Remember the places you touched me.
Ben touched seven parts of Mira Cillo: her palm, hair, chest, cheek, lips, throat, and heart. It was the last one that broke her. After Mira's death, she sends Ben on a quest to find notes she left him in the seven places where they touched—notes that explain why she and her sister, Francesca, drowned themselves in the quarry lake. How Ben interprets those notes has everything to do with the way he was touched by a bad coach years ago. But the truth behind the girls’ suicides is far more complicated, involving a dangerous infatuation, a deadly miracle, and a crushing lie. BEAUTIFUL BROKEN GIRLS is a stunning release from Kim Savage, the author of the critically acclaimed After the Woods.
|Publisher:||Farrar, Straus and Giroux|
|File size:||2 MB|
|Age Range:||14 - 17 Years|
About the Author
Kim Savage is a former reporter who received her master’s degree in Journalism from Northeastern University. Her work includes the critically acclaimed novels After the Woods and Beautiful Broken Girls. Kim grew up in South Weymouth, Massachusetts, and lives north of Boston, not far from the real Middlesex Fells of After the Woods.
Read an Excerpt
Beautiful Broken Girls
By Kim Savage
Farrar, Straus and GirouxCopyright © 2017 Kimberley Haas Savage
All rights reserved.
Mira's letter arrived seven days after she died.
Mira. Was. Alive.
The idea hit Ben like a punch to the throat. It grew into a vibrating, ludicrous shiver of hope that he'd seen another girl's body in Kyle's photo. A different beauty with long arms and gold-flecked eyes and a perfectly straight back, another girl had fallen alongside Francesca. Not Mira.
But: the swell of a thigh. He knew that swell tanned in white shorts. He knew it peeking from under the hem of a skirt, sitting at her desk in English, toes curled under, leaning forward. He knew it taut, lying on her back on a towel at the club and the quarry, one knee up.
Of course Mira was dead.
Ben studied the envelope, wondering if it was a sick joke. But there was the handwriting. Benvenuto Lattanzi, 20 Springvale Street, spelled out in purple ink on a long white generic business envelope, stained where it had passed through hands. Mira had put the letter through a convoluted dance to be delivered next door, a dance that made little sense until you realized that arriving too late was the whole idea. A deliberate misspelling of Springdale Street that kept the envelope circulating around the city. That was like Mira: resourceful. Good at sneaking out in the middle of the night to meet Ben.
Good at sneaking out in the middle of the night to die.
Ben moaned. He pressed the curve of his fist into his mouth.
"Ben?" his mother called from her bedroom, her voice threaded with worry.
Overhead, his mother's footsteps quickened. Ben's head snapped. He pulled himself together fast and tore open the envelope, extracting the letter. It fluttered as his hand shook. More of Mira's handwriting, but the words wouldn't come together, and Ben felt like he was reading Spanish, which he sucked at, as if Mira's sentence was a string of cognates at which to guess. Sweat prickled under his arms. He rubbed his forehead with his wrist and held the letter close, his eyes skittering over the words. Finally, the words decoded themselves.
Everyone wanted to touch us. Including you. So remember the seven places you touched me. That's where you'll find the truth. In my words. Start at the beginning.
Ben wiped sweat from his eyes. Mira had left him something. Mira had left him her words. Letters, notes. Something. Where?
Remember the places you touched me.
A whole summer had passed since Mira broke contact with him, after Connie's wake, days after Easter. But Ben remembered those places. Places where Mira had let him stroke, brush, caress, graze, kiss, nuzzle.
He couldn't go there, not now.
She had done things with him in those places, innocent things, then more. The parts of Mira that Ben had touched were etched on his soul.
Palm. Hair. Chest. Cheek. Lips. Throat.
Ben shook it off. Mira had given him a puzzle, one that Ben could solve, that would give him answers for the holes that haunted him, the parts of Mira's life between what he saw from his bedroom window and the diluted version he got when they were among friends. For Ben had spent endless hours wondering about the pretty mysteries of Mira's life that seemed far away, but were playing out right next door. Ben drifted again to a place he knew he shouldn't go, and the shame and pleasure was awful.
A creak above. He stuffed Mira's letter in the back waistband of his shorts and looked up as his mother flew down the stairs, slowing at the bottom, attempting to model normalcy. She'd had practice at remaining calm when evil intruded into their lives. Specifically, when it targeted her son. Ben imagined her pacing upstairs moments before, whispering "You've got this" to herself, over and over.
"I heard a strange noise," she said, her hand reaching toward his face, then pulling back. "Are you all right?"
It was like she thought death was contagious. Ben had considered the possibility. First Mrs. Cillo died (ten years back, and Ben barely remembered her); then the Cillos' cousin, Connie Villela, in March; and now the Cillo girls. Was death a germ you could catch, like Mrs. Cillo's depression, and Connie's deadly allergy, and the girls with their ... what?
Maybe he should call in sick. This would be the fourth day he hadn't gone in to work, and the clubhouse manager had sent word that he was considering replacing him. Ben had been saving his paychecks to get Mira out of Bismuth. The timing worked. If he showed up five days a week for the rest of the summer, the $232.80 in his bank account would grow to $500.00. It was the half grand he needed to buy his father's failing BMW. His father had been on his side since he'd turned sixteen — he was eyeing a new convertible — but that could change with weak grades or another roach and a vial of Visine found in a dirty pants pocket. Mira hadn't known the plan, but she had only needed to say the word, and they would have left Bismuth for foreign highways. Getting out of Bismuth had become an obsession nearly as great as Mira herself.
Ben rammed his nose with the heel of his hand. He hadn't realized he was crying.
"Oh, Ben," his mother said softly, producing a tissue. "Maybe it's too soon to go back to work." She had been "giving space" and "being available" — the things suggested by her friends, who no doubt wished more than anything that this awful story would go away and they could get on with their tennis and low-glycemic diets.
Start at the beginning.
"Can you take me to the boat club right now?" Ben begged.
His mother searched his face while Ben took in the sight of her. Her unwashed hair fell in finger-combed rows. One freckled breastbone pointed out of a graying tank. The ends of her eyes drew downward into the soft wince that accompanied the subject of the Cillos. Another person might translate the wince into empathy for the Cillos, but Ben knew better. His father's historic falling-out with Mr. Cillo had been brutal. The intervening years with a scant eight feet between their houses had been strained. Mr. Cillo's daughters dying? That was plain awkward.
"I'm glad you want to go back to work already," she said. "But I want you to be prepared. Have you spoken with Eddie since the incident?"
Connie's brother Eddie, the Cillos' cousin Eddie, his oldest friend Eddie, now steeped in death's perfume. Ben forgot he was going to have to face Eddie, never mind work around him to find more of Mira's "words." Not that he didn't have experience. The Lattanzi-Cillo bad blood had kept his relationship with Mira secret from Eddie, who valued family loyalty and would've seen it as a betrayal from both sides. Though Eddie loved Ben and Mira both, he could not love them together.
It was all so stupid.
"Because I imagine you'll see Eddie today," his mother nattered, oblivious to Ben's darkening expression. "Give him our love and support, and let him know we're here to help. You might even tell him about the scholarship Daddy set up in the girls' names."
Eddie had little to fear. After Connie's wake, Mira had dumped Ben cold. Mira's sudden silence was the first thing Ben thought of when he woke, and the last thing he thought of as he drifted off to sleep. In the mornings, he rose and stood at his window, staring at her house. Constantly, he checked his phone, though a text was as unlikely as the idea Mira might one day disappear from the earth. Later, he rationalized that girls were a headache, especially girls you had to see in secret, most especially girls who were complicated puzzles that often left him feeling dumb. He'd convinced himself that no longer having to hide their relationship from Mr. Cillo (and, truth be told, Eddie) was a relief. That the last time he and Mira had been together was sublime, and now it could never be corrupted by lesser, fumbling attempts.
Lie after lie after lie.
"Oh, bud." His mother's hand fluttered, producing another tissue.
Ben kneaded his fist against the spot between his eyes. "I want it on the record that I will not serve as the goodwill ambassador for the Lattanzi household."
"I'm sorry. It was inappropriate. Give me five minutes and we can go," she said. She knew Mira had been something more to Ben, though she was careful to talk about the "loss of his friend" and the "four stages of grief when losing a friend," imagining she was minimizing Ben's devastation by defining their relationship. Though it was only day seven, his mother had suggested there might be value in Ben speaking with someone — Saint Theresa's Spiritual Director Nick Falso, for example — if only because she was running out of things to say.
Ben waited in front of a calendar encased in lucite on the wall. Someone had interpreted August to mean fireflies caught in a mason jar, with moody, Monet swirls, the flies whirring in useless motion. Ben had looked forward to this summer, because it had meant more time around Mira without the distraction of school and sports and activities (his; the girls had none). Days swimming at the club and the quarry had their allure, especially for guys who had no real interactions with the girls otherwise, and who planned their days around seeing them in their bathing suits. Ben preferred the early evenings, when the windows were open and the sounds from next door drifted in: upstairs, a shower running overlong, one of the girls washing the metallic funk of quarry water from her hair and skin. Outside, the thrilling vacuum rush of the gas grill, which meant they'd assemble at the picnic table soon, Francesca fussing over her father's plate, Mira indolent from the day's sun.
Ben wondered if summer would always be a tainted season for him now. Before he left, he touched his finger on August 8, leaving a smudge.
* * *
Ben made for the gate that led to the clubhouse, through shrieks and lifeguard whistles, and beyond, the tidal roar and squeals of gulls. The wooden shell housed a snack bar and locker rooms. Built around the tired pool and facing the ocean, it captured and amplified the noises of both. The manager, Kenneth Laidlaw, lingered around the entrance, waiting for him to arrive.
"Lattanzi!" he called.
Ben jogged past him with a wave and beelined for the locker room, rank with ammonia over urine. Boys tumbled in, first three, then five. One boy pushed another. Ben glowered at them, waiting until the last one had zipped his fly and left to begin his search for Mira's note.
The manager stuck in his pustuled forehead. "You stroll in twenty minutes late and sit here catching up on your fan mail?" he whined.
Ben slid Mira's letter into his bag. "I'm getting changed."
"Looks like you're dressed. Get behind the counter. The place is jammed and Eddie's been alone for half his shift already. Have some sympathy, Benvenuto. The dude's been fed a tragedy sandwich."
Ben cringed. The manager was an ignorant putz who would never feel empathy for Eddie, but it was a convenient excuse to abuse Ben.
"I'm aware. Thanks though."
"Then help the man!"
Ben knew the note was somewhere inside the clubhouse. Mr. Cillo might have had eyes everywhere, but not between their hands at the snack bar last summer. Ben had sensed Mira coming before he'd seen her, making her way through the kinetic energy of sugared and sunburned kids. Behind her, the sun glared white. It hurt to look at her. She'd worn her father's button-down shirt over her wet bathing suit, and it clung in places. Ben had dreamed of her that morning and felt sure she knew. It seemed possible he was still dreaming and coming to the best part. Water beaded on her eyebrows and lashes. Ben wished he could fold her inside a towel and lead her away, wished he could tell her that's what he would like to do, but the recurring theme between them was Ben sounding stupid, and so he almost always said nothing.
And then she was there.
"Hey," he murmured.
Mira blinked. "Hey."
"A real live mermaid!" Eddie boomed as he came out from the supply room. Ben stiffened, waiting for the cascade of hugs and kisses between cousins, a display that tapped the hollow in his chest. Ben wasn't jealous that Eddie got to touch the girl everyone wanted to touch. It was that Ben had nothing like that in his life. No extended family that acted like every time they bumped into one another was the first time in a year. It was excessive and vulgar and lovely, and Ben ached for it.
"Ever hear of a towel, sweetheart?" Eddie said, pushing past Ben and leaning over the counter to plant a kiss on her cheek.
Over Eddie's shoulder, Mira's eyes fixed on Ben.
"I hate it here," she murmured.
"Look at the bright side. Some of us don't have a choice every day between the club and the quarry; we gotta work for a living. We'll get you a towel. Benny, you seen any extra towels back in the lost and found?"
Ben slunk away for a towel, relieved for the chore. The exquisite pain of Mira's closeness, especially when she looked slightly porny, was more than Ben could bear. He was certain his ears glowed hot.
"Don't!" Mira said suddenly. Ben stopped short. "Don't bother. Francesca wants to leave."
Eddie planted his fists on his hips. "Someone giving you girls trouble?" Eddie's play at being his uncle Frank's surrogate seemed stupid to Ben, the way Eddie pretended Mira needed a protector of her virtue when his own sister fooled around with everyone. Whatever myth Mr. Cillo had created about his daughters, it was contagious, because even the same boys who sneered at the Cillos' untouchability upheld it. Mr. Cillo's no-dating rule was an excellent excuse to avoid the ball-busting fail of asking out his daughters.
"Relax, no one's giving us trouble," Mira said. "Get me a Coke, okay?"
"You got it."
As Eddie's head disappeared inside the cooler, Mira held out a bill. Ben frowned, confused. The Cillo girls never paid at the snack bar. Not unless the manager was hovering, and even he refused Francesca's money.
"You know Eddie won't let me take that," Ben said, low and conspiratorial. She had allowed him to speak that way to her: her gesture required it. He was grateful.
Mira pushed the wet dollar on him. "I want to pay like everyone else."
Mira shifted from hip to hip, tangled in the damp cage of her father's shirt. Ben took the dollar. That's when it happened. Mira's two fingers, reaching past where they should, a stroke on the inside of his palm. So light he thought he'd imagined it, but knew he hadn't, because of Mira's smoldering look after. He'd practically danced away, looked the fool, tacked the dollar right up on the cork board for anyone to ask about. A flash of amusement, a sly smile before she padded away without her Coke, leaving wet footprints on the cement. Ben's elation dissipated into panic, and he sweated the rest of the afternoon, wondering if Eddie had seen any of it go down. Maybe for Mira, the thrill was in the risk of getting caught. Ben knew there were couples who purposely had sex in places like alleys and golf courses and the bathroom stalls at the boat club because it was more exciting. Getting caught became what Ben and Mira feared most. Because that would mean the end.
Ben conjured the feel of Mira's fingertips grazing his palm, and the memory made a stir in his pants, luscious and sad. Around that same time, Mira was changing, all nervy jangle, her limbs spring -loaded. On a towel, her knees sliced at the air, discontented. Listening to her sister, she would thrust her long neck forward; the slightest sound or movement made her head snap. Coiled and constantly alert, it was as though she might leap from her skin, or from this world. In a dream, Ben had watched as Mira launched herself off the altar, her legs flush back, her popped throat bound for the sky.
"Dude!" his manager shouted, ducking in. Ben considered how easy it would be to take off his pimpled head with a swift kick of the door. Instead, he stashed his bag in a locker and picked through a mob of sweaty kids to reach the hinged half gate that led behind the counter. Eddie's back was to Ben, operating the shake machine and pouring Goldfish into tiny cups at the same time.
Ben slapped an apron around his waist and cracked open a fresh mega-sized carton of Goldfish. "Help's here!"
Eddie swung around fast. Always ready for a fight. The cousins and siblings shared the same loosely wired nerves. Where Mira displayed the genetic reactivity throughout her body, and Connie in her hair-trigger laugh, Eddie was known for snapping. He once smacked Steven "Piggy" Pignataro for cupping Connie's butt when he was drunk, and Piggy still had to plug his ears when the T rumbled by.
"Geez, Benny, you took your time. Slap dogs on the turner and help me do drinks."
Ben quickly glanced around the snack bar space, desperate for a flash of white. Would the note be the same size as the first letter? The same color? In an envelope again? He felt Eddie's sharp eyes on him and turned fast, plugging in the relic electric turner. "Laidlaw didn't even warm up the turner for us," Ben mumbled, his face hot.
"Douche," Eddie said, settling, turning away from Ben.
The lunch crowd came in waves, dashing Ben's chance to search. They worked silently until the mob subsided, Eddie at the front end, taking orders and keeping the brats in line, and Ben working the back, pushing out hot dogs, Goldfish, and sugary drinks. Ben wished more than anything that he'd come early and beat Eddie and the crowds. The action seemed to taint the place, making any note Mira might have hidden impossible to find. He began to doubt he was right. Maybe he was reading too much into it, getting too technical: did Mira consider a palm stroke "being together"? Was it even worthy of a memory? What was? Ben snuck a look at Eddie. What if Eddie had found the note before Ben arrived and thrown it away? Or worse: what if he had it? Ben studied the back of Eddie's short neck. He needed to get Eddie talking. He needed to know.
Excerpted from Beautiful Broken Girls by Kim Savage. Copyright © 2017 Kimberley Haas Savage. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
PART 1 Palm,
PART 2 Hair,
PART 3 Chest,
PART 4 Cheek,
PART 5 Lips,
PART 6 Throat,
PART 7 Heart,
PART 8 Ash,
ALSO BY KIM SAVAGE,
ABOUT THE AUTHOR,