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Authors: Stewart Lewis

You Have Seven Messages

BOOK: You Have Seven Messages
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This is a work of fiction. All incidents and dialogue, and all characters with the exception of some well-known historical and public figures, are products of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Where real-life historical or public figures appear, the situations, incidents, and dialogues concerning those persons are fictional and are not intended to depict actual events or to change the fictional nature of the work. In all other respects, any resemblance to persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.

Text copyright © 2011 by Stewart Lewis
Jacket art copyright © 2011 by Anna Moller/Getty Images

All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

Delacorte Press is a registered trademark and the colophon is a trademark of Random House, Inc.

All Rights Reserved.

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Lewis, Stewart.
You have seven messages / Stewart Lewis. — 1st ed.
p. cm.
Summary: Teenaged Luna, who lives on Manhattan’s Upper West Side with her movie director father, tries to piece together the death of her mother with the seven unheard messages left on her forgotten cell phone.
eISBN: 978-0-375-89904-1
[1. Mothers—Fiction. 2. Death—Fiction. 3. New York (N.Y.)—Fiction. 4. Mystery and detective stories.] I. Title.
PZ7.L5881Yo 2011

Random House Children’s Books supports the First Amendment and celebrates the right to read.




I’d like to thank first Emma Specter, who was the spark that ignited Luna, a character I feel I have somehow always known, and her musical muse, Imogen Heap, for her poetry and lush soundscapes.

Amelia Greene for her keen eye. Jessica Potts Lahey and Amy Chamberlin for being early, passionate readers. Jasmine Goguen for letting me pick her brain.

My dear friends and family who inspire and encourage me … the Foehls, Katrina Van Pelt, Hilary Old, Bill Candiloros, Flavia Stanley, Mia and Jeff, Paul Bosko, Susan Holland, Jennifer Phelps Montgomery, Ryan Daniel, Russell Swanson, Martin Hyatt, Vicka Tinetti, Bradford Noble, Michael Aisner, Leslie Novak, Nick Difruscia, Linda Yellen, Manuela Noble.

Stephen McCauley, Christopher Schelling, and Rebecca Barry for their unparalleled guidance and wit.

My skillful editor, Stephanie Elliott, for her hard work.

My agent, Mitchell Waters, for believing.

My daughter, Rowan, for her big open heart.

And lastly, Steve Swenson, my copilot.


I want to be with those
who know secret things
or else alone
—Rainer Maria Rilke

Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle
Everything I do is stitched with its color
—W. S. Merwin


I may be fourteen, but I read the
New York Times
. I don’t wear hair clips or paint my cell phone with nail polish, and I’m not boy crazy. I don’t have a subscription to
or whatever they call those glossy magazines full of posters of shiny-haired, full-lipped hunks.

Whatever you do, don’t call me a tween. That makes me feel like I’m trapped in some adolescent purgatory where I get force-fed Disney-themed cupcakes while watching
Hannah Montana
reruns—that stage is over. Who came up with that name, anyway? I bet the person who came up with the name Hannah Montana gets paid a quarter of a million dollars a year and drives a Lexus. My cousin could’ve come up with a better name, and she’s five and rides a tricycle.

I grew up in Manhattan on the Upper West Side, and
when I was really little, I thought my driver was my father. He’d take me to school every day and make sure my shoelaces were tied. Sometimes he’d let me listen to NPR while he chatted with the doormen. He seemed to know them all, a secret society of men in pressed black coats standing as straight as the buildings they protected. But of course, he wasn’t my father. My
father is a film director who was at the height of his career when I was born, which is why he was never around. He was always shooting in places like Africa, Japan, Australia, and Canada. Now some critics say he’s washed up, but I think the reason people become film critics is because they failed to be film directors themselves. I don’t usually feel famous myself, but I went to the premiere of his last film (the one that supposedly washed him up) and a couple months later there was a picture of us in
Vanity Fair
. My overenthusiastic English teacher, Ms. Gray, cut out the picture and taped it to the whiteboard. At first I was thrilled, but then I felt weird about it. I ended up sneaking in after class and bending the page so that you could only see my father, with his shiny face, his jet-black hair, and those wire-thin glasses that always seem to be sliding off his nose. He’s the one who should be recognized. He literally spends
putting actors, writers, cinematographers, editors, studios, and locations all in a big blender until his movies pour out smoothly onto the screen. All I did that evening was walk next to him and carry the cheat sheet for his speech.

My little brother, Tile, was too young to come to the
premiere with us or have his photo taken. When my mom was pregnant with him, the only thing that helped her nausea was lying on the cold Spanish tile in our townhouse bathroom, so that became his name. Everyone calls him Kyle by mistake.

My uncle, a professor who lives in Italy, gave me a small book of Shakespeare’s sonnets for my tenth birthday, and sometimes I read Tile my favorite ones. Even though he’s ten, he pretends to understand them. I think he just likes the musical way the words go together. Tile is a good listener, and he leaves me alone pretty much every time I ask him to. If a genie said I could wish for any little brother in the whole world, I would stick with Tile. He smells nice and never talks with his mouth full. He also keeps my secrets.

Here’s one: I know I told you that I’m not boy crazy, mostly because boys are dirty and unpredictable, but there is one I’ve had my eye on since I was eight. He is very clean. He lives across the street and our drivers are friends. He goes to a school somewhere outside the city. I like to imagine it’s an exotic place like Barbados, but it’s probably in Westchester. He’s only said ten words to me in seven years. Sometimes when I read Shakespeare’s sonnets I think of his big mop of strawberry curls, and the way he swings his book bag in wide circles.

So are you to my thoughts as food to life

Or as sweet-season’d showers are to the ground

He’s one year older than me, and his name is Oliver. He walks with a peculiar grace, almost like he’s floating. He also plays the cello, and he’s so good at it that when I listen to him through my bedroom window, the tiny hairs on my arms stick up.

Sometimes I lie on my bed imagining the music was written just for me, coming in through the window as a personal serenade. Music sounds better when you close your eyes.


Tile and I are on spring break, so on our driver’s day off, we take the subway to the zoo in the Bronx. I love to look at all the different kinds of people on the train and try to eavesdrop on their thoughts for just a minute. I notice Tile’s feet hanging off the seat, not able to touch the ground. My feet have touched the ground since I was six. People think it’s great to be tall, but it’s not when you’re a young girl. Once when I tried talking to some boys at our school dance I had to crouch down like I was their Little League coach.

The train makes a loud screeching noise and Tile inches closer to my dad. This might be the first time we are actually going on an outing as a family of three. I uncurl my fingers and look down at my hands. They are my mother’s, thin and delicate. I think of the last line from
the poem that is stenciled onto the wall in my father’s office:
nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands
. Maybe what the author meant is that every person is completely unique. Every raindrop, every pair of hands, everyone on this train.

When my father came to my camp in New Hampshire almost a year ago in the middle of the summer, I knew something was terribly wrong. I was sailing on the lake, but suddenly I saw him on the dock, looking out over the water and wearing his light blue Windbreaker. He was supposed to have been in Scotland shooting a movie. When I saw the camp director next to him, waving frantically to my counselor to sail back, I
knew something wasn’t right. When we reached the dock and I jumped from the boat, my father kneeled down and hugged me so tight I could barely breathe. He cried into my hair.

BOOK: You Have Seven Messages
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