The Wife Lie - Anya Mora

Chapter One

I’ve always been resourceful, even before kids. My life requires it.

“Are they ready?” Clementine asks, jumping up and down.

“Just hang on a sec, Tiny.” I slap the final piece of duct tape on the hem of her jeans and then fold down the cuff. “There. Now they’re tailor-made for you.”

After handing them over to Clementine, I watch her pull the bright pink second-hand pants on her four-year-old frame. Her smile is contagious. I knew she’d love them the moment I saw the pants on the rack at the thrift store, two sizes too big.

“They’re perfect, Mama.” She squeezes my neck tight and kisses my cheek, making me laugh.

I tickle her until she’s rolling on the floor in a heap of giggles. “Now your grandma won’t fuss about your pants dragging past your feet.” I grab the tape and scissors and stand up from her bedroom floor. “Now where’s your brother? We have to get going. My shift starts in a half hour.”

“Benny!” Tiny shouts, bounding out of her pink and purple bedroom, looking for her twin brother.

I follow after her down the single hallway of our three-bedroom rambler, toward the kitchen. Built in the 1950s, it’s solid and simple and I still thank my lucky stars we were able to find this rental last year.

“We can’t afford this,” I’d said, looking back at Ledger, who had brought me here.

“I got a raise, baby,” he said, eyes as green as pine trees. He pulled me into his arms and he kissed me hard and I laughed. Three whole bedrooms. A back yard. A washing machine. A dryer. No more pockets full of quarters.

The smile is still on my face. Now, I shove the mending supplies in the kitchen junk drawer and I look up to see Benny perched on a stool at the table. He’s forgotten his Crunchios, and is instead busy working on the Lego set he just earned for not having any nighttime accidents for a week. We may be pinching pennies, but incentives work. And I’m good at stashing my tips until I’ve saved the cash I need for my kids.

“Hey, buddy, we gotta go.” I look at the clock on the microwave. “We’re already late.”

He takes his last few bites of cereal, pointing to his creation. “Can I bring it with me?” He turns, seeing me with a quart-sized plastic baggie, and he smiles. “Thanks, Mama.”

I turn off the coffee pot and toss my phone in my purse, pulling my unruly curls into a hair-tie as I walk to the front door. Tiny’s bright pink legs race past me, Benny following close behind. It’s going to be a hot day but she insisted on those pants. I couldn’t resist her pleas. And why would I? Life is hard enough; no reason to deny a little girl a simple pleasure.

The moment I start the car, I groan, calculating the cost of a much-needed tank. I make sure the kids are buckled into their booster seats before I back the minivan out the driveway. Bethany is in her yard, filling up the kiddie pool, her six-month-old, Neva, in her arms, and Thomas, her three-year-old, running around in circles with their dog. She waves at me and I roll down the window.

“Hey, Penny, heading to work?” she asks.

I nod. “Yeah, my mom’s watching the kids.”

“I can always help.” Neva starts crying and Bethany bounces her on her hip.

I smile, knowing my closest friend has her hands full enough as it is. “My mom likes having the kids around.”

“Ledger home soon?”

“Tonight.” Smirking, I add, “Which means I should probably clean up