by Catherine Maiorisi
Lindy is hearing voices. And her new religious friends claim Quincy, her wife of six years, is Satan in disguise. They also say her marriage is a sin and warn she and their two daughters will burn in hell for eternity if she doesn’t leave Quincy.
Working a second job to earn enough to buy their dream house, Quincy is rarely around to notice Lindy’s behavior. By the time she does notice, Lindy’s new friends spirit her and the girls away to an isolated religious community in Arizona.
While Quincy searches frantically for her family, a female doctor at the community treats Lindy. As she slowly returns to herself Lindy begins to really see the community. She is horrified. Rather than saving herself and her daughters, she’s brought them to a kind of hell.
Then Lindy is given an ultimatum. Stay and marry a man in the community. Or leave. Without her daughters.
She panics. There must be another way.
GCLS Goldie Awards
The Disappearance of Lindy James — Finalist, General Fiction.
FROM THE AUTHOR
"I’ve always been fascinated by the story of Janet Jenkins and Lisa Miller, a lesbian couple. In 2000 after passage of civil union legislation in Vermont, they entered a civil union and changed their surnames to Miller-Jenkins. In 2002 Lisa gave birth to their daughter (conceived by artificial insemination) and they named her Isabella Miller-Jenkins.
In 2003 they separated. Lisa had become a born again Christian and denounced Janet’s sexual orientation. They fought a long and bitter legal battle over visiting rights and custody that ended in 2009 when Lisa, with the help of a Mennonite pastor, Mennonite missionaries and several evangelicals, kidnapped Isabella and secretly took her out of the country.
Over the years I’ve thought about these two women, trying to understand them. How did Lisa square her religion with hating someone she’d loved? What kind of religion brought her to hate enough to deprive her ex of their daughter and deprive her daughter of the love of her other mother? And how must Janet have felt not being able to visit her daughter and then after she disappeared, not even knowing where she was.
I didn’t set out to write about a woman who has a breakdown and believes she must kidnap her daughters to save them from eternal damnation. But I don’t plan my books. I let my subconscious guide me and The Disappearance of Lindy James is the result of my wondering about the motives and feelings of two women involved in such a tragic story.
And do I need to say, it’s fiction."
Della B. - This is not your typical Catherine Maiorisi book. It is a deeply involved fictional look at mental illness and how it affects the life, family and friends of Quincy, Lindy and their two young daughters. The story is told through two narrators, Quincy and Lindy. We are inside Lindy’s head as she devolves and it is a scary place. As well we are privy to the emotional ride Quincy faces as her family slips away. This is by no means a light read. The writing is solid with exceptional moments when describing the inner workings of Lindy’s mind as she loses touch with reality. The storyline is intensely interesting as Quincy and Lindy’s lives diverge. The sense of community is illustrated as both supportive and loving on the one hand and manipulative and false faced on the other. The dichotomy is displayed convincingly as we follow both narrators. I could not put this book down. And although this may be a challenging read for some due to triggers, this is an engaging story.
Meike V. - 4.25 stars. I’m a fan of the Corelli mystery series, however this is such a completely different theme, so I was curious to see how it would work for me. It was a tough read, but surprisingly good! Like in the mystery series, Maiorisi is not afraid to show the ugliness of the world, but in the end this book is about unwavering love.
This is not an easy read and contains many triggers concerning religion in combination with homosexuality, so this might not be for everybody. It is a book I will remember though, it’s very well written and I thought the insights in postpartum psychosis were very interesting and well done (to my limited knowledge on the subject) and their love for each other is something you can really feel even during the darkest parts of their relationship, which is quite exceptional. Recommend!
Sarah C. - I have never read a romance novel that touches on the same tropes and themes as The Disappearance of Lindy James. The religious trauma and cult mentality was really interesting to read about and I found Lindy and Quincy to be likable and sympathetic characters.
What’s happening to me? I can’t eat. I can’t sleep. I’m exhausted. I’m in a rage all the time, tossing pots and pans, slamming things around. And my poor innocent babies are bearing the brunt of it. If I keep moving I can control it some, but I can see the girls are terrified. Poor Michaela, sometimes she’s trembling when I put her to my breast. I hope my milk isn’t sour. And Emma, my brave, big girl backs away when I come close, but she always keeps Michaela behind her, trying to shield her sister from me. Protective. Just like Quincy. Quincy the hero. Quincy my love. Quincy my wife. No. No. No. My head hurts when I think about her.
I pushed Michaela, or maybe it was Emma, out of the car when I was driving to Shop Rite a couple of days ago, but when I pulled over, they were both in their car seats. Did I do it? Or did I imagine it? Now I’m afraid to drive. Afraid I might do it again. I can’t tell Quincy. She would be angry if I hurt the girls.
The rage erupts like a geyser shooting to the sky. I don’t know why I’m so angry, why I can’t stop crying. I swore I’d never be like my mother, that I’d never hurt my children. But I’m a horrible mother. I’m afraid I’ll hurt them.
So many bad things are happening in the world. Accidents. Hurricanes. Earthquakes. Shootings. Men spouting hate on TV. We could all die in an instant. In a head-on collision like Sarah, the mother who found me. Or shot in the head, like John, Quincy’s partner. The other night, after Letitia told me Quincy is the devil, I was sure Quincy would shoot me in the head when she got home. I hid in the bathtub until Sarah reassured me from the showerhead that Quincy would never hurt me. Sarah also said she’ll always be my mom and she’ll love me forever, but I should be careful because people would be upset to find out she talks to me. I felt better after talking to Sarah but now I don’t know who to trust, who to tell about what’s happening. Should I tell Babs? Will she think I’m crazy? Am I crazy? She’s my best friend and she keeps asking me what’s wrong. She even showed up here last week without calling. I asked her to leave but she insisted on feeding and putting the girls down for a nap first. I had to make up a story to get her to go and I’ve been putting her off ever since. And just this morning John warned me that, like him, Quincy could die in an instant while waiting in the car for lunch. Something bad is going to happen. I know it. I’m helpless, like I’m caught in a whirlpool being pulled deeper into the darkness with every day that passes. Every breath is a struggle.
Then there’s this scary guy who comes into our apartment at night and sneaks around in the shadows. A couple of nights ago he threw Michaela against the wall because she wouldn’t go to sleep. He must have picked her up because she was okay when I checked her in her crib. Another time he threw her down and stomped on her until she was flattened and dead and no longer screaming. But when I looked, she was sleeping on the floor. Should I tell Quincy about him? One of these days he’s going to really hurt one of the children. Is he another one of Quincy’s lovers? I know she’s having affairs with all our friends and Mrs. Wysocki our elderly neighbor…but a man? I thought she was a lesbian. I’m not a lesbian. Quincy is the lesbian. Letitia says I’ve been seduced by the devil.
I stare at the knife in my hand. I can’t remember what I was going to do with it. I stab it into the counter. I can’t use it on myself. I’m a sinner. If I kill myself, I’ll be condemned to hell for eternity. If I continue to live this life, I’ll still be condemned to hell. Unless I repent. I must fall to my knees and beg God to forgive me. The girls are innocents who will suffer in hell for eternity through no fault of their own. And killing them won’t save them from that fate. It’s up to me to save them, to help them live a Christian life. It’s up to me save them from…her.
Wait, what’s that noise? Her car. What’s she doing home so early? I force myself to stop pacing as I watch her park the car, but the girls are both sobbing. Will she use this as the proof that I’m a bad mom so she can take my daughters away from me to live with her in hell? I’ve tried so hard to hide it from her until I have a plan. But she knows. It must be the cameras she has watching me twenty-four hours a day. Or does Satan see all?
Quincy looked up from the fairy tale she was reading to her daughters and listened for the squeak of the loose floorboard in the living room. Lindy was still pacing. She’d been at it since Quincy arrived home unexpectedly. Now she seemed to be having a heated conversation with someone. But she was alone in the living room.
Quincy silently berated herself. She’d been feeling something was off with Lindy for a while now but working two full-time jobs had kept her out of the house from six thirty in the morning until after midnight. And since Lindy stopped getting up with her in the morning and waiting up for her at night, they rarely saw each other. But three times last night the girls woke up screaming and each time she got out of bed to comfort them Lindy was pacing in the living room. Lindy always rushed to comfort the girls and thoughts of her ignoring their distress had played in Quincy’s head throughout the day. The feeling that something was terribly wrong had brought her home early tonight. And now that she’d witnessed Lindy’s agitation again, she understood the girls’ behavior, understood this was not a one-time thing. But what was wrong with Lindy?
Emma had run into her arms, sobbing when she’d walked into the kitchen. She picked her up, scooped Michaela off the floor and soothed them while they cried their little hearts out. Lindy’s hands covered her mouth as she watched the three of them, wide-eyed, from the kitchen. After they quieted, she approached Lindy and kissed her cheek. “Hi, honey, looks like the girls are having a hard time today.”
Lindy nodded. Her eyes shifted from Quincy’s face to something behind her. Quincy turned to see what she was looking at. The sight of the chef’s knife with its point buried in the countertop chilled her. She turned back to Lindy, but she’d moved into the living room and was pacing and mumbling. She sat Emma on the counter, pulled the knife out and put it in the drawer. She picked up Emma and followed Lindy. “I’m going to play with the girls for a while before we feed them. Okay?” She waited but Lindy didn’t acknowledge her, so she took the girls into their room. While her mind raced, trying to figure out what to do, how to handle Lindy, she tickled her daughters, twirled them around, then played a couple of games with Emma while teasing Michaela with one of her stuffed animals. Almost an hour later, when she brought the girls into the kitchen, Lindy was sitting calmly in a chair. She extended her arms.
The baby whimpered and turned her face into Quincy’s shoulder.
Lindy flushed. “Come on, baby.”
Quincy kissed Michaela’s head. “Go to Mommy, sweetie, she’s going to feed you.” She placed the girl in Lindy’s arms. Michaela squirmed and pushed away. It took a minute of coaxing, but she accepted the breast. Mother and baby relaxed.
Quincy made Emma’s favorite cheese omelet and toast, then poured her a glass of milk. She watched her daughter eat as if she was starving and wondered if Lindy had taken her to nursery school where she usually ate lunch. Maybe they could talk over dinner. She smiled at Lindy. “I can’t remember the last time we ate together, Linds. How about once the girls are asleep I make an omelet for us or, if you prefer, I’ll order a pizza.”
Lindy hesitated, then smiled. “I’d really like an omelet, sweetie.” Her smile was faint but her husky voice murmuring the endearment warmed Quincy.
Thankfully, by the time Quincy took them into their bedroom the girls had settled enough that six-month-old Michaela dropped off almost immediately and Emma was yawning. Quincy had to dig deep in the drawer to find clean pajamas for Emma. They were a little short but fit okay so she put them on and sat on Emma’s bed to read to her. Worrying about Lindy made it hard to focus and hearing her talk to some phantom was freaking Quincy out. She kept stopping to be sure she was hearing what she thought she was hearing.
Emma snuggled closer and pulled on Quincy’s sleeve. “Read, Mama.”
She kissed Emma’s forehead. “Sorry, baby.”
“Michaela’s a baby. I’m almost four.”
“You are right, Emma, my love, almost four is a big girl.”
Quincy picked up the story where she’d left off. It was another half hour and two stories later before Emma fell asleep. Quincy sat with her daughters for a few minutes, listening to their breathing, watching them sleep, before gathering the dirty clothing scattered around the room, and tiptoeing out.
She closed the door behind her quietly and stood in the doorway. Lindy marched from the kitchen to the living room and back. It seemed like months since Quincy had really looked at her wife. The vivacious and playful Lindy, her joyful Lindy, had been replaced with an agitated, tense, and unsmiling Lindy. When had she gotten so thin? And her hair looked like it hadn’t been washed in a while. During the six years since they’d met, she’d often watched Lindy move gracefully by herself either to music in her head or on her iPod, while cooking, cleaning, soothing one of their daughters or standing lost in thought, and always when their eyes met their connection flared. But tonight her wife wasn’t dancing to what she was hearing in her head, and she either didn’t see Quincy or was choosing to ignore her. Neither was comforting.
Quincy went into the small laundry room, threw the dirty clothing into the washer, and started the cycle. She was perplexed and angry at herself.
Lindy was the cheerful one, the serene one. Something was definitely wrong. And she’d stupidly let her exhaustion blind her to the truth. In the last few weeks she’d often found Lindy up in the middle of the night, but each time she’d tried to talk about it, Lindy insisted she was fine, just tired, or she’d snapped at Quincy, which was completely out of character. Now, it seemed, she was having a conversation with someone only she could see. And hear.
She swallowed hard. Lindy was having a breakdown. The image of the knife stuck in the kitchen counter flashed in her mind. Was Lindy capable of hurting their children? The thought blasted shards of anxiety through Quincy. It was unthinkable. But she was a detective and she’d seen the worst of people. She knew it happened, mothers drowning, beating, stabbing their children to death. Did Lindy know the code to her gun safe? Just to be sure, she would change it tonight.
She returned to the living room.
The pacing and the mumbling continued.
“Lindy, honey, can we talk?” Quincy touched her arm gently as she sped past.
Lindy pulled her arm away as if the touch burned. She stopped but kept her back to Quincy. “About what.”
“You seem, um, upset, unhappy. What’s wrong, sweetie?” Quincy wrapped her arms around Lindy from behind, thinking it would calm her. Lindy relaxed into her arms, leaned her head against Quincy’s shoulder, then shivered and pulled away. “No. I can’t. It’s wrong.” She turned but avoided Quincy’s eyes.
“What’s wrong? Let me help you.”
“Nothing’s wrong. I just…it’s…I got my period and really bad cramps and the kids were a handful today so I’m kind of frazzled.” She managed a weak smile. “Why are you home so early?”
Quincy flinched at the accusatory tone but went with her instinct to soothe Lindy. “I feel bad about leaving you alone with the kids all the time. Things were quiet so I left early. I was thinking of taking some time off so we could go away for a couple of days, just the two of us.”
When was the last time they’d made love? In their six years together, they’d had stretches where, for one reason or another, they didn’t make love but even then they’d slept close, and Lindy had always reached for Quincy, rolled into her arms, whatever time she’d gotten into bed. But lately Lindy kept to her side of the bed and stiffened if Quincy got close or touched her. Damn, she should have challenged Lindy sooner. But she was rarely awake when Quincy was home. And in the middle of the night when Lindy was awake, Quincy was too exhausted to have any conversation, forget pressing Lindy about her state of mind.
The decision that Quincy should work all the overtime she could get, and take on a second job so they could accumulate money quickly for the down payment on the house they loved, made sense three months ago, but now she wondered about the stress on Lindy, home alone day and night with two little girls.
“What do you think, Lindy, honey? Would you like a couple of days, just the two of us?”
Lindy didn’t answer. Instead she turned and started pacing again, mumbling to herself. When she stopped, Quincy noticed she was clutching a gold chain hanging around her neck. She reached for it but Lindy stepped back. “No, don’t touch it.”
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to be invasive. I was just wondering what it was.”
“It’s…one of the women in the group I’ve been going to gave it to me.” She showed Quincy the small gold cross. “Yes, Quincy.” She smiled, but the smile was too bright, her eyes filled with pain. “I’d like to go away for the weekend. Not tomorrow, though. My women’s group meets on Thursdays and I don’t want to miss it. How about Friday? You decide where we go. Surprise me.” She hugged Quincy briefly then pulled away. “I’m still feeling bad so I’m going to bed now.”
“What about dinner?”
Lindy stopped, her back to Quincy. “I’m not hungry.”
Her anxiety spinning out of control, Quincy stared after her wife. Thin as she was and breastfeeding, how could she not be hungry? And that cross. Lindy detested anything to do with organized religion. Could she be having an affair? Come to think of it, a lot of this strange behavior started not long after Lindy joined that women’s group at the library. Maybe she’d met someone there.
Well, she was hungry. Lindy hadn’t cooked in days and as Quincy realized when she tried to figure out what to feed Emma, she hadn’t shopped either. They had some peanut butter, cereal, a few eggs, milk, bread and a little cheese but not much else. She made a list of things they needed so she could shop on the way home tomorrow. But a peanut butter sandwich would suffice for tonight’s dinner. While she ate her sandwich, she considered the best way to deal with Lindy. And realized she needed an objective opinion to see whether she was exaggerating things. She speed-dialed Lindy’s best friend. Babs also had two young children and she and Lindy often spent the day together at the park or at one of their houses.
Babs picked up immediately. “Quincy, great to hear from you. How’s my Lindy? I haven’t seen her in a while.”
Quincy explained why she’d called. Babs gasped. “Damn, I was afraid something was wrong. She’s been brushing me off, saying she didn’t feel well or she was busy. I dropped in around noon about a week ago to try to find out what was going on. I’ve never seen her so…so upset. She actually screamed at Michaela and Emma.”
Quincy’s antenna went up. “Emma was home? Not at nursery school?”
“I was surprised too but Lindy said she didn’t feel well enough to drive her to school in the morning.”
Quincy’s stomach lurched. “I’m going to check in the morning, but I suspect she’s stopped taking Emma to nursery school and Emma isn’t getting lunch.”
“Shit. No wonder she ate like she was starving. It took me a while but I was able to calm her and Michaela, then get them fed and into bed for a nap, but I couldn’t get Lindy to talk about what was bothering her. She denied being angry at me but basically threw me out of the house. I almost called you because she said she thought she had postpartum depression. Then I remembered she’d been depressed after Emma and had pulled out of it. And though her doctor accused her of being lazy and looking for drugs, she did go to see him so I felt she was taking care of herself.”
“I saw on the calendar that she had an appointment with her gynecologist but I haven’t been able to talk to her about it, or about anything really. She insists she’s fine. But tonight when I was reading to Emma, she was talking to someone in the living room but no one was there. Was she doing that when you saw her?”
“Not that I noticed, but I was focused on getting Emma fed and getting Lindy to nurse Michaela. You know breastfeeding always calms Lindy.”
“Jesus, Babs, she’s coiled so tight she could snap. I’m really worried about her and the girls.”
“Yeah, I’m worried too. Maybe you should talk to her gynecologist tomorrow. I’ll come over around noon after I do my shift at the boys’ nursery school, see if I can get through to her.”
“Good idea. She has her women’s group in the morning. I’m coming home early but it would be great if you could show up when she gets back from the group. She hasn’t shopped in a while so would you bring lunch for her and Emma? She’s agreed to go away with me on Friday and I’m hoping I can get through to her, maybe get her into therapy.”
Talking to Babs hadn’t eased her worry and after they hung up Quincy stared at her phone for a moment. Though she was afraid to hear what her best friend Amelia, a psychiatric social worker would say, she called her. Amelia listened without comment while Quincy described Lindy’s behavior, Emma and Michaela’s distress, then expressed her fears. “I agree, something is seriously wrong. It could be postpartum depression but it sounds more serious, like she’s having a breakdown. Why don’t you put the kids in the car and bring them to my house right now? Or I can come and get them. Depending on how she is tomorrow, you can try to get her to the hospital or to a therapist, but at least you’ll know the girls are safe.”
“I’m afraid it will put her over the edge if she wakes up and the kids aren’t here. She seemed calmer after agreeing to go away for a few days.”
“Are you sure, Quince? It sounds as if she’s hallucinating and that worries me.”
“I can’t just steal the kids, Meelie. She’s already shaky and I think it would devastate her.” Hearing herself use her childhood friend Amelia’s nickname made her realize just how anxious she was. And she knew Amelia wouldn’t have missed it. “I’ll be here all night and I’ll come home early tomorrow. Babs is going to stop in tomorrow afternoon. Lindy has her women’s group at ten thirty so she’ll be out for a couple of hours. Could you drop in around nine tomorrow morning to see if everything is okay? Between you and Babs and her group, she’ll only be alone with the girls for a few hours.” She took a deep breath. “I truly believe she’d never hurt them, but just to be sure, I’ll take the knives to work with me.”
“I trust your judgment, Q. I’ll definitely go by in the morning and hang out with her a bit.”
“Thanks, Meelie. I’ll bring the girls over to your house Friday morning before we leave.”
“Mia and Lara will be over the moon to have Emma here for the weekend.” Amelia’s voice was gentle. “And, Quincy, if Lindy doesn’t seem better by the end of the weekend, you may have to hospitalize her.”
Quincy flinched. She knew this was serious, but deep inside she’d hoped Amelia would tell her not to worry, Lindy would be all right. “I know.”
She sat up thinking about things until midnight, the time she would usually be getting home. Lindy and the girls were her life. Just a couple more weeks and they’d have enough money for the down payment and legal fees but working a second job was no longer an option. If the house was sold before they had the money they needed, so be it. She changed the code on her gun safe, packed the knives, forks and scissors and went to bed.
Up at five thirty a.m. as usual, Quincy marveled that for the first time in months, Lindy had slept in her arms. Maybe she just needed contact and support. As she brushed her teeth she stepped to the door and peered into the bedroom. Lindy was still asleep. Though Lindy had stopped getting up with her to have coffee months ago, Quincy was hopeful she would join her today. When that didn’t happen, she considered taking the day off to keep an eye on Lindy and the girls, but she had the day covered and it would be best to keep things as normal as possible until the weekend.
At six thirty, Quincy put a note on the kitchen table and left for work.