The End Of Everything Part 26

"It's funny," she says, "because I was always grateful to him."

"Grateful?" I say. "To who?"

"Oh, I'm sure you don't remember. You were so little. It was at Green Hollow Lake. You and Evie, gosh, I can still see you in your matching suits. Evie had water wings, but your dad propped you up on your raft and you were having a fine time. Then that motorboat came by, and whoosh."

She sweeps her arm across the bedspread, making a shush.

"You fell and Harold Shaw was right there. He plucked you out and I still remember your little face, your eyes big as saucers. You were holding onto him so tight."

"That was Mr. Verver," I say, I nearly shout.

Mr. Verver scooped me up, shook me like a wet puppy, lifted me as if by my neck scruff, and saved me then and there.

She shakes her head and smiles.

"No," she says. "He was off taking Dusty on the Jet Ski. It was Harold Shaw. He had you, and you just did not want to let go. It was hard to unclaw you from him. And he seemed so touched by it."

She looks at me. "I always remember that."

I don't say anything.

"I guess it seems different now, after everything," she says. "The memory. It's not the same now."

"No," I say, but I'm not listening. She keeps talking, but I'm not listening. I am far away and can barely hear her.

Step-shuffle-back-step, step-shuffle-back-step.

Flashing before me, such visions: the photograph in the Shaw house, the one of Mr. Shaw and Pete at the lake, and me bobbing in the background, bobbing on my yellow raft. And Evie, and Evie, turning toward me on her sleeping bag, turning toward me and whispering, mouth to ear. He saw me at the pool, doing dives. It reminded him of something that happened at the lake, a long time ago. How he'd seen me fall in the water. The most important moment of his life.

He said watching me at the pool, it all came back. And he knew what it was to love. The most important moment of his life.

Both our memories self-spun, radiant fictions.

Me and my shadow.

Wanting something so badly, you make it so. He and I, we share that. It's a strange secret, sharing, and I'll never tell.

This I suddenly remember, from before everything: Mr. Verver and Dusty sunning on lounge chairs in the backyard. Dusty, maybe fourteen, is wearing a polka-dot bikini and pink, and Mr. Verver, he's wearing khaki shorts and

For a minute of course for a minute they look like brother and sister or something else that you know And it's so hot and Evie and I are kicking the soccer ball around and Dusty is laughing at Mr. Verver, whose finger is running back and forth in midair, in the s.p.a.ce above Dusty's golden stomach, which he never touches.

He's teasing her about the tiny gold down running in a narrow line down the center of her midriff, from the frilled bottom edges of her bikini top to the frilled top edges of her bikini bottom.

Evie and I pull up our T-shirts to see if we have the treasure trail that's what Mr. Verver keeps calling it, treasure trail see if we have the treasure trail too Evie's is pale brown and mine's not really there at all at least not so you could see but if I run my hand along it I can feel something tickling under my fingers.

I can feel it just the same.


With deepest grat.i.tude and greatest debt to Reagan Arthur, without whom. Special thanks also to Sam Humphreys at Picador UK, to Andrea Walker at Reagan Arthur Books for her keen insights and guidance, to Jayne Yaffe Kemp at Little, Brown for her inestimable a.s.sistance in the final stages, and to all the wonderful folks at Reagan Arthur Books and Hachette. And, at Writers House, to the invaluable Maja Nikolic, Angharad Kowal, Stephen Barr, and my agent, Dan Conaway, for everything.

Greatest thanks as always to my family: Phil and Patti Abbott, Josh, Julie & Kevin, Jeff, Ruth & Steve Nase, and Ralph Nase. And, as ever, to Josh, Alison, Darcy, and Kiki. And to Sara Gran, one of my earliest readers, favorite writers, and dearest friends.


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