And for the next four years.

Until Evangeline vanished.



Since my summers were all spent at the Lee family beach house on Pawleys Island, my birthdays were celebrated with a picnic, then an excursion to Gay Dolphin Park on the Myrtle Beach boardwalk. I loved those amusement park outings, especially the Wild Mouse ride, white-knuckling up, down, and around narrow tracks, heart banging, cotton candy rising in my throat.

Good stuff. But I never got to bring cupcakes to school.

I turned eight that summer after Daddy died. Mama gave me a pink jewelry box with a music player and pop- up ballerina. Harry crayoned a family portrait, two big and two little stick figures, fingers spread and overlapping, no one smiling. Gran’s gift was a copy of Anne of Green Gables.

Though Gran prepared the traditional picnic of red velvet cake, fried chicken, boiled shrimp, potato salad, deviled eggs, and biscuits, there was no postprandial roller-coaster jaunt that year. Harry got sunburned and Mama got a migraine, so I stayed alone on the beach, reading about Anne’s adventures with Marilla and Matthew.

I didn’t notice her at first. She blended with the white noise of surf and seabirds. When I looked up she was less than two yards from me, skinny arms spiking from palmed hips.

Wordlessly, we assessed each other. From her height I guessed she had a year or two on me, though her waist was still child-thick, her faded swimsuit still flat on her chest.

She spoke first, jabbing a thumb at my book. “I’ve been there.”

“Have not,” I said.

“I’ve seen the Queen of England.” Wind danced the dark tangle on her head, lifting and dropping strands like shoppers deciding on ribbons.

“Have not,” I repeated, immediately felt stupid. “The queen lives in a palace in London.”

The girl dragged wind-forced curls from her eyes. “I was three. My grand-pere held me up so I could see.”

Her English was accented, neither the flat, nasal twang of the Midwest, nor the vowel-bloating drawl of the Southeastern seaboard. I hesitated, uncertain.

“What did she look like?”

“She wore gloves and a lilac hat.”

“Where was this?” Skeptical.


The guttural r sounded excitingly foreign to my eight-year-old ear.

“Where’s that?”

En Acadie.”

“Never heard of it.”

“‘This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks.’”

I squinted up at her, unsure what to say.

“It’s a poem.”

“I’ve been to the Art Institute in Chicago,” I said, feeling the need to match poetry with an equally high-brow response. “They have lots of famous pictures, like the people in the park painted with dots.”

“I’m staying with my aunt and uncle,” the girl said.

“I’m visiting my grandmother.” I didn’t mention Harry or Mama. Or Kevin. Or Daddy.

A Frisbee arced to earth between the girl and the ocean. I watched a boy scoop it and send it sailing with a backhanded toss.

“You can’t really go to Green Gables,” I said.

“Yes, you can.”

“It’s not real.”

“It is.” The girl worked one brown toe in the sand.

“Today is my birthday,” I said, at a loss to come up with anything better.

“Bonne fete.”

“That Italian?”


My school in Beverly had offered French, the pet project of a Francophile nun named Sister Mary Patrick. Though my exposure had gone little beyond bonjour, I knew this girl sounded nothing like the language teacher who’d come to my first-and second-grade classes.

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