Exclusive Book Excerpt: Anne Heche

Susan was the oldest. She was twelve years older than me and lived in the attic. We didn't see very much of her because she was always busy doing things that we little children didn't understand. And she was probably right. We didn't understand much. We didn't have a TV, we never saw movies — certainly they were works of the devil — and we never read books. The activity we were allowed to engage in was Bible-verse memorization. I'm sure Susan was called upon once or twice to run our lines with us before church, but other than that, she was the sister ghost who did interesting things in her attic and we didn't bug her about it. She was an artist. She did paintings and wrote poetry that none of us were allowed to read. In fact, her poetry was so unreadable that the church my father started burned it. Yes, that's right, my father found some of her poetry and it must have been so entirely scandalous that it was burned and she was told to never write poetry again. Her art became her outlet, her poetry ordeal an example for us all to keep our thoughts to ourselves.

Next in line was Nathan. Well, not really next. Cynthia was born in between Susan and Nathan. Nathan is now seeing her in heaven. But when we moved into the century home, Nathan was five years older than I. He was the image of a big brother. I don't know what that really describes other than that he was a bully and did things that were naughty by nature. He would throw footballs in the house when he was under strict orders not to, he would wrestle his sisters when he was under strict orders not to, he would go outside when he was under strict orders not to...you get the point. He was strictly ordered not to do a lot of things, and did them anyway. Does this paint a picture of a boy wanting to get attention for something that he was not allowed to be doing? Hmmmmmmm...

Abigail was the blond-haired beauty that everyone was in love with. Her eyes sparkled, her hair glistened, her smile lit up the world. She was two and a half years older than I was, and from what I hear, we were so close we couldn't be separated. She, in fact, skipped going to kindergarten to stay at home and play with me. Clearly this did not affect her brain. She would later skip the eleventh grade to graduate with Nathan so that they could attend college together. Although, as it turned out, that didn't happen, Abi was brains and beauty to behold. We shared a room in this century home, twin beds side by side. I think we would have shared secrets, but we were so strictly told to never open our mouths that secrets didn't escape.

Mom and Dad's room was right around the corner from ours and Nathan's was down the hall. There was a rickety old staircase that led downstairs. It was a comfortable house, with a living room, dining room, and kitchen. A beautiful back porch that led to the backyard where there was a hammock, an acre of land that we all used to brag about, and a tree house in the weeping willow down the drive next to the garage. By the looks of it everything was perfect — normal, exactly as designed. We looked and told ourselves that we were the perfect American family, and no one argued. Why would they?

Copyright (c) 2001 by Simon & Schuster Inc. All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.

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