Mainstream, 313 pages
Cover art by Trisha FitzGerald
I walked in and saw her smoking and I gave her a hard time about it. I know I’m a jerk. I think that when Suzanne’s famous novel finally comes out, it’ll bring that to light. In the meantime, I just have to act normal. The thing is, it’s not all on me. Living with somebody with depression is tough. I’m not just whining to hear myself talk either. I’d like you to walk a mile in my shoes, as they say. To wake up every morning to this sad-sack lying next to you and then judge me.
I knew she was damaged goods when we met, but it’s amazing what a person will overlook when there is blinding beauty to be had. She was shy and that somehow made her more appealing. I don’t know what it is about shy girls with glasses, but add big blue eyes, long blond hair and perfect teeth and I think most guys would do just about anything.
Just about anything is what I did do. She tried to kill herself a few months into our relationship. I should have run. My mother called while I was at the hospital waiting for her. Mom is a class act. She actually told me to break up with Suzanne while she was still in the hospital. Before she could start leaning on me too much.
So, maybe that’s where my tendencies to be a jerk come from, but it is what it is. I was kidding about my mom. I love her. She’s really the only person in this whole world who has my back.
Maybe I sound defensive, but it’s because I’m not the bad guy here and I want people to know it, because things are getting weird and if things go bad, I want it known that I had nothing to do with any of it.
Suzanne Miles was trying to be a good mother and failing. She knew it would be emblazoned on her tombstone one day, failed mother. Yet, she was trying. It was the only thing that counted, now that all the others were gone. It was woven into the fabric of who she was. When her family died, it was a bang, crash, all gone kind of thing. No slow debilitating diseases, or medical jargon dished out by wan, serious, overworked and underpaid hospital residents. It was a deafening sound followed by years of silence.
Suzanne hadn’t thought about them in a long time, except for the occasional warm memory. Her older brother building a campfire in the fire pit, her mother arranging the ingredients for smores on an Anchor Hocking glass plate, her little sister, all pig-tails and high pitched giggles as Ronnie tackled her on the lawn. Laughing with mouths stuffed with gooey marshmallow and chocolate. Ingrid giggling so hard she spat out a warm glob onto Mom’s jacket. Mom’s pretended disgust as she wiped it away.
She had had it good. Past tense. That’s two ‘hads’. Hers was the family everyone aspired to. The girls at school all angled for invitations to slumber parties and the boys curried Ronnie’s favor and begged to come over to the Richards’ house, the best house in the neighborhood. The house where on every Halloween, a new tableau of horrible and delightful scariness awaited the children. They gave out full sized candy bars; this was the measure of their good family worth.