Portia Willows was a senior in high school in Los Angeles when her world fell apart. While dealing with the aftermath of the accident that took the lives of her mother and sister, she finds herself forced to face her own memory―which may not be quite what it seems. But Portia suffers from severe social anxiety disorder that prevented her from having any sort of life, while her little sister, Piper, was her best, and only, friend.
Now, five years later, Portia is forced to recall the events of the past while being questioned about a horrific crime she doesn’t remember. During those years, Portia had created a toxic, agoraphobic, life with her father, cigarettes and alcohol her only companions, unable to cope with her loss. That is, until Ethan Torke moved in across the street and changed Portia’s perspective in ways she could not possibly comprehend. But the truth always catches up with you, and fantasies never last. An unforgettable tale of memory, love, and strength through the darkest of times, Remember announces a brave new voice in psychological suspense.
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|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.80(d)|
|Age Range:||15 - 18 Years|
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"My name is Elizabeth Smith. I'm here to help you. I am not going to hurt you."
She said it slowly, like she was talking to a little kid. I didn't think she was going to. I just kept staring at her distracting pair of high heels. I'd never met her before, but she looked familiar.
"So, do you know why you're here?"
I shook my head. I also didn't know where here was. I didn't remember how I got here. I had been with my dad but I didn't know where he went. According to what I'd seen on television, I was either in jail, the hospital, or a mental institution. The room was normal-looking enough, with a big chair and a sofa. I could tell by looking out the window I was a couple stories high. There was a video camera on a tripod in the middle of the room
"Whenever you're ready, I want you to tell me what happened."
"Where's my dad?" I didn't feel like talking. "I need my dad."
"He's not here, Portia."
"Okay, well, I'm not talking without him. I don't really know what you want me to say, anyway."
"Is that why you need him here?"
"Are you even allowed to talk to me without a legal adult?"
"I'm not a police officer, and you are a legal adult. You are twenty-two years old. Do you know that?"
Why would I not know how old I am?
I nodded as I stared at the door.
"Your dad is not coming through that door."
"What do you want me to say? The faster I say it, the faster I can see him, right?"
"Start from the beginning. Tell me about your sister's play."
Five Years Ago
Piper had been cast as Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing and tonight was opening night at Cypress High. The play was the only thing talked about in our house for the past three months. I was proud of her, she was the only sophomore who had gotten a lead role. But that didn't mean I wanted to go. Being a senior was hard enough for me without all these outside activities.
Although Piper was my whole world, I hated social situations even more than I loved her. Piper understood, though she was the complete opposite of me. Her world was makeup, attention, boys, parties ... I, on the other hand, didn't want to leave my room, and I didn't have any friends. Only partners on school projects.
Though I hadn't gone to a single party in my four years of high school, I often picked her up from them. Piper was so popular, she was always invited to everything. Our parents didn't care. Mother was way too obsessed with the advertising company she owned. Dad was too obsessed with football and being a stay-at-home dad.
One time, Piper had been too drunk to come out to the car. I sat outside and waited for her for over an hour. Biting my lips, shaking my legs, tapping my fingers against the steering wheel, I kept whispering, "Come on, Piper," over and over again. Piper finally called me, crying, asking me to come inside and get her.
She told me exactly where she was.
She told me exactly what turns to take.
She reassured me that I wouldn't have to speak to a single person.
My little sister was in there, drunk, alone, helpless, and I was stuck in the car, heart racing. No matter how messed up she was, she still knew what she was asking of me was big, and danced around her words delicately, knowing how crippling my anxiety was. She promised to stay on the phone with me the entire way. It was her sobbing that got me out of the car.
I still can't believe I did that. Now I'm standing in her doorway years later, watching her curl her hair listening to Britney Spears
"Mom is making me go tonight," I said, already dressed and ready. With my anxiety, I had to get up two hours before everyone just to get myself to school on time.
"What? We already talked about this. Dad is recording it for you." She threw down the curling iron. I shrugged my shoulders. "Portia, I'm sorry. Mom can be such a bitch sometimes." My mom didn't understand my problem. She refused to get me help, but I didn't care. Piper was more concerned about me than I was.
Piper raced downstairs, me trailing behind. "Dad, does Portia have to go tonight?" Oh God. Leave it to Piper to start drama. Leave it to Piper to stand up for me even when I didn't ask her to.
"It's fine. Don't worry about it. I'll see you tonight." I rolled my eyes and headed for the door.
"I thought she wasn't going. I was going to order her a pizza," Dad said, pouring a little bit of brandy in his coffee. I smiled at him. He never questioned me. He didn't really know about disorders and problems, but he knew me better than anyone. He knew there was no way I was going, even though we'd never talked about it.
"Well, I think she should support her sister. This is a big deal. I really want her to go." My mother looked at my father like she was about to stab him in the eye.
"She's standing right there, Carol." Dad came over to me and put his hand on my shoulder.
"I don't want her to go, how about that?" Piper snapped.
"I'm going to school." I stormed off, slamming the door. I knew the three of them were going to have a fight as soon as I left.
They always fought over me.
Three Years Ago
"Hon, babe, sweetie, are you up? Can you get up?" Something nudged me gently. I could smell gross morning breath overlaid by beer. My dad and alcohol had become even better friends since my mother and my sister died.
It was just us in the house.
It was just us in the world.
We had both started drinking, smoking, and watching television almost twenty-four seven. At least I was taking online classes at UCLA. That had always been part of my plan. Once I graduated high school, I had never wanted to actually go to school again in my life.
"Dad, I have a test today and I feel like shit. I'm super hungover and need to rest."
"Okay, well, need a beer? I'll get you one. I'm going to be watching the game."
"The game? What time is it?"
"Two o'clock, honey."
"Oh shit." I'd missed my test. My first semester had been easy compared to this year, and now I was going to have to take this class over again. My dad and I had been living off of my mother's advertising company money. Susan, Mom's best friend, had taken over after she died. Susan always made sure we were doing okay. I felt like I was letting her down, between the drinking and taking care of my dad, I was failing.
I always wanted things to get better ... tomorrow.
My dad plopped down on the couch and lit the last cigarette.
"We bought that carton for the both of us to split."
"We are splitting it."
"No, you've been smoking more than me. I want a cigarette, too."
"Here, have this one."
"Take it, we're also out of beer."
"I guess that's what I get for sleeping all day." I was annoyed, but understood. I had lost my mother and my sister, he had lost his wife and his daughter. And he got left with the daughter with the problems. My guilt numbed my anger toward him. I went over to the couch and he put his arm around me.
"I'm sorry. I knew you were going to have a rough morning so I thought I'd let you sleep," he mumbled in my ear.
"It's fine. I'll go to the store tomorrow, okay?"
For the last year and a half, I'd had to step up. I'd had to get over my social issues, well, not get over them, but push their boundaries. But I was struggling. Dad wouldn't go out in public. We'd basically switched roles.
Even though I'd lived on the same street since I was born, everything looked different after the accident. It was almost winter, no kids were playing in the streets. Even the neighbors looked different, changed somehow. Walking to the store was pleasant, in spite of the occasional stares. I was the girl whose family had died, the one with the father on the edge. If I had been with Piper, she would tell them all to fuck off and mind their own business. I kept my head down and kept walking. The store was only two blocks. I usually did it in ten minutes.
That day was different.
That day there was a man standing outside the liquor store smoking Marlboro Reds and looking at me. He was cute — dark hair, dark beard, deep, icy blue eyes, rough. I stared back. For the first time, I had something in common with a cute guy, even if it was a bad habit.
"Would you like one?" he asked, offering the pack. It was the first time in over a year that someone besides Larry and Joseph, the cashiers at the store, had said something to me. I froze for a second, then kept walking. My heart was starting to race. I felt like I was about to have a panic attack.
"You okay?" Larry greeted.
I nodded, staring outside. The man was still looking at me.
"Is he bothering you?"
I shook my head.
"I got your carton ready; you're out of beer, too?"
Larry had known my father for years. He told me how my dad would come in and always talk about me. How he told stories about my mother and Piper too, but talked most about me. The first time I came in here alone, Larry made me feel comfortable. And Joseph was quiet like me; that's why I took to him.
"Tell your father I said hello and I miss him."
"And hey!" he called out. "You're a pretty girl, Ms. Willows, you're going to have to get used to guys hitting on you outside dirty liquor stores."
I giggled and stepped back out into the afternoon light. The man wasn't there anymore. I walked home, forgetting about it altogether, until I saw him ahead of me, going into the house across the street.
What the hell? No. No.
There was no way he lived there. I knew who lived there. It was a retired doctor. I didn't know exactly who it was but I did know it wasn't this guy. Then he saw me and started walking over.
"Hey," he said. His voice was softer this time. He was more of a boy than I'd thought. He didn't seem intimidating like he did outside the liquor store. I could see he was wearing an SMC shirt underneath his red flannel. He was only two inches taller than me. "I'm sorry about earlier. I didn't mean to scare you." He looked down at my bag. "Do you need help?"
I started to lose my grip. I thought I had gotten used to carrying a twelve- pack of Budweiser and a carton of Marlboro Reds. I shook my head as I struggled. He rushed over and grabbed it out of my hands.
"May I?" he asked as he took it. He smelled so good, like an Abercrombie and Fitch model or Hollister. I didn't know the difference. Piper would have been able to tell me. Relieved, I smiled and nodded. He looked up at my house and took a deep breath. I frowned — I should be more nervous than he was. My house was a mess. Why was I letting him in? I didn't know if my dad was even dressed. The kitchen was really close to the front door. My dad was in the living room. There was no way he would see him but he might hear him.
"Wow. This is a nice house!" He looked around.
I smiled for some reason.
"Can I ask you something?" he said.
I nodded as I started to put the beer away.
"Do you live alone? I'm just saying, it's a big house. You seem really young." His anxiousness relaxed me.
I shook my head.
"Oh ... okay. That makes sense. I live with my father. Do you know him? My parents are divorced. I was living with my mom in Florida and then after high school, I decided to go to college out here. Nice neighborhood. Do you go to school?"
It wasn't that nice of a neighborhood, but whatever.
"Okay, well ... my name is Ethan. It was nice to meet you."
I smiled and walked him to the door. I mumbled, "I'm Portia. I live with my dad, too. It's nice to meet you." I shut the door behind him.
What had just happened?CHAPTER 2
I couldn't stop thinking about Ethan. I wondered why he had helped me. Piper always told me boys only want one thing, and once you give it to them, they get mean. But when she had gotten her first boyfriend, she took it back. I wanted to see Ethan again, but I had no idea how. I guessed I could stare out my window and wait for him to come outside, but that would be weird.
"You don't like this movie, do you?"
"I have class, Dad. I'm trying to study."
"We'll watch it when you're done."
"Dad ... I don't really care about Rebel Without a Cause."
"Your mother never liked it either."
"Well, at least we had one thing in common."
"You guys had a lot in common."
"You reminded her of the things she didn't like about herself. But those things were the very things I loved about her."
"Is that why she hated me so much? I wish every day that she could have loved me for at least a day before she died."
"She loved you. She loved Piper. She loved me. But she didn't know how to show it. She didn't express her feelings to any of us. You weren't the exception. Well, you were always the exception to me."
"I love you, Daddy."
"I love you."
He never said, "I love you, too." He felt like that meant he loved me less, or that he only said it because I said it first. He loved me the same as I loved him.
There was a knock at the door. We both jumped. There hadn't been an unexpected knock on the door in years. Grandma came by sometimes, but I always knew about it ahead of time so I could help her out of the car.
I ran upstairs and looked out my window.
It was Ethan.
I stood there for five minutes hoping he'd go away, even though I wanted to see him. Realizing my mistake, I ran down the stairs, mustered up what little courage I had, and opened the door just as he started walking away.
"You are home!" His smile lit up his entire face, and I swear it made his eyes sparkle. Remember, I don't get out much. I stuck up one finger and nodded. He smiled again.
Oh my God.
I went to grab two beers and a pack of cigarettes.
"Uh, for real?" he asked as I held up a beer. He didn't stop smiling and I could not stop staring.
We sat on the swinging bench Piper and I used to play on when we were kids. I had never wanted to go to the park. I had never wanted to play with the other kids or leave the house. Mom would make me go outside once a day, but I refused to go past the porch. Piper always made sure I wasn't alone.
Sitting on the bench without her, I felt like I was about to cry, but tried to hold it together. My throat was closing. I sucked down my beer so I could breathe again.
"Your dad lets you drink?"
I nodded. I liked his voice. I could just listen to him all day.
"My dad would kill me. He's very strict."
I cast a worried look at his door. We were outside. His dad could see him.
"Don't worry. He's not home. I got kind of lonely, thought I would ask if you wanted to come out and play." We both giggled.
"You should smile more."
I immediately put my hand to my lips.
"I'm just saying. You don't have to."
My heart started to race and I chugged more beer. I should have gotten us more.
"It's my dad's favorite," I said. "I hated it when I was a kid. I hated the smell when he would kiss me goodnight." I was about to tell Ethan a story but he was staring at me weird. "What?"
"I like the sound of your voice."
"I like the sound of yours."
"I can get annoying."
We both laughed.
We talked for what felt like hours. I told him a lot about Piper, and he told me about his family. His dad was a retired psychologist who worked at my old high school as a counselor.
"Do you miss your mom?" I asked.
"Sometimes, but I call her every day."
I nodded as I looked down.
"How long has it been?"
"A year and nine months and twelve days. I miss Piper more than anything. I miss my mom ... sometimes. I think what I miss most is their voices."
"The voice is the first thing everyone forgets about someone after they pass."
"Not me. My mother yelled at me way too much for me to ever forget her voice. Piper still gives me advice in my head all the time, mainly on how to take care of Dad."
"What would Piper say about me?"
"That you would make a great first ... friend."
"I don't know why I'm so intrigued by you."
"The whole neighborhood talks about me. I know your father wanted to talk to me when I was in high school but I never went, so I can't even imagine what you've heard."
"You're the only other person near my age on this block, plus you're pretty."
He nodded. "Yes. Is that weird for me to say?"
"Are you trying to get in my pants?"
"No. I mean. No. I'm sorry!"
"It's okay, I was just making sure. Do you want another beer?"
I had never talked so much to someone who wasn't family. Once I started, it seemed I couldn't stop. There was so much relief. I loved talking to my dad. This was something different. Piper would have been so proud of me. I wanted her to be there to scream and ask me a million questions until I would tell her to calm down.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Remember"
Copyright © 2019 Patricia Smith.
Excerpted by permission of Polis Books, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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