Still Life

Still Life by Joy Fielding Read Free Book Online

Book: Still Life by Joy Fielding Read Free Book Online
Authors: Joy Fielding
Tags: Fiction, Mystery
keep up with her nanny as they made their way up the rolling hill toward her home. Maya laughed and said nothing, so Casey let the question die, having already decided from watching Ellen Thomas for the better part of an hour that actual mothers were women with messy brown hair and crooked teeth, who played with little boys in sandboxes.
    The woman who slept in her father’s bed couldn’t be an actual mother. She had sweet-smelling yellow hair she was always combing, and perfectly straight, white teeth. Casey was quite certain she’d never set foot in a sandbox because she rarely left her room, and when she did, it was at night, when the park was closed. “Come kiss Alana good night,” her father would instruct as they prepared to go out for the evening, and Casey would happily oblige.
    “You look pretty,” she’d say to the woman offering up her smooth cheek to be pecked. Once Casey had made the mistake of throwing her arms around the woman’s neck and burrowing her nose into her soft, candy-scented hair, and the woman had gasped and quickly pushed her aside.
    “Watch the hair,” she’d cautioned, and Casey had spent the next minute studiously observing the woman’s hair, waiting to see what it would do. “What’s the matter with that child?” the woman named Alana had demanded of Casey’s father as they were walking out the door. “Why is she always looking at me like that?”
    “What are you waiting for?” Maya was asking now. “Take this upstairs.” Once again, she deposited the cold glass in Casey’s hand. “Careful you don’t spill any of it. And don’t take a sip. You understand?”
    Casey nodded, walking slowly toward the giant circular staircase in the middle of the main foyer. It was very quiet in the house that day. She’d heard Maya complaining on the phone earlier that the housekeeper had called in sick that morning, and so she was being forced to pull down double duty as chief cook and bottle washer—although Casey hadn’t seen Maya washing any bottles, she thought as she slowly made her way up the green-and-beige-carpeted stairway. A drop of clear liquid tumbled out of the glass and onto the back of Casey’s hand, and she quickly licked it up before it could fall to the floor. It tasted bitter, like medicine, and Casey made a face, wondering if Alana was sick and that was why she wasn’t supposed to drink from her glass.
    She knocked gently on the bedroom door.
    “It’s about time,” the woman inside snapped. “What the hell have you been doing all morning?”
    Casey stepped inside. The woman named Alana was sitting up in her dark oak four-poster bed, surrounded by white lace pillows. The heavy brocade curtains were open at one end of the room and closed at the other, making the large bedroom appear vaguely lopsided. Alana was wearing a pink negligee and her hair, secured by a wide, pink headband, fell past her shoulders to graze the exposed tops of her breasts.
    “Oh,” she said. “It’s you.”
    “I have your water.” Casey extended the glass toward her.
    “Well, bring it over here. Do you think my arms are eight feet long?”
    “Are you sick?” Casey handed the glass to Alana, watching her take a long sip.
    Alana peered at Casey over the top of her glass and continued drinking. She said nothing, not even “Thank you.”
    “Are you my mother?”
    “Are you my mother?”
    “Of course I’m your mother. What’s the matter with you?”
    Casey and her mother exchanged worried looks.
    “Don’t ever call me that in public,” Alana instructed.
    Casey didn’t know what “in public” meant, but she was afraid to say so. “What should I call you?” she asked instead.
    Her mother finished the remaining liquid in her glass in one long swallow. Then she pushed away her blankets and swung her feet off the bed, leaving Casey’s question unanswered. “Help me to the bathroom,” she said.
    “You’re fat!” Casey exclaimed with a giggle, noting her

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