Elise thought she knew her mother. Agnieszka Halverson is a caring woman, a great cook, and an exceptional piano player; but living in a secure, predictable world, she’s also a little dull. Her world is devastated when her oldest son attempts suicide, and Elise finds her mother has a past—both sweet and bitter—that she must now reveal to explain the suicide attempt. A past rich with a passion for music and shattered dreams, betrayal of a sweet but tragic first love, second chances and renewed hopes.
Born to immigrant parents weighed down by their roots, Agnieszka takes solace in learning to play the piano, taught by a sympathetic aunt who was a concert pianist in Poland before World War II. But when her aunt betrays her and her parents cast her aside for violating their traditional values, can Agnieszka’s music sustain her? Can she, at eighteen, build a life on her own?
When she finally bares her soul to her children, Agnieszka hopes they can accept that she has a past that’s as complex as theirs; that she’s just as human, just as vulnerable as they are. But do her revelations alienate her husband and can they push Elise farther away from her?
Elise Halverson-Thorpe sat, perusing a client's testimony at her desk in mid-afternoon, green highlighter in hand. She still had a half-inch thick of testimony transcripts to go through before she could stop for the day. She might have to bring some work home again.
She lifted the highlighter to mark a phrase in the transcript, but the cellphone in her shirt pocket vibrated and interrupted her movement for an instant. She groped for the phone while she dragged the clear green ink across the phrase.
She knew it couldn’t be Greg, who usually called sometime around noon. Before she swiped it, she glanced at the screen.
“Dad,” she muttered to herself, surprised to see her father’s face.
He rarely called her at work, aware that she might be arguing a case at court or taking testimony or deposition from a witness. What could he want from her at two in the afternoon?
“Dad. What’s up?”
“We’re at the hospital, but don’t be alarmed. Everything’s okay now. It’s Peter.”
Her father’s voice was low and calm, but she detected an edge to it. He was struggling to sound normal and in control.
She put the green highlighter down, next to a red one, and closed the two-inch thick transcriptions of testimony taken from the woman she was currently defending on a murder charge. Her third such case in as many years of working with the Public Defender.
She leaned against the back of her chair and gripped the telephone tighter. Her father was taking a while to answer, and she grew apprehensive with every second he remained silent.
“Yes. He swallowed a bottle of pills. Mom found him unconscious in the tub. But he’s okay now.”
“What? What are you saying? He tried to … kill himself? Peter?”
She thought, gasping, refusing to believe that loaded one-word answer: No, not possible. Not you, Peter. No. I don’t understand. Her mind went blank for some seconds at the weight of it. She began to breathe a little faster as she struggled against what it meant. But she could not resist the full force of it as a tangle of thoughts and emotions closed in on her: Why? What’s going on with you? Why choose death over life? No! How could you? How could anyone?
“Elise, are you all right? Are you still there?” Her father’s anxious voice broke through her turmoil.
She swallowed hard to clear her throat. “He did it in your tub?”
“Yes, he came last weekend, said he missed us so much he wanted to stay a week. That was unusual, but we never wondered why. We were just so happy to have him with us for a while. He travels so much in his work, we hardly ever see him.”
“The pills, how …?”
“He must have had them. We don’t have any in the house.”
Still refusing or unable to believe what her father just told her, Elise was silent again. She could hear her father breathing, echoing her own labored one.
She forced herself to speak again. “But … he’s okay now?”
“Yes. Yes. And he’s been seen by a psychologist. How were we to know that he was going to do it? Nothing was different about him.”
“That’s apparently not unusual,” she said weakly, her father’s news still weighing on her like a huge, festering, unsolvable puzzle. Peter tried to kill himself. But why?
Her father said, “How can anyone know then?”
That was, at least, a question to which she might have some answer.
She said, “People serious about suicide don’t often say a thing, according to our psychiatric experts. We have defendants who attempt suicide and if they have no history of similar attempts, psychiatrists can’t always diagnose them early enough to put them on suicide watch.”
Elise had to control the quiver in her voice and she hoped she sounded authoritative enough.
“He was in a good mood,” her father said with a sigh.
“We’ve seen that, too.”
“I can’t help thinking we went wrong somewhere.”
“I don’t think it’s anything you did.”
“He made dinner for us twice this week.”
“I didn’t think he could cook.”
“I don’t know why we didn’t see it coming.”
“None of us might have.”
“I thought I knew my children very well.”
“I thought I knew Peter well.”
“I’ve never seen Peter so hopeless.”
“Neither have I. Nor so desperate that he’d try to end his life.”
“He’s kind of intense.”
“But people say that about me, too.” Her voice was finally as calm as she wanted it to sound.
Her father let out another long sigh. “We have so many things we must work out. I still have to call Justin. Mom wants you both to come for dinner tomorrow. Greg, too, of course, and Goyo. Can you make it at three?”
“Yes, of course. How is she?"
“Worse than me, I’m afraid. As if she wants to take the whole burden of guilt on herself. Anyway, talk to her tomorrow.”
About the Author
Evy Journey has always been fascinated with words and seduced by beautiful prose. She loves Jane Austen and invokes her spirit every time she spins tales of love, loss, and finding one's way—stories she interweaves with mystery or intrigue and sets in various locales. SPR (Self Publishing Review) awarded Evy the 2015 Independent Woman Author bronze for her writing.
She's lived and traveled in many places, from Asia to Europe. Often she's ended up in Paris, though—her favorite place in the world. She's an observer-wanderer. A flâneuse, as the French would say.
The mind is what fascinates her most. Armed with a Ph.D., she researched and spearheaded the development of mental health programs. And wrote like an academic. Not a good thing if you want to sound like a normal person. So, in 2012, she began to write fiction (mostly happy fiction) as an antidote.