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Home > We Were Liars(8)

We Were Liars(8)
Author: E. Lockhart

But the year after my accident, I missed days and even weeks of school. I failed my classes, and the principal informed me I would have to repeat junior year. I stopped soccer and tennis. I couldn’t babysit. I couldn’t drive. The friends I’d had weakened into acquaintances.

I texted Mirren a few times. Called and left her messages that later I was ashamed of, they were so lonely and needy.

I called Johnny, too, but his voice mail was full.

I decided not to call again. I didn’t want to keep saying things that made me feel weak.

When Dad took me to Europe, I knew the Liars were on-island. Granddad hasn’t wired Beechwood and cell phones don’t get reception there, so I began writing emails. Different from my pitiful voice messages, these were charming, darling notes from a person without headaches.

Mostly.

Mirren!

Waving at you from Barcelona, where my father ate snails in broth.

Our hotel has gold everything. Even saltshakers. It is gloriously vile.

Write and tell me how the littles are misbehaving and where you are applying to college and whether you have found true love.

/Cadence

• • •

Johnny!

Bonjour from Paris, where my father ate a frog.

I saw the Winged Victory. Phenomenal body. No arms.

Miss you guys. How is Gat?

/Cadence

• • •

Mirren!

Hello from a castle in Scotland, where my father ate a haggis. That is, my father ate the heart, liver, and lungs of a sheep mixed with oatmeal and boiled in a sheep stomach.

So, you know, he is the sort of person who eats hearts.

/Cadence

• • •

Johnny!

I am in Berlin, where my father ate a blood sausage.

Snorkel for me. Eat blueberry pie. Play tennis. Build a bonfire. Then report back. I am desperately bored and will devise creative punishments if you do not comply.

/Cadence

I WASN’T ENTIRELY surprised they didn’t answer. Besides the fact that to get online you have to go to the Vineyard, Beechwood is very much its own world. Once you are there, the rest of the universe seems nothing but an unpleasant dream.

Europe might not even exist.

15

WELCOME, ONCE AGAIN, to the beautiful Sinclair family.

We believe in outdoor exercise. We believe that time heals.

We believe, although we will not say so explicitly, in prescription drugs and the cocktail hour.

We do not discuss our problems in restaurants. We do not believe in displays of distress. Our upper lips are stiff, and it is possible people are curious about us because we do not show them our hearts.

It is possible that we enjoy the way people are curious about us.

Here in Burlington, it’s just me, Mummy, and the dogs now. We haven’t the weight of Granddad in Boston or the impact of the whole family on Beechwood, but I know how people see us nonetheless. Mummy and I are two of a kind, in the big house with the porch at the top of the hill. The willowy mother and the sickly daughter. We are high of cheekbone, broad of shoulder. We smile and show our teeth when we run errands in town.

The sickly daughter doesn’t talk much. People who know her at school tend to keep away. They didn’t know her well before she got sick anyway. She was quiet even then.

Now she misses school half the time. When she’s there, her pale skin and watery eyes make her look glamorously tragic, like a literary heroine wasting from consumption. Sometimes she falls down at school, crying. She frightens the other students. Even the kindest ones are tired of walking her to the nurse’s office.

Still, she has an aura of mystery that stops her from being teased or singled out for typical high school unpleasantness. Her mother is a Sinclair.

Of course, I feel no sense of my own mystery eating a can of chicken soup late at night, or lying in the fluorescent light of the school nurse’s office. It is hardly glamorous the way Mummy and I quarrel now that Dad is gone.

I wake to find her standing in my bedroom doorway, staring.

“Don’t hover.”

“I love you. I’m taking care of you,” she says, her hand on her heart.

“Well, stop it.”

If I could shut my door on her, I would. But I cannot stand up.

Often I find notes lying around that appear to be records of what foods I’ve eaten on a particular day: Toast and jam, but only 1/2; apple and popcorn; salad with raisins; chocolate bar; pasta. Hydration? Protein? Too much ginger ale.

It is not glamorous that I can’t drive a car. It is not mysterious to be home on a Saturday night, reading a novel in a pile of smelly golden retrievers. However, I am not immune to the feeling of being viewed as a mystery, as a Sinclair, as part of a privileged clan of special people, and as part of a magical, important narrative, just because I am part of this clan.

My mother is not immune to it, either.

This is who we have been brought up to be.

Sinclairs. Sinclairs.

16

WHEN I WAS eight, Dad gave me a stack of fairy-tale books for Christmas. They came with colored covers: The Yellow Fairy Book, The Blue Fairy Book, The Crimson, The Green, The Gray, The Brown, and The Orange. Inside were tales from all over the world, variations on variations of familiar stories.

Read them and you hear echoes of one story inside another, then echoes of another inside that. So many have the same premise: once upon a time, there were three.

Three of something:

three pigs,

three bears,

three brothers,

three soldiers,

three billy goats.

Three princesses.

Since I got back from Europe, I have been writing some of my own. Variations.

I have time on my hands, so let me tell you a story. A variation, I am saying, of a story you have heard before.

ONCE UPON A time there was a king who had three beautiful daughters.

As he grew old, he began to wonder which should inherit the kingdom, since none had married and he had no heir. The king decided to ask his daughters to demonstrate their love for him.

To the eldest princess he said, “Tell me how you love me.”

She loved him as much as all the treasure in the kingdom.

To the middle princess he said, “Tell me how you love me.”

She loved him with the strength of iron.

To the youngest princess he said, “Tell me how you love me.”

This youngest princess thought for a long time before answering. Finally she said she loved him as meat loves salt.

“Then you do not love me at all,” the king said. He threw his daughter from the castle and had the bridge drawn up behind her so that she could not return.

Now, this youngest princess goes into the forest with not so much as a coat or a loaf of bread. She wanders through a hard winter, taking shelter beneath trees. She arrives at an inn and gets hired as assistant to the cook. As the days and weeks go by, the princess learns the ways of the kitchen. Eventually she surpasses her employer in skill and her food is known throughout the land.

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