In the years since, her family have papered over the cracks of their grief – while hoping against hope that Julie is still arrive.
And then, one night, the doorbell rings.
Gripping, shocking, and deviously clever, Good as Gone is perfect for fans of The Girl on the Train and The Ice Twins – and will keep readers guessing until the final page.
Deleted Scene (Spoiler Free)
A note from Amy:
In this scene we find ‘Gretchen’ talking to Cal about her past with Will.
Cal is perfect. He’s like “Stairway to Heaven,” which Will used to say was so perfect it was almost silly. Sometimes Gretchen snickers to herself when he’s cleaning the counter or trimming his fingernails. She’s never seen anyone behave like this. Everything in the house is clean, clean, clean.
She watches TV during the day when he’s at work. She knows she should get a job up here in Seattle, and soon – something in a restaurant, maybe, or tending bar. Cal has asked, shyly, if she wants to try singing. She looks at him like he’s crazy.
“Will would find me,” she says. “He has friends up here on the scene. Remember?”
“I remember,” Cal says, taking the bait as if it were a real offer. “He’ll find out where you are eventually, if he looks.”
He won’t, she thinks. “He’ll find someone else.”
“Yeah, but he has your stuff.”
Gretchen’s hand goes automatically to her anklet, the horse charm poking familiarly at her fingers. “I don’t need it.”
“Tell me where he lives,” he says. “I’m going to get your things.”
“I don’t need them.”
They’re Violet’s, she thinks.
“Gretchen, I’m not afraid of him. I won’t cause any trouble, and I won’t tell him where you are. Just let me do this.”
“I’ll come with you,” she says, to be difficult.
“If you want to,” he says, surprising her. She thought he would insist on doing it alone.
“Okay,” she says. “Saturday.”
When Saturday comes, her mouth feels dry and she’s a little shaky. They get in the car early, after a cup of coffee and some scrambled eggs. They’ve decided to take the 5 straight down – “get it over with,” Cal says – and go back along the scenic highway, if there’s still time. For a treat.
The way the car is pointing – she almost can’t stand it. It feels like being on a train facing the wrong direction, that second after you wake up and you see the landscape rushing away from you and it feels like you’re hurtling backward. She is going the wrong way down a one-way street. It turns her stomach inside out.
Cal looks calm, and he doesn’t say much during the drive. But he keeps his hand, unnecessarily, on the gear shift, and eventually he inches it toward her knee and puts it there, and there it stays. Her hand slips over it, and then she curls her fingers around his knuckles.
When they see the Portland city limits, she shudders a little, a queasy little shudder. She almost tells him to pull the car over.
“How you doing?” he asks. They’re his first words in about a hundred miles.
“I’m okay,” she says. “Listen, maybe we should stop and get some lunch first.”
“Let’s get this over with. We can get lunch afterward.”
“I’m not – ” She stalls out on the words.
“If you want, we can get a motel room,” he says. “You can stay there while I do it.”
She thinks about sitting in a motel, the urge to run screaming in every cell. She thinks about how sitting in the lobby until she sees someone with a suitcase and asking them if she can catch a ride to the airport. How long would it take her to convince the next man to take her along, how far she’ll go this time. The calculation makes her head hurt.
“It’s okay, I’ll come,” she says. “I’ll sit out in the car.”
They are in Southeast now, coming off the 5, crossing the Hawthorne bridge. She lived in Portland for what, a year? But the sights just on the other side of the bridge are almost painful for her to see. The Hawthorne Strip with its sad marquee flies past, dingy and heartbreaking. A surge of nausea reminds her or lying on her back on stage, legs propped in the air, helicoptering her legs, back when she was Violet. She feels nostalgic for that particular cage. In the club, she had to walk over to whoever had the dollar bills out, but it was a kind of freedom anyway. She remembers so vividly lying in the creaking old house behind the club, those moments all alone, with the thin walls separating her from her anonymous housemates, feeling an unmoored sort of freedom of the flesh. Belonging to no one but herself.
But it wasn’t sustainable, and so she’d gone first to Lina, then to Will. Then to Cal. It was, after all, better to belong to somebody for a while, or make them think you did. That was freedom, too.
They get to Will’s house. Cal parks the Honda by the curb, close up to a scraggly, overgrown hedge that she used to get tangled in when she wasn’t paying attention. There had been rose bushes along the curb at one point, but the hedge had been allowed to choke them. She can see Cal walk up the uneven path to the porch through a bare patch. The windows are cracked open and she can hear his loafers clicking evenly, one, two, three, four, five, and he’s climbing the front steps. Then she hears the tinny, far-away sound of Cal’s voice.
Then another sound reaches her that sends a chill over her skin. It pierces the distance to the car and the overgrown hedge easily, so easily it seems almost as if it were aimed straight at her. It’s laughter. She knows it belongs to Will, because it conjures his square whitish-blue jaw immediately, his crystal blue eyes.
“Is that what she told you her name is?” she hears, and then a barrage of other words that come fast and shrill: “Where is she? Violet! Is she out there? Is she in the car?”
Gretchen shrinks, her heart hammering so hard it hurts the inside of her head. She looks at the ignition, even though she knows she won’t see keys dangling from it. She considers opening the door into the scratchy hedge. Why did Cal trap her like this? She would have to climb over the gear shift and open the driver’s side door to get away. She thinks about it, she wonders how far she’ll get.
Then it’s over. There’s a tense exchange of words, and Will retreats into the house and the door slams. Across the street, someone starts playing some Jimmy Cliff on a stereo. All the windows are open; it’s a beautiful day. Someone is just waking up, maybe. She wonders if Will’s shouting woke them. A woman walks past the car with a dog. Cal stands stock still on the porch. Gretchen’s mind starts to wander.
Finally, the door opens again, and her purse is shoved into Cal’s hands, along with a wad of clothing. There’s another fat wad of words spat with a smack into Cal’s face, and then the door slams again. Cal disappears temporarily, diving down below her sight line, and reappears again with a firmer hold on whatever he dropped. Then it’s down the porch stairs, and one, two, three, four, five, six, and the driver’s side door is opening with an unbelievably loud noise, and the world returns, like when your ear pops.
Cal puts the clothes in the back seat, and she has a brief flash of a band t-shirt and some underwear as it flies past her. He hands her purse to her, a clunky thing she bought at one of those Goodwill sorting centers where you buy things by the pound. It cost her 85 cents. For a moment she wishes he hadn’t retrieved it; it’s so much more tragically ugly than she remembers. Then she looks up at him. He’s starting the car.
“Thanks,” she says.
He just nods.
She waits for it, she waits all the way home. They take the scenic coastal highway back, and there’s so much to look at, but she’s not on the right side to look over the water, so she just stares out at the rocks and forest to the right. He puts a pair of sunglasses on. They stop at a cafe a couple of hours up the coast in a little tourist town and get lunch.
She waits for it. It doesn’t come.
When they get back to the house, she takes a bath, closes the door. He starts doing some laundry.
When they’re lying in bed, with the lights out, she says, “Cal.”
“I’m – sorry I didn’t tell you about Violet.”
The name drops like a rock between the two of them.
She can almost hear him swallow the word “Gretchen”, decide against it. “Look,” he says instead, “I know there’s been some fucked up shit in your life. I don’t need you to tell me all about it right now, if you don’t want to. But just so you know: you’re going to have to, eventually.”
She starts to say something.
“No,” he says. “I mean, don’t do it until you can tell me the truth. I’d rather not know than hear a bunch of – whatever you tell everybody else.”
Her mouth open, she considers the truth. She thinks of Charlotte. That’s bad. But then she thinks back further. She thinks back to Esther. And then, worst of all, the one she hurt the most. There’s Julie. Looking up at her through closed eyelids. She shuts her mouth.
“There are things I’ll never tell anyone, because if I try, they come out a lie,” Cal says after a moment. “But I can tell you some things.”
So instead of Gretchen talking, Cal talks. He talks about his mother making peanut butter cookies and letting him take showers in the back yard sprinkler in summertime and the beat-up Gremlin where she used to leave him sitting with the window cracked, and how when she came out of the grocery store his heart would leap out of the car and jump right into her body with her. When she left his father, walked away with a giant blue bruise covering one half of her face, even then, when he was four years old, he understood that she would die if she stayed.
“You stayed, though,” she says, and she thinks of the watery blue rims of his dark irises, like a thin residue of tears unshed.
“I didn’t have a choice,” he says.
“You stayed,” she says again. Then she carefully turns him onto his side, tucks herself around him, and holds him like that until they both fall asleep.