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Murder. Fire. Revenge. That’s all seventeen-year-old Alice Monroe thinks about. Committed to a mental ward at Savage Isle, Alice is haunted by memories of the fire that killed her boyfriend, Jason. A blaze her twin sister Cellie set. But when Chase, a mysterious, charismatic patient, agrees to help her seek vengeance, Alice begins to rethink everything. Writing out the story of her troubled past in a journal, she must confront hidden truths. Is the one person she trusts only telling her half the story? Nothing is as it seems in this edge-of-your-seat psychological thriller from the debut author Emiko Jean.
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Emiko Jean is the author of the psychological suspense novel, We'll Never Be Apart. Her second novel, Empress of All Seasons, is inspired by her Japanese heritage. Emiko lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and children. Aside from reading and writing, she loves hiking and travel. Follow her on Twitter: @emikojeanbooks.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
In my mind there are black-and-white photos. They float around, landing softly here and there, resting on top of other memories, dreamscapes and nightmares. Sometimes they bloom color, like the one I’m focusing on now. It unfolds, like a flower opening for the sun, the petals wet and dark. Slowly it bleeds brilliant pigments. Dark sky. Clear rain. Yellow headlights. A boy with curly hair and a crooked grin. Jason in the rain. My favorite memory of him.
“When was your last period?” the nurse asks me. “Alice?” The nurse’s voice is like snapping fingers, calling me to attention. The image fades. White paper crinkles as I shift uncomfortably on the exam table. I try to count the hours, the suns and moons, and remember how much time has passed since the fire. It’s been weeks, I think. Tsunamis have decimated cities in less time than that. I rub a hand over my chest where breathing is still difficult. The nurse’s white ID badge reads NURSE DUMMEL, OREGON STATE MENTAL HEALTH HOSPITAL. I recognize her face from before, from my last stay here. The face of a bulldog. Round cheeks set over a row of bottom teeth that stick out just a smidge too far. Nurse Dummel clears her throat.
“Uh, I don’t know . . .” I say. “I’m not sure. Maybe two weeks ago?” I swallow. Even though it’s been a while since the fire, my tongue still tastes of ash. Maybe it always will.
Nurse Dummel types something into a computer. “And how are the burns?”
The burns that travel over each shoulder blade and down past my right wrist tingle. Miraculously, the fire didn’t touch my left hand. The skin there is still soft and smooth. “Better,” I say.
Although I don’t remember the fire, I do have some fuzzy recollections of my intensive care stay. The bitter uncertainty of those days and the bright, bright pain that just wouldn’t go away.
“That all?” the nurse asks. “No pain, numbness, or swelling?”
“No. It’s just itchy now.”
Outside, wind howls and shakes the thin walls of the building. A shudder rolls through me. Oregon State Mental Health Hospital is located on a thin strip of densely forested island. The hospital advertises itself as a peaceful haven where troubled souls recover, but there’s nothing tranquil about this place. Even the name of the island, Savage Isle, was born from blood. In the late 1800s, a hundred Native Americans were forcibly relocated here, only to be killed later in a massacre. Old newspapers say there was so much blood that winter, it looked as if red snow had fallen from the sky.
“That’s good. You’re lucky you can feel anything at all. Some second-degree burns cause loss of sensation.” Lucky. Am I lucky? That’s not how I would characterize the situation.
“You’ll need to stay on antibiotics for the next couple of weeks and keep up with your physical therapy.” I almost laugh. When I left the ICU, a doctor gave me a pamphlet on hand exercises, explaining that they would help me regain full mobility. That was the only physical therapy I received. I flex my hand now. The movement causes a subtle ache, but other than that, everything appears to work just fine.
A white wristband prints out next to the computer. “Left wrist please,” Nurse Dummel says, gesturing for me to hold out my arm. I comply, and she snaps on the tight plastic. There are four colors of wristbands at Savage Isle. I have worn them all before. All except for red. Nobody wants a red wristband. Upon admittance, everyone is given the standard white, and after a period of about twenty-four to forty-eight hours on semi-restricted status, they’re usually granted a yellow wristband that comes with very few restrictions. After yellow comes green. Green means go. Stay up late, visit home, drink caffeine, get out of Savage Isle.
“All right, kiddo,” Nurse Dummel sighs, handing me a pair of ratty scrubs. “Stand up, take everything off, and put these on.”
I wait a heartbeat to see if she’s going to leave and give me some privacy, but she just stands there, watching me with a hawk’s stare. I change quick and quiet and I think of Jason. When we kissed, his lips tasted like fresh spring water and hot tamales. I didn’t have the courage to ask about him in the hospital. I feared his fate. Sometimes not knowing is better than knowing. Still, somewhere inside me the truth clanks like a ball and chain . . . It’s not possible he made it out of the fire alive. I ignore it. Denial is kinder, more gentle. Uninvited thoughts of Cellie pop into my mind, but I push them away. I refuse to waste worry on my twin. Worry is lost on her.
When I finish putting on the scrubs, I throw my hoodie back on, hoping the nurse will let me keep it. I don’t like being cold. She doesn’t notice, or pretends not to, and gestures toward my shoes. “All right, shoelaces have to come off. This your bag?” She points to the corner of the room where a lavender duffel sits on the floor. It’s worn and dirty, the color almost bleached to gray.
I pull my sneakers off and de-thread the laces. The nurse shakes her head a little as she slips on a pair of latex gloves. She picks up my bag and places it on the exam table. In a detached and efficient manner she sorts through my things. A couple of pairs of pants, some shirts, an iPod, toothbrush, toothpaste, some floss, and origami paper, all my worldly possessions.
She holds the origami paper up and raises her eyebrows. I mirror her look, resisting the urge to stick out my tongue like a petulant child and snatch the sheets from her fingers. They were a gift, a gentle reminder to Cellie and me that we weren’t always alone. I don’t want Nurse Dummel’s greasy fingerprints all over them. When she sets them aside, I’m relieved. “You’re good to go,” she says. “You can pack up everything except these.” Nurse Dummel confiscates my toothbrush, floss, clothes, and headphones and dumps them into a plastic bag. I quickly tally the number of items left in my possession—an iPod that’s useless without the headphones, some toothpaste, just as useless without the brush, and my origami paper. Nurse Dummel opens the door and gestures for me to follow her. I gather my three remaining possessions and place them in the lavender duffel bag, careful not to accidentally crease any of the origami paper.
Outside the exam room a big guy with a mullet stands guard. He follows us as we walk down a hallway that quickly turns into another. A sterile maze. We pass a sign that says ADMITTANCE WARD C, then another that says PATIENTS ONLY BEYOND THIS POINT. He swipes a badge over a black box and the doors swing open. I shift my duffel bag uneasily. There’s a familiar rush of anxiety as we come to a second set of doors. Once again the guy with the mullet swipes a card over a black box and the doors seem to magically swing open. As soon as I step over the threshold, they swing shut behind me with a soft clink.
The place looks the same as when I left it, like something ate the 1970s and then threw up all the furniture here. We’re in the common area, the coed area. There’s a box TV with two channels, one with good reception. We used to have a DVD player for movies, but some kid peed on it and it shorted out. There are a couple of couches with pillows that look like they’re frowning all the time, some cracked green leather chairs, a few imitation wood tables, and steel mesh on all the windows. I think about the time I visited the zoo as a kid, pressed my face between the steel bars of the polar bear cage, and watched the animals pace. Their padded feet were silent and had worn huge, gaping tracks in the dirt. How many months would it take to make such deep grooves? My toes curl in my laceless shoes. The common area is empty, probably because it’s close to dinnertime. The smell of beef stroganoff permeates the air.
“Donny will take your bag to your room,” Nurse Dummel says. I shrug the duffel off my shoulder and hand it over to the tech. He takes it from me, narrowly avoiding skin-to-skin contact.
The nurse keeps walking and I hurry to keep pace with her long strides. The C ward is shaped like a circle with three arms, the common area at its center. Two of the arms are long hallways that stretch into dead ends—they’re all patient rooms. One hallway is for boys, the other for girls. The third hallway houses the cafeteria, the recreation room (where you can glue shells onto wooden boards or ride one of three exercise bikes), classrooms, doctors’ offices, and group therapy rooms. The nurse leads me down the third hallway toward the doctors’ offices. She pauses in front of a plastic chair just outside a door across from the cafeteria.
“Wait here,” she says. She knocks on the door and then enters.
I look at the chair. Its cracked seat looks uninviting and painful. I jam my hands into my hoodie pockets and lean against the wall.
I’ve just begun to chew the inside of my cheek when there’s a buzz, followed by the cafeteria doors swinging open. A steady stream of teens emerges. Their gaits are sluggish and their gazes downcast, like they’re afraid to make eye contact. Cellie used to tell me they were like jellyfish. Overmedicated jellyfish. Gelatinous balls whose touch is poison and who always have to move, because if you stop moving, you’re dead. Most of them I don’t recognize. Which isn’t a surprise. Savage Isle is state funded, so patients are encouraged to stay for as little time as possible. Plus, my last stay here with Cellie was short—cut short, I should say. Barely enough time to make friends or, in Cellie’s case, enemies. I study the new crop of patients as they exit the cafeteria. A second buzzer sounds and the jellyfish move a little quicker (a change in the tide), off to the common area or rec room for “free” time. The irony is not lost on me.
The last patient out is a boy. A boy with a measured, unhurried walk. A walk that screams the opposite of jellyfish. He wears one of those baseball hats with no logo, just solid black. He’s definitely new. I would’ve remembered him for sure. His head is bowed, so I can’t see his face. Two techs follow close behind him.
“Move it along, Chase,” one of them says.
He doesn’t turn around. His only acknowledgment is a slight tilt that brings his head up and makes his eyes level with mine. They are blue, the kind of blue that is so light it makes his face look pale. A long scar runs down his left cheek. From a razorblade? A knife? Something sharp that can cut deep. Despite the scar, he’s not bad looking. If he weren’t so banged up, he would be out-of-this-world hot. If anything, the gash tempers his beauty, makes him seem real and maybe a little dangerous. He wears a thin T-shirt and jeans that ride low. He’s noticed me staring at him. His eyes crinkle at the corners. He laughs, low and sexy, takes off his baseball hat, and smoothes a hand over his mussed blond hair.
My cheeks grow hot with embarrassment, and the guilt I feel is almost as immediate as my body’s response. For one split second I forget about Jason’s cinnamon breath, the curve of his smile, and the touch of his callused fingers. All because of this stranger whose eyes make me feel all lit up inside. I bite the inside of my cheek, hard. The boy passes me, leaving behind the scent of clean laundry.
The door beside me opens and the nurse reappears.
“All right, Alice, the doctor will see you now.”
I push off the wall, keeping my eyes on the boy’s retreating back. Just as I’m about to enter the office, he stops, glances over his shoulder, and smiles at me. Intimately. Like he’s happy to see me. Like I’ve just made his day. He smiles as if he knows me. And I get an odd sense of déjà vu. (Jason would say it was a glitch in the matrix.) I can’t seem to shake the feeling that he actually looks familiar. That I’ve seen his face before. That I know him, too.
The doctor’s office is cluttered. Shelves and file cabinets, bursting with books and stacks of paper, line the walls. It’s like I’ve been sucked into a vortex and I’m standing in Dumbledore’s office. I wish. I also wish I didn’t know this office so well. But I do. Dr. Goodman stands in the middle of the room. He’s young, with thin wire-rimmed glasses. I always thought he looked like the kind of guy who doesn’t own a TV. He holds a thick file between his pasty hands. My file.
“Hello, Alice,” he says. He waits, as if he expects me to say something. I don’t know why he would, based on our past history of awkward, semi-silent therapy sessions. “It’s nice to see you again.” He crosses the room and extends a hand for me to shake.
I look down at his open palm and my hands twitch inside the pockets of my hoodie. I like the way the fleece lining feels, soft like a teddy bear. I remove a hand, shake his, and then quickly stuff mine back in my sweatshirt.
“Please, have a seat,” he says, motioning to an armchair. He addresses the nurse, who hovers in the doorway. “I think we can take it from here, Ms. Dummel.”
Nurse Dummel puckers her lips. I wonder if she knows that her face looks like an asshole when she does that. She gives me a long, lingering gaze before nodding her head. “All right, Dr. Goodman. Donny’ll be coming back to escort her to her room. He’ll be right outside the door if you need him.”
“I’m sure we’ll be fine,” Doc says. The nurse gives me one more assessing glance, like I’m a downed power line throwing off sparks, then leaves, shutting the door behind her.
I settle into the chair and Doc sits across from me. A heavy silence stretches between us. Doc crosses his legs, adjusts his tie, clears his throat. He picks up a yellow legal pad and a pen from the table next to his chair. “I’m happy to see you, Alice. It looks as though you’re recovering well.” I wait for him to get to the point. Usually our meetings follow an agenda. Sharing feelings. Exposing secrets. Talking about the past.
“Do you know why you’re here, Alice? Do you know why you’ve been returned to the hospital?”
Images surface. Pictures of my great escape with Jason. Spirals of stairs. Murky water. A red barn at night. But the memory is like water slipping through my fist. My voice is quiet as I speak. “There was a fire.”
Doc jots something down. “Tell me about that night, Alice. The night you left the hospital.”
I knot my fingers in my lap and stare down at them, still unable to meet Doc’s eyes. After a while, my gaze shifts toward the window. Outside, the sky is overcast and gray. A thick fog rolls in behind the steel mesh and it’s hard to see anything beyond the hospital grounds. “How come it’s always so foggy here?”
The doc glances out the window. “It’s because we’re so close to a lake. We’re in a convergence zone. Does the fog disturb you?”
Why does he have to answer every question with a question? I shrug a shoulder. “No, it doesn’t disturb me. I just think it’s weird, you know? If...
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Book Description Houghton Muffin Hartcourt Trade. Condition: New. Brand New. Seller Inventory # 0544813200
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Book Description Houghton Mifflin 10/25/2016, 2016. Paperback or Softback. Condition: New. We'll Never Be Apart. Book. Seller Inventory # BBS-9780544813205
Book Description HOUGHTON MIFFLIN, United States, 2016. Paperback. Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. Murder. Fire. Revenge. That s all seventeen-year-old Alice Monroe thinks about. Committed to a mental ward at Savage Isle, Alice is haunted by memories of the fire that killed her boyfriend, Jason. A blaze her twin sister Cellie set. But when Chase, a mysterious, charismatic patient, agrees to help her seek vengeance, Alice begins to rethink everything. Writing out the story of her troubled past in a journal, she must confront hidden truths. Is the one person she trusts only telling her half the story? Nothing is as it seems in this edge-of-your-seat psychological thriller from the debut author Emiko Jean. Seller Inventory # AAS9780544813205
Book Description 2016. PAP. Condition: New. New Book.Shipped from US within 10 to 14 business days. Established seller since 2000. Seller Inventory # IB-9780544813205
Book Description 2016. PAP. Condition: New. New Book. Shipped from US within 10 to 14 business days. Established seller since 2000. Seller Inventory # KB-9780544813205