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Authors: Karin Slaughter

Genesis

BOOK: Genesis
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genesis

Also by Karin Slaughter

Blindsighted
Kisscut
A Faint Cold Fear
Indelible
Faithless
Triptych
Skin Privilege
Fractured
Martin Misunderstood

Like a Charm (Ed.)

KARIN
SLAUGHTER

genesis

This eBook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author's and publisher's rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.

ISBN 9781409061540

Version 1.0

www.randomhouse.co.uk

Published by Century 2009

2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3 1

Copyright © Karin Slaughter 2009

Karin Slaughter has asserted her right under the Copyright, Designs
and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work

This novel is a work of fiction. Names and characters are the product of the author's
imagination and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental

This electronic book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher's prior consent in any form other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser

First published in Great Britain in 2009 by
Century
Random House, 20 Vauxhall Bridge Road,
London SW1V 2SA

www.rbooks.co.uk

Addresses for companies within The Random House Group Limited can be found at:
www.randomhouse.co.uk/offices.htm

The Random House Group Limited Reg. No. 954009

A CIP catalogue record for this book
is available from the British Library

ISBN: 9781409061540

Version 1.0

T
o my readers . . .
thank you for trusting me.

genesis

PROLOGUE

T
HEY HAD BEEN MARRIED FORTY YEARS TO THE DAY AND
Judith still felt like she didn't know everything about her husband.
Forty years of cooking Henry's dinner, forty years of ironing his
shirts, forty years of sleeping in his bed, and he was still a mystery.
Maybe that was why she kept doing all these things for him with little
or no complaint. There was a lot to be said for a man who, after
forty years, still managed to hold your attention.

Judith rolled down the car window, letting in some of the cool,
spring air. Downtown Atlanta was only thirty minutes away, but out
here in Conyers, you could still find areas of undeveloped land, even
some small farms. It was a quiet place, and Atlanta was just far
enough away so that she could appreciate the peace. Still, Judith
sighed as she caught a quick glimpse of the city's skyscrapers on the
distant horizon, thinking,
home
.

She was surprised at the thought, that Atlanta was now a place she
considered her home. Her life until recently had been suburban, even
rural. She preferred the open spaces to the concrete sidewalks of the
city, even while she admitted that it was nice living in so central a
location that you could walk to the corner store or a little café if
the mood struck you.

Days would pass without her even having to get into a car—
the type of life she would have never dreamed of ten years ago. She
could tell Henry felt the same. His shoulders bunched up around his
ears with tight resolve as he navigated the Buick down a narrow
country road. After decades of driving just about every highway and
interstate in the country, he instinctively knew all the back routes,
the doglegs and shortcuts.

Judith trusted him to get them home safely. She sat back in her
seat, staring out the window, blurring her eyes so that the trees bordering
the road seemed more like a thick forest. She made the trip to
Conyers at least once a week, and every time she felt like she saw
something new—a small house she'd never noticed, a bridge she'd
bumped over many times but never paid attention to. Life was like
that. You didn't realize what was passing you by until you slowed
down a little bit to get a better look.

They'd just come from an anniversary party in their honor,
thrown together by their son. Well, more likely thrown together by
Tom's wife, who managed his life like an executive assistant, housekeeper,
babysitter, cook and—presumably—concubine all rolled up
into one. Tom had been a joyful surprise, his birth an event doctors
had said would never come about. Judith had loved every part of him
on first sight, accepted him as a gift that she would cherish with every
bone in her body. She had done everything for him, and now that
Tom was in his thirties, he still seemed to need an awful lot of taking
care of. Perhaps Judith had been too conventional a wife, too subservient
a mother, so that her son had grown into the sort of man
who needed—expected—a wife to do everything for him.

Judith certainly had not enslaved herself to Henry. They had
married in 1969, a time when women could actually have interests
other than cooking the perfect pot roast and discovering the best
method to get stains out of the carpet. From the start, Judith had
been determined to make her life as interesting as possible. She'd been
a room mother at Tom's school. She'd volunteered at the local homeless
shelter and helped start a recycling group in the neighborhood.
When Tom was older, Judith took a job doing light bookkeeping for
a local business and joined a running team through the church to
train for marathons. This active lifestyle stood in stark contrast to
that of Judith's own mother, a woman who toward the end of her life
was so ravaged from raising nine children, so drained from the constant
physical demands of being a farmer's wife, that some days she
was too depressed to even speak.

Though, Judith had to admit, she had herself been a somewhat
typical woman in those early years. Embarrassingly, she was one of
those girls who had gone to college specifically to find a husband. She
had grown up near Scranton, Pennsylvania, in a town so small it
didn't merit a dot on the map. The only men available to her were
farmers, and they were hardly interested in Judith. Judith could not
blame them. The mirror told no lies. She was a bit too plump, a bit
too bucktoothed, and a bit too much of everything else, to be the
sort of woman Scranton men took for a wife. And then there was her
father, a stern disciplinarian whom no sane man would seek out for a
father-in-law, at least not in exchange for a bucktoothed, pear-shaped
girl who had no natural talent for farming.

The truth was that Judith had always been the odd one in the family,
the one who didn't quite fit in. She read too much. She hated
farmwork. Even as a young girl, she was not drawn to animals and
did not want to be responsible for their care and feeding. None of her
sisters and brothers had been sent away for higher education. There
were two brothers who had dropped out of ninth grade, and an older
sister who had married rather quickly and given birth to her first
child seven months later. Not that anyone bothered to do the math.
Enveloped in a constant state of denial, her mother had remarked to
her dying day that her first grandchild had always been big-boned,
even as an infant. Thankfully, Judith's father had seen the writing on
the wall so far as his middle girl was concerned. There would be no
marriage of convenience with any of the local boys, not least of all
because none of them found her remotely convenient. Bible college,
he decided, was not just Judith's last—but her only—chance.

At the age of six, Judith had been struck in the eye by a flying
piece of debris as she chased after the tractor. From that moment on,
she'd always worn glasses. People assumed she was cerebral because of
the glasses, when in fact the opposite was true. Yes, she loved to read,
but her tastes ran more toward trashy dime novel than literary. Still, the
egghead label had stuck. What was it they used to say? "Men don't
make passes at women who wear glasses." So, it was surprising—no,
more like shocking—when on Judith's first day of college in her first
class, the teaching assistant had winked at her.

She had thought something was in his eye, but there was no mistaking
Henry Coldfield's intentions when, after class, he had pulled
her aside and asked her if she'd like to go down to the drugstore and
have a soda with him. The wink, apparently, was the beginning and
end of his gregariousness. Henry was a very shy man in person;
strange, considering he later became the top salesman for a liquor distribution
company—a job he passionately despised even three years
past retirement.

Judith supposed Henry's ability to blend had come from being the
son of an Army colonel, moving around the country so often, never
staying at one base more than a few years at a time. There was no
passionate love at first sight—that came later. Initially, Judith had
simply been attracted to the fact that Henry was attracted to her. It was
a novelty for the pear from Scranton, but Judith had always been at the
opposite spectrum of Marx's philosophy—Groucho, not Karl: She was
more than willing to join any club that would have her as a member.

Henry was a club unto himself. He was neither handsome nor
ugly; forward nor reticent. With his neatly parted hair and flat accent,
average
would be the best way to describe him, which Judith
later did in a letter to her older sister. Rosa's response had been something
along the lines of, "Well, I suppose that's the best you can hope
for." In her defense, Rosa was pregnant at the time with her third
child while her second was still in diapers, but still, Judith had never
forgiven her sister for the slight—not against herself, but against
Henry. If Rosa failed to notice how special Henry was, it was because
Judith was a poor writer; Henry too nuanced a man for mere
words on a page. Perhaps it was all for the best. Rosa's sour observation
had given Judith a reason to break from her family and embrace
this winkingly introverted, mercurial stranger.

Henry's gregarious shyness was only the first of many dichotomies
Judith had observed in her husband over the years. He was
terrified of heights, but had earned his amateur pilot's license as a
teenager. He sold alcohol but never imbibed. He was a homebody,
but he spent most of his adult life traveling through the Northwest,
then the Midwest, as promotions moved them around the country
much like the Army had done when Henry was a child. His life, it
seemed, was all about making himself do things he did not want to
do. And yet, he often told Judith that her company was the one thing
that he truly enjoyed.

Forty years, and so many surprises.

Sadly, Judith doubted her son held any such surprises for his
spouse. While Tom was growing up, Henry was on the road three
weeks out of every four, and his parenting came in spurts that didn't
necessarily highlight his more compassionate side. Subsequently,
Tom became everything his father had shown him during those
growing years: strict, unbending, driven.

There was something else to it as well. Judith didn't know if it was
because Henry saw his sales job as a duty to his family rather than his
passion, or because he hated being away from home so much, but it
seemed that every interaction he had with their son held an underlying
tension:
Don't make the same mistakes I've made. Don't get trapped in a
job you despise. Don't compromise your beliefs to put food on the table.
The
only positive thing he recommended to the boy was marrying a good
woman. If only he had been more specific. If only he hadn't been so
hard.

Why was it that men were such exacting parents to their male
children? Judith guessed they wanted their sons to succeed in places
they had not. In those early days, when Judith was first pregnant, the
thought of a daughter had spread a rapid warmth through her body,
followed by a searing cold. A young girl like Judith, out there in the
world, defying her mother, defying the world. It gave her an understanding
of Henry's desire that Tom do better, be better, have everything
that he wanted and more.

Tom had certainly succeeded at his job, though his mouse of a
wife was a disappointment. Every time Judith came face-to-face with
her daughter-in-law, she itched to tell the woman to stand up
straight, speak up, and for the love of God, grow a backbone. One of
the volunteers at the church had said the other week that men married
their mothers. Judith hadn't argued with the woman, but she'd
defy anyone to find a lick of similarity she shared with her son's wife.
Except for the desire to spend time with her grandchildren, Judith
could never see her daughter-in-law again and be perfectly happy.

The grandchildren were the sole reason they had moved to Atlanta,
after all. She and Henry had uprooted their retirement life in Arizona
and moved almost two thousand miles to this hot city with its smog
alerts and gang killings just so they could be close to two of the most
spoiled and ungrateful little things this side of the Appalachia.

Judith glanced at Henry as he tapped his fingers on the steering
wheel, humming tunelessly as he drove. They never talked about
their grandchildren except in glowing terms, possibly because a fit of
honesty might reveal that they didn't much like them—and then
where would they be? Their lives turned upside down for two small
children who were on gluten-free diets, strictly regimented naptimes
and tightly scheduled play dates, but only with "like-minded
children who shared the same goals."

So far as Judith could see, the only goal her grandchildren had was
to be the center of attention. She imagined you couldn't sneeze without
finding a like-minded, self-centered child, but according to her
daughter-in-law, it was an almost impossible task. Wasn't that the
whole point of youth, to be self-centered? And wasn't it the job of
the parent to drill that out of you? Certainly, it was clear to all involved
that it wasn't the job of the grandparents.

When little Mark had spilled his unpasteurized juice on Henry's
slacks and Lilly had eaten so many of the Hershey's Kisses she'd
found in Judith's purse that she'd reminded Judith of a homeless
woman at the shelter last month who was tweaking so badly on
methamphetamines that she'd wet herself, Henry and Judith had
merely smiled—chuckled, even—as if these were merely wonderful
little quirks that the children would soon grow out of.

Soon was not coming soon enough, however, and now that
they'd reached the ages of seven and nine, Judith was starting to lose
faith that one day, her grandchildren would turn into polite and loving
young adults who did not feel the urge to constantly interrupt
adult conversation and run around the house screaming at such high
decibels that animals two counties over started howling. Judith's only
consolation was that Tom took them to church every Sunday. She of
course wanted her grandchildren exposed to a life in Christ, but
more importantly, she wanted them to learn the lessons taught in
Sunday School.
Honor thy mother and father. Do unto others as you would
have them do unto you. Don't think you're going to waste your life, drop out of
school and move in with Grandma and Grandpa any time soon.

"Hey!" Henry barked as a car in the oncoming lane shot past
them so close that the Buick actually shook on its tires. "Kids," he
grumbled, gripping the wheel tightly in his hands.

The closer he got to seventy, the more Henry seemed to embrace
the role of cranky old man. Sometimes, this was endearing. Other
times, Judith wondered how long it would be before he started shaking
his fist in the air, blaming all the ills of the world on "kids." The
age of these kids seemed to range anywhere from four to forty, and
his irritation ticked up exponentially when he caught them doing
something that he used to do himself, but now could no longer enjoy.
Judith dreaded the day they took away his pilot's license, something
that might come sooner rather than later considering his last
checkup at the cardiologist had shown some irregularities. It was one
of the reasons they had decided to retire to Arizona, where there was
no snow to shovel or lawn to maintain.

BOOK: Genesis
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