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11-11-2007 - Excerpt #3 [Word Count: 2697]

Then there was his youngest – Andy – who he wished he could just magically pick her up and put her into the right place where she felt belonged so she wouldn’t have to walk the world feeling out of place. She was his late bloomer, her mother worried she was going to be mute her entire life until she spoke her first word when she was four. Andy was fifteen going on forty and he knew she secretly carried the guilt about her twin brother who didn’t survive birth. Robert hoped that with love and understanding that she would eventually come out of her shell – even if it was only for a moment.

Robert changed the radio station and shifted in his seat as the night wound on. His eyes looked up to the visor and he gently touched the photo, missing his family more than ever, it always was the case on the way home from the road. He leaned his elbow onto the edge of the driver’s side window frame, determined to get ahead of his schedule so the idea of getting home a day earlier was at all possible.

An aged photo lay beneath the one of his girls, away from the bright daylight. A picture of a chubby little boy whose eyes shined even brighter than the black and white photo would allow. He was wearing a toddler baseball uniform that said ‘#1 Son’ and over twenty-five years later that still held true. Sean was Robert’s first son and his pride and joy, as much as his son would let him.

Sean was a product of Robert’s first marriage to a woman named Samantha. Thinking about her brought back memories that were still too raw for him to think of without becoming painful; it was the way she left in the middle of the night with his son that burned him the most.

But that was the past now, by a strange twist of fate he had a second chance to get things right with his eldest and only son; there was just so many years of anger and abandonment to work through, with Sean living in Nevada now he only had to keep the hope that his son would give him the chance to be in his life.

~*~*~

Elizabeth hurried down the hall to her lecture, silently swearing to herself that she overslept and forgot about all the traffic there was this early in the morning leaving Carson City and heading to Reno.

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11-10-2007 - Excerpt #2 [Word Count: 2261]

With exhausted footsteps she made her way towards the bathroom; ignoring the ringing cell phone as it rang a designated ring tone from her bed – it was Shane anyway and as much as she loved her best friend she didn’t feel like listening to her latest drama. She’d had enough of the day.

The tub filled slowly, ribbons of steam flowing from the water and warming the room and the ache of the tiles under her toes was soon forgotten. Elizabeth shed her clothes – leaving them on the floor – as she made her way towards the tub; the smell of lilac and vanilla filling her nose as the almost too warm water wrapped around her tired skin.

There was only one thing that could have made this quiet moment any better; but the likeliness that her sister would magically find her lost I-pod was far from a reality.

Elizabeth’s mind began to wonder as she sat in silence, the muted fizzing sound of bubbles popping in the water was the only thing that reached her ears. She thought of her mother and the ghost of how she used to be – when she was little – traced her mind. It felt like one of those old video’s you would watch that was filmed way back in the seventy’s; filled with cracks and heat bubbles and that hazy film to it that made it feel homey.

She could remember how it was when her mother would write for hours on end, leaving her alone with her father and only coming out for a quick bite to eat. It was simple then when it was just the three of them; things weren’t so complicated and hard.

’Life is complicated Rosie,’ her father would say if he knew her thoughts. ‘but you have family to take care of you to make that road a little less hard.’

Nothing in this world would make her want to change her family for anything; she loved her sisters, even if they made it hard to love them sometimes. But it was times like this afternoon when she had to pick her mother up and pour her onto the couch that she would silently pray for an escape; just a small way out for a little while.

There was nobody to call, nowhere to go for that reprieve. Her life was too complicated to add the trickiness of a relationship into the mix.

Another time. Another place. Maybe even another life.

~*~*~

The hum of the engine was drowned out by the radio playing Black Sabbath way too loud; the sounds being the only thing that kept Robert Hayden awake at three in the morning.

Heaven and Hell blasted out of the dashboard speakers, the thumping pounding the seat. The lyrics couldn’t be any more truthful to how he felt and how his life had been the past few months. He always had a smile on his face, even when it didn’t reach his eyes, the pool of sadness settled in the bottom of his heart.

It was the picture clipped to the visor that kept it from drowning him. It was a family portrait taken two years ago – it was simpler times back then – when he wasn’t on the road twenty-eight day’s out of the month and spending every moment of them missing and wondering how his girls were.

Robert turned down the highway, nothing but his headlights shining on the road in front of the truck; his eyes strayed off the road as he gazed at the photo of his three daughters and wife. Looking at them reminded him of those Swedish wooden dolls that would live inside each other that he couldn’t remember the name of.

His daughters took after their mother – Ava – with her blonde hair and blue eyes; she always had a welcoming smile. All he had to do was close his eyes and he could remember how she looked the day they met; right down to the lilac flowers that patterned her dress.

Then there was Elizabeth his eldest daughter who took on the role of mother far too early for his taste; she did have college to worry about after all. But it made him proud to see how she cared for her sisters. Elizabeth was his quiet all American beauty and he knew that since the day she was born; she took after her mother with her quiet reserve and the way she would hold a pencil long before she knew what it’s use was. The bond he had with her was like something he could never put into words, it was special and something he held so dear to his heart. He was lucky with her, her biggest rebellion was her sudden need to dye her hair dark brown when she was in high school.

If that was the only rebellion his middle daughter – Brianna – gave him he would have a lot less gray to cover. Brianna was his seventeen-year-old boy crazy wild child that he never knew what to expect from her next. She was the mirror image of Elizabeth with blonde hair and blue eyes but the polar opposite in everything else but grades. Both of them had good grades and that’s where it stopped. Brianna kept things from Robert and pushed him away at every turn; he just hoped that she knew that she could always count on him for whatever she might need – if she ever needed it.

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“Colleen, I don’t care who is going to be there, I am not going to the party.”

“Lizzie, co-”

“I hate that name,” she interrupted. “Don’t call me that.”

“Liz, come on. You have to come to this party, everyone important will be there and a girl like you should have all the exposure in world.”

“A girl like me?” Elizabeth’s friend could practically hear her roll her eyes over the phone. “And what exactly is a girl like me, Col?”

“Um…”

“I am not going to that party just because you think that it would be good for me, okay?” There was a sigh of resign on the other end of the phone. “Thank you, I have things to do, you know like real life shit that matter to me.”

With that she shut her cell phone, silently wondering why she answered it in the first place. Colleen Murphy is the last person in the world that she would ever want to talk to. She is one of those girls that wants to know everyone and their business and thinks that if she knows everyone and everything that she can rule over them.

It must annoy her that Elizabeth Hayden wasn’t someone that was easy to jump into a popular girls pocket.

Besides, she had more important things to handle right now. Mainly her mother and the fact that she was not so graciously sprawled on the front porch steps for the entire world to see.

“Mom.” No answer. “Momma.” With a heavy sigh, Liz brushed her mother’s hair away from her eyes and pulled the bottom of her robe down. “It’s not even five…” she muttered, wrapping one arm over her shoulder as she lifted the taller woman up and headed towards the front door.

“You’re home,” came a soft slur against her arm. “You’re sisters will be so happy to see you.”

“Yes, I needed something from my room,” she lied.

“My sweet girl.” She felt a cool hand against her cheek. “I am so happy to see you, you’re going to go so many places…” with that Ava slipped into an alcohol induced sleep.

“That’s doubtful,” she muttered as she rested her mother on the sofa in the living room, pulling the small afghan down in hopes that her mother would sleep through her current stupor.

Liz ran her fingers roughly through her long blonde hair and shook her head as she walked into the kitchen, picking up the wall phone and hitting speed dial three.

The girls were going to have pizza for dinner.

~*~*~

Using her foot, Liz shut the front door, shifting the three large pizza’s in her hands. “Girls, pizza,” she hollered up the steps before walking back into the kitchen to get paper plates and soda.

“I so fricken hope you got something other than that vegetarian crap you like,” Andy, her fifteen year old sister, commented as she fixed her hair up in a towel.

“And I so hope you didn’t use one of mom’s good towels to dye your hair.” She snapped back, handing her sister the ham and bacon pizza she loves. “Where’s Brianna?”

Andy quirked her brow at her sister from inside the fridge door. “For a girl going to college you can be awful stupid sometimes.”

Taking the can of soda from her sister she sat down at a stool and opened the veggie lovers pizza she ordered for herself. “I love how my baby sister talks to me,” her voice was dripping with sarcasm. “Your sister should be home and doing her homework, I’m afraid to know what she pulls when I’m not here.”

“When she’s good she’s ‘our sister’ when she is vicious she is ‘your sister’. I love the double standard there…” Liz tossed a wadded up napkin at Andy teasingly. “It’s true!”

“I do the same thing with you.” Which she never had to, thankfully. Andy was a sweet soul, misjudged by everyone – their mother most of all.

Swallowing a piece of crust, Andy pointed back to the living room. “I see mom is ‘sick’.”

“Yeah, she has a headache.” She knew that Andy knew what was going on but it was something they just didn’t talk about. Don’t ask, don’t tell was the golden rule and it was just better that way. “She’s…Mom’s had them a lot lately…”

“Ever since Pop got that new job, he’s gone more so I guess she uses that as an escape…I don’t know. I’ve been over at Geoff’s house more than here since you started school.” A look crossed Elizabeth’s eyes and Andy looked at her older sister. “I didn’t mean it like that! I promise, you need to go to school, get away and out…I just. I miss you.” Honesty was something that she rarely showed to anyone.

“I miss you too.” Simple words mean a lot to people; especially to the Hayden girls.

~*~*~

Brianna watched as the cab pulled away, shifting her bag on her shoulders and pulling the string to her duffel bag closed as she snuck to the back of the house and shoved the bag behind the hedges.

With steps she took so many times before, she headed to the back kitchen door, pulling the two ponytails out of her hair and letting it flow loosely down her back in waves. Rubbing her eyes she let the disposable contacts that made her eyes look blue come out and tossed them into the trashcan outside the door.

Her hand was on the doorknob when she peaked inside and saw her sisters sitting and laughing as they enjoyed pizza. There was a small pang in her stomach that made her wish that a picture really were worth the thousand words you could make out of it. But she knew the truth and that hurt worse than anything.

Then again it wasn’t like she couldn’t live a lie. She lived one every day.

“Hey,” she said, slipping into the kitchen and letting her school bag fall to the floor. “Pizza and a sister for dinner? What more could a girl want.”

“Money, fortune, fame…” Andy was always good for a smart comment.

“Realistic here sis.” She poked her sister in the side as she headed to the fridge for a Coke. Slipping beside Elizabeth she shook her head as she opened the last pizza box that was untouched; nobody would ever eat pineapple on their pizza but her. “At least I know all that fancy college crap they drill into your brain hasn’t erased useful information like what your sister likes on her pizza.”

“Shut up.”

“You’re not the first person to say that today…”

“That’s not shocking in the least. Where were you?” She went from sister to mother in five seconds flat.

“I was at a friends, we were doing some homework. She gets the parts that I don’t, and I get the one’s she doesn’t. Half the homework in half the time.”

“School let out over four hours ago.”

“Oops.” She shrugged her shoulders and popped in a piece of pineapple into her mouth. Brianna didn’t care to talk about anything as long as it wasn’t about school, where she was or how she got the wad of bills that was bound by a rubber band in her pocket. If nobody asked her, then she didn’t have to lie and that made her feel better.

~*~*~

Elizabeth twisted her hair off her neck and clipped it up with a banana clip as she headed up to her room, her back, shoulders and neck feeling the brunt of her day. Just because she didn’t do physical labor didn’t mean that the emotional dump she took all day didn’t weigh down on her.

It was almost ten at night and it was too late to attempt to head back to campus; she was better off sleeping here and getting up early for her first class. Not to mention the dorm didn’t have the over sized old-fashioned tub that her bathroom did. It was currently screaming for her to come relax.

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