Amanda slung the newspaper to the floor and reached for her glass tumbler. The ice clinking against it was a relieving sound compared to the constant ringing of the phone and doorbell. They could keep at her all day. She wouldn’t answer. Tipping up the glass, Amanda ignored the burn of the alcohol as it slid down her throat. It had better do its job this time.
A click in the back door told Amanda someone had turned a key in the lock. She didn’t bother checking. She poured the glass full to the rim as Ryan’s face came into view. He pulled out a chair on the other side of the kitchen table and turned it around, straddling it as he crossed his arms on the wood back. His front teeth showed with his boyish smile. “You look terrible.”
“Thanks little brother. You can leave now.”
The phone rang with vengeance. Amanda smirked. “Lesson learned. Make one bad call and your whole life gets sucked down the tubes.”
“Only one bad call?”
Amanda set her jaw. “I should’ve known you just came to preach at me. You always-"
“I’m not preaching, Sis. I want to see you get your life back together-"
Amanda half stood, raking her arm across the table and sending the glass tumbler to the floor. “You don’t know anything about my life! You have no idea what I’ve done.” A sob choked her words as she dropped back down. “Don’t say God will forgive me. Don’t say you’ll forgive me. Three people are dead. Dead. And none of it was even true.”
“So you really did fabricate the whole story.”
“No - not at first.” Amanda laid her forehead on the table, rubbing a fist in her throbbing eyes. She had to pull herself together.
She straightened her spine and grabbed the pack of cigarettes. She bumped one out, placing it between her lips. Her hand shook as she tried to ignite the lighter. Ryan took it and held the flame to the tip. “Look, I thought I was really on to something. Had reliable sources, convincing circumstantial evidence. I told the editor I needed a little more time to confirm. He told me I’d – I’d been falling off lately. Said I’d better have it wrapped up by Friday. I didn’t. I told him I did. He trusts me. He ran it front page. Now three people are dead and I find out I was wrong. Career finished. Criminal charges looming. End of my story.”
Amanda took a drag before snuffing the half burnt butt into her ashtray. She pulled out another one and lit it. “Well? Isn’t this the part where you tell me I’m going to hell?”
Ryan was staring at the smoke drifting up from the ashtray. He reached into his jeans pocket and then held a quarter out in her view. “Ever heard the story about the third side of the coin?”
“Believe me, I am not in the mood for stories.” Amanda stood and went to the cabinet, pulling down another glass tumbler. Where had her first one disappeared to? She felt Ryan’s eyes following her every move.
When she returned to her seat he continued. “One side is heads, the other tails. But what about the third side?” He stood the quarter on its end and flicked it, sending the coin spinning across the table. Amanda slapped it flat, met Ryan’s eyes and asked, “What about it?”
“The third side is the one that holds the other two together. The edge. It wraps around and is the connection between them. We’re like heads and tails, Sis. The third side is understanding. And love. The love of your family. The love God has for you. Look at it. It’s a continuous circle.”
Amanda uncovered the quarter. She flipped it into the palm of her hand.
Ryan covered her palm with his. “Unending understanding. Unending love.”
Amanda let her hand dangle when Ryan removed his. She continued to stare at the coin.
“I’ll swing by later with some dinner. Pizza still your favorite comfort food?”
She lifted her gaze to see the boyish smile. She nodded. “Yeah.”
“I’ll pick one up. We can hang out for a bit.”
“Okay.” Amanda swallowed and stuck the cigarette back in her lips. “Thanks.”
She ran her thumb around the edge of the coin. What a strange comfort to know she would never reach the end of it.
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