28 October 2019
This week we’re celebrating the launch of our new crime imprint, Viper Books. Every day this week we’ll be sharing the first chapter of a new book on the list. Today we are introducing Who We Were by B.M. Carroll.
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Who We Were
It’s been twenty years but all is not forgiven
Katy is not the shy schoolgirl she once was, and she’s looking forward to showing her classmates who she’s become. Annabel was the queen bee, but her fall from grace changed her life forever. Zach was cruel, but he thinks he’s changed. Robbie was a target. And he never stood a chance.
Their reunion will bring together friends and enemies, many for the first time in decades. But someone is still holding a grudge, and will stop at nothing to reveal their darkest secrets…
A gripping novel about the power of childhood cruelty and how it makes us the adults we become.
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The lock takes less than a minute, the fourth key a close enough fit, assisted with a few bumps from the handle of a screwdriver. The door pushes open into a hallway with off white tiles laid on the diagonal. Next is an open-plan kitchen and living area, a study nook on the far side of the sofa: small desk, dated laptop, a printout of the invitation sitting atop a neat pile of paperwork.
You are invited to the twenty-year
reunion of the Class of 2000
Deep breath. Don’t get angry. Don’t lose focus. The laptop whirrs to life, its fan sounding inordinately loud in the silent apartment. No password required, stupidly trusting and naive. Insert the USB, click on install, twenty minutes to completion. Be calm. Be thorough. She won’t be home for hours yet. Plenty of time to check her browsing history, her Facebook page and the rest of the paperwork on the desk. Glimpses into the construct of her life, the friends
she holds close, her most secret desires.
Wander into the kitchen, opening and shutting cabinet doors, cataloguing the food she eats, the brand of coffee she prefers. The main bedroom is located down a short corridor. White cotton bedcovers, faux-fur cushions, the book she’s reading – a bestselling thriller –open on the bedside table. Underneath it, another book, larger, sickeningly familiar.
Yearbook of Macquarie High, Class of 2000
Don’t touch it, don’t look at those hateful faces, don’t fall for that fake innocence. Back to the antiquated laptop. Glare at the screen as it reluctantly grinds through the final stages. Pocket the
USB. Switch off the machine. Pause inside the front door, key poised, cap pushed low in case there’s a security camera lurking somewhere. Listen. All clear. Bump, bump, bump goes the screwdriver. It’s happening. Their shallow lives will be blown apart. And they’ll be sorry. Finally.
Name: Annabel Moore (School captain)
What you will be remembered for: Not keeping a straight face when Miss Hicks fell up the stage steps on awards night.
Best memories of high school: Year 11 snow excursion.
Worst memories of high school: Double period maths on Fridays. Torture.
What will you be doing ten years from now: Marine biologist.
The email arrives a couple of days later.
Subject: Updated Yearbook
Annabel clicks on it without much thought. That is not strictly true. If she is honest, there is a brief, quite vicious desire to topple Katy Buckley from her self-appointed role as reunion organiser.
The first thing Annabel sees is a grainy, unflattering photo of herself. Directly below there’s text typed in an old-fashioned font.
Name: Annabel Harris (Née Moore)
Highest achievement at school: School captain.
What you do now: Stay-at-home mother.
Highlights of last twenty years: Nothing remarkable. Peaked at school.
Lowlights: Finding out your son smokes dope. Initially not telling your husband.
Deepest fears: That weed is a gateway drug for Daniel.
Her first reaction is horror, to the point where she actually feels sick. Then she recovers herself. This is someone’s idea of a joke. The cruellest, most despicable joke. The kind of thing they’d have done twenty years ago, back when they’d time to waste, unlimited imagination, and the lines between humour and outright nastiness were blurred.
So, who sent this? Someone who knows about their struggles with Daniel, even though Annabel and Jarrod resolved to keep it within the family. Someone who wants the upcoming reunion to have a hint of mystery, and perhaps shock factor?
The photo – one she’s never seen before – is fairly recent. Her hair is in its usual style – layered, blonde, shoulder-length. There are tell-tale lines around her mouth and purple shadows under her eyes: was it taken the morning after a night when she’d lain awake, listening hard to see if Daniel was moving around, sneaking out of the house? There are so many Facebook photos she’s been ‘tagged’ in, so many casual shots in restaurants and other gatherings, who knows where this one came from.
Will everyone else get one of these ‘updates’ in their inbox? Yes, that must be the plan, otherwise there’d be no joke. Annabel can’t fathom who would have the time or energy for something this elaborate. Hardly Katy Buckley. Not imaginative enough. Not cruel enough. Definitely not ballsy enough. Besides, Katy would be up to her eyes compiling the real updated yearbook.
Melissa Andrews? Co-editor of the original yearbook, so maybe possessing a vested interest in the revised one? Melissa and Annabel used to be friends, before everything turned toxic during those last few months of school. Now, as Annabel allows herself to think about Melissa, the jealousy returns. It was never an ordinary jealousy; it was obsessive, powerful, insanely out of proportion. But regardless of how Annabel might feel, then or now, she knows that Melissa wouldn’t be so juvenile as to do something like this. Too busy with her high-flying career.
Zach Latham? Another co-editor. Zach would do anything for a laugh and did have the propensity for cruelty. Is he still the same today? Luke Willis? God, she hasn’t thought about him in years. Whatever became of Luke Willis?