We Were Liars - Page 34


“You too.”

“Part of me doesn’t want to ruin it. Doesn’t want to even imagine that it isn’t perfect.”

I understood how he felt.

Or thought I did.

Gat and I went down to the perimeter then, and walked until we got to a wide, flat rock that looked over the harbor. The water crashed against the foot of the island. We held each other and got halfway naked and forgot, for as long as we could, every horrid detail of the beautiful Sinclair family.

65

ONCE UPON A time there was a wealthy merchant who had three beautiful daughters. He spoiled them so much that the younger two girls did little all day but sit before the mirror, gazing at their own beauty and pinching their cheeks to make them red.

One day the merchant had to leave on a journey. “What shall I bring you when I return?” he asked.

The youngest daughter requested gowns of silk and lace.

The middle daughter requested rubies and emeralds.

The eldest daughter requested only a rose.

The merchant was gone several months. For his youngest daughter, he filled a trunk with gowns of many colors. For his middle daughter, he scoured the markets for jewels. But only when he found himself close to home did he remember his promise of a rose for his eldest child.

He came upon a large iron fence that stretched along the road. In the distance was a dark mansion and he was pleased to see a rosebush near the fence bursting with red blooms. Several roses were easily within reach.

It was the work of a minute to cut a flower. The merchant was tucking the blossom into his saddlebag when an angry growl stopped him.

A cloaked figure stood where the merchant was certain no one had been a moment earlier. He was enormous and spoke with a deep rumble. “You take from me with no thought of payment?”

“Who are you?” the merchant asked, quaking.

“Suffice it to say I am one from whom you steal.”

The merchant explained that he had promised his daughter a rose after a long journey.

“You may keep your stolen rose,” said the figure, “but in exchange, give me the first of your possessions you see upon your return.” He then pushed back his hood to reveal the face of a hideous beast, all teeth and snout. A wild boar combined with a jackal.

“You have crossed me,” said the beast. “You will die if you cross me again.”

The merchant rode home as fast as his horse would carry him. He was still a mile away when he saw his eldest daughter waiting for him on the road. “We got word you would arrive this evening!” she cried, rushing into his arms.

She was the first of his possessions he saw upon his return. He now knew what price the beast had truly asked of him.

Then what?

We all know that Beauty grows to love the beast. She grows to love him, despite what her family might think—for his charm and education, his knowledge of art and his sensitive heart.

Indeed, he is a human and always was one. He was never a wild boar/jackal at all. It was only a hideous illusion.

Trouble is, it’s awfully hard to convince her father of that.

Her father sees the jaws and the snout, he hears the hideous growl, whenever Beauty brings her new husband home for a visit. It doesn’t matter how civilized and erudite the husband is. It doesn’t matter how kind.

The father sees a jungle animal, and his repugnance will never leave him.

66

ONE NIGHT, SUMMER fifteen, Gat tossed pebbles at my bedroom window. I put out my head to see him standing among the trees, moonlight glinting off his skin, eyes flashing.

He was waiting for me at the foot of the porch steps. “I have a dire need for chocolate,” he whispered, “so I’m raiding the Clairmont pantry. You coming?”

I nodded and we walked together up the narrow path, our fingers entwined. We stepped around to the side entrance of Clairmont, the one that led to the mudroom filled with tennis racquets and beach towels. With one hand on the screen door, Gat turned and pulled me close.

His warm lips were on mine,

our hands were still together,

there, at the door to the house.

For a moment, the two of us were alone on the planet, with all the vastness of the sky and the future and the past spreading out around us.

We tiptoed through the mudroom and into the large pantry that opened off the kitchen. The room was old-fashioned, with heavy wooden drawers and shelves for holding jams and pickles, back when the house was built. Now it stored cookies, cases of wine, potato chips, root vegetables, seltzer. We left the light off, in case someone came into the kitchen, but we were sure Granddad was the only one sleeping at Clairmont. He was never going to hear anything in the night. He wore a hearing aid by day.

We were rummaging when we heard voices. It was the aunts coming into the kitchen, their speech slurred and hysterical. “This is why people kill each other,” said Bess bitterly. “I should walk out of this room before I do something I regret.”

“You don’t mean that,” said Carrie.

“Don’t tell me what I mean!” shouted Bess. “You have Ed. You don’t need money like I do.”

“You’ve already dug your claws into the Boston house,” said Mummy. “Leave the island alone.”

“Who did the funeral arrangements for Mother?” snapped Bess. “Who stayed by Dad’s side for weeks, who went through the papers, talked to the mourners, wrote the thank-you notes?”

“You live near him,” said Mummy. “You were right there.”

“I was running a household with four kids and holding down a job,” said Bess. “You were doing neither.”

“A part-time job,” said Mummy. “And if I hear you say four kids again, I’ll scream.”

“I was running a household, too,” said Carrie.

“Either of you could have come for a week or two. You left it all to me,” said Bess. “I’m the one who has to deal with Dad all year. I’m the one who runs over when he wants help. I’m the one who deals with his dementia and his grief.”

“Don’t say that,” said Carrie. “You don’t know how often he calls me. You don’t know how much I have to swallow just to be a good daughter to him.”

“So damn straight I want that house,” continued Bess, as if she hadn’t heard. “I’ve earned it. Who drove Mother to her doctor’s appointments? Who sat by her bedside?”

“That’s not fair,” said Mummy. “You know I came down. Carrie came down, too.”

“To visit,” hissed Bess.


Tags: E. Lockhart Suspense
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