Today, I’m taking part in the blog tour for the fantastic new thriller by Megan Miranda, All the Missing Girls. Read on for a taste of the first chapter:
Man . . . cannot learn to forget, but hangs on the past: however
far or fast he runs, that chain runs with him.
It started with a phone call, deceptively simple and easy to ignore.
The buzzing on Everett’s nightstand, the glow of the display—
too bright in the bedroom he kept so dark, with the light-blocking
shades pulled to the sill and the tinted windows a second line of
defense against the glare of the sun and the city. Seeing the name,
hitting the mute, turning my phone facedown beside the clock.
But then. Lying awake, wondering why my brother would call
so early on a Sunday. Running through the possibilities: Dad; the
I felt my way through the dark, my hands brushing the sharp
corners of furniture until I found the light switch in the bathroom.
My bare feet pressed into the cold tile floor as I sat on the
toilet lid with the phone held to my ear, goose bumps forming on
Daniel’s message echoed in the silence: “The money’s almost
gone. We need to sell the house. Dad won’t sign the papers,
though.” A pause. “He’s in bad shape, Nic.”
Not asking for my help, because that would be too direct. Too
I hit delete, slipped back under the sheets before Everett woke,
felt for him beside me to be sure.
But later that day, back at my place, I flipped through the previous
day’s mail and found the letter—Nic Farrell, written in familiar
handwriting, in blue ink; the address filled in by someone else, with
a different, darker pen.
Dad didn’t call anymore. Phones made him feel even more disoriented,
too far removed from the person he was trying to place.
Even if he remembered whom he’d been dialing, we’d slip from his
mind when we answered, nothing more than disembodied voices
in the ether.
I unfolded the letter—a lined journal page with jagged edges,
his handwriting stretching beyond the lines, veering slightly to the
left, as if he’d been racing to get the thoughts down before they
slipped from his grasp.
I need to talk to you. That girl. I saw that girl.
I called Daniel back, the letter still trembling in my hand. “Just
got your message,” I said. “I’m coming home. Tell me what’s
I took inventory of the apartment one last time before loading up
my car: suitcases waiting beside the door; key in an envelope
on the kitchen counter; an open box half full of the last-minute
things I’d packed up the night before. I could see every angle of the
apartment from the galley kitchen—exposed and empty—but still,
I had the lingering feeling that I was forgetting something.
I’d gotten everything together in a rush, finishing out the last
few weeks of the school year while fielding calls from Daniel and
finding someone to sublet my place for the summer—no time to
pause, to take in the fact that I was actually doing this. Going back.
Going there. Daniel didn’t know about the letter. He knew only that
I was coming to help, that I had two months before I needed to
return to my life here.
Now the apartment was practically bare. An industrial box,
stripped of all warmth, awaiting the moderately responsible-looking
grad student who would be staying through August. I’d left him the dishes, because they were a pain to pack. I’d left him
the futon, because he’d asked, and because he threw in an extra
The rest of it—the things that wouldn’t fit in my car, at least—
was in a storage unit a few blocks away. My entire life in a sealed
rectangular cube, stacked full of painted furniture and winter
The sound of someone knocking echoed off the empty walls,
made me jump. The new tenant wasn’t due to arrive for another
few hours, when I’d be on the road. It was way too early for anyone
I crossed the narrow room and opened the front door.
“Surprise,” Everett said. “I was hoping to catch you before you
left.” He was dressed for work—clean and sleek—and he bent
down to kiss me, one arm tucked behind his back. He smelled like
coffee and toothpaste; starch and leather; professionalism and efficiency.
He pulled a steaming Styrofoam cup from behind his back.
“Brought you this. For the road.”
I inhaled deeply. “The way to my heart.” I leaned against the
counter, took a deep sip.
He checked his watch and winced. “I hate to do this, but I have
to run. Early meeting on the other side of town.”
We met halfway for one last kiss. I grabbed his elbow as he
pulled away. “Thank you,” I said.
He rested his forehead against mine. “It’ll go fast. You’ll see.”
I watched him go—his steps crisp and measured, his dark hair
brushing his collar—until he reached the elevator at the end of the
hall. He turned back just as the doors slid open. I leaned against the
doorframe, and he smiled.
“Drive safe, Nicolette.”
I let the door fall shut, and the reality of the day suddenly made
my limbs heavy, my fingertips tingle.
The red numbers on the microwave clock ticked forward, and
It’s a nine-hour drive from Philadelphia to Cooley Ridge, not
counting traffic, lunch break, gas and restroom stops, depending.
And since I was leaving twenty minutes after I said I would, I could
already picture Daniel sitting on the front porch, tapping his foot,
as I pulled into the unpaved driveway.
I sent him a text as I propped the front door open with a suitcase:
On my way, but more like 3:30.
It took two trips to drag the luggage and remaining boxes down
to the car, which was parked around the block, behind the building.
I heard the beginnings of rush-hour traffic in the distance, a steady
hum on the highway, the occasional honk. A familiar harmony.
I started the car, waited for the air to kick in. Okay, okay, I
thought. I rested my phone in the cup holder and saw a response
from Daniel: Dad’s expecting you for dinner. Don’t miss it.
Like I might be three hours later than I’d claimed. That was one
of Daniel’s more impressive accomplishments: He had perfected
the art of the passive-aggressive text message. He’d been practicing
WHEN I WAS YOUNGER, I used to believe I could see the future.
This was probably my father’s fault, filling my childhood with platitudes
from his philosophy lectures, letting me believe in things
that could not be. I’d close my eyes and will it to appear, in tiny,
beautiful glimpses. I’d see Daniel in a cap and gown. My mother
smiling beside him through the lens of my camera as I motioned for
them to get closer. Put your arm around her. Pretend you like each other!
Perfect. I’d see me and Tyler, years later, throwing our bags into the
back of his mud-stained pickup truck, leaving for college. Leaving
It was impossible to understand back then that getting out
wouldn’t be an event in a pickup truck but a ten-year process of
excision. Miles and years, slowly padding the distance. Not to mention
Tyler never left Cooley Ridge. Daniel never graduated. And
our mother wouldn’t have lived to see it, anyway.
If my life were a ladder, then Cooley Ridge was the bottom—
an unassuming town tucked into the edge of the Smoky Mountains,
the very definition of Small Town, America, but without the
charm. Everywhere else—anywhere else—was a higher rung that
I’d reach steadily with time. College two hundred miles to the east,
grad school one state north, an internship in a city where I planted
my feet and refused to leave. An apartment in my own name and a
nameplate on my own desk and Cooley Ridge, always the thing I
was moving farther away from.
But here’s the thing I’ve learned about leaving—you can’t really
go back. I don’t know what to do with Cooley Ridge anymore, and
Cooley Ridge doesn’t know what to do with me, either. The distance
only increases with the years.
Most times, if I tried to shift it back into focus—Tell me about
home, tell me about growing up, tell me about your family, Everett would
say—all I’d see was a caricature of it in my mind: a miniature town
set up on entryway tables around the holidays, everything frozen in
time. So I gave him surface answers, flat and nonspecific: My mom
died when I was sixteen; it’s a small town at the edge of the forest; I have an
Even to me, even as I answered, it looked like nothing. A Polaroid
fading from the edges in, the colors bled out; the outline of a
ghost town full of ghosts.
But one call from Daniel—“We have to sell the house”—and
I felt the give of the floorboards beneath my feet. “I’m coming
home,” I said, and the edges rippled, the colors burned: My mother
pressed her cheek against my forehead; Corinne rocked our cart gently back and forth at the top of the Ferris wheel; Tyler balanced
on the fallen tree angled across the river, stretching between us.
That girl, my dad wrote, and her laughter rattled my heart.
I NEED TO TALK to you. That girl. I saw that girl.
An hour later, a moment later, and he’d probably forgotten—setting
aside the sealed envelope until someone found it abandoned
on his dresser or under his pillow and pulled my address from his
file. But there must’ve been a trigger. A memory. An idea lost in the
synapses of his brain; the firing of a thought with nowhere else to go.
The torn page, the slanted print, my name on the envelope—
And now something sharp and wild had been set loose inside
my head. Her name, bouncing around like an echo.
Dad’s letter had been folded up inside my purse for the last few
weeks, lingering just under the surface of my mind. I’d be reaching
for my wallet or the car keys and feel a sliver of the edge, the jab of
the corner, and there she would be all over again: long bronze hair
falling over her shoulders, the scent of spearmint gum, her whisper
in my ear.
That girl. She was always that girl. What other girl could it be?
The last time I’d driven home was a little over a year ago—
when Daniel called and said we had to get Dad into a facility, and I
couldn’t justify the cost of a last-minute flight. It had rained almost
the entire trip, both ways.
Today, on the other hand, was the perfect driving day. No rain,
overcast but not dark. Light but not bright. I’d made it through
three states without stopping, towns and exits blurring by as I sped
past—the embodiment of everything I loved about living up north.
I loved the pace, how you could fill the day with a to‑do list, take
charge of the hours and bend them to your will. And the impatience of the clerk inside the convenience store on the corner near my
apartment, the way he never looked up from his crossword, never
made eye contact. I loved the anonymity of it all. Of a sidewalk full
of strangers and endless possibilities.
Driving through these states was like that, too. But the beginning
of the drive always goes much faster than the end. Farther
south, the exits grow sparser, the landscape just sameness, filled
with things you’re sure you’ve passed a thousand times.
I was somewhere in Virginia when my phone rang from its spot
in the cup holder. I fumbled for the hands-free device in my purse,
keeping one hand steady on the wheel, but eventually gave up and
hit speaker to answer the call. “Hello?” I called.
“Hey, can you hear me?” Everett’s voice crackled, and I wasn’t
sure if it was the speakerphone or the reception.
“Yes, what’s up?”
He said something indecipherable, his words cutting in and out.
“Sorry, you’re breaking up. What?” I was practically shouting.
“Grabbing a quick bite,” he said through the static. “Just checking
- How are the tires holding up this time?” I heard the smile
in his voice.
“Better than the cell reception,” I said.
He laughed. “I’ll probably be in meetings the rest of the day, but
call me when you get there so I know you made it.”
I thought about stopping for lunch, but there was nothing except
pavement and field for miles and miles and miles.
I’D MET EVERETT A year ago, the night after moving my dad. I’d
driven home, tense and uneasy, gotten a flat tire five hours into the
drive, and had to change it myself underneath a steady drizzle.
By the time I’d gotten to my apartment, I was hovering on
the edge of tears. I had come home with my bag slung over my shoulder, my hand shaking as I tried to jam the key into the door.
Eventually, I’d rested my head against the solid wooden door to
steady myself. To make matters worse, the guy in 4A had gotten off
the elevator at the same time, and I’d felt him staring at me, possibly
waiting for the impending meltdown.
Apartment 4A. This was all I’d known of him: He played his
music too loud, and he had too many guests, and he kept nontraditional
hours. There was a man beside him—polished, where he
was not. Smooth, where he was rough. Sober, where he was drunk.
The guy in 4A sometimes smiled at me as we passed in the hall
in the evening, and one time he held the elevator for me, but this
was a city. People came and went. Faces blurred.
“Hey, 4C,” he’d slurred, unsteady on his feet.
“Nicolette,” I said.
“Nicolette,” he repeated. “Trevor.” The man beside him looked
embarrassed on his behalf. “And this is Everett. You look like you
need a drink. Come on, be neighborly.”
I thought the neighborly thing would’ve been to learn my name
a year ago, when I moved in, but I wanted that drink. I wanted to
feel the distance between there and here; I needed space from the
nine-hour car ride home.
Trevor pushed open his door as I walked toward them. The
man beside him stuck out his hand and said, “Everett,” as if Trevor’s
introduction hadn’t counted.
By the time I left, I’d told Everett about moving my dad, and
he’d said it was the right thing. Had told him about the flat and
the rain and everything I wanted to do over the summer, while I
was off. By the time I stopped talking, I felt lighter, more at ease—
which could’ve been the vodka, but I liked to think it was Everett—
and Trevor was passed out on the sofa beside us.
“Oh. I should go,” I’d said.
“Let me walk you back,” Everett had said.
My head was light as we walked in silence, and then my hand
was on the doorknob and he was still nearby, and what were the
grown-up rules for this? “Want to come in?”
He didn’t answer, but he followed me in. Froze in the galley
kitchen, which looked out into the rest of my studio loft, one room
with high windows and sheer curtains hanging from the exposed
pipes, segregating my bedroom. But I could see my bed through
them—unmade, inviting—and I knew he could, too.
“Wow,” he said. It was the furniture, I was sure. Pieces I’d
mined from thrift stores and flea markets and had stripped down
and repainted in bold colors to match. “I feel like I’m Alice in Wonderland.”
I slid off my shoes, leaned against the kitchen counter. “Ten
bucks says you’ve never read it.”
He smiled and opened my refrigerator, pulling out a bottle of
water. “Drink me,” he said, and I laughed.
Then he pulled out a business card, placed it on the counter,
leaned forward, and brushed his lips against mine before backing
away. “Call me,” he said.
And I did.
You can follow the blog tour at the following sites over the coming weeks!