Adopted Daughter (4)

Part 1 of this set of posts outlined a scenario in which a plucky country girl named Emma put up a Craigslist ad asking for an affluent intown Atlanta couple to adopt her so she could get away from rural dysfunction and into a better high school. Part 2 gave the typical tropes that such a story would often contain; Part 3 gave a number of elements the plot of my story would contain. Yesterday, I sat down and wrote out the full outline. This is a two-part story, not unlike my story L’appel du vide, where the first half of the story is from the POV of a character and the second from that of the detectives.

The first part of this story will be third-person narrative, mostly about Emma, but gradually including more and more of her interior thoughts. Austen’s novel Emma is widely noted as groundbreaking because it’s the first to consistently use third-person narrative that includes characters’ inner thoughts: this is usually called style indirect libre though rarely “indirect freestyle” for some reason. Since I am arty and pretentious, I like the idea of this murder story being a bit like Emma.

In this first part, Emma places the ad, comes to Atlanta, gradually integrates herself with the family and the new school, comes to a certain level of understanding about her sexuality (more on this later) and then encounters the stepson who has to move back home. Early in this, she goes back “home” for a funeral: she has three boy cousins from the same family, and the one her age dies in some idiotic gun-safety accident of the type so prominent in Georgia crime news. At the funeral is the dead boy’s older brother, who after their father had also died in a gun accident, had gone off the rails, into drugs, etc., but is now back from rehab and doing well aside from his grief over his brother, to whose corpse he says something like “I tried to protect you.” Emma writes this off as grief but bonds with the cousin, who appreciates her ambition and comes to view her as something of a role model.

Then, Stepson shows up. Crucially, Stepdad is not Stepson’s dad, and he’s never liked the kid, and he’s not happy about Stepson moving home, but Stepmom thinks Stepson hung the moon. Stepson is smart enough to stay on the straight and narrow and not try to fuck the cute teen girl who’s taking care of his younger sibs, at least right away. But he’s suave and classy in a way Emma’s not used to associating with rapists, so she’s gradually seduced. And then, just when she’s about to help him take her underwear off, one of the twin siblings shows up talking about how it hurts to poop. This causes her to remember something else about her cousin: that shortly before his father died in the gun incident, the cousin was complaining about the same thing. Part One ends as Emma goes down to visit the cousin.

Part Two begins with Diana and Mustapha called to the scene of an apparent suicide: the adult son of an affluent couple has killed himself in their garage. Stepmom is there, having discovered him when she returned from book club. Stepdad and Emma show up a while later: they have been off in the country, helping Cousin’s mother and brother move to his new apartment in a less shitty part of the suburbs, and returned when they got Stepmom’s phone call. Seems like a cut and dried suicide: what a pity, guy’s GF had thrown him out.

But then when Diana is doing the paperwork, it comes up that Stepmom, Stepdad, Emma and the dead brother are not biologically related: Stepson’s widowed father married Stepmom, then later died, long before Stepdad came along. Diana calls her sister Fiona, laughing about how their own family doesn’t seem quite so weird, and Fiona makes some remark that gets Diana thinking about things a little more. I’ll explain this half in tomorrow’s post.

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  1. Adopted Daughter (5) | Julian Cage

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