We Were Liars - Page 45


I wipe grime from windows and put the board games in the closet and clean the garbage from the bedrooms.

I leave the furniture as Mirren liked it.

On impulse, I take a pad of sketch paper and a ballpoint from Taft’s room and begin to draw. They are barely more than stick figures, but you can tell they are my Liars.

Gat, with his dramatic nose, sits cross-legged, reading a book.

Mirren wears a bikini and dances.

Johnny sports a snorkeling mask and holds a crab in one hand.

When it’s done, I stick the picture on the fridge next to the old crayon drawings of Dad, Gran, and the goldens.

87

ONCE UPON A time there was a king who had three beautiful daughters. These daughters grew to be women, and the women had children, beautiful children, so many, many children, only something bad happened,

something stupid,

criminal,

terrible,

something avoidable,

something that never should have happened,

and yet something that could, eventually, be forgiven.

The children died in a fire—all except one.

Only one was left, and she—

No, that’s not right.

The children died in a fire, all except three girls and two boys.

There were three girls and two boys left.

Cadence, Liberty, Bonnie, Taft, and Will.

And the three princesses, the mothers, they crumbled in rage and despair. They drank and shopped, starved and scrubbed and obsessed. They clung to one another in grief, forgave each other, and wept. The fathers raged, too, though they were far away; and the king, he descended into a delicate madness from which his old self only sometimes emerged.

The children, they were crazy and sad. They were racked with guilt for being alive, racked with pain in their heads and fear of ghosts, racked with nightmares and strange compulsions, punishments for being alive when the others were dead.

The princesses, the fathers, the king, and the children, they crumbled like eggshells, powdery and beautiful—for they were always beautiful. It seemed

as if

as if

this tragedy marked the end of the family.

And perhaps it did.

But perhaps it did not.

They made a beautiful family. Still.

And they knew it. In fact, the mark of tragedy became, with time, a mark of glamour. A mark of mystery, and a source of fascination for those who viewed the family from afar.

“The eldest children died in a fire,” they say, the villagers of Burlington, the neighbors in Cambridge, the private-school parents of lower Manhattan, and the senior citizens of Boston. “The island caught fire,” they say. “Remember some summers ago?”

The three beautiful daughters became more beautiful still in the eyes of their beholders.

And this fact was not lost upon them. Nor upon their father, even in his decline.

Yet the remaining children,

Cadence, Liberty, Bonnie, Taft, and Will,

they know that tragedy is not glamorous.

They know it doesn’t play out in life as it does on a stage or between the pages of a book. It is neither a punishment meted out nor a lesson conferred. Its horrors are not attributable to one single person.

Tragedy is ugly and tangled, stupid and confusing.

That is what the children know.

And they know that the stories

about their family

are both true and untrue.

There are endless variations.

And people will continue to tell them.

MY FULL NAME is Cadence Sinclair Eastman.

I live in Burlington, Vermont, with Mummy and three dogs.

I am nearly eighteen.

I own a well-used library card, an envelope full of dried beach roses, a book of fairy tales, and a handful of lovely purple rocks. Not much else.

I am

the perpetrator

of a foolish, deluded crime that became a tragedy.

Yes, it’s true that I fell in love with someone and that he died, along with the two other people I loved best in this world. That has been the main thing to know about me,

the only thing about me for a very long time,

although I did not know it myself.

But there must be more to know.

There will be more.

MY FULL NAME is Cadence Sinclair Eastman.

I suffer migraines. I do not suffer fools.

I like a twist of meaning.

I endure.


Tags: E. Lockhart Suspense
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