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Authors: Sara Shepard

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All the Things We Didn't Say (33 page)

BOOK: All the Things We Didn't Say

‘Come on!' Claire called from the deck.

I turned around. There was a girl of about fifteen waiting behind me, leaning her elbows on the stair railing.
I am twenty-six years old,
I said to myself.
It's about time.

I screamed the whole drop. When I hit the water, I was first relieved, then thrilled. Frannie applauded, messily slapping her little hands together, and Claire waited for me at the edge of the pool. ‘Did you like it?' she asked.

I got out without saying anything, but I could feel I was smiling.

I only went off that once. But sitting with my dad by the Promenade, I suddenly wanted to do it again. I wanted to bring Philip, too. I wanted to jump off the diving board holding his hand, even if the lifeguard didn't allow it. And when we hit the water, I wanted to open my eyes underwater, look at him, and wave. And when we got to the surface, I knew I would tell him, maybe for the second or third time, how I truly felt, something that I already knew would make him happy. The words wouldn't come easily, stumbling out of me like clumsy, newborn animals-wormy little birds, maybe-but at least I'd give it an attempt, and that would be something.

I looked out at the debris floating down the river. More Coke cans, old, partly disintegrated shipping pallets, and then, all of a sudden, a beautiful, blue-green glass bottle. It was mostly obscured in the water, so I wasn't able to tell what was inside, but there could have been all sorts of things. A potion, maybe. A tiny ship, like the ones that were trapped inside the bottles on my father's shelves. Even a letter, explaining all the mysteries in the world we still hadn't
uncovered. But I knew, suddenly, that there was probably nothing inside the bottle except icy water from the East River. Realizing that made me a little sad, but also gave me a wise, stripped-down feeling, as if I'd really-finally-figured something out.

As I was watching the bottle float to us, it started to snow. The snow stuck to the bottle's curved sides. The flakes were huge and dry, perfect sledding snow.

My father opened his palms to catch the falling snowflakes. ‘We might have to postpone the open house.'

‘Maybe not,' I said. ‘People might come anyway. You know people will do anything for real estate.'

My father laughed. I tried to imagine where we'd all be, a day or so from now, when this blizzard really took hold. I saw Steven and Angie sitting in the airport, gazing wearily at the departures board, their flight indefinitely delayed. I saw Josephine at the airport, too, headed back to Colorado, calling her father, Mark, and telling him who she'd seen this weekend. I saw Mark sitting in a chair in a large, ski-chalet style of room, gazing at a photo of him and my father-the only one, perhaps, he'd saved. I saw Samantha soldiering on to another real-estate conference, her Mercedes windshield wipers churning. I saw Philip crunching through the snow to the corner market, stocking up on milk and bread and pancake syrup, pausing at the sporting goods store in town to buy a red plastic sled, the kind two people could fit on.

And I saw something else, too, farther in the future: I saw myself, sitting in a warm, quiet lab, flipping the switch of a microscope, turning the knobs on the side to focus. The image had a clean, sure feel to it, like a stone worked over by the ocean.

The bottle bobbed. The current shifted so that it floated close enough so that we could almost reach down and grab it. My dad pointed at it. ‘If only it were summertime and
hot out. I'd see if I could reach into the water and get that bottle for you.'

‘I know,' I said, in a voice barely over a whisper.

And I did know. And maybe that was everything I needed to know about him-that he was the type of person and would always be the type of person who would save a bottle out of the East River if I wanted it. And I would save it for him, too.

I placed my hand over his. It was cold, and my hand was probably cold, too. It felt like his hand always had, large and rough, each finger strong and sure. I grabbed on to his thumb and squeezed, and I saw him smile, just a little.

Neither of us had any way of rescuing the bottle, so we simply watched it bob gently down the river. It floated under the Brooklyn Bridge and passed the Sea Streak ferry and a garbage barge. The cars on the FDR streaked past toward the Bronx, the cars on the BQE lumbered into Brooklyn. We watched the bottle until it was a tiny green dot, and then until it was nothing.


Thank you to those who read the early drafts of
All The Things We Didn't Say:
Susan Choi, Michael Cunningham, Carey Harrison, Ernesto Mestre-Reed. And my extreme gratitude to the readers of later versions - which also meant much longer versions: Lauren Acampora, Colleen McGarry, Sandy Peterson, and Emma Wunsch. Belated thanks to the Vermont Studio Center, for giving me time and space. I couldn't do without my sister, Ali Shepard, for her fondness for the whale in front of Key Food, my father, Bob ‘Shep' Shepard, for advising me how coal mines look and work, and my alwayswonderful husband, Joel Wilkens, for rescuing all those dogs in Tucson, sometimes two dogs a day. To the patient, forthright and intuitive people at William Morris: Shana Kelly, Andy McNicol, Jennifer Rudolph-Walsh, and Cathryn Summerhayes, who tirelessly worked to get this book out into the world. And I am forever beholden to everyone at Harper UK, especially my editor, Clare Hey, for caring so much about this story and offering so many brilliant suggestions to make it even better.

And most of all, a bottomless well of thanks to my mom, Mindy Shepard, for all those years of workbooks and
sixty-four boxes of Crayola crayons and suffering through Ali and I talking in high-pitched voices in the back seat of the car for five hours straight.

For reading this book countless times through, for loving it when I was so uncertain, for giving it a beating heart. Wearer of peasant blouses, crooner to dogs, a link in the human chain out to the ice, Stella Rogers incarnate, only younger. This book is for you.

About the Author

Sara Shepard graduated from NYU and has an MFA from Brooklyn College. She currently lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Sara's
Pretty Little Liars
novels were inspired by her upbringing in Philadelphia's Main Line.
All The Things We Didn't Say
is her first novel for adults.

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Copyright © Sara Shepard 2009

Sara Shepard asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work

This novel is entirely a work of fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it are the work of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or localities is entirely coincidental.

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EPub Edition © SEPTEMBER 2009 ISBN: 978-0-007-32880-2

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