The Girls of No Return
320 Pages

The Girls of No Return



The Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area stretches across two million acres in northern Idaho. In its heart sits the Alice Marshall School, where fifty teenage girls come to escape their histories and themselves.
Lida Wallace has tried to negate herself in every way possible. At Alice Marshall, she meets Elsa Boone, a fierce native Idahoan; Jules, who seems too healthy to belong at the school; and Gia Longchamps, whose glamour entrances the entire camp. As the girls prepare for a wilderness trek, Lida is both thrilled and terrified to be chosen as Gia's friend. But everyone has their secrets--their "Things" they try to protect; and when those come out, the knives do as well.
The Girls of No Return is a bold and powerful debut.



Published by
Published 01 February 2012
Reads 0
EAN13 9780545392532
License: All rights reserved
Language English

Legal information: rental price per page €. This information is given for information only in accordance with current legislation.

For Rob
“Margaret called today.” Dr. Hemler shifts in his chair. “And did you speak with her?” I shake my head, and blow on my hands. His office i s always so cold. “She left a message. Something about a question.” I act like I can’t quite remember the message, as if it’s not running through my head like the tic ker at the bottom of a news screen. The pause between “It’s” and “important.” “I’ll try you again,” she’d said. “What do you think she wants to ask you?” He picks up the remote control on his armrest and points it at the heating unit near the ceiling. There’s a click, and then a soft whirring begins. “Will you call her back?” “It’s been over a year,” I say. “I don’t know what she could want to talk to me about.” He tilts his head. “Don’t you?”
When I get home, I go straight to my room, shutting the door behind me, and sit down at my desk. I have that sickening, thick feeling in my stomach that I get whenever I have to do something terrible but necessary, like apolog izing to Terri or admitting I forgot some important event — my dad’s birthday, for insta nce. Or telling the truth. I can’t put this off any longer. I grab a piece of paper from the fresh ream by my elbow. I grab a pen, and place an extra one nearby. And then I stop, terrified. I know I need to tell my story — our story — but I don’t kno w how. Because the truth, see — it’s a messy thing. Sometimes the only way to clean it u p is to hurtle through each decision you made, trying to find the one that changed every thing. Maybe then you can start to fix it. “Tell it straight,” Margaret commands from the back of my mind in that chain-smoking yogi voice of hers. “Leave nothing out.” “Easy for you to say,” I want to tell her, but of c ourse she’s not here. None of them are. It’s just me, here at the end, remembering how it all started and wondering if there was anything I could have done, even then, to save us.
BY THE TIME OUR BURGERS ARRIVED, I HAD HIS FOREHEAD memorized. I mean, down to the tiniest mole up near his hairline, catt y-corner from the arch of his right eyebrow. When he’s stubbed his toe, or when he feel s as though the rest of the world is speaking an obscure tribal language that he can’t p ossibly understand, he has a way of knitting his brows together so that his forehead re sembles a children’s science museum exhibit. Ancient Geologic Forms. The Landscape of J upiter. Your Brain on Drugs. He was doing it now. He was talking too, though I can’t say I was paying much attention. “Look at me, please,” he was saying (I think). “Wou ld you please look at me when I talk.” I decided I’d finished with him. Without turning my neck, I shifted my eyes from his forehead and started in on hers. I wanted my study to be comprehensive. “Ridiculous,” he said. “A simple conversation.” “John,” she said. “Let’s not.” And then from below what I can only describe as a perfectly taut canvas of pale skin, eyebrows that n ever even jiggled with emotion, her voice chirped unconvincingly, “Oh, look! Our burgers!” The waitress laid our platters in front of us. I fe lt around on my plate for my burger, touching my knife first. I wondered if this was wha t it had been like for Helen Keller. Except that she couldn’t hear anything either. Luck y girl. Because try as I might to shut out the sound, I cou ld hear things. The slam of glasses on the wooden counter behind me. Silverware clatter ing against plates and teeth. A country singer crooning from the jukebox about givi ng a penny for my thoughts, a nickel for my heart. The waitress yelling over the crowd t o a favorite customer: “What’d ya catch me this time, Derek? An eighty-pounder?” It was getting harder and harder to continue my stu dy. I wouldn’t have minded seeing what an eighty-pounder looked like. What it even wa s. I took a bite of my burger. The bun tasted like straw. “Lida,” my dad said. “Please.” I allowed my gaze to travel back over and down. His eyes were round and a little moist, and I felt embarrassed for him. A grown man should not cry in public, especially not in a roadside diner in the middle of bear country. It’s just unseemly. I blinked at him. “How’s your burger?” he asked hopefully. I set it back in its red plastic basket and looked over at my stepmother. If she had been glaring at me before, she did a great job of c overing it with an indulgent smile. “Flat,” I said. “Boring. Kind of depressed.” “Your burger is depressed.” She was almost glaring again. “Your burger has feelings.”
She paused. “Really. Mine’s just a burger.” There were virtually seismic shifts occurring on my dad’s forehead. He put his hand on her arm and looked from her to me and back again . “I don’t want to leave things this way,” he said. H e looked straight at me. “Lida, you have the rest of the year to hate us on your own ti me. Let it be for just this once.” Then he turned and whispered something in my stepmother’ s ear, and she drew her shoulders back a little before whispering something in response. Meaning, she didn’t agree with whatever he’d said. Meaning, he wasn’t letting her off the hook either. I looked around the restaurant. We were in Hindman, Idaho. Population: 148. Stoplights: 0. Diners named after the town: 1. Perc entage of the town population that appeared to be in said diner on this nondescript Ju ne afternoon: 100. From what I could tell, percentage of the town who were men: about 99 . Every table in the wood-paneled room was full. A chandelier made out of antlers hun g over the bar, where big men crouched on stools like Ping-Pong balls on toothpic ks. One guy in a camo jacket towered over the jukebox in the corner, rattling qu arters around in his football-sized fist. Not the sort of place to start a fight, not without knowing who your friends are first. “Did you hear what I said?” My dad tapped the table with one finger. “Lida, are you listening to me?” “Absolutely,” I said, turning back to the table and smiling at both of their foreheads. If my dad wanted to end things on a false note, that w as fine with me. As long as it meant shehad to play along too. “So,” I said, picking up my burger again and giving it another go. “What do the two of you have planned for the ne xt few months? Cooking classes? Couples’ yoga?” Then I laughed, a short little tril l that I had been practicing in the bathroom at home. Terri looked sharply at me and op ened her mouth, but I soldiered on. This time I tried for sincerity. “No, I mean, really. Got any plans?” My dad shifted in his seat. “I doubt there will be time for much besides the usual,” he said. “The department is understaffed again this ye ar, and I’ve agreed to pick up another class.” “Huh,” I said. “Well, that’s a surprise.” My dad is a professor of applied economics at Idaho State College, a Podunk institution in Bruno, a Podunk town in a Podunk sta te. He’s always agreeing to pick up another class, and he always complains about it. No t that he’d know what to do with himself if he had any spare time. He’d probably jus t start worrying about me full-time, instead of the kind of part-time instructorship of worry that he’s allotted for me so far. And nobody wants that to happen. He looked back over at Terri, who gave him a little smile as if to say,Well, why not? “We might find time to take a little vacation,” he added, and shrugged apologetically. Now it was his turn to avoid eye contact. “Terri ha s —we have— always wanted to visit New York. Might be nice. Central Park in the autumn .” “Nic e.”Don’t care, don’t care, don’t care.have to send me a postcard.” I “You’ll paused. “If I can even get mail up there.” “Lida, don’t be dramatic,” said Terri. “I’m sure yo u can receive mail. I’m sure you’ll have everything you need at the school. It’s not li ke it’s the military or anything.” She laughed weakly. My dad leaned forward. “Well,” he said hesitantly, “of course you can get letters from home. I think you can even write and send your own, once the subject matter has been
approved. But there’s no phone use, and no Internet . It’s supposed to be rugged,” he added, catching a glimpse of my face. “I thought we talked about this, Bun.” We had. We’d talked about it all spring. We’d talke d about it when I stayed home from school. We’d talked about it on the weekends, when I was grounded and sitting with my back against my bedroom door, listening to the drone of his voice on the other side. We’d talked about it in my dad’s last-ditch e ffort at family counseling, which was as useless as ever. And we’d talked about it after I’d gotten back from the hospital. We’d talked about it a lot then. Problem was, only my dad talked. I listened. And we all know how brilliant my listening skills were.
It wasn’t going to be pleasant. This much I knew. I had spent the previous weekend packing according to a glossy list that the Alice M arshall School had sent in one of their brochures, the pamphlet entitledNuts and Bolts and Other Necessities. The first page had a little disclaimer, stating that nuts and bolt s were not actually allowed at the school. It was a figure of speech, the pamphlet sai d, and then it went on to list other items that were also prohibited. The usual suspects : guns, ammo, knives, cigarettes, drugs, fireworks, bows and arrows. (That one made m e pause.) And then more things that I couldn’t bring with me: candy, short skirts, stilettos (as if I owned any), combat boots, graphic T-shirts, tools and hardware (which explained the nuts and bolts comment, I guess), a computer and cell phone, and — this one was the worst — my iPod. It was completely demoralizing, and I said so, yell ing down the hall and into the kitchen, where I knew my dad and Terri were drinkin g their coffee. Terri yelled back that it wouldn’t be the biggest loss, seeing as how I’d had my iPod taken away the previous week anyway. I slammed my door. Then I opened it an d slammed it shut again, just for good measure. There were two more lists, one much longer than the other, on the next page of the pamphlet. The first list (the longer one) included all of the things that I absolutely had to bring with me.We Ask That You Bring Only the Exact Amounts Listed, the pamphlet said.Storage Space Is Limited, and We Frown Upon Excess. “We frown upon excess”? I felt like I was on my way either to boot camp or high tea with the Queen Mum. Regardless, it was pretty stringent for a place tha t cost at least half of my dad’s salary. So it was up to me to choose which five T-shirts, w hich three sweaters, which two pairs of shorts, and which three pairs of jeans (Of a Boot-cut or Straight-leg Style, Not Tight or “Skinny”)ing more partial towould bring. I’m not exactly a clothes hound, be  I hooded sweatshirts than glittery halter tops, but e ven I found the list to be restrictive. Into the bag went my four favorite gray T-shirts an d a black one, three of my hoodies, and both pairs of jeans (I didn’t have a third). I ignored the suggestion about shorts. To this sad collection I added seven pairs of underwea r, six pairs of socks (I assumed that on the seventh day we would all go barefoot), my pl astic rain poncho, a knit cap of my dad’s that I quietly pilfered from the hall closet, a fleece jacket, tennis shoes, flip-flops, and the new hiking boots that Terri had bought for me the week before. I tossed in a swimsuit, the tags still attached, even though I kn ew there wasn’t a chance in hell I’d be putting it on. It all barely filled my backpack. Bu g repellant, a flashlight, my headlamp (also new), and sunscreen finished the list.
I looked at my backpack. It was one of those hiking packs designed for long treks in the Andes or along the Appalachian Trail. My dad ha d said something about doing some hiking up at the school, and this pack was one of the necessities on the list. I picked it up with one hand. It was heavy. If they t hought I’d be carting this monster around on my back, they were in for some serious di sappointment. I decided to bring as few items as I could from the second, shorter list. Recommended Items, it said.For Personal Enjoyment and Downtime. The pamphlet suggested books, journals, letter-writing materials , and playing cards. Enough diversions for a retirement home. I threw in the pu rple journal that Terri had left on my pillow that morning. (I knew it was from her becaus e my father, at least, would never choose a book with a unicorn prancing across the co ver.) No need to throw in paper for letters, I thought. There was no one to write to. I looked at the list again. Aside from Solitaire, there weren’t many card games I could pl ay alone. And I definitely didn’t intend on sitting around with some other lame, dama ged girl, playing Speed or War or some shit. I walked over to my bedside table and opened the dr awer, pulling out the mess of loose paper and pens that I kept stuffed in there. At the bottom, underneath a copy of How My Body Works), I found myto prevent anyone from looking further  (guaranteed pack of cigarettes and my X-ACTO knife. I wedged th em both into one of the hiking boots, with a sock stuffed in for good measure. I q uickly unpacked the clothes and put the boots in the very bottom of the bag before pili ng everything else on top again. I finished by cramming my sleeping bag in, and then I stepped back and looked at the pack. I was already looking forward to Downtime.
Now I wanted a cigarette. Desperately. I was surrou nded by the clatter of the restaurant and the exuberant sounds of other people enjoying t hemselves, and I just wanted a smoke. It would look conspicuous, I thought, if I e xcused myself, walked out to the car, rummaged around in my pack before walking around th e side of the building, and came back five minutes later with a breath mint in my mo uth. My dad and Terri may be gullible and naïve, but they’re not dead. I sat on my hands and took a deep breath. One. Two. Three. “Anyway,” my dad was saying, “we’ll definitely see you on Parents’ Weekend, and that’s not too far-off.” “September,” I pointed out, “is in three months.” My dad smiled as though he’d caught me missing him before he was gone. “That’s not so long, Lida.” Not long enough, I thought. Terri looked toward the door. “Where is this woman? ” she asked. “Do we even know what she looks like, this . . .” She rummaged in th e pocket of her jeans, pulling out a slip of paper and reading the name. “This Margaret Olsen . How will we know her? How will she know us?” “The sullen teenager you’re sitting with might be a clue,” I said. I was feeling very helpful. “Lida,” my dad said. “Please try. Just try up there , okay? Will you do that for me?” I hated this.This is what happened near the end of every “conversati on” I had with