Authors: Rachael Duncan
Tags: #Hidden in Lies
Hidden in Lies
2015 by Rachael Duncan
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No part of this book may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, distributed, stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form of by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, without express permission of the author, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages for review purposes, if done so constitutes a copyright violation.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters and events are fictitious in every regard. Any similarities to actual events and persons, living or dead, are purely coincidental. Any trademarks, service marks, product names, or named features are assumed to be the property of their respective owners and are used only for reference. There is no implied endorsement if any of these terms are used.
Nichole Strauss with
Interior Design and Formatting by:
Christine Borgford with
Marisa Shor with
Cover Me, Darling
Twelve years ago ...
“WHAT COLOR WILL
it be this time?” she asks me.
Tapping my index finger to my lips, I look through the different bottles trying to decide. “How about ... pink?”
“Then pink nails it is,” she says. Hopping up onto the kitchen counter, I let my legs dangle as my mom pulls a chair up in front of me. She’s been painting my toes for as long as I can remember. Even when I tell her I’m old enough to do it on my own, she insists. Saying something about it being our bonding time or something. Whatever, it seems to make her happy, and I kinda like it too.
The wand brushes slowly over each nail, as she takes her time so she doesn’t mess up. “Tell me, how’s school?”
“School’s fine.” I’m in the ninth grade, and really I’d rather do anything than go to school, but Mom always tells me how important it is.
“It better be more than just fine, Elizabeth,” my mom scolds. “You’ve got good grades this quarter, right?”
“Yes, Mom,” I say in a monotone voice. Looking up, she cocks her eyebrow at me and I know I’d better watch my attitude. “I think I might get a B in biology, but everything else I have A’s in.”
“Good, you’ve got a couple weeks left before grades come out. Maybe you can find a study buddy or something.”
“Well, there is this guy in my class that offered to help me,” I beat around the bush a little. I’ve never taken an interest in boys before. They’re all so dumb and immature. The popular guy in our school’s major accomplishment is that he can burp the alphabet.
The thought alone creeps me out.
“A guy, huh? Is this guy cute?” she asks. Her eyes stay on my nails so she doesn’t see the blush that creeps across my cheeks, but I guess my silence gives me away. Glancing up at me, her eyes widen. “Do you like this boy?” I still don’t answer. “Oh my gosh! Your first crush! Oh, Elizabeth, I remember my first crush.” Mom gets a faraway look on her face, as if she’s reliving the memories of him.
Still red in the face, I reply, “He’s kinda cute. He’s not immature like the other boys, and he’s smart.”
“Tell me more. Where does he live? What do his parents do?” She screws on the top to the nail polish while waiting for my answer.
“He lives not far from here. I think Dad works with his father.” The happy expression on Mom’s face falls.
“I don’t want you seeing that boy, Elizabeth.” Her voice takes on a stern edge, and normally I would never argue or question her when she uses that tone with me, but she doesn’t know anything about Eric. How can she judge him?
“Why not? You don’t even know him. Is it because our dads work together?” Shaking her head, she pats my knee with her hand.
“Oh, honey. When you date a man you have to think about the long-term effects. What kind of future does he have? How will he provide for you?”
“Mom, I’m only, like, fourteen years old. I’m not looking to marry the guy.” Crossing my arms over my chest, I look the other way. She’s being absolutely ridiculous. Just because I think he’s nice and cute doesn’t mean I’m going to spend the rest of my life with him.
“You’d be surprised how it works out. I met your father when I was fifteen. Don’t get me wrong, I love him more than anything, but we’ve struggled all our lives.” She gives me a sad smile that doesn’t reach her pale-blue eyes.
My lips part in stunned silence. Finally, I find my voice. “But . . . I thought you and Dad were happy?”
“We love each other very much, but we live paycheck to paycheck and that’s stressful. I just don’t want that for you. It’s an extra burden that you shouldn’t have to carry. You need to find a man who can take care of you so you never have to worry about paying electric bills and buying food. You’ll see as you get older that stability and security are two of the most important things in life. They’re essential to being happy.” She looks straight into my eyes, almost like she’s trying to stamp her advice straight to my brain.
Looking at my mom’s face, I see the tired expression like I never have before. Lines I hadn’t noticed before mark her beautiful face. The frown lines around her mouth are especially prominent. Her chestnut brown hair is no longer full and shiny like I remembered as a child. Now it is dull and graying. The fact I never noticed the gradual change from a youthful mother into her now weathered appearance is shocking to me. How could I not see the toll life is taking on her? Was she always hiding it from me and only letting her guard down to prove her point? I know we aren’t wealthy, but I never realized how much she and my father struggle to make ends meet. If I don’t listen to her advice, is this the life I’m headed for? A life full of constant worry and strain?
My head starts to spin with all these thoughts and questions running through it. I always assumed the key to a happy life was to find someone you loved and spend forever with him. When I was younger I always dreamed of finding my prince charming and living happily ever after. Never in my dreams did I think to check his bank account. Then a question hits me.
Locking my light green eyes with hers, I ask, “But what if I, like, meet a guy that doesn’t have a lot of money and I fall for him? Am I just supposed to leave him because he’s not rich?” I might not have ever been in love, but I know that you can’t help what the hearts wants. If you love someone, there’s no stopping it. No matter how much money they have.
“Just remember one simple thing: If you never date a poor man, you never risk falling in love with him.”
I think on that sentence and roll it around in my head for quite a while. Mom gets up and puts the nail polish away before starting dinner. Once Dad gets home from work, we all sit down and eat. Sitting next to him, I really study his features like I did with Mom earlier. The same wear and tear is evident on his body as well. He works a labor-intensive job doing construction. Business isn’t always steady and he often works long hours to compensate for when work is slow. I catch Mom glancing at him throughout dinner. It’s evident she loves him just by the way her eyes warm when she sees him. But today, she almost looks sad, as if it pains her to love him so much.
After dinner is cleaned up, I retreat to my bedroom and flop down on the bed, staring up at the ceiling. I can hear my parents’ hushed voices down the hall from my room. Getting up from my bed, I walk to my door and listen.
“I can’t put in any more overtime, Lisa. I’ve worked seventy hours this week as it is.”
“I know. I just don’t know how we’re going to pay this water bill. We’re already two months behind.”
“Why didn’t you pay it last month?”
“Because it was either the water or electricity. We couldn’t pay both and I decided electricity was more important.”
Walking away from my door, I return to my bed and lay in it like before.
I learn a valuable lesson today.
Marry for money.
Because in the end, love doesn’t pay the bills.
GLANCING AROUND AT
the audience in front of me, a small, confident smile grazes my lips as I listen to my husband give his speech. My eyes travel back to where he’s standing at the podium in his perfectly pressed suit standing tall, the audience eating up every word he says. I’m not really paying attention to what he’s saying, of course, I’ve heard him rehearse this speech a million times before. It’s the same one he gives any time he needs support from a large group of people; mainly, his constituents.
“That’s why, with your help, I know we can get the American people working and send a message to Washington that we mean business,” my husband says as he finishes up. The crowd cheers excitedly, all of them believing in him. Each person in the crowd having faith that Cal can help turn this disastrous economy around and get them back to work. I smoothly rise from my chair as I applaud him and walk to his side. He wraps his arm around me, gives me a chaste kiss on the cheek, and I smile up at him. The faint sounds of shutters clicking from the cameramen in the front row registers in my ears. Turning away from my husband, smile still firmly in place, I wave at the crowd taking in all the “Clean up America” and “Callahan Fitzgerald 2016” signs.