I can’t go inside. Andrea parked in front of her friend’s home, watching the silhouettes move behind the curtains.
Kent moved out a week ago. She twisted the gold band on her finger nervously. There was nothing shameful about being single. Nothing at all. She just couldn’t handle the questions, the pity in everyone’s eyes. Not today.
The curtains moved. She’d been seen. She had to get out of the car.
Kent answered the door. “We’ve been waiting for you,” he said, extending his arms. She hugged him tightly, thankful, at least, for his friendship.
The room was decorated in Marnie’s trademark girlish fashion – bursting with pink and lace. I stood out like a fly in the punchbowl. I wasn’t invited. Not to the bridal luncheon, and definitely not to the wedding. Our friendship was long dead. I was only there to show Marnie there were no hard feelings. I smiled warmly as she gratefully accepted the wrapped gift from my arms.
When I heard the loud burst from the hallway, imagining Marnie’s ivory dress dripping with purple ink, I smiled wider. On second thought, I’ve never been that forgiving.
A warm, sweet-smelling bundle stirred in April’s arms. Her precious baby girl. She thought of her own mother, of all the things she didn’t know. The wild nights, stolen kisses, bad boys, ill-conceived romances, spontaneous road trips, the wind blasting her hair. The hidden scars. She pictured her daughter years in the future with a head full of secrets, a chasm between them.
“What’s on your mind?” Her husband asked, playfully tousling her hair.
Marnie and Allyson hung out every single Saturday afternoon. They’d never cancelled, even when they were ill. They’d just share candy and alphabet soup and watch movies under a blanket.
But that Saturday, Aria Franklin, the It Girl, asked Marnie to hang out. Marnie told Allyson that she was sick, so contagious she couldn’t have any guests. How was Marnie to know that she and Aria would run into Allyson at the store with alphabet soup and M&M’s in her basket?
Allyson blinked back tears as Marnie stood between her two friends, trying to resist the urge to run.
Angie was tired. Tired of taking the bus everyday. Tired of leaky roofs and faucets and broken floorboards that would never be fixed and secondhand, musty-smelling clothes that never felt clean, no matter how many times you washed them. But mostly, she was tired of waiting.
Her employer of almost 20 years, Mrs. Greenleaf, was waiting for her in the living room. She’d been gracious enough to add Angie to her will years ago.
“Angie, is the tea ready yet?” Mrs. Greenleaf called out.
“Almost,” Angie said with a sigh, watching, transfixed, as the green substance disappeared into the dark liquid.
There is a boy outside. I see his shadow against my wall. I shake my husband awake, allowing fear to narrate my thoughts.
He’s coming up our walk now. Did I remember to lock our doors? My husband creeps down the steps and I sit on the landing, staring at the bedroom doors of my sleeping children. The doorbell rings and I nearly leap from my skin. He’s standing under our harsh porch light. I see the bloody eye, the bruise rising from his temple.
“We had an accident. Phone’s busted. My mom’s hurt real bad. Could you please call 911?”
Mother loved Louisa best. Once again, Louisa had successfully convinced Mother to blame Gemma for one of her own infractions, sending Gemma to her room without dinner. “I don’t want to see you again until morning,” Mother had said, clutching Louisa, who’d stopped fake-sobbing long enough to stick her tongue out.
Gemma opened her bedroom window and let in the sweet summer air. She listened to the sound of her friends playing, families laughing, food sizzling on backyard grills. She grabbed her sketchbook and pencils, gifts from Dad, and let her mind run free.
She’d been writing the same book since college. The story was a beautiful one that had come to her in a dream. She’d sprung from bed in her tiny dorm room, startling her roommate, and run to jot the idea down before she forgot it.
Today, the girl with the eager smile and a head full of dreams was gone. She was a mother. A wife.
A thousand words. I need a thousand words.
“Coming to bed, babe?” Dean asked as he passed her office in the hall.
“Not yet.” She blew him a kiss, then opened her laptop.