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Authors: Jodi Picoult,Jennifer Finney Boylan

Mad Honey: A Novel (12 page)

BOOK: Mad Honey: A Novel
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Adams Teen Arraigned for Murder of Girlfriend

It is not even 8:00

I crumple up the paper and throw it into the trash.

shortly after ten o’clock, Jordan catches her around the waist and gives her an embarrassingly long kiss. They are nearly the same height, and Selena—as usual—looks like she has stepped out of a magazine instead of taking a red-eye and driving to the farmhouse. She’s dark-skinned and model-thin, wearing a crisp white shirt and high-waisted pin-striped trousers, with red suede booties. Her hair is shaved nearly to the scalp; she has giant gold hoops in her ears. Her lipstick matches her footwear. I could plan outfits for weeks and still not come off as put together as Selena does with virtually no effort.

“I missed you,” Jordan says.

“As you should,” Selena responds. “Or all that Pavlovian
behavioral conditioning is going to waste.” She turns to me, her smile fading into concern. She wraps me up in a tight, true hug. “How are you holding up?”

“Not great,” I manage, my lip already quivering. “I’m sorry,” I say, wiping my eyes. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”

“I do. Your son was arrested.” She glances over my head at Jordan. “Speaking of which, my mother’s down to watch Sam for however long we need her.
already renegotiated the amount of screen time he’s allowed, and
says you owe her big-time because she’s missing Casino Night at her church.”

“I’m sorry I ruined your vacation,” I say.

Selena shrugs. “I hated Ireland anyway. Has to be the whitest damn place I’ve ever been, and I’ve lived in
New Hampshire
half my life.”

“Because I’m irresistible,” Jordan replies.

“Because you pay well,” Selena corrects. “Then again, I earn it. I’ve got information about the AAG. Our friend Gina Jewett is the presumptive heir to the throne of the attorney general of New Hampshire.”

Jordan frowns. “She’s awfully young to be groomed for that job.”

“Thirty-eight. DuPlessis is retiring early because his wife has cancer.” Selena faces me. “The AG wants her to cut her teeth on Asher’s trial. He thinks it’s a winnable case, and it will be prominent in the media and people will hear Jewett’s name and remember it when they vote.” She turns to Jordan. “That’s all I’ve got, so far. So what’s our plan?”

Jordan tangles his fingers with Selena’s. “Come upstairs,” he says. “I’ll fill you in while you unpack.”

I realize I am superfluous, and that they are not going to unpack. “I’ll go…I’m going to check on the bees,” I mutter, the first excuse I can think of that will get me out of the old house, where I can hear every little noise.

It’s twenty degrees out, and the bees are balled together for warmth in their insulated hives. I’m not going to check on them; I don’t
to check on them. But all the same I bundle myself up in
my coat and hat and gloves and walk the perimeter of the strawberry fields toward my sleeping colonies.

I’m happy that Jordan has such a rock-solid marriage. I can even remember back to when I had the same optimism about the institution. On the day I got married, I had a jar of honey sent to Braden, who was getting ready with his groomsmen.

It was not, as gifts go, a unique idea. Honey has always been a symbol that purity and sensuality can coexist. In ancient Egypt, a groom bound himself to his bride with twelve jars of honey. In an old Hindu wedding ceremony, the bride’s forehead, ears, eyelids, mouth, and genitals were streaked with honey. In Hungary, the bride baked a honey cake during a full moon and fed it to her groom to guarantee his love.

Braden sent the jar back to me with a note:
Thanks, but nothing could make this day sweeter.

P.S. However, save this for the honeymoon. I have plans.

I can say truthfully that my wedding day was the happiest day of my marriage—not because it was so perfect, but because all the others grew progressively worse.

God, I was stupid. I saw what I wanted to see, until it got too hard to justify what was right in front of me. And even then, I blamed myself.

“You’re not checking on the bees.”

At the sound of Jordan’s voice, I whip around. “You’re not…”

“Having wild, crazy sex in my old childhood twin bed? No. Not yet, anyway.” He takes a step closer. “I didn’t mean to chase you out of your own house.”

“You didn’t,” I automatically reply. “I just thought you two wanted some privacy.”

“We just spent a week together in an Irish bed-and-breakfast. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t need to have Selena within arm’s reach at all times.” He hesitates. “I may
to, but that’s a whole different thing.”

“I wouldn’t know,” I mutter.

A shadow passes over Jordan’s face, and I know he is thinking
about Braden, and how he didn’t know the truth about my marriage. Immediately I feel awful for making him second-guess himself. Old habits die hard. “It’s okay, Jordan. Really.”

“It’s not remotely okay,” Jordan counters. “I’m your brother. I’m ten years older than you are. I was supposed to take care of you.”

“And here you are,” I say cheerfully. “Doing just that.”

“Do you know how much it hurt me to find out, after the fact?”

“Less than it hurt me

He blinks at me. “Why do you do that? Joke about it?”

“Because if I don’t,” I admit, “I’ll cry.”

I realize, in that moment, that I have not spent a lot of time with Jordan—on purpose. I’ve told myself that it’s because he was busy, at first, defending Peter Houghton in a school shooting case; then, a couple of years after Sam was born, Selena had a hysterectomy because of endometriosis, and she needed him more than I did. After that, I was raising Asher, dragging him all over the state on weekends to Peewee hockey tournaments. When that pretext was gone, I blamed my hermithood on the bees. But it’s not my brother I’ve been avoiding. It’s a conversation I was not ready to have—one where Jordan felt guilty; one where I felt lacking.

He falls into step beside me, and we walk along the edge of the woods. “How come we’ve never talked about Braden before?” he asks, kicking at the snow.

“Because I don’t like to.”

He stares at me. “It’s been twelve years, Liv.”

I stop walking. “What do you want to know?” I am shivering, and I know it’s not because of the cold. I feel exposed, flayed open. I am the wound that never healed.

My brother’s mouth opens and closes. It is so rare that I see him at a loss for words. “What was it like for you?” he finally asks.

I hesitate. “Like someone stabbed me,” I say slowly, “and then blamed me for getting blood on the knife.” I suck in a breath. “When that stopped being only metaphorical, I left.”

Jordan’s eyes darken. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Because you would have tried to kill him,” I say flatly.

“Would that have been so bad?”

“It is if you’d wanted to be a practicing lawyer,” I reply.

He looks away, and when he turns back, his eyes are damp. “I should have noticed.”

“Braden and I were both really gifted at making sure no one did,” I say.

“But it’s my job—my
job—to protect people who’ve been dealt a shitty hand.”

“I wasn’t your job—”

“No,” he interrupts. “You’re my little sister.” He puts his hands on my shoulders. “I should have been there.”

I stare up at him. I remember how, when I was young, he would pick me up at school. Everyone else had mothers who came, or the occasional father, but I was the only one with a brother old enough to drive. He let me sit in the front seat of the truck, even though I shouldn’t have, and would always wait till I fastened my seatbelt before he would fasten his own. It was like my safety was directly linked to his.

I slip my arms around him and lay my cheek against his chest. “You’re here now,” I say. “You can make it up to me.”

we are led to a small conference room, and a few minutes later, Asher is brought in by a correctional officer. He is wearing an orange jumpsuit with white socks and shower shoes and his face is a constellation of purple bruises. One eye is swollen shut. I stand up as the CO closes the door. “What happened?” I manage, throwing my arms around Asher fiercely. He winces as the officer knocks on the glass insert in the door and shakes his head. Reluctantly, I let Asher go, and he sinks down in a chair. He keeps looking over his shoulder, as if he is expecting someone to sneak up from behind.

“Asher,” I repeat. “What happened?”

There is a hardness in his gaze. “Where

It feels like a punch. “They wouldn’t let us in. We tried, Asher.”

“When do I get to leave?”

My throat tightens around the truth—I don’t know. This morning, the last bank turned me down for a loan. Because I had already mortgaged the property to expand my beekeeping business, and I haven’t paid back that loan yet, I am apparently a financial risk.

Before I can admit this, Jordan slides into a chair across from Asher. “Who did this to you?” he asks.

I reach out to touch Asher’s hand, but he pulls away. “I have a cellmate. Ken.”

“Your cellmate beat you up?”

He shakes his head. “When I first got here, I was…really scared. There’s nowhere you can hide—even in the cell, the toilet’s right there, the sink, everything. Everyone’s always watching. It’s not like you get a choice about anything—like where you go or what you eat or even when you want to turn off the lights—and I was just expected to
all this. Ken was cool about it. He ignored me when I couldn’t stop crying, and when I finally did, he told me that he’d help me out. I didn’t ask what he was in for, because I figured that wasn’t what anyone in here really wants to talk about, and I was just really happy that someone had my back. He told me stuff, like how to put you on a visitors’ list, and when I could go to the canteen, and who smuggled in cigarettes if I wanted to trade stuff for them. Things like that. He also told me who to steer clear of.”

Asher rubs his thumb in a groove on the wooden table. The cuticle has been bitten to the quick. When he was little, that was a nervous habit; I used to have to put apple bitters on him to make him stop. Seeing it now makes it hard for me to breathe.

“At dinner the first night, Ken showed me how to get my tray and where to sit. We were by ourselves, which was fine with me, and then another guy came over and asked if Ken had found a new little boy to”—here Asher glances at me—“fuck. I told him to leave us alone, and the next thing I knew, I was at the bottom of a pile of fists and…” His voice trails off, and he waves a hand in front of his face. “Ken, as it turns out, is in for kiddie porn, which is like the lowest of the low in here. The reason he was so nice to me is because everyone
else knows not to have anything to do with him. Because if you’re his friend, you’re fair game.”

Jordan’s jaw is so tight I can hear his teeth grinding. “I’ll take care of this. I promise.” He pulls out a notebook and a pen and sets it between his hands on the table. “But first, I need to talk to you about your case. Anything you tell me is confidential. What we say in here, no one talks about with anyone outside of this room. Understand?”

Asher nods.

“Second, the reason your mother is here is because she asked to be.” Jordan looks Asher in the eye. “But
are my client. Which means ultimately, it’s your choice.”

Asher’s eyes flicker over my face, and whatever he sees takes the hard edge off his mouth. “I…I’d like her to stay,” he says.

This time, when I reach for his hand, he lets me hold it.

“You’re being tried as an adult, because you’re eighteen. That means I’m going to treat you like an adult. I’m not going to bullshit you, and I’m not going to sugarcoat what you’re up against,” Jordan continues. “You’ve been charged with first-degree murder. That means if you are convicted, you’re in prison for life.”

I swallow hard.

I’m not the client.

“What?” Asher wheezes. “Life?”

you are convicted,” Jordan repeats. “And we are going to do our best to make sure that does not come to pass.”

Asher sets his jaw. “I just want to tell you exactly what happened—”

“And I don’t want to hear it.”


“Here’s how the legal system works,” Jordan explains. “If you don’t tell me what happened, but I manage to convince the jury that the reason you did not murder Lily is because you were actually in Tokyo competing in the Olympics—then you’re free. It doesn’t matter if you were not competing in the Olympics. It doesn’t matter if you have never been to Tokyo. All I have to do is create reasonable doubt for the jury—plant the seed that
you weren’t in Lily’s house
doing what the prosecutor said you did. As long as you have never told me otherwise, I can spin any story I want in court. I just can’t put into evidence anything that contradicts what you have told me…and I can’t put you on the stand to say something I know would be a lie.” He gives Asher a moment to process this. “So…
…tell me what happened the afternoon you went to see Lily.”

They are speaking in code, but it is a code that Asher seems to grasp. “She wasn’t in school that day,” Asher says. “She was sick and stayed home.”

“How did you know Lily?”

“She was my girlfriend.”

“Exclusively? Were either of you involved with anyone else?”


“For how long?”

“Since September,” Asher murmurs.

Asher, in that moment, is gone to us. He looks down at the table, but I know he is seeing Lily, feeling the loss of her.

Jordan clears his throat. “So you went to her house…”

“Yeah. She wasn’t texting me back.”

“Because she was sick?”

Asher lifts a shoulder. “And because we were sort of in a fight.”

“About what?”

For a moment, Asher doesn’t respond. “I arranged for her to see her father. She hadn’t been in touch with him for a long time, and I thought I was doing her a favor…but she didn’t think of it that way. She was angry that I set up a meeting without asking her first.”

BOOK: Mad Honey: A Novel
7.94Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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