- Pages: 368 Pages
- Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
- Imprint: Razorbill
- ISBN: 9780593465387
An Excerpt From
Beside me, the seaplane bobs, tethered to the dock. It was a long journey from Saint Thomas, soaring over islands and islands that grew smaller and flatter until they were just sandbars, then gone. For a long time, we floated through a cloudless sky over an endless ocean, and there was nothing but blue. It took every ounce of my strength to not yank the plane door open and dive into that blue.
But I didn’t. And now we’re here. At the private island that’s going to be my private prison for the next two weeks. I’m the third wheel on my mother’s honeymoon with a man who wears pressed khaki shorts and belts with little whales on them. She was too afraid to leave me alone with my injuries after the accident, and I’d never admit this out loud, but I’m glad she didn’t.
“Come on, sweetie!” She waves from the beach, her other arm wrapped around David’s waist. It doesn’t feel right that one twenty-minute ceremony can make you someone’s daughter, step- or not. But she’s been planning this honeymoon for almost a year, and I am not going to ruin the trip for her. I pull an elastic off my wrist and twist my sweaty, light brown hair into a knot on top of my head.
“Go ahead, Addie.” Ken Carpenter, the island’s bearded caretaker, leaps onto the seaplane to help the pilot with our suitcases. “Melinda will get you folks settled in at the house, and we’ll bring your bags up.”
“You’re going to love it.” His wife, a woman in a billowing caftan with silver-streaked hair, gives me a sympathetic smile. Everyone here seems to already know about my accident, which is both embarrassing and a relief because I won’t have to explain why I unexpectedly cough up blood sometimes. Leaving the seaplane—and that gorgeous turquoise water I’m not allowed to dive in—we head for the beach. A stone jetty stretches out even farther than the dock, with a white lighthouse at its end.
The scent of flowers is so strong I can taste it, sweet and cloying and tinged with something almost rotten. It thickens as we approach the forest, and I swallow hard, then take a shallow breath.
“Isn’t this spectacular?” says my mom as we join them on the beach. I plaster a smile onto my mouth and nod.
“Just wait until you see the rest,” says David, though he’s never been here before either.
Melinda leads us onto a packed-dirt path that cuts through the woods, and as we pass under the leafy canopy, it takes a few seconds for our eyes to adjust to the dimness. My mother grabs my wrist.
“Oh, Addie, look!”
White flowers bloom absolutely everywhere: hibiscus and lilies and amaryllis and so many more that I don’t know the names of. Crowding the bushes, peeking out of the shrubs underfoot, climbing the trees in slender vines. Not a single blossom or bud that isn’t white. I take a slow, soupy breath, willing myself not to wheeze. I am not going to ruin this trip. Not after I almost made her miss her wedding.
“So pretty,” I say.
Melinda swats a bug from her face. “It gets humid down here, but don’t worry. There’s always a breeze up at the house.”
Sunlight sifts through the giant ferns overhead as I stop to catch my breath. A thousand birds are shrieking, though I can’t see any of them. I wonder if they’re all white like the flowers. As beautiful as this is, I can’t wait to find the house and the breeze so I can get this floral stench out of my lungs.
Ahead, Melinda, David, and my mom are climbing a set of stone steps, but I don’t think I can make it up just yet. My face is hot and cold at the same time, and black specks flit in my vision. Bending low, I brace my hands on my knees. If I can train myself not to breathe for seven minutes, I can train myself not to cough. And I can train myself to heal. It’s just a question of control. Mind over matter. Slowly, the need to clear my lungs eases, and I lean back against the trunk of a huge old tree.
Shutting my eyes, I breathe, gently breathe, and let it all settle. I try to find my center, my inner silence, but lately whenever things get quiet, my brain circles back to the accident. The same nagging thoughts circle like flies, constant reminders that everything is different now. That I’m different now, even though I still have no understanding of what happened to me when I died.
Something pulls me out of my thoughts, bringing me back to the flower-filled woods. It’s too silent, I realize. The birds have stopped screeching. The insects are no longer buzzing. Then something rustles behind me, and a child’s laugh plinks like a music box.
“Hello?” I call.
The back of my neck tingles like someone’s watching me, but if they are, they could be anywhere in this chaotic jumble of plants and trees. They could be hiding an arm’s length away and I’d never know.
“Hello?” I repeat. “Is somebody there?”
Again, that laugh, high-pitched and the slightest bit broken, and it sounds nothing like a bird. That sound is human.
Leaves rustle suddenly, and I jolt as a black cat slinks out of a white-flowered bush. It swishes against my shin, and as it dashes away up the steps, I have to bend over again to catch my breath and let my rocketing heartbeat calm.
“Kylo, you naughty thing! How did you get out again?” Melinda’s voice floats down through the eerily still trees. Slowly, my panic fades, but the crawling sensation on my skin does not. That laughter definitely wasn’t a cat. I’m sure it was a child.
“Is someone there?” I call.
The forest is silent.