When Joseph and my father walked into the kitchen, Jamie went to work on them, too, repeating the story word for word. He made Horizons sound like camp. He left out the fact that I had killed the counselors.
I braced myself for my suspicious, questioning mother’s reaction, but she didn’t find Jamie’s explanation at all strange. His words cut through any resistance my parents might have had, erasing my future absence from their future memories like it was nothing. More than anything else I’d seen, that unsettled me.
Jamie excused himself barely two minutes later. It was Stella’s turn now.
“So where’s Daniel?” I heard her ask. I realized I wasn’t even looking at my family anymore. I’d been staring at nothing for who knew how long.
“New York,” my father said.
That got my attention.
“He went to visit a few colleges,” my mother added, reaching for sandwich stuff from the refrigerator. “I think he’s deciding between Columbia and Princeton?”
“I thought Columbia and Yale?” my father said.
“When’s he coming back?” I asked, trying not to sound too anxious.
Dad shrugged. “Next week, maybe? Or the week after?”
Mom looked like she was trying to remember. “He said he might go visit Harvard and Brown, too—”
“And Dartmouth, I think,” my father said. “I remember something about Dartmouth.” It wasn’t like my parents to not know where all of their children were. My mother especially. Something wasn’t right. Jamie returned and picked up a sandwich.
Was what he’d told them screwing with other memories? I felt a kick under the table. Jamie was trying, poorly, to indicate with his eyes that we needed to talk alone.
“Be back in a minute,” I said to my parents. “Stella?”
“Still eating,” she said, popping potato chips into her mouth. She’d sat down next to Joseph on the floor and was watching him play a video game. I led Jamie into my room and closed the door behind us. As soon as I did, he spoke.
“So we have a problem,” he said. “I haven’t done this much, but I do know that Daniel’s going to notice that something’s messed up when your parents tell him the bullshit about you, and why they aren’t worried.”
“What do you mean?”
“You think your parents would believe that you’re going on a wilderness retreat, without checking on it, if I weren’t here to make them believe it?”
Point. “Is there anything you can do about it?”
Jamie looked doubtful. “Doubtful. I thought about maybe trying to talk to him over the phone, but I don’t know if my mind thingie works like that? Especially when I’ve never really talked to him before. It could get weird . . . and if he doesn’t believe me, he might be able to poke holes through what I told the rest of your family too.”
“So we just have to go, then, and hope he’s busy, and that my parents don’t mention anything strange.”
“I think we do.”
“Not ideal,” I said.
Just then my bedroom door opened, with Stella behind it. “We have a problem.”
“We know,” I said. “Daniel’s not here.”
“Right. Daniel’s not here. And neither is the book.”
TELL ME YOU’RE KIDDING,” JAMIE said.
“Tell me that was rhetorical?” Stella met my gaze. “I asked Joseph to give me a tour of the house, and he started with his bedroom, naturally, and then moved on to Daniel’s. I looked on his bookshelves, everywhere I could think of. It isn’t there.”
I didn’t quite trust her—she didn’t know Daniel and had never been in his room before, so I went to check myself. They both tagged along after me. I looked everywhere I could think of but in the end could come to only one conclusion.
“Fuck,” I said.
Jamie, looking through one of his drawers, added, “Your brother does have quite the porn collection, though.”
“Gross,” I said. “Also, false.”
Jamie fake laughed. “Just kidding. I’m a kidder.”
I walked up to him and punched his arm.
“Just kidding. I’m a kidder.”
“Not the same,” Jamie said, rubbing it.
“Hate to break this up,” Stella said, “but if the book isn’t here, and Daniel isn’t here, my brilliant guess is that he has it with him.”
Only my brother would bring six hundred pages of nonfiction with him on a trip. Classic Daniel.
“And why would he do this?” Jamie asked me. “He doesn’t know about you, does he?”
I shook my head. “And he thinks the premise of the book is crap.”
“The premise being . . . ”
“I was reading it—or trying to—to find out what the author said about genetic memory, because of my dreams or memories or whatever about that doll, and India. Daniel said genetic memory isn’t a real thing.” I paused. “Noah did too. But—”
“The name of the author turned up on that list Kells had at Horizons, and what she was doing to us was real enough.” Stella said what I was thinking. “So your brother was wrong about the book.”
“He might be wrong about it,” Jamie said. “We haven’t read it. We won’t know until we have.”
“You’re not seriously saying that you think it’s a coincidence?” Stella asked.
“I’m just saying—You know what? Google will resolve this,” Jamie said. “Mara, computer?”
“Ask my mom for her laptop. I’m going to pack.” I didn’t have the energy to fight about the book now. I was too anxious—about it, about Daniel, about Noah, about everything. I needed to get out of there. Get moving.
I left Stella and Jamie to argue about the book, and went to my room to retrieve the items I might need for our quest. Jamie and Stella had packed stuff too, but stupidly I hadn’t asked what they’d brought or how long they thought we’d be gone. I looked around my room, trying to figure out where to start.
My room. I wondered when I’d started thinking of it that way. We’d moved to Miami only months ago; in December I’d been in Laurelton. Rachel had been alive. Jude had been my boyfriend. God, it didn’t seem possible.
I picked out enough underwear and clothes to last a couple of weeks and packed them into a gray duffel my mom had lent me once, for a school trip. She’d let me keep it even after I’d gotten home because I liked it so much. My throat tightened. I tried to tell myself that this wasn’t permanent—that we would find answers, and a cure, and Noah, too, and I would come home and things would go back to normal, but I couldn’t quite believe it. I couldn’t even remember what normal was.