Keith, my husband, who tolerated the dirty house, lack of clean clothes, and my mood swings, while I wrote this book (and all my other books).
My three precious kiddos who ate a lot of corn dogs, pizza, and Frosted Flakes because I was locked away writing. I promise, I cooked them many good hot meals once I finished.
Colleen Hoover, Tina Reber, Autumn Hull, Liz Reinhardt, for reading and critiquing Twisted Perfection. Thanks for your help ladies!
Sarah Hansen who designed this amazing cover. She is brilliant. I love her and she’s pretty dang fun to hang out with too. Trust me… I know ;)
To the coolest agent to ever grace the literary world, Jane Dystel. I adore her. It is that simple. And a shout out to Lauren Abramo, my foreign rights agent who is doing an amazing job at getting my books worldwide. She rocks.
Stephanie T. Lott I’ve worked with many editors and I really love this one. She’s fabulous.
Most importantly God. He gave me the ability and creativity to write. The fact I get to do what I love everyday is a gift that only He can give.
Three years ago…
You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are gray. You never know dear how much I love you. Please don’t take… please don’t take my sunshine away.
Don’t stop singing now, Momma. Not now. I’m sorry I left. I just wanted to live a little. I’m not scared like you are. I need you to sing. Please sing for me. Don’t do this. Don’t go to him. He wasn’t real. Don’t you see? He was never real. He died sixteen years ago.
I should have told someone about you. This is all my fault. You needed help and I didn’t get you any. Maybe I was scared after all… scared that they would take you away.
“Della, sweetie, give me your hands. I need to clean them off. Look at me, Della. Come back to me. She’s gone but you’re gonna be okay. We need to clean you up. They’ve taken her body and it’s time to leave this house, for good. No coming back. Please, Della, look at me. Say something.”
I blinked away the memories and stared up at Braden, my best friend. She was cleaning the blood from my hands with a wet washcloth and tears were streaming down her face. I should get up and go clean this all off myself but I couldn’t. I needed her to do it for me.
I always knew that one day this would happen. Maybe not the exact way it was happening. I hadn’t ever imagined my mom dead. Most days when I let my daydreams turn to this moment, I’d feel guilty. It wouldn’t stop me from thinking about it, though. The guilt wasn’t enough to keep me from imagining my freedom.
I had always thought someone would realize my mother wasn’t all there. They would figure out that I wasn’t some strange child who wanted to stay inside all day and refused to come out into the real world. I wanted them to… but then I didn’t. Because getting my freedom would mean losing my mom. As crazy as I knew she was, she needed me. I couldn’t let them take her away. She had just been so scared… of everything.
Four months ago
When Braden had given me her old car and told me to get out and see the world, neither of us had thought about the fact that I didn’t know how to fill it up with gas. I had only had my driver’s license for three months. And I’d only actually had a car to drive for five hours. Pumping gas had not been something I needed to know until now.
I reached into my purse and pulled out my phone. I’d call Braden and see if she could talk me through this. She was on her honeymoon and I hated to interrupt her though. When she’d shoved her keys into my hand earlier today and told me that she wanted me to “Go explore. Find your life, Della.” I’d been so caught up in the awesomeness of her gesture that I didn’t think to ask anything else. I’d simply hugged her and watched as she ran off with her new husband, Kent Fredrick, and crawled into the back of a limo.
The fact I couldn’t pump gas had never crossed my mind. Until now. My tank was so empty I’d coasted into this small service station in