Table of Contents
ONE TOUGH CUSTOMER.
That was Rogerson, or so I was learning. He divided the world coolly into black or white, no grays or middle ground. People were either cool or assholes, situations good or bad. My friends, and my life at school, consistently fell into each of the latter. His friends were older, more interesting, and most importantly, not jocks or cheerleaders. When we did go to parties where I'd see Rina or Kelly Brandt or anyone else from the squad, it was always awkward. They'd want me to stay, pulling up a chair, handing over the quarter so I could take a bounce. But Rogerson was always impatient, finishing whatever business he had and heading straight for the door, making it clear he was ready to go.
NOVELS BY SARAH DESSEN
Someone Like You
Keeping the Moon
The Truth About Forever
Published by Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
345 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.
Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R ORL, England
Penguin Books Australia Ltd, 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia
Penguin Books Canada Ltd, 10 Alcorn Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4V 3B2
Penguin Books (N.Z.) Ltd, 182-190 Wairau Road, Auckland 10, New Zealand
First published in the United States of America by Viking,
a division of Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers, 2000
Published by Puffin Books, a division of Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers, 2002
This edition published by Speak, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2004
Text copyright Â© Sarah Dessen, 2000
All rights reserved
THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS HAS CATALOGED THE VIKING EDITION AS FOLLOWS:
Dreamland: a novel / Sarah Dessen.
Summary: After her older sister runs away, sixteen-year-old Caitlin decides
that she needs to make a major change in her own life and begins an abusive
relationship with a boy who is mysterious, brilliant, and dangerous.
eISBN : 978-1-101-04229-8
[1. Dating violenceâFiction. 2. Interpersonal relationshipsâFiction. 3. IdentityâFiction.
4. RunawaysâFiction. 5. SistersâFiction.] I. Title.
PZ7.D455 Dr 2000 [Fic]âdc21 99-044102
For Bianca, Atiya, Ashley, Hannah,
Gretchen, Leigh, and Charlotte,
who have always told me their stories,
who is still listening to mine
I am grateful to my agent, Leigh Feldman, for seeing me through;
Michael and Mariangeles, for support and spirit; and my parents,
Alan and Cynthia Dessen, who survived my lost years and,
like me, lived to tell. Thank you.
My sister Cass ran away the morning of my sixteenth birthday. She left my present, wrapped and sitting outside my bedroom door, and stuck a note for my parents under the coffeemaker. None of us heard her leave.
I was dreaming when I woke up suddenly to the sound of my mother screaming. I ran to my door, threw it open, and promptly tripped over my gift, whacking my face on a hall light switch. My face was aching as I got to my feet and ran down the hall to the kitchen, where my mother was standing by the coffeemaker with Cass's note in her hand.
“I just don't
this,” she was saying shakily to my father, who was standing beside her in his pajamas without his glasses on. The coffeemaker was spitting and gurgling happily behind them, like this was any other morning. “She can't just leave. She
“Let me see the note,” my father said calmly, taking it out of her hand. It was on Cass's thick, monogrammed stationery with matching envelopes. I had the same ones, same initials: CO.
Later, when I read it, I saw it was completely concise and to the point. Cass was not the type to waste words.
Mom and Dad,
I want you to know, first, that I'm sorry about this. Someday I hope I'll be able to explain it well enough so that you'll understand.
Please don't worry. I'll be in touch.
I love you both.
My mother wiped her eyes with the back of her hand and looked at me. “She's gone,” she said. “She went to be with
I know it. How can she do this? She's supposed to be at Yale in two weeks.”
“Margaret,” my father said, squinting at the note. “Calm down.”
The “him” was Cass's boyfriend, Adam: He was twenty-one, had a goatee, and lived in New York working on the
Lamont Whipper Show.
It was one of those shock talk shows where people tell their boyfriends they've been sleeping with their best friends and guests routinely include Klansmen and eighty-pound four-year-olds. Adam's job mostly consisted of getting coffee, picking up people at the airport, and pulling guests off each other during the frequent fights that scored the show big ratings. Since she'd come home from the beach three weeks agoâshe'd met Adam thereâCass had been glued to the TV each day at 4 P.M., wishing aloud for a good fight just so she could catch a glimpse of him. Usually she did, smiling at the sight of him charging onstage, his face serious, to untangle two scrapping sisters or a couple of rowdy cross-dressers.
My father put the note down on the table and walked to the phone. “I'm calling the police,” he said, and my mother burst into tears again, her hands rising to her face. Over her shoulder, through the glass door and over the patio, I could see our neighbors, Boo and Stewart Connell. They were cutting through the tree line that separated our houses for my birthday brunch; Boo had a bouquet of fresh-cut zinnias, bright and colorful, in her hand.
“I just can't believe this,” my mother said to me, pulling out a chair and sitting down at the table. She was shaking her head. “What if something happens to her? She's only eighteen.”
“Yes, hello, I'm calling to report a missing person,” my father said suddenly, in his official Dean of Students voice. “Cassandra O'Koren. Yes. She's my daughter.”
I had a sudden memory pop into my head: my mother, standing in the doorway of Cass's and my childhood room, back when we had twin beds and pink wallpaper. She would always kiss us, then stand in the doorway after turning off the light, her shadow stretching down the length of the room between us. She was always the last thing I tried to see before I fell asleep.
“See you in dreamland,” she'd whisper, and blow us a kiss before shutting the door quietly behind her. Like dreamland was a real place, tangible, where we would all wander close enough to catch glimpses and brush shoulders. I always went to sleep determined to go there, to find her and Cass, and sometimes I did. But it was never the way I imagined it would be.
Now my mother sat weeping as my father reported Cass's vital statistics-five-four, brown hair, brown eyes, mole on left cheekâand I had the sudden sinking feeling that dreamland might be the only place we'd be seeing her for a while.
I heard a knock and looked up to see Boo and Stewart standing on the patio, waving at us. They'd been our neighbors for as long as I could remember, since before Cass or I was even born. They were former hippies, now New Agers; they believed in massage, fresh-baked homemade bread, and the Dalai Lama. They had absolutely nothing in common with my parents, except proximity, which had led to eighteen years of being neighbors and our best family friends.
“Good morning!” Boo called out to us through the door, holding up the flowers for me to see. “Happy birthday!” She reached down and pushed the door open, then stepped inside with Stewart following. He was carrying a bowl and a plate, each covered with a brightly colored napkin, which he put down on the table in front of my mother.
“We brought blueberry buckwheat pancake mix and sliced mangoes,” Stewart said in his soft voice, smiling at me. “Your favorites.”
Boo was crossing the room, arms already extended, to pull me close for a tight, long hug. “Happy birthday, Caitlin,” she whispered in my ear. She smelled like bread and incense. “This will be your best year yet. I can feel it.”
“Don't count on it,” I said, and she pulled back and frowned at me, confused, just as my father hung up the phone and cleared his throat.
“Technically,” he said, “they can't do anything for twenty-four hours. But they're keeping an eye out for her. We need to call all her friends, right now. Maybe she told someone something.”
“What's going on?” Boo asked, and at the table my mother just shook her head. She couldn't even say it. “Margaret? What is it?”
“It's Cassandra,” my father told her, his voice flat. “It appears that she's run away.” This was my father, always formal: He lived for
not believing anything without proper proof.
“Oh, my God,” Boo said, pulling out a chair and yanking it close to my mother before sitting down. “When did she go?”
“I don't know,” my mother said softly, and Boo took one of her hands, rubbing the fingers with her own, as Stewart moved to stand behind her, his hand on her shoulder. They were touchy people, always had been. My father, however, was not, so neither made a move toward him. My mother sniffled. “I don't know anything.”
“Caitlin,” my father said to me briskly, “get a list together of her friends, anyone she might have talked to. And the number for that Whitter show, or whatever it's called.”
“Okay,” I said, not bothering to correct him. He nodded before turning his back to my mother and Boo and Stewart to look out across the patio at the few squirrels crowding the bird feeders.
On my way back to my room I picked up my present from where it was lying in the middle of the hallway. It was wrapped in blue paper, with no card, but I knew it was from Cass. She would never have forgotten my birthday.
I took it into my room and sat down on my bed. In the mirror over my bureau I could see my face was scratched from where I'd hit the light switch, the skin around it a bright pink. No one had even noticed.
I unwrapped Cass's present slowly, folding the paper carefully as I slipped it off. It was a book, and as I turned it over I read the letters on the cover:
All around the words were comets and stars, moons and suns, scattered across a light purple background. It was beautiful.
The first page was an introduction about dreams, what they mean, and why we should remember them. This was Cass's thingâshe had been big into symbols and signs in the last year. She said you never knew what the world was trying to tell you, that you had to pay attention every second.