Authors: Jennifer Murphy
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2014 by Jennifer Murphy
All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Doubleday, a division of Random House LLC, New York, and in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto, Penguin Random House companies.
and the portrayal of an anchor with a dolphin are registered trademarks of Random House LLC.
Jacket design by Rex Bonomelli
Jacket photographs: women
from left to right
© Izabela Habur/Getty Images, © Zoonar GmbH/Alamy, © Larysa Dodz/Vetta/Getty Images; gun © moodboard/Alamy; veil © ramirez/Alamy
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA
Murphy, Jennifer, 1956– February 17
I love you more/by Jennifer Murphy. —First edition.
1. Teenage girls—Fiction. 2. Betrayal—Fiction.
3. Domestic fiction. I. Title.
ISBN 978-0-385-53855-8 (hardcover)
ISBN 978-0-385-53856-5 (eBook)
For David and Madi
(The Events Surrounding the Murder)
Who brings a tale takes two away
The rumors started before my daddy’s body got cold. I’d made my peace with the lies by then—lies I’ve learned are a necessary evil—and, being from the South, I’m used to
(that means sickeningly sweet) smiles, but I hadn’t figured on the sideways glances, hushed talk, loud silence. Feigned ignorance. I mean someone’s dying had always made the front page of the
. Even Mrs. Morgan’s twenty-year-old cat got a paragraph, but not my daddy. The particulars of Oliver Lane’s funeral were tucked in the ad section between an upcoming gun show, an irony I’m sure was lost on the editor, and a
JESUS LOVES YOU
, standard filler for slow news days. Thankfully there was no mention of murder, or of the fact that the police suspected Mama or one of those other two ladies. It wouldn’t be polite to put such things in writing.
My name is Picasso, like the artist. Mama said she named me Picasso because he painted about truth, but I think Mama misinterpreted his words. What Pablo Picasso said was this:
Art is a lie that makes us realize truth
. What I think he meant is that great art is born from skillful lying, and something else, something much more profound, that lying is okay as long as its end goal is altruistic. Well that’s how I read it anyway, and that’s how I’ve been able to justify what happened that day.
Looking back, it all started three years ago when the first lady showed up at our house. I was ten years old at the time. Daddy was out of town on business; he’d been traveling a lot. Mama was sticking a couple of chicken pies in the oven when the doorbell rang. It was August and hot, the kind of hot it gets in North Carolina in the dead of summer. The kind of hot where your skin melts and your tongue swells the minute you walk out the door, and the last chore you want to do is take out the trash because the smell’s so bad. Mama’s long, straight blond hair was tied up in a ponytail, her face and neck covered in sweat beads, her mascara running.
“Run and get the door, Picasso,” she said.
The lady had blue eyes like Mama and me, and skin as pale as an onion. She was tall, but not as tall as Mama, and skinny. The navy blue suit she wore looked like it was painted on, it fit so perfect. I figured she was selling religion.
“You must be Picasso,” the lady said, and forced her bright peach lips into a big smile that displayed perfect white teeth. “You’re even prettier than your picture.”
Funny, how I didn’t think much about that statement at the time. Shouldn’t I have wondered how she’d seen my picture? But there’s so much I didn’t wonder about back then, at least not right away.
Mama had come up behind me. “Can I help you?” she asked the lady.
“I’m Jewels. I know your husband.” Her voiced cracked. “We have two children. Twin boys.”
She tried to unzip her handbag—I saw that it was the exact same handbag Daddy had gotten Mama for Christmas that year. Its strap got twisted with that of her briefcase. Both fell to the ground. Files spewed across our front porch. She kneeled. Her shoulders shook. While choking out a couple of sobs, she gathered the papers, stuffed them back in the briefcase, stood, and
rearranged the bags on her shoulder. A tear trailed from her eyes, removed a crooked line of makeup from her face. She straightened, wiped her cheek with the palm of her hand, smearing her caked foundation even more, pulled a picture from her handbag, and handed it to Mama.
Mama’s face went white. I couldn’t tell whether she was scared or angry. Daddy used to say that Mama was an expert at covering her emotions. “Picasso, go upstairs and do your homework,” she said, sternly.
“I don’t have any homework, Mama,” I said. “School doesn’t start until next week, remember?”
She raised her voice. “Don’t you have summer reading?”
I’d finished my reading two months earlier, but I knew she didn’t care about that one way or another.
“Come in,” I heard her ask Jewels as I climbed the stairs. “Would you like some iced tea?”
“Yes,” Jewels spluttered. “Thank you.”
It was a couple of months before Jewels showed up again, this time with another lady. That morning, the light through my window was duller than usual. Rainwater drooled on the windowpane. The alarm went off just as I looked at my clock. I took a shower, brushed my teeth, put on my school uniform, and went downstairs to prepare my breakfast: a glass of orange juice and a cinnamon Pop-Tart.
I was in the kitchen scraping butter on the Pop-Tart when I caught a whiff of perfume. Mama was wearing her favorite low-cut, form-fitting black dress, and she’d done up her face like she did when she and Daddy were going out on one of their “adult nights.” The dress was also one of Daddy’s favorites. Whenever Mama wore it, he would run his hands over her hips and breasts, and usually the two of them would end up kissing their way up the stairs and into their bedroom, and sometimes they wouldn’t go out after all.