When Crystal arrived in Mesa Valley, she knew that Alissa was still at the station. Alissa was planning to work up until the week before her due date. Attending Noah’s trial had put her behind schedule taping shows to be aired during her maternity leave. Crystal decided to surprise her there at the station. The station’s receptionist wasn’t at her desk and so Crystal went straight to Alissa’s office.
“Oh, what a nice surprise!”
“I thought we could spend some time together before I start my new job.”
Then suddenly the smile left Alissa’s face.
Crystal looked at Alissa’s assistant, Sarah, and knew that Alissa would probably not talk with her in the room. “Why don’t you let me take you to lunch, Alissa?”
“Alissa, why don’t you let me go get the disk? Is it in your file cabinet in your study?”
Sarah had been to the house several times to work on the show with Alissa and even stopped by to pick up things that Alissa needed from home. With her pregnancy, some days Alissa needed the extra help.
“If you’re sure that you don’t mind doing it, I’d really appreciate it Sarah.”
After the waitress took their orders, Crystal waited for Alissa to tell her what was wrong. Alissa looked at her silently, debating whether it was wise to discuss such a difficult subject with Crystal. Crystal was still very young, just graduating from college. She decided not to burden Crystal with her problems.
Crystal sensed that Alissa still didn’t want to discuss whatever was wrong. She decided not to keep pushing and to wait until Alissa decided to talk about it. She guessed that Alissa still saw her as her baby sister and not an adult.
“I’m just kidding, Alissa. You know that I love Sharlee.”
“I know that you do, but you might want to work a little harder at showing her that you do.”
“You mean you don’t think that she knows?”
“Yeah Crystal. I don’t think that she knows. Right now it would help if you could be especially nice to her. Be her fun aunt. She tries to hide it because she doesn’t want to worry Dale and me, but Noah losing his case has really hit her hard. He’s told her not to visit him. She has thrown herself into her schoolwork and gymnastics even more than before. While you’re here, if you could take her out and make her enjoy herself that would be great. Noah would want her to do that too!”
“Sure, I can do that, but her idea of fun and mine are probably different.”
Alissa had a great idea. “You could use some time to unwind from school before you start your job and Sharlee needs some relaxation time too. Why don’t you take her away for the weekend? Lay out on a beach, shop, go to the spa. I’ll pay for the trip.”
Crystal agreed to take Sharlee away for the weekend.
After the taxi dropped her off at the house, Sarah started to unlock the door; but she was surprised to find it unlocked. She knew that Alissa had hired a maid and guessed that the maid was cleaning the house.
Crystal had sent Sharlee a text message to meet her at the mall after school. So Alissa had dropped her off there to wait for Sharlee and to shop. Alissa was tired when she got home. The front door was ajar, and she went inside thinking that Dale was home.
She checked the alarm, and it had been disarmed. She headed for the office, guessing that Dale had come home to work on updating patient files as he sometimes did. He wasn’t in there, and so she went to the bedroom.
Alissa hadn’t even considered that she herself might be in danger. She quickly left out of the house and waited by the gate in the front yard. Dale and the ambulance arrived at the same time. Dale had to have broken the speed limits to get there so quickly. He immediately went to Alissa and hugged her close. “Honey, are you okay? Did you get hurt?”
“No, it’s Sarah.”
He wrapped his arms around her tightly, relieved that she hadn’t been harmed. Alissa felt numb as the delayed shock set in. Dale told the detective that she had taken all that she could handle for that day.
He took her to Matthew’s house. They were going to stay with Matthew and Kay until after the police released the crime scene, and they could have their bedroom professionally cleaned. He had her take a warm bath and go to bed. Eventually during the night, she began to cry, and Dale held her close knowing that there was nothing he could say to comfort her.
Of course, Crystal and Sharlee refused to leave town for their trip even though Alissa still wanted them to go. They promised to go at some other time. Eventually the police allowed them to return home.
Alissa had been afraid that she wouldn’t be able to sleep in her bedroom anymore because of the awful memories of finding Sarah’s body, but she was surprised that she was okay. The police were actively investigating to find out who could have committed the murder, but they didn’t have any leads.
Sharlee shrugged. “She’s an old friend of Dad’s.”
Alissa called Dale to the door, and he went to speak with Aria. Crystal noticed that he didn’t seem pleased to see Aria, and Alissa definitely did not look pleased. Crystal and Aria locked eyes, and Crystal felt a shiver.
Then she left them standing there and returned to the kitchen. Sharlee didn’t like Aria either. Her presence seemed to make her mother uncomfortable, and there was something creepy about Aria. She whispered to Crystal, “I don’t like her. I don’t think Mom likes her either.”
“What about your Dad?”
Sharlee answered. “That’s what’s so odd. I don’t think that he really likes her, but she still keeps coming by and calling.”
“Who is that bitch!”
Dale looked at her distastefully. “What are you talking about?”
“Look, don’t play games with me! Alissa is depressed and unhappy at a time when she should be calm and happily anticipating the birth of my new niece. It’s because your “friend” showed up on her doorstep.”
He told her about Aria.
Crystal listened in shock. Her straight arrow, perfect brother-in-law had a girlfriend while he was in Egypt! Then she remembered that Dale hadn’t even known who he was. She asked questions, and she could see things differently from the way that Dale saw them.
“Dale, I’m telling you. It sounds to me like she took advantage of you. She didn’t need you to move in with her in order to help you. She took advantage of your vulnerability and your gratitude. She probably didn’t even try hard to help you regain your memory or to find out who you really were!”
Dale thought about what she said and realized that Crystal might be right. As for Aria’s pregnancy, they had used protection. Of course protection is not one hundred percent effective, and so there was a chance that he could be the father.
Another thought occurred to Crystal. Aria was pregnant. “Wait a minute! Is that your baby Dale?”
“Oh, I wonder why.”
“Well it can be painful for the mother. Her due date is close to Alissa’s so I can wait till then, but it’s very stressful for me and for Alissa. Alissa is trying very hard, but I know this is difficult for her.”
“I’ve tried to talk with her, but she always says she’s too tired to talk seriously right now. That it’s too much stress. I know that she’s planning to stay here until after the baby is born, but I don’t know if she’s going back to Egypt after that. She’s rented a house here in Mesa Valley.”
“How do you feel about her Dale?”
“I appreciated everything that she did for me in Egypt, but she just wouldn’t let go! I don’t love her and honestly I don’t like her. While I wish that the pregnancy had never happened, if the baby is mine, I have to be there for the baby.”