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McLean, Virginia October 1985
Claire Campbell winced at approaching headlight beams. As the station wagon passed, she sighed and focused on the curve ahead. Deadman’s Curve, they unimaginatively dubbed it as teens, which, in Claire’s case, proved nearly prophetic. Her right knee ached. She gripped the wheel, ignoring the pain, as she navigated this curve yet again. The pain was not memory, though memory played its part; Hat Trick took the curve too fast, too high, and Claire went through the VW van’s windshield, landing on the crumpled hood of a Cadillac. Now, exhausted, hurting, and afraid, Claire made the curve and eased off the accelerator. The semi-circular driveway was up ahead on the left, flanked by hedges, missing it was easy.
She flipped the turn signal and braked for another approaching car. Her fingers hurt. Relaxing her grip on the steering wheel, she took a deep breath as she flexed them. When the car passed, she released the clutch and turned into the driveway, crawling forward in first gear. Her mother’s Mercedes was parked in front of the house, her driver nowhere in sight. Probably sneaking a smoke in the bushes, Claire thought, stopping behind the silver car. She killed the engine, then leaned back and sighed, looking the house through the bug spattered windshield, wishing her mother was out for the evening.
It was a big house, brick with white shutters. Tall, narrow windows offered a glimpse of a softly lit, empty living room. The porch lights burned, twin sentinels that did not welcome her. Oh God, she thought. This was home, but it wasn’t hers anymore. Had it ever been, she wondered. She and Jill debated that question often enough. Jill. A familiar ache filled her, threatening to pull her under. She pressed a button and as the seatbelt retracted, raised her hip and dug into her pocket. Her fingers closed around a pill bottle. With practiced skill, she popped the top and rolled two Percocet into her palm. She tossed them into her mouth with a casual flip, then capped the bottle, shoved it back into her jeans. Rubbing tired eyes, she took a last look around, then opened the BMW’s door.