Don't Look Behind You

By: Lois Duncan


The world as we knew it ended for us on a Tuesday afternoon in May. There were four of us in the family, if you didn’t count Lorelei. Our last name was Corrigan. My father worked for an airline called Southern Skyways, and my mother was an author of children’s books. My little brotherBram—George Bramwell, Jr.—was a third grader at Crestwood Elementary School. His claim to fame was that he had one blue eye and one brown one. My name was April, and I was a junior at Springside Academy. My claim to fame was that I was a killer tennis player.

Except for the size of the family, none of that is true anymore. We lived in Norwood, Virginia, not very far south of Washington, D.C. Spring is a magical time of year in Virginia; I awoke to a morning filled with sunshine and birdsong. I lay there in bed for a while, too comfortable to make the effort to get up, enjoying the gentle warmth of the sun on my eyelids and the faint, sweet scents drifting up from the backyard garden.

If I close my eyes today, I can still smell those flowers. They were hyacinths, I think.

After a time, the clock on the table next to my bed gave a threatening click, and I reached over blindly to punch the switch to keep the alarm from going off. Then I opened my eyes to the beauty of the day. Sunlight poured in through the open window, and the crystal prism Steve had given me for my seventeenth birthday two weeks earlier to symbolize “a year that will be filled with rainbows” twisted and spun on the end of its thread, creating a multicolored kaleidoscope on the wall across from it.

Mine was an unusual room for someone in high school. My best friend, Sherry Blaugrand, whose bedroom walls were covered with posters of rock stars, liked to refer to it as “Princess April’s Chamber.” The furniture in the “chamber” was composed of antiques handed down by my grandmother, Lorelei, when she sold her house. The four-poster bed and the matching chest of drawers were cherry wood, and an oval mirror in an ornate gold frame hung over the dresser. In one corner there was a rocking chair with hand-carved arms and a blue velvet cushion, and opposite that stood a camphorwood chest that my grandparents had brought back from a trip to Asia.

But the room was not just a reflection of Lorelei. There was a bookcase crammed with my favorite books and a stereo with an iPod dock next to the bed. A shelf beneath the window was lined with tennis trophies, and on the dresser Steve Chandler’s face grinned mischievously out at me from a borderless picture frame.

There was something about that grin that was contagious. I blinked sleep from my eyes and smiled back at the boy in the photograph. Then I let my gaze flick past him to the door of the closet. Prom was only four days away, and in that closet hung my first full-length gown.

Sitting up, I swung my legs over the side and got out of bed. As I passed in front of the window on my way to the bathroom, a breeze slipped in to ruffle the curtains, and the prism hanging from the curtain rod twirled gaily, spattering my cotton pajamas with rainbows.

I brushed my teeth, got dressed, and spent several minutes twisting my long blond hair into a French braid. Then I got panicked about time and hurried downstairs. My mom and brother were already seated at the table in the kitchen, and our fat golden cocker, Porky, was positioned beneath it. Bram was busily burying his cereal under a layer of sugar, and Mom was too engrossed in the morning paper to notice. In front of her sat a coffee mug with i do the job write printed on it. It was filled to the brim with thick, black liquid that looked like the residue from a tar pit.

“Anything new on the trial?” I asked by way of greeting.

“If there is, it’s not in the paper,” said Mom.

“I wish they’d get things settled so Dad could come home,” I said. “You’d think at least they’d let him commute on weekends.”

I got a glass from the cupboard and a carton from the refrigerator and poured myself some orange juice.

Mom raised her eyes from the paper and zeroed in on Bram. “Don’t tell me you’re putting sugar on that presweetened cereal!”

“Only a little,” Bram said, pressing down on the mound with his spoon so it disappeared into a rising sea of milk.

“You don’t need any,” said Mom. “Not with Corrigan teeth! Last time you went to the dentist he found three cavities!”

As always, when things came down on him, Bram changed the subject.

“Can I sleep over at Chris’s Saturday night?”

“I thought he was spending the night over here on Friday.”

“He is,” Bram said, “but Saturdays are two-for-one nights at Video Plus. We’re going to rent all the Harry Potter movies.”

“What’s going to happen when you guys grow up?” I asked him. “Will you and Chris build houses next door to each other?”

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