The Silent Daughter
Publication date: May 7th 2020
Genres: Adult, Psychological, Suspense
Schoolgirl missing, the ticker reads, and the camera cuts to a girl’s face. Blonde hair waterfalling over her shoulders, serious eyes, lips a little parted like she’s about to speak. That’s when I realize I’ve been holding my breath, because the gasp when I inhale almost chokes me.
Sadie Kelly has lost her job. Until last month, she was a teacher at Horton College – the same high school she went to ten years ago along with her best friend, Fiona. But Fiona died in an accident on their graduation night, in circumstances Sadie’s spent the last ten years trying to forget, and since then nothing’s been the same.
Now Sadie’s back where she grew up, jobless, and living temporarily with Fiona’s mother. But when she hears that Devon Hundley, a Horton schoolgirl, has gone missing, everything changes. Devon’s the daughter of Philip Hundley, a man Sadie knows all too well, and Sadie can’t stop thinking about the last time she saw Devon. It was the day Sadie left Horton for good, and heard Devon murmur four little words as she walked away. Four words Sadie prayed she had misheard:
I know your secret.
A gripping page-turner for fans of Kerry Lonsdale, Diane Chamberlain, and Liane Moriarty.
I lower my gaze to the grey headstone before us.
The familiar nausea churns in my stomach. Beside me, Jan kneels down and starts pulling small weeds from the headstone. The weeds are only ever small ones, because Jan comes here regularly. She watches over this little patch of earth. The lettering on the headstone is sharp and clear – I hear they carve them with lasers these days. I think for a moment what it might be like to be a gravestone carver. Quiet, I decide. Peaceful. The right kind of life for someone like me, the hermit I’ve become.
Jan places the little clump of pink freesias underneath the stone. She’s always calm and matter-of-fact when we visit her daughter’s grave, no tears. She just sees to the weeds and clucks her tongue whenever there are signs of youths drinking in the cemetery, empty cans or cigarette butts. She treats it like a living room that needs cleaning but it’s hard to know what she really feels – how much she’s recovered or ever will recover from the loss. It’s the one thing – okay, one of the two things – that I will never talk to Jan about. I just don’t have the words. And if I’m honest I probably don’t want to know what exactly she feels now. I can’t bear the guilt.
‘Okay love, we’ll be off now.’
I don’t know if it’s me or Fiona she’s talking to. The wind whips around her words, moving across the grass and shaking the spruce trees by the cemetery wall. Jan plants her hands on her thighs and levers herself back up from the ground. We link arms and I steer us back towards the parking lot.
‘You mustn’t worry about the job thing, Sadie,’ Jan says. ‘You know you can stay with me for as long as you like.’
‘I know,’ I say, and give her arm a squeeze through the raincoat.
‘Everybody needs a break sometimes,’ she goes on. ‘It’s nothing to be ashamed of.’
A break is a nice way to put it. She’s conveniently leaving out how I was asked to leave Horton College, and how I’ve been having periodic panic attacks since arriving back, jobless, to Milham. It’s frankly embarrassing. Jan’s house has always been a second home to me though. As for my actual home, Mom’s house is only a three-minute drive from Jan’s, but that door is closed to me these days.
‘I sometimes think that -’ Jan pauses. ‘I sometimes think it was my fault, Sadie.’
I stop walking, taken by surprise.
‘What do you mean? What was your fault?’
She sighs. ‘Well, you know. Driving you so hard. Pushing you. You never did ‘have a break’ growing up, did you? I was always pushing you to do more. You and Fiona. But Fiona was different. She never worked as hard as you did.’
She didn’t have to. Fiona was smart, smarter than me. Smarter than almost anybody. I touch the locket I always wear around my neck.
It’s true, Jan coached us, pushed us. But I always wanted to be pushed. I wanted to escape little Milham town every bit as much as Jan wanted me to. Everything she dreamed for us, I dreamed too. Harder than she knows.
I squeeze Jan’s arm again.
‘You were my fairy godmother. You still are. Don’t second guess yourself. And don’t worry about me. Something will come up.’
She turns her head just enough to look me in the face; her raincoat squeaks. She smiles at me.
‘You’re a good girl, Sadie.’ Her voice is kind, loving. ‘You always were.’
I drop my eyes from hers, focus on the parking lot. The drops are coming down thick now, enough that nobody could tell if it’s rain on my face or tears. I glance back. The wind is strong and the flowers are cheap, and there’s already a flutter of pink petals come loose, whipped up in the air like morbid confetti.
A good girl.
If only she knew.
I’m an author who writes suspense stories about ordinary women – women like the ones we all know and love – who find out that their ordinary lives may not be quite so ordinary after all! My hope is that you will root for them, fear for them, and find yourself holding your breath when the action starts to get a little hairy!
When I’m not doing writing, I can be found strolling the streets of Brooklyn, New York City, my adopted home, dodging pigeons and traffic. I moved here a little over eight years ago – I hail from Ireland originally – and never looked back. To me there’s nothing more wonderful than that feeling of finding – or making! – a new home, that mixture of excitement at finding a place in the world, and the comfort of being able to come back to it time and again. That’s what reading feels like for me… and for you too I suspect! It’s also the same joy I get from writing. I hope my books can become a kind of home for you too: a place where you can trust that you’ll find a wonderful adventure, and then land safe and sound at the end of it all, ready to do it all again another day!