Read Where I Want to Be Online

Authors: Adele Griffin

Where I Want to Be

BOOK: Where I Want to Be
The sharpness of memories…

The thunder wakes me up. It takes me a minute to remember where I am, on the couch, with my arms and legs pretzel-twisted around Caleb.

When I was little, I used to head straight for Jane’s room whenever I heard thunder. She was totally unafraid of it. Her brave face made me feel brave, too.

“Don’t worry, Lily,” she’d comfort me. “Storms are only angels having temper tantrums.” Then she’d
tickle her finger up and down the length of my arm, like Augusta did, to help me sleep. “See? It’s a magic trick,” she told me. “It hypnotizes you.” I wasn’t sure if that was true, but magic seemed to live in Jane’s skin, as much a part of her as the games she would invent for us to play.

I’d happily play along with any of Jane’s games back then. Jane enchanted my world. I thought my sister could do anything.

Realizing that she couldn’t must have come on gradually, but I always pin it to one day.

That day marked the beginning. Not because it was our first big fight, but because it was the first time I realized that I could hurt my sister if I chose. She might be half magic, but she was also half glass.

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where i
want to be
An Imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.


Published by the Penguin Group

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Registered Offices: Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

First published in the United States of America by G. P. Putnam’s Sons,
a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2005

Published by Speak, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2007

Copyright © Adele Griffin, 2005

All rights reserved


Griffin, Adele. Where I want to be / Adele Griffin.

p.   cm.

Summary: Two teenaged sisters, separated by death but still connected,
work through their feelings of loss over the closeness they shared as children
that was later destroyed by one’s mental illness, and finally make peace with each other.

ISBN: 978-1-101-65767-6

[1. Sisters-Fiction. 2. Mental illness-Fiction. 3. Death-Fiction. 4. Rhode Island-Fiction.]

I. Title PZ7.G881325Wh 2005 [Fic]-dc22 2004001887

Design by Gunta Alexander.

Except in the United States of America, this book is sold subject to the condition that
it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out, or otherwise
circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover
other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition
including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume
any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.

where i
want to be
Table of Contents

1 — Homecoming

2 — Almost Seventeen

3 — Linsey-Woolsey

4 — Cobwebs

5 — Squeak

6 — Special Needs Child

7 — Right-Side-Up World

8 — Halfway Human

9 — Stunning Blow

10 — Strawberry Fields

11 — Intruder

12 — Fast Forward

13 — The Best Lemonade in the World

14 — One Left Over

15 — Odd One Out

16 — The Million-Dollar Question

17 — Say It

18 — Unimaginable

19 — Later, Maybe

20 — The God of Existing Things

Where I Want to Be: Discussion Questions

The Julian Game


“Augusta! Granpa!” Jane shouted. “I’m here!”

No lights lined the driveway.

The ancient maples blocked Jane’s view of the house. She could hardly see a step ahead.

She started to run.

A soft wind hushed in her ears as she sprinted up the lawn. She smelled the verbena that grew in tangles on either side of the porch stairs. On her way up the steps, she lost her balance, stumbling against the front door and shifting the welcome mat so that the watermark showed underneath.

“Let me in!” She rapped the brass pineapple knocker, then made a fist and pounded the door. “It’s Jane!”

The door opened. Light spilled onto the porch.

“Jane!” Her grandmother had grown up in North Carolina, and her accent pulled long on Jane’s name. But she was not angry. She never was. Not even when Jane might have deserved it.

Like the time she’d smashed Augusta’s crystal vase into a thousand needles all over the front hall.

Or when she let her grandparents’ parakeet, Piccolo, out of his cage and watched him fly away into the woods, never to return.

Or when she’d taken a paring knife from the kitchen rack and stabbed it through the soft skin between her thumb and finger. Just to change something. Just to feel something.

Even then, stanching the blood with a clean dishcloth, her grandmother had looked maybe shocked, maybe fierce. But not angry.

Never angry.

It might have been the thing Jane loved most about her.

“I didn’t know where else to go…” Jane stopped. She had been alone for so long, stretched across the blackness, terrified that she would not find Orchard Way at the end of this journey. Now here she was, at the only place where she’d always belonged.

She sagged into the door frame. She was out of breath and strength. “I need to rest,” she admitted.

Augusta pulled her close. Jane shut her eyes and let herself be hugged, although hugs made her queasy. But it had been more than two years since she had seen her grandmother. The familiar smells wrapped themselves around her. Augusta’s lavender hand cream, the pine soap in the floorboards, the mushroomy dampness and smoke in the
wallpaper. Tears prickled at the edges of Jane’s eyelids as she gently pushed her grandmother away. Hadn’t she been upset with Augusta for something?

The reason escaped her. It didn’t matter. She was through with reasons, and she was home.


Jane died this past spring, but we can’t talk about it. In fact, we kind of give up on talking. It’s not some kind of eloquent, dramatic decision. It just happens. An eighteen-year-old girl crosses a two-way street on a changing light. A moving car hits and kills her instantly. The Metro section of the paper reports that services for Jane Ellen Calvert will be held on Saturday morning at St. Thomas, and to please make a donation to Child Haven in place of flowers.

She’s gone. What else is there to say?

We use work to cope, or maybe to hide. The college grants Dad’s request to teach a summer chemistry course. Mom goes back to selling houses for Payne-Hazard Realty. I start my job at Small Farms. We meet at home for dinner. Sometimes Caleb joins us.

It’s strange how so much life can be lived without speaking. By the end of summer, the silence has grown up as thick as weeds around our days. But at unexpected moments,
I can feel Jane with me. Silence can’t keep her away. She might be here when I’m stuck in traffic, or eating a sandwich, or brushing my hair. Or she’s inside my sleep, in a waking dream where I kick the sheets and feel sweat stick cold under my arms and at the backs of my knees. Memories of every time I ever hurt Jane swoop like bats in my brain. I am a monster. I hate myself.

At the end of August, Mom and Dad decide to take a weeklong trip to Maine to visit Aunt Gwen and Uncle Dean. They invite me along, but I can’t go.

“You won’t be too lonely?”

“I’d feel worse without Caleb.”

Dad doesn’t like that. He isn’t the kind of dad who wants to discuss guys or romance. He’s proper, I guess. A mix of Granpa’s Yankee reserve and Augusta’s Southern gentility. “Look out for Mr. Wild and Crazy,” Mom will tease if Dad pours himself a second glass of wine or retells a joke he heard in the faculty room.

When it comes to Caleb, Dad is not Mr. Wild and Crazy as much as Mr. Frowning and Protective. But that’s just Dad. He’ll never be totally at ease with my boyfriends—in concept or reality. For the most part, though, both of my parents are cool about Caleb. They know what Caleb means to me.

And they agree to let me stay at the house by myself. Jane never would have been given this privilege.

“You’re almost seventeen,” Mom assures herself, doing a
final contents-of-pocketbook check as Dad hauls their suitcases out to the car. “You’re responsible.” Her cucumber green shirt clashes with her hair. She’s just started tinting it to cover the gray that’s been creeping in. Mom has—and passed down—what Jane once called our spicy coloring. Cinnamon red hair and nutmeg brown eyes and skin cayenne-peppered with freckles. But Jane had a way of describing things so that they seemed better or worse than they really are. Other people would just call us redheads.

There’s a pinch between Mom’s eyebrows as she looks at me.

“Mom, I’ll be fine.”

She doesn’t look convinced. “You’ll check on Mrs. Orndorff? And you’ll set the alarms at night?”

“Yes, yes.”

“You have enough gas in the car?”

“Filled the tank yesterday.”

“If you change your mind, you’ll just hop the next train? It’s less than four hours from Providence. We’ll keep our phones on. Just let us know when you need us to pick you up.” Mom bites her bottom lip and her whole body seems to soften from the pressure. “Oh, honestly, Lily. You’ve been working hard all summer. You could use some time off before school starts. You can swim in the lake….” Her fingers are like rubber bands as she snaps them around my wrist. The urgency in her eyes reminds me of my sister. “I worry about you sleeping alone here.”

“Mom, please. I’ve slept here my whole life.”

“But never alone.”

True. But I have no intention of sleeping alone. Not if I’ve got Caleb. Some part of Mom has to have figured that one out by now. She’s not clueless. Or maybe this is why she’s letting me stay? Because she knows that Caleb and I have each other?

After I hug them both and wave good-bye, I make a bowl of cereal and watch the news on TV. Then I eat an Italian ice and read one of Mom’s gardening magazines. Then I pour a glass of iced tea and sit on the patio stoop and stare at the sunset.

Once it gets dark, I pad through the house. Inspecting it. From the outside, 47 Clearview Circle is nothing much, one of a dozen white-painted, black-shuttered, single-story homes set on a quarter acre. It’s the trees that make our house special. The ming fern, the twin red Japanese maples, the towering buttonwood—once the site of Peace Dale’s coolest tree house. Mom’s trees are the pride of the neighborhood, like movie stars who’ve shown up at a backyard barbecue.

Inside, our house looks shabby. Mom and Dad will save for college funds or retirement funds or rainy-day funds, but never for something as wasteful as a redecorating fund. Everywhere, I see thumbprints of Jane. Here’s the butterfly-shaped stain on the carpet where Jane spilled cranberry juice. On the wall, a picture hanger minus its picture of
Block Island harbor that Jane had made for our parents’ fifteenth wedding anniversary, but then yanked down and ripped up because of the “stupid amateur mistakes.”

My own bedroom tries too hard to be cheerful. Rainbow pillows are heaped on my polka-dot bedspread, and daisy-chain lights are strung along the windows. A watercolor poster from Peace Dale’s Hot Air Balloon Festival is tacked to my door. But my room is Jane damaged, too. Not from what’s there, but from what’s missing. Like books Jane “borrowed” out of my bookshelf and clothes on loan from my closet. Or the empty corner that held my green frog beanbag chair, thrown out after Jane plunged through it with a pair of garden shears.

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