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Excerpt from Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker

Emma in the Night

by Wendy Walker
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  • First Published:
  • Aug 8, 2017
  • Paperback:
  • Aug 2018
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Print Excerpt

ONE

Cassandra Tanner—Day One of My Return

We believe what we want to believe. We believe what we need to believe. Maybe there's no difference between wanting and needing. I don't know. What I do know is that the truth can evade us, hiding behind our blind spots, our preconceptions, our hungry hearts that long for quiet. Still, it is always there if we open our eyes and try to see it. If we really try to see.

When my sister and I disappeared three years ago, there was nothing but blindness.

They found Emma's car at the beach. They found her purse inside, on the driver's seat. They found the keys in the purse. They found her shoes in the surf. Some people believed she had gone there to find a party or meet a friend who never showed. They believed that she'd gone for a swim. They believed that she'd drowned. Maybe by accident. Maybe a suicide.

Everyone believed Emma was dead.

As for me, well—it was not as simple as that.

I was fifteen when I disappeared. Emma would never have taken me to the beach with her when I was fifteen. She was a senior in high school and I was a nuisance. My purse was in the kitchen. Nothing of mine was found at the beach. None of my clothes were even missing from the house, according to my mother. And mothers know things like that. Don't they?

But they found my hair in Emma's car and some people clung to this, even though I had been in her car countless times. They clung to it anyway because if I had not gone to the beach with Emma, if I had not drowned in the ocean that night, maybe running in to save her, then where was I? Some people needed to believe I was dead because it was too hard to wonder.

Others were not so sure. Their minds were open to the possibility of a bizarre coincidence. One sister drowned at the beach. One sister run away, or perhaps abducted. But then … runaways usually pack a bag. She must have been abducted. But then … bad things like that didn't happen to people like us.

It had not been an ordinary night, and this fueled the coincidence theories. My mother told them the story in a way that captivated audiences and gathered enough sympathy to quench her thirst for attention. I could see it in her eyes as I watched her on the news channels and talk shows. She described the fight between me and Emma, the shrill screaming and crying of teenage girls. Then the silence. Then the car leaving the property after curfew. She'd seen the headlights from her bedroom window. Tears were shed as she told the story, a collective sigh echoing throughout the studio audience.

Our lives were pulled apart in search of answers. Social media, friends, text messages and diaries. Everything was scrutinized. She told them how we had been fighting about a necklace. I bought it for Emma for the start of school. Her senior year! That's such a special time. Cass was jealous. She was always so jealous of her sister.

This was followed by more tears.

The beach faces the Long Island Sound. There is not much of a current. At low tide, you have to walk a long while to get in over your knees. At high tide, the water rolls so gently, you can hardly feel its pull against your ankles, and your feet don't sink into the sand with every wave the way they do at the beaches up the coast that face the Atlantic. It is not easy to drown at our beach.

I remember watching my mother on the TV, words coming out of her mouth, tears coming out of her eyes. She had bought new clothes for the occasion, a tailored suit, dark gray, and shoes by an Italian designer who she told us was the best and a statement of our status in the world. I could tell by the shape of the toe. She had taught us a lot about shoes. I don't think it was because of the shoes that everyone wanted to believe her. But they did. I could feel it coming through the television.

Excerpted from Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker. Copyright © 2017 by Wendy Walker. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's 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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