Swimming at Night: A Novel

Swimming at Night: A Novel by Lucy Clarke Read Free Book Online

Book: Swimming at Night: A Novel by Lucy Clarke Read Free Book Online
Authors: Lucy Clarke
    “Katie,” he said quietly, “eventually you are going to have to let her go.”
    She ran her fingers over the sea-blue cover of the journal, imagining all the times Mia had written in it. She pictured her swinging lazily in a hammock, her tanned legs stretched in front of her, a pen moving lightly over the cream leaves. The journal contained the most intimate details of Mia’s thoughts, and Katie held it in her hands.
    “I can’t,” she said. “Not until I know what happened.”
    Ed sighed.
    She wondered whether he had already decided what had happened. In the time he’d known Mia, he had seen her at her worst—impetuous, wayward, and volatile—but he didn’t know the real Mia; the one who swam like a fish in the sea, who kicked off her shoes to dance, who loved catching hailstones in her palms. “It wasn’t suicide,” she said firmly.
    “Perhaps it wasn’t.”
    And there it was. The “perhaps.”
    She stood, picked up Mia’s empty backpack, and began carefully replacing items she had taken from it. From her own suitcase she grabbed a pile of clothes, her toiletries bag, and her passport, and squeezed them into the backpack, then buckled it shut. She shoved her suitcase in the wardrobe, closing the door with a satisfying smack: what good was a suitcase where she was going?
    Ed was on his feet. “You’re actually doing this?”
    “I am.”
    She could see he was hurt and that he wanted to say something more. There were a thousand reasons why she shouldn’t go: she had never traveled alone before; her career would suffer; she wasgrieving and would do better with company. They had been through all of these reservations, Ed giving pragmatic advice, just as she would have offered someone else. Only now she felt differently. Now it wasn’t about practicalities, risk assessment, or smart decision making. It was about her sister.

    (California, October Last Year)
    M ia’s legs rested on the dash of the battered Chevy they’d rented. She pressed her bare toes against the windscreen and then withdrew them, watching the toe prints of condensation slowly disappear. Beside her, Finn was drumming his thumbs against the steering wheel in time to a blues number playing on the radio.
    They were driving south along the famous Highway One, leaving San Francisco in their wake. They’d spent far more time there than intended, having been captivated by the city’s offbeat charm. On their first night they took a room in a cheap motel, dumped their backpacks, and went for dinner at a busy Thai restaurant that served incredible sweet chili prawns. The owner tipped them off about a basement club a couple of blocks away and, in spite of their jet lag, they found themselves drinking and dancing until their feet throbbed. They surfaced, hours later, to find dawn breaking over the city, and stumbled across an early-morning coffeehouse where they bought cinnamon bagels with fresh coffee and sat on the edge of the bay watching a pale-pink sun climb over Alcatraz.
    Low-lying fog stalked them down the coast and clung to the sea like a damp cloak obscuring any view of the horizon. Mia rolled down the window and stuck her head out, squinting towards the sky. “Sun’s coming out.”
    “I’ll stop at the next pull-off.”
    A few miles on was a gravel viewpoint on the cliff top. Sure enough, the sun was burning through the fog to unveil a rugged, grassy coastline. Wildflower-strewn cliffs, which she imagined would be spectacular in spring, staggered down to an untamed bay frothing with white water.
    She stepped from the car barefoot, interlocked her fingers above her head, and stretched, her stomach pulling taut. The air fizzed with salt and she inhaled, closing her eyes.
    Finn leaned against the car with his arms folded loosely over his chest. “Look at this place.”
    “You want to go down?”
    They found a narrow footpath that wound down the impressive cliff face, cutting back and forth to

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