Deep Betrayal



Death finds us all. Yet I was impatient and had gone looking for it; now there was no going back. My toes curled over the edge of the rock. I welcomed the feeling. Hard and cold. Wet and rough. The wind whipped my dress around my legs, sucking it close to my body, then ripping it away like a flag unfurled—a white flag—because this was my surrender.

Somewhere out there in the black water, she was watching. If she doubted me now, she wouldn’t for long. This was nothing. One small step. Nothing. The fall would be over before I could be afraid. I didn’t look down. I’d made this fall before. I couldn’t let the rocks deter me. And if I saw her …

No, I couldn’t think about that. I could do this if I didn’t see my fate lashing at the water, cursing in my ear. If I could take this small step, I could save my dad, and with him, my whole family. If I could only be brave enough. Just enough.

My stomach turned, and I rocked back on my heels. I hoped Calder wouldn’t see. The mermaid said he was far away. She said he wouldn’t save me, even if he could. I hoped she was right.

A wave crashed against the rocks, sending a fine mist into the air. It settled on my cheeks and lips. The air had never smelled cleaner. The sky had never been so clear. I had never felt so huge. I was enormous. A giant. My mind buzzed over the roar of waves, the scream of gulls, the whisper of the trees.

No coward soul have I. No coward soul have I. No coward soul …

One small step. My toes dug into the rocky precipice, feeling its pockmarked surface. The shiny lacquer of my toenails reflected a bird overhead. We made eye contact—the bird and I—he with a questioning expression, raising a feathered eyebrow.

One small step. Tensing, I leaned forward.

One small step. I closed my eyes and inhaled the perfumed air.

One small step.

And I was falling.

A rush

of adrenaline

surged from

my stomach

to my heart.



The memory of the mermaid dissolved as I woke up and my eyes adjusted to the light, making out the white wicker bed and the floral wallpaper. A matching duvet lay in a twisted jumble on the floor. A silver-filigreed clock read 8:32 p.m. None of this stuff was mine.

Well, that wasn’t entirely true. The paper chain I’d made hung from the corner of the bedpost. Somehow, in my fitful sleep, I’d managed to get tangled in its length. I unwrapped the chain from around my neck and dropped its loose end to the floor. As of this morning, it had thirty links: one marking every day since my exile from Lake Superior and my parentally enforced separation from Calder White.

Thirty links, thirty days since I’d heard from him. No calls. No texts. Where the heck is he?

Counting had become something of an obsession with me lately. As in, fifty-two days since Dad had dragged me away from Minneapolis, from my school, from all my friends, to go live in a falling-down house on the shores of Lake Superior. Fifty days since I’d been rescued by what I naively believed to be a freshwater dolphin. Thirty-three days since my pathetic attempt at martyrdom had resulted in Tallulah’s death and revealed a family secret that I still could not fathom (and that sent me into a cold sweat every time I tried). And now thirty days, two hours, and seventeen minutes of exile.

I flopped back on the bed and threw a pillow over my face, muttering into it. Damn you, Calder White.

I’d make him eat this paper chain next time I saw him. When he’d swum away, he’d promised to come back for me. Wherever I was. So what was taking so long? How hard could it be to pick up a phone? Had he found a new girlfriend? Was he dead? In my darkest moments I thought, He better be dead. That would be the only acceptable explanation for his silence. But I didn’t really mean it, and I quickly traced the sign of the cross over my chest.

The bedroom door knob rattled, and my best friend, Jules Badzin, swished in with a twirl, wearing a royal-blue graduation cap over her flat-ironed black hair. She carried another cap in her teeth and two gowns on hangers.

I really should have been excited. The only good thing about being forced away from Lake