The End of Everythingby Megan Abbott
Thirteen-year old Lizzie Hood and her next door neighbor Evie Verver are inseparable. They are best friends who swap bathing suits and field-hockey sticks, and share everything that's happened to them. Together they live in the shadow of Evie's glamorous older sister Dusty, who provides a window on the exotic, intoxicating possibilities of their own teenage horizons.… See more details below
Thirteen-year old Lizzie Hood and her next door neighbor Evie Verver are inseparable. They are best friends who swap bathing suits and field-hockey sticks, and share everything that's happened to them. Together they live in the shadow of Evie's glamorous older sister Dusty, who provides a window on the exotic, intoxicating possibilities of their own teenage horizons. To Lizzie, the Verver household, presided over by Evie's big-hearted father, is the world's most perfect place.
And then, one afternoon, Evie disappears. The only clue: a maroon sedan Lizzie spotted driving past the two girls earlier in the day. As a rabid, giddy panic spreads through the Midwestern suburban community, everyone looks to Lizzie for answers. Was Evie unhappy, troubled, upset? Had she mentioned being followed? Would she have gotten into the car of a stranger?
Lizzie takes up her own furtive pursuit of the truth, prowling nights through backyards, peering through windows, pushing herself to the dark center of Evie's world. Haunted by dreams of her lost friend and titillated by her own new power at the center of the disappearance, Lizzie uncovers secrets and lies that make her wonder if she knew her best friend at all.
"With The End of Everything, Megan Abbott takes an insightful, sensuous coming-of-age tale and ties it to a freight train of a mystery. The result is a novel that's bold, unnerving, poignant and full of yearning-like that first teenage year itself."-Gillian Flynn, bestselling author of Sharp Objects and Dark Places
"Megan Abbott captures the essence of being thirteen - all its magic, its intensity and confusion, its headlong power and its terrible vulnerability - and wraps it in a story that's taut, unflinching and very hard to put down."-Tana French, author of In the Woods, The Likeness, and Faithful Place
"Megan Abbott: Superb storyteller, film noir scholar, deconstructionist suffused with a true artist's passion. Poised to ascend to the top rung of crime writing and quite possibly something beyond."--James Ellroy
- Blackstone Audio, Inc.
- Publication date:
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- 6.50(w) x 6.20(h) x 1.20(d)
Read an Excerpt
The End of EverythingA Novel
By Abbott, Megan
Reagan Arthur BooksCopyright © 2011 Abbott, Megan
All right reserved.
She, light-streaky out of the corner of my eye. It’s that game, the one called Bloody Murder, the name itself sending tingly nerves shooting buckshot in my belly, my gut, or wherever nerves may be. It’s so late and we shouldn’t be out at all, but we don’t care.
Voices pitchy, giddy, raving, we are all chanting that deathly chant that twists, knifelike, in the ear of the appointed victim. One o’clock, two o’clock, three o’clock, four o’clock, five o’clock… And it’s Evie, she’s it, lost at choosies, and now it will be her doom. But she’s a good hider, the best I’ve ever seen, and I predict wild surprises, expect to find her rolled under a saggy front porch or buried under three inches of dirt in Mom’s own frilly flower bed.
Six o’clock, seven o’clock, eight o’clock, nine o’clock, the cruel death trill we intone, such monsters we, ten o’clock, eleven o’clock, twelve o’clock, MIDNIGHT! Bloody murder! We all scream, our voices cruel and insane, and we scatter fast, like fireflies all a-spread.
I love the sound of our Keds slamming on the asphalt, the poured concrete. There are five, maybe ten of us, and we’re all playing, and the streetlamps promise safety, but for how long?
Oh, Evie, I see you there, twenty yards ahead, your peach terry cloth shorts twitching as you run so fast, as you whip your head around, that dark curtain of hair tugging in your mouth, open, shouting, screaming even. It’s a game of horrors and it’s the thing pounding in my chest, I can’t stop it. I see you, Evie, you’re just a few feet from the Faheys’ chimney, from home base. Oh, it’s the greatest game of all and Evie is sure to win. You might make it, Evie, you might. My heart is bursting, it’s bursting.
It was long ago, centuries. A quivery mirage of a thirteen-year-old’s summer, like a million other girl summers, were it not for Evie, were it not for Evie’s thumping heart and all those twisting things untwisting.
There I am at the Verver house, all elbows and freckled jaw and heels of hands rubbed raw on gritty late summer grass. A boy-girl, like Evie, and nothing like her sister, Dusty, a deeply glamorous seventeen. A movie star, in halter tops and eyelet and clacking Dr. Scholl’s. Eyelashes like gold foil and eyes the color of watermelon rind and a soft, curvy body. Always shiny-lipped and bright white-teethed, lip smack, flash of tongue, lashes bristling, color high and surging up her cheeks.
A moment alone, I would steal a peek in Dusty’s room, clogged with the cotton smell of baby powder and lip gloss and hands wet with hair spray. Her bed was a big pink cake with faintly soiled flounces and her floor dappled with the tops of nail polish bottles, with plastic-backed brushes heavy with hair, with daisy-dappled underwear curled up like pipe cleaner, jeans inside out, the powdery socks still in them, folded-up notes from all her rabid boyfriends, shiny tampon wrappers caught in the edge of the bedspread, where it hit the mint green carpet. It seemed like Dusty was forever cleaning the room, but even she herself could not stop the constant, effervescing explosions of girl.
Alongside such ecstatic pink loveliness, Evie and I, we were all snips and snails, and when permitted into her candied interior, we were like furtive intruders.
You see, knowing Evie so well, knowing her bone-deep, it meant knowing her whole family, knowing the books they kept on their living room shelf (The Little Drummer Girl, Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, Lonesome Dove), the banana bark chair in the living room and the way it felt under your fingers, the rose milk lotion on Mrs. Verver’s dressing table—I wanted to sink my face into it.
I couldn’t remember a time when I wasn’t skittering down their carpeted steps, darting around the dining room table, jumping on Mr. and Mrs. Ververs’ queen-size bed.
There were other things to know too. Secrets so exciting that they were shared only in hushed giggles under the rippling flannel of sleeping bags. Did you know? Evie whispers, and tells me Dusty is named after the singer whose album her parents played sixteen times the night she was conceived. It is thrilling and impossible. I cannot, even in my most devilish thoughts about the hidden wickedness and folly of grown-ups, imagine Mrs. Verver turning her child’s name into a lurid, private wink.
Not Mrs. Verver. Living next door all of my life, I never knew her to laugh loudly or run for the phone or dance at the drunken block parties every July. Tidy, bland voice as flat as a drum, she was the fleeting thing, the shadow moving from room to room in the house. She worked as an occupational therapist at the VA hospital, and I was never sure what that meant, and no one ever talked about it anyway. Mostly, you’d just see her from the corner of your eye, carrying a laundry basket, slipping from hallway to bedroom, a fat paperback folded over her wispy hand. Those hands, they always seemed dry, almost dusty, and her body seemed too bony for her daughters, or her husband, to hug.
Oh, and Mr. Verver, Mr. Verver, Mr. Verver, he’s the one always vibrating in my chest, under my fingernails, in all kinds of places. There’s much to say of him and my mouth can’t manage it, even now. He hums there still.
Mr. Verver, who could throw a football fifty yards and build princess vanity tables for his daughters and take us roller-skating or bowling, who smelled of fresh air and limes and Christmas nutmeg all at once—a smell that meant “man” to his girls ever after. Mr. Verver, he was there. I couldn’t remember a time when I wasn’t craning my neck to look up at him, forever waiting to hear more, hungry for the moments he would shine his attentions on me.
These are all the good things, and there were such good things. But then there were the other things, and they seemed to come later, but what if they didn’t? What if everything was there all along, creeping soundlessly from corner to corner, shuddering fast from Evie’s nighttime whispers, from the dark hollows of that sunny-shingled house, and I didn’t hear it? Didn’t see it?
Here I was knowing everything and nothing at all.
There are times now when I look at those weeks before it happened and they have the quality of revelation. It was all there, all the clues, all the bright corners illuminated. But of course it wasn’t that way at all. And I could not have seen it. I could not, could not.
Sometimes I dream I’m playing soccer with Evie again, all this time later. First I’m alone on the field. It’s all green-black and I’m knocking the ball around between my feet. My round little legs beneath me. My funny little thirteen-year-old body, compact and strange. Bruise on my thigh. Scab on my knee. Ink on my hand from doodling in class. Wisped hair pressed by cool girly sweat onto my forehead. Arms like short spindles and stubby fingers protruding. Barely buds under my shiny green V-neck jersey. If I run my hands over them, they will hardly notice. Hips still angular like a boy’s, rotating with each kick, passing the ball between my feet, waiting for Evie, who’s there in a flash of dark heat before me. Breath splashing my face, her leg wedging between my legs and knocking the ball free, off into the dark green distance, farther than she ever meant it to go.
When I remember Evie now she is always slipping through shadows. Big, dark, haunted eyes rimmed with red. Running across the soccer field, face flushed, straight black sheet of hair rippling across her back. Running so hard, her breath stippled with pain to go faster, hit the grass harder, move forward faster, like she could break through something in front of her, something no one else saw.
It is May, the last month of middle school, and Evie, who is my best friend, is propped up on Nurse Stang’s examining table, so steely cold it stings my teeth to look at it.
“Does it hurt?” I ask, and Nurse Stang throws me an irritated look. She is holding a large pack of ice over Evie’s left eye.
“You only get one set of these,” she says, and makes to poke Evie right between the eyes. “What kind of girl hooks her stick into another girl like that.”
“It was her sister,” I say, and I’m smiling a little at Evie, from underneath Nurse Stang’s raised arm.”
“I was near the goal,” Evie says, mush-mouthed, her eye tearing. “It’s what she had to do.”
Dusty had been showing us her moves. High school star, the golden goddess of the Green Hollow Celts, she was getting us ready for August, for our first high school tryouts. She plucked our twig arms and said, You two paper dolls have wasted years knocking soccer balls. Chin high, hand on hip, she told us the time was ripe, we must make our move and ascend to the one true sport, to the deeper glories of field hockey.
I’d do anything Dusty said. I’d let her drill us forever. Even when it made you so tired, almost sick from the exhaustion and heat, it didn’t matter, because you were with her, and she was everything you wanted. You’d be about to collapse, then you’d look up and there she’d be, face gleaming, telling you, without saying it: You can do better, can’t you? And you could.
Nurse Stang calls Evie’s mom, watching us the whole time.
“You should have been wearing something,” she says, hanging up the phone. “They’re supposed to put goggles on you girls…”
“We were just messing around,” I say.
Just then Evie spits out her mouth guard, red speckled. All three of us look at it.
“What in the world,” Nurse Stang says, her voice pitched suddenly high. She tosses the ice pack at me and peers deep into Evie’s mouth, thrusting with her fingers, looking for something.
“I bit my tongue,” Evie says, her voice thickening. “I bit into it.” A strand of blood slips down her chin, and I start to feel dizzy. I look at the mouth guard, which is split clean through.
“You,” Nurse Stang says to me, holding Evie’s tongue between newly scarlet fingers, “get the needle and thread.”
We’re walking home and Evie is leaning close, wagging her tongue out at me, the cloudy gauze nearly tickling my face. She’s flaunting it mercilessly. We’re always eager for war wounds. Oh, her fury when I sprained my arm falling from the top of the rusty old slide in Rabbit Park.
“Your dad is going to be mad at Dusty,” I say, scraping my stick on the sidewalk, which I’m not supposed to do, but the sound is so satisfying.
“I don’t think so,” Evie lisps. “That’s the game.”
I think of ringletted Dusty, goalkeeper mask propped up daintily over her forehead. “Show me what you got, runt.”
“You don’t know the game,” Evie adds.
“I know as much as you, mamacita,” I say, leaning in and flicking the bandage on her stuck-out tongue with my finger.
We stop at her house. There’s no car in the driveway and all the lights are off. These are moments to be seized on, never wasted.
“Do you want to go to Perry’s?” she says, tugging the bandage off for good. I can see the threaded x-marks-the-spot on the tip of her tongue. One, two, three, four. One for each pointy tooth.
Peppermint-stripe awning, wall-to-wall white like the soft vanilla filling of a Creamsicle, Perry’s is the place all the kids in our class go. Next fall, when we’re in high school, we’ll have to go to the Ram’s Horn restaurant instead, where my brother, Ted, goes, and there is nothing under five dollars there, and there are no counter stools to spin on and the lighting is grown-up low.
I am eating an Oreo sundae, picking wedges of cookie carefully from my molars. With great concentration, Evie is eating her favorite: a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup sundae—the kind where they give you the long spoon to get all the peanut butter silted up in the narrow bottom. She shoves the spoon far into the back of her mouth, to miss the stitches.
Some boys from school are at the counter, knocking over canisters of straws and punching one another, practically jumping from their skin. Their donkey-bray laughter fills the place.
One of them, Jed, spots us and starts throwing wadded-up straw wrappers in our direction. I am itching to go. Evie, though, keeps looking at me and shaking her head, her bangs veiling her eyes. I reach out and push them back and I can see the bruise beginning to bloom on her face. I wriggle in my seat, my thighs itching against the vinyl. Jed has curly yellow hair and a nose that hooks at the end. I remember once he tugged the back of Evie’s shorts in gym class. She said he pressed his fingers against her skin and everyone was watching.
We wait too long and Jed gets his blood up, pigeon-strutting over to us. I look at Evie, trying to catch her eye. The bangs have shaken loose once more and she is staring down at her sundae, sloshing her spoon around the frothy Reddi-wip. But I see her pinkening a little, so I know she sees Jed.
She curls her tongue into the corner of her mouth.
“Hey,” he says, hands shoved in pockets, head cocked to one side.
“Hey,” I say, kicking Evie lightly in the shin.
Jed stands in silence for a few moments, then reaches over to Evie’s sundae and dips his knobby pinkie in and lifts a sticky strand, lacing it across his hand. With a nasty grin, he shoves a pair of caramel-webbed fingers in his mouth and smacks his lips.
She watches him, we both do, and I can feel things jumping in me, and I have to stop myself because this is about Evie, this is hers, and I’m not sure what’s skittering behind those dark eyes.
But she does nothing, she looks at me and asks me if I’m ready to leave, and I say I am. She is so cool, so regular-day, as she gathers her things and we very nearly glide to the front door.
Jed follows, and of course he would, and he’s saying boy taunts like, “What’s a matter, girls, don’t you like to share? Don’t you want to lick my fingers?”
The rest of the boys are out front, watching the show. Evie adjusts her backpack and begins walking, but I can’t stand it anymore. Eyeing the swampy old fountain where the little kids grab slimy pennies, I drop my bag and dunk my hands under it and, with one heaving hurl, splash Jed. Oh, do the boys laugh, and Jed, sludge-drenched, is elated.
Why, that’s what he wants me to do, I figure out, that’s all they ever want.
Then, Jed grabs me around the waist, tight on my ribs so it hurts, and shakes his wet hair against my neck from behind. I can’t fight the deliciousness of it, all the kids screaming, but I pull free, nearly tripping, tugging up my fallen bra strap.
I barely have a chance to turn to Evie when Jed grabs her next, and drags her, sneakers skidding, to the fountain. They wrestle around the browning spout briefly, Evie’s legs kicking, and, next thing, she has elbowed him hard in his scrawny ribs and pushed herself from those freckled arms.
She stumbles back and somehow is in the center of all of us.
We all see Evie’s pale yellow T-shirt is skin-soaked with the mucky stuff.
The sight, it has a stone-turning power. Jed can’t take his eyes off her.
Evie doesn’t cover the hard outline of her small breasts, though I want her to. I want to cover them for her, those pebbly nipples. I feel my face go hot and I drop my head, I want to fold my own arms across my chest. I feel a weird laugh coming from me.
But Evie, she puts her hands on her hips and stares Jed down with her slate eyes. The clinging shirt is pulled even tauter by her pose.
I’m laughing with my hand over my whole face.
“The boys come for her,” Evie told me once. Late into the night, both of us snug in her twin bed, we’d been talking about Dusty. We love to talk about her, to spin speculations into looping tangles at our feet. What if Becky Hode tries to take team captain from her? What if it’s true about Mr. Douglas, the lantern-jawed science teacher? Did he really say there was no better example of the sublime poetry of hydraulics than Dusty walking down the third-floor corridor?
“Bobby Thornhill sits across the street in his car,” Evie told me. “He doesn’t think anyone can see. Do you think that’s creepy?”
“Maybe,” I said, thinking about Bobby Thornhill, the galloping track star with the black bolt of hair and the marbly eyes that roll around in his head when he’s pounding his horse legs on the cinder.
“What does he do?” I asked, careful now. “When he sits out there, does he do things?”
Evie looked at me. “I guess he might.”
“Oh,” I said, feeling funny, all the air sucked out of me in a big swoop. And I thought of Bobby in the front seat of his parents’ car, his forest green varsity jacket with the chenille C. I thought of him hunched there, eyes gazing up at Dusty’s bedroom window, its frothy curtains, Dusty’s frothy girlness.
It must have been a wondrous thing to him, the curtains and pink light coming from her room. The whisper of Dusty floating by. A whisper he could just catch. And the feeling must have been so great, such a hard pressure in him, and he could, he could—
The thought came to me, I know this, I know this. But it was gone before I could wrap my head around it.
I lay there and listened to Evie breathing, fast.
I’m thirteen, did I tell you, and I have soft dimples where my thighs meet my knees, and each night I lie in bed with my hands wedged between my legs and wonder things and the wonder becomes so real, and there’s a heat and pressure there, and if I try hard enough I can, like a tightness kept within me, make the whole world break open and break me all to pieces.
There are boys and there are boys, but in my head it’s better because there is none of the roughness of these boys, boys like Brad Nemeth, trying to steer me onto his lap at the party at Tara Leary’s house, trying to steer me there so my shorts ride up and feel his curling denim underneath the uppermost part of my thigh, and he has such a look, and his face so close to mine.
“He was rubbing on you like it was Boy Scout camp,” Evie said later. “Like if he rubbed hard enough he could start that fire, get that merit badge.”
Evie would say these things and it made everything easier, all at once. We would laugh and laugh, and boys hate it when you laugh together, at them. “It was like rubbing a pink eraser to the nub,” Evie said. “He was gonna rub on you till you were just the metal tip.”
That night, that very same night, though, I felt the soft part of my underthigh, the pink stipple of brush burn, tender like new skin. It did things to me.
I wake up with a start, my legs jackrabbiting to the foot of my bed. It must’ve been a car door slamming, a clap of thunder, a raccoon in someone’s trash can, an early-summer bottle rocket, something. I jerk my feet, ankles free from the knot of sheets, and wait for a minute, trying to listen for it, but there’s nothing but the heavy buffering of the sleeping house. That lonely, lost feeling where it’s like everyone else has sunk into some velvety splendor-world except you.
My retainer sliding against my teeth with a tickle, I lie back and fix my eyes on the bleary whites of the soccer ball corkboard hanging on the back of my door.
It takes only a few seconds before I remember it was the dream. The dream woke me up and the dream was this:
Evie is on my bedroom floor, tucked in her sleeping bag, deep pink like two plush lips, on the floor by my bed. I glance down at her and see her mouth is stuffed with plumes of cotton, like from the top of an aspirin bottle. Eyes dark, loose in her head, she’s looking up at me and one hand darts out in tan, bony twitches, the cotton sputtering from her mouth in wisps. And I can’t decide if she’s laughing. It seems like she must be laughing, like we’re in the middle of a joke together and I should be laughing too, but I keep hearing things, strange, bleating sounds, and I am unfocused.
I feel a hard tug on my ankle, her fingers gnarled, her eyes large and stricken, and she whispers, and it’s like a slumber party movie with glinting hacksaws and bright cleavers, and my heart runs cold. “Is it now? Is it now?”
The dream fresh on me, I sit up again, try to shake off the murk of it, but it’s hard. That face, the feel of Evie’s hot hand wrapped around my leg, I am still there. I count to ten three times, like when I was a kid and the thunder rolled over the house. It always works and it does now too.
Just as I feel myself settling into sleep, though, I think I hear my mother’s voice, chattering and then lifting into a long sigh.
That strange, untethered feeling comes back, like things have slipped from their right place while I’d slept. I can’t think of any time since the screaming maw of the divorce that she would be on the phone at such an hour. And then it was always a grasping, urgent voice, filled with sobs and gnashing teeth.
This one lilts, filled with coaxing laughs.
It sounds like she’s outside, and I remember how it was that time right after my dad left, finding her in the driveway, cord stretched outside, crying behind the screen door, her face behind her hand.
But then I hear a deeper voice and I know. I know she’s not on the phone at all. I know it means that man is with her. My brother, Ted, saw him first, from his bedroom window. He told me about it the next day and then I watched for it. Dr. Aiken, that’s his name, Ted says so.
And check out the wedding band, Ted said, but I’ve never been close enough to see it.
He always arrives very late and he never comes inside. That’s how I know they’re out on the screen porch together again and they’re drinking tumblers of whiskey sour and he’s rubbing his face in his hand and saying, again and again, “I know I should go home, Diane, I know I should.”
But he doesn’t, or only at five, when I see him, shoes in hand, tie hanging around his neck, tripping across the front lawn to his car.
The next day, Evie and I are standing in front of the school, tapping our sticks against each other in time. The dream from last night is hovering in my head, and I think I might tell Evie about it, but I keep stopping myself. No one ever really wants to hear your dreams.
Anyway, we are having a day of no talking, just being, walking together, tapping our new hockey sticks and yanking our sweaty shirts from our chests.
Still, I can’t keep my eyes off the violet stain flaring over Evie’s temple. It looks like it could move without you, get up and go. It’s like a purple butterfly, I tell her, flitting from her face.
She puts her fingers on it and I can almost feel it pulsing on my own face, a gentle throb.
“What did your dad say?” I ask, and I imagine Mr. Verver’s wrinkled brow, like when I slipped on their stairs, running way too fast in my stocking feet, skidding down three steps, and making brush burns all up my calves.
“He bought me a raw steak at Ketchums to put on it,” she says. “Mom said it cost more than their anniversary dinner.”
It sounds like Mrs. Verver, who says everything with a yawn.
“All night,” Evie says, a grin creeping, “he kept calling me Rocky.”
We both roll our eyes, but we love it. When the boys tease, you don’t want it to be you, but with Mr. Verver, his teases are like warm hands lifting you.
Evie thrusts her hockey stick out in front of her like Zorro. “Dusty said I looked more like a battered wife on a TV show,” she says.
Then she tells me how, after dinner, her dad took her for pecan pie at Reynold’s, the good kind, gritty-sweet on your teeth. The waitresses felt sorry for her and gave her an extra scoop of ice cream.
I think of sitting with Mr. Verver, gooey pie plates between us, and how the waitresses probably always give him extra scoops. Waitresses were always doing that with Mr. Verver, just like the mothers who buzzed around him at the PTA meetings, filling his plate with sugared cookies and inviting him to their book clubs.
I wish Evie would have invited me to Reynold’s. Like other times, with Mr. Verver dabbing Cool Whip on my nose.
Out of the blue, my ankles feel itchy and I wish I could take off my gym socks.
I look down the street, which has that four thirty hush. The summer heat seems early, hovering above the asphalt.
“Where’s your mom taking you?” Evie asks, watching a car flutter upward at the speed bump in front of the school.
“The mall,” I say. “Are you going to wear your sister’s old dress?” I remember the lavender Laura Ashley with the gored skirt that Dusty wore to her own middle school graduation. All those ringlets dangling down her back and her face bright with achievement—it wasn’t something you forgot.
A maroon car shimmers out of nowhere and glides past us quickly.
“I don’t know,” Evie says, kicking her shoe toe into the pavement.
Squinting, she looks down the street. “I think I see her.”
We both watch as my mom’s tan Tempo floats before us on the horizon.
“We’ll give you a ride,” I say.
“That’s okay,” she says, twirling her hockey stick over her shoulder. I hear the stutter in my mom’s car as she pulls up.
The moment stretches out, I’m not sure why.
Evie is looking past my mother’s car, down the street.
“Someone’s lost,” she says.
“What—” I start, but then we both watch as the same maroon car drifts past us again soundlessly. Something in my head flickers, but I can’t place it.
I turn back around and there’s that Evie face, cool and orderly, the line for a mouth and her smooth, artless expression, like a soft sheet pulled fast, hiding every corner.
I twirl my stick around and clatter it against hers.
“Call me,” I say, turning toward the idling car. My mother is looking at us from behind big sunglasses, smiling absently.
I open the door and lean in. “Mom, can Evie come with us?”
But when I turn around, Evie’s gone, slipped behind the tall hedgerow, behind the stone columns of the old school.
Do I see it in her expression, as she looks at me, as she pulls her face into blankness? Do I hear her say, in some low register, a creeping knowingness always between us? Do I hear her say, This is the last time, this is the last time?
This face, my face, gone forever.
The phone rings. It’s ten thirty at night. I’m brushing my teeth when it happens, and I hope it’s not my dad calling from California, calling from his apartment balcony, a sway in his voice, talking about the time we rented canoes at Old Pine Lake, or the time he built the swing set in the backyard, or other things I don’t really remember but that he does, always, when he’s had a second glass of wine.
But it’s not him, and my mother sounds rattled and confused.
“I’ll be sure to speak to her right away,” she says, and I try to think of things I might have done. Late for Algebra twice last week. Would they call your parents at ten thirty at night for that?
After she hangs up, she drops her arms to her sides, and I can see her take a long breath.
Pushing wisps of hair behind her ears, which is what she does when her nerves run high, she sits me down at the kitchen table.
“I’m going to ask you something,” she says, “and I need you to tell me the truth.”
I say of course I will.
“Okay,” she says, and her hands tremble, and I feel bad about whatever I did even though I can’t imagine what it might be. “Do you know anything about Evie not coming home from school today?”
I shake my head and say I don’t know anything. I don’t know anything at all. Even though I’m telling the truth, it somehow feels like I’m lying.
My mother, her face gone soft and pink, takes my hand in hers and asks me again. And then once more.
But I don’t know. I don’t know, I don’t.
Somewhere, though, somewhere in my head, in the back pitch of it, there’s something. There’s something. I just can’t reach it.
Excerpted from The End of Everything by Abbott, Megan Copyright © 2011 by Abbott, Megan. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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