Filled with humor, raw emotion, a strong voice, and a brilliant dog named Sandy Koufax, When You Were Here explores the two most powerful forces known to man-death and love. Daisy Whitney brings her characters to life with a deft touch and resonating authenticity.Excerpt
Danny's mother lost her five-year battle with cancer three weeks before his graduation-the one day that she was hanging on to see.
Now Danny is left alone, with only his memories, his dog, and his heart-breaking ex-girlfriend for company. He doesn't know how to figure out what to do with her estate, what to say for his Valedictorian speech, let alone how to live or be happy anymore.
When he gets a letter from his mom's property manager in Tokyo, where she had been going for treatment, it shows a side of his mother he never knew. So, with no other sense of direction, Danny travels to Tokyo to connect with his mother's memory and make sense of her final months, which seemed filled with more joy than Danny ever knew. There, among the cherry blossoms, temples, and crowds, and with the help of an almost-but-definitely-not Harajuku girl, he begins to see how it may not have been ancient magic or mystical treatment that kept his mother going. Perhaps, the secret of how to live lies in how she died.
We eat in silence for a minute, then Holland breaks it. “So you’re
going to Tokyo?”
“Your mom told you?” “Yes.” “Did your mom send you to get info out of me or
something?” “No. She mentioned it, and now I’m mentioning it.
Why? Is there info to get? Are you going with a girl?” I scoff. “Yeah,
right. I was supposed to go with some- one, but it didn’t work out,” I
say, my eyes locked on her
the whole time. “Well, I wanted to go, okay?” “So did I,” I say, so
low it’s a whisper. But she hears me,
and she inches her hand across the counter, just a little bit closer,
and that hand, I want to grab it and hold on.
“Me too,” she says, barely there, barely painting the space between us
with all that has been broken.
I glance at our hands, so close all it would take is one of us giving an inch.
“I bought my ticket an hour ago.”
“When do you leave?”
“A couple days from now. I found a good deal.” She nods a few times,
taps her fingers. I can feel the
warmth from her hands. “Cool,” she says, and we stay like that. One
stretch is all it would take to be back, so I wait. Wait for her to
tell me she’ll miss me, to ask me to stay, to put her hands on my face
and press her lips against mine and kiss me like it’s the thing that’s
been killing her not to do for all these months. That it’s not cool
for me to go. That if I go, she’ll be the one who’s sad.
But she doesn’t. We just finish our food, and she washes the plates,
and the other ones that were in the sink too, and she tosses out the
cartons from Captain Wong’s and bags up the garbage, and she’s like a
nurse. She’s here as a nurse. To take care of me. To make sure I eat
enough food and clean the house and take my vitamins.
I watch her take my vitals and check my temperature and adjust the
tubes, and when she suggests we watch a movie, here on the couch, I
just nod because my heart isn’t beating fast enough anymore, blood
isn’t pumping smoothly enough anymore for me to find the will to say
no like I did last night. Evidently I can buy tickets to fly out of
try, no problem, but I can’t even tell Holland to stop being so near
to me all the time but not near enough.
Because she is supposed to want to go to Tokyo with me now. She is
supposed to invite herself, to ask me in that sweet and sexy, that
bold and confident voice, to say that I should take her along, that we
promised we’d go together, that we even talked about it last summer.
As if I needed reminding. As if I were the one who’d forgotten.
Instead she turns on the TV and finds a film where the hero survives a
bridge being blown up. We stay like that through fire and bombs,
through fists and blows, through a knife fight in an alley, a foot
away from each other, not touching, not moving, not talking, not
curled up together, just staring mutely at the screen.
But faking it becomes too much for me, so when the hero clutches the
crumbling concrete from the bridge, scram- bling for purchase, I stand
up and leave the living room, mumbling, “Be right back.”
I walk to the bathroom at the end of the hall. I shut the door. I head
straight for the window. I slide it open and pop out the screen. I
stand on the toilet seat, then climb the rest of the way out of the
window and hop into my front yard. I close the window, and I walk and
I walk and I walk.
When I return an hour later, my greatest hope is she’ll be gone. My
most fervent wish is that I will have made my great escape from her,
from her hold on me. But instead I
find her sound asleep on my couch, Sandy Koufax tucked tightly into a
ball at Holland’s bare feet.
I kneel down on the tiles where the book she was read- ing has slipped
out of her tired hands. It’s a paperback, The Big Sleep. I run a thumb
across the cover, wondering when Holland developed a penchant for
Raymond Chandler. There was a time when she would have told me her
favorite parts. When she would have tried to tell me the ending
because she just loved it so much, she had to share, and I’d have held
up a hand and told her to stop. Laughing all the time. Then I’d have
read it too, and we’d have walked on the beach and talked about the
best parts. We’d have done that tonight with the movie too. Imitated
the actors’ inflections at their most over-the-top moments, then
marveled at the blown-up buildings.
I shut the book we’re not sharing. The ending we’re not talking about.
I place it on the coffee table and walk upstairs, because if I stay
near her, I will wake her up, rus- tle a shoulder, and ask her. Ask
her why she left. Ask her why she’s here. Ask her what changed for
When I get into my bed, I am keenly aware of her in my house, as if
the rising and falling of her breathing, the flut- tering of her
sleeping eyelids, can somehow be seen and heard from a floor above. I
imagine her waking up, walking up the stairs, heading down the hall,
standing in my door- way, a sliver of moonlight through the window
sketching her in the dark. I would speak first, telling her the
truth—that I’m still totally in love with her. That nothing has
changed for me when it comes to her.
Everything else is so muted, so fuzzy, so frayed around the edges.
This—how I feel for Holland—is the only thing in my life that has
remained the same. Everyone I have loved is gone. Except her. Holland
is the before and the after, and the way I feel for her is both lethal
and beautiful. It is like breathing, like a heartbeat.
She would say the same words back to me, that she feels the same. Then
she would say my name, like she’s been searching for something, like
she’s found the thing she’s been looking for.
Come find me, come find me, come find me.
ABOUT DAISY WHITNEY:
By day, Daisy Whitney is a reporter and ghostwriter. At night, she writes novels for teens and is the author of THE MOCKINGBIRDS and its sequel THE RIVALS (Little, Brown). Her third novel WHEN YOU WERE HERE releases in June 2013 (Little, Brown), and her fourth novel STARRY NIGHTS (Bloomsbury) hits shelves in September 2013. When Daisy's not inventing fictional high school worlds, she can be found somewhere north of San Francisco walking her adorable dog, watching online TV with her fabulous husband or playing with her fantastic kids. A graduate of Brown University, she believes in shoes, chocolate chip cookies and karma. You can follow her writing blog and new media adventures at DaisyWhitney.com.
Daisy Whitney Website: http://daisywhitney.blogspot.com/
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WHEN YOU WERE HERE Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12157780-when-you-were-here
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