Chapter One

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HAILEY ANNE MONROE

You already know that I'm one of those perfect lies we've discussed, a façade of choices that were never my own. But that one perfect lie is too simplistic to describe who, and what, I am. I am perhaps a dozen perfect lies, the creation of at least one of those lies beginning the day I was born. That's when the clock started ticking. That's when decisions started being made for me. That's when every step that could be taken was to ensure I was "perfect." My mother, a brilliant doctor, ensured I was one hundred percent healthy, in all ways a test, pin prick, and inspection could ensure. I was, of course, vaccinated on a strict schedule, because in my household we must be so squeaky clean that we cannot possibly give anything to anyone.

Meanwhile, my father, the consummate politician, began planning my college years while my diapers were still being changed. I would be an attorney. I would go to an Ivy League college. I would be a part of the elite. Therefore, I was with tutors before I could spell. I was in dance at five years old. Of course, there was also piano, and French, Spanish, and Chinese language classes. The one joy I found was in an art class, which my mother suggested when I was twelve. It became my obsession, my one salvation, my one escape. Outside of her. She was not like my father. She was my friend, not my dictator. She was the bridge between us. The one we both adored. She listened to me. She listened to him. She tried to find compromise between us. She gave me choices, within the limits I was allowed. She tried to make me happy. She did make me as happy as anyone who was a puppet to a political machine could be, but the bigger the machine, the more developed, the harder that became. And still she fought for me.

I loved my mother with all of my heart and soul.

That's why it's hard to tell this part of my story. If there was one moment, beyond my birth, that established my destiny, and my influence on the destiny of those around me, it would be one evening during my senior year in high school, the night I killed my mother.

***THE PAST—TWELVE YEARS AGO...

The steps leading to the Michaels' home seem to stretch eternally, but then so do most on this particular strip of houses in McLean, Virginia, where the rich, and sometimes famous, reside. Music radiates from the walls of the massive white mansion that is our destination, the stretch of land owned by the family wide enough that the nearest neighbor sees nothing and hears nothing. They most certainly don't know that while the Michaels are out of town, their son, Jesse, is throwing a party.

"I can't believe we're at Jesse's house," Danielle says, linking her arm through mine, something she's been doing for the past six years, since we met in private school at age eleven. Only then I was the tall one, and now I'm five-foot-four to her five-foot-eight, and that's when I'm wearing heels and she's not.

"Considering his father bloodies my father on his news program nightly, I can't either," I say. "I shouldn't be here, Danielle."

She stops walking and turns to me, her beautiful chestnut hair, which goes with her beautiful, perfect face and body, blowing right smack into my average face. She shoves said beautiful hair behind her ears, and glowers at me. "Hailey—"

"Don't start," I say, folding my arms in front of my chest, which is at least respectable, considering my dirty blonde hair and blue eyes are what I call average and others call cute. Like I'm not smart enough to know that means average. "I'm here. You already got me here."

"Jesse doesn't care about your father's run for President," she argues. "Or that his father doesn't support your father."

"Why did you just say that?" I demand.

"Say what?"

"Now you've just reminded me that I'm at the house of a man who doesn't support my father, whom I happen to love. I need to leave." I start down the stairs.

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