The first half of Chapter 1:
Addie wiped the tears away again. Why should she be crying anyway? She’d hated being at that college. She’d graduated. Her degree sat on the front seat beside her. She should celebrate! Another rush of tears fell.
Four years of quality education reduced to the memory of one painful heartbreak. The experiences and growth overshadowed by the dark memories of relationship mistakes.
“What’s wrong with me? I made friends. I grew as a person. I’m better now, right? So what’s wrong with me?” The fresh tears blurred Addie’s vision. Her breaths turned to sobs as she struggled to control the emotions washing over her. A horn blared as she blindly swerved into another lane of traffic. Addie needed to stop.
She pulled into the next rest area, found a vacant spot near the back, and wept. “Oh now what?” she asked. The minutes passed as Addie cried into the steering wheel. She struggled to focus on her accomplishments, on the joys of her sorority life, but every memory of college, of the past four years of her life, revolved around Joel. The pain, the fear, the betrayal…every ounce of her emotions slid down her cheeks in a flood of hot tears.
Addie didn’t know how long she cried. She didn’t care. Instead, she steadied her breaths until the heaving subsided. Grabbing a pair of sunglasses, she rushed into the rest area to clean her face. Once in the bathroom, Addie removed the sunglasses and looked at herself in the mirror.
“Is this what’s left?” she asked the mirror. Her once clear blue eyes sunk into her skull. Red, blotchy skin replaced her smooth, ivory complexion. Her own reflection made her ill. “I hate you Joel,” she whispered, and, at the very sound of his name, Addie’s stomach lurched and heaved. She made it into the stall just in time. ~
“Hey, I’m home!” Addie yelled. She dropped her bags and recomposed herself. She smiled with the excitement of being home. Her mom rushed out of the kitchen and hugged her middle daughter fiercely. “Have you guys eaten yet? I’m starved.”
“Dad’s outside grilling now. Hal!” Bea called through the living room. Addie smiled as her mom returned to the kitchen. Addie began hauling her things up to her room. She’d see her dad soon. Leaving his post unattended was never an option for a grill master such as Hal. As she suspected, he called inside a few moments later, but wouldn’t even open the sliding glass door to step inside.
“Hey honey! I’m outside. Come on and see me when you put your stuff away.”
Addie shook her head with a smile. Hal ran a tight ship with everything in its place. He alloted no time for transition or settling in. If Addie wanted it in the house, it needed to go to her room immediately. Hal had warned her after her first semester break at college that she would need to make sure everything found its place promptly. As she had brought little home mid-year, it had been easy to handle. However, at the end of the year, with all of her belongings to haul upstairs, Addie decided to crash early and take care of things in the morning. To her horror, and then amusement, she awoke at 10 am the following morning to find every last box of her belongings scattered across the back yard. It never happened again.
Thirty minutes later, Addie joined her parents on the deck for dinner. It was probably too cool to eat outside, but with an extra layer of clothing, no one minded. Addie finished setting the table while her parents set down dishes full of food.
“Is Nancy coming home tonight?” Addie asked uncertainly. She was sure her sister wasn’t arriving for a few days, but the amount of food would feed a small army.
“Just us,” Bea smiled. “I thought you might be a little hungry after your busy weekend.” She winked at her daughter.
The previous Saturday morning the Rosen family had been at Addie’s college graduation ceremony. As tradition demanded, following the ceremony Addie joined her friends and fellow grads to a weekend of celebration. Now, on Monday night, she sat dehydrated and desperate for sleep. And her mother was right. She hadn’t eaten enough. And she wasn’t sure that everything she’d eaten had stayed down.
“Thanks,” Addie laughed, “but I’m pretty sure this would feed a fraternity house!”
“Let’s eat,” Hal broke in abruptly. He didn’t approved of his daughter drinking, even if it was legal. He especially disliked that his wife handled it with such nonchalance. Addie shrugged and dug into her food. It didn’t take long for her dad to set the mood.
“So,” he asked, “where are you sending your resume?”
Addie let her fork rest on her plate as she leaned back in her chair. “I don’t know yet Hal.” She watched her father’s face. Red. Tight lipped. Clenched jaw. Definitely irritated. Addie liked calling him Hal. He hated it. She continued, “I would have to start looking at who’s hiring.”
“Winnie started working one week after graduation,” he reminded her for the hundredth time.
“I know Hal,” Addie sighed, very aware of the path her older sister had chosen. “And she regrets not taking a couple of weeks off. I just want to get some rest and pull myself together before I make another major life change.”
“Well, don’t take too long, or I’ll charge you rent.”
Addie picked up a piece of meat to throw at her father. Bea kicked her daughter sharply. Addie gaped at her mother while she rubbed her sore shin.
“Don’t call your father Hal, honey,” Bea smiled politely. “There’ll be no rent. You just go back to the restaurant for a few weeks and relax. You’re job’ll come.”
“DAD,” Addie said harshly to get his attention. “If you want rent, I’ll pay it.”
“Don’t be insulting Adelaide! I’m your father. It’s my job to take care of you until you get yourself married. Now you get back to work at the restaurant this week and then I’d better see some serious resume blitzes,” and with that, Hal returned to his food.
Addie turned to her mother, her mouth agape. “Wha…I…whe,” she stammered.
“Close your mouth honey,” she smiled again. “Your food will get cold.”~