After Midnight

INTRODUCTION

Hello.

I’m Alice.

I’ve never written a book before, but figured I might as well start by saying who I am.

Alice.

That’s not my real name. I’d have to be an idiot to tell you my real name, wouldn’t I? Identify myself, then go on to write a book that tells more than anyone should ever know about my private life and adventures and passions and crimes.

Just call me Alice.

Sounds like “alias,” doesn’t it?

I’m somebody, alias Alice.

Anyway, names are the only things I’ll lie about. I’ll make up names for all my characters, because they’re real people—or were—and I don’t want any trouble. If I start giving true names, no telling where it might lead.

Obviously, that’ll have to go for place names, too. Not just people. I don’t want to give away where stuff happened, or someone might start putting two and two-together.

Except for the names of people and places, everything else will be completely true. I promise. I mean, why bother to write my story if I’m not going to tell the truth? What would be the point?

For that matter, what is the point?

Why am I sitting down to write this book?

I’m not doing it for the money. I would do it for the money, but how can you get paid for a book without letting someone know who you really are? How do they make out the checks? I haven’t figured that out yet, but I’m working on it.

I’m not doing it for fame, either. How can I make myself famous if nobody knows who I am?

But I want to write it anyway.

My story only happened about six months ago, but I already feel it starting to slip into the past. If I don’t hurry and get it down the way it was, I’m afraid I’ll lose it.

I’ll never forget the main stuff, but little pieces are sure to fall away and others will change on me.

I want a record of how it really was. Every detail. So when I read it, later on, I’ll have a way to live it all over again.

Also, it might come in handy if they ever try to prosecute me. It’ll give the complete truth about my side of things, and might help me off the hook.

Or maybe it won’t.

I might be better off burning it.

Anyway, here we go.

1

IT STARTS

I’ve already explained, my name is Alice (but not really). I was twenty-six years old when all this took place last summer, and living in a comfortable little room over the garage of my best friend’s house.

That was Serena.

She had it all. Not only the huge old house at the edge of the woods, but a husband named Charlie and two kids—a four-year-old named Debbie who was every bit as beautiful as her mother, and a baby named Jeff.

Some people have all the luck, don’t they?

I mean Serena, not me.

What it mostly boils down to is genes. Serena was hugely, incredibly lucky in the genes department. Which is to say, she was born beautiful and smart. When you’ve got that going for you, everything else is a whizz. It was only natural for Serena to marry a handsome, wealthy fellow, move into a great house, and have a couple of terrific kids.

I didn’t make out quite so well in the genes department.

My parents were a couple of duds. Good, hard-working people, but duds. Not that I hold it against them. It wasn’t their fault; they came from duds, themselves, and couldn’t help it. Just as I can’t help who I am.

And I don’t resent who I am.

You can’t do anything about your genes, so you have to