Evie Green is a pseudonym for a British author who has written professionally for her entire adult life. She lives by the sea in England with her husband, children, and guinea pigs, and loves writing in the very early morning, fueled by coffee.
I listen for a long time before any of the words make sense. When they do, I can grab only a word here or there. Soleil. Le weekend. I try to hold on to the other words but I can’t reach them. Everything comes and goes. I am floating.
After a while I realize I am not floating. I have a body.
I am in a body.
I am a body.
My eyes are closed, and after a long time I think that since I am back in my body, I might try to open them. After some more time, I try. It doesn’t work.
I know there is noise, but I can’t make sense of it. My sense of smell seems as if someone switched it on, and it is unbearable. The smells crowd into my head and I want them to go away. It smells like medicine, clean things, chemicals. Not home.
Things hurt. People do things to me. They poke me and move me, and sometimes it hurts and sometimes I don’t feel anything. I sense light outside my eyelids. It goes away and comes back. It gets darker and then lighter. I drift back to my dark place, and I come up again.
One day the sounds start to form shapes and I find that I know a word. I know that it is the word for the person I need, the person who will pull me out of here.
I try to make my mouth say it: “Mum.”
Five Months Before
She had been daydreaming. The water had evaporated and the cauliflower was sticking to the bottom of the pan and the potatoes were burning, because she’d forgotten all of it. It was salvageable, but she didn’t want it.
“Oh, shut up,” she told it nonsensically, and turned off the gas ring. Everything annoyed her. She tried to focus on the television. It was a reality show, one that usually distracted her just enough. Tonight, though, it wasn’t working. Scarlett wasn’t missing. She was out. If she hadn’t overdone the cover story by throwing in Leanne, it wouldn’t have been worrying yet. It was still all right. She messaged her. Please just send a text. Nothing happened. She messaged again and called her phone and she didn’t answer. She turned the TV off and messaged Ed, hating the fact that she was admitting defeat again. He
replied at ten forty-five.
Fuck’s sake honey! Again?!????
Yeah, I’ll find her.
At least he replied to her when it was about Scarlett. Since he worked late nights and she worked early mornings, they hardly saw each other. That was why they were still together. She looked at the photo on the wall. They had been happy once. It was a picture of the three of them taken when Scarlett was about four. They had been on the beach at Perranporth, standing in front of the Atlantic Ocean, the beach wide and sandy around them. Their hair was blowing around and they were laughing. Scarlett stood between them, holding their hands.
They had been happy because Scarlett had been a dreamy child. They had been happy because their relationship was newer, and they weren’t ground down by life. Scarlett had been an adorable little girl, always asking questions about everything. They had kept her supplied with books from the library, had tried to find the answers she needed, had done everything they could to help her have a better life than they did. She had learned to read before she went to school, and together they had all learned a bit of French from an app. Her parents agreed (as all parents probably did) that their daughter was exceptionally bright and brilliant, and as the years went by, they encouraged her to do her homework, to be top of the class, to excel at everything and keep her options wide open.
She was exactly average-sized for her age, which seemed like a good thing: she could never be teased for being too big or too small. She had curly dark hair and intense brown eyes, and she would climb into bed with them at night, cuddling up and whispering, “I love you so much, Mummy.” She used to ask for a baby brother. Her favorite color was blue. She wanted to see snow. She wanted to have snowball fights, to climb mountains, to see the pyramids. She wanted to do everything. She had been the best child ever. And then, a few weeks before she turned thirteen, Scarlett had changed.
Excerpted from The New One by Evie Green Copyright © 2023 by Evie Green. Excerpted by permission of Berkley. All rights reserved.