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Authors: Terri Ann Leidich

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Except, her euphoria didn't last long. Ten minutes later, Alice was disgusted with
herself. She surveyed the wreckage from the candy bars. Wrappers were strewn everywhere,
and chocolate smudges decorated her fingers. She tried to wipe the chocolate smears
off her hands, but the more she rubbed them, the bigger the mess became. She stopped
and sat silently on the bed. The headache she always experienced after her binges
was starting at the nape of her neck. Somehow it was disturbingly comforting.

Alice grabbed a piece of dirty clothing from the floor and angrily wiped at the chocolate
smudges. An internal struggle was beginning to build inside of her. The part that
needed comforting railed against the part that knew she was ultimately hurting herself.
Alice felt caught in the middle of the battle that was raging between her mind and
her desperate need for nurturing.

Feeling exhausted, she lay back on the sagging mattress. Gathering a bulge of stomach
fat between her hands, she whispered into the empty room, “I won't do this again.
I'm going to start losing weight. I'm going to start cleaning my house, and I'm going
to be a better mother. I am. I swear I am.”

With purpose, Alice climbed out of bed and cleaned up the mess from the candy bars.
As she headed into the kitchen to make good on her promise to herself, the phone
rang. She huffed as she answered.

“That you, Alice?”

“Yes, Mom, it's me.” Her mother always asked the same question each time
she called.
Who the heck else is gonna answer my phone, Queen Elizabeth?
Alice thought as she
lowered herself in the chair near the phone.

“I'm feeling poorly today, Alice.”

Alice closed her eyes and leaned her head back against the wall.
This will be another
long call. Mom is in one of her whining moods again.
Knowing that her mother expected
her to just be quiet and listen, Alice sunk into the reality of her life, acquiescing
to the silent demand.

When Alice didn't say anything, her mother continued. “Well, did you hear what I
said? Doesn't anybody care how I am? I could die right up here in this old farmhouse,
and you wouldn't care at all.” She let out a long, purposeful sigh. “A woman raises
three daughters, and then they all go off to leave her to be lonely and die alone.
Some gratitude after all I did for all of you. And you're the worst. Seems you could
come out and see me more than once a week.”

As the voice droned on and on, Alice sunk farther into the chair, rolled her eyes,
and closed off her mind. She knew she didn't have to really listen because it was
the same old words she had been hearing for years now. She could probably recite
them before Mom even spoke them.

Several minutes passed before her mother ran out of anything to say and returned
to her original statement. “I'm feeling poorly today. Chest seems to be aching some.
I'm gonna die, you know that? I'm gonna die, and I'll probably be alone in this old
farmhouse when I do.”

“You're just tired. You'll be okay. Why don't you get some rest? I'll come to see
you tomorrow, I promise.”

“You sure?”

“I'm sure.” Alice sighed. “I'm tired now, Mom. I'll talk to you tomorrow.” As Alice
hung up the phone feeling exhausted from listening to her mother, she scanned the
dirty kitchen, then slowly walked back to the bedroom, locked the door, and headed
to yet another well-hidden stash of chocolate.

The streetlight shining through the window cast shadows on the ceiling in Alice's
bedroom. After lying awake for hours, her eyes were accustomed to the semi-darkness.
She hadn't been able to sleep tonight. Everything in her life was in chaos. Even
her children were out of control. One of the neighbors
had accused Sam of stealing
money from her pocketbook. Sarah hadn't come in until after midnight, and it was
a school night.

Alice felt scared and helpless. The candy bars helped her feel better, but it never
lasted long. Plus, she was getting worried about her headaches and the blurriness
in her eyes. Yet, without her chocolate she didn't think she could put up with Jake,
the kids, and the house. Especially Jake.

A sob started in her belly as her mind wandered to the large bottle of aspirin in
the bathroom and what it would feel like to peacefully sleep forever. Then the front
door opened, and Alice heard Jake drunkenly stagger through the house. She glanced
at the clock. It was three a.m.

Bile churned in her stomach, and a lump lodged in her throat. Her fear-filled eyes
glared into the darkened room as she heard him bump into something, swear, then kick
whatever he'd bumped out of the way. Alice quickly turned on her side, away from
the door, and scooted down lower in the bed, trying to become invisible. She didn't
want to face him. She didn't want to deal with him. If she pretended to be asleep,
maybe, just maybe, he'd leave her alone tonight. Sometimes he did if he thought she
was sleeping. Maybe tonight she would be lucky.

She listened as he made his way down the hall. He stopped briefly, twisted a doorknob,
slapped his hand hard on a door, swore, and continued his stumbling toward their
bedroom.
Did he try the closet door again? Is he so drunk he doesn't know where his
own bedroom is?
Her breath seemed to stick into her throat as Jake staggered into
the room.

Even from a distance, Alice could smell alcohol and could tell from the sound of
his movements that he was worse off than usual. Her fingers curled tightly around
her pillow, pulling it closer to her, trying to shield herself from what she knew
was coming. Tonight he sounded like an angry drunk. There were times when he came
home a happy drunk, and he was
almost
kind to her. Then there were nights like tonight
when he was mean and angry.

She unconsciously curled into a fetal position. A large hand roughly grabbed her
shoulder. “Alice! Hey, fatso! Wake up! I've got a hard-on and need your body.” Alice
cringed. Deep inside, she felt another piece of herself die.

It hurt when he was nasty to her. It hurt when she was just a release for him. She
longed for tenderness, for caring. She continued to pretend she was
sleeping. She
couldn't take this, not tonight. His hand briskly slapped the back of her head and
his voice became louder. “Damn it, Alice. I said wake up.”

Light blared into her eyes as he flipped on the wall switch. He forcefully turned
her toward him. She sensed that he wouldn't give up. She knew it was one of those
nights, and she might as well just endure it.
It will soon be over. Please, God,
let it soon be over.

There was no gentleness in Jake tonight, no concern for her or if her body was ready
to receive his. He climbed on top of her. When she started to protest that he was
hurting her, he slapped her, telling her to shut up. Alice closed her eyes, gritted
her teeth in pain as another chunk of her soul was torn from her.

Jake grunted and
groaned as he spurted into her, heaving into the air in angry, gasping thrusts. Then
he rolled off her and almost instantly slipped into a drunken sleep. Alice lay in
the well-lit room feeling bruised and broken. She wondered how many more pieces of
her heart and soul she could lose before she would just be a hollow shell.

Chapter 4

Dallas, Texas

Suzanne stood facing the floor-to-ceiling windows that covered one wall of her large
office and gazed out at the Dallas skyline. One sigh followed another as she picked
at her fingernails, making a mess out of her latest manicure. She hated this part
of her job.
Why do I have to discipline?
She exhaled another deep sigh. Why couldn't
everyone just do what they were told?
Especially Jeff. Why do I keep listening to
his excuses?
She slammed her fist against her leg and quickly plopped into her chair.
Why didn't she just fire him?

Leaning toward her intercom, Suzanne buzzed her secretary. “Melanie, send Jeff in
now, would you please?” Sitting back in her chair, Suzanne braced herself for the
confrontation.

Jeff Davidson casually walked into Suzanne's office, stood for a few minutes and
took in the view, then slowly slid into one of the chairs facing her desk. “Now what,
Suzanne?” He straightened his tie, sat up a bit taller, and stared directly at her.
“Are you worried about my sales figures again? I've told you before that I've got
several big sales just on the verge.” As he smiled at her, Suzanne felt like she
was looking at a cat that was about to pounce on its prey. “I've been working on
them for some time. They'll come to fruition any day now.”

Suzanne gazed directly into his eyes until the smile began to leave his face, then
she leaned forward in her chair and slowly enunciated her every word
for impact.
“I don't want excuses, Mr. Davidson. I want results. If you can't get them, I'll
hire someone who can.”

Her eyes were cold and her face, bereft of warmth, could be molded out of steel.
“I'll give you six more months, Mr. Davidson. But consider this a probationary period.
You get your act together and those sales up, or you're history.” Her voice lowered
for emphasis and effect. “I've got documentation of all those days you didn't work.
Days you thought you got away with. Expenses you thought you covered. Well, you didn't.
I've got enough on you to not only boot you out of here, but to make sure you don't
land another good job in this company or any other successful company in this industry.
You've played around enough, Romeo. Now you're going to get your act together. Do
you understand that?”

With anger glistening in his eyes, Jeff sat silently, watching her. For a moment
his stillness and the expression in his eyes frightened Suzanne, but she refused
to acknowledge it. Turning away from him, she simply said, “That will be all.”

After Jeff left her office, Suzanne leaned back in her chair and sucked in a deep
breath. She was exhausted from dealing with him. She had wanted to fire him a long
time ago, but somehow he always charmed her into giving him another chance. Her body
ached as her late nights were starting to tell on her, but she couldn't think about
them. She couldn't remember enough of them to think about.
I'm not going to do that
again. I'm not. I don't need it. I won't.

Suzanne had made that pledge to herself many times before but never kept it. During
the day was one thing. She could do that. During the day, she had work to occupy
her. She had her own little kingdom to control, and control it she did. Everything,
including her appearance, was precisely how she wanted it. Her dark brown hair was
always pulled back from her face and wrapped in a tight coil at the back of her neck.
The severely tailored navy-blue suit and white silk shirt did little to accentuate
her figure. She used very little makeup and did little to even acknowledge her femininity.
That part of her scared her. She didn't feel safe with it. At least, not when she
was sober.

At work, she could focus her mind on other things, but at night, she was plagued
by her past and by her father. As she thought about him now, her stomach coiled into
a tight knot and sunk deep inside of her. Nausea nearly
overcame her, and she quickly
pushed her father's face and all the memories connected with him as far away as possible.

“That was pretty tough, wasn't it?”

Startled, Suzanne quickly turned toward the door to see her secretary, Melanie Dawson,
standing there. “Yes, but I think I got my point across.”

“He's such a worm.” Melanie leaned against the doorjamb. “I just don't get it. Why
do you put up with him?”

Suzanne shrugged. “I don't know.”

“He's not that good, Suzanne.” Melanie easily used Suzanne's first name and had for
several years as their relationship had built into a friendship as well—at least
as much of a friendship as Suzanne would allow herself to have with anyone.

“Maybe I see his potential,” Suzanne replied.

“Potential, yes. But all the garbage that's piled on top of it makes it hard to see
his potential or to even deal with him,” Melanie said.

Suzanne sat back in her chair and studied the pretty, blue-eyed blonde. “Sometimes
I think you should be the boss. You're a very smart cookie.”

Melanie smiled. “For a dumb blonde.” She pulled on one of the many curls that surrounded
her face.

“Beauty does not take away from brains or your abilities.” Suzanne grabbed the cup
of cold coffee on her desk.

“So, why do you hide yours?” Melanie asked.

“What? My abilities?” Suzanne coughed, but she wasn't sure if it was in reaction
to the cold coffee or Melanie's comment.

“No, your beauty.”

Suzanne squirmed in her chair. “I don't have any. I'm a very plain person. Brains,
yes, but that's it.”

BOOK: Family Inheritance
4.02Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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