Fifteen-year-old Pam is assaulted when she and her twin brother, Danny, are walking home through the woods. Danny is frozen with fear and does nothing; luckily, Pam is rescued by a woman out walking her dog. Pam deals with the trauma by isolating herself while Danny struggles with the shame of not protecting his sister. His shame is compounded by their father's contempt, and Danny decides to redeem himself by finding Pam's attacker. In the process, he discovers a family secret, and Pam connects with new friends who help her regain her confidence.
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Text copyright © 2013 Becky Citra
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
If only [electronic resource] / Becky Citra.
Issued also in print format.
ISBN 978-1-4598-0287-2 (pdf).--ISBN 978-1-4598-0288-9 (epub)
ps8555.i87i46 2013 c813 54 c2013-901881-6
First published in the United States, 2013
Library of Congress Control Number: 2013935390
Summary: Fifteen-year-old twins, Pam and Danny, deal with the aftermath of a vicious assault.
Orca Book Publishers gratefully acknowledges the support for its publishing programs provided by the following agencies: the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund and the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Province of British Columbia through the BC Arts Council and the Book Publishing Tax Credit.
Cover design by Teresa Bubela
Cover artwork by Aaron Bihari
In Canada: Orca Book Publishers PO Box 5626, Station B Victoria, BC Canada V8R 6S4
In the United States: Orca Book Publishers PO Box 468 Custer, WA USA 98240-0468
16 15 14 13 • 4 3 2 1
To my twin sister, Janet
“Dad’s going to kill you if he finds out,” Danny says.
His twin sister, Pam, wiggles her arms out of her jacket and wads it into a ball. She stuffs it at the end of the seat in the booth and picks up a blue sports bag from the table. “Who cares? Besides, Danny, who’s going to tell him? You?”
Danny shrugs. He slides onto the opposite seat. Pam is just saying that to bug him. She knows he will never tell.
The whole idea is stupid. Pam looks perfectly fine in her jeans and sweater. He doesn’t understand what her problem is. But all he says is, “I’ll order for you while you’re changing. What do you want?”
“A chocolate milkshake,” Pam says.
Then she is gone, the door of the women’s washroom swinging shut behind her.
She takes ages. Danny orders fries and a Coke for himself and the chocolate milkshake for Pam. While he waits for the order, he peers through the steamy, rain-streaked window, watching for Hugh. You can count on Hugh to be late. He’ll come flying in with some excuse about all the chores he had to do.
Danny has saved up his allowance for weeks, and he isn’t going to miss Planet of the Apes. This is its last week. It’s Thursday, and school is closed for the day because of a problem with the plumbing.
He drains his Coke. They don’t have a lot of time, and Pam always takes forever to drink a milkshake, complaining that drinking it fast gives her an ice-cream headache. The bus that will take them downtown is the number fifty-two, and there is one due in ten minutes. That will get them to the movie theater fifteen minutes before the matinee begins. Danny frowns. Pam better hurry. And where is Hugh?
A minute later, Hugh bursts into the café, using a corner of his shirt to wipe raindrops off his round, wire-rimmed glasses. He plunks down opposite Danny and grabs a fry. “Sorry, Danny. Had to help my dad clean up the garage.”
He helps himself to another fry, and Danny grumbles, “Buy your own.”
What is Pam doing? Danny’s eyes flicker to the washroom door. A woman with a toddler comes out, followed by Pam. Danny’s stomach drops.
Pam is wearing a lime-green miniskirt and a black blouse. Her jeans spill out of the top of the sports bag, which she is hugging to her chest. Even across the room, Danny can see that she has put on makeup—a wobbly line of pink lipstick, mascara and blue stuff around her eyes.
“Holy cow,” Hugh says.
Pam stumbles up to the table. She has changed her runners for a pair of white sandals with heels. “Ta-da!” she says. “What do you think?”
Danny thinks that she doesn’t look like his twin sister anymore. The real Pam, with her narrow freckled face that is a perfect match to his, has disappeared under the lipstick and blue eye shadow.
“Well?” Pam says.
“You’ll have to get your milkshake to go. The bus is going to be here any second.” Danny stands up. “Let’s go.”
Pam sits by herself on the bus, three rows ahead of Hugh and Danny. Her long brown hair, sparkling with raindrops, hangs over the back of the seat. Pam’s hair is almost long enough for her to sit on.
“Where did she get the clothes?” Hugh says.
“Stacey lent them to her,” Danny says. “The shoes are hers though. She bought them at a thrift store.”
He doesn’t want to talk about it. Stacey is the leader of a group of girls who mostly wear miniskirts and fishnet stockings and take up one whole table in the school cafeteria, talking in loud voices about all the parties they go to. Danny has watched Pam the last month—at the edge of the group, not really in and not really out. And then suddenly Stacey noticed her, saving a seat for her at lunch and now lending her these stupid clothes.
“Your dad will kill her,” Hugh says.
Hugh is afraid of Danny’s dad. Danny has told him a few things that Hugh said made the back of his neck prickle. Danny would have taken them back, but it was too late.
“He won’t find out,” Danny says.
The rain has stopped by the time the movie is over. Hugh’s mother picks Hugh up in front of the theater to take him to a dentist appointment. She waves through the car window and beeps the horn three times as she pulls away from the curb. Danny waves back and then peers up the street for the bus. Pam is shivering beside him, her bare arms and legs prickled with goose bumps.
“Why don’t you put your jacket on?” he says.
“I’m not cold,” Pam says.
Danny grins. “Yeah, right. You just want everyone to see your cool clothes.”
“So what if I do?” Pam glances down at the green miniskirt. “I’m tired of looking like a dork just because Dad’s got a problem. Just for once I want to look good.”
The bus is crowded, and Danny has to stand. When they get off in front of the café, Pam says, “I’m not going to change yet. I’m going to wait until we get home.”
Danny stares at his sister. “Are you crazy?”
“I have to give these clothes back to Stacey tomorrow,” Pam says. “I just want to wear them a bit longer. I’ll change in the Jolly Roger.”
The Jolly Roger is the name Pam gave to the tree fort at the bottom of their backyard. Danny discovered it last July, the first night they moved into the house. At first he thought it was a real boat perched in the branches of a huge leafy tree. It had a wooden deck and a cabin with portholes and a tattered flag with a skull and crossbones hanging from a mast.
Danny and Pam hung out in the fort for the rest of the summer, reading and playing Monopoly and even sleeping there a few times. Sometimes, when Danny lies on his back and looks out a porthole at the green leaves and blue sky, he imagines that he’s back on his grandparents’ farm in the Fraser Valley. They lived on the farm for five years, and it was the only place that ever felt like home. Before that, they lived in Sudbury, in Ontario, but that seems like a lifetime ago to Danny.
Danny thinks the Jolly Roger is the only good thing about moving away from the farm to a suburb closer to Vancouver. But since they started at the new high school in September, Pam has lost interest in the fort. She tried to explain why when Danny complained. “Get with it, Danny. We’re in grade ten.”
Pam is prattling on now about how she can change in the fort and Dad will never know and how she wishes more than anything that she had her own miniskirt and how there is no point in trying to save her money for one because Dad will never let her wear it. It’s irritating. Danny was going to offer to carry her sports bag, but he changes his mind. He walks quickly, knowing Pam is having trouble keeping up in her wobbly, high-heeled sandals. He knows he’s being mean, but she is really bugging him.
They walk for four blocks, leaving the stores behind, and then turn between two houses onto an old railroad track. The actual track was pulled up years ago, leaving a wide trail that runs for twenty miles through a mix of neighborhoods, some shabby and some rich, and a few remaining patches of forest. Every once in a while, workers from the municipality pick up empty soda bottles, food wrappers and other bits of garbage. Mostly the trail is deserted except for weekend dog walkers and people taking shortcuts home.
It is deserted today. Even though it has stopped raining, Danny can feel the moisture in the air, like a fine cold mist on his cheeks. The sky is a dull leaden gray, and it seems darker than it should be for four o’clock. The trail runs behind the backyards of the houses, some with high wooden fences and some with chain-link fences that let you see into the yards. Today there is nobody outside.
“What are you going to do about your makeup?” Danny says. “How are you going to get that off in the fort?”
He can tell that Pam hasn’t thought of that. She frowns but doesn’t say anything.
“You’re not allowed to wear makeup,” Danny points out.
“I know that,” Pam says.
“I guess I could get you a wet towel or something,” Danny says.
Pam lights up. “Thanks, Danny.”
Danny has always envied the way nothing ever seems to worry his twin for very long. He glances sideways at Pam and realizes it isn’t true anymore. Ever since they started grade ten, Pam has worried a lot about friends.
“Let’s see if Prince is home.” Pam leaves the trail and walks through a strip of tall weeds to a chain-link fence that encloses the backyard of a white duplex. She presses up against the fence and calls, “Hey, Prince!”
After a second’s hesitation, Danny joins her. To his relief, no demented German shepherd lunges at the fence, barking his head off. The first time that had happened, sometime last fall, he leaped back with a shout, and Pam laughed so hard she almost fell down.
“He’s wagging his tail, dummy!” she had crowed. To Danny’s horror, she’d stuck her fingers through a hole in the fence and touched the dog’s nose. “You’re just a big softie, aren’t you?”
Pam had spotted Prince’s name painted above the opening to a large wooden doghouse on one side of the yard. Since then, every time they go past the duplex, Pam insists on stopping to talk to Prince.
They’ve only seen the dog’s owner once, a tall woman with red hair who’d been pulling dead plants out of a clay pot and had glanced up and smiled at them. But sometimes the window or the door on her side of the duplex is open, and they can hear music playing. The other half of the duplex looks the same every day, with orange curtains pulled shut across the window. Danny is pretty sure nobody lives there.
“His owner must have taken him for a walk or something,” Pam says now, disappointed.
“Come on,” Danny says. “Let’s go.”
The houses end and the trail narrows and enters a wooded area. This is Danny’s favorite part of the trail. He knows it isn’t a real forest, not like at the farm, and that the houses start again just around the corner. He explored once, walking into the evergreens as far as he could, and discovered that it was really only a wide band of tall trees that ended at some mossy wooden fences. But it has a little bit of the same feel and smell as a real forest. Wet earth and new leaves and patches of green light flickering through branches.
Pam stumbles twice in her sandals.
“Wait up,” she says. “I’m going to change into my runners.”
She zips open the sports bag and takes out her runners. She slips off a sandal and balances on one foot, trying not to step on the soggy ground.
Danny picks up a stick and whacks it against a tree trunk.
Later, Danny thinks that if he hadn’t been making so much noise, everything would have been different.
The problem is, he doesn’t hear the guy coming. He just senses a sudden movement from behind and then someone grips his arm, hard. So hard that he gasps in pain.
He twists and glimpses a green jacket and a face, covered in some kind of black material with two eye holes and a mouth hole rimmed with red. A monster face. The blade of a knife flashes. Danny is dragged off the trail, into the woods. He stumbles over roots; branches swipe his face. He’s shoved against the trunk of a tree.
“Put your arms around the tree and don’t move,” a deep voice growls. “You got that? You stay here and no one will get hurt.”
The knife blade gleams. Danny’s legs collapse underneath him. He clings to the tree trunk and presses his face against the bark. His heart is going to explode right out of his chest.
He tries to yell, “Run, Pam!” but he can’t make the words come out.
Behind him, Pam screams.
Danny squeezes his eyes shut, but he can still see the knife.
You stay here and no one will get hurt.
He keeps his arms wrapped around the tree. He strains his ears, trying to hear. Rain dripping off leaves. That’s all.
You stay here and no one will get hurt.
How long has it been? Seconds or minutes? The rough bark scrapes Danny’s cheek; he puts his hand up and feels something wet and sticky. Blood?
Then the silence of the woods is broken by the deep barking of a dog. It sounds close by. Danny opens his eyes. He is still hugging the tree, and he desperately wants to move, to do something, anything, but his legs and arms are frozen.
He hears crashing in the underbrush. More barking, right behind him. Something thuds against his back.
Danny spins around, his breath stabbing his chest, his arms raised in defense.
It’s Prince. His teeth are bared in a doggy grin and his muddy paws dance on the ground, ready to spring up on him again.
Danny sags, his knees as weak as Jell-O.
“Prince!” a woman’s voice calls.
Prince barks again, and the woman from the duplex appears through the trees. Pam is stumbling beside her, leaning over at the waist, hugging her chest. Her black blouse is torn down one sleeve, and wet leaves cling to the green miniskirt. There is a streak of mud on her bare right leg. Her long hair hangs in a tangled mess over her face.
“You must be Danny,” the woman says. “Your sister said, ‘We have to find Danny.’ ”
Danny tries to speak but his mouth is sucked dry. He licks his lips.
“It’s okay,” the woman says calmly. “It’s over now. Prince scared him away.” She wraps her arm around Pam’s shoulders. “We got there before anything bad happened. And your sister put up a good fight too. He’s gone. It’s over.”
Danny nods. He can’t look at Pam, but he can hear her crying.
“I’m Carol,” the woman says. “Come on. We’ll go to my place and then I’ll drive you home.”
A white sandal, Pam’s runners and the sports bag are lying in the middle of the trail. Silently Danny picks everything up.
“I want you to wear your jacket, Pam,” Carol says. “And let’s put on your runners.”
Carol takes the jacket from Danny. She has to struggle to get Pam into it; Pam’s arms are rigid, and she doesn’t try to help. While Carol is lacing her runners, Pam’s eyes, red and rimmed with smeared makeup, meet Danny’s. They’re empty, staring at nothing. A chill runs up Danny’s back.
He walks behind Pam and Carol, out of the woods and back to where there are houses. Every little sound—a garbage-can lid banging somewhere, a car backfiring out on the road—causes a spark of fear that tingles at the back of his neck. Carol says the man is gone, but how does she know? He could be anywhere, watching them right now.
Carol opens the gate in the chain-link fence behind the duplex. “I’ll just grab my car keys and purse.” She hesitates. “You guys come inside with me.”
They climb the back stairs and wait in a small kitchen. Carol disappears down a dark hallway. Pam sinks onto the edge of a chair and bends over. Prince pads across the floor and rests his head on her lap.
Danny is still shocked by Pam’s muddy, torn clothes. His stomach is ready to heave. He swallows. “Are you okay?”
It isn’t what he wants to say. It sounds too casual, like he thinks it’s no big deal, but they are the only words he can get out. He doesn’t even know if Pam hears him. She doesn’t answer. She’s stroking Prince’s head. Her fingernails are chewed off again. She started biting her nails when they left the farm and is always trying to stop.
Carol comes back, a huge brown purse on her shoulder. Danny clings to the way she takes control. She takes a set of keys off a hook by the door. “The car’s out front. We’ll leave Prince here. You’ll have to give me directions to your house, Danny.” She touches Pam’s shoulder. “Come on, sweetie.”
Carol’s car, a red Volkswagen Beetle, is parked at the curb. Pam sits in the front passenger seat and Danny squeezes into the back.
“We live at fourteen sixty-seven Rendell Street,” Danny says.
“Got it,” Carol says. “That’s just a few streets away.”
A few streets. They were so close to home. Maybe if they’d walked faster. Maybe if Pam hadn’t stopped to change her stupid sandals.
Carol glances in the rearview mirror at Danny while she drives. “Will your mom and dad be home?”
“Uh…my dad will,” Danny says.
“Not at work?”
“A crate tipped over on him at the dockyard where he works. It smashed his shoulder. He won’t be going back for at least another month.”
Danny shivers. There isn’t a sliver of a chance that Dad won’t be home.
“I was kind of hoping to see your mom,” Carol says.
Danny is silent. Their mom died when he and Pam were three years old, but he isn’t about to tell Carol their life story.
After a moment Carol says, “Just you two and your dad, huh?”
“Yeah,” Danny says. He is surprised that Carol has figured it out so fast. He hopes she isn’t going to ask a lot of questions. He needs to think, to plan what he is going to tell Dad.
“I was raised by a single parent too,” Carol says. “My mom. So which one of you is the oldest?”
“We’re twins,” Danny mutters.
“Twins. Wow,” Carol says. “Lucky.”
Pam starts to cry again, softly. Carol reaches over and squeezes her hand. “It’s going to be okay,” she says.
She turns onto Rendell Street.
“It’s that brown house,” Danny says, his stomach tightening. He isn’t ready. “With the blue car in the driveway.”
The car belongs to their housekeeper, Mrs. Glassen. She comes in during the week to vacuum and dust and make a few casseroles to put in the freezer. Danny has been praying that she will have already left.
Pam stirs suddenly, lifting her head and staring out the car window. “I don’t want her to see me,” she cries, sounding panicky.
“She means our housekeeper,” Danny explains. He feels panicky too. Mrs. Glassen has a big mouth and doesn’t know how to mind her own business. Her daughter, Julie, is in grade eleven at their school. The story will be all around the whole high school tomorrow.
Carol puts the car in park and turns off the ignition. “I need to talk to your dad,” she says.
Mrs. Glassen is in the front entrance, getting her coat. A cigarette dangles between her fingers, and her bleached blond hair looks frizzier than usual. Her mouth, bright red with lipstick, drops open. She stares wide-eyed at Pam. “What on earth happened to you?”
Carol sizes up Mrs. Glassen with a long look and then ignores her. “Where will I find your father, Danny?” she says.
Danny jerks his head to the entrance to the living room. He can hear the TV. “In there.”
Mrs. Glassen is staring at me like I’m some kind of freak. Probably planning what she’s going to tell her daughter. She can go to hell. Tears drip onto my blouse, and when I wipe my cheeks, my fingers come away smeared with goopy black mascara.
Carol digs in her brown purse and pulls out handfuls of Kleenex. “It’s going to be okay,” she says again. How does she know that?
And then Dad comes to the doorway of the living room and everything gets horrible, fast. He’s wearing gray baggy pants, and he looks like he hasn’t shaved for days. His arm is strapped in a black brace.
Dad looks confused. Then furious. “What is this?” he says.
“You must be the twins’ father,” Carol says. I can’t believe how calm she sounds. “I’m Carol Hinson. I live a few streets away, so we’re almost neighbors. I’ve brought your kids home.”
“Home from where? What the hell is going on?” Dad’s voice gets louder. “Danny?”
Danny doesn’t say anything. I bury my face in the Kleenex.
“Danny and Pam were walking home along the railroad trail,” Carol says. “It goes right past my place too. I was out walking my dog. There was…a man. He had a ski mask or something on. He grabbed Pam. But Prince scared him away.”
Dad’s eyes bore into me. A fragile glass ball in my chest is ready to shatter. Please, Dad. Hug me. Make me safe.
“You look like a slut.”
For a second, I can’t hear anything. My head is full of a roaring noise.
“No wonder,” says Dad.
I lift my head and make myself look at him. There’s anger in his eyes, but something else too. He looks afraid—but Dad’s never afraid of anything.
Mrs. Glassen still hasn’t put on her coat. She isn’t going to miss this.
“You shouldn’t say that,” Carol says. “It’s not Pam’s fault. She’s just wearing what other young girls wear.“
I would never dare to talk to Dad like that. Dad gives her an icy look. Then he turns to Danny. “And what were you doing all this time?”
“He had a knife.” Danny stares at the floor. His face is white.
I can’t listen to this. I pull away from Carol, who has slipped her arm around my shoulders. I stumble toward the hall.
Behind me, I hear Carol say, “I’ll write down my name, address and phone number. You’ll need to give that to the police.”
I barely make it to the bathroom. I lock the door and collapse on the tile floor in front of the toilet and barf.
I throw up everything. The chocolate milkshake, the red licorice and the popcorn from the movie. My stomach keeps heaving and wrenching even though there’s nothing left inside me, and then, after a long time, it’s over.
I roll onto my side on the floor, soaked with sweat, and curl into a ball, letting my head rest on the cold tile. I listen for noises from the rest of the house, but there’s nothing, not even the TV.
After a while I get up stiffly and stare at myself in the mirror over the sink. My face is a mess of blurred makeup, and my eyes are red and swollen. There’s vomit in my hair and on the front of Stacey’s black blouse. The blouse is ruined anyway, because it’s torn down one sleeve. And I don’t know if the smears of dirt will ever come out of the skirt. Is it mud? I don’t remember falling, but maybe I did. I can try washing the skirt, but I can never return the blouse to Stacey, never.
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