Excerpt: Opening from "Bright as Day"

No perfume again today.  I’ve been really busy with the normal Back to School mom  stuff, and also ferrying Bookworm around to various things (Governor’s School, doctor’s office to see about her pinky finger she slammed in the car door Sunday, hospital to get X-ray for said finger, band practice, cross-country practice, et cetera, et cetera).  Also, I am burning up in the middle with a new story, so any spare minutes I get have been spent writing.  I find that if I don’t drop things and write right now what’s going on in my head, it goes away.  So, here’s what I’ve got right now as the opening page of this story (which is not the novel I excerpted earlier – that one I’ve been working on for about three years now).

Monday, August 1, 2011

Jason Povlich, sixteen-year veteran director of the Fairlee County (Virginia) High School band, was toasting a bagel and tasting the first sips of his morning coffee when he heard. The radio was on, with the news report, and he was rearranging his To-Do List for the following week’s band camp when the morning news guy said something completely unexpected.

In local news, two people are dead following a single-car accident last night near Star Lake in Franklin. Apparently, the driver of the vehicle fell asleep and hit an embankment, killing both passengers in the vehicle. Names are being withheld pending the informing of family. Also in Franklin yesterday, twenty-one-year-old Thomas Day Donovan was arrested on charges of rape and assault. Donovan is alleged to have called 911 himself, requesting medical help for the victim, who is not being named according to the nature of the crime.”

Mr. Povlich spat out his mouthful of coffee, said something out loud he wouldn’t have liked to have had his mother overhear, and went to find his wife.

She was drying her hair in the bathroom, and he waited until she saw him in the mirror and turned off the hair dryer. Without preamble, he told her, “Day Donovan’s just been arrested.”

She put down the dryer. “What?”

You heard me.”

Day Donovan?” Katie Povlich repeated, in incredulous tones. “Arrested? Why, for God’s sake?”

For rape,” Jason said.

Rape?” she exclaimed, with even more disbelief. “We are talking about the same kid you had in band three years ago, right? Sweet kid, wouldn’t step on a bug?”

Has to be. I don’t know any other Thomas Day Donovans in Franklin, age 21.”

There’s some mistake,” Katie said, with finality. “There’s just no way.”

I agree,” Jason said. “I can’t believe it. If Day’s a rapist, I will personally eat a tuba.”

Similar mouthfuls of breakfast coffee had been spat out of mouths all over Franklin and the surrounding towns. Boy Scout leaders, teachers in the Fairlee County school system, employees of DiTech Systems, and members of the Angels Rest Holiness Church were just as incredulous as the Povliches. Day Donovan a rapist? The earth shook on its foundations.

Both radio and TV were off in the home of David and Lisa Harper. Their younger daughter Tess, age 17, was up early for once, eating cereal at the breakfast table and watching her parents have a silent eyeball conversation. “Where’s Meredith?” Tess asked.

She’s asleep upstairs,” Lisa said. “Don’t wake her up.”

Okay.” Tess meditatively crunched cereal. “What’s going on? Did she come in late or drunk or something?”

David and Lisa looked at each other with some alarm. We’re going to have to tell Tess something, David said without words.

And, Not yet, Lisa replied, equally silently. To her daughter she said, “Why don’t you stick around the house today? Hang out with Meredith for a change. She won’t be here very long – she goes back to college in a few weeks.”

Tess perked up. “Cool. She can drive me to the mall. There’s a sale at Anthropologie.”

No, I mean stay home,” Lisa said, sharper than she’d meant to. “I need you to stay home.”

And do what exactly?” Tess demanded, putting down her spoon. “Play Barbies? Swing on the swingset? What do you think we are, eight years old?”

David made a choked noise in his throat and got up from the table. He pulled out his handkerchief and blew his nose. “Allergies,” he said to Tess. “Mind your mother and stay home, young lady.”

Fine.” Honestly, parents, Tess thought. They never knew anything. She ate her cereal and went to text Chels and Mikayla that her parents were imprisoning her against her will and not to expect her at the pool. She also knew that something was up, probably with Meredith. Probably one of her panic attacks again, which she was not allowed to mention to anyone outside the family.

She went to Meredith’s room to just crack open the door and see if she was awake yet, but when she poked her head in, Mere was rolling around in her covers the way she did when she was waking up and stretching. “Hey,” Tess said. “What’s going on?”

There was an incoherent mumble from under the sheets.

Did you have one of your panic things last night? Dad is all weird today, and Mom told me not to turn on the TV and disturb you.”

Meredith sat up groggily, rubbing her face with both hands. One camisole strap was falling off her right shoulder. The other shoulder, Tess noticed, was bruised pretty badly, a big ugly purple blotch on the tender inner arm stretching up to her collarbone. “Ow,” Meredith said, “That hurt.” She also had a scratch and bruise on her left cheek. But she smiled at Tess, a strange smile that was somehow both shy and smug. Like she had a secret, Tess thought. Mere was pretty tight with her secrets.

What happened to you?” Tess asked. Something must have happened, for Mere to be bruised up and Mom and Dad both weird and staying home from work.

Meredith did not answer her, instead reaching over to the nightstand for her phone. She flipped it open and frowned with concentration, scrolling through the menus for something. She flopped back down on the bed. “Ow,” she said again, and started thumbing a text message.

Who’re you texting?” Tess said, not really expecting an answer. But Meredith turned the phone around so Tess could see:

hey how r u?   im still groggy fr antipanic meds & sore fr fall    u get home ok?   u wr rly freaked out last nite   txt me back k”

Who’s that to?” Tess wanted to know, all at sea with “meds” and “fall” and “freaked out.”

Day, of course,” Meredith said, and smiled that strange smile again.

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