She hoped the romance was a deliberate, manufactured illusion, hoped he was, in reality, writing from his dead-end job or cramped bedsit. She should have paid attention to the postmarks over the years, except that sometimes Sophie made a point of casually collecting the mail around her birthday and Christmas before she did, so she didnt have a chance.
Shed laid the whole thing on the line for Sophie, early on.
He walked out on us when you were just a tiny baby. So dont go expecting anything from him. Put him out of your life, like I have.
And for years Sophie had given her that inscrutable childs look and shrugged, even though Sandy was sure she kept all those cards, with their pathetically non-committal messages, hidden away somewhere. Hanging onto something. Some possibility. And then last year, when Sophie had been turning a scary fourteen, shed stunned her by saying, If youve put him out of your life, why are you always talking about him?
She had felt herself blustering, hot suddenly. I dont.
Yes, you do.
No, I dont.
You do. When all your friends are here. Youre all shouting to get a word in about whos got the worst ex.
Just doing her obstinate best to get under her skin about something that was patently untrue. She imagined all those cards somewhere, wrapped up in a box under a journal, maybe. Although Sophie had become so coolly cynical this last year it was hard to imagine any shred of sentiment surviving; it would be hanging on like a tiny gasping plant, clinging by its roots to a crack in the barren rock face of withering teenage contempt. Maybe shed thrown away the lot. Maybe shed incorporated them into some weird art installation at school, lying slyly in wait for Sandy to come across at the next parentteacher night.
And she would have to smile brightly, her face stiff with getting over innocently strolling into the IT lab last term and having the teacher enthusiastically show her the website Sophie ran from her school computer ... no, not website, one of those blog things: BigPage, or MyFace, or whatever it was called.
A wildly popular site, apparently. A cluster of teachers had stood around her, enthusing.
Shes brilliant, really, the headmaster had said excitedly, clicking away with the mouse. Such a thinker, and such a subversive sense of humour, wouldnt you say?, and hed brought up Sophies blog. And smiling, still wondering what, exactly, he meant by subversive, Sandy saw that it was called My Crap Life.
This has had thousands of hits, the headmaster was saying. Even the staff read it each week. And the goth twist is what makes the whole thing so exceptional.
Emo goth, corrected the IT teacher, mystifyingly, leaning proprietarily over the back of the ergonomic chair.
Sandy nodded, grimly trying to memorise the web address. Shes certainly full of surprises, she said faintly. There was Sophies face on the screen, indisputably hers, glowering out from under a curtain of black fringe, so it must have been true. Fourteen years old, and this other life going on, a secret parallel universe served up here now in a fait accompli, something for Sandy to accidentally stumble across when it was all too late.
Like that tattoo. Sandy remembered the shock of first glimpsing it, the sensation of the rug being smartly whipped out from under her. Not even a nice tattoo either, the sort that she herself had contemplated those cute butterflies in the small of the back, say, or a Celtic band honouring your cultural heritage or some small, significant endangered flower on the ankle.
Excerpted from The World Beneath by Cate Kennedy. Copyright © 2011 by Cate Kennedy. Excerpted by permission of Grove Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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