Gone Lisa McMann

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Many thanks to all my invisible friends who shared their painful stories about what it’s like to live with an alcoholic parent, and to Carl Loerwald at the Washtenaw Alano Club in Ann Arbor, Michigan, for all his help.

Thanks also to:

Jennifer Klonsky, whose tough suggestions made me cry Gone so much better. And, of course, to my agent, Michael Bourret, my favorite person on earth, for everything and more.

Diane Blake Harper, for being wonderful and for having the tackiest snow-globe collection ever. To Marcia and Dan Levy for all the early help—it was an honor to learn things from you. And to Joanne Levy for the priceless feedback. Go, NDP!

Matt and Kilian, for being awesome guys; Rachel Heitkamp and Kennedy, for letting me use their cool buzzword; and to Trevor Bowler, because I promised.

And to all the fans of the Wake trilogy: Thank you from the bottom of my heart for spreading the word about Janie and Cabe. You are amazing. I am grateful.

To anyone whose life is impacted by someone else’s drinking problem, please check out Alateen or Al-Anon at www.al-anon.alateen.org.

JUNE 2006

24/7/365

It’s like she can’t breathe anymore, no matter what she does.

Like everything is closing in on her, crowding her. Threatening her.

The hearing. The truth coming out. Reliving Durbin’s party in front of a judge and the three bastards themselves, staring her down. Cameras following her around the second she steps outside the courtroom. Exposed as a narc, all of Fieldridge talking about it.

Talking about her.

For weeks, it’s on the local news. Gossip in the grocery store. Downtown. People point, murmur with heads close together, those looks on their faces. Randomly coming up to her and asking invasive questions. Strangers, former classmates, leaning into her space, whispering, like they’re her closest confidantes: So, what did they really do to you?

Janie’s not cut out for this—she’s a loner. She is underground. It’s like she hasn’t even had time to let all the other stuff sink in—the real, the important. The Janie life-changing stuff. The stuff from the green notebook.

Going blind. Losing the use of her hands.

The pressure is breathtaking.

She’s suffocating.

Just wants to run.

Hide.

So she can just be.

JULY 2006

Five minutes that matter.

Across the desk. The spot beside her, empty.

“I don’t know anymore,” she says. “I just don’t know.” Presses her palms into her temples, hoping her head doesn’t explode.

“Whatever you decide,” the woman says.

It is their secret.

AND THEN

Tuesday, August 1, 2006, 7:25 a.m.

“I can’t breathe,” she whispers.

His hot fingers lace her ribs, sear through her skin to her frozen lungs. He holds her. Kisses her. Breathes for her. Through her.

Makes her forget.

Afterward, he says, “We’re going. Right now. Come.”

She does it.

On the three-hour drive, she looks through eyelashes at her blurred fingers, curled in her lap. Pretends to be asleep. Not sure why. Just soaking in the quiet. And knowing, deep down.

Knowing that he,

and this,

are not answers to her problems.

She’s beginning to realize what is.

THE FIRST THURSDAY

August 3, 2006, 1:15 a.m.

The inquisitors are nowhere to be found on this side of the state. Here, at Charlie and Megan’s rental cabin on Fremont Lake, no one knows her. The days are peaceful but the nights . . . in a tiny cabin, the nights are bad. Dreams don’t take vacations when people do.

It’s always something, isn’t it? Always something and never nothing for Janie. Never, ever nothing.

Like the car a doctor once told her never to drive, she craves it. Craves the rebellious never, the elusive nothing. And when the next nightmare begins, she thinks about it for real.

1:23 a.m.

Janie shakes on a lumpy sofa. Beside her, stretched out in a reclining lawn