I took a hot shower when I finally got back to the hospital and furiously scrubbed at my skin but sadly enough, I couldn’t wash away my guilt. After I was as clean as I was going to get, I climbed into bed with Johnny and laid my head across his chest. “I did it for us.” I whispered even though I knew he wasn’t listening. The sound of his heartbeat eventually lulled me to sleep…for a while at least because there came a knock at the door about an hour later. I opened it to find a detective wanting to speak to Johnny. “He’s resting right now but I’m his wife. You can tell me anything he needs to hear.” I smiled at him politely. “I’m awake.” Johnny croaked from behind us. “I can talk.”
Eva came in while Johnny was still in a deep conversation with the detective. My nerves were completely shot so she was a welcome distraction. “Val, have you checked your voicemail lately? You should’ve called me back!” She hissed in my ear as she hugged me. “I got caught up in some things but I’m here now.” I told her vaguely. She was my best friend but I still didn’t want her to know what I’d done. “Child Protective Services came here looking for Lemon last night! Luckily your mom and Geoffrey had her tucked away with them.” I stared at her in disbelief. Even in death, Nancy was still messing with me.
“Where is she now?” I demanded to know. “She’s still with them. They’ll bring her back when they know it’s safe.” She narrowed her eyes at me. I was sure she was wondering what exactly had happened during my visit to Nancy’s house and why I wasn’t talking about it. But she let it go. “So is it safe for her to come back?” Eva asked. “I think so.” I mumbled and looked at the detective still perched on Johnny’s hospital bed. They didn’t seem to be discussing me. Maybe I was in the clear after all. Suddenly the detective stood to leave. “Mrs. Zest.” He nodded to me on his way out. “What’s going on?” I asked Johnny as soon as the door closed behind him.
“Val…I know what I was told but I’m having a lot of trouble trying to swallow it.” He moaned and sat upright. “They’re saying that my grandmother poisoned my mother and had a heart attack while trying to flee the scene. She didn’t make it.” I was floored by the news of Queenie’s passing. “I’m so sorry, Johnny.” My voice shook as I put my arms around him and kissed the top of his head. “I know how much she meant to you. I loved her too.” I held him while he cried. “What about your mother? Is she okay?” I pretended to sound concerned. “She’s here actually.” I struggled to keep my face neutral. “She’s in a coma. The doctors are doing everything they can for her but it doesn’t look good. Even if she somehow pulls through, she’ll likely have brain damage.” He wiped his face and looked up at me pitifully. “How awful.” Was the only thing I could think to say but it seemed to be enough for Johnny. Only I knew the truth and it was the one secret that I would take to my grave.