Read 99 Days Online

Authors: Katie Cotugno

99 Days

First published in 2015 by Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollin’s Publishers 10 East 53rd St, New York, NY10022

First published in Great Britain in 2015 by

Quercus Publishing Ltd
Carmelite House
50 Victoria Embankment
London EC4Y 0DZ

Copyright © 2015 by Alloy Entertainment and Katie Cotugno

The moral right of Alloy Entertainment and Katie Cotugno to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

Ebook ISBN 978 1 78206 003 1
Print ISBN 978 1 78206 002 4

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places and events are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

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Also by Katie Cotugno

How to Love


This one’s for the girls

Day 1

Julia Donnelly eggs my house the first night I’m back in Star Lake, and that’s how I know everyone still remembers everything.

“Quite the welcome wagon,” my mom says, coming outside to stand on the lawn beside me and survey the runny yellow damage to her lopsided lilac Victorian. There are yolks smeared down all the windows. There are eggshells in the shrubs. Just past ten in the morning, and it’s already starting to smell rotten, sulfurous and baking in the early summer sun. “They must have gone to Costco to get all those eggs.”

“Can you not?” My heart is pounding. I’d forgotten this, or tried to, what it was like before I ran away from here a year ago: Julia’s reign of holy terror, designed with ruthless precision to bring me to justice for all my various capital crimes. The bottoms of my feet are clammy inside my lace-up boots. I glance over my shoulder at the sleepy street beyond the long, windy driveway, half expecting to see her cruising by in her family’s ancient Bronco, admiring her handiwork. “Where’s the hose?”

“Oh, leave it.” My mom, of course, is completely unbothered, the toss of her curly blond head designed to let me know I’m overreacting. Nothing is a big deal when it comes to my mother: The President of the United States could egg her house, her house itself could
burn down
, and it would turn into not a big deal.
It’s a good story
, she used to say whenever I’d come to her with some little-kid unfairness to report, no recess or getting picked last for basketball.
Remember this for later, Molly.
It’ll make a good story someday.
It never occurred to me to ask which one of us would be doing the telling. “I’ll call Alex to come clean it up this afternoon.”

“Are you kidding?” I say shrilly. My face feels red and blotchy, and all I want to do is make myself as small as humanly possible—the size of a dust mote, the size of a speck—but there’s no way I’m letting my mom’s handyman spray a half-cooked omelet off the front of the house just because everyone in this town thinks I’m a slut and wants to remind me. “I said where’s the
, Mom?”

“Watch the tone, please, Molly.” My mom shakes her head resolutely. Somewhere under the egg and the garden I can smell her, the lavender-sandalwood perfume she’s worn since I was a baby. She hasn’t changed at all since I left here: the silver rings on every one of her fingers, her tissue-thin black cardigan and her ripped jeans. When I was little I thought my mom was the most beautiful woman in the world. Whenever she’d go on tour, reading from her fat novels in bookstores in New York City and Chicago and L.A., I used to lie on my stomach in the Donnellys’ living room and look at the author photos on the backs of all her books. “Don’t you blame me; I’m not the one who did this to you.”

I turn on her then, standing on the grass in this place I never wanted to come back to, not in a hundred million years. “Who would you like me to
, then?” I demand. For a second I let myself remember it, the cold, sick feeling of seeing the article in
for the first time in April of junior year, along with the grossest, juiciest scenes from the novel and a glossy picture of my mom leaning against her desk:
Diana Barlow’s latest novel
, Driftwood,
was based on her daughter’s complicated relationship with two local boys
. The knowing in my ribs and stomach and spine that now everyone else would know, too. “Who?”

For a second my mom looks completely exhausted, older than I ever think of her as being—glamorous or not, she was almost forty when she adopted me, is close to sixty now. Then she blinks, and it’s gone. “Molly—”

“Look, don’t.” I hold up a hand to stop her, wanting so, so badly not to talk about it. To be anywhere other than here. Ninety-nine days between now and the first day of freshman orientation in Boston, I remind myself, trying to take a deep breath and not give in to the overwhelming urge to bolt for the nearest bus station as fast as my two legs can carry me—not as fast, admittedly, as they might have a year ago. Ninety-nine days, and I can leave for college and be done.

My mom stands in the yard and looks at me: She’s barefoot like always, dark nails and a tattoo of a rose on her ankle like a cross between Carole King and the first lady of a motorcycle gang.
It’ll make a great story someday
. She
that, she
me what was going to happen, so really there’s no earthly reason to still be so baffled after all this time that I told her the worst, most secret, most important thing in my life—and she wrote a best-selling book about it.

“The hose is in the shed,” she finally says.

“Thank you.” I swallow down the phlegmy thickness in my throat and head for the backyard, squirming against the sour, panicky sweat I can feel gathered at the base of my backbone. I wait until I’m hidden in the blue-gray shade of the house before I let myself cry.

Day 2

I spend the next day holed up in my bedroom with the blinds closed, eating Red Vines and watching weird Netflix documentaries on my laptop, hiding out like a wounded fugitive in the last third of a Clint Eastwood movie. Vita, my mom’s ornery old tabby, wanders in and out as she likes. Everything up here is the same as I left it: blue-and-white striped wallpaper, the cheerful yellow rug, the fluffy gray duvet on the bed. The
Golly, Molly
artwork a designer friend of my mom’s did when I was a baby hanging above the desk, right next to a bulletin board holding my track meet schedule from junior year and a photo of me at the Donnellys’ farmhouse with Julia and Patrick and Gabe, my mouth wide open mid-laugh. Even my hairbrush is still sitting on the dresser, the one I forgot to take with me in my mad dash out of Star Lake after the
article, like it was just waiting for me to come crawling all the way back here with a head full of knots.

It’s the photo I keep catching myself looking at, though, like there’s some kind of karmic magnet attached to the back of it drawing my attention from clear across the room. Finally, I haul myself out of bed and pull it down to examine more closely: It’s from their family party the summer after freshman year, back when Patrick and I were dating. The four of us are sitting sprawled on the ratty old couch in the barn behind the farmhouse, me and all three Donnellys, Julia in the middle of saying something snarky and Patrick with his arm hooked tight around my waist. Gabe’s looking right at me, although I never actually noticed that until after everything happened. Just holding the stupid picture feels like pressing on a bruise.

Patrick’s not even home this summer, I know from creeping him on Facebook. He’s doing some volunteer program in Colorado, clearing brush and learning to fight forest fires just like he always dreamed of doing when we were little and running around in the woods behind his parents’ house. There’s no chance of even bumping into him around town.

Probably there’s no good reason to feel disappointed about that.

I slap the photo facedown on the desktop and climb back under the covers, pushing Vita onto the carpet—this room has been hers and the dog’s in my absence; the sticky layer of pet hair has made that much abundantly clear. When I was a kid, living up here made me feel like a princess, tucked in the third-floor turret of my mom’s old haunted house. Now, barely a week after high school graduation, it makes me feel like one again—trapped in a magical tower, with no place in the whole world to go.

I dig the last Red Vine out of the cellophane package just as Vita hops right back up onto the pillow beside me. “Get out, Vita,” I order, pushing her gently off again and rolling my eyes at the haughty flick of her feline tail as she stalks out the door, fully expecting her to turn up again almost immediately.

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