I'm the Girl excerpt (cont'd)
continued from part two
Ashley James. That’s who it was.
The road should be somewhere ahead and I know what’s behind me, but the trees feel endless, everywhere . . . sunlight skitters over my feet through their leaves, world skittering with it, and I fall once, twice, three times, but I get back up each, moving forward until the ground rises and finally meets the road, and it’s like breaking the surface after so long underwater.
She’s thirteen years old.
I collapse, my legs splayed in front of me, a bitter taste at the back of my throat, a cold sweat breaking out on the back of my neck. I think of her body out there, think of all the things that can no longer happen to it, and then I need to know if I can still bleed. I dig my fingers into the torn skin of my knees. A buzzing fills my head, a thought reaching me on a long delay: call for help. I slip my hand into my pocket and it’s empty.
My phone is gone.
I turn my face toward the road.
A car is coming.
I wave my hand weakly until it gets close and then my arm drops to my side. The car eases to a stop next to me, and I stare at the blurry edge of the driver’s side door as it opens and a beige heel descends to the ground.
I follow it all the way up to the woman it belongs to.
The most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen in my life.
An aura of light surrounds the curves of her body so perfectly, I can’t help but wonder if she’s real. She crouches in front of me, her eyes a pale blue, their sweet concern offsetting the devastating angles of her breathtaking face. Her white skin is summer-tanned, glitter-flecked, rays of sunlight threading themselves through the short strands of honey-blond hair hanging loose at the nape of her neck. She looks like something out of a magazine, her beauty almost defiant in the face of everything that’s put it before me, refusing to be less than what it is even though there’s a dead girl out there right now, rotting.
I need to go to Aspera, I tell her.
There’s a body in the woods.
The deputy sheriff’s little girl.
The woman makes some calls and then everything she says after that seems to end in my name, but I don’t remember telling it to her. Something about the gentle persistence of hearing Georgia, Georgia, over and over again keeps me from floating too far away. And then we’re in her car and it’s the nicest car I’ve been in in a long time, and I shiver against the cool leather seat, my head lolling against the window.
Every time my eyes drift shut, she says my name.
The view changes and there’s a gate in the distance stretched across the road. Even from here, I can make out the gold lettering across its top, sparkling in the light, declaring itself:
A S P E R A
PRIVATE. NO ADMITTANCE. MEMBERS ONLY.
“What if they don’t let me in?” I manage.
But the gate opens before we even reach it.
My pulse quickens as the lodge slowly appears on the horizon, only to unmake itself before I can get a closer look.
“You’re already in,” the woman tells me.
I finally realize who I’m sitting next to.
“Georgia,” she says, alarmed, stopping the car as my head falls forward. Her hand comes to rest against my cheek and carefully turns my face to hers, as though she wants to be sure she’s the last thing I see.
This excerpt of I’m the Girl will continue in Courtney Summers’s May 1st newsletter. I’m the Girl is now available for request on NetGalley.