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An Exerpt: First Chapter
It didn't rain today. She thought it might but it didn't. Not that it made any difference.
The clock ticked in the background. That was the only sound. Tick-tock, tick-tock...
She wandered about the house, clad in her worn-out terrycloth bathrobe. Her frizzy orange hair stood out from her head in a wild mass. Corinne had never been beautiful. That implied perfection, which she had never achieved. Nor had she ever tried. But once Corinne had possessed a commanding magnetism. She had large brooding blue eyes with dark lashes that curled at the tips. Her nose was just a bit too large. Full lips had once smiled often, while giving men something to fantasize about. She wouldn't have been considered thin. Instead, she'd been shapely and always well toned. Her flame-colored hair, then a tamed curl, had demanded attention for her. And she'd received it. Quite often. She'd relished in that spotlight.
Now she walked on too thin legs, back and forth. The clock continued to tick. She listened, finding the sound comforting. Shivering, she wrapped the tattered robe tighter around herself. She felt as if she were a hundred. She was forty-eight.
Finally she sat in the chair by the window. The gray sky grew darker. Soon it would be night. "Damn you!" she shouted into the empty air.
No one was there to respond. "Damn you," she repeated. But this time the force was gone from her voice.
Corinne didn't know he'd come in through the back and was now standing in the kitchen doorway watching her. Ian rubbed his hands over his eyes. In the house less than two minutes and already his head throbbed. He didn't think they could go on like this much longer. Guilt, anger, sadness, frustration. He experienced the entire realm of emotions, all at once, every minute of the day. Sort of like living out a jumbled combination of the movie Groundhog Day and a Freudian textbook.
Ian forced himself into the living room. Her perfume assaulted him. His cough caused her to turn in his direction. Her red painted lips started to curve into a smile but straighted quickly. She'd been mad at him when he left and was evidently reminding herself to stay that way.
"Hello ma," he said.
Corinne turned away, pulling her robe tighter around herself. She stared off at the television as if the blank screen held some mystical secret. He wanted to scream out every obscenity he could think of. Instead he ran his hand over the stubble on his chin and conjured up an image of a deserted island. The psychiatrist's idea.
Dr. Endicott had suggested that he create his own "happy place" in his mind. A place he could escape to when he felt on edge. What better escape than a deserted island? Of course, the trick never worked. As if he could possibly trick himself into relaxing on some deserted island in his mind, while standing in the midst of chaos with his crazy mother.
Ian perched on the edge of the sofa and stifled a sigh. "Why didn't you get dressed today, ma?"
Corinne stood in a flurry of motion that somehow managed to make him dizzy. She fussed over the knickknacks on the mantel as she spoke. "They were outside today. I saw them. I saw them. I saw them outside today."
He tried to interrupt her singsong chatter but she continued fidgeting with the knickknacks, talking to the room as much as to him. "They saw me watching them. Watching them watching me." An odd sort of tormented giggle escaped her lips. She said, "They have her. They have her. They know I can't. I can't. They have her."
"Ma, stop." His voice came out sharper than he'd intended. He swallowed the dry lump and tried again. "Please, ma. Sit down."
She spun around. Her haunted eyes danced around the room, landing briefly on his but not lingering. "I saw them," she said defiantly. "You don't believe me. But I saw them."
"No one was watching you today, ma."
"How do you know that? Were you here?"
Ian raked his hands through his hair. Where the hell was his happy place? Count to ten. Take deep breaths. Hell, he needed a damn tranquilizer. "No, ma. I wasn't here. But we've been through this before."
Corinne began to chant. "Been through this. Been through this." Then she stopped abruptly and sank back down into the chair. She clutched her robe. Suddenly she looked up. "What time is it?"
He glanced at the antique clock on the mantel. "Almost five."
"Almost five?" Corinne said this as if stunned that the day had somehow managed to move forward without her. "I'm not dressed. Must be dressed. Must. Because they were here. No one believes me but they were here. It's okay. It's okay."
Ian stopped trying to make sense of the words. Now and then she fell into this pattern of incessant chanting. Repeating words and phrases until he wanted to rip out his eardrums to keep from hearing another sound. Eventually she would stop as quickly as she'd begun.
At times they even had normal conversations. Oddly enough, those were the times that hurt the most. Because that's when he remembered what his mother had been like before their world had been tipped upside down.
Corinne stood and made her way down the hall toward her bedroom. Evidently it had suddenly become important that she be dressed. Ian shook his head and could only wonder at the scattered reasoning that ruled her mind.