Excerpt: First page of ALICE, UNDONE

CHAPTER ONE

I’m coming apart.

I don’t think anyone’s noticed.

#

Alice was disintegrating. 

Little pieces of her soul were fraying off into the ether, she was sure of it. Soon, there would be nothing left.

She might prefer that, honestly. It couldn’t be worse than her mother’s constant pacing. Mrs. Cross had trekked the length of the front room at least a dozen times, growing more fidgety with each iteration. Alice wished her mother would say something. Neither of them had spoken since her mother had been called to the school to pick Alice up early.

Mrs. Cross had scarcely spoken even then, the whole time that Mrs. DeSouza was explaining the situation. Concerned. Alarmed. Cutting herself in the girl’s bathroom. “I understand,” she had told the principal, in the same voice she might use to say, “My daughter is an embarrassment.” Then, tight-lipped, she had taken Alice by the wrist and marched her out of school.

They had traveled without the car radio. Embarrassments didn’t deserve distractions. Alice hadn’t spoken either. She hadn’t cried. She had instead retreated so deeply into herself that she almost couldn’t feel the fuzzy cloth seat of her mother’s car. Had made herself small and invisible until she thought she might dissolve into the silence.

Once home, she drifted ghost-like from the blue mini-van to the sagging front room couch with its faded floral pattern, where she had been sitting for the last twenty minutes while her mother continued to say nothing. Alice’s insides were wound as tightly as spaghetti around a fork, except that then the fork was also used to stab her several times in the gut. How could she be so stupid? How could she let herself get caught? Her mother may have said the words “I understand” but she didn’t, would never understand. The only reason Alice’s parents loved her was because they didn’t know the depths of her soul.

Now, they would know it all.

Nobody could handle it all, all the bitter broken things she had kept so carefully concealed. Least of all her mother, who was now trudging her twentieth trip across the scraggly beige front room carpet.

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