17+ In the summer of 92, Gale and Meredith find the body of a dead black man in the river of their all-white hometown. They go for help, but when the search doesn’t turn up a body, Meredith’s father, the police chief, accuses them of making it all up. That night, Gale runs away from home, turning Meredith’s whole world inside out.
Published: December 8th, 2015
“Don’t you think someone might miss him—that man we found?” Meredith asked. “He must have a family, someone who wonders day after day where he is and whether he’s safe and why he left. I know what that’s like to wait and wait for someone who never comes home.”
Gale gaped at her.
Meredith said, “Someone needs to know he’s never coming home.”
In the summer of 92, Gale and Meredith find the body of a dead black man in the river of their all-white hometown. They go for help, but when the search doesn’t turn up a body, Meredith’s father, the police chief, accuses them of making it all up. That night, Gale runs away from home, turning Meredith’s whole world inside out.
Thirteen years later, Meredith finds Gale’s picture in a magazine. Desperate to make sense of her life, she tracks him down and invokes a childhood promise that will lead them back home.
“It took all of twelve hours from the time I found your picture in GQ to getting your address from Ceravolo’s assistant,” she said.
“Your point?” Gale asked.
She bit down her frustration. “Okay, so maybe you just had to leave Levine because your life sucked beyond belief. I didn’t search for you after you left, not like your Dad did—”
Gale’s eyes flicked to hers.
“—And he did,” she said. “Until it left him dry. But I found you. I don’t usually believe in such things, but I think there’s a reason—”
“—Not like that.” She tightened her fists until the gash on her palm twinged. “Don’t you think someone might miss him—that man we found? He must have a family, someone who wonders day after day where he is, and whether he’s safe, and why he left. I know what that’s like to wait and wait for someone who never comes home.”
He stared at her.
“Someone needs to know he’s never coming home.”
“Mer,” he said.
“So I’m going back.”
“—Yes. I’m going back,” she said.
A laugh broke from her, a low, bitter sound. “And you’re coming with me.”
Gale was up again. He shoved the table. “Why?” he said. “Why would I do that? Why would I go back to the Bible-Thumping, Proud-to-Be-Confederacy Capital of Texas. Why?”
“Because you were there—”
“—Oh, I know what this is,” he said, stabbing a finger at her. “Miss Barbie Princess fell down and cracked her head. Found out you’re not so impenetrable in your Malibu Dream House?”
She sputtered, speechless.
“That’s right, I know,” he said. “I read it all on Yahoo! News. Live-in girlfriend of Jerome fucking Snow.”
She pressed cold fingertips to her eyelids. “Oh no.”
Gale said, “He know you’re here?”
“No. He doesn’t.” She opened her eyes and re-focused. “This isn’t about him.”
Gale took the empty chair beside her. “Hey, if you’re running, I’ll run, too. Got nothing tying me here.”
“I’m not running.”
“Really?” He traced the bandage on her forehead. “Mr. Playboy Billionaire do this?”
“I’m not running,” she said again. “Not from him.”
Gale looked as though he still had his doubts.
His lips pulled into a lop-sided smile. “Spray-painting the trestle bridge—”
“—Getting caught sneaking out of my bedroom window—”
“—Lest we forget ramping my Dad’s Harley into the Levine Middle School Marquee,” Gale said. He rolled his shoulder at the memory. “Broke my arm—”
“—You’re lucky it wasn’t your neck.”
“And the shoplifting,” he said, grinning now. “From Two Sisters Christian Books. Guess I’m going to Hell for that one.”
“You remember what you took?”
A muscle in his neck twitched. “Yeah, I remember.”
“You remember what you said when you gave it to me?”
He lowered his eyes. “I said so long as you wore it, I’d be with you,” he said. “I promised.”
Meredith pulled the platinum chain from under her camisole. The nautilus pendant swung between her face and his. “You promised.”
“Fuck,” he said and lit another cigarette. And Meredith knew, for better or worse, that Gale would follow her home.
About the author:
Celeste Hollister is a novelist, a mom, a travel writer, and a teacher. She writes characters who struggle with racial identity and LGBT+ representation.
She graduated from Texas State with a degree in writing, taught in the public school system for a decade, and lived in Korea for a year. She loves wine, cats, cookies, and traveling by train.
She currently lives in San Marcos with her daughter and their friendly feline overlord.
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