Authors: William Bayer
Tags: #Suspense & Thrillers
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Â© 2012 / William Bayer
Copy-edited by: William Bayer
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lans for the summer: Get a tan that'll really lastâthrough Thanksgiving at least. Work on backhand and serve. Be outrageous. Screw every stud on the Godforsaken island. Feast upon the fleshâ¦.
here had been a strange quality to her memories of that summer, Penny realized later on, that had reduced those months before the crime to jagged moments indelibly engraved. They were vivid, dreamlike, too, clouded by distortion, as if her angle of vision had been cockeyed.
She'd seen but she hadn't seenâit was something like that, she thought. She'd watched, observed, figured things out a certain way, but in the end had gotten everything wrong.
Bar Harbor had been filled with college kids. There were parties day and nightâpot parties, sex parties, sailing parties, parties on the beach, so many they all blurred into one. And the boys who followed after Suzie, those tits-and-ass men from Princeton and Yale, they blurred, too, she thought, into a savage pack. It was as if Suzie gave off a perfume and the boys were dogs who'd caught her scent. They pranced and strutted, were chosen and used; then, discarded, they limped away. It was, Penny thought, a massacre: young men broken one by one upon a battlefield of lust.
She had watched nights from the rocking chair by the open window of her room, making the rockers creak back and forth against the old wooden floor of the Victorian house. The window looked out on the garden and the little cottage by the pool where Suzie played and slept. All summer Penny studied her sister, wondered about her, tried to understand what she was doing down there and why.
It was love that forced her to watch, love for Suzie, deep concern and fearâfear that something was terribly wrong and that there was another story containing a deeper truth hiding in the shadows around the
All summer she had read, devoured novels. She flew through Jane Austen, George Eliot, Dickens, Thackeray, the BrontÃ«s, flew through the pages, became heady on the words. She hated Bar Harbor and promised herself she'd never spend another summer there again.
On the Fourth of July she watched Suzie move into the
. Several of her boyfriends helped, former and would-be lovers, stupid
, Princeton jocks. They carried Suzie's clothes and her stereo and her furniture and her waterbed which first, under her supervision, they emptied out the window through a hose. The gardener was annoyed. Penny could tell because of the fierce way he snapped his trimming shears. The contents of the waterbed, poured out the window, turned his flowerbeds into lakes. Her mother watched, too, standing on the terrace, a long frosted goblet in her hand. She didn't say anything, just stood very stillâthin, withered, paleâwatching Suzie move.
Suzie's explanations: her bedroom was too hot; in the cottage she'd sleep better; she wanted to play her stereo at night without worrying about disturbing other members of the family. Her real reason, Penny knew, was that she wanted to make love to her army of boyfriends without trooping them through the house.
After they helped her the boys got their rewards. Suzie pushed all three of them into the pool and then stood on the edge, hands on her hips, roaring with laughter while they thrashed about. Suzie's best friend, Cynthia French, stood beside her and laughed, too. They wore matching Sarah Lawrence T-shirts and running shorts with racing stripes.
Later, one of the boys, trying to redeem himself, prepared to make a flashy dive. Penny saw Suzie watch him with contempt, then turn away just before his plunge.
otherâI'm sick and tired of having
on my back.
"Nobody gives a
, mother. In Europe everyone goes topless on the beach."
"But the gardener, dear."
"Let him gape if it turns him on. For God's
, mother, who cares what Tucker thinks?"
took another sip of gin. "We'll wait and see what your father says."
"He won't say anything I bet."
Suzie was right. When their father came up to Maine that weekend, he didn't say a word. He always favored Suzie, gave her everything she wanted, and when he told stories of his business dealings it was she who listened and understood. They played a game together, chanted aphorisms in unison, little truths about the business world. "Break them or they'll break you."
come if you begin to bleed." Suzie's eyes would gleam as she chanted away. They'd nod together to the rhythm. They were two of a kind, and if Suzie wanted to be outrageous, go around half-naked showing off her boobs, she had his unspoken permission to do that, too.
By her topless swimming and sunbathing she effectively blocked Penny from the pool. This wasn't intentional; Suzie was always nice to her, always encouraging and kind. It was just that even in a bikini (and Penny didn't think she looked good in one) she felt ridiculous beside Suzieâmodest, prissy, out-of-place.
Cynthia French went topless, too, and between the two of them they drove everybody mad. Penny, from her rocking chair, spied upon the show: all sorts of unknown boys turning up at odd times to gape and swim; her mother wandering drunk through the garden; boys being pushed in; Suzie and Cynthia leering, roaring; Tucker snapping his shears ever more ferociously.
enny, standing nude in her bedroom, studied herself before a full-length mirror. She knew she bore a resemblance to Suzie, and she also knew she didn't look like her at all. They had the same gray eyes, but Suzie's danced and shined, the same light brown hair, but Suzie's was glossy, coppery and full. Her own body was too narrow, her flesh too pale, her chest a bit too flat. It wasn't that she was ugly âeverything was all right as far as it went. That was the troubleâeverything was just "all right." Maybe if she didn't stand so straight. Maybe if she stuck out her rear a little, and bent one knee to lower a hip. That was better, but there was still the problem of her face. It was irregular, uneven, "off." Her profiles didn't match, and she didn't know which side was better. There was something mousy about her, something
, tentative and dull. Suzie had advised her to show more confidence. "Think
Child," she'd said. "Believe me, you'll
Suzie always called her "Child." She was two and a half years older than Penny, who was nineteen and still in college. Suzie had dropped out of Sarah Lawrence in January, let an apartment and taken a job as assistant to a fashion photographer in New York. She'd quit on him to spend the summer in Maine. Penny overheard her talking to him on the phone: "Well, all right JamieâI
walk out. I left you stranded. I'm a bitch.
? If it makes you feel any better, then just think of me as a bitch.
OK? All right? Feel better now?
And I'll just think of you as one, too.
Sometimes when she was reading Penny would feel compelled to put down her book and look across the lawn. There was something, she sensed, about to happen, some drama about to be played. She'd try to fight the desire, try to lose herself again in the words of the novel, but sounds would intrude, the whirring of the sprinkler set out to water the lawn, a male bellow from the
. Tucker's shears, a high-pitched laugh, noise created by Suzie and her friends. Then it was impossibleâshe would have to raise her eyes.
Sometimes, just to get away, she'd mount her bicycle and ride. She'd have no particular destination in mind; she would simply wander along the network of paths that crisscrossed Mount Desert. Sometimes she'd ride into the forest, find a quiet place, lean her bike against a tree, and lie on the pine-bed staring at the sky. Other times she'd ride along the coast stopping every so often to listen to the surf. She avoided the towns, Bar Harbor and Seal Harbor. There were too many tourists, the yachts outnumbered the fishing boats, and the beautiful weathered gray shingled buildings were festooned with junk for sale.
uzie sunbathing with Cynthia French, the two of them lying on their stomachs, Suzie's copper hair cascading down her back:
. Thought he'd be OK."
"Nice arms. Cute ass. You knowâ"
"Well, he sure wasn't that great a fuck, I can tell you. D, D minus, something like that."