Authors: Danielle Younge-Ullman
Tags: #Fiction, #Psychological
A PLUME BOOK
is a novelist and playwright from Toronto, Canada. She studied English and theater at McGill University, then returned to Toronto to work as a professional actor for ten years. Her one-act play,
7 Acts of Intercourse
, debuted at Toronto’s SummerWorks Festival in 2005.
is her first novel.
Published by the Penguin Group
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Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England First published by Plume, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
Copyright © Danielle Younge-Ullman, 2008 All rights reserved
MARCA REGISTRADA LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING
Falling under / Danielle Younge-Ullman.
1. Self-actualization (Psychology)—Fiction. 2. Friendship—Fiction.
3. Psychological fiction. I. Title. PS3625.O98F35 2008
Set in Horley Old Style
Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or other- wise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual per- sons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage elec- tronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.
My deepest thanks and gratitude to:
My agent, Emmanuelle Alspaugh, for falling in love with this book in the first place and going on to be the most dedi- cated, hardworking agent I could wish for;
My editor, Alexis Washam, who is smart and flexible and has such clear vision; she has been a total joy to work with;
Marie Coolman and the fabulous publicity, art, and sales departments at Plume, plus Melanie Storschuk and the great people at Penguin Canada;
Early readers who gave me invaluable feedback and en- couragement: Joel Hechter, Shelley Saville, Edna Saville, Laura Adamo, Suzanne Fitzpatrick, and Lori Delorme, plus my writing group, Maia Caron, Heather Wardell, Joanne Levy, Bev Katz Rosenbaum, and Maureen McGowan;
Kristy Kierman, Tish Cohen, and the other founding memebers of www
.thedebutanteball.com for inviting me to dance, and my fellow Debutantes: Gail Konop Baker, Jenny Gardiner, Lisa Daily, Jess Riley, Eileen Cook—a hugely tal-
ented, generous, funny group of women that I’ve been blessed to share this journey with;
My friends and family, from whom I have had immear- surable love, support, and inspiration, in particular: Cindy and Gary Ullman, Brett Younge, the Saville and Ullman families, Brian Younge, Kimber Stevens, Nicholle Russell, Laura Adamo, Gillian Stecyk, Miranda Stecyk, Leslie Zacks, the Kleinberg family, and the McGill Girls;
David Rennie, for setting me on the path,
And Michael and T, for whom I live and breathe.
sk Santa for a new bike, and you might get it. But Daddy might leave on Christmas Day.
When you reach out to touch your shiny new bike, Mommy might start yelling at Daddy about how dare he spend their money on a new bike and how you’re only five and what do you need a new bike for anyway?
You play your invisible trick—the one where you pretend you are a small rock—and hope that no one will notice your heart thumping so loud and your ears burning and your eyes blinking again and again.
Daddy yells back at Mommy and soon they are yelling in each other’s faces.
You take your hand off the bike.
You wish, instead of asking for a bike, you’d asked Santa for no more yelling and no more breaking things and slam- ming of doors. You wish you’d asked for Daddy not to walk out the door and say he’s never coming back and stay away until Mommy calls and begs him to come home like she has four times already.
The yelling gets louder and the words get meaner and then it all stops. A blast of freezing air gets in when Daddy opens the front door. You shiver and the door slams shut with Daddy on the other side.
In the long silence before Mommy starts her crying and her kicking at the door, you think about what she said about the bike.
How come Dad and Mom had to pay Santa? Oh.
It doesn’t matter what you asked Santa, you realize, be- cause there is no Santa. There’s no Santa, and Daddy’s not coming back this time. Somehow you know it.
hen all else fails I go to Erik. Tonight, all else has failed.
He answers the door, eyes bloodshot, unsurprised. And then the hitch in my breathing that comes, that always comes with Erik.
“Can’t sleep?” he says. “No.”
He steps aside to let me in, shuts the door behind me, slides the bolts, and chains the locks.
“Drink?” he says. I refuse, as always.
There is no bar, just a huddle of bottles on top of a giant, long-broken stereo speaker. He pours himself a Lagavulin, neat, as always.
“You painting?” he says. “All day.”
“You breaking the law?”
“Not at the moment,” he says with the ghost of a smirk.
The couch is clear of its usual technological detritus. I follow him there, and sit.
I shouldn’t be here.
I should never have been here. But it was too late years ago, and now it doesn’t matter so much.
We try small talk but soon run out of easy things to say. Our ill beginnings surface quickly, so it’s really better not to converse.
“So,” he says.
I feel his eyes on me. He knows if I’m here, I’ve done everything I can to still the storm inside, to put all the demons back into their boxes and seal the lids. But some- times they won’t go. Sometimes my ears are full of screaming, and sometimes, like tonight, the voices are mine.
Erik has them too—demons, voices, nightmares seared on the soul—I knew it the first time I saw him. And some- times,when there are large, dark spaces inside that you can- not escape, sometimes someone can meet you there, keep you company. Sometimes they can break you out.
I turn my head and let his eyes in. We search, and accept. There can be no love here; we don’t want it and we don’t have it to give, especially not to each other. No love, but
there is something else.
“Mara,” he says. A question, a command. “Yes.”
We both stand.
I know the way to the bedroom, I know his mouth will taste like Scotch. I walk ahead and listen for his footsteps behind me. Just inside the door his arms wrap around
my waist. He swivels me around and pulls me closer. I let him.
I come here because I know Erik will drag me to the edge. He will drag me there, push me over, and then leap after me, to a place beyond pain, beyond loss, beyond the things that haunt us in the empty spaces of the night.
When all else fails, I have this.
You want to ride your bike, but maybe if you don’t, then Daddy will come home and Mommy will get out of bed in the mornings and this time nobody will shout or throw hot cups of coffee at each other.
You walk to kindergarten and hope, every day, to come back to a house with both Mommy and Daddy in it.
Then Mommy notices you not riding the bike.
“We could have used that money,” she says. “We can’t just go buying bikes that we don’t ride. We’ll end up in the poor house.”
“Where is the Poor House?” you ask. “It’s nowhere you want to go,” she says. “Is that where Daddy went?”
“I told you not to mention his name.” “Sorry, Mom.”
She will never understand why you’re not riding the bike, and if she did it would only make her cry, so the next day
you get on it and ride down the block. As soon as you’re out of sight, you get off. You hope Daddy will understand that you had to ride it, just a little bit, and will still come back. He doesn’t.
In June, Grandma and Grandpa come to visit. You tell Grandma about Daddy being gone and Mommy sick and crying every day.
“I know, sweetheart,” Grandma says, and pats your shoulder. “But it will all be okay, you’ll see.”
You don’t think so. In case she doesn’t know, you tell her about Santa too.