One of the comments sparked an interesting debate: was True an unreliable narrator? I listened, took it all in, and quickly realized I had no idea what they were talking about.
An unreliable what, now?
They felt the mother was the evil one, in part because True was an unreliable narrator, since True only knows what she knows about her father from what her mother told her. Got that?
Let's break it apart.
True has been fleeing from her father since infancy, so the only information she has is that which her mother feeds her. She doesn't have memories to base an opinion. Thus, her information has the potential to be faulty.
When I wrote this first chapter, I didn't know about unreliable narrators. It's interesting that each time this chapter has been critiqued, they all say the same thing: not so sure about the mother's motives.
Here is a snippet from chapter one. I'd love to hear your feedback, thoughts, ideas about this topic!
I hate hating my life.
I flip open my track phone and read three-thirteen am. Something woke me—maybe it’s just thunder from a storm brewing off the Atlantic. More likely, it’s a well-honed instinct I’m about to relive one of my worst nightmares.
I shove my soaked blanket aside and stare out the open window at orange trees swaying beneath the onslaught of a warm, stormy breeze. Lightning flickers in the distance. I count to five before the next roll of thunder. And I know, I could find freedom in that grove. I could run from this hell and never stop, and no one will ever find me.
But I can't. The shadows can hide a man.
My momentary illusion of freedom disappears. He could be out there. Any one of those hulking forms could be the flesh and bones of a predator who, in an alternate existence, I would call Dad.
Mom's Cadillac backs into the driveway. The car door slams. Her keys jingle as she unlocks the deadbolt of the front door and thunder drowns out her words. Now I know its instinct that’s kicked me awake. She’s come home early from her night shift at the hospital which can only mean one thing. I roll onto my back, dreading what’s coming.
“True?” She raps on my door. “True, get up.”
I press my eyes with the palms of my sweaty hands. How many times have I been awakened by her this way? I’m seventeen. We’ve been on the run since I was an infant, moving every year or two, so that would make fourteen. I wish I could forget that number and all the memories that go along with it.
Mom charges into my room. Bright splotches dot her cheeks. Her hair's disheveled. She’s been running her hands through it—something she does when on high alert.
“What have I told you about open windows?” She slams it closed, locks the bolt and tugs the drapes together. “Do you want him to find you?”
“It’s too muggy.”
“Get dressed. Get packed.”
I sit up and wrap my arms around my knees. I’ve had this argument before and I always lose. Tonight, I’m prepared to win.
“I don’t want to leave.” I make my voice firm and commanding.
“You know we have no choice.”
“We always have a choice.”
She sits on the edge of my bed like she’s prepared to be reasonable, but her leg is jigging. I know her. I know her mind is racing with all the things she has to do before we can skip town.
“You go,” I say. “I’m seventeen, I can take care of myself.”
“No, really. I’m not going. I have my job at McMurdocks and my gymnastics team’s this close to States. Regionals are coming up and I refuse to blow it again.”
“Where will you live? Apartments are expensive.”
Her leg shakes the bed. She’s not taking me seriously.
“You can’t make me leave,” I say the words quietly. Now she knows I’m angry. Some yell when they’re pissed. I go real quiet.
“Make you? Like I’m the monster?” Her eyes narrow. This is her game—turning it back on me and driving the guilt deep. “You know what I give up to keep us safe. How many opportunities have I abandoned? No friends, no dates in all these years. How could you say that?”
I blink back tears. They won’t help, but damn it, they start coursing down my cheeks anyway. I swipe them with the heels of my hands.
“I like this place,” I say. “This cruddy, run-down house and this stupid town. My teammates treat me like an equal. I have a real chance of making all-round this year.”
Mom understands my dream. Scholarships, college, a future without fear. Gymnastics is my ticket.
“It can’t be helped, baby.” She dries my cheeks. Her voice has the timbre of sadness, of resolve, and resignation. I have to try one last time.
“Please, let me stay.”
“I’m sorry.” She rises from my bed. “Pack and be quick, we head out in five minutes.”
She leaves the room in a whirl of smelly antiseptic.