Melissa Foster: Chasing Amanda

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Melissa Foster Chasing Amanda
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    Chasing Amanda
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    Старинная литература / на английском языке
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    Английский
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ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.

Publishers Note:

This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, places, and events are the work of the author’s imagination.

Any resemblance to real persons, places, or events is coincidental.

Melissa Foster ©2011

Chasing Amanda

When the secrets of the past hold the hope of the future.

Written by

Melissa Foster

For Leon, Evelyn, and Sidney Alice Shulman, who will never be forgotten

One

Molly kissed her husband goodbye and closed the front door of her colonial home, listening to the silence that echoed in her ears. It had been eight years since Amanda’s death, eight years since she’d escaped the painful memories of Philadelphia, and moved to the quiet community of Boyds, Maryland. In the stillness of the mornings, Molly found herself missing the incessant background noises of the city, which seemed amplified in the six weeks since her son, Erik, had left for college. Her bare feet lightly slapped the ceramic tile as she padded into the kitchen, stopping in front of the picture window to watch Stealth, her rambunctious Rottweiler, and Trigger, her playful black lab. Molly briefly envied their carefree lives, then turned to look at the calendar that was clipped to the refrigerator with an enormous magnet that read, Dance like nobody’s watching! The calendar was blank, as it had been every day this month, except for the third Thursday, where she had scribbled, Civic Association Meeting. Molly sighed, remembering a time when every day had held a different list of assignments and chores, schedules for Erik, and important meetings for Cole. Eight years ago she had needed a calm, almost boring, lifestyle to save her sanity. Now, she wondered if she hadn’t let it go on that way for too long. She coyly lifted her eyes to the magnet once again, remembering when Erik was young, and they’d danced unabashedly around the kitchen to silly songs from Sesame Street. The edges of her lips curled upward at the memory. That seemed like a lifetime ago. She raised her eyebrows, glancing around the empty kitchen, like a child about to reach into the cookie jar, and suddenly burst into spasmodic movements that did not resemble a dance by any stretch of the imagination. The phone rang, saving her from feeling any more ridiculous. “Yeah, right,” she said to the magnet, and answered the phone.

“Hey, Ma, what’s up?” Erik’s use of “Ma” rather than “Mom” made Molly smile. When Erik was about twelve years old, he’d suddenly started calling Molly “Ma” when he needed her help or was simply in a jovial mood, and he’d used the term “Mom” when he was angry, scared, or upset, just as Molly had called him Erik Michael Tanner when he’d misbehaved as a child. Molly had seen it as a sign of his maturing, testing the waters.

Molly blushed, her lame excuse for a dance fresh on her mind. “Not much. Are you okay?” A shadow of doubt about her mothering skills momentarily gave Molly pause. There had been a time, just before finally moving away from Philadelphia, when she’d been unable to care for herself, much less for Erik. Cole had stepped into the roles of both mother and father while Molly struggled to come to grips with the trauma that had befallen Amanda. Even now, years later, that fleeting trepidation was enough of a reminder to keep Molly on her toes.

“Yeah, ’course. I wanted your opinion. There’s this girl, Jenna? We’ve been hanging out a lot, and, um, well, she used to hang out with this guy down the hall, and—”

“And you’re his friend, and you aren’t sure if you should keep hanging out with her, right?”

Erik breathed a sigh of relief. “Yeah, exactly.”

This was nothing new for Molly. She’d been helping Erik with everything from skinned knees to breakups forever. When Erik was younger, he’d draw Molly outside to discuss matters of the heart, as if the fresh air had somehow made things easier for him to discuss. Molly pictured the way he’d drop his eyes as he spoke, the way he bit his lower lip between thoughts, just as he had since he was four, and the nervous, crooked smile that always accompanied a relieved sigh when he’d heard her thoughts. She pictured that smile while she spoke with him, gently asking about his relationship with the other boy, how much he liked Jenna, and generally getting a feel for his long-term intent, of which, of course, he wasn’t really sure, although he “really liked” her.

“Okay, so basically, I need to decide if I’m good enough friends with this other guy to be worth the pain I’ll cause him if I keep seeing her?” The conflict in Erik’s voice was tangible.

“Yeah, in my opinion, anyway. Is she worth hurting someone else, and are you good enough friends with the guy to care?” Molly thought about how cold the latter sounded, quickly revising, “It’s all about karma, Erik. Would you care if you were him? That’s what you need to think about. Put yourself in his situation. Was it a painful breakup? Were they madly in love, or was it a college fling?”

“Right. Okay.”

Molly knew the meaning behind that particular response, This isn’t easy, soI don’t want to think about it right now. “You’ll figure it out,” she said. “Everything else okay?”

“I guess. Thanks, Ma, for making it a little harder,” he laughed. “I gotta run. I’ve got class in five minutes, and it’s across campus. Love you.”

Before Molly could answer, the line went dead, and Molly longed for a hug from the boy who was no longer little, the boy who was now a young man and only needed to touch base with his mom rather than follow her around, hanging onto her every word. Molly missed those moments, feeling as though mothering a young man came with a whole different set of guidelines than mothering a boy, and accepting a phone dismissal without being hurt was one of the requirements. She missed building school projects and chaperoning field trips, taking pictures at soccer games, and standing at the sidelines, painfully silent, as her son had ordered her to remain because he was embarrassed by her cheering him on, “Go, Erik! That’s my boy!” Molly shook her head, missing the child that he’d never be again, and smirking at the trials and tribulations that accompanied youth—and motherhood—then she headed upstairs to put on her running clothes.

Molly had wondered, recently, if they’d done the right thing when they’d uprooted from Philadelphia and moved to the country. Those thoughts were immediately chased by painful memories of Amanda. Nine years ago, Molly hadn’t been sure she’d make it through each hour, much less each day. After Amanda’s death, she’d spiraled into an abyss of depression, wrapped in the guilt of her silence, paralyzed by the truth—if she’d only spoken up, told somebody besides Cole, then maybe she could have saved her. Memories of that dreadful afternoon haunted her, the nightmares that followed suppressed her only hope of escape from the mental torture. She couldn’t eat, and sleeping was out of the question. Losing her job had come as no surprise, since the commute to and from work, the sounds of the busy streets, had brought constant panic—an obsessive need to search the face of every child, looking for that hint of fear, looking for the deceit in the eyes of adults. Every screeching child had reminded her of Amanda, bringing forth a gut-wrenching visceral reaction, causing parents to guide their children away from the crazy woman who wouldn’t stop asking them, Are you sure this is your parent? Molly remembered the unease she had felt as Amanda’s abduction had unfolded before her.

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