When six-year-old Laurel Logan was abducted, the only witness was her younger sister, Faith. Since then, Faith’s childhood has revolved around her sister’s disappearance—from her parents’ broken marriage and the constant media attention to dealing with so-called friends who only ever want to talk about her missing sister.
Now, thirteen years later, a young woman is found in the front yard of the Logans’ old house, disoriented and clutching the teddy bear Laurel was last seen with. Can her sister finally be back? Faith always dreamed of her sister coming home; she just never believed it would happen. But soon a disturbing series of events leaves Faith increasingly isolated from her family and paranoid about her sister’s motives. Before long, Faith begins to wonder if it’s the abduction that’s changed her sister, or if it’s something else. . . .
“An intriguing story from start to finish.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Clarke’s true success lies in crafting a realistic and haunting story of two young women who redefine what it means to be sisters.” —PW
“This mystery will have wide appeal and keep teens riveted.” —SLJ
“A compelling story with sympathetic and credible characters.” —The Bulletin
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C H A P T E R
She knows. She definitely knows.
I’m not sure how she knows. I’m not stupid enough to keep a diary, and I’m not one of those weirdos who’s all Mom’s-my-best-friend-and-we-tell-each-other-everything. Maybe it’s some kind of sixth sense unique to mothers?
It’s there in her eyes every time she looks at me. The problem is, I can’t tell how she feels about it. Why can’t that show up in her eyes, too? Is she angry? Disappointed? Disapproving? Resigned? A little bit proud?
“How’s Martha’s mom doing at work? Have they announced the layoffs yet?”
It’s a trap. Classic. Of course there’s no way I’m falling for it. I shrug. “Dunno. She came in pretty late last night. I think she went out for drinks after her evening class.” I sip my tea, cool as you like. “Martha says she’s been pretty stressed about it.”
Mom nods. She knows when she’s beaten. “It must be tough.”
“They’re loaded, though, aren’t they? Martha’s dad earns enough for both of them. I don’t know why she bothers working in the first place.”
This was the wrong thing to say. I wouldn’t normally be so careless, but I’m exhausted. Mom’s big-time into feminism and equal opportunities and not relying on men. Funny thing is, I agree with her, but I’d never tell her that. Arguing is much more fun. But Mom’s not biting today; she’s obviously got other things on her mind.
“Are you okay, Mom?” I try not to ask more than three times a day, but it’s a habit. One that I learned at a very early age. When she retreated into herself, into that hellish world inside her head, sometimes it was the only way I could get her to talk to me. I never believed the answer, which was always the same, no matter what sort of day it was: I’m fine, love.
There’s no deviation from the script today, which is oddly reassuring. I was half expecting her to come out with something like, No, I’m not okay, thanks for asking. My daughter lied to me about where she was last night so that she could go and lose her virginity to Thomas Bolt in the back of a van.
There’s a newspaper lying facedown on the kitchen table. I hadn’t noticed it before, because I was too busy trying to work out how I feel about losing my virginity to Thomas Bolt in the back of a van.
All I can see is the sports page: some team beat some other team, and some guy scored more points than he’d ever scored before. But I know the kind of thing I’ll see if I flip over the newspaper. That’s why Mom is giving me all these weird looks. That’s why she put the newspaper down as soon as I came into the kitchen; she doesn’t want me to see it.
In a normal house—in Martha’s house and Thomas’s house and houses all over the country—a newspaper is just that: some paper with news in it. Wars and politics and celebrities doing inane celebrity things. In our house—our anything-but-normal house—a newspaper is often an unexploded bomb.
I don’t let on that I’ve noticed the paper. Mom gets up to wash the dishes, her shoulders slumped with the unbearable weight she carries with her every day. While her back is turned, I slide the paper over and onto my lap. Unexploded bomb or not, I need to know.
It’s always bad. Even when it looks like it’s good, it turns out to be bad. That’s actually worse: getting your hopes up only to have them dropped from a great height and splattered on the pavement. It’s hardest for Mom; that’s what everyone always says. And I suppose they’re right, but it’s hard for Dad, too. And it’s not exactly a walk in the park for me, either. But Dad’s got Michel and I’ve got Thomas; Mom has no one.
I pray that this won’t send her into full-on tortoise mode. Last time she didn’t leave her bedroom for a week. I brought her meals on a tray, but she barely ate a thing. She wouldn’t talk to me and she wouldn’t answer the phone. When Dad came over to see her, I listened at the door. “You have to snap out of this, Olivia. For Faith’s sake. She needs you.” He was wrong about that. I was coping perfectly well, even though the timing was hardly ideal—right in the middle of my exams. I don’t need her, not like when I was little. It’d just be nice if she talked to me about it once in a while. I wish she knew that there are other options besides “complete and utter breakdown” and “plastic smile, everything’s fine.” There’s a middle ground, waiting to be found.
I turn the paper over. It’s bad.
i killed laurel logan!
An involuntary noise escapes my mouth and Mom turns around. She whips the paper out of my hands and crumples it up. She stuffs it into the trash even though the can needs emptying. Some of the headline’s huge black letters are still visible because the lid won’t shut. Mom sees me staring at it and swears and stuffs the paper as deep as it will go. The lid swings back and forth.
She sits down and takes my hand. Her hand is cold— her hands are always cold. I often wonder if they used to be warm. Before. “I was going to talk to you about that.” Lie. “I’ve already talked to the police, and it’s nothing. The man’s a lunatic. They would lock him up for this if he weren’t already serving two life sentences.” She sighs. “It’s just more irresponsible journalism—it even says inside that there’s no way he could have done it. But that wouldn’t sell papers, would it?”
There are tears in my eyes, and I’m not even sure why. This happens on a regular basis—these stories in the papers or on TV or online. It’s been happening almost my whole life, so you’d think I would be immune to it by now. And I usually am immune, but for some reason today I’ve decided to be pathetic.
Mom doesn’t like it when I cry. I’m sure that’s true of all mothers about their daughters, but there’s something about Mom saying, Oh, darling, please don’t cry, that always makes me think it’s more about her than me. As if it just makes things harder for her. So I try not to cry when she’s around, because there’s nothing worse than being upset and then being made to feel guilty for being upset.