Home > We Were Liars(12)

We Were Liars(12)
Author: E. Lockhart

Carrie gives Mummy a long hug before she helps us load our bags and the dogs into the big motorboat. “You’re more beautiful than ever,” she says. “And thank God you’re here.”

“Oh, quiet,” says Mummy.

“I know you’ve been sick,” Carrie says to me. She is the tallest of my aunts, and the eldest Sinclair daughter. Her sweater is long and cashmere. The lines on the sides of her mouth are deep. She’s wearing some ancient jade jewelry that belonged to Gran.

“Nothing wrong with me that a Percocet and a couple slugs of vodka doesn’t cure,” I say.

Carrie laughs, but Mummy leans in and says, “She’s not taking Percocet. She’s taking a nonaddictive medicine the doctor prescribes.”

It isn’t true. The nonaddictive medicines didn’t work.

“She looks too thin,” says Carrie.

“It’s all the vodka,” I say. “It fills me up.”

“She can’t eat much when she’s hurting,” says Mummy. “The pain makes her nauseated.”

“Bess made that blueberry pie you like,” Aunt Carrie tells me. She gives Mummy another hug.

“You guys are so huggy all of a sudden,” I say. “You never used to be huggy.”

Aunt Carrie hugs me, too. She smells of expensive, lemony perfume. I haven’t seen her in a long time.

The drive out of the harbor is cold and sparkly. I sit at the back of the boat while Mummy stands next to Aunt Carrie behind the wheel. I trail my hand in the water. It sprays the arm of my duffel coat, soaking the canvas.

I will see Gat soon.

Gat, my Gat, who is not my Gat.

The houses. The littles, the aunts, the Liars.

I will hear the sound of seagulls, taste slumps and pie and homemade ice cream. I’ll hear the pong of tennis balls, the bark of goldens, the echo of my breath in a snorkel. We’ll make bonfires that will smell of ashes.

Will I still be at home?

Before long, Beechwood is ahead of us, the familiar outline looming. The first house I see is Windemere with its multitude of peaked roofs. That room on the far right is Mummy’s; there are her pale blue curtains. My own window looks to the inside of the island.

Carrie steers the boat around the tip and I can see Cuddledown there at the lowest point of the land, with its chubby, boxlike structure. A bitty, sandy cove—the tiny beach—is tucked in at the bottom of a long wooden staircase.

The view changes as we circle to the eastern side of the island. I can’t see much of Red Gate among the trees, but I glimpse its red trim. Then the big beach, accessed by another wooden staircase.

Clairmont sits at the highest point, with water views in three directions. I crane my neck to look for its friendly turret—but it isn’t there. The trees that used to shade the big, sloping yard—they’re gone, too. Instead of the Victorian six-bedroom with the wraparound porch and the farmhouse kitchen, instead of the house where Granddad spent every summer since forever, I see a sleek modern building perched on a rocky hill. There’s a Japanese garden on one side, bare rock on the other. The house is glass and iron. Cold.

Carrie cuts the engine down, which makes it easier to talk. “That’s New Clairmont,” she says.

“It was just a shell last year. I never imagined he wouldn’t have a lawn,” says Mummy.

“Wait till you see the inside. The walls are bare, and when we got here yesterday, he had nothing in the fridge but some apples and a wedge of Havarti.”

“Since when does he even like Havarti?” asks Mummy. “Havarti isn’t even a good cheese.”

“He doesn’t know how to shop. Ginny and Lucille, that’s the new cook, only do what he tells them to do. He’s been eating cheese toast. But I made a huge list and they went to the Edgartown market. We have enough for a few days now.”

Mummy shivers. “It’s good we’re here.”

I stare at the new building while the aunts talk. I knew Granddad renovated, of course. He and Mummy talked about the new kitchen when he visited just a few days ago. The fridge and the extra freezer, the warming drawer and spice racks.

I didn’t realize he’d torn the house down. That the lawn was gone. And the trees, especially the huge old maple with the tire swing beneath it. That tree must have been a hundred years old.

A wave surges up, dark blue, leaping from the sea like a whale. It arches over me. The muscles of my neck spasm, my throat catches. I fold beneath the weight of it. The blood rushes to my head. I am drowning.

It all seems so sad, so unbearably sad for a second, to think of the lovely old maple with the swing. We never told the tree how much we loved it. We never gave it a name, never did anything for it. It could have lived so much longer.

I am so, so cold.

“Cadence?” Mummy is leaning over me.

I reach and clutch her hand.

“Be normal now,” she whispers. “Right now.”


“Because you are. Because you can be.”

Okay. Okay. It was just a tree.

Just a tree with a tire swing that I loved a lot.

“Don’t cause a scene,” whispers Mummy. “Breathe and sit up.”

I do what she asks as soon as I am able, just as I have always done.

Aunt Carrie provides distraction, speaking brightly. “The new garden is nice, when you get used to it,” she says. “There’s a seating area for cocktail hour. Taft and Will are finding special rocks.”

She turns the boat toward the shore and suddenly I can see my Liars waiting, not on the dock but by the weathered wooden fence that runs along the perimeter path.

Mirren stands with her feet on the lower half of the barrier, waving joyfully, her hair whipping in the wind.

Mirren. She is sugar. She is curiosity and rain.

Johnny jumps up and down, every now and then doing a cartwheel.

Johnny. He is bounce. He is effort and snark.

Gat, my Gat, once upon a time my Gat—he has come out to see me, too. He stands back from the slats of the fence, on the rocky hill that now leads to Clairmont. He’s doing pretend semaphore, waving his arms in ornate patterns as if I’m supposed to understand some kind of secret code. He is contemplation and enthusiasm. Ambition and strong coffee.

Welcome home, they are saying. Welcome home.


THE LIARS DON’T come to the dock when we pull in, and neither do Aunt Bess and Granddad. Instead, it is only the littles: Will and Taft, Liberty and Bonnie.

The boys, both ten, kick one another and wrestle around. Taft runs over and grabs my arm. I pick him up and spin him. He is surprisingly light, like his freckled body is made of bird parts. “You feeling better?” I ask.

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