The New One
Berkley Books, 2023
This book does not appear to be part of a series. If this is incorrect, and you know the name of the series to which it belongs, please let us know.
|Avg Member Rating:||
For Tamsyn and Ed, life is tough. They both work long hours for very little money and come home to their moody, rebellious daughter, Scarlett.
After a tragic accident leaves Scarlett comatose and with little chance of recovery, Tamsyn and Ed are out of options until a lifeline emerges in the form of an unusual medical trial. In exchange for the very best treatment for Scarlett, a fully furnished apartment, and a limitless spending account, the family must agree to move to Switzerland and welcome an artificial copy of their daughter into their home.
Suddenly their life is transformed. Tamsyn and Ed want for nothing, and the AI replacement, Sophie, makes it feel just like having their daughter back--except without all the bad parts. Sophie is engaged, happy, and actually wants to spend time with her parents.
But things take a turn for the worse when Scarlett makes a very real recovery and the family discovers that the forces behind their new life are darker than they ever could have imagined.
I listen for a long time before any of the words make sense. When they do, I can grab only a word here or there. Soleil. Le weekend.
I try to hold on to the other words but I can't reach them. Everything comes and goes. I am floating.
After a while I realize I am not floating. I have a body.
I am in a body.
I am a body.
My eyes are closed, and after a long time I think that since I am back in my body, I might try to open them. After some more time, I try. It doesn't work.
I know there is noise, but I can't make sense of it. My sense of smell seems as if someone switched it on, and it is unbearable. The smells crowd into my head and I want them to go away. It smells like medicine, clean things, chemicals. Not home.
Things hurt. People do things to me. They poke me and move me, and sometimes it hurts and sometimes I don't feel anything. I sense light outside my eyelids. It goes away and comes back. It gets darker and then lighter. I drift back to my dark place, and I come up again.
One day the sounds start to form shapes and I find that I know a word. I know that it is the word for the person I need, the person who will pull me out of here.
I try to make my mouth say it: "Mum."
Five months before
She had been daydreaming. The water had evaporated and the cauliflower was sticking to the bottom of the pan and the potatoes were burning, because she'd forgotten all of it. It was salvageable, but she didn't want it.
"Oh, shut up," she told it nonsensically, and turned off the gas ring. Everything annoyed her.
She tried to focus on the television. It was a reality show, one that usually distracted her just enough. Tonight, though, it wasn't working.
Scarlett wasn't missing. She was out. If she hadn't overdone the cover story by throwing in Leanne, it wouldn't have been worrying yet. It was still all right.
She messaged her. Please just send a text. Nothing happened. She messaged again and called her phone and she didn't answer.
She turned the TV off and messaged Ed, hating the fact that she was admitting defeat again. He replied at ten forty-five.
Fuck's sake honey! Again?!????
Yeah, I'll find her.
At least he replied to her when it was about Scarlett. Since he worked late nights and she worked early mornings, they hardly saw each other. That was why they were still together.
She looked at the photo on the wall. They had been happy once.
It was a picture of the three of them taken when Scarlett was about four. They had been on the beach at Perranporth, standing in front of the Atlantic Ocean, the beach wide and sandy around them. Their hair was blowing around and they were laughing. Scarlett stood between them, holding their hands.
They had been happy because Scarlett had been a dreamy child. They had been happy because their relationship was newer, and they weren't ground down by life. Scarlett had been an adorable little girl, always asking questions about everything. They had kept her supplied with books from the library, had tried to find the answers she needed, had done everything they could to help her have a better life than they did.
She had learned to read before she went to school, and together they had all learned a bit of French from an app. Her parents agreed (as all parents probably did) that their daughter was exceptionally bright and brilliant, and as the years went by, they encouraged her to do her homework, to be top of the class, to excel at everything and keep her options wide open.
She was exactly average-sized for her age, which seemed like a good thing: she could never be teased for being too big or too small. She had curly dark hair and intense brown eyes, and she would climb into bed with them at night, cuddling up and whispering, "I love you so much, Mummy." She used to ask for a baby brother. Her favorite color was blue. She wanted to see snow. She wanted to have snowball fights, to climb mountains, to see the pyramids. She wanted to do everything.
She had been the best child ever. And then, a few weeks before she turned thirteen, Scarlett had changed.
She stood at the window again and waited again, still calling Scarlett every couple of minutes. She left voice mails, using a deliberately calm tone. She made a big effort and managed not to shout. It was raining harder now, a heavy rain that bounced off the roof. Maud, who lived in a camper van at the edge of the field, came past in her wellies to let her dog pee, saw her at the window and stopped. This was good: Maud was older than she was, and her best friend. Maud always calmed her down.
"Is it that girl again?" Maud said, and everything felt better.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Nod. It will be all right. It had always been all right. Scarlett came home. She had come home every day, every night. She shouted about the fact that they lived in a caravan, complained about how embarrassing it all was, how shabby they were, but she came back all the same. They had become a shouty family. They all yelled at one another every day, and she had no idea how to stop.
"It is." She looked at the rain. "Come in."
She didn't like the dog, Shabba, but she knew he was important to Maud: he had been her constant companion since her wife had died. He was big and aggressive, but she let him in anyway and he shook the rain off his coat all over everything in the living area. She pretended not to care, though she knew the van would smell of wet dog for days now. She didn't think Maud noticed that smell anymore.
"She said she was with a friend," she said. "Leanne. But I called the mother to check, and she's not. She was lying again." She felt the rage growing, and made an effort to push it down. Sometimes she felt like a volcano, the fury bubbling up inside until it erupted all over everything. "She fell out with Leanne ages ago. Basically, Leanne hates Scarlett. Leanne's in bed asleep because it's a school night. Leanne's mother thinks I'm the worst parent ever, correctly, and Ed's looking for her on his way back from work."
Maud grimaced and took off the woolen hat she was wearing. She had cut her hair very short a while ago, and it suited her face. She was about seventy and intensely active. She opened her arms for a hug; she smelled of wood fire and wet dog, but that didn't matter. They held each other tightly.
"She'll turn up," Maud said. "Ed will find her. He always does. You know that. Want me to wait with you, hon?"
"Would you? I was going to eat because I remembered I didn't have lunch, but I was making an omelet and some potato wedges and then they burned, and I've got a cauliflower that fell off the tractor, but it's stuck to the pan. Are you hungry?"
Maud smiled. "You make it sound so tempting. No, thanks. I didn't forget to eat. Never do. I don't know how you keep doing that. Let's rescue your dinner, and when that girl gets back she can have something too, once you've finished shouting. And Ed can eat too."
"He'll be fine," she muttered. "He eats at work."
She let Maud get going on the crap food, sitting down and then standing up again when Shabba put his drooly face in her lap.
"Oh, God, Maud," she said. "What am I going to do? I don't know where she goes. I don't know who she's with. She's fourteen! When I ask who she's with, she yells at me. She says she has a boyfriend but then she says she's messing with me, and I hope she is but I'm terrified that she's not. I mean, it would be OK to have a boyfriend, but not a secret one. Not a secret one who keeps her out late at night and makes her hate us. I think I hear her on the phone to him sometimes. She doesn't even try at schoolwork-she's closing off all her options, wasting her brain. And I don't feel that I'm my own person anymore. I'm just a shit mother and that's my whole identity. I can't throw her out, and she knows it, so we end up living by her rules. We just fight all the time."
Maud had heard this before, many times over. "I know, sweetheart," she said. "I know. And she always comes back. Ed always finds her. And she'll grow up. We've all caused our mothers to tear their hair out." Their eyes met. "Though she is extreme. I admit that. But you know what? That girl of yours will be sitting right here in a couple of years, holding her head in her hands and apologizing. That's a promise. She's still bright. She'll still make something of herself. And if there's any justice in the world, she'll have her own wayward daughter one day."
She closed her eyes. "A couple of years?"
"I hope you're right."
She was seeing the scenes in her head. They were vivid, and they flashed up, unwanted and real. Scarlett dead on a road. Drunk in the gutter. Attacked, abducted, choking on vomit. She shook her head and tried to dislodge them. How had it come to this? She remembered her own childhood: she hadn't been a terrible daughter; she definitely hadn't been like Scarlett. From this distance she saw her childhood with her beekeeping parents as idyllic. She had worked in their little shop, helped with the bees, sold the honey. She had more or less followed the rules. Where had she gone wrong?
Soon the cauliflower was revived, and Maud was whisking eggs with a fork. Against the odds, the food smelled good. The dog had his paws up on her sofa and his head under the curtain so he could stare out at the chickens. Every now and then he gave a little growl.
She was grateful to Maud and didn't quite know how to say it. She wasn't sure that she'd be able to eat anything, but she was going to try.
"Here you go, sweetheart," said Maud. "Eat. I'll keep the rest warm."
She was staring at a piece of omelet when the door opened and slammed shut. Scarlett was in front of her, tossing her hair, her face smeared with makeup.
She felt the rage rising. Then it erupted.
"Where the hell have you been?" she yelled. "Why won't you ever come home? Why did you lie about Leanne? Why-"
Maud put a hand on her arm, and she knew she needed to control herself.
"I fucking hate you!" That was her daughter. "I hope you die!"
She had always been certain that no child of hers would swear. Ground rules. Unacceptable. She had said the things you say before your child actually does it, and they're stronger than you and you don't want them to run away, so you have no idea how to stop it.
Everyone heard them shouting all over the campsite; they were notorious. She hated being this family. She took a deep breath, and another, thought of the people listening and tried to calm down.
"Why won't you let us help you?" she said, trying to use a different voice, and then she stopped. It wouldn't help. Nothing ever helped.
"Go to your room," said Ed, his voice tight.
Scarlett's room was right there: they had no privacy from one another and that was part of the problem.
The dog turned and growled and Scarlett screamed, "Shut that fucking animal up!"
Scarlett was wild. She was drunk. Quite possibly, she was more than drunk. Her hair was all over the place, her dress ripped, and she had lipstick smeared around her mouth.
"I really, really fucking hate you!" she shouted. "Both of you. You're pathetic! I wish I had rich parents! I wish we lived in a house! I wish I was a fucking orphan. You know, at the children's home they get actual bedrooms."
"And we wish we had a proper daughter," said Ed. He was a big man, red-faced and bearded, with the uncompromising manner of the chef. He generally said what came into his mind, the way they did in the kitchen. "Or no daughter at all. Just fuck off!"
"I did! And you came and found me! Do you realize how embarrassing it is to have my dad turning up and making me go home? God, I hate you."
"Don't speak to your father like that!"
She knew she and Ed had to stick together. She also knew, for sure, that the moment Scarlett came through this, they would split up. Their family was flames and ash. It was ruined.
"Cheers," said Ed. "Hey, Maud." He sighed. "Sorry. I suppose you'd have heard it across the site anyway. Everyone knows our business. Hello, Shabba. Hey, honey." He gave her a quick kiss on the lips.
"Why does she always have to be here?" said Scarlett, glaring at Maud, and she disappeared around the partition into her tiny bedroom, where she stamped her feet lots of times like a toddler, making the whole structure shake.
Maud put an arm around each of their shoulders.
"I'm sorry you're going through this, my loves," she said quietly. "Makes me less sad that I never had one. One day she'll turn that passion around and use it for something good."
"I will not!"
"She'll grow up," said Maud. "And she'll be asleep soon."
"Not going to sleep!"
"Shall I put the TV on?" Maud clicked it back onto the reality channel, which was showing strangers getting married, and cut Ed a slice of omelet, which he plainly didn't want. They sat down to pretend to eat.
Maud was staying because otherwise the three of them would tear one another apart. They were in a terrible place and there was, as far as she could see, no way out.
She yawned and looked at the clock. It was ten past three and Ed was shaking her shoulder. The van was silent and so was the world outside, apart from the rain, which was still bouncing off the metal roof.
"What?" she said. She sat up, her senses on full alert.
"Sorry," he whispered. "I've been wired. Can't sleep. I heard Scarlett on the phone. She was upset. She didn't want to see whoever it was, and then she said they couldn't come to the caravan and she'd come and meet them at the end of the road."
Copyright © 2023 by Evie Green
There are currently no reviews for this novel. Be the first to submit one! You must be logged in to submit a review in the BookTrackr section above.
No alternate cover images currently exist for this novel.