Mom hesitates for a moment and then strokes my hair one last time before she gets up and reluctantly obliges. She leaves and Dad enters bearing a different kind of treat than Mom—a delicate silver chain that twinkles in the soft light of my bedroom.
My eyes widen and I gasp. “Nana Rose’s…”
“That’s right,” he says, sitting in the same spot Mom was just in. He holds it out for me to see, the chain swaying and the beautiful rose pendant spinning. “I just found a letter Nana wrote the night before she passed. She wanted you to have this, sweetheart.”
“Her rose necklace?! Oh, wow. Dad… I don’t know… I don’t want to lose it. Maybe Mom should have it…”
“It’s for you. So you’ll have a piece of her. If you wear it every day, you’ll always have a piece of her with you. Always someone watching you.”
I take the necklace into the palm of my hand, mesmerized by its delicate beauty and the sense of ease that washes over me. It really does feel like Nana’s with me, like her hope and love has poured into the pendant itself.
A small smile starts at the corners of my mouth. “Thanks, Dad.”
He kisses the top of my head and then gets up. At the door, he pauses long enough to look back at me and say, “We’ll get through this together, Delphi. Remember, not even death itself can break the Adams family.”
* * *
I stare out the window, the trees and buildings zipping by a blur. My throat aches and my breaths come in weak, like a wounded creature. I stopped crying a while ago when I tumbled down another rabbit hole of paralyzing shock.
It’s all some horrible nightmare come to life.
Every last piece of my existence reduced to a dark and twisted web of lies. No wonder I’ve been a fraud when my whole life has been. Thirty-one years of living in a fake reality where nothing was ever as it seemed.
I don’t even know where to begin processing anything I’ve been told. Nana’s broken rose necklace sits in my lap, an apt representation of my inside. My heart that aches thinking of what I’ve learned about the man who was my biggest hero.
At my side, Salvatore drives us across the bridge connecting Northam and Westoria. We’ll be arriving any minute. I’ll be forced to confront the lies and the truths head-on.
I press my forehead against the warm glass window and close my eyes. Memories flit in and out of focus despite my fight to keep them at bay. Fond times I’ve cherished that were really orchestrated machinations. Where do you begin unpacking the violating truth that your father has been spying on you for more than half your life?
He’s known all this time. As I’ve unraveled, so desperately tried to be the Delphine I was taught to be, he’s been behind-the-scenes watching me suffer. He’s known who was responsible and why this whole time.
Even worse, he’s belonged to the same society club as my attacker. A sick feeling roils inside my stomach at the possibility he was aware of the plot against me, or played some kind of a role…
“You okay?” Salvatore throws me a quick glance before returning to the road ahead. “You could talk about it. Tell me whatever you’re thinking. You don’t have to keep it bottled up.”
A sliver of bitterness streaks through me. “What’s there to say, Jon? Everything you’ve ever told me has turned out to be true—my dad is the devil and my fake-pretend world isn’t real. My life is a joke. Congratulations, you win.”
“This isn’t a win for me, Phi. I take no pleasure in any of this.”
He’s being honest. His expression is clenched and hard, a crack in his composure where I can tell he feels awful. He doesn’t like this situation, standing by as I discover my life is a lie.
But he’s the only one here, which makes him an easy target to lash out at.
“I’m sorry,” I mutter. “I’m just… I’m so confused.”
I breathe through my next flare of emotion and dig my nails into my palms. I’d like to think as soon as I see Dad, I’ll hold my own. I’ll be some strong, empowered woman who will hold him accountable, making him shrink with regret for everything he’s ever done.
In reality, I know I’ll be more of a mess. I feel unsteady and sick to my stomach. I feel like a pathetic wounded little girl who has been so dumb and naive her whole life, even when she fooled herself to believe she was strong and capable.
How could he do this to me? To Mom and our family?
…how could I let him?!
I let him do it because I blindly trusted him.
Salvatore watches me almost as much as he watches the road. As we make a turn on one of the final streets leading up to the Adams residence, he slides his gaze over to me more than once.