“Even though we did what we thought was right, it was still wrong,” she said on the phone yesterday. “I’ll serve whatever time the judge sees fit. All I care about is that you forgive me.”
I forgave her the moment I heard she confessed to what we both had thought was my crime. I wouldn’t have let her go through with it, of course. If I had been the one to kill Petra, I would have admitted it. But the fact that my mother was willing to sacrifice herself like that told me I had been wrong about her. She wasn’t a monster. Neither was my father. They were just two people thrust into an unfathomable situation who were terrified about what might happen to their daughter.
It doesn’t excuse what they did.
But it sure does explain it.
Everything, it turned out, was for me. As for who that is, I am still figuring it out.
That the relationship between my mother and me is the best it’s ever been is another irony. She likes to joke that all it took for us to get along was an impending prison sentence. Yet I still can’t help but think about what might have been. So many years have been wasted on cover-ups and lies. Now all we can do is make up for lost time. I only wish I’d been able to do the same thing with my father. But I hope he knows, wherever he is now, that he has also been forgiven.
My mother and Carl have been in Bartleby a lot these past few months, for reasons relating to her criminal case. Although she’s now fine with spending an afternoon in Baneberry Hall, she refuses to stay the night. She and Carl always book a room at the Two Pines, which, in my mind at least, is probably worse than jail.
When they’re not in town, I spend my nights roaming Baneberry Hall, thinking about all that’s happened within these walls. Sometimes, I just sit and wait for Petra to appear. Unlike everyone else, I don’t think she was a hallucination brought on by ingested baneberries and approaching death.
I believe she was real, and I’d like to see her one more time before I leave.
I want to tell her I’m sorry, and to thank her for coming to my rescue.
Maybe she already knows these things. Maybe she’s finally at peace.
Right now, I’m in the study on the third floor, standing at my father’s desk. All that sits here now is his old typewriter. I’ve spent several evenings in front of it, my fingers tripping over the keys, debating whether or not I should actually press a few of them.
Tonight, I decide that the time is right. Just because my interior design includes no traces of Baneberry Hall’s story doesn’t mean I won’t tell it. In fact, the same publisher who put out the Book all those years ago has already contacted me about writing a sequel.
At first I declined, despite the sizable advance they offered. I’m a designer, not a writer. But now I’m thinking about taking them up on their offer. Not for the money, although that will keep Allie and me in business for years to come.
I want to do it because it’s what I think my father would have wanted.
I am, after all, his daughter.
So tonight I sit down at his typewriter and peck at the keyboard, writing what may or may not be the first sentence of what may or may not become a new version of the Book.
Every house has a story to tell and a secret to share.
HOUSE OF SECRETS
THE REAL STORY
NEW YORK, NY
Every book is a journey that begins with the germ of an idea and ends with a finished product reflecting the hard work of dozens of people. This includes everyone at Dutton and Penguin Random House, especially the fabulous Maya Ziv, who guides me through each book with warmth, support, and a keen editorial eye. A special shout-out goes to Alex Merto and Chris Lin for continuing to give my books covers that are never less than gorgeously creepy.
At Aevitas Creative Management, I owe a million thanks to my tenacious agent, Michelle Brower, and to Chelsea Heller and Erin Files, who help my books take flight around the world.
Special thanks goes to the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization for granting me permission to use lyrics from “Sixteen Going on Seventeen.” Being allowed to let their song drift through the halls of my haunted creation makes my heart sing.
Thank you, as usual, to Sarah Dutton for being an excellent first reader who pulls no punches, and to the Ritter and Livio families for their unflagging enthusiasm and support. Finally, I owe more than thanks to Michael Livio, who willingly accompanied me on this journey every step of the way. This is for you. Always.