Later that evening, with the family fed and occupied elsewhere, she went into the bedroom and sat down. The comforter, warm and soft against her legs, offered a place to open up, to become Laura again. But it seemed hiding was more difficult than before, and she rubbed her temples to relieve the anxiety. The first few weeks of a new identity always sapped her energy. She had so much to remember, and the act could be brutal. As she got older and the strain more evident, she worried of irreparable mistakes. Small stress lines had crept in and sent deep creases across her brow. And the weight she’d lost.
For the last few years they’d plotted and planned and worked well together. Nothing stood in the way of their plans, plans so close to coming to fruition. But this year, a few things had gone awry: the wrong child, the wrong town, maybe even the wrong identities. Tonight, she needed more than just a nice warm bubble bath to steer the panic away.
Taut muscles banding her forehead, she sidestepped into the past, and as usual when under pressure, her thoughts rested on Mother. Her breath hitched and jammed in her throat.
Standing up promptly and brushing the horrific memories from her mind, she smoothed the covers on the king-size bed. Why waste energy on things that couldn’t be changed? There was enough in the present to keep her occupied.
She stood perfectly still. Stared. Created a short video in her mind that brought the expected relief.
And the tightness was gone. It always worked. All she ever had to do to relieve the stress was to envision all of them strewn about, lifeless; mothers and daughters scattered here and there. How she hated mothers and their daughters.
A twisted grin started deep inside her until she sensed it creep over her entire face like a mask. “My, my, Hannah Housewife.” She spoke to the silence, letting her smile change her character. “Let’s go bake some nice warm cookies for your hubby and little girl.”
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