I never should have let go.
In her head, that day is still a blur of shrieking metal and blinding ocean spray. One moment
she’d been searching the coming twilight for the first wink of stars and the next . . .
She didn’t remember in pictures exactly, because the images were blue and purple and black,
like the bottom of the harbor. But she could remember the jump of her heart as the boat cap-
sized against the rocks and the crush of surf that had rolled her over and over.
The tide had caught her limbs, surging up and down as it pushed the breath from her lungs. And against her hands, she could remember the rough scratch of underwater rock and the slick feel of algae as she tried to protect her head. There was something else, too. The silk of skin against hers. Liddy’s fingers tangled with her own, and then nothing but the frantic thought that raged against her temple. Get to the surface.
Had Liddy had that same terrifying thought? Had she had the same realization that she couldn’t tell up from down in the dark?
“It was an accident,” Evan says simply. “Nothing you did or didn’t do would change that
“You weren’t there,” she says. “You don’t know that.”
“You guys wore life jackets. Liddy was just dragged under when the boat tipped. You know this.”
But did she? Casey can’t remember breaking the surface. She can’t remember the first rush of
oxygen into her lungs. So, at what point had she been saved and Liddy lost?
Other flashes of that day rush back—Liddy’s easy grin, the excitement that bled into her laugh, the rev of the boat’s engine— and with it a wave of nausea.
“I have to use the bathroom,” Casey says, turning on her heel and rushing toward the back of
the house. She takes the main set of stairs. They curve sharply, and she races onto the landing,
past the photos of Liddy at equestrian training, vocal recitals, and family vacations. The entire house is a testament to the wonderful person Liddy had been and now serves as a stark reminder of everything her parents had lost—everything Casey had lost in a best friend.
Hands grappling for the right door, she takes refuge in the bathroom, only to find a framed photo of Liddy staring back at her from the shelf mounted beside the sink. It seems that with her passing, more and more pictures had appeared in the house.
And she was always wearing that impossibly bright smile.
Casey tips the photo facedown and barricades herself behind the bathroom door, pressing the
lock with her thumb and running her hand up the wall for the light switch. There’s a fuzzy edge to the silence in the dark. Almost like watching a snowy television screen. The sound of
nothingness, of that blurry noiseless whisper, grows into a pulse she can feel beat beneath her skin as she slides down against the door.
If she squeezes her eyes tight enough, all she can see is black.
Shapes grow out of the darkness in her mind. Tall reaching tree limbs. A black wood, shrouded in shadow and stone, covered in mounds of turned earth.
Casey tries to blink the images away. It’s not the first time this has happened, these grief-
She freezes. The voice is new.Excerpt from novel