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Authors: Amy Tintera

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BOOK: Listen for the Lie
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CHAPTER TWELVE
LUCY

D
id you call Ben?

I glance down at the text Grandma just sent me.

“You're sure you don't want roses? Your mom said pink roses.” The florist frowns at me suspiciously, like I've come into her shop with the intention of ruining my grandma's birthday party.

I press the
call
button on my phone and put Grandma on speaker. She picks up right away.

“Hello?”

“Grandma. Opinion on pink roses?”

“Tell your mother I will vomit on her pink roses.”

I raise my eyebrows at the florist. She purses her thin, red lips, like she's very insulted on behalf of pink roses everywhere.

I take Grandma off speaker and press the phone to my ear. “Party planning is going terribly and your birthday is going to be a disaster.”

“Can't wait. Have you listened to today's interview with Colin? Did you call Ben?”

“I'm still thinking, traitor. I'll call you later, okay? I have to stop this pink roses disaster.”

“Oh yes, please do.”

I press
end
on the call and return my attention to the red-faced florist.

“Gerber daisies. No roses of any color.”

I return to my parents' house to find Mom trying to sweep the floor with one hand while holding on to a single crutch with the other. I drop my purse on the kitchen table and take the broom from her.

“Thank you, hon. The girls are coming over in about ten minutes and I can't have this place looking like a pigsty.” She fluffs her hair, which is already fluffy enough to make most southern women proud.

“Who are
the girls
?” I sweep some crumbs out of a corner and into the pile.

Mom hobbles over to the couch. “Just some friends. They come over every other week for tea. We do a book club sometimes, but not today. We just did a book last week.”

“Which one?”

“Oh, I don't know. I never read them. Who has the patience for reading anymore?”

I snort as I sweep the dirt into the dustpan. She twists around to look at me.

“You stopped by the restaurant to look at the room?”

“Yes. It's very nice.”

“And approve the menu?”

“They gave me a sample of their meatballs. Highly recommended.” I dump out the dustpan and return the broom to the closet.

“I heard from Janice today that she and your uncle Keith are all booked at the inn, so no need to worry about that. Ashley and Brian too.”

“I was definitely not worried about that.”

“Your aunt Karen too,” she says, ignoring me. “All set. No one needs rides; they're driving in from Houston.”

I was definitely not going to offer a ride to the family members I haven't spoken to in years.

“Did you talk to the florist about the flowers?” Mom asks.

“Yep.”

“She's going to do centerpieces with pink roses?”

“She sure is.” I head to the stairs. “I should make myself scarce for this, right?”

“Goodness no! I told them you'd be joining us. Don't embarrass me.”

“Way too late for that, wouldn't you say?”

“I meant don't embarrass me by going to hide in your room when I said you'd be joining us.”

“All right. It's your funeral.”

“I've never understood that saying and I'd prefer that you not explain it to me.”

The doorbell rings. Mom fluffs her hair one more time and waves for me to answer it.

I walk over to the front door and pull it open.

I can see immediately that
tea
means
wine
.

Four ladies stand on the front porch, each armed with a bottle of wine. Two white, two red.

I try very hard not to imagine murdering them by grabbing a bottle and smashing it across their skulls, but it's difficult when they bring their own murder weapon.

I smile instead and invite them in.

Three of them I know—Marian, a pleasant woman with (fake) bright red hair and a smile that freezes in place every time our eyes meet; Betsy, who has a helmet of curly gray hair and tells me exactly how many calories are in the brownies she brought (285 per square—“
these are
not
diet brownies!
”); and Peggy, a very short woman who follows me into the kitchen, tells me which wineglasses to pull from the cabinet, and then washes them even though they look perfectly clean to me.

Janet's new. She'd moved to town five years ago, so we never had the pleasure of meeting. She looks nervous as she shakes my hand. I can't blame her.

Marian does actually make tea—very good tea—but it's obvious that the wine is the main attraction here. She gives us all a mug, and then Peggy hands out the wine in the now extra-clean glasses.

I take a glass of wine when it's offered to me but take only tiny sips, because I'm a lightweight. I don't need to get day drunk with these ladies.

Mom is on the couch with her broken leg stretched out in front of her, and Peggy settles down on the other end. Janet and Betsy take the love seat, and I sit in a chair from the kitchen table with Marian.

Peggy frowns as she sips her wine. “I can't remember—is Lucy short for Lucille?”

I shake my head.

“It's just Lucy, then?”

“Yes.”

Peggy raises her eyebrows like she disagrees with my parents' naming choices. I glance at Mom, but she's smiling pleasantly. I grab a 285-calorie brownie from the coffee table and take a bite. It's a damn good brownie.

“These are amazing,” I say. Betsy beams.

Marian looks at Mom. “How are plans for the birthday party going?”

Mom sighs dramatically. “Oh, it's fine, I guess. Mom's no help, though. She just keeps asking what kind of cocktails we'll be having.”

“A woman after my own heart,” Janet says, and drains her wine. Betsy refills it for her.

“It's been quite an ordeal calling everyone in the family and getting them here on such short notice,” Mom continues. “I'm wondering if this whole shindig was a bad idea.”

“Of course it wasn't!” Janet says. “It will be lovely to have your whole family in one place again.”

“You're helping your mom, aren't you?” Peggy asks me accusingly.

“Lucy's been very helpful,” Mom says quickly. “But she couldn't help with the calls. Some of my family would be very startled if Lucy called them up suddenly.”

“I can't imagine why,” I say dryly.

Janet looks horrified. Betsy shifts, clearly uncomfortable. Peggy appears delighted.

“Oh stop.” Mom takes a long sip of her wine. “We're all thinking it, so we might as well say it.”

“Why not?” I grab another brownie.

“Those are two hundred and eighty-five calories,” Betsy says.

“I know.”

“I just thought you might have forgotten.”

I take a bite. “I didn't.”

“Are you one of those women who can eat anything they want and not gain weight?” Marian asks. She looks extremely offended by this. More offended than when my mom not-so-subtly brought up my being a suspected murderer.

“She's genetically predisposed to be thin.” Janet gestures at Mom.

“She runs like ten miles every morning,” Mom says.

“Not
ten
miles. Not every day, anyway. But, yeah, I can eat whatever I want and not gain weight.” This is not true, but I enjoy the sour look that comes over Marian's face as I say it. I take another bite of the brownie.

“Anyway, I think Lucy could take over some of the planning, even if your family will be startled to hear from her,” Peggy says.

I shrug. “I'm fine with it.”

“See? She's fine with it.”

Mom rolls her eyes. “Lucy is always fine with startling people.”

“She has a point.” I polish off my brownie.

Betsy cheerfully bounces her hands off her thighs. “Let's change the subject! Lucy, you live in—”

“Have you met that boy?” Peggy interrupts. “The one doing the podcast? What's his name?”

“Ben,” Janet says.

“Right, Ben. He's certainly good-looking, isn't he? Not sure what he's doing in radio. Should have been an actor.”

“He looked like a baby to me.” Marian tugs on a lock of red hair. “Younger than my son. Is he even out of college?”

Mom takes a brownie, clearly influenced by my good decisions. “He's about twenty-five, I think.”

“Twenty-eight,” I correct. Everyone turns to look at me.

“You've listened to the show?” Peggy asks.

“Yes.”

“There's a new episode today,” Janet says. “It's very well done, isn't it?”

“Who do you think cheated on her husband with that Colin boy?” Peggy whispers loudly, and then cackles.

I've only listened to half of today's episode, but I've always thought that Colin is too dumb and lazy to kill anyone. I decide not to share that, since I'm the only other suspect at this point. “I'm riveted. Can't wait to find out if I did it.”

Janet's mouth drops open.

“Lucy, stop trying to shock people,” Mom says pleasantly.

“I don't really have to try, Mom.”


Anyway
.” Peggy clears her throat. “Kathleen, how's your leg?”

CHAPTER THIRTEEN
LUCY

I try to avoid going by Hampton House. I tell myself that I do not need to see it, and that I
really
don't need to risk running into Matt, who is living there with his new wife.

But I end up driving across town anyway. No one has ever accused me of making good decisions.

The sun has just slipped away when I arrive, the streetlamps clicking on. The lawns are still perfectly manicured, and there isn't a single car parked on the street. The homeowners association is always watching.

I pull up to the curb in front of the house and turn off the engine.

It looks the same. The flowers I chose to line the front of the house are still there. So are the misters above the porch, my best effort to make the porch comfortable in the summer months (it didn't work).

Through the front windows, I can see the white wood shutters I chose, shut tight. I guess it doesn't make sense to get rid of custom shutters, but I'm still surprised she didn't trash them. I might have worried they were cursed. I might have burned everything in a house where my new husband's murderous ex-wife used to live.

I enjoyed decorating the house, even though I hadn't really even wanted it. Matt was the one who was enchanted by it, by what it would say about us.


That house will make us the stars of that town
,” he'd said. “
Everyone will be talking about it
.”

He was right, of course. The whole town was buzzing about it. Matt's right about everything, though. Just ask him.

I'd been reluctant to take money from Matt's parents, the only way we could afford the house. He'd dismissed that concern. They'd put aside money for his first house years ago. He said it like,
Obviously they did that. Who doesn't put aside nearly a million dollars for their son's first house? Obviously!

I'd never gotten the hang of the rich-person lifestyle. There was so much
guilt
involved. Every time his parents would come over there were little jabs thrown everywhere. Remarks about upkeep and resale value. A snide comment about the brewery (which they also paid for). I'd rather be broke in an apartment with a foot-fetishist landlord than deal with that.

A car turns onto the street, and I quickly turn the key in the ignition, turning my head so the driver can't see my face. I watch it get smaller in my rearview mirror, and slowly let out a breath.

A knock on the window makes me jump.

I turn to look out the passenger's-side window.

It's Matt.

Listen for the Lie Podcast with Ben Owens

EPISODE THREE—“MATT WAS TOO GOOD FOR HER”

Stephanie:
     I'm sorry, but Matt was too good for her.

Ben:
               Why did you think that?

Stephanie:
     It wasn't just
me
who thought that. It was a pretty common sentiment.

I spoke to a lot of people about Matt, including Stephanie Gantz, who was friends with Matt and Lucy, and lived in the same neighborhood. She squeezes in an interview with me between shuttling her teenagers to soccer practice.

Stephanie:
     Matt was just so friendly. So easy to be around. He came over and had a beer with my husband the first day he moved in. I didn't meet Lucy until a few days later—I'm from here, but I'm a good ten years older than Lucy, so I didn't know her when she was younger—and it was just like … okay. Not the warmest lady you'll ever meet. It's weird that she and Savvy became such good friends, actually.

Ben:
               Why is that?

Stephanie:
     Because Savvy was a sweetheart. Bubbly, and charming, just the whole package. She would have been a better match for Matt, if you want to know the truth.

Ben:
               But you and Lucy became friends eventually?

Stephanie:
     Acquaintances, I guess. I lived down the road, and we're a tight-knit bunch here. Lucy never quite fit in, though. She was so young. Me and the other ladies … I probably shouldn't say this, but, oh well. We all used to joke about Lucy being Matt's first wife. We always knew a second would be coming.

Ben:
               Because they were young, or something else?

Stephanie:
     Because they were young, for sure. At that age, it seems fun to have someone who is your opposite. Later, you realize that it's exhausting. You want someone who brings peace to your life, not someone you're always at odds with. Matt and Lucy were at odds.

Ben:
               Do you mean that they fought a lot?

Stephanie:
     Oh, they definitely fought a lot. You could tell when you saw them together; they'd be doing that thing where you're trying to subtly fight but hope no one notices. But you could hear the yelling coming out of their house. It was that loud.

Ben:
               Who was yelling? Matt or Lucy? Or both?

Stephanie:
     Both.

Ben:
               Was that ever cause for concern? Did anyone ever call the police?

Stephanie:
     Oh goodness no. Of course, knowing what I know now, I might have feared for Matt's safety a bit more back then. And, of course, I feel so bad for Matt now, with everything.

Ben:
               You mean with Savannah's murder?

Stephanie:
     Well, no, I mean Kyle. Kyle Porter. You know about him, of course.

Ben:
               I've heard some things.

Stephanie:
     You should talk to Kyle.

BOOK: Listen for the Lie
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