“But it doesn’t feel like enough. As long as you’re in danger, anything I do will never be enough,” Brian insisted. “So if the safest place for you is going to that play, pretending everything is fine, while that friend of yours gathers information, then that’s what you need to do. Do you understand me?”
Gemma lowered her eyes and nodded. “I do.”
“We’ll solve this, Gemma,” Harper promised her. “And we have a clear course of action now—find Diana, the goddess who helped Bernie’s Thalia become mortal. And if Lydia is related to Audra, the soothsayer who helped Thalia find Diana, then Lydia might know something.”
“Do you think this Diana will know how to break the curse?” Brian asked.
“I don’t know,” Harper admitted. “But she knew how to free Thalia from her being a muse, so she must know something.”
“So those are your leads?” Brian asked. “Trying to find Audra or Diana?”
“Yep.” Gemma touched the journal sitting on the table. “And, hopefully, this book will lead us to them.”
“We should stop there!” Nathalie pointed to a McDonald’s and leaned over quickly, so the seat belt locked in place, and she glanced down at it in irritation. She tried to unbuckle it, but she didn’t even have the hand coordination to push the button anymore.
That’s why she only wore pants with elastic waistbands and shoes with Velcro or slip-ons. On the outside, she might have looked like an ordinary woman in her early forties, other than her penchant for fuchsia leggings and teen heartthrob T-shirts, but her brain injury had left her impaired in many ways.
“Becky said you already had lunch,” Harper reminded her mother as she drove past the McDonald’s.
They’d only made it five minutes outside of Briar Ridge, where Nathalie lived in a group home, and Harper was already wondering if she’d made a mistake. She glanced up in the rearview mirror to see how Daniel was doing in the backseat, but he seemed to be taking it all in stride.
Their initial meeting had actually gone really well. It was the first time that Daniel and Nathalie had met. Since Nathalie could be pretty boy crazy sometimes, Harper had been afraid that she’d throw herself at Daniel or something. But Nathalie had been so excited about leaving that she hardly made a fuss about him.
While Harper had been hoping that Nathalie would talk to him a bit more than she had, she figured it might be better this way, so Daniel didn’t get too overloaded right away. He’d have plenty of chances in the future for her to hit on him.
“I haven’t had a burger in so long,” Nathalie insisted, and slumped back in her seat.
“I’m sure you’ve had burgers where you live, Mom,” Harper told her calmly.
“But I haven’t gone out for so long.” Nathalie continued to pout.
“Maybe after the play,” Harper suggested. If things went well, Harper had considered taking her mom out for supper, but it really depended on how she was doing. “We don’t want to be late, though.”
“What are we going to see again?” Nathalie asked, and her mood seemed to lighten.
“The Taming of the Shrew,” Harper said even though she’d already told her four times today. Nathalie had a hard time with her short-term memory. “It’s Gemma’s play.”
Nathalie cocked her head. “Isn’t she too young to be in a play?”
“No.” Harper paused, then looked over at her mom. “How old do you think Gemma is?”
“I don’t know.” Nathalie shrugged. “Seven?”
Harper swallowed. “That’s how old she was before the accident.”
“Oh.” Nathalie stared out the window at the highway and let it sink in. “That’s right. I’ve been getting things mixed up lately.”
“It’s okay, Mom.” Harper gave her a reassuring smile. “Everybody gets confused sometimes.”
Nathalie didn’t remember much before the accident, and she hardly ever mentioned anything about the girls’ being little or anything that happened before. But that seemed to be changing.
While Nathalie had been rushing around the group home looking for her purse before they left, Harper had a chance to talk to the head of staff, Becky. Becky had said that there’d been a subtle in change in Nathalie over the last two weeks.
Nathalie seemed to be having bouts where she could remember things. One afternoon, she’d said that she had to get going, so she could get home and make supper for her husband and kids. When Becky had tried to ask her more about her family, Nathalie had appeared confused and changed the subject.
Another morning, Nathalie got up early and got ready. The staff asked where she was going, and Nathalie said that she had to be at work early to do the quarterly reports. Before the accident, Nathalie had been an accountant, but she hadn’t mentioned anything about that in years.
Hearing all this from Becky made Harper feel guilty for not visiting her mother last week. Harper and Gemma usually came out every Saturday, but last Saturday, they’d gone up to Sundham to show Lydia the scroll and hadn’t been able to make it.
When they’d visited before, they’d brought along their dad, and Harper wondered if seeing Brian again had triggered something in Nathalie. But she had seen him other times in the past and he’d never jogged her memory before. Nathalie had even lived at home for a short time after the accident. And then, she hadn’t remembered anything about him.
Becky assured Harper that she didn’t need to feel bad about missing one visit. Nathalie didn’t seem upset or agitated by the resurgence of memories. In fact, Becky thought she was doing better, and her headaches hadn’t been flaring up either.
Usually, a couple times a week, Nathalie would suffer painful migraines, and no medication had been able to help her so far. But Nathalie hadn’t complained of any head pain in two weeks.
Her mother was obviously going through some changes, and once this mess with Gemma was finally taken care of, Harper vowed to devote more time to seeing her.
“We should stop there.” Nathalie pointed to an ice-cream place advertised on a billboard. “They have the best ice cream there. When Brian and I were first dating, we used to go get ice cream all the time.”
Harper’s grip tightened on the steering wheel, and she kept her eyes fixed on the highway in front of her, afraid that if she said something, looked the wrong way, that it would break it. She held her breath, waiting for Nathalie to say more and finish the memory.