Alma sat in the hot car, unsure where to go. She considered going back to the hospital to check on Cye and the others. No, she’d already said goodbye to all of them, except Cye, and he’d probably be unconscious for a while. She considered going home, taking a shower, eating real food, perhaps visiting for a bit with Ms. Washington, but that would only extend time on the inevitable chore she didn’t want to complete.
The truth was, she didn’t want to go handle making arrangements for Elaine’s service. What was left of Elaine. Though she abhorred the idea of cremation, what choice did she really have? Cooter had cut her up and fed her to the freaking alligators! It was simply a miracle any pieces of her were found at all.
Decision made, Alma tossed the envelope on the passenger seat and started the car. Pulling out of the parking lot, she headed toward Central Avenue, numbed by grief at the loss of her sister and planning her funeral.
Two hours later, mind spent and body beyond tired, Alma decided to go home. At least there she’d still be able to feel her sister’s presence before time evaporated Elaine’s familiar scent from the house.
The envelope beckoned from the passenger seat. Alma’s heart was already broken in two, so what would it hurt to dump another pile of bad news on it?
Alma ripped it open and pulled out two sheets of paper. One was a lab report sent from the hospital, addressed to Detective Booth. The other was a handwritten note from the detective, explaining the results and detailing information found on Foret LeBlanc’s computer, verifying the DNA results.
She had to read it twice because it just couldn’t be true.
The ache inside her soul intensified. On autopilot, Alma trudged through the yard to the house. Once inside, she went straight to Elaine’s room, found her favorite robe, put it on, collapsed on her twin’s bed and cried herself to sleep.
Alma awoke early and like a zombie, shuffled around the house getting ready. She left in a daze and headed to the hospital. Things were much quieter than the previous day, and she was able to go right up without being stopped. Pausing for a moment, she took a deep breath before exiting the car. She had to get her emotions in check before going to visit Cye and the others.
The elevator doors opened and she exited, heading to ICU. She forced herself to smile at the nurses as she signed the check-in sheet.
Expecting Cye to still be out like a light Alma was pleasantly surprised to see him awake. He looked better—he wasn’t as yellow as the day before. “Glad to see you’re awake! You must be feeling better.”
“Medicine shoved in through an IV works wonders,” Cye said with a slight chuckle.
Alma walked over and stopped at the end of the bed. It was now or never. “Cye, every time I try to talk to you, I get interrupted or pulled out of here, so I’m just going to spit out what I’ve been trying to tell you for days now. We have a child together—one I gave up for adoption years ago. I’m sorry I never told you before. I’m telling you now because I just found out last night that we also have a grandchild.”
Cye laughed then clutched his stomach. “Oh, it hurts to laugh Alma. I’ve heard humor has medicinal properties, but that only applies when you aren’t in pain.”
“I’m serious, Cye. The girl I found in the swamp—Alouette—she’s our granddaughter. DNA tests confirmed it, along with records retrieved from Foret LeBlanc’s computer.”
The bit of color in Cye’s face disappeared. “You aren’t kidding, are you? What the hell does Foret LeBlanc have to do with this?”
Alma moved closer and touched Cye’s hand. “No, I’m not. They took her blood here—and mine and yours. The lab technician noted similarities, and then the FBI tested the samples after discovering Foret’s secrets on his computer. Alouette is LeBlanc’s daughter—and her mother Giselle was our child.”
“Was?” Cye whispered.
“Alouette said her mother died three years ago. Foret sold her to Herme—he used her as a sex slave. Oh, God, Cye, it’s all my fault! All my fault! I shouldn’t have given her up! Should have told you I was pregnant. I’m so sorry!”
Cye reached for Alma and she crumpled into his arms, sobbing as overwhelming regret consumed her thoughts. Cye tried to offer comfort, to figure out the right words to say, but none came. Instead, he held Alma tight and let her cry, glad she couldn’t see his own tears run down his face.