Lies my Girlfriend told meAges: 14 and up Print Length: 247 pages Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (June 10, 2014) Publication Date: June 10, 2014 Language: English ASIN: B00FPQA54K
When Alix's charismatic girlfriend, Swanee, dies from sudden cardiac arrest, Alix is overcome with despair. As she searches Swanee's room for mementos of their relationship, she finds Swanee's cell phone, pinging with dozens of texts sent from a mysterious contact, L.T. The most recent text reads: "Please tell me what I did. Please, Swan. Te amo. I love you."
Shocked and betrayed, Alix learns that Swanee has been leading a double life--secretly dating a girl named Liana the entire time she's been with Alix. Alix texts Liana from Swanee's phone, pretending to be Swanee in order to gather information before finally meeting face-to-face to break the news.
Brought together by Swanee's lies, Alix and Liana become closer than they'd thought possible. But Alix is still hiding the truth from Liana. Alix knows what it feels like to be lied to--but will coming clean to Liana mean losing her, too?
On the kitchen table and counters are casserole dishes and sandwich trays, potato salad, veggies and dip, tortilla rolls, shrimp rounds, mini quiches.
A voice sounds behind me. “I was hoping you’d get up at the service and talk about Swanee,” Jewell says. “Maybe share some special memory?”
I try to smile at Swanee’s mom. I want to explain that in our short time together there were so few memories that I don’t have any I want to share.
“Eat,” Jewell says. “Asher ordered enough food for an army.”
“Jewell, the Zarlengos are here,” Swanee’s dad calls from the living room and Jewell hustles off.
As I’m meandering through the crowd to let Mom and Dad know we can leave now, I stop in my tracks. At the end of the hall is Swanee’s room. The door is closed, but I feel her presence. She’s waiting for me. I know when I open the door, she’ll jump out and shout, “Surprise!”
She’s such a prankster.
I twist the handle, push, and… nothing.
She is here, though. Her essence. I know this room so well: the clothes and shoes on the floor; the bed, dresser, desk, closet, the cacophony of colors on the walls. Smears of blue and green and purple over a base of blood red. We were going to repaint her room and she couldn’t decide what color, so we were trying different swatches. She never did decide. All her movie posters are still up. She was a Johnny Depp fangirl. She has pictures of him everywhere, movie posters from Edward Scissorhands, Pirates, Finding Neverland, Alice in Wonderland. She even got newsletters from his online fan club. Joss, her sister, was a member, too.
Netflixing Johnny Depp movies was one thing we could do at my house. She was so mesmerized by him it was like I wasn’t even there. Except that one time both Mom and Dad had to leave for a while and asked if I’d watch my baby brother, Ethan. “Sure,” Swanee said before I could object. Why did she choose that day to forget about her obsession with Johnny Depp and focus on me?
Her bookcase is filled with trinkets, toys, old dolls. Next to the bookcase are stacks of books. The first time she brought me here, I remember saying, “Did you know you were supposed to put your books in the bookcase?”
She gasped. “Seriously?”
Her track trophies are displayed on every available surface—dresser, desk, nightstand, window sill, floor. One time I tried to count all her trophies. I got to sixty-five before giving up. She has Arvada High Bulldog paraphernalia everywhere—pins and banners and caps. How does someone in her shape just drop dead?
I want to feel her, smell her, see her one last time. I want to taste—
I’m startled by the pinging of her cell. It’s on her bed inside an oversized plastic envelope. I walk over and read the envelope. Hospital issued. Swanee’s clothes and shoes are in it, too. This must’ve been what she was wearing.
Why hasn’t Jewell unpacked the bag? Unless she just couldn’t bear to.
I unzip it and pull out the shirt, lift it to my face. Swanee’s scent is so strong, it steals my breath away. When I close my eyes to inhale her, the phone pings again. I know that ringtone. A text message.
Who would be calling? Surely everyone knows by now. The phone stops before I find it, and I pull out Swan’s sweatpants. They’re folded, like the shirt was. If I unfold everything, will Jewell get mad? I’ll make sure to replace the contents exactly as I found them. The cell pings again and I dig to the bottom. It’s inside her shoe, so maybe Jewell didn’t see or hear it. Maybe a nurse packed Swanee’s belongings. Her cell is so distinctive, with its glittery purple cover and bejeweled S W A N on the back. It glows in the dark.
Only Swan would have a glow-in-the-dark phone.
I slide to Unlock the cell and see numerous text and voice mails. I can’t answer her voice mails because I don’t know her password. I can read her text messages, though. There are 108 unanswered ones. Who in the world…?
The first was sent the day Swanee died. 5:10 a.m.
Buenos dias cariño. Hope you had a good run. Call me when you get home
Who sent this? I was still asleep, still oblivious. Happy. Whole. The caller is LT.
LT. I don’t know anyone with those initials.
We met on a ski trip the Wednesday after Christmas. My bff Betheny and I were in ski club at the time and had planned to go to Winter Park, but Betheny called that morning with bad cramps. Even though we’d already bought the lift tickets, I considered not going, since I hate doing things alone. Ethan was home from the hospital and I should’ve asked Mom or Dad if they needed me to stay and help out. With chores. Not Ethan. He scares me. He seems so fragile I’m constantly afraid I’ll drop him or do something hideously wrong that’ll damage him forever.
In the end selfish me decided she deserved a break from the crying and coughing and sleep deprivation.
The ski bus was packed by the time I boarded. There was only one empty row, so I snatched it up. Most people from ski club I knew enough to smile and say “hi” to, but I sort of rode on Betheny’s wings. She’d always been the popular one. She made the cheer squad this year, and even though we’d been friends since elementary, I sometimes felt totally outside her new flock of friends.
It wasn’t her fault. I’m just insecure, I guess.
As I was digging out my nano, I heard, “Is this seat taken?”
I looked up and saw Swanee. My stomach did a double flip. Of course I knew who she was. Super athlete. Most out lesbian in school. I think every other gay and bi girl lusted after her from afar. At the beginning of the year she was with this girl, Rachel Carter? Carver? Then I heard through the GSA grapevine that Rachel had moved. I didn’t know if they were still together or not.
“Hello?” Swanee said. “Sprekken zee Anglaise?”
“Huh? Oh, no. I mean, yes.” Shit, I thought. Could I sound more dense? I moved my pack off the empty seat.
“You’re Alix, right?”
She slid her pack under the seat in front while my mouth gaped open. “I’m Swanee,” she said.
She knew my name. It took a force of nature for me to breathe out, “Hi.”
“A friend was going to come with me today, but she’s sprained her ankle. Did we meet at Rainbow Alley?”
Rainbow Alley is Denver’s LGBTQI Center. “I don’t think so. I haven’t been there in a while.”
“Me neither. Oh, I know.” She aimed an index finger at me. “You’re in the GSA at school.”
“Yeah.” Even though I hadn’t attended many meetings this year, since Betheny was always so busy.
“And you hang with the cheers.” She sort of wrinkled her nose.
“Just one,” I said. “Betheny. My best friend.”
Swanee’s eyebrows raised. “Is that all she is? Because everyone assumes…” The sentence dangled.
“What?” Everyone who?
I might’ve let out a snort. Like a boar. “Betheny’s not gay.”
“You sure of that?”
“A hundred percent,” I said. “She would’ve told me when I came out to her.” In seventh grade. She was fine with it. In fact, she said she’d suspected as much.
Swanee held my eyes. Hers were so crystalline clear I could see to the bottom of the sea. “But do you like her that way?”
“No.” I hoped the heat in my cheeks didn’t register on the Scoville scale. I’d wondered myself, and even fantasized about kissing Betheny. But it was only because I wanted so badly to find someone to love.
The bus rumbled off and Swanee sighed. I remember I couldn’t stop peering at her in my peripheral vision. She had this long strawberry blond hair with a streak of blue down my side. I’d asked Mom if I could highlight my hair, since it’s this unremarkable shade of “dishwater” blond, sort of like splash back on your windshield after a snowmelt, and she said absolutely not, that I already had beautiful auburn highlights. I don’t know where she was looking, but it wasn’t my mirror.
We weren’t even to I-70 yet before Swanee sighed again and said, “I really hate skiing alone. Want to—”
“Yes.” I cut her off.
She laughed and I about died of embarrassment.
We fell into this easy conversation and by the time we were riding home, we were snuggling under a blanket and giggling our heads off…