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Excerpt from Dead Letter by Samantha DuBois

AUGUST, 1979

“I bet you’ll never find me, kiddo!”

Her mother’s mirthful laugh jangled through the still summer air. Nancy peered through her tiny fingers as she counted, spying the soles of her mother’s feet as she ran through the grass. 

“Ready or not!” Nancy yelled, opening her eyes wide. The front yard looked more vivid – more alive – and her stomach fluttered, equally thrilled by the chase and panicked that her mother had disappeared. She ran through the yard and into the house, squealing when she turned the handle on the closet door and found her mother crouched inside among the winter coats.

“Clever girl!” her mother cried. She stretched out her arms and Nancy bounded into her embrace, feeling the cool enamel of her mother’s union pin against her flushed skin. Flyaway hairs from Laura Drew’s bouncy, dark blonde curls tickled Nancy’s nose as she burrowed into her mother’s neck. She smelled like sandalwood and lemon, warm and bright all at once.

Lightning bugs dotted the yard with constellations as the sun set, signaling the end of summer. Their floating orbs so entranced Nancy that she hardly noticed when her mother said goodbye. 


Almost forty years later, the memory felt more like a dream. But if Nancy could focus her mind, and block out all distractions, she could still hear her mother’s voice echo through the humid air at dusk. She could still hear the tires roll across the gravel as her mother guided her Mercedes Coupe down the Drews’ long drive. The brand-new convertible was a devilish midnight blue, a shade that promoted stealth and begged for speed, and Laura insisted upon driving it with the top down, even when it rained. That one detail had always nagged at Nancy and her father: why the abandoned car, parked at the edge of Claymore Bridge, didn’t have the top down.


Nancy knew her mother must have kissed her on the cheek as she left, and told her to be a good girl, and even said, “I love you.” But when she scoured the depths of her memory, she could only hear one phrase, set to her mother’s ringing laughter. I bet you’ll never find me.


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