Excerpt from Sunburn by Laura Lippman, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Sunburn

by Laura Lippman

Sunburn by Laura Lippman X
Sunburn by Laura Lippman
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2018, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2018, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl

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2

She steps out of room 5 into a bright, hot morning, unseasonably hot, just as the weekend at the beach had been, but at least there the breeze from the ocean took the edge off. People said how lucky it was, getting such a hot day in early June, when the water is too cold for anyone but the kids. School not even out yet, lines at the most popular restaurants were manageable. Lucky, people kept saying, as if to convince themselves. Lucky. So lucky.

Is there anything sadder than losers trying to convince themselves that they're fortunate? She used to be that way, but not anymore. She calls things the way they are, starting with herself.

When Gregg had started talking about a week at the beach, she had assumed a rental house in Rehoboth or Dewey. Maybe not on the beach proper, but at least on the east side of the highway.

Well, they had been close to the beach. But it was Fenwick, on the bayside, and it was a two-story cinder block with four small apartments that were basically studios. One big rectangular room for them and Jani, a galley kitchen, a bathroom with only a shower, no tub. And ants. Wavy black lines of ants everywhere.

"It's what was available, last minute," Gregg said. She amended in her head. It's what was available, last minute, if you're cheap. There had to be a better place to stay along the Delaware shore, even last minute.

Jani couldn't sleep unless the room was in complete blackout. So they kept her up late, to nine or ten, because the alternative was to go to bed together at eight, and lie there in the dark without touching. The first night, about two, Gregg made a move. Maybe a year or two ago, it would have been sexy, trying to go at it silently in the dark. But it had been a long time since she found anything about Gregg sexy.

"No, no, no, she'll wake up."

"We could give her a little Benadryl."

That had given her pause, made her wonder if she should change her plans, but no, she had to go ahead. The next day, she did ask him if he would really do that, give Jani a Benadryl. He insisted he was joking. She decided to believe him. If she didn't believe him, she would have to stay. And there was no way she could stay.

That was Saturday. She put a gauzy white shirt over her bathing suit, but even that irritated her shoulders. She huddled under the umbrella, shivering as if cold. A bad sunburn can do that, give you chills. Gregg played in the surf with Jani. He was good with her. She wasn't just telling herself that. He was good, good enough, as good as she needed him to be.

They went to the boardwalk, the smaller one up at Rehoboth, which was better for little kids like Jani than the one in Ocean City. Gregg tried to win Jani the biggest stuffed panda he could, but he never got above the second-tier prize. Do the math, she wanted to tell him. For the $20 he was spending, shooting water guns at little targets, tossing rings, he could buy her something much better.

On Sunday, she watched them build a sand castle. About 11 a.m., she said she had had too much sun, she was going back to the house. House, huh. Place. The highway was busy, it seemed to take forever to get across. She changed into her sundress, packed a bag, the duffel, which had wheels, and wrote one note to go with the one she had brought with her. She worried what would happen if she didn't leave a note. The notes were more for Jani than Gregg, anyway.

She bounced the duffel down the steps and onto the shoulder of the highway, followed it almost a quarter mile to the state line, where she planned to take the local bus to the Greyhound station in Ocean City. She would then head to Baltimore, although she couldn't stay there long. She was too easy to find there, she would fall back into certain routines.

Excerpted from Sunburn by Laura Lippman. Copyright © 2018 by Laura Lippman. Excerpted by permission of William Morrow. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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