She stuck her chin stiffly into the air. “Probably.”
Inside, though, she cracked a tiny smile. Cornelius Maximilian was this inside joke they made up after they saw Gladiator. It had been a big treat for Hanna to go to a gory, R-rated movie, except she’d been only ten, and all the blood traumatized her. She was positive she wouldn’t be able to sleep that night, so her father made up Cornelius to make her feel better. He was the only dog—a poodle, they thought, although sometimes they changed him to a Boston terrier—mighty enough to fight in the gladiator ring. He beat the tigers, he beat the other scary gladiators. He could do anything, including bring the dead gladiators back to life.
They made up a whole Cornelius character, talking about what he did on his off days, what sorts of studded collars he liked to wear, how he needed a girlfriend. Sometimes, Hanna and her father would reference Cornelius around her mother, and she’d say, “What? Who?” even though they’d explained the joke a thousand times. When Hanna got Dot, she considered naming him Cornelius, but it would’ve been too sad.
Her father sat back on the couch. “I’m sorry that things are like this.”
Hanna pretended to be interested in her French manicure. “Like what?”
“Like…with us.” He cleared his throat. “I’m sorry I haven’t been in touch.”
Hanna rolled her eyes. This was way too after-school special for her. “No biggie.”
Mr. Marin drummed his fingers on the coffee table. It was obvious he was really squirming. Good. “So why’d you steal your boyfriend’s dad’s car, anyway? I asked your mom if she knew, but she didn’t.”
“It’s complicated,” Hanna said quickly. Talk about ironic: when they first divorced, Hanna tried to think of ways she could get her parents to talk again so they’d fall back in love—like Lindsay Lohan’s twin characters did in The Parent Trap. Turned out all she’d needed to do was get arrested a few times.
“Come on,” Mr. Marin coaxed. “Did you guys break up? Were you upset?”
“He ended things?”
Hanna gulped miserably. “How’d you know?”
“If he’s giving you up, maybe he wasn’t worth it.”
Hanna couldn’t believe he just said that. In fact, she didn’t believe it. Maybe she’d misheard. Maybe she’d been listening to her iPod too loud.
“Have you been thinking about Alison?” her father asked.
Hanna looked at her hands. “I guess. Yeah.”
“It’s pretty unbelievable.”
Hanna gulped again. All of a sudden, she felt like she was going to cry. “I know.”
Mr. Marin leaned back. The couch made a strange farting sound. It was something her dad might have commented on years ago, but now he kept quiet. “You know what my favorite memory of Alison is?”
“What?” Hanna asked quietly. She prayed he wasn’t going to say, That time you girls came to Annapolis and she bonded with Kate.
“It was summer. I guess you guys were going into seventh grade or so. I took you and Alison to Avalon for the day. Do you remember that?”
“Vaguely,” Hanna said. She recalled that she’d eaten too much saltwater taffy, that she looked fat in her bikini and Ali looked perfectly skinny in hers, and that a surfer boy invited Ali to a bonfire party, but she ditched him at the last minute.
“We were sitting on the beach; there were a girl and a boy a few blankets over. You guys knew the girl from school—but she wasn’t anyone you typically hung around with. She had some sort of water bottle contraption strapped to her back that she sucked through with a straw. Ali talked to her brother and ignored her.”
Suddenly, Hanna remembered it perfectly. It was common to run into people from Rosewood at the Jersey Shore—and that girl had actually been Mona. The boy was Mona’s cousin. Ali thought he was cute, so she went over to talk to him. Mona seemed ecstatic that Ali was even in her vicinity, but all Ali did was turn to Mona and say, “Hey, my guinea pig drinks water from a bottle like that.”
“That’s your favorite memory?” Hanna blurted. She’d blocked it out; she was pretty sure Mona had too.
“I’m not done,” her father said. “Alison walked down to the edge of the beach with the boy, but you stayed behind and talked to the girl, who looked just crushed that Alison had left. I don’t know what you said, but you were nice to her. I was really proud of you.”
Hanna wrinkled her nose. She doubted she was nice—she just probably wasn’t straight-up mean. After The Jenna Thing happened, Hanna didn’t savor teasing quite as much.
“You were always so nice to everyone,” her father said.
“No, I wasn’t,” she said quietly.
She remembered how she used to talk about Jenna: You wouldn’t believe this girl, Dad, she said. She tried out for the same part Ali wants in the musical, and you should’ve heard her sing. She was like a cow. Or, Jenna Cavanaugh might’ve gotten every question right on the health test and done twelve pull-ups in gym for the Presidential Fitness test, but she’s still a loser.
Her father had always been a good listener, as long as he knew she didn’t say mean things to people’s faces. Which had made what he asked a few days after Jenna’s accident, as they were driving to the store, that much more devastating. He’d turned to her and said, out of no where, Wait. That girl that was blinded? She’s the one who sings like a cow, right? He looked as if he’d made the connection. Hanna, too terrified to answer, faked a coughing fit and then changed the subject.
Her father stood up and walked over to the living room’s baby grand piano. He lifted the lid, and dust sifted into the air. When he pressed down a key, a tinny sound came out. “I guess your mother told you that Isabel and I are getting married?”
Hanna’s heart sank. “Yeah, she said something like that.”
“We were thinking next summer, except that Kate won’t be able to make it then. She’s going to a pre-college summer program in Spain.”
Hanna bristled at Kate’s name. Poor baby has to go to Spain.
“We’d like you to be at the wedding as well,” her father added. When Hanna didn’t respond, her dad kept talking. “If you could. I know it’s kind of weird. If it is, we should talk about it. I’d rather have you talk to me than steal cars.”
Hanna sniffed. How dare her father think stealing stuff boiled down to him and his stupid marriage! But then she stopped. Did it? “I’ll think about it,” she said.
Her father ran his hands along the edge of the piano bench. “I’m staying in Philly all weekend, and Saturday, I’ve booked us for dinner at Le Bec-Fin.”
“Really?” Hanna cried, despite herself. Le Bec-Fin was a famous French restaurant in downtown Philadelphia that she’d wanted to eat at for years. Spencer’s and Ali’s families used to drag them there, and they’d whine about it. It was so snotty, they said, the menu wasn’t even in English, and it was full of old ladies in hideous furs that had heads and faces. But to Hanna, Le Bec-Fin sounded totally glamorous.
“And I booked you a suite at the Four Seasons,” her father went on. “I know you’re supposed to be in trouble, but your mother said it was okay.”
“Seriously?” Hanna clapped her hands. She adored staying in fancy hotels.
“It has a pool.” He smiled coyly. Hanna used to get really excited when they stayed in hotels with pools. “You could come early Saturday afternoon for a swim.”
Suddenly, Hanna’s face fell. Saturday was…Foxy. “Can we do Sunday instead?”
“Well, no. It has to be Saturday.”
Hanna chewed on her lip. “Then I can’t.”
“I just…there’s this dance thing. It’s sort of…important.”
Her father folded his hands. “Your mom’s letting you go to a dance after…after what you did? I thought you were grounded.”
Hanna shrugged. “I bought the tickets way in advance. They were expensive.”
“It would mean a lot to me if you came,” her father said softly. “I’d love a weekend with you.”
Her dad looked genuinely upset. Almost like he was going to cry. She wanted a weekend with him, too. He’d remembered the molten lava floor, how she used to talk about Le Bec-Fin, and how much she adored ritzy hotels with pools. She wondered if he shared inside jokes like that with Kate. She didn’t want him to. She wanted to be special.
“I guess I can blow it off,” she finally answered.
“Great.” Her father smiled back.
“For Cornelius Maximilian’s sake,” she added, giving him a shy look.
Hanna watched as her father got into his car and drove slowly down the driveway. A warm, buzzing feeling filled her body. She was so happy, she didn’t even think about digging out the bag of kettle chips that she’d thrown back into the pantry. Instead, she felt like dancing through the house.
When she heard her BlackBerry buzzing upstairs, she snapped back to attention. There was so much to do. She had to tell Sean she wasn’t going to Foxy. She had to call and tell Mona, too. She had to dig up a fabulous outfit to wear to Le Bec-Fin—maybe that pretty Theory belted dress she hadn’t had a chance to wear yet?
She ran upstairs, opened the BlackBerry, and frowned. It was…a text.
Four simple words:
Hanna. Marin. Blinded. Jenna.
What would Daddy think about you if he knew that?
I’m watching you, Hanna, and you’d better do what I say. —A
SURROUND YOURSELF WITH NORMAL, AND MAYBE YOU’LL BE NORMAL TOO
“You’re so lucky you get to go to Foxy for free,” Emily’s older sister Carolyn said. “You really should take advantage of it.”
It was Friday morning, and Emily and Carolyn were outside on the driveway, waiting for their mom to drive them to early-morning swim practice. Emily turned to her sister, running her hand through her hair. As captain, she got free Foxy tickets, but it seemed weird to party so soon after Ali’s funeral. “It’s not like I’m going to go. I have no one to go with. Ben and I aren’t together anymore, so…”
“Go with a friend.” Carolyn smeared ChapStick over her thin, naturally pink lips. “Topher and I would love to go, but I’d have to spend all my baby-sitting money just on a ticket. So we’re going to have movie night at his house instead.”
Emily glanced at her sister. Carolyn was a senior and looked just like Emily, with reddish-blond, chlorine-dried hair, freckles across her cheeks, pale eyelashes, and a strong, compact, swimmer’s body. When Emily was named captain, she worried that Carolyn would be jealous—she was older. But Carolyn seemed completely fine with the whole thing. Secretly, Emily would have loved to see her wig out about something. Just once.
“Oh hey!” Carolyn perked up. “I saw a funny picture of you yesterday!”