“Welcome back,” I knew the sound of Cross’s voice, but my vision was still fuzzy. I saw colors first, in a hazy blur. Then shapes formed from the blurs, which then made themselves into pieces I began to recognize. Slowly, the details of my sitting room sharpened.
I was lying across the sofa. The light in the room was dim and the curtains drawn against the darkness. It was then I realized that daylight had dissolved into night. The day had passed without my awareness.
“What happened?” I moved to sit upright, but was held back by Cross’s hand on my shoulder and a blinding headache that seared through the middle of my forehead.
“I was rather hoping you could tell me.” Cross knelt beside my sofa and given the current state of his own recovery, I’m sure he was in no way comfortable. A stern, searching look creased his brow.
I took several deep, slow breaths that I might calm the pain that threatened to tear my skull in half and that I might calm the rolling nausea that now swept through me. “I don’t really remember much.” I started, though I felt the need for more slow, deep breaths before I continued.
“I remember returning to the Adell estate. I almost turned back when I got there, as I had no way of knowing what I should say.” I paused for several more deep breaths. Then I went on to describe, as detailed as I could remember, the Adell’s greenhouse and the man I saw inside, who turned out to be Mary’s father.
Cross’s eyes lit up when I mentioned Jonathan Adell. “Ah, I do wish now that I had returned with you.”
“As do I.” I sighed, thinking about how easier everything would have been if Cross had come back with me. “I might have been saved from the torment of sharing such dreadful news. It’s really not my thing.”
“But, you handled it marvelously.” A little flickering twinkle glinted from Cross’s eye and I wondered , for just a moment, whether he honestly believed what he said. “Pray, continue.”
The next few moments that I described in the Adell estate did little to hold the attention of Cross. There really wasn’t much to our account in the front sitting room. The room itself I needed not to describe, as Cross had seen it himself, but I did mention the view of the greenhouse, as I had never noticed it before. Cross did seem interested in this new information, but his face became so inscrutable that I had no way of knowing for sure.
Tea was common enough. In fact, I almost didn’t think it worth mentioning, other than to say that tea was served. It was Miss Adell’s reaction to what I had to say that I was most eager to recount to Cross. I repeated, as close to exact, as my scrambled memory would allow, the words that I said to Miss Adell and her father. Then I spoke of Miss Adell’s episode, how dreadful a reaction it was.
Once I had departed the Adell estate, I could remember nothing until I woke in my own sitting room. I watched Cross’s face as I finished my story, but his expression seemed distant. Whatever was holding his attention, he didn’t readily share, but I had my suspicions that he was puzzling out how everything tied together. All I could think about, unfortunately, was poor Miss Adell. Once I had been made to remember what happened to her, I couldn’t shake the disturbing picture from my mind.
“It would have torn at your gut to see the way she sank, so pitiable was her state.” Without realizing it, my breathing had doubled, caught up as I was in my retelling. “You wouldn’t believe it, Cross, but her eyes, they were gaping and wild with the same distorted pupils as Manuel Dison.” By this point, as I was gasping for air.
“Oh, but I would believe it,” his expression still distant. “You had the same wild eyes when you returned this afternoon.”