The Unseen - By Alexandra Sokoloff Page 0,1

and it was just as in the dream, every detail: the smell of jasmine, the blowing curtains, the yapping dog, the clock clicking over to 3:33 as she walked down the dark hall through waves of black dread, toward the sound of moaning coming from their doorway, their bedroom, their bed …

And the mirror …

In her mind she heard the shattering and halted on the stairs, gripping the banister, squeezing her eyes closed to shut it out …

Matt had moved out immediately, they had never even talked about it. It was almost as if he’d staged the scene for Laurel to find, to spare himself the awkwardness of an actual conversation. He was out of her life, shacked up with Tracey. Just like that—unengaged.

Stop it, Laurel ordered herself, clenching her nails into her palms. What’s the point? You were living in a dream world.

She had no illusions about what the real problem was. Los Angeles was a 24/7 candy store. Beautiful young people came in droves from all over the country, hoping to make their faces their fortune. Laurel knew she was pleasant enough to look at in a sexy librarian kind of way: glasses and braces long gone, and her unruly mane of red-gold hair less of a disaster than it had been in her coltish adolescence. And of course there were the legs that had stopped Matt in his tracks the night they met at a faculty Christmas party—or so he’d said at the time. But Laurel knew she didn’t even register on the Hollywood scale.

She’d never really understood what Matt had seen in her, other than the fact that she simply listened well; she’d been sympathetic and available when he was shattered and mooning over being dumped (By a model, no less—and shouldn’t that have been your first clue?).

No, she’d been an utter fool, blindly trusting, delusional, stupid in every way.

Better to know now, Laurel’s friends, colleagues said. Of course she would heal, of course she would move on, laugh again, find someone new, someone worthy of her. We love you, you’ll be fine. All the things that well-meaning people say.

Laurel had nodded and thanked them and gone home and given notice on her condo, then called the Duke University psychology department to accept a tenure track professorship that she hadn’t even been considering, in the middle of North Carolina, a whole continent away.

She said all the right things to her dismayed friends: she couldn’t stay an associate professor at a state college forever, tenure track jobs were almost nonexistent in California, she was doing the best thing for her career.

All true, and all lies. The truth was she ran—ran away from Matt, away from L.A., away from everything she’d known. She wanted to be someplace that no one knew her, where there was no place that she could run into people she knew, where they could ask, brightly oblivious, about the wedding—or worse, look at her with pity, even edge away from her as if she had a communicable disease. The cheated fiancée, the abandoned bride …

She became aware that she had reached the bottom of the staircase and was just standing, unfocused, at the foot of the stairs.

She looked around her, breathing in, letting her present surroundings chase away the memories of L.A.

The house was bright, airy, and empty, two stories of old Southern charm, with a wide wraparound porch, ten-foot ceilings, heart-of-pine floors (the realtor had said “heart pine”), a screened back porch, a walk-in pantry (with a window!), and curious small square doors in the walls of the master bedroom and hall and kitchen, which to Laurel’s utter amazement turned out to be functioning laundry chutes. The windows were hung on counterweights and had thick glass that rippled like water; the front and back yards overflowed with wisteria and honeysuckle. The quiet of it all still astonished her—not just of the house, but of the surrounding blocks and the whole town.

Laurel had been looking for a rental but she’d gotten lost on the way to an apartment appointment and found herself driving through a quaint and timeless neighborhood with gently curving streets and wide porches with white Southern rockers, a haphazard collection of bungalows and Victorians and barnlike Cape Cods. When she saw the OPEN HOUSE sign in front of a gingerbread house with eight-paned windows, she stopped on a whim. The house was captivating and the price so surreally low (compared to the still-stratospheric prices of Southern California) she’d found herself writing