Sneak peek for the upcoming novel The Girl in the Fountain. Out 7/15!
This is the girl her grandfather would have her spare. This is the girl who’s about to lose her father. She’ll live, probably, but the lines around her eyes will be etched in permanently. The lines around her mouth will crease when she frowns, stretch when she tries to smile. This is why, Finch tells herself, she feels a stab of… Guilt? Compassion? She finds herself honestly saying, “Freedom is just another word for alone.”
If the people who populate your life are Elana and Demetri and Gregor, maybe alone is exactly what you long for. But if your chains are someone who loves you… Why would you ever want freedom?
The girl’s eyes are soft, but her brow is furrowed.
“You are alone?” she infers.
Finch tries to smile, teases, “Not right now.”
But the girl’s expression is still, quiet, waiting.
“I look a lot like my mother,” Finch hears herself saying. “But I’m nothing like her, so I’m told. Live with my grandparents. And they just… don’t really have room for me. I think they look at me and every time I think there’s this split instant where they see her. But then I go and open my mouth and… It’s like she dies all over again. Over and over and over again.” It’s got enough truth to it that Finch doesn’t have to fake the heat in her cheeks, how she shifts in the booth, chasing a phantom discomfort. “So both parties just try to keep sightings to a minimum.”
The only thing she is really leaving out is the fact that her grandfather’s heart breaks because he wishes she was her mother while her grandmother is horrified every time she sees even the slightest hint of her husband’s bastard daughter. Which is, you know, every time she sees Finch’s face.
“So they just let you run around Europe unsupervised?”
“Oh, they know where I am. We just all pretend I’m running around because I’m ‘expanding my cultural horizons’. We do much better on the phone.”
More strange truth. Finch shakes her head. “I don’t know why I’m telling you all this.” An absolute truth. This isn’t the backstory she imagined at all. And, “I’m usually the strong, silent type.”
The girl gestures to herself. “Loner.”
“You’re lying.” When the girl looks affronted, Finch pushes. “You’re way too good at pulling someone into conversation.” She gestures with her mug. “And you look perfectly comfortable sitting across from a perfect stranger.
The girl only laughs over her own mug. “I didn’t say I wasn’t good at getting other people to talk. Just that I’m not much one for it.”
Both characteristics that would prove useful in her life.
“So you’re not going to tell me your whole sob story?”
The girl looks down at her bare wrist. “And look at that. My break’s over.”
She stands, but then she hovers. “It was nice to meet you though…”
“Amanda,” she repeats to herself. She points to her nametag.
“Sophie,” Finch answers for her.
“Well. We can’t help but see each other around,” Sophie tries as she backs away a few steps. “At least if you’re planning to stay awhile.”
More digging. She’s good.
Finch smiles. “At least a couple of weeks. And if winter snows me in before that, I’ll take it as a sign from God I’m meant to stay the season.”
If Amand is this cautious about every visitor, it’s likely he won’t be going on any hunting trips until she leaves or he judges she’s no threat. She might be here a very long while.
“Great!” Sophie nods down to the pie and coffee. “Three euros. You can just leave it on the table when you go. I’ve got some baking to do.”
And then she’s gone, simply slipped through the swinging double doors, presumably back into the kitchen. Finch hears her on the phone as she just happens to walk very near those doors on a roundabout path to the door. Sophie is murmuring in low tones.
“She seems nice. Sad but… nice.”
And for a split second… Finch wishes that was the truth.