Excerpt from Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance by Alison Espach, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance

A Novel

by Alison Espach

Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance by Alison Espach X
Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance by Alison Espach
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  • Published:
    May 2022, 352 pages

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Liv Pasquarelli
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THE STATE OF THE UNION, 1998

You disappeared on a school night. Nobody was more surprised by this than me. If I believed in anything when I was thirteen, I believed in the promise of school nights. I believed in the sacred ritual of homework, then dinner, and then the laying out of our clothes for the next morning—something Mom insisted on from the very beginning.

Mom said it was important to wake up having made the decision about what to wear. So, each night, we made the decision. We brushed our teeth. We stared at each other in the mirror as the foam built and built in our mouths, and eventually one of us would speak. "Hello," you'd say, and this would be so funny for some reason that I can't understand now. You would start laughing, a loud burst of confetti out your mouth—and so I would start laughing, an ugly inward sucking sound that always made Mom run into a room and say, "Sally, are you okay?" which made us laugh even harder.

"She's just laughing, Mom," you said.

We got into our beds. We stared up at the glow-in-the-dark stars that were arranged on the ceiling to spell our names—an idea I hadn't liked at first, since I wanted the ceiling to be an accurate reflection of the sky. But you said that was impossible. You said, the ceiling will never be the sky, Sally, and I didn't argue, because no matter how old I became, you were always three years older than me. You always knew things I didn't know, like there are eighty-eight constellations in the sky and only twenty-two stars in the pack. Just enough to spell our names. So we stuck the stars to the ceiling, and I spent the rest of my childhood looking up, listening to KATHY tell SALLY about all the other things she knew: The sky isn't actually blue. The rain evaporates and goes back up to the sky.

"And did you know that trees can feel pain?" you asked.

"No," I said.

But I wasn't surprised. I had suspected as much ever since Dad told us that the maple tree outside our bedroom window was nearly dead. It was so old, Dad said, it might have been planted by an actual Puritan, a fact that did not impress me as much as it scared me. The tree sat on our lawn, hunched and tangled, and I didn't like looking at it the way I didn't like seeing the bone spurs on Dad's feet when he took his socks off at the beach. Or the bottom row of yellow teeth that were only visible when Mom laughed really hard. It was death, I knew, waiting in the most unexpected places—inside Mom's laughter, at the end of Dad's toes, in the bright green leaves outside our bedroom window that couldn't have looked more alive. So I pulled down the window shade each night before I crawled into your bed. You never pushed me away then. You liked feeling the soft tips of my fingers braiding a strand of your hair.

"Well, they can. That's what Billy Barnes told me," you said. "He knows things like that. His dad's a florist."

Then, I was a very good listener, very attentive, the teachers often wrote on my report card. I always had a follow-up question.

"Who's Billy Barnes?" I asked.

"Who is Billy Barnes?" you said, like I was supposed to know. But I didn't know anyone except the people in my first-grade class. We were kept hidden away from the older kids, safe in our own private wing of the school. "I'm only dancing the Football Tango with him tomorrow."

"What's the Football Tango?" I asked.

"Just some dance the teachers made up to celebrate Thanksgiving," you said. "I don't really get it. But who cares? That's not the point."

The point was, you were in fourth grade and he was in fifth, and you shouldn't have been partners, but you were paired up anyway. You were the same exact height. It's fate, you said. And it was—the next morning, it happened. You dressed up as a cheerleader and he dressed up as a football player and you tangoed across the gym and he whispered something nice about your hair and that was that. You were in love.

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Excerpted from Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance by Alison Espach. Copyright © 2022 by Alison Espach. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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