Want some more Somewhere Only We Know? Here’s an extra scene from the novel, told from Susan’s point of view. I hope you enjoy it!
SPOILER ALERT: This scene takes place near the halfway point of the book and contains a major spoiler if you haven’t read the book yet.
I bought the test yesterday. So simple, the box says. One line means no. Two means yes.
I put it in the grocery cart after checking that no one could see me doing it. Apples for Frankie. Chips for Daddy. And a pregnancy test for me.
I didn’t tell Frankie yet, won’t tell her until I’m absolutely sure. I’m only a couple days late. That doesn’t mean anything. Maybe I won’t have to take the test after all. Maybe this problem will just go away.
No. It’s not a problem, and I shouldn’t call it that.
I look at Frankie now, sound asleep in her bed, and I think about how much not a problem it would be. I love children. Back when I wasn’t afraid to leave Frankie at the house, I used to babysit all the time. It was nice to have my own money. And the babies were so cute. I could do this, I think.
Frankie winces in her sleep.
She is blessed. She doesn’t remember her nightmares when she wakes. She tells me that she doesn’t dream, all she remembers is the blackness of sleep. But I see her dreams. I see her shake and I hear her murmur. She tells him no in her sleep. Even if she doesn’t remember the pain, her body feels it.
I remember the nightmares. Every one of them.
He hurt her bad last night. Worse than normal. But I don’t think that’s the pain she’s feeling.
I see her book on the floor. He tore the cover off. I wonder if he knew that that would be a worse thing to her than taking her.
I’m sure he does. The bastard gets off on hurting us. But he doesn’t understand the books themselves. At least I’ve never seen him read before. He doesn’t know what they can mean. And they mean so much to Frankie. Even more than the books I used to read meant to me.
Frankie starts tossing in her sleep. She rocks back and forth, hitting her fists on the wall. Then the moans start, like they always do.
I run to her, shake her. “Frankie, Frankie,” I call. It usually takes a couple hard shakes to wake her. This time it takes five.
She stops tossing. She opens her eyes slowly and smiles when she sees me standing over her. “Good morning, Susie,” she says. Then she coughs. Her throat sounds swollen.
I sigh. Nothing. She always remembers nothing.
She sits up in bed and her smile falters when she sees her torn book on the floor. Her happiness lasts only moments. I need to get her happy again.
I think for a moment, pursing my lips. How can I get her happy again?
“I’ve decided you need a walk, to clear your head,” I say to her.
She looks at me confused. “Okay,” she says after a moment.
She gets dressed, moving slowly from the physical pain she’s in. I have to remind her where the pads are when she finds blood in her underwear again.
I told Daddy she’s started her period. I track them for him so he doesn’t have to. He’s at least careful with her. It’s okay not to be careful with me. I don’t matter.
Daddy is still asleep, so we go quietly downstairs and I help Frankie into the car. I don’t really know where I’m going as I start driving. Frankie’s the one who used to go out to parks all the time so she could exercise. I remember the park nearby where she used to have softball games, and I drive there. The place reminds me of Mama.
Frankie doesn’t want to get out of the car. She doesn’t move when I close my door, so I have to walk around and opens hers and pull her out. She can’t stay in this funk. She needs to keep moving. “One lap,” I whisper to her.
We walk towards the sun. The softball field is this way, at the bottom of the hill. I can hear cheers. A game is going on. I remember walking this path with Mama. When we got to the park, Frankie would always run ahead of us and join her team in the dugout, but Mama and I would take our time. She liked to walk slowly, and look at the grass and trees and children playing on the playground.
It’s still early this morning, but I can see a few mothers with their children on the playground.
I feel the ache again. The desire for a child and the desire to not have a child. I feel both. I don’t want to feel anything.
Frankie walks slowly. She is in pain. She keeps her arms wrapped around herself. I don’t know if the pain’s from him or her period. Probably both.
When she looks up she unwraps herself halfway so that she can use a hand to shield her eyes from the sun. I should’ve remembered to bring her sunglasses. She probably left them on her dresser at home. I’m supposed to remind her of such things. I’m supposed to take care of her.
We head down the hill. I don’t say anything to her. I can’t think of what to say. She probably wants me to talk, to comfort her, to be the mother she needs because her real one is gone.
But I don’t know what to say.
I don’t know what I can say. I don’t know how to make this better.
The softball field comes into view as we reach the bottom of the hill. Frankie stares at the field. I know she’s remembering how things used to be. How Mama and I would always come to her games, even though Mama would just sit there frozen most of the time. I remember all of the orange slices I would cut up, and how I would let Mama carry them out to the field like she’s the good mom who got them ready.
I wonder if Frankie is thinking the same thing. How Mama pretended. Because she looks back down at her feet and picks up her pace as she turns away from the field.
“Why didn’t you try out for school this year?” I ask her.
She looks up at me. The sun is warm on my back and she shields her eyes against it.
“I just haven’t wanted to since Mama died,” she tells me. She’s blaming Mama, because that’s what’s easy.
We turn the corner around the softball field and take the path back up the hill. We’re over halfway done since I promised her we’d only do one lap, and she still won’t talk to me, won’t get out of her head. I keep trying to ask her questions, about how school’s gong and how Lindsey is doing. I try to distract her with little, everyday questions. She can’t keep thinking about Daddy. She can’t focus on that if she wants to move on, if she wants to keep walking.
But she just gives me short, clipped answers. School’s fine. Lindsey’s fine. Her grades are good. Nothing important. Nothing that means anything.
I give up when we come up by the playground again at the end of the path. The ache in my stomach stops me. I feel nauseous.
I watch the moms playing with their kids. I keep my hand flat on my stomach. Is there something in there?
“You know, Mama let me pick out your name,” I say to Frankie.
Seeing the children playing brings this memory back to me. I can see Mama, very pregnant and looking through her baby name book. She couldn’t decide, couldn’t find just the right name for the baby in her belly. She didn’t think she could do it right, so she asked me.
“What?” Frankie asks. She’s surprised; she’s never heard this story before.
“Yeah,” I say. I quickly think of a lie. “I was really nervous about getting a new sister. And she thought it would help me if I could name you.” Frankie doesn’t need to know that Mama couldn’t do it. She doesn’t need to know she was broken way back then.
“Why were you nervous?”
“I don’t know. I guess I just didn’t know what was going to happen when I wasn’t the only kid anymore.” I shrug, trying to get her off this topic. I don’t like lying to her, even though I have to do it, have to protect her.
Frankie stays quiet. I stare at the little kids on the playground, laughing and jumping and climbing, before I keep talking. I let the memory keep playing in my head, the part that I can tell Frankie about.
“Mama showed me this big book of baby names that she bought when they were expecting me. She had all of these names and their meanings in a list. I was going to be Nicholas if I was a boy. It means ‘of the victorious people.’” We both laugh. “But then they found out I was a girl and chose Susan: ‘resembling a graceful white lily.’”
“I like that,” Frankie says.
“I do too. So I had to make sure my new baby sister had just as good of a name and name meaning.” I rub my stomach, still keeping my palm flat and thinking about what might be inside. “And when I saw what the name Frances meant, I knew it was perfect for my sister.”
“What does it mean?” Frankie asks quietly.
I can feel tears start to form. I remember how I felt when I saw the name Frances. I remember how bad it already was back then, though Daddy was still really good at hiding it. Excellent even. You can look at pictures and can’t even see it. But I saw. I was only five but I saw it starting. And my sister needed something different.
“‘One who is free,’” I say.
We are both quiet when I finish my story. We both look out on the families playing together. But she’s not seeing the same thing I’m seeing.
She’s seeing happy families, probably wishing that our family was like that.
I wish that too, when I see families like that. But today I see the future. I see what could be.
And I make a decision.
“When I’m a parent, I’m going to be good to my kids. I’m going to treat them right.”
I nod to myself. If I am pregnant, then I’m going to do this right. I’m not going to get sad or angry or curse Daddy for doing this to me. I’m going to be the best parent I possibly can be. Because that’s what any child needs.
I’m not going to lie to my child, like I do to Frankie. I’m not going to shut down on him or her like Mama did on us. I’m not going to call the child names or beat them or do the unspeakable things Daddy does. I’m going to be a good parent. I have to be a good parent.
Tears fall down my cheeks. I must be confusing Frankie, or scaring her because she asks, “Is something wrong, Susie?”
I stop rubbing my stomach and instead clench my fists at my sides. My pinky that was broken throbs, but I don’t care.
“I’m not sure yet,” I say to Frankie. I’ll take the test tomorrow, but nothing could be wrong now. A child isn’t wrong. And I’m determined to do this right.
Frankie starts walking toward the car without me. I look at the families on the playground a moment longer. I nod to myself again, sure of the decision I’ve made, and then I go and join my sister.