Chapter One

Maybe if you don’t look at her, she’ll stop talking.

I twisted the string of thread around my finger, the thin, white twine slice into my skin in the most satisfying of ways. Above the line, the lack of blood turned my finger an unappealing shade of purple. I stared at it, wondering if the myths were true---would a body part fall off if the circulation smothered long enough?

Eh. I couldn't bring myself to care. Finger or no finger, I was still screwed. With a sigh, I unraveled the string and dropped it to the floor, careful not to let Mom notice.

“You’ll love Montana,” she was saying. She’d been saying lots of somethings, anyway, for the past twenty minutes, but I’d only listened for the last three. “I know your brother enjoys it.”

“Of course he does,” I said. “He’s just as retarded as this stupid idea.”

“Don’t use that word, Danielle.”

“What word? Stupid?”

My mother gave me one of her best stink-eyes without taking her gaze from the road.

“This is bullshit, and you know it.” I sat up in the passenger’s seat of the car, reaching around to peel the sweaty tee-shirt from the skin of my back.

“Language.”

“I'm almost an adult. I don't need to do this. It’s a total waste of time.”

“You know why we have to do this, don’t you?” Mom’s voice was sad now, but that was nothing new. Her voice was always sad, and why wouldn’t it be? Even from where I was sitting in the passenger’s seat, I could see the angry shiner near her right eye, the one heavily frosted with makeup to cover it.

“Yeah, I know why we have to do this,” I mumbled. Mom looked over at me. A complexion of what had once been stunning beauty had become worn down over the years, marked with various blemishes and wrinkles. Now, as she looked at me, she forced a smile.

“It will be good for you,” she said.

“You mean good for Dad?”

“Danielle--”

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