The DARKEST LIE by Pintip Dunn
ABOUT THE DARKEST LIE
“The mother I knew would never do those things.
But maybe I never knew her after all.”
Clothes, jokes, coded messages…Cecilia Brooks and her mom shared everything. At least, CeCe thought they did. Six months ago, her mom killed herself after accusations of having sex with a student, and CeCe’s been the subject of whispers and taunts ever since. Now, at the start of her high school senior year, between dealing with her grieving, distracted father, and the social nightmare that has become her life, CeCe just wants to fly under the radar. Instead, she’s volunteering at the school’s crisis hotline—the same place her mother worked.
As she counsels troubled strangers, CeCe’s lingering suspicions about her mom’s death surface. With the help of Sam, a new student and newspaper intern, she starts to piece together fragmented clues that point to a twisted secret at the heart of her community. Soon, finding the truth isn’t just a matter of restoring her mother’s reputation, it’s about saving lives—including CeCe’s own…
An Excerpt from THE DARKEST LIE…
“I’ve been researching the story of her suicide,” Sam says. “And I came across something in my research that nobody could explain.”
“What is it?” I say dully, even though I can probably guess. I mean, there’s lots that’s inexplicable about my mom’s behavior. Tons.
Like: How could a grown woman be sexually attracted to a boy? Or more importantly: Why would she act on it? And my personal favorite: Did she have any kind of moral fiber—even a few lost threads—at all?
But Sam bypasses all the obvious questions and picks up a lock of my hair. I feel the slight tug all the way to my roots.
“Her hair.” He rubs my strands between his fingers, and I suppress a shiver. “It was chopped off, jagged. One article said it looked like it was lopped off with a butcher knife.”
I shrug, but even that simple movement is infused with the awareness of his touch. Still, he doesn’t let go.
“They said she was crazy,” I say. “Out of her mind. Maybe she was disfiguring herself as a sign of her shame. Who knows what motivated her actions?”
But even as I repeat the explanation the detectives gave for just about everything, my dad’s words echo in my mind: I knew your mother. She wasn’t capable of those things. I don’t believe she did any of it.
All of a sudden, my excuses sound exactly like what they are—easy, surface-level assumptions designed to make it easier for the detectives to close the case.
Sam frowns. “I guess I could buy that if I hadn’t seen the interview with her hair stylist in one of the local papers.”
Oh. One of those. Every newspaper in a fifty-mile radius went berserk when my mom committed suicide. Every day, there was a new article, featuring interviews with her fellow teachers, former students, even our lawn guy, for god’s sake. If there was a story on her hair salon, I must’ve missed it.
“The stylist kept saying your mom’s haircut was inconceivable, and I couldn’t understand why. So when I was scooting past Cut & Dry the other day, I stopped to talk to her.”
“Did she confirm my mom was a natural redhead?” I raise my eyebrows. “Reveal the exact color of dye she used to cover her silver sparkles?”
“Not at all,” he says, and something about his tone stops me. The chill begins at the base of my spine and crawls its way up, one long spider leg at a time. “The stylist said she’s been cutting your mom’s hair for two decades. And in all that time, your mother never let her cut more than half an inch. In fact, she came into the salon two days before she died, and they had the exact same argument. The stylist tried to talk her into a bob, and your mom adamantly refused.”
Abruptly, he lets go of my hair, and the strands swing back over my shoulder, loose, unencumbered, and very, very cold.
Sam’s eyes pierce right into me. “So what I want to know is: What could’ve happened in two days that made her change her mind? Unless . . . she didn’t.”
Why I Write All My Books on My Cell Phone…
My junior year of college, my hands froze. Not good-God-the-library-is-cold froze. Not even I-have-no-idea-what-to-write-next froze. I mean, my hands physically froze, as in the muscles from my neck to my shoulders to my elbows to my forearms locked up, so that I couldn’t move them. And they stayed that way for a week. I couldn’t brush my hair. I couldn’t bring a fork to my mouth. All I could do was lie in bed, terrified that my life was never going to be the same again.
It wasn’t. And a part of me couldn’t be more grateful.
Oh, I don’t mean the physical stuff. I wouldn’t wish that on anybody. I was eventually diagnosed with fibromyalgia/RSI. I got through college and law school by hiring a typist and taking my exams — even the bar exam — orally. To this day, I can’t type on a keyboard or lift heavy things without considerable pain. During flare-ups, the pain is so unbearable, I want to curl into a fetal position and scream
This disability, however, led me to my true calling. There was enormous pressure on me to have a secure and lucrative career, and I became a litigation attorney at a corporate law firm. I was good at it. I was also miserable, but no matter. I was exactly where I was supposed to be.
And then, I had a flare-up. This one landed me flat on my back for six months. In the midst of this suffering, I had an epiphany. My body wasn’t punishing me. It was talking to me, in a way I couldn’t ignore. It was telling me: Get off of this path. This isn’t what you’re supposed to be doing.
I’ve wanted to be an author since I was six years old — but I put that dream aside because it was too frivolous, too impractical. I focused on other pursuits because I wasn’t going to succeed as a writer, anyway.
I think the voice inside me was sick of being ignored. It had to speak louder and louder, in the only way it knew how, until I finally listened. Until I finally understood that I had no choice but to pursue my dream.
Once I had this realization, I left the legal profession and never looked back.
I still can’t type. But I can tap on my cell phone if it’s locked in portrait position. I’ve written my last six books this way, and I hope to write many more.
So, thank you, body, for talking to me. I’m so glad I listened.
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ABOUT PINTIP DUNN:
Pintip Dunn graduated from Harvard University, magna cum laude, with an A.B. in English Literature and Language. She received her J.D. at Yale Law School, where she was an editor of the YALE LAW JOURNAL. She also published an article in the YALE LAW JOURNAL, entitled, “How Judges Overrule: Speech Act Theory and the Doctrine of Stare Decisis,”
Pintip is represented by literary agent Beth Miller of Writers House. Her debut novel, FORGET TOMORROW, is a finalist in the Best First Book category of RWA’s RITA® contest. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, Washington Romance Writers, YARWA, and The Golden Network.
She lives with her husband and children in Maryland. You can learn more about Pintip and her books at www.pintipdunn.com.