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Home > We Were Liars(7)

We Were Liars(7)
Author: E. Lockhart

I didn’t write back, but I drew Gat silly crayon drawings of the two of us. Stick figures waving from in front of the Colosseum, the Eiffel Tower, on top of a mountain, on the back of a dragon. He stuck them up over his bed.

He touched me whenever he could. Beneath the table at dinner, in the kitchen the moment it was empty. Covertly, hilariously, behind Granddad’s back while he drove the motorboat. I felt no barrier between us. As long as no one was looking, I ran my fingers along Gat’s cheekbones, down his back. I reached for his hand, pressed my thumb against his wrist, and felt the blood going through his veins.

12

ONE NIGHT, LATE July of summer fifteen, I went swimming at the tiny beach. Alone.

Where were Gat, Johnny, and Mirren?

I don’t really know.

We had been playing a lot of Scrabble at Red Gate. They were probably there. Or they could have been at Clairmont, listening to the aunts argue and eating beach plum jam on water crackers.

In any case, I went into the water wearing a camisole, bra, and underwear. Apparently I walked down to the beach wearing nothing more. We never found any of my clothes on the sand. No towel, either.

Why?

Again, I don’t really know.

I must have swum out far. There are big rocks in off the shore, craggy and black; they always look villainous in the dark of the evening. I must have had my face in the water and then hit my head on one of these rocks.

Like I said, I don’t know.

I remember only this: I plunged down into this ocean,

down to rocky rocky bottom, and

I could see the base of Beechwood Island and my arms and legs felt numb but my fingers were cold. Slices of seaweed went past as I fell.

Mummy found me on the sand, curled into a ball and half underwater. I was shivering uncontrollably. Adults wrapped me in blankets. They tried to get me warm at Cuddledown. They fed me tea and gave me clothes, but when I didn’t talk or stop shivering, they brought me to a hospital on Martha’s Vineyard, where I stayed for several days as the doctors ran tests. Hypothermia, respiratory problems, and most likely some kind of head injury, though the brain scans turned up nothing.

Mummy stayed by my side, got a hotel room. I remember the sad, gray faces of Aunt Carrie, Aunt Bess, and Granddad. I remember my lungs felt full of something, long after the doctors judged them clear. I remember I felt like I’d never get warm again, even when they told me my body temperature was normal. My hands hurt. My feet hurt.

Mummy took me home to Vermont to recuperate. I lay in bed in the dark and felt desperately sorry for myself. Because I was sick, and even more because Gat never called.

He didn’t write, either.

Weren’t we in love?

Weren’t we?

I wrote to Johnny, two or three stupid, lovesick emails asking him to find out about Gat.

Johnny had the good sense to ignore them. We are Sinclairs, after all, and Sinclairs do not behave like I was behaving.

I stopped writing and deleted all the emails from my sent mail folder. They were weak and stupid.

The bottom line is, Gat bailed when I got hurt.

The bottom line is, it was only a summer fling.

The bottom line is, he might have loved Raquel.

We lived too far apart, anyway.

Our families were too close, anyway.

I never got an explanation.

I just know he left me.

13

WELCOME TO MY skull.

A truck is rolling over the bones of my neck and head. The vertebrae break, the brains pop and ooze. A thousand flashlights shine in my eyes. The world tilts.

I throw up. I black out.

This happens all the time. It’s nothing but an ordinary day.

The pain started six weeks after my accident. Nobody was certain whether the two were related, but there was no denying the vomiting and weight loss and general horror.

Mummy took me for MRIs and CT scans. Needles, machines. More needles, more machines. They tested me for brain tumors, meningitis, you name it. To relieve the pain they prescribed this drug and that drug and another drug, because the first one didn’t work and the second one didn’t work, either. They gave me prescription after prescription without even knowing what was wrong. Just trying to quell the pain.

Cadence, said the doctors, don’t take too much.

Cadence, said the doctors, watch for signs of addiction.

And still, Cadence, be sure to take your meds.

There were so many appointments I can’t even remember them. Eventually the doctors came through with a diagnosis. Cadence Sinclair Eastman: post-traumatic headaches, also known as PTHA. Migraine headaches caused by traumatic brain injury.

I’ll be fine, they tell me.

I won’t die.

It’ll just hurt a lot.

14

AFTER A YEAR in Colorado, Dad wanted to see me again. In fact, he insisted on taking me to Italy, France, Germany, Spain, and Scotland—a ten-week trip beginning in mid-June, which meant I wouldn’t go to Beechwood at all, summer sixteen.

“The trip is grand timing,” said Mummy brightly as she packed my suitcase.

“Why?” I lay on the floor of my bedroom and let her do the work. My head hurt.

“Granddad’s redoing Clairmont.” She rolled socks into balls. “I told you that a million times already.”

I didn’t remember. “How come?”

“Some idea of his. He’s spending the summer in Windemere.”

“With you waiting on him?”

Mummy nodded. “He can’t stay with Bess or Carrie. And you know he takes looking after. Anyway. You’ll get a wonderful education in Europe.”

“I’d rather go to Beechwood.”

“No, you wouldn’t,” she said, firm.

IN EUROPE, I vomited into small buckets and brushed my teeth repeatedly with chalky British toothpaste. I lay prone on the bathroom floors of several museums, feeling the cold tile underneath my cheek as my brain liquefied and seeped out my ear, bubbling. Migraines left my blood spreading across unfamiliar hotel sheets, dripping on the floors, oozing into carpets, soaking through leftover croissants and Italian lace cookies.

I could hear Dad calling me, but I never answered until my medicine took effect.

I missed the Liars that summer.

We never kept in touch over the school year. Not much, anyway, though we’d tried when we were younger. We’d text, or tag each other in summer photos, especially in September, but we’d inevitably fade out after a month or so. Somehow, Beechwood’s magic never carried over into our everyday lives. We didn’t want to hear about school friends and clubs and sports teams. Instead, we knew our affection would revive when we saw one another on the dock the following June, salt spray in the air, pale sun glinting off the water.

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