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ART WORK BY JIMMIE HINES
Available in paperback and ebook
wherever books are sold 

Choices, regrets, and bad decisions

with the OJ Simpson trial as background noise.

 

 

2021 FIRST PLACE AWARD, NEXT GENERATION INDIES,

FIRST FICTION

 

2022 FINALIST, SCREENCRAFT CINEMATIC BOOK AWARD

 

2021 FINALIST, AMERICAN BOOK AWARDS, 

WOMEN'S FICTION

2022 SILVER TITAN AWARD

2022 HONORABLE MENTION, LOS ANGELES BOOK AWARD,

REGIONAL FICTION

 

CHAPTER ONE 

June 17, 1994

BRENDA CAN’T DECIDE what is worse, watching her husband drive like a maniac or worrying about some idiot on the San Diego Freeway crashing into his brand-new truck. Everyone is driving too fast, following too closely, and changing lanes without signaling. At least the traffic is moving, she tells herself, somewhat of a miracle on a getaway Friday. And then for no apparent reason, all the brake lights go red and every vehicle in all eight lanes across the freeway comes to a dead stop. She braces her hand on the dashboard as her foot instinctively reaches for the nonexistent brake pedal.  

“Will you stop that?” Frank says.

 

“You should have taken surface streets.”  

 

“Surface streets would have been worse.” Frank drums his fingertips on the steering wheel. “Jesus Christ. What the hell is going on?”

 

“It’s Friday night. What did you expect?” Brenda wonders again why he’s so intent on going to a housewarming party in Torrance just because some woman he works with at the post office bought herself a condo. It doesn’t seem much to celebrate, but Frank changed into his best Hawaiian shirt and a new pair of shorts as soon as he came home from work.  

 

“I could have at least made my seven-layer dip. I wish you’d given me a little more notice.” She never goes to parties emptyhanded. She’s famous for her dip, her guacamole, and her double fudge Bundt cake.

 

“Why would you take the girls and not me?”  

 

“I told you, you didn’t have to come. There must be an accident ahead.”  

 

She flips down the visor to check her hair. The new style is very blond and very short, with loose spiral curls gelled away from her face. Her hairdresser copied it from a magazine photo of Drew Barrymore, which her daughters find ridiculous, their ancient mother imitating an actress their age. Frank either hasn’t noticed or has chosen not to comment. His red hair is flecked with gray and there are tiny lines etched around his green eyes, but (luckily or unfortunately, lately she can’t decide which is more accurate) he’s still the best-looking man she knows.

 

Peggy and Allison laugh together in the back seat about something. She glances at them as she touches up her lipstick.

 

Her daughters are barely ten months apart in age but could not be more different in temperament or appearance. Peggy’s a pretty girl, a somewhat sturdier version of herself. They are both brown-eyed blonds, although Peggy’s hair is more of a dishwater color and her eyes are always too serious. If only she’d wear something more flattering than that flannel shirt and those overalls. Allison’s especially adorable today in her slip dress over a plain white T-shirt. Her youngest is suddenly breathtakingly beautiful, tall, redheaded, green-eyed, impatient, and easily irritated with her all the time, just like Frank is.  

 

“Who is this woman again?” Brenda asks.

 

“You’ve met Linda before at Bill’s barbeque on Memorial Day. She transferred here from Denver.”

 

She vaguely remembers Linda now. Single, older, with big horsey teeth. “I don’t understand a woman buying a place on her own.”

 

“Me either,” Allison says. “Has she just given up on ever getting married?”

 

“God,” Peggy says. “Women can buy houses on their own, you know. You are aware it’s almost a new century.”

 

“That’s my girl,” Frank says.

 

“I know women can do whatever they want,” Brenda says, noting Peggy’s satisfied grin at Frank’s praise. “But I don’t understand why anyone would buy a condo in Torrance.”

 

“Don’t even think about it, asshole,” Frank says as a green Corolla tries to cut in in front of them. “Linda wanted to live closer to her mother.”

 

“Condos don’t appreciate like houses do. Especially in Torrance. She’ll never get her investment back.”

 

Now the Corolla is blocking both lanes and Frank blasts his horn.  

 

“Let’s just get off at the next exit and go out to dinner,”

Brenda says. “I saw a Cheesecake Factory a few miles back.”  

 

“I can’t get off the freeway right now,” Frank says. “I’m locked in.”

 

“Why are all those people standing on the overpass?” Allison asks.  

Brenda looks up and indeed, there are dozens of people on the overpass, staring intently through the chain-link fence at the freeway below. A few of them hold signs. HONK IF YOU LOVE THE JUICE! RUN O. J. RUN!

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