First Chapter Reveal: Misled by Annie Miles

MisledTitle: Misled
Author: Annie Miles
Pages: 446
Genre: Women’s Fiction

When Diana, a lonely housewife, falls for Daniel–her daughter Annie’s teenage crush—she will stop at nothing to ensure he stays in her life. In Machiavellian style, Diana betrays her daughter, secretively designing, controlling, and planning Annie’s future. It isn’t until years later, when Annie discovers letters exchanged by her mother and Daniel, that she learns the truth and sees the manipulation and lies that led her to a doomed marriage.

Twenty years later, when Diana is diagnosed with dementia and Annie is forced to be her mother’s caretaker, she must come to terms with her mother’s betrayal, her husband’s deceit, and her own desire for love and happiness, all the while managing to maintain her sanity and sense of humor. Based on a true story, this book will shock, entertain, and astound you.

For More Information

  • Mislead is available at Amazon.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

 

Chapter One: Anger Management

With her finger pointed straight at me, hate in her eyes, and through gritted teeth, my mother said, “You have betrayed me, and I will never forgive you for this.”

The wounded child in me, let’s call her Patsy, silently said, And you are an expert in the field of betrayal, aren’t you, Mother? You want to talk about betrayal? Let’s talk about 1979. Let’s talk about my entire life…

But Annie, the adult me, said out loud, “I’m sorry. I wish you could see I’m doing this for you and not to you.”

Many years before, my mother had given me power of attorney, and today I was invoking it because her mental and physical health had deteriorated to a point where she could no longer live alone. Anybody and everybody who knew her could see it was the right thing to do. But dementia had taken every drop of rational thinking from my mother’s brain, and she was vehemently opposed to leaving her house, and not shy about giving us a piece of her mind, if you’ll pardon the expression.

I’d tried to broach the subject of her moving for weeks, but she immediately shut me down each time. I tried to talk to her about getting home health care, but she wouldn’t hear of it. She was falling daily, and in fact just a week before had fallen and hurt her leg so badly she’d been bedridden for days. This was after she threw up in her kitchen, then fell, and laid in her vomit for hours before she had enough strength to crawl down the long hall to her bed. And she didn’t see anything wrong with that.

But it was her inability to see she’d been conned out of four thousand dollars that finally bought her a one-way ticket to assisted living. She had hired a man to do some yard work for her, and he had quickly assessed her situation: wealthy older woman, living alone, without all of her mental faculties. Ripe for the picking. He showed up daily, knocked on her door, told her she owed him seven hundred seventy dollars, and she wrote him a check, no questions asked.

She not only wouldn’t believe the man was conning her, she was furious with me when I called the Crimes Against The Elderly Unit. It wasn’t until the detective showed her the man’s mug shot that she finally conceded maybe the yard man hadn’t been completely honest with her. But she still failed to see the gravity of the situation.

“So I lost some money. Big deal. I don’t see what everybody’s so upset about.”

So there I was, with two employees from the assisted living facility, standing in my mother’s bedroom for over an hour, trying to convince her she needed help. Appealing to her vanity, it wasn’t until they managed to get her a hair appointment at SeniorHome, that she finally conceded to go there for a few days. Don’t pack lightly, Mom…

But even with all of the turmoil of the day, the one word that kept running through my mind was betrayal. How dare she accuse me of that after what she did to me. How dare she.

For over a year, from the time my mother was diagnosed with Vascular Dementia, to that moment in her bedroom, I had been forced to spend more and more time with her. We’d finally gotten her to stop driving, (for which I should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, if I do say so myself,) but that meant I had to drive her everywhere she needed to go. All of this Mommy and me time had brought the past back to the forefront of my mind. The words she’d written thirty years ago, never dreaming I would see, kept running through my mind like a slow crawl across my brain. Sentences like:

I’m the greatest and most fantastic? It occurs to me that you make me feel great and fantastic…

And:

You give me a thrill by your mere presence…

Burned into my psyche was the knowledge that she’d so artfully deceived me, competed with me, hated me–then and now. So much had happened over the last thirty years, but one thing was the same: her duplicity. She never stopped pretending to love me.

No matter how hard I tried to forget, the words full of love for the man who would be my husband mingled in my brain with the sentiment of hate for me:

She’s kind of on my “little shit” list right now. I’m sure I’ll get over it, but right now I just don’t much care one way or another about her.

And:

“…that pea-brained little jerk of a daughter…”

And now she was accusing me of betrayal? She would never forgive me? I felt like I was teetering on the edge of a cliff, and one slight breeze would push me over.

Being her caretaker wasn’t the only thing wrong with my life. Front and center was my dysfunctional marriage. The thing is, I was living a life she designed for me. And it sucked.

When I’d found out the truth, eighteen years before, I locked it away in the back of my mind. I forgave and thought I forgot what she’d done to me. But her illness and spending so much time with her brought it all back in a constant rush of torrential feelings.

#

1974

I fell in love with Daniel at the ridiculously young age of thirteen in the summer of 1974, the year he graduated from high school. Dating was an impossibility because he was five years older than I, so we had to rely on casual conversations amongst a group of friends on my front lawn as our only means of getting to know each other.

When I think about the summer of ’74, I think of bell-bottom pants, the song “Don’t Rock The Boat, Baby,” an orange ten-speed bicycle, and a green Chevy Nova, the latter two being Daniel’s. I also see thirteen-year-old me sitting in my front yard night after night, waiting for Daniel.

He lived one street behind us. In fact, I could stand on the toilet in my parents’ bathroom at the back of the house, and look out the window to see his bedroom window. I know this distinctly because I did it a lot that summer. I had it so bad for him I was thrilled just to look to see if his bedroom light was on. I checked dozens of times each night. I also hung around outside on those long, humid summer days and nights, waiting for him to ride by on his orange ten speed or in his green Chevy Nova on his way home from working as a lifeguard.

I remember spying on him with my mother, as he watched over the kids in the pool, idly twirling and untwirling his guard whistle on a long chain. He twirled it until the chain wrapped around his wrist and the whistle caught in his palm. Then he would repeat the action, swinging in the opposite direction until the whistle unwound, rewound, and caught in his hand again. Daniel eventually gave me that whistle, which I still have, along with other things he gave me, like a popsicle stick, a piece of denim from his cut-off shorts, a golf tee, a whole walnut attached to half its shell, notes, his high school graduation invitation and program… a teenage girl’s mementoes kept in a box somewhere in my closet; buried treasures from that memorable summer.

My best friend Jill and her mom were appalled I had feelings for Daniel, but strangely enough, my mother encouraged my crush. She helped me obsess about him, driving me by the swim club where he worked just to get a glimpse of the hunk known as Daniel, passing his house on our way to or from somewhere, and riding bikes or walking around the block just so we could pass by his house.

Eighteen years older than Daniel, my mother was young, thin, pretty, vivacious, and energetic. Think Mary Tyler Moore, but more confident. She was not only my mother, she was also my closest friend, even closer to me than Jill.

She wanted to be the cool mom who hung out with her daughters and their friends, and she always wanted to know everything going on in my mind and my world. She even helped me compose flirty little letters to Daniel, reading rough drafts of what I’d written, then crossing out and adding things she thought I should say. I told my mother everything, and up until my last year in high school we were as close as a mother and daughter could be.

Daniel broke my heart in the summer of 1974. After months of flirting in person and through the mail, and silent conversations with our eyes, he gave me my first kiss and then disappeared. I was devastated when he suddenly quit coming by or writing after he had shown such interest in me. I’d replayed kissing him over and over in my mind about a million times. Night after night I waited outside, from post-dinner time to bedtime, watching and waiting for him, but he never came.

I was devastated. I walked around for weeks in a blue funk I couldn’t pull myself out of. I only saw Daniel once more before he left for college. He stopped by our house to say goodbye before he left. He promised to write, and he did in fact write frequently. But he wrote to both me and my mother. Not together, but separately. Since she was part of our “gang” that summer, she and I both got to know him simultaneously, and so at first their letter exchanges didn’t seem strange.

I had fallen hard for Daniel, and as broken-hearted as I was after receiving his letter, my crush raged on throughout his college years as I went through middle and high school. He was always in the back of my mind with a big question mark. We exchanged platonic letters and had platonic visits whenever he was home–always with my mother present and accounted for.

During Daniel’s college years, we flirted, said things with double meanings, and looked longingly at one another, but there was nothing more between us at the time. What I didn’t know was while we were maintaining a friendship, my mother and he were growing a friendship. They became very close in their letter exchanges. Letters I never saw. His visits to our house were comprised of conversations between the two of them, with me merely sitting in the room mostly listening, a third wheel, almost forgotten. They talked, he’d throw a little attention my way in the form of teasing, or a loaded look, and I sat back and adored him from afar, wondering how he felt about me.

We had been writing to Daniel for a couple of years when one day my mother came into my room to show me a poem. She wanted to know if I thought it would be all right for her to send it to Daniel.
I think about you always

And I’d write you every day,

But there seems so very little,

That seems worthwhile to say.

 

It either rains,

Or it doesn’t rain,

It’s either hot,

Or it’s cold.

The news is all uninteresting,

Or else it’s all been told.

 

I looked hard at the map today

It seemed so very far,

Across those little squares,

To that one where you are.

 

I breathed a single, quiet kiss,

Into the silent blue.

Unless it’s tangled in the stars,

It should be reaching you.

 

Um…what? I read the poem and looked up, stunned, at my mother. She had a funny look on her face, like she was trying to be nonchalant. She was failing miserably.

Now, that poem would be something that I would want to send to Daniel, but my mother? In my mind I was thinking “Lady, are you nuts?!” But out loud I simply said, “Um…no, I don’t think it’s a good idea.”

She nodded, took the poem back from me, and left the room. A big neon flashing light accompanied by a loud obnoxious warning sound blared inside my head. “Buh! Buh! Buh! Buh!” I wanted to holler after her, Are you kidding me? Why don’t you go ask Dad what he thinks?

I distinctly remember that moment as the first time I thought something very weird was going on.

I later found out she sent the poem to him anyway.

 

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