“I have water, too,” Isobel said.

“I’m good.”

They were quiet for a long time after that. Then, when the soundlessness began to grow loud in Isobel’s ears, she spoke again.

“I bet Dad’s called Mom by now,” she said softly. “She’s probably scrambling right this second to get a plane ticket. And someone to watch Danny.”

“Mmm,” Gwen said.

“I can’t help thinking about it,” Isobel whispered. “About what I’m doing to them right now. About how crazy they must be feeling. The things they’re saying to each other. The things they’re thinking.”

Isobel pulled her knees close, hugging them to her chest.

“Sometimes,” she went on, “I wonder if any of this would have ever happened the way it did if I could have just talked to them about what was going on. I mean, what was really going on. Maybe it wouldn’t have made a difference if I’d told Dad about the things I was seeing, about Varen’s journal and the Poe book and the dreamworld. I don’t think he would have ever believed me. But not just because of the weird stuff.” She paused. “Until I met Varen, it was never like that, where I couldn’t just go to my dad and tell him . . . whatever. Because no matter what it was, I never had to doubt whether he’d be on my side. I mean with something that really mattered.”

Isobel stopped again, dropping her forehead to her knees.

Gwen said nothing, but Isobel kept talking anyway, the words spilling out from some inner wound she hadn’t realized had begun to bleed.

“Why?” she asked. “What about Varen changed all that?”


Taking in a shuddering breath, she tasted dust. “I guess,” she continued, deciding to take a stab at answering her own question, since Gwen had yet to offer one, “I guess that by wanting to keep us apart, Dad thought he was protecting me. I’m trying to understand that, to get that, but it’s hard when he never even gave Varen a chance, you know? When he decided in a split second, after just one look, that he couldn’t accept Varen even being in my proximity. No one could. His friends, my friends, my parents, the entire school—everyone wanted to pretend like, together, Varen and I formed some kind of . . . I don’t know . . . combustive chemical mixture that could blow everything up. I think you were the only one, the only one in the whole world, who it didn’t make any difference to, Gwen. Did you know that?”

Isobel waited. When Gwen still made no response, she glanced over to hear that her friend’s breathing had turned slow and measured.

Asleep . . .

Taking into account the drive Gwen had made that day, coupled with her earlier survey of the cemetery and the stress of picking her up from the harbor, Isobel didn’t doubt that she’d probably dozed off after Isobel’s third sentence.

But that was okay, she told herself. Because it hadn’t been Gwen who she’d been speaking to anyway. Not really.

Leaning back again, Isobel shut her eyes and, releasing a sigh, rested the back of her head against the tomb.

More than anything, it felt as if she’d been delivering a final speech. Her last words to herself. For herself. For the girl she’d once been but could never again resurrect, the girl her father had been so afraid of losing and had lost anyway.

But, Isobel thought with a bleak and sad smile, what better place to bury what was dead than in a cemetery?


The Most Lovely Dead

A soft scraping noise made Isobel open her eyes.

She scanned the outline of tombs but saw no movement within their ranks. Listening, she heard only the high, keening whistle of the wind as it whipped along the sides of the church.

Isobel rubbed one eye with the back of her hand. She turned her head to see if Gwen was still asleep, only to find her gone.

“Gwen?” she called into the darkness, which seemed to eat the syllable right out of her mouth.

There was no answer.

Hands fumbling, Isobel groped in the dirt for the knot of Gwen’s keys. She found the flashlight amid the tangle of metal and plastic and, squeezing it, aimed the glowing bulb toward her backpack. The key-chain watch, still clipped to the front zipper, gave off a sharp glint. Isobel pulled the bag into her lap and flipped open the butterfly’s silver wings.

The tiny clock’s three thin black hands did not show the time, but spun chaotically, chasing one another in fast loops.

A dream? Impossible. She couldn’t have fallen asleep. She’d only shut her eyes for a moment.

The sudden sound of soft humming caused Isobel to drop both the watch and the flashlight. She scrambled to her feet and squinted through the gloom toward where the door leading to the rear of the cemetery now stood ajar.

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