Covet (Splendor #1) - Janet Nissenson

Chapter One

Tucson, Arizona - October

She knew it was a Wednesday even before she opened her eyes. She knew it without having to glance at a calendar or her phone, or without being told what day of the week it was. Tessa Pedersen knew it was a Wednesday – for her what had become the most dreaded day of the week over the years – because of the unsettled feeling in her belly, a feeling that was rarely wrong.

Bad things always happened on Wednesdays. Or, at least, bad things always seemed to happen to her on those days. As a little girl, she’d once broken her wrist on a Wednesday, a school playground accident. Whenever her mother had impulsively decided to pack up and leave town – which had happened far too many times in Tessa’s sixteen years to count any longer – more often than not those poorly thought out moves had occurred on this day of the week. Just two weeks ago a geometry test – one that she’d known from the start would be almost impossible for her to get a good grade on – had come back with a dreaded D, accompanied by a note from the teacher saying that she needed to study much harder and ought to consider hiring a tutor.

And it had been on a Wednesday, nearly five months to the day now, that her mother had sunk into her latest bout of depression. And this time, Tessa despaired that Gillian would ever pull herself back out.

Tessa winced as she rolled up to a sitting position on the lumpy old sofa that had served as her bed ever since she and Gillian had moved into this tiny studio apartment last spring. Like many of the places they had lived in over the years, this one had come partially furnished, and, like so many of the others, the furnishings were in rather deplorable condition. In addition to the sofa, there were a couple of rickety chairs and scuffed tables, two wooden barstools that served as seating at the breakfast bar, and the daybed that Gillian rarely left these days.

Rubbing her lower back that had stiffened up during the restless sleep she’d endured on the less than supportive sofa, Tessa walked over to the far wall of the room where her mother lay motionless and fast asleep. She was alarmed to realize yet again how much Gillian had aged over the past few months, even though she wasn’t even forty years old. Because she rarely if ever ventured outside these days, her complexion was almost ghostly pale. Gillian had always been slender, but given her lack of appetite she now appeared almost emaciated. When Tessa had helped her into the shower two days ago, bullying her into washing her hair and changing into clean clothes for the first time in days, she’d been shocked to notice just how skinny and frail her mother was. But despite Tessa’s best efforts, no matter how much she pleaded and cajoled and even threatened, Gillian just couldn’t seem to summon up enough effort to eat anything nowadays. It was just one more sign that she was giving up, that she had sunk too far into the blackness that had always threatened to consume her to ever surface again.

And it was that realization that truly terrified Tessa. She couldn’t lose her mother, she just couldn’t. Gillian was all she had, the only family she’d ever had, and despite everything that her mother had put her through over the years, Tessa continued to love her fiercely, and to do everything in her power