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Into the Dim (Into The Dim #1)(3)
Janet B. Taylor

Dear Matthew,

As I’ve already offered my condolences, I shall not do so here. This letter is, instead, in reference to your daughter. I wish to request that Hope come spend the summer with me, here at Christopher Manor. As you are aware, the manor is located in a lovely area of the Scottish Highlands. I feel its pastoral landscape could be soothing to Hope. As there are other young people who live at the manor, she will not lack company of her own age.

Attached you will find the pertinent information regarding the first-class ticket I have selected. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Your sister-in-law, Lady Lucinda Carlyle

Postscript: Please inform Hope that I also believe there are insights she might gain at her mother’s childhood home which would not be feasible for her to discover in her current circumstances.

My lungs constricted as I let my eyes rise slowly from the paper to stare at my dad, the man who’d raised me since I was five years old. The only parent I had left.

My voice came out so small. “You’re sending me away?”

“No!” he exclaimed. “No, it’s not like that, Hope. It’s just that now—”

Before he could say more, the pale-lipped funeral director arrived to usher us out to the waiting limo. I jammed the paper into my own pocket as the two of us slipped inside. Deciding to ignore the fact that my dad wanted to get rid of me, I turned to him on the wide leather seat. I had more urgent issues to deal with.

“Dad.” I tried to infuse calm into my voice as we pulled out behind the flashing police escort on our way to the gravesite. “Please. Please don’t bury that awful . . .” I had to stop. Swallow. “What about the video?”

“Not this again.” He mumbled as he leaned back against the stiff seat, closing his eyes and pinching the bridge of his nose.

With a sharp exhale, he nudged the glasses back into place and turned to face me. “Sweetie,” he said. “I know you think you saw something. And I believe you. I do. But we researched it for weeks. None of the U.S. or foreign networks recognized your description of the news footage.”

“I know what I saw, Dad.”

He scraped a hand across his mouth. I recognized the gesture as poorly-disguised annoyance. I’d seen it before, though not often. Once, when I’d accidently deleted his paper on ‘Karenia Brevis,’ the organism responsible for red tide in the Gulf of Mexico. And again at eight, when I’d scribbled Socrates’s speech to the Athens jury in permanent marker on his office white board.

“This isn’t easy for me, either, Hope.” His voice was hushed and so, so sad. “But we have to face facts. Your mother was inside that lecture hall when the earthquake struck. No one on the lower floors survived. It’s been over seven months now, honey, and I . . .”

His jaw flexed. A lone tear escaped and rolled down my father’s cheek. “It’s time to let her go.”

After the quake, I’d become obsessed with the news. I didn’t sleep, I barely ate. The extra pounds I’d always carried around had melted away as I pored over each picture, every article, hundreds of hours of news footage. The video had aired only once, on one of the satellite channels in Dad’s office.

Most people wouldn’t have noticed.

I wasn’t most people.

With crystal-clear recall, my mind never stopped replaying the ten-second clip.

The girl’s body lay only a few yards from the collapsed university high rise. She’d obviously tried to run when the building came down, but an immense beam had fallen, crushing her beneath its weight. The footage had panned over her mangled corpse for only an instant, but it was all I’d needed. The neon-pink flyer crumpled in the girl’s limp hand was ripped and bloody and coated with white dust. I could make out only the first few words, written in Hindi, then in English.

Today’s lecture series with renowned author and historian Dr. Sarah Walton is can—

That was it. That was all. But I knew, I knew, what that last word really was.

Not can. Canceled.

For some reason, my mother had canceled her lecture that day. She had not been inside that tower when the earthquake brought it down.

Ecstatic at first, my father had contacted the American embassies in Mumbai and New Delhi. Then every hospital, shelter, and rescue organization. But as the days and weeks dragged on, he’d slowly let the hope and faith that we’d find her just slip away. When I refused to let it go, his look had turned from pity to concern.

“Hope.” He spoke carefully over the limo’s purring engine, as if to a small child. “We’ve been over this so many times. If Sar—” He paused, took a deep breath through his nose. “If your mother was alive, she’d have contacted us. If she was injured, someone else would have. They’ve identified all the survivors. I’m so sorry. But, sweetheart, it’s time to move on.”

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