Coral made a face that could have qualified as a smile or a grimace or even an itchy nose, and the girls sank into an awkward silence. The only noise came from a petrel scavenging for food, its yellow bird feet scritch-scritch-scritching aginst the ice. Coral spied a deck of cards on the ice coffee table. “Wanna play gin rummy?”
Gran was right. There was a white spot at the back of her head where the comb had been. Poppy didn’t like it one bit. It reminded her of the story that Gran had told her about Suds. Was it some kind of mark you got before you vanished? She put the comb in a box and locked it. As she did so, she noticed something curious. The teeth on the comb had changed colour ever so slightly, as if they’d been dipped in greyish paint.
“But remember you told us how to deal with the poo? You know, get it down the loo quick so it doesn’t dry out and explode. Well, Sunny poos a lot. And it must have caused a blockage. All the toilets started overflowing. Mum went in first with the plunger. But she couldn’t clear it and had to call a plumber. And they found this… this… poo-berg.”
It starts then. The hungry kind of missing-Sasha that makes me feel like she’s just out of reach, not gone forever, and I’m just not trying hard enough to get to her. The thing inside me that’s always on edge drops off its cliff. And I don’t know if it’s because I’m tired or if I’ll never get used to something as simple as not making toast for my sister, but as I climb onto my bike, I feel overwhelmed and alone again. I manage to make it to the end of the block before I’m crying, my chest tightening, like someone has me pinned and is sitting on top of my body.
Then it occurred to me that all these ‘lost’ friends are married. I’ve only sen them a couple of times since their weddings. One by one my married friends have disappeared. How did this happen? Where did they go?
I’m vowing here and now that THIS WILL NOT HAPPEN TO ME. I will not fall off the face of the Earth after 2 June. I will not cease to exist.
I wonder if my married friends made the same vow.
Maya shrugged, tossing her empty Starbucks cup into a recycling bin. She wasn’t sure what she felt, but it was bright orange, like a warning, like a question. “Not really. The way I see it, if he’s a big weirdo or a psycho killer or something, then we can just be like, ‘Oops, sorry, the lab screwed up the DNA results, later gator,’and then we just block his calls and emails. Oh, look, they made a whale out of gum wrappers! That’s pretty cool.”
Any speculation about what had happened always tied Barlcaly Hold and Page Ashby together. They had disappeared on the same day, so it had always followed that they must have made the same choice or met the same fate.
They’re never coming back, Cara Miller had whispered, with the kind of finality no one wanted to ask after.
No way in hell I’m admitting that I like Oliver James Hernández out loud, though. It’d be too complicated, telling the person I’m in love with that I havea crush on someone else. Besides, if I say it, Ollie will probably know by the end of the month, because Florence, bless her soul, doesn’t always know when to keep her mouth shut.