A First Look – Excerpt
Alcohol addicted, Amanda Reynolds, mother of two young children is spiraling in guilt and resentment; plagued by repressed memories. She must surrender, get her life together, forgiving her past so not to jeopardize her future. For full synopsis click here.
June, 2012. Chicago, IL.
Standing on the landing of the stairs, Amanda Reynolds held onto the banister a little longer. So acquainted was the feel of the oak under her fingertips the past nine years that she caressed the railing not wanting to step down the fifteen steps.
When Amanda reached the bottom step, her heart fluttered. What do I say to my children? How do I explain my alcoholic addiction and this lonely aching that plagues me daily? They didn’t understand the situation, but had felt the recent emotional rollercoaster. The last thing she wanted was for them to think of their mother as some basket case.
Rose jumped up off the couch, running toward her.
“Mommy, mommy, we’re watching ‘SpongeBob Square Pants’.”
Amanda crouched down and hugged her energetic four-year-old. “How fun, sweetie.”
The child suddenly jerked away. “Mommy, why are you dressed up? Where are you going?”
“Away, Rose,” Emily said, coming closer.
“Where, Mommy? I want…want to go with you,” Rose stammered.
Nervous, Amanda grabbed both of their hands together in hers. “Now, now, settle down. Stop that. It’s not like I’m not coming back.”
“That’s not what Daddy says,” Emily replied.
Amanda cocked her head at her eldest daughter. “Well, your father can sometimes exaggerate the facts. Let me explain.” Not true. Ryan always told them truth. And why wouldn’t he?
Emily took a step back and crossed her arms while Rose looked from her older sister to her mother.
Amanda cleared her throat. “I… I have this project I need to work on for a few weeks. It’s in the state of New Mexico and I’ll be on a ranch with this kind lady that…that needs some help.”
Emily put her hands on her hips and glanced at Rose. “Don’t believe her.”
“Emily—” Amanda started.
Her eldest continued, “Mommy has a problem and she’s leaving us with Cecilia and Grandma Maria while Dad works.”
“Mommy—don’t go.” Rose stomped her feet on the hardwood floor.
Amanda stroked her youngest daughter’s face, stumbling over her words. “It’s… Okay.”
“It’s true, right Mommy?” Emily questioned.
“Girls, girls. Please stop.”
Amanda sighed at her firstborn. At seven years of age, both she and Ryan knew their daughter was something special—intuitive and stubborn. Ahead of her first-grade friends, her vocabulary and understanding of life situations were beyond maturity. It was no wonder the girl had become distrusting of her mother these last few weeks, especially after having seen her passed out on the bed in a drunken stupor.
Amanda reached her hand over Emily’s flaxen hair, but she moved away.
“Emily.” Tears stung her eyes. “All right. I have a little problem, but I am getting help. The place is a little far away. But, if I don’t go, I can’t be a good mom to you both.”
Rose then jumped into Amanda’s arms and gave her a big, wet kiss. “Come back soon, Mommy.”
Amanda peered over at Emily. “Can I have a hug and kiss from my big girl too?”
The child fidgeted with her hands. “Will you miss us?”
“More than you know.” Come on, I need your approval, kiddo. Be strong for me.
“Will you call?”
Amanda put down Rose and crouched down to meet her eldest daughter’s eye level. “Whenever I can, honey, I promise.”
“Can we call you?” Emily asked.
“Yeah, Mommy, what’s the number we can call, yippy,” Rose twisted around.
Amanda shook her head. She knew the requirements of the center—no incoming calls unless it was an extreme emergency. “I’m afraid they don’t allow it.”
A car horn sounded; startling them and breaking up their moment.
“Hug?” she begged Emily again. Please forgive me.
Her daughter fell into her embrace, sniffling. “I don’t want you to go. I want you here, Momma.”
Rivulets ran down Amanda’s face. “Me too. I’ll be home soon, okay?”
With one final awkward squeeze, she rose. “Now go and watch TV. Daddy will be in shortly.”
Both girls ran back to the couch. Amanda turned and wiped the streaks on her cheeks with her hand not daring to look back even as she felt their stares upon her. Taking a deep breath, she paused at the door. Outside, Ryan stood leaning against the brick wall, hands in his cargo shorts. He looked over his shoulder just as she pushed the glass door open.
“Yeah, I heard.”
“I put the suitcase in already. You’re all set. He’s ready to take you to O’Hare airport.”
“Thank you,” she mouthed unable to utter another syllable—high emotions shaking all of her insides.
Ryan drew her close to him. “Get well.”
Amanda blinked several times, trying to stop the cascade of tears coming from her eyes. “I’ll try.”
He touched her face. “Call when you land, so I know—”
Amanda hurriedly kissed her husband on his lips, not wanting to linger anymore, and then sprinted down their long, narrow drive to the limousine. Once inside the backseat, she bit her lower lip, feeling the heaviness on her shoulders; and waving to her husband as the car drove away from the curb.
With their manicured lawn and brown bungalow home retreating from sight, Amanda whispered, “Oh, dear God, please help me. I really need a miracle here.”
April, 2000. Chicago, IL.
Joshua Lenger rolled his head on the pillow and glanced over one last time at his beautiful younger sister sitting on a tan leather chair across from his bed. He studied her, taking in all of her. From her freckled nose, thin, long lips, to the way she rubbed her hands together while nervously tapping her left foot on the linoleum floor.
Fighting to breathe, he said, “Amanda listen to me, please… Whatever you do in life, make it right; make it matter. Everything… Make. It. Matter…”
Joshua stiffened as bolts of pain shot through his body. Here it comes. Wide-eyed, he focused on the beige-colored ceiling above him, and exhaled.
Amanda gulped. A knot formed in her throat as she stared at her older brother; her guardian lying on his hospital bed—his death bed. He’s gone. Reaching over and closing his eyes, she held his cold, clammy hand loosely in her own, watching the monitor above the bedframe beeping slowly to a halt.
Amanda opened her eyes and blinked twice; someone was snoring. Rising cautiously, she slumped back down on the pillow. Her hand went to her head as a sharp pain vibrated on her left side. Her bare arms were underneath a thick quilted bedspread.
She stretched her neck from side-to-side, when her hand touched skin, her own. Lifting the covers, Amanda stared at her naked body, then quickly turned over and made out the masculine bare-skin shoulders of a man.
She froze, not wanting to scream almost heaving the sour alcohol taste in her mouth. “Shit.” How did I get here? Quietly lifting the covers again, she saw the curvature of his exposed buttocks. And then it all came back to her.
She had sex with a stranger.
Rubbing her eyes, Amanda contemplated how to get out of this mess, and pushed herself up quietly, peering through the darkness.
Cigar smoke clouded her face. A figure sat across from her. “You know, Sis, I’m disappointed in you.”
Amanda yanked the covers to her chest and massaged her throbbing head, almost gagging. “Josh, I—”
“Been drinking, eh?”
“Oh, and you never have.” A wave of nausea swirled inside of her. I’m gonna be sick.
He leaned forward in her face. She could smell the tobacco on his breath. It was hot and sweet. “We’re not talking about me here. That headache isn’t going to go away on its own.”
“I’m sorry for you. Where’s your dignity? Using your body like that. Come on?”
“I’m sorry, okay,” Amanda repeated. Shame seeping through her bones.
Joshua touched her arm. “Why do you keep doing this?”
“Where have you been?” she managed.
The silhouette shifted on the bed. “I wish I never got sick. You, on the other hand, need to take care of yourself.”
Amanda put her hands up to her cheeks. Caked on makeup still on her face. How much liquor was she consuming lately? How many men had she slept with just to mask the loneliness within her soul? So many bad decisions one after the other. When will I learn?
Joshua puffed out another ringlet. “I tried to raise you the right way and give you the tools to be a successful and bright woman.”
“I know you have. I just can’t help it.”
“That’s bull. Using alcohol like a crutch.”
Amanda wiped her tears from her face. “Stop it. I guess I’ve become like Mom.”
Joshua slapped his thigh. In the quietness of the room it sounded like a whip hitting the pavement. “Damn you, Amanda! You’re not her.”
“Forgive me if I’m not perfect. I made a mistake.”
Joshua stood up. The body pressure of the bed released at her feet. “Forgiveness, huh? That’s a strange request coming from you.”
Amanda pulled the covers up to her chin. “I’ve needed you, but you’re—”
All at once, a flat line ran across the screen. Joshua’s breathing ceased altogether; his body deflating like a freshly laundered sheet flowing above a bed. Amanda was surrounded by the room’s silence. A red light began flashing on the screen. She touched his face, a face yellowed and worn from the chemo he took in on and off the last nine months. All his silken charcoal-colored hair had fallen out with the exception of a few strands on top of his head. For being four years older than she, at twenty-eight, Joshua had turned into a crumpled old man—a young man crinkled with the weight of life burdens on top of a debilitating illness. Running her fingers along his swollen purple lips of her beloved brother, they still felt warm.
There was a clatter at the window sill. Amanda saw a young, agile robin struggling to grab the ledge with its feet. After several failed attempts, it flew away seeming to take Josh’s soul with it.
A year of suffering, big brother. You can rest now. It’s over.
Two nurses rushed into the room. Amanda let go of Joshua’s hand and stepped out of their way. With a numbing realization of what had transpired, she gathered her jacket and purse off of the chair across the bed and headed out the door.
Stopping in midstep, Amanda spoke to the nurses. “6:43 p.m. Time of death was 6:43 p.m.”
To be continued…
Copyright © Chiara Talluto