Authors: Wendy Walker
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For Andrew, Ben, and Christopher
It would require an entirely new novel to recount the journey that resulted in the writing and publication of
All is Not Forgotten
. While the actual writing time was about ten weeks, it also took me seventeen years, four other novels, two screenplays, one legal career, three children, and enough angst to fill Dr. Forrester's calendar for many years. Writing can be hard. Knowing what to write is even harder. I feel blessed, humbled, and grateful that I found my way to telling this story.
To that end, I begin my acknowledgments with my agent, Wendy Sherman, for knowing what I should write, and for her patience while I got my head around a new genre. Her abilities to read a writer and know the market are truly spectacular. I owe many thanks as well to my editor and publisher, Jennifer Enderlin, for her unwavering enthusiasm, and to Lisa Senz, Dori Weintraub, and the entire team at St. Martin's Press for their extraordinary efforts to publish this book with precision, but also with genuine passion for the project. It has been such a joy for me to work with so many talented professionals. On the West Coast, my gratitude goes out to my film rights agent, Michelle Weiner at CAA, for knowing we would be in such good hands with Reese Witherspoon and Bruna Papandrea at Pacific Standard Films, and Warner Brothers. And for placing the book with some of the finest publishers quite literally around the globe, thank you to foreign rights agent Jenny Meyer.
While I accept full credit for all liberties taken in my description of memory science and psychology, I am indebted to Dr. Felicia Rozek, Ph.D., for providing brilliant insight into the psychological dynamics of the characters and events, and to Dr. Efrat Ginot, Ph.D., and author of
The Neuropsychology of the Unconscious: Integrating Brain and Mind in Psychotherapy
, for educating me on the science behind memory loss, recovery, and reconsolidation.
On a personal note, I owe many, many thanks to my fellow writers, who courageously stare down blank pages every day and still managed to read my work, assuage my doubts, and lend a handâJane Green, Beatriz Williams, Jamie Beck, John Lavitt, and Mari Passananti; my trusted readers and “plot testers,” who balanced honesty with encouragementâValerie Rosenberg, Joan Gray, Diane Powis, and Cynthia Badan; my beloved friends who support me unconditionally; my patient partner, Hugh Hall; and my courageous, complicated, and beautiful family, who believe in hard work and big dreams.
He followed her
through the woods behind the house. The ground there was littered with winter debris, dead leaves and twigs that had fallen over the past six months and decayed beneath a blanket of snow. She may have heard him approach. She may have turned and seen him wearing the black wool mask whose fibers were found beneath her nails. As she fell to her knees, what was left of the brittle twigs snapped like old bones and scraped her bare skin. Her face and chest pressed hard into the ground, likely with the outside of his forearm, she would have felt the mist from the sprinklers blowing off the lawn not twenty feet away. Her hair was wet when they found her.
When she was a younger girl, she would chase the sprinklers at her own house, trying to catch them on a hot summer afternoon, or dodge them on a crisp spring evening. Her baby brother would then chase her, buck naked with his bulging belly and flailing arms that were not quite able to coordinate with his little legs. Sometimes their dog would join in, barking so voraciously, it would drown out their laughter. An acre of green grass, slippery and wet. Big open skies with puffy white clouds. Her mother inside watching them from the window and her father on his way home from places whose smells would linger on his suit. The stale coffee from the showroom office, new leather, tire rubber. Those memories were painful now, though she had turned immediately to them when asked about the sprinklers, and whether they had been on when she ran across the lawn to the woods.
The rape lasted for close to an hour. It seems impossible that they could know this. Something about the clotting of the blood at the points of penetration, and the varied stages of bruising on her back, arms, and neck where he'd changed his method of constraint. In that hour, the party had continued the way she'd left it. She would have seen it from where she lay, lights glaring from the windows, flickering as bodies moved through the rooms. It was a big party, with nearly all the tenth grade and handfuls of kids from ninth and eleventh making appearances. Fairview High School was small by most standards, even for suburban Connecticut, and the class divisions that existed elsewhere were far looser here. Sports teams were mixed, plays, concerts, and the like. Even some classes crossed grade boundaries, with the smartest kids in math and foreign languages moving up a level. Jenny Kramer had never made it into an advanced class. But she believed herself to be smart, and endowed with a fierce sense of humor. She was also a good athleteâswimming, field hockey, tennis. But she felt none of those things had mattered until her body matured.
The night of this party had felt better than any moment in her life. I think she may even have said,
It was going to be the best night of my life.
After years of what I have come to think of as adolescent cocooning, she felt she had come into her own. The cruelty of braces and lingering baby fat, breasts that were too small for a bra but still protruding through her T-shirts, acne and unruly hair, had finally gone away. She had been the “tomboy,” the friend, the confidante to boys who were always interested in other girls. Never in her. These were her words, not mine, although I feel she described them quite well for a fifteen-year-old. She was unusually self-aware. In spite of what her parents and teachers had drilled into her, into all of them, she believedâand she was not alone among her peers in thisâthat beauty was still the most valuable asset to a girl in Fairview. Finally having it had felt like winning the lottery.
And then there was the boy. Doug Hastings. He had invited her to the party on a Monday in the hallway between Chemistry and European History. She was very specific about that, and about what he was wearing and the expression on his face and how he seemed a little nervous though he acted nonchalant. She had thought of little else all week except what to wear and how to do her hair and the color of polish for her manicure when she went with her mother Saturday morning. It surprised me a bit. I am not fond of Doug Hastings, from what I know of him. As a parent, I feel entitled to have such opinions. I am not unsympathetic to his situationâa bully for a father, his mother quite feeble in her attempts to parent around him. Still, I found it somewhat disappointing that Jenny had not seen through him.
The party was everything she had imagined. Parents out of town, kids pretending to be grown-ups, mixing cocktails in martini glasses, drinking beer from crystal tumblers. Doug had met her there. But he was not alone.
The music was blaring and she would have heard it from the scene of the attack. The playlist was full of pop mega hits, the ones she said she knew well, the lyrics the kind that stuck in your head. Even through the music, and the muted laughter that was wafting from the open windows, she would have heard the other sounds that were closer, the depraved sighs of her attacker, her own guttural cries.
When he was finished and had slipped away into the darkness, she used her arm for support, lifting her face from the brush. She might have felt then the air hit the newly exposed skin of her cheek, and when it did, maybe she had felt that her skin was wet. Some of the brush on which she had been resting stuck, as if her face had been dipped in glue that had since begun to dry.
Propped up on her forearm, she must have heard the sound.
At some point, she came to sit upright. She had tried to clean up the mess that was all around her. With the back of her hand, she wiped her cheek. Remnants of dried leaves fell to the ground. She would have then seen her skirt bunched up around her waist, exposing her naked genitals. Using both hands, it seems she got on all fours and crawled a short distance, possibly to retrieve her underwear. They were in her hand when she was found.
The sound must have grown louder because eventually it was heard by another girl and her boyfriend, who had sought privacy in the yard not far away. The ground would have crackled and popped beneath the weight of her hands and knees as she again crawled toward the perimeter of the grass. I have imagined her crawling, the inebriation hindering her coordination and the shock freezing time. I have imagined her assessing the damage when she finally stopped crawling and came to sit, seeing her torn underwear, feeling the ground against the skin of her buttocks.
The underwear too torn to wear, everywhere sticky with blood and dirt. That sound growing louder. Wondering how long she had been in the woods.
Back to her hands and knees, she began to crawl again. But no matter how far she moved, the sound grew louder and louder. How desperate she must have been to escape, to reach the soft grass, the clean water that was now upon it, the place she had been before the woods.
She moved another few feet before stopping again. Maybe it was then that she realized the sound, the disturbing moan, was inside her head, then in her own mouth. The fatigue came over her, forcing her knees, then her arms, to buckle beneath her.
She said she had always considered herself a strong girl, an athlete with a formidable will. Strong in her body and her mind. That was what her father had told her since she was a little kid.
Be strong in your body and in your mind, and you will have a good life.
Maybe she told herself to get up. Maybe she ordered her legs to move, then her arms, but her will was impotent. Instead of taking her back to where she had been, they curled up around her battered body, which lay upon the filthy ground.
Tears falling, voice echoing them with that horrible sound, she was finally heard and then rescued. She has asked herself again and again since that night why nothing she had inside herâher muscles, her wit, her willâhad been capable of stopping what happened. She couldn't remember if she tried to fight him, screamed for help, or if she just gave up and let it happen. No one heard her until it was over. She said she now understands that in the wake of every battle, there were left conqueror and conquered, victor and victim, and that she had come to accept the truthâthat she had been totally, irrevocably defeated.