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TITLE: Prologue (Tony)
By Mishael Witty

This is the prologue to a suspense novel. Target audience is either adult or young adult. My main characters are going to be in their first year of college, but I'm afraid the subject matter might be too graphic for younger readers. Any advice that can help me improve my writing is welcome.
Tony awoke with a jolt. He didn't realize why he had awakened, and he didn’t even remember falling asleep. He wasn't aware of anything, until he saw his brother sit up in his bed. Rob put a finger to his mouth - a gesture that Tony knew meant he was supposed to be quiet.

"Get out of this house! I don't want you here anymore. You're a no good, lazy bum! You're not fit to be the father of my children," their mother's voice blasted through the night’s silence, then it softened a little. "I've met a new man, Jack - a nice man. We want to be married as soon as possible. I know this is hard for you, but please try to understand. This is what’s best for me, and I think it will be best for the children, too. My lawyer will call you tomorrow with the details for the divorce settlement."

"You can't mean any of this, Vera. You'll be sorry. You'll come back begging on your hands and knees. Who is he, anyway?"

"You don't know him. Don't worry. I haven't been sleeping with your best friend."

Tony's father laughed. "That's encouraging. Really, you don't know how good it makes me feel to know that a complete stranger is going to come into my house, sleep in my bed, and be father to my children. I assume you want custody of the boys."

"I think it will be better for them. Unless you get some of your stories published, you won't be able to provide for them. Harry has a good paying job. He'll be a good father."

"That's fine. That's just great." Even Tony's seven-year-old ears could pick up the sarcastic tone of his father's reply.

"You'd better go now."

"All right, Vera. Don't think I'll give up my whole life without a fight. I'll fight you to the death. I will see my sons again. Neither you nor your precious Harry can stop me."

The front door slammed shut. Tony’s heart was racing. His t-shirt stuck to his chest. He looked over at Rob. His brother lay on his back with his eyes closed, but Tony knew he wasn't asleep. He tried to fight back the tears, but his young emotions were too much for up. He cried for his father, and he cried for his family that had once been so happy.

Since the death of his baby sister two months ago, nothing had been happy. The baby was only two days old when she died from heart failure. She didn't even have a name. They had christened her Angela Marie Driscoll after she was already dead, just so there would be a name on her tombstone. Mrs. Driscoll suffered from a nervous breakdown and was under extensive psychiatric treatment for a month after her baby's death. Mr. Driscoll had tried to support his family by writing articles for the local newspaper. The payment he got for his work for the financially-strapped paper would have been humorous if the family wasn't in such desperate need of money.

They received some financial help from Mrs. Driscoll's sister, Cathy. She came in to cook, clean, and help take care of the boys. Cathy had no family of her own, so she was more than happy to help until Mrs. Driscoll got out of the hospital. Then Cathy returned to her solitary apartment. Mrs. Driscoll was not willing to accept charity from her sister. She tried to carry on the household duties, and she even got a part-time job as a waitress, but she was fired when she failed to take down people's orders correctly. She just couldn’t seem to concentrate on anything.

Mr. and Mrs. Driscoll started to get into serious arguments about money. Their marriage was falling apart. He would go out every night and get drunk. She would go out every night and just wander around town - until she found Harry. Finally, something snapped in the Driscoll household, and the family was shattered into millions of tiny pieces.

In the morning, when Tony woke up, he went out to the kitchen. His mother was seated at the table, drinking coffee. Tony’s eyes never left her for a moment. Hate burned inside his small body.

"Where's Daddy?"

"Daddy went on a trip. He'll be gone for a long time. Rob has already gone to school. You overslept. You can stay home today if you want to. I'll call the school to tell them you’re sick."

"Where did Daddy go?"

"He took a plane to Europe.”

“That’s not true!”

"It is true. I have to get dressed. I'm expecting a visitor in a few minutes."

Mrs. Driscoll hurried out of the room. Tony sat down in one of the chairs. His eyes narrowed as a plan began to form in his childlike mind. It was a devious plan, well beyond his seven years. Daddy was gone. Someone named Harry was going to take his place. Tony didn't want anyone to replace Daddy. He wanted Daddy to come back. If Mommy would go away, maybe Daddy would come back. He had to get Mommy to go away somehow.

Tony's eyes wandered to the drawer where his mother kept all the eating utensils. He walked over to the drawer and opened it. He stared at the shiny, sharp knives. He took one out and rubbed it against his finger. A deep cut appeared, and a thin line of red liquid oozed out.

Tony looked back down the hallway in the direction his mother had gone. He moved, as if in a trance. He inched open the door to his mother's bedroom. She was sitting on the bed, wearing a slip. A wad of pantyhose was down around her ankles.

"What is it, Tony? What do you need?"

Tony pulled out the knife and started walking toward her. Her eyes got wide, and her mouth opened. She shook her head and clenched a fist at him.

"What are you doing with that knife, Tony? You shouldn't be playing with sharp things. Give me the knife."

She held out her hand. Tony gave her the knife, blade facing down. A red line stained her white palm. She gasped, but before she could say anything else, Tony slit her throat. He ran out of the room before the blood flow leaked out onto his shoes. He ran all the way to school.

Harry found his lover's body lying lifelessly on the bed. He immediately called the police. They found the knife, but the fingerprints were smudged beyond recognition. Mr. Driscoll was called back into the city and arrested for the murder of his wife. Tony's wish had come true - his mother had gone away, and his father had come back.

Tony sat in his room at night and laughed at the adults. Robert just thought he was hysterical from grief. The two boys went to live with their aunt. She paid thousands of dollars for grief counseling. Tony tried to tell the psychiatrists what he had done. They thought it was a coping mechanism, created by a child’s healthy, active imagination. Nobody believed that a seven-year-old could be capable of committing murder. Tony began to think that maybe if he could get away with murder one time, he could get away with it again, if he felt it was necessary.
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