As Time Goes By

By: Mary Higgins Clark

Acknowledgments




Again 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




The 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.





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“And 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.”

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