by Mimi Cross
Published by: Skyscape
Publication date: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Genres: Thriller, Young Adult
Seventeen-year-old Arion Rush has always played the obedient sidekick to her older sister’s flashy femme fatale—until a mysterious boating accident leaves Lilah a silent, traumatized stranger. As her sister awaits medical treatment with their mother, Arion and their father head to his hometown in Maine to prepare a new life for them all. Surrounded by the vast Atlantic, songwriting is Arion’s only solace, her solid ground.
Unexpectedly, Arion blossoms in the tiny coastal town. Friends flock to her, and Logan Delaine, a volatile heartthrob, seems downright smitten. But it’s Bo Summers—a solitary surfer, as alluring as he is aloof—that Arion can’t shake. Meanwhile, Lilah’s worsening condition, a string of local fatalities, and Arion’s own recent brushes with death seem ominously linked…to Bo’s otherworldly family. As Arion’s feelings for Bo intensify and his affections turn possessive, she must make a choice. How will Arion learn to listen to her own voice when Bo’s siren song won’t stop ringing in her ears?
As a little kid I sang in the church choir, later on in the choruses at school, and about six months ago I started writing songs—not that I’d call myself a songwriter yet. My first gig was last week, down in the Mission District. Standing on the spotlit stage of the black box performance space, I played one long set—twelve tunes total—while hipsters watched with crossed arms.
Performing in front of an audience is a good way to tell if your songs are finished.
The song I’m trying to capture now definitely falls into the not category.
I give the guitar a soft strum—a ghost of a chord slips out. Playing the haunting notes a little louder, I listen for the melody. It’ll come, eventually, but we’re leaving any minute.
Not just leaving . . . moving.
“Do you know,” I whisper sing, “where lost things go?”
In the next room Lilah falls silent. The lyrics tangle in my throat.
My fingers fumble, then jerk—playing a rhythmic pattern atop a single minor chord: one and two, one and two. Words tumble out of me. “Saint Anthony, can you come around? There’s something lost, and it can’t be found.”
Saint Anthony—is he the one?
A quick Google search on the laptop perched at the end of my bed tells me he is. Saint Anthony is invoked as the finder of lost things. Pulling my guitar closer, I play the line over and over.
“Arion? You up there?”
Dad. After shoving the laptop into my backpack, I shut the guitar in its case and head into the hall. Hands full, I stand in my sister’s doorway.
She doesn’t see me.
Even as thin as she is, even with the ever-present dark shadows beneath her eyes, Lilah is beautiful. Her features are regular and in proportion. Mine . . . are slightly exaggerated. Nose longer, lips fuller. Now, without music to distract me, the tears I’d vowed not to cry fill my eyes. Brown eyes. On a good day, they’re hazel. Maybe.
There’s no mistaking the color of my sister’s eyes. Bright blue. Her hair is black and shiny, cut straight across her forehead and blunt at her shoulders in a way that has always made me think of Cleopatra, but especially since the accident, when she became a mystery to me. Lilah no longer tells me her every thought. She can’t.
My sister blinks her bellflower eyes now, and for a split second— seems to focus on me.
But the illusion vanishes just as quickly. I swallow around the lump in my throat, wondering for the millionth time if she has any idea what’s going on.
Her bed is up against the window. In the distance—over a nearly invisible San Francisco Bay—the Golden Gate Bridge hovers in fog. Sitting down beside her on the bed, I lay a hand on one of her legs—feel bones, atrophied muscles. A raw feeling spreads through me, like a dull blade is scraping the underside of my skin.
“So . . . guess it’s time for goodbye.” I take a deep breath in, let it out slowly—which doesn’t help at all. “I’ll see you in Rock Hook Harbor. Dad’s one-horse hometown . . . Sounds happening, huh?” My attempt at lightheartedness fails completely. The words drop like bricks.
Leaning in, I kiss her cheek.
She turns away, as if looking toward the ghostly water. Or, is she looking at the water? Or just staring blankly?
I so want it to be the former. The doctors say it’s the latter.
In my chest, a hairline fissure I’ve fused together with lyrics and chords pops open.
“I love you,” I choke out.
She doesn’t answer. Of course she doesn’t.
Biting down hard on my lip, I stand up, trying not to feel like I’m leaving my best friend stranded. But I am. She is. Stranded. She’s been stranded, for a year.
Swiping at my eyes, I take a few steps down the hall—then turn suddenly into my parents’ room, which is mostly Mom’s room now. Dad spends the nights he’s here on the living room couch, where, after dinner—usually something complicated he’s cooked up involving lots of pots and pans—he falls asleep with the TV on. Blue screen to white noise; maybe the sound helps him. Music works better for me. Or, it used to. I used to lie in bed at night and sing. Lately, all I want to do is sleep.
Like the rest of the house, my parents’ bedroom is crowded with canvases. Filled with slashes of color and geometric shapes, each paint- ing has the name “Cici” scrawled in large letters down in the right-hand corner. Mom’s pictures pulse with unfamiliar energy, and my nostrils flare at the scent of paint fumes as I move a half-finished piece—an abstract portrait of a girl, I think—that’s leaning up against the glass door. Slipping out onto the balcony, I clutch the cold railing and eye a moldering stack of Psychology Today magazines. Therapy is Mom’s religion.
A pair of paint-splattered jeans hangs off a chair. A handful of paintbrushes soak in a bucket. There’s no sign of Dad.
My parents are like a couple of unmoored boats. Drifting. One of the few things they agreed on this past year? The accident was Dad’s fault. A pretty stupid conclusion, really, considering he hadn’t even been on the boat. But he’s a ship’s captain. Lilah and I inherited our love of the water from him.
Water. I hate it now. Because of the water, I’m on this balcony almost every day, drawn out here as if for a long-standing appointment, some prearranged meeting between me and my broken heart. I cry here; sometimes I yell. Sometimes I write, and one day, I nearly threw my guitar over the railing.
Splintered wood, snapped strings, I’m interested in broken things. The circling song lyrics fade at the sound of Mom’s strained voice. “Arion, have you finished saying goodbye to Delilah? Your dad’s ready to go.”
I stay another second, then scoop up a stray guitar pick from the terracotta tiles and head inside, not paying any attention to the paint- ings now, just intent on leaving before I get any more upset.
But then I’m passing Lilah’s room—and I see it.
The slim black notebook I’ve searched for probably a hundred times over the past year.
Oh, I’ve seen the palm-size Moleskine with its curled cover, seen it clutched in Lilah’s fist, watched as she whisked the small black book beneath her quilt, or shoved it between her sheets. I just haven’t been able to get my hands on it, and I’ve wanted to, desperately.
So many times I’ve seen her slip the notebook between the over- size pages of the art books that Mom insists on bringing home from the library. She’ll hug the book close then—her treasure safe inside— but she’ll never actually look at the glossy pages. Not like she looks at that notebook. She looks at that black book like it’s the only thing she recognizes.
It’s definitely some kind of diary. Not that I ever see her writing in it, not since before. But she’s always got it on her.
Only, she doesn’t have it on her now.
Now, there it is, on the floor next to her bed. And Lilah, there she is, still looking but not looking out the window. Transfixed, it would seem, by the gray bay. As I watch, she lifts one hand, bringing her fingertips to the glass—as if there’s something out there she wants to touch.
It’s kind of amazing how I do it, how I steal her most precious pos- session without breaking my stride. How I silently sweep into the room and, bending low, snatch it up—then keep on walking like nothing’s happened. Like I’m ten-year-old Lilah herself, that time at the rock and gem shop down near the beach, trying on one sterling silver ring, then another. I’ll never forget it, how she smiled at the shopkeeper—maybe even said thank you—then practically skipped out the door, still wear- ing at least one of the rings. Once outside, she tossed a half-dozen more rings onto the pebbles that served as the shop’s front yard, so that she could retrieve them that night when the gem shop was closed, so that we could retrieve them.
Eight-year-old me, I’d held the flashlight for her. She’d given me one of the rings as my reward, but only one.
I feel bad taking the book; if I could read it and leave it, I would. But there’s no time. Through the hall window I can see Dad standing down in the driveway by the old green Jeep Cherokee, the car that will be mine once we get to Maine.
So I slide the notebook into the pocket of my backpack where it burns a hole so big I think it will surely fall out—pages fluttering like fiery wings—and slap the floor with a sound so sharp, Lilah will shud- der to life. She’ll spring up and shout at me, her old self at last.
But nothing like this happens.
Leaving Lilah. Taking the notebook. My skin ripples with guilt. But we have to go on ahead. School’s starting in a few weeks, plus Dad’s new job—they won’t hold it any longer.
And really, I have to take the book. I need to know what happened.
Out in the driveway, I crane my neck, trying to see if Lilah’s still at the window.
“Hold on,” Mom shouts from the house, “I almost forgot!”
Time seems suspended as Dad and I wait by the car, the limbo of the long ride already upon us . . .
Mom reappears holding a square box wrapped in gold paper and a purple ribbon. Balanced on top is a fat cupcake with pink frosting.
“Happy birthday, Arion.” Her flinty blue eyes soften. She hands me the awkward duo and gives me an equally awkward hug. “From both of us.”
Dad smiles, shakes his head. “Seventeen.” He’s always been a man of few words.
“Thanks, Mom. Dad.” Swallowing hard, I climb into the car with the gifts on my lap. Mom pecks Dad on the cheek, and he gets behind the wheel. As we pull away, she blows me a kiss.
Twisting in my seat, I wave—then look up at the second story. No Lilah.
My chest hurts so much—I actually glance down. But there’s nothing except a smear of pink icing on my shirt, where I’d leaned into the cupcake.
We’ll fly back close to Thanksgiving, when Lilah is scheduled for the operation that my parents have finally decided is her best bet: a surgical procedure to implant a device in her brain.
It’s not as sci-fi as it sounds. The battery-operated device is kind of like a pacemaker, only for your brain instead of your heart. This kind of surgery is used to treat a variety of disabling neurological symptoms, although I think whoever came up with DBS—deep brain stimulation—was thinking of people with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, not, well, whatever’s wrong with Lilah. Her case is—entirely different. I’m not going to pretend: I’m scared. But the plan is, we’ll all be together in Maine by Christmas, so that’s what I’m trying to focus on. I’ll miss Lilah. Mom too. But I’m glad to be leaving San Francisco.
My life here . . . is on hold—except for my music. The rest is a waiting game.
We’ve all been waiting for Lilah to find what she lost. As if she can look for it.
Mimi Cross was born in Toronto, Canada. She received a master's degree from New York University and a bachelor's degree in music from Ithaca College. She has been a performer, a music educator, and a yoga instructor. During the course of her musical career, she's shared the bill with artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi, and Sting. She resides in New Jersey.