three of her daughters through this. The P&C would go. The Tupperware would go.

She turned to look again at John-Paul, who was still hunkered down on the floor, as if protecting himself from a bomb blast.

\Get up,\ she said again. \You can\ fall apart. Polly needs you. We all need you.\

John-Paul removed his hands from his neck and looked up at her with bloodshot eyes. \But I\m not going to be here for you,\ he said. \Rachel will tell the police.\

\Maybe,\ said Cecilia. \Maybe she will. But I don\ think so. I don\ think Rachel is going to take you away from your family.\ There was no real evidence for this, except somehow she felt that it was true. \Not right now anyway.\

\But -\

\I think we\ve paid,\ said Cecilia, her voice low and vicious. She gestured at Polly. \Look how we\ve paid.\

Chapter fifty-three

Rachel sat in front of the television watching the colourful, hypnotic flicker of images and faces. If someone had turned the TV off and asked her what she\d been watching she couldn\ have answered.

She could pick up the phone this minute and have John-Paul Fitzpatrick arrested for murder. She could do it immediately, or in an hour\s time, or in the morning. She could wait until Polly was home from hospital, or she could wait a few months. Six months. A year. Give her a year with her father and then take him away. She could wait until the accident was far enough in the past for it to be a memory. She could wait for the Fitzpatrick girls to grow a little older, to get their driving licences, to not need a daddy.

It was as though she\d been handed a loaded gun, along with permission to shoot Janie\s murderer at any time. If Ed was still alive, the trigger would have been pulled already. The police would have been called hours ago.

She thought of John-Paul\s hands around Janie\s neck and felt that old familiar rage blossom across her chest. My little girl.

She thought of his little girl. The glittery pink helmet. Brake. Brake. Brake.

If she told the police about John-Paul\s confession, would the Fitzpatricks tell them about her own confession? Would she be arrested for attempted murder? It was only luck that she hadn\ killed Connor. Was her foot on the accelerator an equal sin to his hands around Janie\s neck? But what happened to Polly was an accident. Everyone knew that. She rode her bike straight in front of Rachel\s car. It should have been Connor. What if Connor had been dead tonight? His family receiving that phone call, the call that meant for the rest of your life you never heard a phone ring or a knock on the door without a chill of fear.

Connor was alive. Polly was alive. Janie was the only one who was dead.

What if he hurt someone else? She remembered his face at the hospital ravaged with worry over his daughter\s mangled body. \She laughed at me, Mrs Crowley.\ She laughed at you? You stupid, egotistical little bastard. That was enough to make you kill her? To take away her life. To take away all the days she could have lived, the degree she never earned, the countries she never visited, the husband she never married, the children she never had. Rachel shook so hard she felt her teeth chatter.

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