One Chance Prologue

“Sophia!” She had heard her mother before she saw her. A quick look around assured Sophia Bennett that her room was tidy, the bed was made, and she hadn’t recalled leaving anything out when she’d arrived home from school.

Footsteps in the hall announced her mother’s arrival. Standing quickly—shoulders back, and her back straight—she waited for the berating to begin.

“Did you hear me?” her mother, Rebecca—never Becky or Becca—Bennett demanded as she flung the door open.

“Yes, Ma’am,” was the only reply she knew would be acceptable.

“Well?” The tapping of her foot on the hardwood floor could be heard. “Why didn’t you answer me?”

Sophia’s brain blanked…

One would think they could just say, I heard you coming, but she knew that wasn’t an appropriate answer for her mother.

So she stood there…

No words forthcoming, no immediate answer could be given.

“You can’t be that ignorant, Sophia.” The censure in her voice made Soph feel lower than dirt.

“I’m sorry, Mother,” she whispered.

“I don’t want your apologies; I want to be sure you’re going to be ready for tonight. By your appearance now, I can tell that’s obviously a no.” Disgust crawled across her mother’s botoxed face.

“I will be,” she promised. It was the only time she would get to see her great Aunt Millie. She was the sweetest old woman Sophia had ever known. Always had a funny story to tell and little candies in her over-sized purse for her. It was but once a year now that she actually got to see her.

Aunt Millie had fallen ill two years ago, and travel was hard on her aging body, so Sophia’s mother didn’t let her come across the country from New Jersey to visit them.

Her father was head of security for one of the largest criminal law firms on the west coast. The attorneys he kept safe were made targets by their clients, so he assured all meetings went smoothly.

Last summer, one of the lawyers lost a case for some drug dealer—she didn’t recall the charges—but the defendant’s gang retaliated and wound up paralyzing the man. It brought home how dangerous her father’s job was.

He was a good man and treated Sophia like a princess, as if she were his whole world. She sometimes wondered if that was why her mother hated her so much. They didn’t sleep in the same room anymore, and she couldn’t remember the last time they did. And when he was home, they barely said two words to each other.

Snapping fingers in her face ended her internal analyzation of why she was so hated. “Earth to Sophia! Did you hear me?”

She hadn’t. It was easy enough to figure out what she had been asked, though. All her mother cared about was appearances.

“I have a dress picked out,” Sophia said as she moved to her walk-in closet, grabbing the light green chiffon dress that would match her eyes. It wasn’t too revealing and swished with her body when she walked.

“You’re kidding me? Don’t be stupid, Sophia. You can’t wear the same color as me.”

One simple phrase.

Four meaningless words.

Her brain shut down.

Her body vibrated with pain.

Don’t be stupid, Sophia.

You’re so stupid.

Why do I have to have such a stupid child?

They’re just words, breathe.

Sticks and stones, Soph.

So why did she feel like her heart was being ripped from her chest?




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