I shut my eyes and try to think about what I know so far. However, my mind keeps returning to this information about Paris. Adopted. I try to put myself in my shoes and imagine how I’d feel if I realized that the people I thought were my parents weren’t, and that they’d been lying to me all my life. That would mean Libby isn’t my sister—a thought guaranteed to bring a smile to my face. It probably also would mean that Rayne isn’t my real name—another cheerful thought. Maybe this adoption thing wouldn’t be as bad as I imagined. Then I think about my father and something hits me in the gut. Not being his real daughter? Hell, no. That would kill me to find out. Even though Paris is not close to his mother and fairly hated his father before his father died, he must still be shocked by the news—especially finding out in this manner.
I stare at the blank television for some time. My mind is racing with no real thoughts, just more glimmers of this and that. I am tempted to call Paris’s mother back and cuss her out for not telling him the truth sooner. I don’t know what she was thinking, despite my attempt at defending her. She must have known that she couldn’t keep it from him forever, and yet, she never told him. I wonder what her motivation was for keeping it a secret. I pick up the phone, ready to hit the redial button. I hang up without doing so. Another call by me to her will be counterproductive. There is nothing more that she’ll be willing to tell me at this point. Better to wait and let it stew in her mind for a bit.
The phone rings, but I’m in no mood to answer it. If I try to make chitchat right now, I’ll go out of my mind. I can only focus on the stunning revelation that Paris just laid on me. I don’t know how to react. No matter how supportive I am of Paris and what he’s going through, a part of me is repulsed by the idea of Max being his mother. Not just because I don’t like the woman and think she’s a blight to humankind. If it’s true, she knowingly had sex with Paris—no, she seduced him!—knowing that he’s her son. What kind of fucked-up, twisted mind would think of doing such a thing? Then throwing it in his face. It’s almost as if she is punishing him for something that only she understands. If it’s true, I will never forgive her for pulling that kind of cruel trick on Paris. If it’s not true, then I curse her for making him sweat and for forcing him to discover his adoptive roots in such a manner. I don’t know what her game was, but I don’t like it any more than I like her.
I wait. I don’t bother turning on the television as there isn’t anything I want to watch. I glance at my watch periodically to make sure that I don’t fall asleep. I want to check in on Paris exactly an hour after he went into his room. I don’t think he’ll do anything stupid, but I’m not positive. I slump down on the couch, unable to sit still. I want to be a good friend to Paris, but I don’t know what he needs at this time. I mean, what would I want if I just found out I was adopted? It’s so far out of my realm of possibilities that I can’t even think what would be my reaction. My mind races to the emails that Libby sent me earlier. I have to make a decision by tomorrow what I’m going to tell her. Truthfully, I’d like to skip the whole sordid event, but I’m afraid that we will never talk to each other again if I don’t agree to go. There is no way I’m giving in on every point, however. If I don’t make a stand now, she’ll just keep chipping away until I’m a carbon copy of her. I resolve to email her stating my case gently, but firmly.
The next time I check my watch, I notice that over an hour has gone by. I stand up and stretch, feeling as if I’ve aged ten years in the last hour. I walk to Paris’s room, curiously reluctant to interfere with his emotions. There are some things that even a best friend shouldn’t be privy to, and this is one of them. This kind of news is best left revealed by the one to whom the news most affects, in this case, Paris. Unfortunately, given the circumstances, we don’t have time to play by the conventional rules. We need the information fast, and we need it unvarnished. That means that Paris doesn’t have the luxury of sulking over it or hoarding it to himself. Like it or not, he has to share what he knows with the good inspector as soon as possible. It falls upon my shoulders to convince him of this. Squaring my shoulders, I knock on Paris’s door. Without waiting for a reply, I go on in. Paris is curled up on his bed, staring at the wall. I know he’s not looking at his drawings or anything else. He is simply staring blankly at the wall.
“Paris, how are you?” I sit on the edge of the bed, not sure how to proceed. I need to know where his mind is at before I continue.
“How do you think I am?” is his muffled response. “How would you be under these circumstances?” I restrain a sigh. He’s decided to go the martyred diva route, one of my least favorites, though understandable.
“I know it’s hard to grasp what Max told you, but we don’t have time for this.” The words are harsh, but the tone is gentle. I don’t want to seem as if I’m riding his ass when he’s already in crisis. “You need to tell the inspector what Max told you, and you have to tell her now.” I pray that he won’t fight me on this because I don’t know if I have the resources to make him do the right thing.
“Go away, Rayne,” Paris says flatly. “I know you’re worried about me, but this is really something I have to take care of myself.”
“Paris, you are not an island! You are not fucking Guam!” I raise my voice. When Paris gets in this mood, he isolates himself. The only way to break him out of it is to keep pestering him. “You have friends who would love to help you, starting with me.” I wait to see if this registers. When I notice that it does, I continue. “If what Max told you is true, it’s better to know it than to always wonder. If she is your mother, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”
“The inspector hates me already. If I go back with another story, she’s going to think I’m just lying to her.”
“What would be the point of you making up this story? It doesn’t edify you in any way.”
“Go away.” When logic fails, Paris crawls back into his apathetic shell. I know it’s just an old defensive mechanism to keep the demons at bay, but it hurts to see him so far away from me. When his eyes happen to glance at me, it’s as if he’s never seen me before. People who haven’t seen Paris like this never believe me when I tell them about his moodiness.
“Paris Frantz, sit up already!” I tug at Paris until he is in a semi-sitting position. His eyes are still fastened to the wall in front of him, and he resists when I try to turn his head manually. “Listen to me. This is something the inspector needs to know. Either you tell her, or I will. I’m not playing.” I stare at Paris, hoping to see some spark in his eyes. Nothing. “Fine. I’ll call her.” I get up to get my cell phone from my bedroom when Paris slowly grabs me and pulls me back down.
“I’ll do it,” is all he says, but it’s enough to make me smile. At last, he’s taking responsibility. He pulls out his cell and rapidly dials the number. I can hear Inspector Robinson’s soothing voice on the other end of the cell phone. As the conversation winds down, Paris does little more than nod and say, ‘uh huh’ at appropriately intervals. It’s only a ten-minute phone call, but feels like much longer. Paris is silent after hanging up the phone. I wait for him to share what Inspector Robinson had to say, but he seems strangely disinclined to do so. Just as I’m about to pry it out of him, he speaks.
The inspector had listened to what he had to say with little emotion. Paris knew that she was pissed by the way she was breathing. When he finished his story, she was silent. When she actually began to speak, Paris braced himself for a tongue-lashing seven different ways. Instead, she said that they appreciated him coming forward as it saved them a lot of work. They would investigate the possibility that Paris is Max’s son. They were really more interested in the fetus than in the baby she gave away so long ago. Paris had forgotten about the pregnancy, but felt despair once more. He has a half-sister in Mary, but he has only seen her twice since she was born. Now, it is too late for him to become acquainted with his possible half-sibling.
I remain silent. As much as I push, as much as I talk, I know when to hold my tongue. This is not the time for flippancy or easy words. There is nothing to be said in a moment like this so I just hold him. He relaxes in my arms, but doesn’t completely let himself go. I understand too well the fear of losing total control—it’s something I avoid at all costs. The hug goes on. Neither of us want to be the first to let go simply because it feels so good to hold on. I pat him on the back as if he’s a newborn baby. He clutches me to him, desperate to hold on to something. He has to stoop over so we can hug properly, but neither of us is uncomfortable with our position. We have hugged each other often enough to do it effortlessly. After a minute, we break apart and sit on his bed. Time ticks on as we just sit there. Paris sighs heavily, but is otherwise silent.
“You going to be ok?” I ask softly, my arm still around his waist.
“No. I’d like to be alone, though.” Paris hugs me briefly, then I stand up.
“Don’t forget your date with Jenna tonight,” I remind him. He groans. “You can’t postpone it again, Paris. That wouldn’t be fair.” I don’t need to tell him that, but it can’t hurt to reinforce it. I drop a kiss on the top of his head then leave the room. I return to my room and throw myself on the bed, staring up at the ceiling. Even though it is only two in the afternoon, I feel as if it’s time to sleep. I close my eyes and next thing I know, I awake with a start. I glance at my watch. It’s six o’clock. I’m hungry. I make my way to the kitchen and throw together a makeshift sandwich of whatever I happen to find. I definitely do not eat as well when Paris isn’t cooking. A glance at the floor tells me that Paris has cleaned up his mess. Good, because I sure as hell wasn’t going to do it.
While I’m eating, my mind drifts back to the double murders. The more I learn about them, the more I’m confused. There doesn’t seem to be anybody who has motive, opportunity and means, though there are plenty of people with motive. At least for killing Moira. What if she hadn’t been the main victim, but simply got in the way? Or perhaps she was killed as a warning to Max who chose to ignore it? I shake my head as I gobble my turkey sandwich. I can’t imagine what kind of person would send a message to someone by killing someone else. Well, ok, I can, but I don’t think that’s the case here. It’s mostly the mafia and people like that who like to make big statements. Try as I might, I can’t see Max involved in the mafia. Moira? Perhaps, but not really. The problem is, infidelity aside, they seemed like an ordinary couple. I don’t know why Max put up with Moira’s playing around, but from Vashti’s story, it was apparent that Max didn’t mind that much. Or else she was trying to make the best of a bad situation. Or she was exacting her revenge.
What if she killed Moira and someone else killed her? I ponder that for a while. It’s conceivable that there are two killers, even if Max isn’t one of them. Say Max figured out who killed Moira—as she certainly seemed to think she had—and threatened the wrong person who happened to have a secret she needed to hide as well. I dismiss the thought as ludicrous and keep thinking, concentrating on the idea of one killer. I know I didn’t kill either of them and I have to believe that neither did Paris. Despite the suspicious circumstances, Vashti doesn’t strike me as the killer either. Who does that leave? Emil, his daughter, Billie, the girl at the party who was so in love with Moira. Perhaps the geeked out boy who needed Moira’s help with his drawings but that felt like stretching. Harry, Max’s ex-husband.
Come to think of it, what if he is the father of Max’s baby? If not him, then whom? Unbidden, Paris’s name sneaks into my mind. I shake it out of there. I know my boy would not engage in unprotected sex. But nothing is a hundred percent sure except for abstinence, and he’s had sex with her twice that he’s admitted to. Come to think of it, he didn’t use a condom the second time because he thought she was on the pill. I cannot cross him off the list. If he is the father and Max is his adopted mother, then the child would have been a product of incest. Great. Just what I need. More motive for Paris to have offed Max. I brighten at the thought that he had no reason whatsoever to get rid of Moira, however. Especially not in such a graphic way. I frown as I try to recall exactly how Moira was laid-out. Suddenly, the appearance of her body seems important. What about the red rose? What did that symbolize?
Energized, I move over to my computer and quickly pull up the Google website. In two seconds, I have the information I need. While red has many positive connotations, there are also a few negatives, including the tidbit that ‘making red’ is synonymous with killing a person. Evil goings-on are referred to as ‘red affairs’. The red rose itself is a symbol of love and fidelity. I can only surmise that whoever killed Moira is making a point by leaving the red rose. The person was meticulous enough to make sure the thorns on the rose cut Moira before she died. Thorns. Jesus Christ’s crown was made of thorns. They pierced his forehead as he was nailed to the cross. Perhaps the killer wanted Moira to atone for her sins. Thought she had to be punished like Jesus Christ. But that would make her a saint, however, and she definitely wasn’t that.
That is the problem with speculation—I could do it for hours and still reach a faulty conclusion without further information. The rose might have been nothing more than an artistic touch—it might have no meaning at all. Then again, it might have all the meaning in the world. Only the killer knows what s/he meant by it. I think about the quotes. I pull them up from the file I have made on my computer. Hate. Death. Evil. That matches what I found out about the red rose. It certainly matches how Emil feels about Moira, but what about Max? I am struck with a sudden thought. Emil could be the father of Max’s baby. I groan and start typing away. I want to get all my thoughts on paper in an orderly fashion. It makes me feel better to be able to see what I’m thinking—I feel as if I’m actually getting somewhere. I am startled by a knock on the door.
It’s Paris, coming to show me his outfit for his date. He is wearing black slacks and a white button-down shirt. He looks like a waiter. His hair is neatly plastered to his head, not at all his usual fashion. He is wearing sensible black Oxfords, which he never wears. He is trying to dress down, but it doesn’t work because he’s just one of those people who can’t look bad no matter how hard he tries. He sighs, then leaves the room. He returns in ten minutes wearing his usual jeans and tight sequined black shirt. His hair is rumpled, and the Oxfords are replaced with black sneakers. There is a pout on his face. I approve as I don’t think he should tip his hand. Not that I have much experience with dumping lovers as I’m usually the one dumped. Funny how I’m always in control of a relationship right up until the minute my lover walks out the door.
“Wish me luck.” Paris crosses over to me and kisses the air around my cheek. I make kissing noises back at him as I send him on his way. I can’t help but feel sorry for Jenna, but I also know that she’s not the right one for Paris. Besides the fact that he prefers guys to women, she’s just much too drab and serious for him though she is good-looking. Even though he likes to be the focus of any relationship he’s in, he needs someone who can hold her/his own against him. He thinks he wants someone who is the retiring type until he actually has to spend a lot of time with the person, then he gets bored. His eyes start wandering and soon, so does he. He is the kindest person in the world, but he also has a short attention span. I don’t know how we’ve remained friends for so long as he tends to upgrade his friends frequently as well.
I’m restless. I don’t want to be glued to my computer especially when I have so few concrete facts to go on. I remember that I’m supposed to email my sister by tomorrow and start a new message to her. I hesitate, but decide to get it over with. I’m not going to change my mind by tomorrow, so I might as well send it now. I type quickly before I can freak out, reiterating what I can and can’t compromise on. I remind her gently that I am not a dog to be muzzled for her convenience, and if she wants me at the wedding, she’ll have to put up with the real me. I want her to be happy on her day, but not at the expense of me. I tell her that I’ll understand if she doesn’t want me there after all. I hit the send button before I chicken out. I sit there, feeling drained. I want a drink and a night of hot sex, but not necessarily in that order. I call Vashti.