Excerpt from After She's Gone by Camilla Grebe, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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After She's Gone

by Camilla Grebe

After She's Gone by Camilla Grebe X
After She's Gone by Camilla Grebe
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  • Published:
    Feb 2019, 400 pages

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Norah Piehl
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Excerpt
After She's Gone

"Ugh," I said. "Why could we not just go to somebody's house and drink beer there instead? Do we really have to sit in the woods? It's freezing out here."

"I'll keep you warm," Kenny said with a grin.

He drew me so close I could smell the beer and snuff on his breath. Part of me wanted to turn my face away, but I stood still and met his eyes because that's what was expected of me.

Anders just whistled, sat down on one of the large, round stones, and reached for a beer. Then lit a cigarette and said:

"I thought you wanted to hear the Ghost Child."

"There's no such thing as ghosts," I said, and sat down on a smaller rock. "Only idiots believe in ghosts."

"Half of Ormberg believes in the Ghost Child," Anders countered, then cracked a beer and took a swig.

"Exactly," I replied.

Anders laughed at my comment, but Kenny didn't seem to hear me. He rarely seemed to listen to what I said. Instead he sat beside me, running his hand over my butt. Stuck an ice-cold thumb inside the waistband of my pants. Then he brought his cigarette to my mouth. I obediently took a deep drag, leaned my head back, and looked up at the full moon as I exhaled. All the sounds of the forest seemed louder: the rustle of the breeze through the ferns; muffled cracking and snapping, as if thousands of unseen fingers were being dragged across the ground; and the ghostly hoot of a bird somewhere in the distance.

Kenny handed me a beer.

I took a drink of the cold, bitter liquid and stared into the darkness between the pines. If someone was hiding in there, squeezed behind a tree trunk, we'd never see him. It would be a breeze to sneak up on us here in the clearing, like shooting deer in a cage or catching goldfish from an aquarium.

But why would anyone do that, in Ormberg?

Nothing ever happened here. That's why people made up ghost stories—to keep from dying of boredom.

Kenny belched quietly and opened another beer. Then he turned and kissed me. His tongue was cold and tasted like beer.

"Get a room!" Anders said, then belched. Loudly. As if the belch were a question he expected us to answer.

The comment seemed to trigger something in Kenny, because he pushed his hand inside my jacket, groping his way under my shirt and squeezing my breast hard.

I repositioned myself to accommodate him and ran my tongue along the sharp teeth in his upper jaw.

Anders stood up. I pushed Kenny away gently and asked:

"What is it?"

"I heard something. It sounded like ... like someone crying, or sort of whimpering."

Anders let out a mournful cry, and then laughed so hard beer sprayed out of his mouth.

"You're mentally disturbed," I said. "I need to pee. You guys can stay here looking for ghosts."

I got up, walked around the cairn, following the stones to just a few meters away. Turned around to make sure neither Kenny nor Anders could see me, then unbuttoned my jeans and squatted close to the ground.

Something, maybe moss or some plant, tickled my thigh as I peed. The cold snuck around my legs and under my jacket.

I shivered.

What a wonderful idea to come out here to drink some beer.

Truly inspired! But why didn't I say anything when Kenny suggested it?

Why didn't I ever say anything when Kenny suggested something?

The darkness was compact, and I pulled a lighter out of the pocket of my jacket. Flicked the little wheel with my thumb and let the flame shine onto the ground: autumn brown leaves, velvety moss, and those big gray stones. And there, in a crevice between two nearby stones, I caught a glimpse of something white and flat that looked like a hat on a big mushroom.

Kenny and Anders were still talking about the ghost, their voices animated and slurred. The words tumbled out quickly and on top of each other, sometimes interrupted by laughter.

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From the book After She's Gone by Camilla Grebe. Copyright (c) 2019 by Camilla Grebe. Reprinted by arrangement with Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.

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