We Were Liars - Page 35


“You didn’t have to do that stuff,” said Mummy. “Nobody asked you to.”

“Nobody else was there to do it. You let me do it, and never thanked me. I’m crammed into Cuddledown and it has the worst kitchen. You never even go in there, you’d be surprised how run-down it is. It’s worth almost nothing. Mother fixed up the Windemere kitchen before she died, and the bathrooms at Red Gate, but Cuddledown is just as it ever was—and here you two are, begrudging me compensation for everything I’ve done and continue to do.”

“You agreed to the drawings for Cuddledown,” snapped Carrie. “You wanted the view. You have the only beachfront house, Bess, and you have all Dad’s approval and devotion. I’d think that would be enough for you. Lord knows it’s impossible for the rest of us to get.”

“You choose not to have it,” said Bess. “You choose Ed; you choose to live with him. You choose to bring Gat here every summer, when you know he’s not one of us. You know the way Dad thinks, and you not only keep running around with Ed, you bring his nephew here and parade him around like a defiant little girl with a forbidden toy. Your eyes have been wide open all the time.”

“Shut up about Ed!” cried Carrie. “Just shut up, shut up.”

There was a slap—Carrie hit Bess across the mouth.

Bess left. Slamming doors.

Mummy left, too.

Gat and I sat on the floor of the pantry, holding hands. Trying not to breathe, trying not to move while Carrie put the glasses in the dishwasher.

67

A COUPLE DAYS later, Granddad called Johnny into his Clairmont study. Asked Johnny to do him a favor.

Johnny said no.

Granddad said he would empty Johnny’s college fund if Johnny didn’t do it.

Johnny said he wasn’t interfering in his mother’s love life and he would bloody well work his way through community college, then.

Granddad called Thatcher.

Johnny told Carrie.

Carrie asked Gat to stop coming to supper at Clairmont. “It’s riling Harris up,” she said. “It would be better for all of us if you just made some macaroni at Red Gate, or I can have Johnny bring you a plate. You understand, don’t you? Just until everything gets sorted out.”

Gat did not understand.

Johnny didn’t, either.

All of us Liars stopped coming to meals.

Soon after, Bess told Mirren to push Granddad harder about Windemere. She was to take Bonnie, Liberty, and Taft with her to talk with him in his study. They were the future of this family, Mirren was to say. Johnny and Cady didn’t have the math grades for Harvard, while Mirren did. Mirren was the business-minded one, the heir to all Granddad stood for. Johnny and Cady were too frivolous. And look at these beautiful littles: the pretty blond twins, the freckle-faced Taft. They were Sinclairs, through and through.

Say all that, said Bess. But Mirren would not.

Bess took her phone, her laptop, and her allowance.

Mirren would not.

One evening Mummy asked about me and Gat. “Granddad knows something is going on with you two. He isn’t happy.”

I told her I was in love.

She said don’t be silly. “You’re risking the future,” she said. “Our house. Your education. For what?”

“Love.”

“A summer fling. Leave the boy alone.”

“No.”

“Love doesn’t last, Cady. You know that.”

“I don’t.”

“Well, believe me, it doesn’t.”

“We’re not you and Dad,” I said. “We’re not.”

Mummy crossed her arms. “Grow up, Cadence. See the world as it is, not as you wish it would be.”

I looked at her. My lovely, tall mother with her pretty coil of hair and her hard, bitter mouth. Her veins were never open. Her heart never leapt out to flop helplessly on the lawn. She never melted into puddles. She was normal. Always. At any cost.

“For the health of our family,” she said eventually, “you are to break it off.”

“I won’t.”

“You must. And when you’re done, make sure Granddad knows. Tell him it’s nothing and tell him it never was anything. Tell him he shouldn’t worry about that boy again and then talk to him about Harvard and tennis team and the future you have in front of you. Do you understand me?”

I did not and I would not.

I ran out of the house and into Gat’s arms.

I bled on him and he didn’t mind.

LATE THAT NIGHT, Mirren, Gat, Johnny, and I went down to the toolshed behind Clairmont. We found hammers. There were only two, so Gat carried a wrench and I carried a pair of heavy garden shears.

We collected the ivory goose from Clairmont, the elephants from Windemere, the monkeys from Red Gate, and the toad from Cuddledown. We brought them down to the dock in the dark and smashed them with the hammers and the wrench and the shears until the ivory was nothing but powder.

Gat ducked a bucket into the cold seawater and rinsed the dock clean.

68

WE THOUGHT.

We talked.

What if, we said,

what if

in another universe,

a split reality,

God reached out his finger and

lightning struck the Clairmont house?

What if

God sent it up in flames?

Thus he would punish the greedy, the petty, the prejudiced, the normal, the unkind.

They would repent of their deeds.

And after that, learn to love one another again.

Open their souls. Open their veins. Wipe off their smiles.

Be a family. Stay a family.

It wasn’t religious, the way we thought of it.

And yet it was.

Punishment.

Purification through flames.

Or both.

69

NEXT DAY, LATE July of summer fifteen, there was a lunch at Clairmont. Another lunch like all the other lunches, set out on the big table. More tears.

The voices were so loud that we Liars came up the walkway from Red Gate and stood at the foot of the garden, listening.

“I have to earn your love every day, Dad,” Mummy slurred. “And most days I fail. It’s not fucking fair. Carrie gets the pearls, Bess gets the Boston house, Bess gets Windemere. Carrie has Johnny and you’ll give him Clairmont, I know you will. I’ll be left alone with nothing, nothing, even though Cady’s supposed to be the one. The first, you always said.”

Granddad stood from his seat at the head of the table. “Penelope.”

“I’ll take her away, do you hear me? I’ll take Cady away and you won’t see her again.”


Tags: E. Lockhart Suspense
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