Lilly was a college graduate with a growing career, and an ex-boyfriend with a single-minded determination to reclaim her. Despite her efforts to hide her tracks, Carl stalks and terrorizes her, and she flees to the remote regions of northern Maine. The journey is perilous, but Lilly makes a life, marries and raises a family. The fear of being hunted recedes, but the past lurks, ever watching, and then slams into Lilly’s world, threatening all that she holds dear.
|Black Rose Writing
|First Printing ed.
|6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.61(d)
About the Author
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Lilly stared at the blank page in her notebook and then at her laptop. She must be witty, clever and a bit sharp-tongued, but not snarky. Her followers were expecting a new blog entry; she mustn't let her growing feeling of isolation, hopelessness, really, drive her readers away. Lilly had tried to write the entry yesterday but had given up after an hour when the walls of her office felt like they were closing in on her. She had similarly failed to produce a single word the day before.
Training tips, healthy eating, occasional advice for the lovesick or stressed reader, women's wellness, tidbits on child development, some introspective pieces, once in a while something sidesplittingly funny, usually involving something a child had done and, of course, the adventure vacation reports. Lilly saw herself as a cross between Ann Landers and WebMD, the voice of the Gen Xers and some of the early Gen Ys.
Perhaps something totally different, a short story maybe, or a poem, something with a message? But Lilly would have to attribute it to a guest blogger. After all, she had an image to keep consistent, with the same keywords across her website and her Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter postings. Lilly sighed and picked up a blue ballpoint fine-tip pen. Sometimes, the only way to start something was on white paper and by hand.
Ninety minutes later Lilly pushed back from her writing desk, an antique gift from her friend Katina. She stood up and stretched, glancing out the window to see that it was already late afternoon. Lilly paced once around the room and then sat down at her laptop.
December 16, 2014: a poem from my guest blogger, Amelia Evangeline
Lost in the World
When the days grow short And the trees' bones are bared to the world The sunrise is a brittle splash of pink against blue sky. And those who explore, wrapped against the chill May see squirrels cavort along a fence or a fox dart across the field.
I envy them their deliberate movements, secure in their purpose.
For I am like the snowflake, dazzling in my uniqueness yet subsumed quickly into the blanket of white that covers the ground, or melting in an instant on my eyelash.
The cardinals, brilliant slashes of crimson in the trees, the wild turkey prancing in the underbrush and the woodpeckers making their staccato music high above, none will notice me gliding by, a shadow shortened in the noonday sun.
And dusk, she comes early, the sky once again glows, now yellow and deep pink behind the mountains.
And with the deepening dusk and the coming stars and sliver of moon, those whose day has passed make their way into their evening refuge and those who know the night emerge to inhabit the darkness.
I envy them their knowing, their place of being.
For I am like the ice on the pond, not knowing what weight I might bear, helpless in the face of sun and heat and the flame.
Lilly read her post one final time and spell checked it. Then, with just the slightest of smiles, she hit enter and waited. Ten minutes later, she watched as her words appeared online. Two time zones to the west a man with pale skin and a tremor in his hands refreshed his computer and read the new post on Lilly's blog. He read it twice and frowned slightly. Then he posted a comment under the Twitter name hangingathome: "Although I am intrigued by this poem, and it's really beautiful, it makes me wonder what the author intends as its meaning. For example, is the author admiring nature in winter or is she lamenting her lack of permanence?"
Lilly did not see hangingathome's comments until after she had picked the girls up from soccer practice, cooked them dinner and cajoled them into finishing their homework. Lilly's teenaged twin daughters were chattering in the upstairs bathroom when Lilly looked at her blog. She had not seen this person leave a comment in the past. Lilly supposed it was something of a win when you attracted a new follower, a potential fan. A win, or a huge risk.CHAPTER 2
It was the summer before Lilly Adam's junior year in college. Lilly was taking a summer class, Historical Psychology, working part-time and doing pre-season training for the upcoming fall cross country season. Lilly was relatively happy; she had some money in her pocket, and she was lessening her senior year course load with the summer class.
He was two years older, should have graduated the previous spring but was three classes short and still had to finish his thesis. Carl Bowen was a sprinter, or at least he had claimed to be. Lilly had never seen him on the track. Months after she broke up with him, when she went back through the previous three yearbooks, Carl did not appear in any team photos nor was he listed on any team roster. Lilly has asked her friend Marsha, who had a work-study job helping the athletic director's secretary, whether Carl had ever been on a team at their college. Marsha couldn't find him in her system either but Marsha's boyfriend, Vince had run track all four years. When Vince heard Carl's name, he scoffed.
"That guy was a blowhard. Talked a bunch of smack about how great he was in high school. Showed up for a few practices and then fell down on the track claiming a hamstring injury. He never showed up again. Coach dropped him from the roster a week after that." But when she first met Carl, he was so nice. He was genuinely interested in what she had to say, wanted to know all about her family, her background. He encouraged her in her training, didn't laugh when she told him she was going to try out for the winter swim team. Maybe Lilly did sleep with him a little too soon, but he was so into her, she couldn't help but be flattered.
She wasn't sure when he started to criticize her. First, it was her hair: it needed to be cut. Lilly had always had long hair, but certainly, it was easier to take care of, particularly with swimming. Her heart sank a bit when he greeted her at the door when she came back from the hairdresser. He had looked at her critically and then said: "Almost, Lilly, almost."
Lilly missed her braids almost immediately. But he told her how much she meant to him.
Next, it was her weight. When she was going to do something about that, he had demanded one night just before she started to eat her dinner. Lilly had always been so careful about what she ate, always fighting a few pounds, sometimes starving herself or vomiting after a binge. Lilly struggled not to cry as she stared at him across the table, hoping the other patrons of the diner didn't notice. Carl then started to tell some story from his high school football days, not noticing that she did not eat any of her meal and not realizing, or not caring, that he had told her the same exact story the weekend prior. But that night he told her he wanted to move in together.
Then it was her skin. Lilly had been seeing a dermatologist and had her outbreaks under control until she met Carl. Maybe it was the stress of senior year, or maybe it was Carl calling attention to her face, but almost overnight, she broke out with deep, painful eruptions. That was the first time he told her she was ugly.
Carl would go out drinking with his friends and then call her up, demanding sex. If she demurred, he would incessantly phone her dorm room until she would have to go just so she would not wake her roommate arguing with him. On one occasion she went to his off-campus apartment at two in the morning in response to one of his calls. Carl was unusually giggly and wanted to make out on the couch in the living room with the lights out.
Lilly was uncomfortable but said nothing. Suddenly, she felt a third hand on her thigh, and she screamed. Jumping up and turning on the lights, she looked into the face of Carl's friend Jameson, who she had never liked. Lilly burst into tears and ran out the door. Carl chased after her and talked her into coming back, telling her he was so sorry and that he had sent Jameson home. Lilly was unconvinced at first, but that was the night that Carl told her that he loved her.
As the semester wore on, Carl started to demand that she help him with his assignments, do his reading and then explain it to him. If Lily refused, he would call her a stupid bitch. At one point, he demanded that she update his Rolodex. When she asked why, Carl told her that he planned to kill himself at age twenty-two and that he wanted to be sure she had good telephone numbers for everyone she would need to call.
Lilly had shivered at the matter of fact tone in Carl's voice. Carl went on to explain that he planned to go to New York and jump from the George Washington Bridge. She put off the task of updating the Rolodex, and Carl never brought it up again. They celebrated his birthday at an expensive restaurant that he chose. Of course, she paid.
Carl loved to talk about himself. Whether it was about his deprived childhood or his newfound wealth, thanks to his acumen in investments, he needed no encouragement to share himself. Initially, Lilly was flattered at the way Carl had opened up to her so quickly, saw it as a reflection of trust. After a while though, she noticed that he had a tendency to exaggerate his own abilities. Lilly was floored when he read a graduate school application that Carl had filled out, noting fluency in French and Italian. Lilly had heard him speak rudimentary, grandiose-sounding French but she was pretty certain he did not know a word of Italian.
Lilly had never had a serious boyfriend before. She was a careful person, methodical in tackling her studies, diligent at cross country practice. Structure pleased her. Lilly did not make friends easily. She told herself that Carl was her first real friend at college. Friends helped each other, and forgive each other if necessary.
One Thursday night the phone rang in Lilly's room. Her roommate was on a date. It was Jameson, and he sounded frantic; Lilly could hardly make out the words. Finally, she realized that Jameson was telling her that Carl had smoked crack, that he had passed out and now he wasn't breathing. Jameson was pretty sure he was dead. Lilly screamed and dropped the phone. Carl had been strangely fascinated with crack and the recent death of Len Bias, the University of Maryland basketball player who had overdosed smoking crack two days after he was drafted by the Boston Celtics. Carl must have just been too curious.
Lilly was sobbing now. She could hear voices coming from the phone. Someone was laughing. She picked up the phone and heard Carl's voice.
"Lilly? Lilly? It's me, I'm fine. Jameson was just playing." Lilly hung up the phone. Immediately, it started ringing again. She picked it up and hung up again. When the phone began ringing again, she grabbed her sweatshirt and ran outside. Carl found her, several hours later, running aimlessly around the track. He hugged her and begged her for forgiveness, asked her not to tell anyone that he and Jameson had played this little joke on her. At first, she was silent but eventually, she relented. After all, he loved her, and he was her best friend. And it was nice when he just shut up and stopped pestering her. For a few weeks, things were more or less all right.
It was right before Thanksgiving. They were out to dinner. The restaurant was crowded and noisy. Lilly couldn't have said what it was that triggered Carl, but he was suddenly raging at her, hissing at her across the small table. She felt her face grow hot with shame. Lilly sat silently through his diatribe, food untouched. She tried to tune out his venomous words, telling herself that Carl wasn't in his right mind, that those foul things couldn't be directed at her.
When Carl, whose appetite was unaffected, finished his steak and salad and then a large brownie with ice-cream, the waitress brought the check. Lilly excused herself to go to the ladies room. Instead, she slipped out the back door of the restaurant. It was sleeting outside, but the cold slivers of ice were a relief.
Lilly walked down the hill from campus to the river. She sat on a bench next to the dark water and watched the sleet splash the surface. Lilly thought about everything but Carl. As her hair and clothing became soaked, she went over her outline for her term paper in Forensic Psychology and reviewed vocabulary for her upcoming Spanish test. She thought about swim practice the next morning, and her strategy for the final cross country meet of the season. When she could no longer distract herself, Lilly forced her mind to that dark place, that awful way that Carl made her feel, even as in the back of it all she heard another voice telling her that Carl hadn't meant it, that Carl loved her. She considered, briefly, plunging into the river and slipping under the surface.
For the next week, Lilly would not take Carl's calls. She stayed away from all the places he liked to hang out on campus. Swim practices were twice a day now, and that kept her out of the dorm and exhausted. She shared a lane with a petite red-head named Karen.
It was Karen who asked Lilly what was wrong when she turned up at swim practice, strung out and red-eyed from Carl's visit to her dorm room the night before. When he refused to leave until she came out, she had given in, embarrassed that her roommate might be kept awake by Carl haranguing her. And oh how he had harangued her, scolded her and belittled her, in between telling her how much he loved her and how she would never find another man like him. He mocked her skin and her weight and her hair, "wet dog hair" he called it.
Lilly didn't know whether it was fatigue or emotional weakness or the need to just talk that led her to tell Karen bits and pieces of her story. Karen listened intently and without comment. When Lilly told her about the Rolodex and the crack phone call, Karen finally held up her hand.
That was abusive, Karen told Lilly. And it needed to be reported. Lilly protested weakly, but deep inside she was relieved. She felt a tiny piece of herself come back. Lilly let Karen talk to the assistant swim coach, Vince Dawson, who was also an associate dean of student affairs.
Lilly, felt slightly out of kilter when she walked out of Dawson's office. The associate dean had assured her that everything was said in confidence, that Carl would be counseled confidentially and instructed to leave Lilly alone.
And, aside from one blistering, obscene phone call accusing her of lying and ruining his reputation, Lilly hung up after five minutes without speaking a word, Carl did leave Lilly alone. She would see him in the distance from time to time and once she caught him staring at her when she was dancing with a friend at the school pub. Carl's roommate had taken Carl by the arm and led him out of the pub.
Lilly graduated the following spring, with distinction. She had thought she would go directly to graduate school, but at the last minute decided to defer her admission to the graduate psychology program and took a job instead in public relations at a mental health facility outside of Chicago. Lilly could tell her decision confused and disappointed her mother, who insisted that Lilly's time would be better spent finding a husband back in Pittsburgh, but Lilly knew she needed a change of scenery, a new start in a new place.
Lilly loved her new job. It was busy, and her co-workers included her in their after-work activities. She went to concerts, picnics and all kinds of parties. She felt normal and confident, and after a while, she realized she was happy with her new life.
It was late September of 1987. Lilly was working on a press release when the receptionist buzzed her to tell her she had a call. Lilly's heart lurched when she heard Carl's voice. How had he figured out where she was?
"Hi, there, beautiful!" Carl enthused. "How've you been?"
Lilly stammered out a few pleasantries in response to Carl's monologue. He was looking for a job in Chicago. He had been back on campus over the summer and had run into one of her cross country teammates, who had told him that Lilly was working for MetroHealth in Chicago. Carl was staying with a family friend and had quite a few irons in the fire. He really did miss her, couldn't wait to see her again.
Lilly managed to get off the phone when the receptionist buzzed her with an urgent call from her boss. Lilly looked down at her hands; they were trembling slightly. For the rest of the day, she tried to shake off the sense of unease. When Carl called again late in the day, she told the receptionist to take a message.
Carl turned up at Lilly's office the next day, telling the receptionist he was there to take Lilly to lunch, that is was a surprise and not to tell her who was there to see her. The receptionist, Sandy, an older woman with tight, beauty parlor curls, thinking that Lilly would be pleased, told Lilly that a letter had been delivered for her.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "What She Knew"
Copyright © 2019 Kate Abbott.
Excerpted by permission of Black Rose Writing.
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
Table of Contents,
December 22, 2014,
December 29, 2014,
Late Fall 1990,
January 2, 2015,
January 8, 2015,
January 15, 2015,
January 28, 2015,
February 4, 2015,
February 11, 2015,
Other Books by Kate Abbott,
About the Author,