Where I Lost Her384
Where I Lost Her384
“Spellbinding. I loved everything about Where I Lost Her.”—Mary Kubica, bestselling author of The Good Girl
In her page-turning new novel, T. Greenwood follows one woman's journey through heartbreak and loss to courage and resolve, as she searches for the truth about a missing child.
Eight years ago, Tess and Jake were considered a power couple of the New York publishing world--happy, in love, planning a family. Failed fertility treatments and a heartbreaking attempt at adoption have fractured their marriage and left Tess edgy and adrift. A visit to friends in rural Vermont throws Tess's world into further chaos when she sees a young, half-dressed child in the middle of the road, who then runs into the woods like a frightened deer.
The entire town begins searching for the little girl. But there are no sightings, no other witnesses, no reports of missing children. As local police and Jake point out, Tess's imagination has played her false before. And yet Tess is compelled to keep looking, not only to save the little girl she can't forget but to salvage her broken heart as well.
Blending her trademark lyrical prose with a superbly crafted and suspenseful narrative, Where I Lost Her is a gripping, haunting novel from a remarkable storyteller.
Related collections and offers
|Product dimensions:||5.60(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)|
About the Author
T. Greenwood is the author of nine critically acclaimed novels. She has received numerous grants for her writing, including a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship and a grant from the Maryland State Arts Council. She lives with her family in San Diego, California, where she teaches creative writing, studies photography, and continues to write. Her website is www.tgreenwood.com.
Read an Excerpt
Where I Lost Her
By T. Greenwood
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2016 T. Greenwood
All rights reserved.
Lake Gormlaith, Vermont, June 2015
I see the girls first, before the camp, before the lake even. As we drive the last stretch of the winding dirt road, through the dappled light, I can see them on the wide expanse of grass in front of Effie and Devin's cabin. They are shadows at first, just silhouettes. Paper cutouts. But as we approach, they quickly come into focus. Sharpening.
They are both barefoot and beautiful. Plum, who is ten now, sits on the ground plucking dandelions, her long brown fingers nimbly weaving them into a chain. This is ten, I think: grass stains, nails bitten to the quick, scabby knees. Zu-Zu, who is thirteen, a dancer, pirouettes effortlessly across the grass. I am stunned, she is stunning: long legs, long neck, graceful hands. This is thirteen, I think: precipice, flight.
I turn to Jake, to see if he sees. I am so desperate for a moment of connection, to share a single glance imbued with something. Remorse? Regret? Sometimes it feels that he is so willful in his refusal to relinquish anything to me, even this: a single, goddamned moment of recognition. Even now. I just want him, for once, to feel what I feel. Instead, he stares straight ahead, navigates this last turn with his hands gripping the wheel, his eyes trained on the road. I don't know why I persist. I don't know how this could fix anything. I am alone now in this endless longing, the sole proprietor of this relentless ache. Maybe I always have been.
We used to make the six-hour drive from Brooklyn to visit Effie and Devin in Vermont three or four times a year. Once a season, sometimes more. It used to be our escape from the city, from our hectic lives. But over the years, it's become an odd sort of self-torture. A masochistic game for which there are no rules. And so, over time, the frequency of these visits has decreased. It has been almost a year now since our last visit. I blame our busy schedules, our ridiculous obligations. But the truth is that it simply hurts too much; their family, this perfect beautiful family, feels like a cruel reminder of everything we've lost.
Crushed. This is what I feel as I watch the girls. A crippling heartache.
When they see us, they both stop what they are doing and come running. Jake slows to a stop in the driveway and rolls down his window, beaming at them. His face is like the sun, emerging from behind dark clouds. We have barely spoken since we left New York. But now his eyes are bright. I feel the flutter of something in my chest, but he still doesn't look at me.
"Uncle Jake!" Plum says, leaning in through Jake's open window for a hug, her feet lifting off the ground behind her. And then she is leaning across his lap and reaching for me in the passenger seat, placing the dandelion chain on my head. "Tessie!" she squeals. She is all bones and angles. She smells like grass.
Zu-Zu stands outside the car, long arms crossed against her body now, hands cupping her elbows. She is like a reed. Tall, willowy. Her hair is pulled back into a puff of a ponytail. The little glass earrings in her ears catch the light. She is three years older than Plum, but they share the same freckled toffee skin and startling green eyes, that magical, otherworldly beauty that only mixed children seem to have. Zu-Zu smiles as she waits for this ritual to end.
"Okay, okay," Jake says. "Let me out!" And Plum, like a wriggly toddler, rights herself, scooting backwards so that Jake is able to open his door.
"Did you bring my cheesecake?" Plum asks.
"Greedy, greedy little monster," Effie says as she comes out the camp's back door, wiping her hands on her apron, a bohemian housewife in her long chevron sundress. Her hair is still long and dark (as it always has been) except for one silvery strand that frames her face. She keeps it in a sloppy bun today, suspended with a single chopstick.
"Well, hello!" Devin says as he comes out of the woods. He is covered in sawdust and carrying a toolbox. He sets it down and opens his arms.
And we go through all the motions; this particular choreography is one we know by heart: Devin shaking Jake's hand and then pulling him in for a hug, Jake leaning down to kiss the top of Effie's head. The smell of pipe smoke and cedar in Devin's soft T-shirt when he embraces me. The way the girls circle us, waiting for the gifts we always bring from New York, which Jake pulls from the trunk like a magician: Zu-Zu's favorite salt bagels from Ess-a-Bagel, Junior's Cheesecake in its striped box for Plum. The girls disappearing into the camp, clutching their respective treats, the screen door banging behind them. Devin and Jake following behind, Devin's large dark hand spread across Jake's back.
We are old, old friends.
It isn't until Effie and I make our way to each other that I forget the next move. We have been friends since we were just little girls. She is like a sister. She will know. She navigates me the way a blind person navigates her own home. She knows my configurations. Even in the dark, she knows when something is askew.
I am askew.
But she also knows better than to say anything. She will wait for me. She doesn't ask questions for which I have no answers. This is our way with each other. And today I am grateful.
"Thank you so much for offering to do this," she says instead, adjusting the dandelion crown I have forgotten is on my head. She is talking about Zu-Zu. She's been accepted into a prestigious summer ballet intensive in the city, and we are bringing her back with us when we leave on Sunday. Effie's sister, Colette, who recently retired from the same company, has promised that she will be taken care of. Watched over. She will even be teaching some of Zu-Zu's classes. But I know this world feels far away to Effie, a part of someone else's dream.
Effie said she couldn't bear to go. That it would be easier to say goodbye to Zu-Zu here than it would be leaving her in New York. And because Effie is my best friend, and because she asks so very little of me, I didn't hesitate before offering to come up and get her. To take her back down with us after a nice visit. To make sure she gets settled in. It's just a weekend, I thought. I miss them. The girls.
Effie leans forward and touches her forehead to mine.
"I'm afraid to let her go," she whispers.
And I feel my throat constricting. It makes me think of a snake, swallowing a live mouse. The way all the unsaid things gather and squirm there as I try to swallow them down.
"I know," I say, nodding, eyes brimming with tears I'm not ready to spill.
Effie squeezes my hand. We are sisters, bound not by blood but by a thousand such unspoken things.
Devin and Jake grab our bags from the trunk and carry them down the narrow grassy path to the guest cottage in the woods behind the camp. I watch the leaves enclose them as they go. Jake is fairly tall, but Devin still dwarfs him. I listen to the receding sound of their voices, swallowed by the forest.
"Tessie," Plum says, grabbing my hand. "Come see my room. I have a new turtle! And I built the Colosseum out of Legos!"
"A gift from my dad," Effie says, laughing. "It took them almost a week to put it together. It took him, I mean ..."
Effie's father, like my own, is a history professor, the kind of grandfather who would spend a week putting together ruins made of Legos with his granddaughter.
Zu-Zu and Plum share the larger room upstairs. It has been partitioned since I last visited, divided by colorful scarves sewn together and strung across the room on a makeshift pulley. Plum's side is oddly tidy for a ten-year-old, with shelves housing her various Lego creations, including the impressive Colosseum, and a large terrarium where Harold, the turtle, idles.
I lean over and peer into the glass. He sits on a rock directly under the glow of a heat lamp. "Wow, that is one good-looking turtle," I say.
"Shhh," Plum says. "He's sleeping."
"Oh, so sorry," I say, and tiptoe over to the divider, poking my head through to Zu-Zu's side of the room.
Pale pink tights hang from the exposed rafters; a pile of dead pointe shoes sit like some odd monument in the corner. It is a chaos of clutter that is both child and teenager all at once: ratty stuffed animals and library books, a glossy poster of Misty Copeland in "Firebird," and a mobile made from bottle caps hanging in the window. China teacups filled with jewelry, sticky tubes of lip gloss, and so many dirty clothes.
"Be careful," Effie says. "Harold is probably not the only animal living up here."
"Mom," Zu-Zu says, and plops down on her bed, clutching the stuffed baby seal, Baby Z, I gave her when she was born. I bought him at the New England Aquarium when I still lived in Boston. He is threadbare now. Every bit of fur loved away.
I sit down next to her on the bed, and squeeze her and the seal together. Her hair smells like citrus.
"I don't mind a little mess," I say to her.
"Seriously," Effie says to Zu-Zu. "Can I tell her about the you-know-what?"
Zu-Zu rolls her eyes.
"Tell me!" I say, eager for the scoop.
"So, yesterday, I come in here looking for my flip-flops and smell something funky. Rotten. So I search and search and search. Finally I realize the smell is coming from her backpack, which is shoved under her bed. And inside is her lunch box from the last day of school, which was three weeks ago, by the way. So I open it up, and it's grapes. And they've totally fermented, turned into some kind of hooch."
I laugh. "That skill will come in handy in the dorms this summer."
"And prison," Zu-Zu says, smirking.
I love this girl.
"You can hold Harold if you want," Plum says then, coming through the place where the divider parts and handing me her turtle. "He's awake now."
Downstairs I hear the door slam shut, Devin and Jake's muffled voices below. We all sit down on Zu-Zu's messy bed, and I want to curl up with all of them, even Harold, and never get up.
After lunch, the girls want to swim, and so we all walk down to the boat access area where there is a sort of grassy beach. The clouds have parted, and the sun is bright, sparkling in the water. Plum hoists an inner tube over one shoulder and Zu-Zu carries their towels, slung over her golden shoulders. Their feet are bare, the pink pads callused. Devin and Jake walk ahead with the girls, each drinking a beer, and Effie and I hang back.
"I'm so glad you're here," Effie says, leaning her head against my arm. "It's been such a long time."
"You okay?" she asks, pulling away from me.
I nod again, but she frowns.
"We'll talk tonight?" she asks, and reaches for my hand. And I think about how I used to be the one who fixed things. How I used to be the strong one. When did this happen to me? What have I become?
Effie spreads a soft blue blanket out on the grass, and she and I sit and watch the girls. When we were teenagers, we used to rub baby oil all over our bodies, squirt lemon juice concentrate in our hair, and lie in this exact spot, waiting for the sun. We used to swim the way the girls do now, fearlessly, out to the sandbar in the center of the lake where we stood and howled, and then leapt into the murky depths. We used to live in the water. Fishes. Her grandma, Gussy, called us the Mermaids of Gormlaith. But I have no desire to go into the water now. I don't remember the last time I even wore a bathing suit.
The sound of the girls' voices, the joyful splashes, is the best music. I don't even mind when they bicker and whine.
"Give me!" Plum hollers as Zu-Zu steals the tube away. "That's mine."
Devin and Jake have their suits on too and both of them ease into the water, tentatively at first, and then dive under. Jake emerges, shaking his hair like a wet dog, splattering Zu-Zu, who squeals. They dive and surface after long stretches under the water, surprising the girls. Each of the guys puts one of them on his shoulders for a chicken fight. Jake has Plum. She grips the side of his head, and he smiles and smiles. But he doesn't look at me. Won't. Can't.
After the sun goes down, we eat outside at the picnic table, drink. Unlike at home, I am careful here, counting glasses. It is too easy lately to drink too much. To love the warm way it numbs. And I feel Jake watching me; he's counting my drinks too.
The mosquitoes bite my ankles, and I let my skin prick and tingle and itch. I wait until I can barely stand it anymore before I scratch. I am sunburned from earlier, and relish in the tender pink sting of my shoulders.
"So tell us about this new writer Tess mentioned," Devin says to Jake. "The kid."
"Charlie." Jake smiles. "He is definitely young. But he's not like a lot of the other new kids coming up. You know, all style, no substance. More concerned with how many Instagram followers they have than with their writing. He's kind of a throwback. He still writes on a typewriter, for Christ's sake. He's not on Facebook. He doesn't have a Twitter account. It's pretty incredible when you actually stop to think about it." Jake plucks a raspberry from the bowl Effie has put in the center of the table for dessert and pops it in his mouth.
He's talking about Charlie Hayden, a new client of his. Jake is a literary agent; he started his own boutique agency two years ago. We'd already mortgaged our house once for the adoption, so he had to borrow from his parents to get started. It was a gamble, one I was leery of, and the first year was a real struggle, but he slowly built a decent client list, hired a couple other young but well-regarded agents who brought their clients with them. And then a few months ago, he signed on this hotshot kid the National Book Foundation named one of the "5 under 35." At twenty-five, Charlie's the youngest of the bunch; he reminds me of an overgrown baby.
We had him over for dinner one night right after he signed with Jake. He talked about Mexico, where he backpacked for a year after he graduated Harvard. He bragged about the prostitutes he slept with, the drugs he took. He was pompous. A real ass. And then, he drank too much and got sick in our bathroom. But rather than calling him a cab, Jake ushered Charlie into the guest bedroom, brought him water, aspirin. Covered him with a blanket. In the morning, Charlie sat at our table drinking coffee and scarfing down the bacon and eggs Jake had made like nothing had happened. He sent us a thank-you note two days later on creamy stationery embossed with his monogram. I don't care how good a writer he is; he's a real douche bag.
Charlie's first novel is going to go to auction on Monday, another reason why we need to get back to the city. Jake has been coddling him, as if he is an infant, or an orchid. He has held his hand from the messy first typed (yes, typed) draft to the finished copy, which went out on submission last week.
But as much as the kid irritates me, I must admit, I've read the book, and, if I were still in the industry, I would likely have jumped on it as well. I understand Jake's enthusiasm; he and I have always been able to see promise. But something about the way Jake babies him sickens me. It's as though Charlie is his son rather than his client, and a badly behaved son at that. And worst of all, he favors him over his other, better-mannered clients. At times, I wonder if this is the kind of father he would have been. Coddling, permissive.
Jake and I met when I was still working at Norton. I actually acquired his very first client's debut novel — a writer who has since gone on to write six more novels, two of which have been made into films. For a while, we were considered a sort of power couple in the publishing world, for whatever the hell that's worth. But I left publishing eight years ago, after we came back from Central America. When words on the page became just that. Words. As hollow and inconsequential as dust. Empty promises made of ink, so pathetically reliant on the paper beneath them.
I make my living now as a freelance copy editor, which requires that I look at each sentence as a mechanical structure, a mathematical equation. I hardly read anything for pleasure anymore besides menus and the occasional manuscript Jake asks me to peruse. I see only artifice now, and none of the art.
Excerpted from Where I Lost Her by T. Greenwood. Copyright © 2016 T. Greenwood. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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.