First Page: I Thought I Knew – Women’s Fiction
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Deborah Earle sat on the sofa alone in the dark, staring at the ticking clock on the wall, one hand clasped tightly around her cell phone, the fingernails of her other hand digging painfully into her palm. A half-empty mug of tea, now cold, sat on the coffee table in front of her.
1:50 a.m. She ran over to the window, pulled back the curtains and panned the barely lighted street again. Don’t panic, Deb, she chided herself, as she returned to her post on the sofa and tried to erase the imagined scene of Amanda broken and bleeding on the side of the road, her phone just out of reach. God please, let her be okay. She desperately hoped they weren’t drinking and driving. Or smoking. Where’d Amanda get the ridiculous notion that marijuana didn’t impair driving skills? She had overheard that hopefully theoretical conversation the week before, as she loitered outside Amanda’s door.
Who was driving? Please, please, don’t let it be Madison. Sweet girl, but scatterbrained and reckless, just like Deb’s brother, Ray. He had no business driving her to the middle school dance that night. She could smell the alcohol on his breath and the lingering scent of marijuana in the car. “I’m fine,” he had said, as he winked at her. “Look at you all dressed up. You’re gonna have to fight ‘em off with a stick.” She had rolled her eyes at him. “You’re only saying that because you’re my brother. Seriously, Ray, do I look okay?” He turned to look at her and offer reassurance. They were only a block from the school when it happened. She rubbed the thick scar on her scalp, a souvenir from that night, triggering another wave of panic deep in her chest.
1:55 a.m.—She forced herself to push the car crash images, real and imagined, aside. Instead, she replayed the argument she and Amanda had had before she left for the concert. It seemed so unimportant now. Amanda was dragging her feet with college applications and said that Deb was being a nag. It was less than a year before Amanda would leave for college, and their relationship, which had always felt airtight, was slowly deflating.
2:00 a.m.—If Amanda hadn’t been in an accident, was she blatantly ignoring her midnight curfew? Sidestepping Deb’s calls and texts? Thick anger folded in with her obsessive worry. Amanda should have let Deb know she was running late. This wasn’t like her. She always let her know when she would be late or if she was sleeping over at a friend’s. Anxiety over the state of Deb’s relationship with her daughter was tossed into her emotional cauldron. She was tempted to wake Richard so he could worry with her.
2:15 a.m.—That’s it. Now I’ll have to wake Richard, then call Madison’s and Karin’s parents and the police. As she stood up, a key rattled in the lock. Thank God! She exhaled in relief. But almost as quickly, her anger gathered momentum. Amanda was attempting a stealth entrance, her boots in one hand, a Coke in the other, tiptoeing in, slowly sliding the lock back in place. She was so focused on entering silently, she didn’t spot Deb in the darkness sitting on the sofa.
“Do you have any idea what time it is?” Deb demanded as she flipped on the light.
Amanda squealed, dropped her boots and the Coke can, splattering the contents over the tile entryway. “God, Mom, you scared me to death!”