Eden

Eden by Joanna Nadin

Book: Eden by Joanna Nadin Read Free Book Online
Authors: Joanna Nadin
lights and drunkenness, they almost, almost got away with the disguise.
    Then the harder things: how she would disappear into her head for hours, sometimes days, living out a fiction she had created for herself – the consumptive Gothic heroine, the heroin-ravaged rock star. She would refuse to speak unless it was in character, unless you acknowledged this make-believe as a reality. She would talk as though to an invisible audience that she carried with her at all times, to witness her every word, her every move, because she had this skewed belief that there was no point doing anything if nobody was there to watch you do it.
    “That’s why I have to be in London,” she wrote. “Because it’s life itself, because it bursts with people to watch and be watched by. Eden kills me. It’s like a morgue. I don’t know how you stand it any more.”
    Penn shrugs when I tell him this. “Some people need to escape, that’s all. Run away. No matter where they’re from.”
    “Like you,” I say. “Coming here.”
    “Yeah. I guess.”
    “Did you run away before? To college, I mean. Was that what it was?”
    He pauses. “I think we all did,” he says finally.
    I imagine Bea and Penn and their friends, all of them fugitives, lost and found in their new world of bars and clubs and theatres and all the thrill of the fair. And for a second, just a second, I feel the ugly green of envy colour me.
    But it wasn’t all perfect in London, was it? There was the row. The one that drove her away. The one he wrote about in the letter.
    I hated him for it at first. For upsetting her. But now; now I see. He was confused, hurt, his dad was dying. It was understandable – whatever it was. And forgiveable. He needs to know he is forgiven, by someone.
    “It’s OK,” I tell him.
    “What is?” he asks.
    “Whatever happened between you and Bea. I’m not prying. Just … I’m sure she would have forgiven you.”
    “Like she forgave you?”
    I feel my chest tighten. “Yes, I… It’s complicated.”
    “What did you fight over?”
    I pause.
    “It’s OK, you don’t have to.”
    “No. It’s not that.” It’s not. I do want to tell, I just want to find the right words. Words that don’t render me the fool I am— was.
    “A boy,” I say at last. “Just a boy.” Then add quickly, “He meant nothing to her. That was why I was angry, I think.”
    I’m scared I’ve said the wrong thing, shouldn’t have brought up Tom at all.
    But when he speaks, it’s soft, sweet, not bitter. “I was like that,” he says. “Until Bea. She changed everything.”
    “You did for her,” I blurt. “She told me. She said you were…” I trail off, embarrassed now.
    “I was what?” he asks.
    I look down – searching for something: courage, honesty – then meet his eyes. “The One. She said you were The One.”
    He looks at me, lets the words sit there for one second, two, three. Then: “We should eat.”
    And so we do, carving up bread with a pocket knife as if we are castaways on an island, or smugglers hiding from the king’s men.
    Or from Tom.
    He works in the mornings, so our hours at the creek are safe from spies, but every afternoon he comes to the house to see what I need: food, drink, company, maybe. I tell him the same list every time: milk, a loaf, more cheese. He never asks why I’m eating so much. Maybe he thinks I’m feeding the mice, or the gulls that wheel above the water hoping for fish and ending up with chip wrappers.
    “Are you OK?” he asks.
    “Better,” I reply. “Getting better.”
    And I am, I’m sure of it. Because of Penn.
    I don’t know what Penn does when I’m at Eden. I want to stay, to watch what happens, hidden in the woods – his invisible audience. But I have to play out my charade to Tom, keep Penn from Julia – keep any boy from Julia, for she’d think I was too young or too delicate. And so I do what I have to, day after day. As the sun grows stronger, and the days seem dizzy with light, as

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