Home > We Were Liars(9)

We Were Liars(9)
Author: E. Lockhart

Years pass, and the eldest princess comes to be married. For the festivities, the cook from the inn makes the wedding meal.

Finally a large roast pig is served. It is the king’s favorite dish, but this time it has been cooked with no salt.

The king tastes it.

Tastes it again.

“Who would dare to serve such an ill-cooked roast at the future queen’s wedding?” he cries.

The princess-cook appears before her father, but she is so changed he does not recognize her. “I would not serve you salt, Your Majesty,” she explains. “For did you not exile your youngest daughter for saying that it was of value?”

At her words, the king realizes that not only is she his daughter—she is, in fact, the daughter who loves him best.

And what then?

The eldest daughter and the middle sister have been living with the king all this time. One has been in favor one week, the other the next. They have been driven apart by their father’s constant comparisons. Now the youngest has returned, the king yanks the kingdom from his eldest, who has just been married. She is not to be queen after all. The elder sisters rage.

At first, the youngest basks in fatherly love. Before long, however, she realizes the king is demented and power-mad. She is to be queen, but she is also stuck tending to a crazy old tyrant for the rest of her days. She will not leave him, no matter how sick he becomes.

Does she stay because she loves him as meat loves salt?

Or does she stay because he has now promised her the kingdom?

It is hard for her to tell the difference.

17

THE FALL AFTER the European trip, I started a project. I give away something of mine every day.

I mailed Mirren an old Barbie with extra-long hair, one we used to fight over when we were kids. I mailed Johnny a striped scarf I used to wear a lot. Johnny likes stripes.

For the old people in my family—Mummy, the aunties, Granddad—the accumulation of beautiful objects is a life goal.

Whoever dies with the most stuff wins.

Wins what? is what I’d like to know.

I used to be a person who liked pretty things. Like Mummy does, like all the Sinclairs do. But that’s not me anymore.

Mummy has our Burlington house filled with silver and crystal, coffee-table books and cashmere blankets. Thick rugs cover every floor, and paintings from several local artists she patronizes line our walls. She likes antique china and displays it in the dining room. She’s replaced the perfectly drivable Saab with a BMW.

Not one of these symbols of prosperity and taste has any use at all.

“Beauty is a valid use,” Mummy argues. “It creates a sense of place, a sense of personal history. Pleasure, even, Cadence. Have you ever heard of pleasure?”

But I think she’s lying, to me and to herself, about why she owns these objects. The jolt of a new purchase makes Mummy feel powerful, if only for a moment. I think there is status to having a house full of pretty things, to buying expensive paintings of seashells from her arty friends and spoons from Tiffany’s. Antiques and Oriental rugs tell people that my mother may be a dog breeder who dropped out of Bryn Mawr, but she’s got power—because she’s got money.

GIVEAWAY: MY BED pillow. I carry it while I run errands.

There is a girl leaning against the wall outside the library. She has a cardboard cup by her ankles for spare change. She is not much older than I am.

“Do you want this pillow?” I ask. “I washed the pillowcase.”

She takes it and sits on it.

My bed is uncomfortable that night, but it’s for the best.

GIVEAWAY: PAPERBACK COPY of King Lear I read for school sophomore year, found under the bed.

Donated to the public library.

I don’t need to read it again.

GIVEAWAY: A PHOTO of Granny Tipper at the Farm Institute party, wearing an evening dress and holding a piglet.

I stop by Goodwill on my way home. “Hey there, Cadence,” says Patti behind the counter. “Just dropping off?”

“This was my Gran.”

“She was a beautiful lady,” says Patti, peering. “You sure you don’t want to take the photo out? You could donate just the frame.”

“I’m sure.”

Gran is dead. Having a picture of her won’t change anything.

“DID YOU GO by Goodwill again?” Mummy asks when I get home. She is slicing peaches with a special fruit knife.

“Yeah.”

“What did you get rid of?”

“Just an old picture of Gran.”

“With the piglet?” Her mouth twitches. “Oh, Cady.”

“It was mine to give away.”

Mummy sighs. “You give away one of the dogs and you will never hear the end of it.”

I squat down to dog height. Bosh, Grendel, and Poppy greet me with soft, indoor woofs. They’re our family dogs, portly and well-behaved. Purebred goldens. Poppy had several litters for my mother’s business, but the puppies and the other breeding dogs live with Mummy’s partner at a farm outside Burlington.

“I would never,” I say.

I whisper how I love them into their soft doggy ears.

18

IF I GOOGLE traumatic brain injury, most websites tell me selective amnesia is a consequence. When there’s damage to the brain, it’s not uncommon for a patient to forget stuff. She will be unable to piece together a coherent story of the trauma.

But I don’t want people to know I’m like this. Still like this, after all the appointments and scans and medicines.

I don’t want to be labeled with a disability. I don’t want more drugs. I don’t want doctors or concerned teachers. God knows, I’ve had enough doctors.

What I remember, from the summer of the accident:

Falling in love with Gat at the Red Gate kitchen door.

His beach rose for Raquel and my wine-soaked night, spinning in anger.

Acting normal. Making ice cream. Playing tennis.

The triple-decker s’mores and Gat’s anger when we told him to shut up.

Night swimming.

Kissing Gat in the attic.

Hearing the Cracker Jack story and helping Granddad down the stairs.

The tire swing, the basement, the perimeter. Gat and I in one another’s arms.

Gat seeing me bleed. Asking me questions. Dressing my wounds.

I don’t remember much else.

I can see Mirren’s hand, her chipped gold nail polish, holding a jug of gas for the motorboats.

Mummy, her face tight, asking, “The black pearls?”

Johnny’s feet, running down the stairs from Clairmont to the boathouse.

Granddad, holding on to a tree, his face lit by the glow of a bonfire.

 

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