"I'm here to see Rose Jackson," I told the young man on the other side of the plexi-glass panel. He was wearing dark blue hospital scrubs and his muscular arms were tattooed from his wrists as far up as I could see.
"You're Sarah Grayson?" he asked.
I nodded, wondering how he knew my name.
"Your mother is in Observation 5." He pointed over my right shoulder. "Go through those double doors and turn right at the nurses station."
My mother? I suddenly had a pretty good idea of why the young man had known my name. Ahead I could see Liz, standing by the nurses' desk. She had the handles of Rose's blue and white LL Bean tote bag over her arm. As always she was beautifully dressed in a pale pink cotton sweater and cream trousers, her blond hair curled around her face.
I walked over and gave her a hug. "You told them I'm Rose's daughter?" I said.
Liz waved my comment away. "I said you were like a daughter to her. Is it my fault people don't listen?"
I looked at her, shaking my head.
"You keep making that face missy and it's going to freeze like that," she said.
"That didn't work on me when I was seven and it's not going to work now," I said. "You lied to them. What if someone asks me for ID?"
Liz gave a snort of derision. "And what exactly are they going to ask for? Your birth certificate? I don't think so."
Liz had grown up in North Harbor and for years ran the Emmerson Foundation, her family's charitable trust. She knew everyone in town and was quick to use her influence if it could help someone she cared about. I could see the lines pulling at the corners of her mouth and eyes under her expertly applied makeup, and I knew that despite her feisty attitude she was worried about her friend.
"You're certain Rose is all right?' I asked.
Liz nodded. "She's just down there." She gestured over her shoulder. "The doctor is in with her right now. They kicked Alfred and me out."
I took a step sideways and looked down the hallway. Alfred Peterson was standing in front of a closed door about three quarters of the way down the corridor. He was a small man with just a few tufts of gray hair and warm, brown eyes. While he may have looked like the stereotypical grandpa who showed up in life insurance ads, he was in reality a computer whiz, whose skills rivaled hackers a fraction of his age. Mr. P. smiled when he caught sight of me and I raised a hand in greeting. I saw his shoulders relax a little. I may not have been Rose's daughter but I felt responsible for her—for all of them.
"She was delivering those candlesticks, wasn't she?" I asked Liz.
Liz nodded. "You'd think at her age she wouldn't get caught up in some romantic nonsense." She patted the canvas bag hanging from her arm. "I've got the damn things right here along with Rose's purse and for the record I told you they were cursed."
I swiped a hand over my neck. "What happened to Rose didn't happen because of a pair of cursed candle sticks. And by the way, they aren't cursed. There's no such thing."
Liz jabbed her index finger at me. Her nails were painted a deeper pink than her shirt. "Don't tell me you never heard of karma. Those candleholders have bad karma attached to them. Purves Calhoun was a mean, cold-hearted son of a bitch who mistreated his wife and kids just like his father before him until his mother-in-law put a curse on him and he fell off the roof of the barn." She gave me a triumphant look.
"Purves Calhoun fell off the roof of his barn because he had a still in that barn and he spent too much time sampling his own product," I retorted.
"Whatever works," she said. "Purves's grandfather bought those things for his wife when she gave him a son, Purves Senior—just as much of a quarrelsome old coot as his son, by the way—after six girls, as if that was her fault," Liz scoffed. "Then Purves Senior continued that reprehensible tradition and gave them to his wife when Purves Junior was born after four beautiful daughters."
"I thought the candlesticks belonged to Purves's grandmother," I said, thinking it was kind of an odd conversation to be having while we were standing in the emergency room.
Liz shrugged. "Like father, like son. Every single thing, every pot and plate, every stick of furniture belonged to the old man as far as he was concerned." She fished in her bag and pulled out a box wrapped in blue paper and tied with a silver bow. "Here," she said, handing it to me. "They have bad juju."
"Bad juju?" I said.
Liz narrowed her blue eyes at me. "Don't make fun. There are things out there that we don't understand."
She was going on about curses and bad juju because she was worried, I realized. "Rose is going to be all right," I said, reaching over and laying my hand on her arm for a moment.
Liz nodded. "I've been telling her for years that she's hard headed."
Mr. P. joined us then. "Sarah, I'm glad you're here," he said. The smile he gave me was a small one and like Liz, the lines on his face seemed to be etched just a little deeper. "Rosie told me not to call you." He glanced at Liz. "So I called Elizabeth instead."
"Rose went to Windspeare Point," I said.
"I didn't know, my dear," Mr. P. said. "I assure you that if I had known, I would have stopped her." He adjusted his glasses and smoothed down the few wisps of hair he had left, then he looked back over his shoulder. The closed door he'd been standing next to was open now. "I think the doctor is finished."
"Let's go," Liz said.
"Isn't there a two visitor limit?" I asked.
"Doesn't apply to us," she said over her shoulder without turning around.
Mr. P. patted my arm. "It's not the first rule that doesn't seem to apply to us," he said to me as we followed Liz toward Rose's room.
© Sofie Ryan