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December 1999, Chicago, Illinois



"JT? Is that you?" The blonde woman looked up from her laptop computer to the clock on the bedside table. The clock read two forty-five A.M. and Torrey removed her glasses, pulled from her stroll down memory lane by the sound of a key in the front door.

Torrey stood up to investigate, alerted by the scuffle of boots on the hardwood floor.

"Aw, Jess," Torrey said to her daughter. The young girl was slumped against the door, her bloodshot eyes unfocused and barely able to see. She shook her long dark hair from her eyes and attempted to raise her tall frame from the floor.

"It's okay, mom...I can do this." The young girl slurred.

Torrey rushed over to help her daughter. Jessica leaned her back heavily against the door, then placed some of her weight against her mother as Torrey slipped an arm around the girl's waist.

"Come on let's get you to bed." Torrey said, trying not to let the anger show through.

"I swear, mom, I haven't had a drop to drink tonight." Her daughter smirked. Standing nearly a head taller than her mother, she had to look down to see into the green eyes that frowned in disappointment.

Torrey took a deep breath and began walking her daughter to her bedroom.

"That's because you're higher than a kite!" Torrey replied.

She managed to guide the young girl to her bed where Jessica fell heavily onto the mattress. Torrey pulled at the combat boots and the black leather jacket.

"You promised me, Jess. You said there wouldn't be anymore partying." Torrey said.

"Just leave me alone," Jessica rolled onto her side. Her head was beginning to hurt and she knew it was going to hurt even worse if she had to look into her mother's eyes. She had broken her promise, but she didn't want to have to think about that now, she didn't want to see her failure reflected back to her from her mother's eyes. She had failed her, and she probably would again. I might as well. I'll never be good enough for her. I'll never be as perfect as she is.

Torrey ran a slender hand across her daughter's cheek, feeling the girl's breathing become deep and even as she slept. What did I do wrong with you, Jess? What am I doing wrong? Why is it you act like you hate me? Why do you only let me touch you when you're sick or passed out?

Torrey let silent tears fall from her face as she tried to find answers to all the questions running through her head. She gently pushed back the dark locks of hair that fell across her daughter's face. The long dark hair framed a face that had proud angular features, relaxed now in sleep. When her eyes were open they sparkled a bright green, which in the right light, appeared blue. When that illusion of light happened, Torrey was struck at how much her daughter reminded her of Taylor. Tonight, while Jessica lay in the front hall, Torrey would have swore it was her old friend passed out against the door to the room they shared at the Sorority house. The black leather jacket and heavy black boots a trademark of Taylor's in her college days.

When she was sure her daughter was sleeping soundly, she went to her own room. She turned off the computer; words simply weren't coming to her as easily anymore. Even though her last novel had been hailed as a sales success, she read a few of the book reviews that said Torrey Gray's talent was slipping. The New Yorker did everything but tell her she was washed up. She couldn't get in touch with her own feelings like she used to. Even when performing her morning ritual of Tai Chi, which she'd been doing since she was fifteen, she just couldn't seem to get to that place that held her emotions. Deep down, she knew the reviewers were right. If she couldn't feel, she couldn't write. Her mind had become preoccupied with other things in the last few years.

The preoccupation began when JT started high school. Of course, the tension between mother and daughter always existed. By the time Jessica learned the word, no, it seemed as if that were the only phrase she used with her mother. That and I don't want to.Once puberty set in it became all out war and neither mother nor daughter understood why. The older Jessica became, the more severe the problems were. She had been expelled from nearly every public and private school in Cook County, then the drinking started. Torrey made the time to do more with her daughter, she attended every workshop she could, but it only seemed to drive the wedge deeper. After the last program, Jessica promised she would remain on the straight and narrow. True to the young girl's code she had not had a drop to drink, but Torrey could tell her daughter reeked of marijuana smoke. She could only wonder what else her wild daughter had experimented with.

Torrey took a quick shower and checked on her daughter once more. Satisfied the girl would sleep through the night; Torrey left her own door ajar just in case. Slipping under the cool sheets she thought back to the time when she was her daughter's age. Yes, she smiled to herself in the dark. She knew exactly where her daughter's temperament came from.

 




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