“Can you take it, Carin? Can you take it and hide it somewhere?”
The revelation of the secret her mother guarded—they had lived under false names for as long as Carin remembered—paled next to this request. That thread of fear in her mother’s voice—“…what did you find?”—Carin knew it well.
Mrs. White seldom dropped the cheery, gossip-loving façade masking this fear, but Carin watched it fall away at times. She and her mother lived at Jed’s motel only a short while. There were others, many others. Just as she settled into a place, her mother would come home different, spooked. And everything would change.
Carin never knew what would draw out the change in her mother: a stranger followed them too closely at the market; a car lingered at the curb across the street; an everyday exchange took an unexpected turn. Then her mother would react: they departed in haste to begin anew somewhere strange but safe. Or, at least, so Mrs. White would say. “We’ll be safe here.” It would never last.
In recent years Carin suspected her mother’s motivations. Yet Mrs. White was normally so funny, so cheerful—and she and Carin wanted for nothing. Carin attended schools wherever they went. Although classrooms, teachers and other children ran into a homogenous blur over the years, Carin picked up the basics of each grade as they moved about. There were books, too: both Carin and her mother loved to read.
So they had not mattered to Carin, these quirks of her mother’s. Carin enjoyed a freedom the other kids at her schools did not. She accepted there was something about her mother she would never understand. But she failed to grasp, until now, that her mother’s secrets were also her secrets. “Our name isn’t White…”
Her mother wanted her to take the old photo album in the attic and hide it to protect their secret. Mrs. White asked her to steal. Sure now that she was alone downstairs, Carin sat at the kitchen table, alone inside the tiny warm circle of light cast by the candle in her hand. Tears glistened in her eyes.
Years ago, she helped her mother clean a motel room in one of the many where they lived, and little Carin had been hungry. Her mother promised her a hamburger and fries for dinner after work, but Carin spotted an unopened candy bar left on the dresser. Thinking no one wanted it, she was eating it when her mother found her. Enraged, Mrs. White demanded that Carin spend her own money to replace it, even though it took nearly all the change in her tiny purse. Carin cried: she had not meant to steal. But Mrs. White said there was no difference. Stealing was stealing. And it was wrong.
Now her mother wanted Carin to sneak away from her aunt’s eagle eye and the hovering, smelly presence of the always-annoying Rafe to steal a book of photographs. This book belonged to the Mallace family, to Mallace Estate, to Aunt Helen. The brown and fraying photo in the front of the book portrayed a young girl who looked much like Carin. Telling Mrs. White about this prompted her to reveal a secret and urge her daughter to steal. Why? Was Helen dangerous? If so, what was Carin doing working for her? Did Mrs. White want Carin’s true name hidden from her aunt just to protect their privacy, or was there something more to all of this?
As the tears fell to the table Carin knew more questions stemming from the fear she never named. Her mother’s unusual actions and notions did not matter, she always told herself, because after all they were safe and happy together. But they were not together now, and they were neither of them happy. For the first time in her young life Carin believed she might not be safe. What led them to this point? Was her mother reacting to true, living threats in the world around them? Unable to answer, she pushed this question from her mind.
In any case, she would receive no new information tonight. Her mother could not afford another call until next week, and Aunt Helen made it clear that she would not pay long distance charges. Carin would have to make her choice based on what little she knew. She remembered both the fear in Mrs. White’s voice and the sharp glance from Aunt Helen’s eyes, narrowing, watching her. Grasping the candlestick, Carin rose and made her way to the attic stairs.
ENTRANCING OPPORTUNITIES BECKON A YOUNG GIRL…
It’s 1987, and 16-year-old Carin White desperately needs her first job. An elegant woman she’s never met appears at her door offering employment. “Aunt” Helen asks Carin to work for her on the family’s rambling, enigmatic estate in the tiny resort town of Eureka Springs.
IN A WORLD WHERE NOTHING IS AS IT SEEMS…
Carin enjoys her work and falls in love with the beautiful Mallace Mansion. But a brutal assault forces Carin to confront her own capacity for violence. Carin learns her mother concealed her identity from her, and the mansion hides horrific secrets of its own.
AND ONLY LOVE CAN SAVE HER.
Carin exposes the true reason she was asked to summer on the estate. Will she be strong enough to recognize love and redeem her family legacy? Or will the temptations of power and control lure her to the same dark places where others lost themselves?
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Genre – Young Adult
Rating – PG/PG13
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