Sitting in the office of Dr. Brian Matthews, Frank, Laura, and Annette Gardner waited anxiously to hear what the psychiatrist had to say.
Glancing up from the array of papers he held in his hand, Dr. Matthews said with a smile, “Well, I’m certainly glad to see you all here today, because I have good news. It is my belief that Elaine is well enough to be released into your care, with a visit to me once a week. In addition to these sessions, I would like to place her on a stronger medication, specifically Prozac. While she has shown great improvement, she is still prone to high levels of anxiety, so that should do the trick.”
Frank held Laura’s hand as she let out a sigh of relief. She had stopped listening after, “to be released.”
The doctor continued, “I want you all to understand though, she won’t be ‘cured.’ These are ways she will cope with what she has gone through, but it will not erase the memory. The goal here has been to prepare her to assimilate back into everyday life so that she can eventually regain autonomy. She will need your support, and I know for a fact you’re all willing to give it.”
The Gardner family rose, and Frank shook Dr. Matthews’ hand. Annette stayed back a moment, and said, “I want to thank you, Brian, for everything you’ve done. I mean that, really.”
He smiled at her and said, “No need to thank me. That’s my job after all…”
“Well, all the same, I’d like to repay you someday,” said Annette.
“How about dinner? You won’t need to pay then, either,” said Dr. Matthews with a wide grin.
Annette paused, then said with a wink, “Dinner it is. I think we’ll go Dutch, though.”
She had a good feeling.
“Ma, why did he kill him,” said Michael Falcone.
Josephine looked at her son on the brink of tears. She was not one to cry, unless it came to Michael. “We took you in when you were just born. The arrangements had been made as soon as John found out that girl was pregnant. He was thrilled that your father and I were the ones to take you. We had only one condition for him if we were going to be your parents–he was not to be a part of your life. He would only be known as a family friend, and nothing more.”
“So, what? You didn’t feel like taking the risk he’d tell me?” said Michael bitterly.
“For God’s sake Michael, let me speak! He kept the secret all right–until two years ago, when he threatened to tell you about the whole thing if your father–Peter– refused to give him money. You see, he wasn’t a rich man to begin with, and, like all desperate men, had debts to pay off. Your father had seen John fall into dire straits over the years, and hadn’t seen much of him. He turned up one day demanding money, or he would tell you. He became incredibly violent and unreasonable. So, yes, Michael, your father killed him.”
Michael remained silent as his mother spoke. Everything he had ever known was coming undone. Could he consider the woman sitting next to him his mother? What about the man he had always considered his father? Who was Michael Falcone? Could he ever forgive him?
“Ma,” said Michael wearily, “How did Steve get involved then? Why was he there in the first place?”
“That, Michael, is something you’ll have to ask him. I want you to understand, though, your father and I are your parents. Everything we’ve ever done has been only for you, and no one else. It’s been all out of love,” said Josephine.
Love. That was a word Michael would have to re-assess.