The Witness(2)

By: Nora Roberts



Even the thought made Elizabeth’s stomach hurt. “I was promised a three-week break, including this next week in New York.”

“And sometimes promises must be broken. If I hadn’t had this coming week off, I couldn’t fill in for Dr. Dusecki at the conference.”

“You could have said no.”

“That would have been selfish and shortsighted.” Susan brushed at the jacket she’d hung, stepped back to check her list. “You’re certainly mature enough to understand the demands of work overtake pleasure and leisure.”

“If I’m mature enough to understand that, why aren’t I mature enough to make my own decisions? I want this break. I need it.”

Susan barely spared her daughter a glance. “A girl of your age, physical condition and mental acumen hardly needs a break from her studies and activities. In addition, Mrs. Laine has already left for her two-week cruise, and I could hardly ask her to postpone her vacation. There’s no one to fix your meals or tend to the house.”

“I can fix my own meals and tend the house.”

“Elizabeth.” The tone managed to merge clipped with long-suffering. “It’s settled.”

“And I have no say in it? What about developing my independence, being responsible?”

“Independence comes in degrees, as does responsibility and freedom of choice. You still require guidance and direction. Now, I’ve e-mailed you an updated schedule for the coming week, and your packet with all the information on the program is on your desk. Be sure to thank Dr. Frisco personally for making room for you in the summer term.”

As she spoke, Susan closed the garment bag, then her small Pullman. She stepped to her bureau to check her hair, her lipstick.

“You don’t listen to anything I say.”

In the mirror, Susan’s gaze shifted to her daughter. The first time, Elizabeth thought, her mother had bothered to actually look at her since she’d come into the bedroom. “Of course I do. I heard everything you said, very clearly.”

“Listening’s different than hearing.”

“That may be true, Elizabeth, but we’ve already had this discussion.”

“It’s not a discussion, it’s a decree.”

Susan’s mouth tightened briefly, the only sign of annoyance. When she turned, her eyes were coolly, calmly blue. “I’m sorry you feel that way. As your mother, I must do what I believe best for you.”

“What’s best for me, in your opinion, is for me to do, be, say, think, act, want, become exactly what you decided for me before you inseminated yourself with precisely selected sperm.”

She heard the rise of her own voice but couldn’t control it, felt the hot sting of tears in her eyes but couldn’t stop them. “I’m tired of being your experiment. I’m tired of having every minute of every day organized, orchestrated and choreographed to meet your expectations. I want to make my own choices, buy my own clothes, read books I want to read. I want to live my own life instead of yours.”

Susan’s eyebrows lifted in an expression of mild interest. “Well. Your attitude isn’t surprising, given your age, but you’ve picked a very inconvenient time to be defiant and argumentative.”

“Sorry. It wasn’t on the schedule.”

“Sarcasm’s also typical, but it’s unbecoming.” Susan opened her briefcase, checked the contents. “We’ll talk about all this when I get back. I’ll make an appointment with Dr. Bristoe.”

“I don’t need therapy! I need a mother who listens, who gives a shit about how I feel.”

“That kind of language only shows a lack of maturity and intellect.”

Enraged, Elizabeth threw up her hands, spun in circles. If she couldn’t be calm and rational like her mother, she’d be wild. “Shit! Shit! Shit!”

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