Thinking Vanessa was sleeping comfortably, Kat decided to take Annette to the hospital cafeteria and get them both something to eat. She had a lot of questions for Annette, but now was not the time.
“I know it must have hurt when your mother asked to see Jennifer instead of you. You have to remember, she has been very confused and it’s likely to get worse. Especially with the trauma of the fire.”
“I know, Kat. Her mind has gone back to before Jennifer died. You know, I have spent all these years trying to be everything my mother needed in a daughter, but it was always Jennifer she wanted.”
“How did it happen, Annette?” How did Jennifer get so badly burned? I would have thought the fire would have been contained in a small fire pit?”
I wasn’t there when it happened. I had returned to the house to get marshmallows. I was almost back to the picnic spot when I heard a scream. As I got closer, I could see Mother was just standing there. The little girls were hystetical. Jennifer was lying on the ground, motionless. I grabbed the girls and ran to the house to get my stepfather. He put a light blanket around Jennifer and carried her to the car. Then shoved Mother in and took off for the hospital. I stayed behind with Vanessa and Alice. They asked if they could color. They acted as if nothing had happened. They were in shock.
My stepfather came back for the girls, and when it was all over, Jack took them home. We never saw them again until now.
Mother stayed in her room for weeks afterward. I took meals to her and tried to get her to come out of her depression.
“But how did the fire get out of hand? Do you know?”
“I only know what Mother told me. To get the fire started, we poured some gasoline on a couple of logs. Apparently, Alice, who was only four, saw us and decided to do what we had done. She started to pour gas on the fire. Jennifer reached out to grab her, but Alice started to run. Jennifer tripped and fell, knocking the gas can over. Gas spilled out into the fire. Her dress caught fire and she wasn’t able to get up and out of the fire. Jennifer didn’t have a chance.”
“Mother found a way to blame me. She said I had left the gas can too close to the fire, though I know I didn’t.”
Annette hadn’t even taken a bite of her food. “Mother doesn’t want to see me and the cabin is gone. I have my car here so I think I’ll go home. The doctors can call me if they need me.”
Kat didn’t argue with Annette. Maybe it was best for her to get away.
Kat was on her way to check on Vanessa when a nurse caught up with her. “We had to sedate her,” she said. “She was crying uncontrollaby, and we weren’t able to calm her down any other way.”
Kat sat in Vanessa’s room for hours until she finally woke up. When she saw Kat, she immediately dissolved into tears. “Where’s my daddy?” She asked. “I have to tell him.”
“Your daddy is with Alice. They flew her to a hospital in Boston where they’ll be able to make her well, faster.”
Vanessa looked stunned. As the news that Alice didn’t die sunk in, her thoughts turned back to Mrs. Morris. It was her fault, Vanessa thought. Mrs. Morris was responsible for her mother’s death and she was the reason Alice almost died.
It looked like it might be a few days before Vanessa would be released so Kat made arrangements at a nearby motel and she was able to pick up a few things at a shopping center close to the hospital.
Edith Morris’ body, if not her mind, was healing as well and a couple of days later, Annette came back. Her mother would need a nurse to care for her at (Annette’s) home and she had to make the arrangements.
A week passed and things were looking better. Jack called and said Alice had turned the corner and she was getting stronger each day. Vanessa was to be discharged the next day and Mrs Morris would be going to Annette’s home.
Vanessa was in her hospital bed. This would be the last night she would be under the same roof as Mrs. Morris. She couldn’t bear to think of that evil woman as her grandmother. “I’m going to pay her a visit,” Vanessa whispered. “And then, I’ll never see her again.”
Annette was sitting at a table at the Roadside Cafe. The mother who hated her was going home with her tomorrow. “I can’t do it,” she thought. “There must be some way that I can get her out of my life.”