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Authors: Mary Higgins Clark

As Time Goes By

BOOK: As Time Goes By
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Acknowledgments

A
gain and as always, thanks to my forever editor and dear friend, Michael Korda. He has steered me through this journey from page one to those glorious words “the end.” How blessed I have been to have him as my editor all these years.

I want to thank Marysue Rucci, editor in chief of Simon & Schuster. It has been wonderful working with her these last few years.

My home team is a joy to work with. My son, David, has become a full-time valuable assistant and researcher.

As usual, my other children have willingly been my first readers and sounding boards all the steps of the way.

And as always, thanks to Spouse Extraordinaire, John Conheeney, who has for twenty years listened to me as I sigh that I am sure this book isn't working.

Nadine Petry, my longtime assistant and right hand, is gifted with being able to interpret my impossible handwriting. Thank you, Nadine.

When
Where Are the Children
was published forty-one years ago, I would never have thought that all these many years later I would be blessed enough to still be scribbling away. I relish finding new characters and new situations to put them in.

As I have said, “the end” are my two favorite words. But they wouldn't be if there wasn't a first sentence that invites you, dear readers, to turn the pages.

Thank you for continuing to enjoy the tales I tell.

Cheers and Blessings,

Mary

For the newlyweds, Dr. James and Courtney Clark Morrison, with love

Prologue

T
he first wail of the infant was so penetrating that the two couples outside the birthing room of midwife Cora Banks gasped in unison. James and Jennifer Wright's eyes lit up with joy. Relief and resignation formed the expression on the faces of Rose and Martin Ryan, whose seventeen-year-old daughter had just given birth.

The couples only knew each other as the Smiths and the Joneses. Neither one had any desire to know the true identity of the other. A full fifteen minutes later they were still waiting anxiously to see the newborn child.

It was a sleepy seven-pound girl with strands of curling black ringlets that contrasted with her fair complexion. When her eyes blinked open they were large and deep brown. As Jennifer Wright reached out to take her, the midwife smiled. “I think we have a little business to complete,” she suggested.

James Wright opened the small valise he was carrying. “Sixty thousand dollars,” he said. “Count it.”

The mother of the baby who had just been born had been described to them as a seventeen-year-old high school senior who had gotten pregnant the night of the senior prom. That fact had been hidden from everyone. Her parents told family and friends that she was too young to go away to college and would be working for her aunt in her dress shop in Milwaukee. The eighteen-year-old boy who was the father had gone on to college never knowing about the pregnancy.

“Forty thousand dollars for the college education of the young mother,” Cora announced as she counted the money and handed that amount to the young mother's parents, her thick arms still holding tightly to the baby. She did not add that the remaining twenty thousand dollars was for her service in delivering the baby.

The grandparents of the newborn accepted the money in silence. Jennifer Wright reached out her yearning arms and whispered, “I'm so happy.”

Cora said, “I'll have the birth registered in your names.” Her smile was mirthless and did nothing to enhance her plain, round-cheeked face. Although she was only age forty, her expression made her seem at least ten years older.

She turned to the young mother's parents. “Let her sleep for another few hours, then take her home.”

In the birthing room the seventeen-year-old struggled to shake off the sedation that had been administered liberally. Her breasts felt as though they were swelling from the impact of holding her baby those first few moments after the birth. I want her, I want her, were the words screaming from her soul. Don't give my baby away. I'll find a way to take care of her. . . .

Two hours later, curled up on the backseat of the family car, she was taken to a nearby motel.

The next morning she was alone on a plane on her way back to Milwaukee.

1

“A
nd now for the usual block of commercials,” Delaney Wright whispered to her fellow anchor on the WRL 6
P.M.
news. “All of them so fascinating.”

“They pay our salaries,” Don Brown reminded her with a smile.

“I know they do, God bless them,” Delaney said cheerfully, as she looked into the mirror to check her appearance.

She wasn't sure if the deep purple blouse the wardrobe mistress had picked out was too strong against her pale skin, but it was okay with her shoulder-length black hair. And Iris, her favorite makeup artist, had done a good job accentuating her dark brown eyes and long lashes.

The director began the countdown. “Ten, nine . . . three, two . . .” As he said, “one,” Delaney began to read. “Tomorrow morning jury selection will begin in the trial of forty-three-year-old former high school teacher Betsy Grant at the Bergen County Courthouse in Hackensack, New Jersey. Grant is being tried for the murder of her wealthy husband Dr. Edward Grant, who was fifty-eight years old at the time of his death. He had been suffering from early onset Alzheimer's disease. She has steadfastly declared her innocence. The prosecutor maintains that she was tired of waiting for him to die. She and his son are the co-heirs of his estate, which has been estimated at over fifteen million dollars.”

“And now to a much happier story,” Don Brown began. “This is the kind of feature we love to present.” The footage began to appear on screen. It was about the reunion of a thirty-year-old man with his birth mother. “We were both trying to find each other for ten years,” Matthew Trainor said, smiling. “I almost felt as though she was calling me. I
needed
to find her.”

His arm was around a heavyset fiftyish woman. Her naturally wavy hair was soft around her pleasant face. Her hazel eyes were shining with unshed tears. “I was nineteen when I gave birth to Charles.” She paused and looked up at her son. “In my mind I always called him Charles. On his birthday I bought toys and gave them to a charity for children.” Her voice tremulous, she added, “I like the name his adoptive parents gave him. Matthew means ‘gift of God.' ”

As the segment came to an end, Matthew said, “Ever since I can remember there was a need in me. I needed to know who my birth parents were, particularly my mother.”

As he gave her a big hug, Doris Murray began to cry. “It is impossible to explain how much I have missed my son.”

“Heartwarming story, isn't it, Delaney?” Don Brown asked.

Delaney could only nod. She knew that the lump in her throat was about to dissolve into a flood of tears.

Don waited a few seconds for her to answer but then with a look of surprise on his face said, “Now let's see what our weatherman Ben Stevens has in store for us.”

When the program ended, Delaney said, “Don, I apologize. I got so emotional about that story that I didn't trust myself. I was so afraid that I would be crying like the mother.”

“Well, let's see if they're still speaking to each other in six months,” Don said, wryly. He pushed back his chair. “That's it for tonight.”

In the next studio, through the glass wall, they could see the national news anchorman, Richard Kramer, on the air. Delaney knew that Don was in line to take that spot when Kramer retired. She got up, left the studio, stopped in her office and changed from the purple blouse to a yoga top. She had been substituting for the usual co-anchor, Stephanie Lewis, who had called in sick. Delaney was especially happy that she was covering the Betsy Grant trial. It's going to be fascinating, she thought.

She picked up her shoulder bag and, responding to a series of “See you Delaney's,” walked down several long corridors and onto Columbus Circle.

Much as she loved summer, Delaney knew she was ready for autumn. After Labor Day, Manhattan takes on vibrancy, she thought, and then realized she was trying to distract herself from what was bothering her. The feature about the adoption had ripped open the walls that she had always tried to build around herself to keep the same subject from haunting her again.

She needed to find her birth mother. James and Jennifer Wright had adopted her when she was hours old, and their names were on her birth certificate. She had been born with a midwife in attendance. The woman who had arranged the adoption was dead. There was no trace of the name of the midwife. Her birth had been registered in Philadelphia.

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