Authors: April Genevieve Tucholke
Tags: #Love & Romance, #Juvenile Fiction, #Family, #Horror & Ghost Stories, #Siblings
APRIL GENEVIEVE TUCHOLKE
an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
Summary: Violet is in love with River, a mysterious seventeen-year-old stranger renting the guest house behind the rotting seaside mansion where Violet lives, but when eerie, grim events begin to happen,Violet recalls her grandmother’s frequent warnings about
the devil and wonders if River is evil.
21p Comp: Please use the version that is closest to the text measure, without going wider than the text measure. (The designer may spec a narrower measure if the cr is setting narrower than the text.)
to all the reader kids
ou stop fearing the Devil when you’re holding his hand.”
Freddie said this to me, when I was little.
Everyone called my grandmother by her nickname, even my parents, because, as she put it,
Freddie, short for Fredrikke
was her name. Not Mother, or Grandmother. Just Freddie.
Then she asked me if I loved my brother.
“Luke is a damn bully,” I said.
I remember I was staring at the pink marble of the
grand old staircase as we walked up together. There were black veins running through it, and they looked like the blue varicose veins on Freddie’s white legs. I remember thinking that the staircase must be getting old, like her. “Don’t say
say damn.” And she did, too. All the time. “Luke
pushed me down this damn staircase once,” I said, still looking at the marble steps.The fall didn’t kill me,if that’s what he’d wanted, but I knocked out two teeth and got a gash in my forehead that bled like hell. “I don’t love my brother,” I said. “And I don’t care what the Devil thinks about it. It’s the truth.”
Freddie gave me a sharp look then, her Dutch eyes a bright, bright blue despite her age. She had given me those blue eyes, and her blond hair as well.
Freddie put her wrinkled hands on mine.“There’s truths and then there’s truths, Violet. And some damn truths shouldn’t be spoken out loud, or the Devil will hear, and then he’ll come for you. Amen.”
When Freddie was young, she used to wear fur and attend parties and drink cocktails and sponsor artists. She’d told me wild stories, full of booze and broads and boys and trouble.
But something happened. Something Freddie never talked about. Something bad. Lots of people have bad stories, and if they wail and sob and tell their story to anyone who’ll listen, it’s crap. Or half crap, at least.The stuff that
hurts people, the stuff that almost breaks them . . . that they won’t talk about. Ever.
I caught Freddie writing sometimes, late at night, fast and hard—so hard, I heard the paper tearing underneath her pen . . .but whether it was a diary or letters to friends, I didn’t know.
Maybe it was her daughter drowning so young that made my grandmother turn righteous and religious. Maybe it was something else. Whatever had happened, Freddie went looking to fill the hole that was left. And what she found was God. God, and the Devil. Because one didn’t exist without the other.
Freddie talked about the Devil all the time,almost as if he was her best friend, or an old lover. But for all her Devil talk, I never saw Freddie pray.
I prayed, though.
To Freddie.After she died.I’d done it so often over the past five years that it had become unconscious,like blowing on soup when it’s too hot. I prayed to Freddie about my parents being gone. And about the money running out. And being so lonely sometimes that the damn sea wind howling through my window felt closer to me than the brother I had upstairs.
And I prayed to Freddie about the Devil. I asked her to keep my hand out of his. I asked her to keep me safe from evil.
But, for all my praying, the Devil still found me.
I lived with my twin brother, Luke. And that’s it. We were only seventeen, and it was illegal to be living alone, but no one did anything about it.
Our parents were artists. John and Joelie Iris White. Painters. They loved us, but they loved art more. They’d gone to Europe last fall, looking for muses in cafés and castles . . . and blowing through the last bit of the family wealth. I hoped they would come home soon, if for no other reason than I wanted there to be enough money left for me to go to a good university. Someplace pretty, with green lawns, and white columns, and cavernous libraries, and professors with elbow patches.
But I wasn’t counting on it.
My great-grandparents had been East Coast industrialists, and they made loads of cash when they were really damn young. They invested in railroads and manufacturing—things that everyone was excited about back then. And they handed down all the money to a grandpa I never got to meet.
Freddie and my grandfather had been about the richest people in Echo in their day, as much as being the “est” of anything in Echo mattered. Freddie told me the Glenships had been wealthier, but rich was rich, in my mind. Grandpa built a big house right on the edge of a cliff above the crashing waves. He married my wild grandmother, and brought her to live with him and have his babies on the edge of the Atlantic.
Our home was dignified and elegant and great and beautiful.
And also wind-bitten and salt-stained and overgrown and neglected—like an aging ballerina who looked young and supple from far away, but up close had gray at her temples and lines by her eyes and a scar on one cheek.
Freddie called our house Citizen Kane,after the old film with its perfectly framed shots and Orson Welles strutting around and talking in a deep voice. But I thought it was a depressing movie, mostly. Hopeless. Besides, the house was built in 1929, and
didn’t come out until 1941, which meant that Freddie took years to think of a name. Maybe she saw the movie and it meant something to her. I don’t know. No one really knew why Freddie did anything, most of the time. Not even me.
Freddie and my grandfather lived in the Citizen until they died. And after our parents went to Europe, I moved into Freddie’s old bedroom on the second floor. I left everything the way it was. I didn’t even take her dresses out of the walk-in closet.
I loved my bedroom . . . the vanity with the warped mirror, the squat chairs without armrests, the elaborate, oriental dressing screen. I loved curving my body into the velvet sofa, books piled at my feet, the dusty, floor-length curtains pushed back from the windows so I could see the sky. At night the purple-fringed lampshades turned the light a hue somewhere between lilac and dusky plum.
Luke’s bedroom was on the third floor.And I think we both liked having the space between us.
That summer,Luke and I finally ran out of the money our parents had given us when they’d left for Europe all those months ago. Citizen Kane needed a new roof because the ocean wind beat the hell out it, and Luke and I needed food. So I had the brilliant idea to rent out the guesthouse. Yes, the Citizen had a guesthouse, left over from the days when Freddie sponsored starving artists. They would move in for a few months, paint her, and then move on to the next town, the next wealthy person, the next gin bottle.
I put up posters in Echo, advertising a guesthouse for rent, and thought nothing would come of it.
But something did.
It was an early June day with a balmy breeze that felt like summer slapping spring. The salt from the sea was thick in the air. I sat on the fat front steps, facing the road that ran along the great big blue. Two stone columns framed the large front door, and the steps spilled down between them. From where I sat, our tangled, forgotten lawn sprawled out to the unpaved road. Beyond it was a sheer drop, ending in pounding waves.
So I was sitting there, taking turns reading Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short stories and watching the sky blurring into the far-off waves, when a new-old car turned up my road, went past Sunshine’s house, and pulled into my circular driveway. I say old, because it was from the 1950s, all big and pretty and looking like really bad gas mileage, but it was fixed up as if it was fresh-off-the-block new, and shiny as a kid’s face on Christmas.
The car came to a stop. A boy got out. He was about the same age as me, but still, I couldn’t really call him a
So yeah, a
. A boy got out of the car, and looked straight at me as if I had called out his name.
But I hadn’t. He didn’t know me. And I didn’t know him. He was not tall—less than six feet, maybe—and he was strong, and lean. He had thick, dark brown hair, which was wavy and parted at the side . . . until the sea wind lifted it and blew it across his forehead and tangled it all up. I liked his face on sight. And his tan, been-in-thesummer-sun-every-day skin. And his brown eyes.