The Truth About Keeping Secrets(6)

Dad was dead. Dad was dead. Dead was Dad and Dad was dead.

Perhaps the most selfish thought I’d ever had: maybe it would have been better if I’d never known Dad at all.

Eventually, ‘Dad is dead’ turned into ‘I will die’, which was my introduction to the fear. The fear of gone. The fear of nothing at all, of what happens to me, of I am the main character and the story will crumble if I’m not there to see it through. This wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair. I didn’t ask to be born; I didn’t ask to be hurt; I didn’t ask to feel anything at all!

I screwed my thumbs into my eyes, watched as the black went pitch-black and the pitch-black went spotty, little neon stars convulsing and pulsing and dying. Pretended the stars were rushing past me, behind me; I was in a spaceship, maybe, or maybe just piloting through the cosmos in my human body, and I was heading back to where I’d come from, wherever I was a week ago, the world before.

More than anything, I was trapped. I wanted out, because everything was awful, but there was no way out; the way out was what terrified me.

So I didn’t move a muscle.

Monday. Mom’s snooty friends came over, stayed and stayed and stayed. When they weren’t dead quiet, they were shrieking.

I’d resigned myself to my fate.

Olivia visited. Actually did bring me a cupcake. We sat in my room the way we always had, facing each other cross-legged on my bed. The spaces we occupied, the roles we filled – those were the same, I supposed, but the girls who filled them had changed and were now miscast. There was nothing, it seemed, left to do or say. Nothing substantial. Except for the first thing I asked: ‘Did you tell people?’

‘Tell people what?’

‘About the funeral. About Dad. Did you tell people what I said?’

‘Oh. You mean your … theory?’

I sighed. ‘Yeah. That.’

Olivia placed a hand gingerly on her chest. Recoiled. ‘No. Oh God, no. No one except for Miles. I think. Actually, no, yeah, I was talking about it with a couple –’

‘Olivia.’ I tumbled on to my back, my skull narrowly avoiding the headboard. ‘Olivia,’ I said again, this time to the ceiling.

‘What? What’s wrong? It was just – people were asking how you were, and I, no offence, I was like well, no, she’s not so hot, and obviously they asked why, so I said –’

I clicked my phone to life, pulled up the texts, showed her the screen. Said nothing.

When she was finished reading, she looked at me, blinked, and said, ‘That’s creepy.’

‘I already feel like shit. I don’t need anyone knowing about the finer details of it. Or contributing. Or, I don’t know, even thinking about me at all. OK?’ I prepared myself for her well-meaning axioms, for her to say that she’d done more research and it was common for people to –

‘Like I said. People are worried about you.’ Oh. So I wouldn’t even get the axioms.

‘Yeah, I get it. I’m crazy.’

‘No, that’s not –’ She exhaled through her nose. ‘Well, look. If you’re that concerned, why don’t you go to the police, or something? Is that how it works?’

I shook my head. ‘They said they looked into it.’


‘And nothing.’

Olivia shrugged. ‘Well, then maybe you should listen to them.’

This wasn’t a normal conversation, but the words still came more easily than they had any right to. We were operating at a certain distance, I think; any too-long thought about how we were discussing the implications of my dad’s possible murder would have sent me spiralling, so I didn’t consider it for too long. I thought about me and Olivia aged eight. The pair of us running circles in the cul-de-sac, digging for fossils, riding bikes. That all seemed so far away. Not just that: hostile.

‘Or,’ she continued, ‘didn’t your dad have literal files on everybody? Wouldn’t one of them say if a patient had, like, murderous tendencies?’

Olivia was right. There was a cabinet in Dad’s desk containing handwritten documentation of every patient he’d ever had. And I knew that because I’d stumbled across it unlocked one day, and even though at that time I probably wasn’t even old enough to understand any of it, he’d made it known that was no place for me. ‘I can’t open those,’ I said. ‘It’s illegal, firstly. And he … I don’t think he would have wanted that.’

Olivia shrugged again. ‘Then I don’t know. I’m sorry someone’s being creepy about it – and, hey, I’m sorry I said anything. I won’t talk about it any more. But, like, maybe it’s not good to linger on that stuff.’

Little Olivia and Sydney, running circles in the cul-de-sac. If I had been suddenly transported back there, confronted with a younger me, would I have told her what she had to look forward to? Maybe she could prepare herself. Maybe she’d be more grateful for what she had. Maybe she’d look longer, speak softer, hold tighter. ‘Yeah, maybe.’

Tuesday. Tried to watch The Wicker Man. The original, obviously. The last scene had always been my favourite part, but now, it made me sort of sick. There was something too real about burning alive, looking on while the rest of the world danced.

Wednesday. Made some questionable Google searches. How to control a car remotely. How to cut brakes. Fast-acting poisons. How to fake a suicide.

Savannah Brown's Books