Page 59

We spend the first few days in January watching horror movies on the sofa as the world outside carries on without us. I try to ignore the way Laurel and Lana watch me instead of the gruesome scenes most of the time. I’ve become their own personal horror story, one about the monsters and demons you don’t ever want to think about.

I’m brushing my teeth later that evening when a memory hits me, nearly winding me with its force, and I have to grip the edge of the sink to catch my balance. The memory hurts more than it should, and I know it’s because it’s not the weddings or the funerals or the dark offices, but one of the everyday, forgotten memories that can get you in a place you didn’t even remember existed.

Dylan and I were in the glass house, and it wasn’t the first day we were there, or even the first month, but it was a good day, and we were eating breakfast around the island in the kitchen. Dylan was talking about how many children we would have, he wanted at least four, and I suggested names that became more and more ridiculous, trying to make him laugh like I always did because it somehow made me feel as though everything was going to be okay, just for a couple of seconds. It’s weird to think that I could have pretended to be that person for so long, that I hadn’t already ruined it all by then.

I put the toothbrush down and walk into the bedroom. When I’m sitting on the bed, I take my phone out of the drawer, turning it over in my hand like it’s a relic of a different time. I turn it on, and the messages start to come through, but there is nothing from either my sister or Emilia. I don’t read any of the others. Instead, I type out a number from memory and hold the phone up to my ear, my chest already tight.

“Happy New Year,” I say softly, when he answers.

“Grace,” Dylan says, and his voice causes a ring of pain to burn through my chest. “Are you okay?”

“Do you remember when we made a pact to name our children after famous movie villains?” I ask, ignoring his question.

“Yeah,” he says, and I can hear that he’s smiling. “You were pretty excited about little Leatherface, from what I can remember.”

“I don’t know why I just thought of it.”

“I’m fucking sorry, Grace.”

I don’t say anything back, and after a moment he speaks again. “I wish you’d killed him. Can I kill him?”

“I think I have to go,” I say, because my throat is closing up and the feeling is too much for me right now and it’s making me want to take another painkiller, or maybe three.

“Everyone’s acting like your life is another one of his movies,” Dylan says. “Like it’s a miracle you’re both still alive.”

“I really need to go, Dylan,” I say, waiting for the familiar shame to seep through me once again.

“Can you just tell me something . . . ?” Dylan asks, desperation in his voice.

I wait for him to speak again, but he pauses for long enough that I figure he doesn’t actually know what he wants to say to me.

“Are you going to be okay?” he asks after a moment.

“I have no idea,” I reply, and because it’s the truth, I already know it’s not what I’m supposed to say.

I hang up and my eyes sting with tears.

* * *

? ? ?

I’m still trying to fall asleep when the unmistakable scent of weed slips underneath my bedroom door. I walk into the living space and then through the unlocked door into the backyard, where Lana is sitting on a deck chair, smoking. She opens one eye and holds the joint out to me, but I shake my head, sitting on the damp chair next to her instead.

“Apparently it’s going to rain,” Lana says after a moment. “Can you smell it?”

I sniff the air to humor her, and it does smell slightly heavier than usual.

“Everyone says it never rains here, but that’s a lie,” I say. “It’s like collective amnesia or something. A pact the locals make with each other to preserve the myth that it’s perfect in LA, you know?”

Lana smiles. “I like it when it rains here.”

“Me too.”

She takes another drag of the joint and then holds it out to me again. I take it this time and inhale, feeling the burn on my lips. I have to try not to choke when it hits the back of my throat.

“This one’s a tickler. I don’t smoke often, but we’re all allowed our vices, right?” she says, holding her hands out in front of her and then turning them over as she starts to laugh.

“Hey, who am I to judge?” I say. “I once did crystal meth with the guy who did the voice for Scooby-Doo.”

Lana laughs harder but I’m feeling a little nauseated already, light-headed, and am about to go back to bed when I remember something Laurel said.

“I just want to say that the other night, when Laurel . . . relapsed, it was entirely my fault. I didn’t know, but I should have . . .” I say, but the words are eluding me. “I haven’t been a good friend to her for a while.”

Lana smiles at me gently, and in her smile I can see her affection for Laurel. I’m about to turn inside, satisfied that my friend is luckier than most people, when Lana puts her hand on my arm to stop me. I stare down at it because it’s the first time anyone has touched me so gently in a while.

“Can I say something now, Grace? I don’t want you to think that I’m being patronizing, but I know how important you are to Laurel, and I think I’d feel bad if I didn’t say it.”

“Go ahead,” I say. She drops the joint into an ashtray, and it sizzles under the water she pours onto it.

“I don’t exactly know what’s happened to you, but I know that sometimes you can’t change other people, you can only change how you respond to them, and that has to be enough. Does that mean anything to you?”

“That’s what I figured,” I say as I stand up. “But it turns out they control that too.”


Laurel walks into my bedroom the next morning, her iPhone pinned between her ear and her shoulder. “No, I know, of course. Olivia, naturally, I think that’s totally normal given the situation.” She mouths sorry at me, and I understand that she’s on the phone with my mother. I shake my head violently and wave my hand at her, but she perches on the end of my bed.

“Tell me about it, I had to learn that the hard way too,” she says, holding her hands up at me as I scowl at her. She mouths what? at me before speaking again.

“No, I’m with her. Like I said, she promised me she would call you the minute she felt better. She didn’t want to have to lie and pretend that she was okay when she wasn’t, you know. Although, she’s actually looking marginally less deathly than she was, so it’s perfect timing. Okay, I’m handing you over to her now. I know, okay, bye.” She passes the phone to me as if it’s burning hot and shakes her head, mouthing Jesus to me as she leaves the room. I scowl at the back of the door and take a deep breath.


“Oh, so you do remember me,” my mom says, her voice high and charged with something. She must have been gearing up for this phone call for a while. “You’re going to have to jog my memory, though . . . your name is familiar . . .”

“Grace Hyde. You gave birth to me. I ate my twin sister in the womb and my head was in the ninety-eighth percentile for size in the country?” I say, because this part has always come easily to us both.

“We don’t know that it was a sister,” my mom replies instantly. “It could have been a boy twin. Your father would have been so pleased.”

“I’m fine, Mom, thanks for asking.”

“I know you’re fine, but do you know how I know that? E! News. And Kim Kardashian tweeted to say how relieved she was to hear it. I’ve been trying to get ahold of you for a week.”

“I’m sorry, Mom. I wasn’t allowed visitors, and then I just . . . switched my phone off. Wait, are you on Twitter now?” I ask, already exhausted.

“Can I just ask you one thing?”

“Go ahead,” I say, waiting for the coins to clatter into the gutter like they always do.

“What have I done to deserve this treatment?” my mom asks, and her voice has a rawness to it that it didn’t before. I squeeze my eyes shut, my forehead throbbing with the extra exertion of sparring with my mother.

“Mom, come on. I was going to call.”

“No, please. Tell me exactly what I did wrong.” My mom’s voice is getting louder again, and I feel safer, because at least her indignation is familiar ground. “First I lose you, and now Esme doesn’t want anything to do with me. How either of you can be happy in that city, breathing all that smog, talking about what a dreadful mother I am, how I always ruin everything . . .”

“What are you talking about?” I ask. “What about Esme?”


“Where is Esme?” I ask slowly, fear rendering me stupid.

“I wouldn’t know, Grace, because she’s with you,” my mom says after a pause.

“When did you last see her?”

“New Year’s Day . . . She spent the night with a friend from school, and when she came home she told us that you’d asked her to stay with you for a couple of days, before school started up again. She just texted me yesterday, saying she was with you at Laurel’s.”