We Were Liars - Page 15

Mummy bends over and flips through the paperbacks. “We read Charmed Life together, do you remember?”

I nod.

“And this one, too. The Lives of Christopher Chant. That was the year you were eight. You wanted to read everything but you weren’t a good enough reader yet, so I read to you and Gat for hours and hours.”

“What about Johnny and Mirren?”

“They couldn’t sit still,” says Mummy. “Don’t you want to keep these?”

She reaches out and touches my cheek. I pull back. “I want the things to find a better home,” I tell her.

“I was hoping you would feel different when we came back to the island, is all.”

“You got rid of all Dad’s stuff. You bought a new couch, new dishes, new jewelry.”


“There’s nothing in our whole house that says he ever lived with us, except me. Why are you allowed to erase my father and I’m not allowed to—”

“Erase yourself?” Mummy says.

“Other people might use these,” I snap, pointing at the stacks of books. “People who have actual needs. Don’t you think of doing good in the world?”

At that moment, Poppy, Bosh, and Grendel hurtle upstairs and clog the hallway where we are standing, snarfling our hands, flapping their hairy tails at our knees.

Mummy and I are silent.

Finally she says, “It’s all right for you to moon around at the tiny beach, or whatever you did this afternoon. It’s all right for you to give away your books if you feel that strongly. But I expect you at Clairmont for supper in an hour with a smile on your face for Granddad. No arguments. No excuses. You understand me?”

I nod.


A PAD IS left from several summers ago when Gat and I got obsessed with graph paper. We made drawing after drawing on it by filling in the tiny squares with colored pencil to make pixelated portraits.

I find a pen and write down all my memories of summer fifteen.

The s’mores, the swim. The attic, the interruption.

Mirren’s hand, her chipped gold nail polish, holding a jug of gas for the motorboats.

Mummy, her face tight, asking, “The black pearls?”

Johnny’s feet, running down the stairs from Clairmont to the boathouse.

Granddad, holding on to a tree, his face lit by the glow of a bonfire.

And all four of us Liars, laughing so hard we felt dizzy and sick.

I make a separate page for the accident itself. What Mummy’s told me and what I guess. I must have gone swimming on the tiny beach alone. I hit my head on a rock. I must have struggled back to shore. Aunt Bess and Mummy gave me tea. I was diagnosed with hypothermia, respiratory problems, and a brain injury that never showed on the scans.

I tack the pages to the wall above my bed. I add sticky notes with questions.

Why did I go into the water alone at night?

Where were my clothes?

Did I really have a head injury from the swim, or did something else happen? Could someone have hit me earlier? Was I the victim of some crime?

And what happened between me and Gat? Did we argue? Did I wrong him?

Did he stop loving me and go back to Raquel?

I resolve that everything I learn in the next four weeks will go above my Windemere bed. I will sleep beneath the notes and study them every morning.

Maybe a picture will emerge from the pixels.

A WITCH HAS been standing there behind me for some time, waiting for a moment of weakness. She holds an ivory statue of a goose. It is intricately carved. I turn and admire it only for a moment before she swings it with shocking force. It connects, crushing a hole in my forehead. I can feel my bone come loose. The witch swings the statue again and hits above my right ear, smashing my skull. Blow after blow she lands, until tiny flakes of bone litter the bed and mingle with chipped bits of her once-beautiful goose.

I find my pills and turn off the light.

“Cadence?” Mummy calls from the hallway. “Supper is on at New Clairmont.”

I can’t go.

I can’t. I won’t.

Mummy promises coffee to help me stay awake while the drugs are in my system. She says how long it’s been since the aunts have seen me, how the littles are my cousins, too, after all. I have family obligations.

I can only feel the break in my skull and the pain winging through my brain. Everything else is a faded backdrop to that.

Finally she leaves without me.


DEEP IN THE night, the house rattles—just the thing Taft was scared of over at Cuddledown. All the houses here do it. They’re old, and the island is buffeted by winds off the sea.

I try to go back to sleep.


I go downstairs and onto the porch. My head feels okay now.

Aunt Carrie is on the walkway, heading away from me in her nightgown and a pair of shearling boots. She looks skinny, with the bones of her chest exposed and her cheekbones hollow.

She turns onto the wooden walkway that leads to Red Gate.

I sit, staring after her. Breathing the night air and listening to the waves. A few minutes later she comes up the path from Cuddledown again.

“Cady,” she says, stopping and crossing her arms over her chest. “You feeling better?”

“Sorry I missed supper,” I say. “I had a headache.”

“There will be suppers every night, all summer.”

“Can’t you sleep?”

“Oh, you know.” Carrie scratches her neck. “I can’t sleep without Ed. Isn’t that silly?”


“I start wandering. It’s good exercise. Have you seen Johnny?”

“Not in the middle of the night.”

“He’s up when I’m up, sometimes. Do you see him?”

“You could look if his light is on.”

“Will has such bad nightmares,” Carrie says. “He wakes up screaming and then I can’t go back to sleep.”

I shiver in my sweatshirt. “Do you want a flashlight?” I ask. “There’s one inside the door.”

“Oh, no. I like the dark.”

She trudges once again up the hill.


MUMMY IS IN the New Clairmont kitchen with Granddad. I see them through the glass sliding doors.

“You’re up early,” she says when I come in. “Feeling better?”

Granddad is wearing a plaid bathrobe. Mummy is in a sundress decorated with small pink lobsters. She is making espresso. “Do you want scones? The cook made bacon, too. They’re both in the warming drawer.” She walks across the kitchen and lets the dogs into the house. Bosh, Grendel, and Poppy wag their tails and drool. Mummy bends and wipes their paws with a wet cloth, then absentmindedly swipes the floor where their muddy paw prints were. They sit stupidly, sweetly.

Tags: E. Lockhart Suspense
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