Gina Drake awoke with a violence so
frightening that she cried out. The voice she heard
was that of a stranger, and she winced at the sudden
onslaught of light from a window that looked ragged
around the edges. Sudden tears blurred her vision. The
sound of her pitiful gasps punctuated the roar in her
ears, and she leaped to her feet in a panic. She was
Past the unfocused edges of furniture,
she saw a door and stumbled toward it ... had to get
out of this place ... had to get to air. She was suffocating,
couldnt get enough oxygen, couldnt fight
her way past the attack of piercing light.
A garbled cry, soft and plaintive,
reached her through the haze and the pounding of her
heartbeat and checked her escape for just a moment.
But she couldnt see past the tearing in her eyes.
The cry didnt come again before the threatening
roar returned to envelop her in terror. She grabbed
the doorknob and forced her way outside. Had to find
her children. Had to protect them! She tripped and nearly
fell, and that strange, soft cry reached her once more,
this time from behind. She turned and saw nothing except
blurred shapes and gray splotches. She had to escape!
There was danger here! She ran, and kept on running.
* * *
Evan Webster stared at his father across
the dinner table, thinking about the pills. Shouldnt
he be feeling better by now? He glanced at the large
clock on the wall. Twenty minutes, and nothing had changed.
Kent had told him the pills would give him more energy,
make him feel more alive, be more coordinated. Ha! Coordinated.
That would be an improvement.
A sudden hard thump of his heart startled
him, and he caught his breath.
Evan? Dad said. Are
Evan nodded. Maybe the pills were
working. He took a deep breath and once again felt the
thumping pressure of his heartbeat pound through his
system. He even felt the jolt of its force for a couple
Hows the goulash?
Dads voice came in sharp spurts of sound, lashing
across the table like bullets.
Evan blinked. Weird. Good, Dad.
He straightened in his chair and forced himself to eat,
trying hard to concentrate on what he was doing. Dad
didnt need to know about the stuff that was going
on right now.
Youre not eating much,
Evan took a bite and chewed automatically.
He usually loved Dads special family recipe, and
Dad knew it. He cooked it almost every visitation weekend.
Tonight, though, it tasted like dirt. So did the homemade
rolls and the butter, even the milk.
Norville Webster laid his fork at the
side of his plate, picked up his napkin, and patted
around his mouth in his precise way, then swallowed
and cleared his throat. So, hows life treating
you these days, Evan? Is it good to be out of school
for the summer?
Evan shook his head. Not really.
I like school. He wouldnt admit that to
a lot of people, but Dad expected it.
Evan missed his friends already, even
though hed only been out of classes for two days.
He looked forward to seeing them tonight, though. He
glanced at the clock. Ten minutes before he had to leave
for the theater, and he hadnt broken the news
yet. He reached for his milk glass, and his arm jerked
involuntarily. He nearly knocked over the glass, and
his hand continued to jerk. He placed it in his lap,
hoping Dad wouldnt notice.
Did you get a summer job down
at the mill?
Unh-uh. Evan swallowed.
I told you, Dad, they wont hire me until
Im sixteen. Five months before he could
get a drivers license. Five whole months. How
was he going to last that long? Every one of his friends
had a license.
The school grades were okay,
then? Your mother didnt send me a copy of them
this semester. Dad was just staring at the table.
His voice had that casual tone he used when he wanted
to disguise his disapproval of his ex-wife.
An alien rush of anger caught Evan
unaware. Why didnt you complain to her
about it? he snapped. You could have called
her, you know. You dont have to use me as your
messenger His voice skidded to a stop as
Dad blinked at him in shocked surprise.
It surprised Evan, too. He seldom got
mad at his father, and when he did, he never said anything
about it. What is happening to me? Evan grimaced.
He knew how his dad would react to that outburst.
Im sorry, Dad said.
Some of the color drained from his face. Youre
Oh no, hey, Dad, listen, I didnt
Dad held his hand up. I know
better, I just forget sometimes. I guess the grades
were as good as always.
Evan slumped in his seat, feeling worse
than ever. He knew Dad was bitter because Mom had won
custody. And Mom would rather be with her stupid boyfriend
than with her own son. Why did she fight so hard for
custody when she didnt want it? She was the one
whod wanted the divorce in the first place, not
It was getting easier and easier to
Yeah? Evan looked up again
to find those serious eyes studying him a little too
Is everything okay? The grades
were as good as always?
Oh, sorry. I meant to tell youIm
on the honor roll again. And I got this award in English.
My teacher says I should think about being a writer.
His heart thumped loudly a couple more times, and he
flexed his neck muscles to push away some of the tension
that made him want to squirm in his chair. They
want me to help on the school paper next year.
Some of the lines of terminal sadness
lifted from Dads expression for a few seconds,
and his pale lips raised in the closest thing to a smile
Evan had seen tonight. Thats great. Im
proud of you.
Evan hunched his shoulders forward,
then he straightened and leaned closer to the table.
At least he was good for something. He stared at his
skinny arms and hands. Hed never been good in
sports, and everything at school seemed to revolve around
football or basketball or something else that demanded
coordination. The jocks didnt need anything between
their ears to be popular; they just needed the right
moves. Evan didnt have those.
Evan? Are you okay?
Huh? Yeah, Im fine.
I said Im proud of you.
I always have been.
Thanks, Dad. The good thing
was, Dad meant what he said. He always meant what he
said. Not like Mom, whod promised to come to the
debate last month, then canceled at the last minute
because her boyfriend had come into town unexpectedly.
Dad had been there, though. And hed made it embarrassingly
obvious to everyone in the audience who his son was
and how proud he was of him. Dad had never been the
kind of guy to hide his feelings about anything.
Evan figured thats why this divorce
thing had been so hard on DadDad blamed Mom for
the breakup, and Evan could tell Dad had to work hard
not to say bad things about her to him. Too much pain
hovered in this house. Dad was like a black hole. He
didnt know how to have fun, didnt know how
to laugh, and he took everything way too seriously.
Evan never told him anything important anymore. And
Mom wasnt just impatient, she was spasticalways
nagging him to pick up his things and do his laundry
and put the toilet seat