New York • Berlin • London
fear of phobias
fear of memories
fear of going to school
fear of eating
fear of riding in a car
fear of being the third wheel
fear of love
the fear of darkness
fear of falling in love or being in love
fear of love play
fear of being alone
fear of noises or voices
fear of monsters or deformed people
fear of shock
fear of pain
fear of facial hair, mostly beards
a fear of pixies
fear of a stepfather
fear of death
fear of insanity
fear of being bound or tied up
fear of dark wooded areas or of forests at night
fear of hospitals
Kinetophobia or Kinesophobia
fear of movement or motion
fear of the night
fear of fainting or weakness
fear of failure
About the Author
Also by Carrie Jones
To Doug Jones and Emily Ciciotte and William Rice—yes, you, William—for doing everything you could to help me succeed.
I need you all.
fear of phobias
Everybody has fears, right?
I’m into that.
I collect fears like other people collect stamps, which makes me sound like more of a freak than I actually am. But I’m into it. The fears thing. Phobias.
There are all the typical, common phobias. Lots of people are afraid of heights and elevators and spiders. Those are boring. I’m a fan of the good phobias. Stuff like nelophobia, the fear of glass. Or arachibutyrophobia, the fear that you will have peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth.
I do not have the fear of peanut butter, of course, but how cool is it that it’s named?
It’s a lot easier to understand things once you name them. It’s the unknown that mostly freaks me out.
I don’t know the name of that fear, but I know I’ve got it, the fear of the unknown.
fear of memories
Planes stink because you’re stuck staring out at the sky and that makes you think about things—things you might not want to think about, I mean.
Mnemophobia is a real fear. I did not make it up. I swear. You can be afraid of your memories. There’s no easy off button for your brain. It would be really, really nice if there were.
So I crush my fingers into my eyelids, trying to make myself stop remembering things. I focus on the present, the now. That’s what talk-show people always tell you to do: live for today.
I wrapped a white thread around my finger when my dad died. I keep it there to remind me that I once felt stuff, once had a dad, a life. It’s twisted so the knot is against my pinkie. I move it around just as the guy next to me crosses his legs and bumps my thigh with his monster-big shoe.
“Sorry,” he says.
“It’s okay.” My fingers decide to put away all my Amnesty International Urgent Action papers, which plead with me to write more letters on behalf of tortured monks, missing students.
“No offense, but you okay? You look a little like a zombie.”
I manage to turn my head to look at him. He has a beefy nose, jowls, a corporate white man look. My mouth moves. “What?”
He smiles. Coffee breath leaks out of his mouth. “This whole flight you’ve been on autopilot; writing those letters, saving the world, but you’re like a zombie.”
Something inside of me tweaks. “My dad just died. My step-dad, really. I call him my dad. He was my dad. He raised me.”
The man loses his hearty old-boy smile. “Oh. Sorry.”
I feel badly for his awkwardness. “It’s okay. I’m just . . .”
There are no words for it. Dead inside. Zombie-esque? That’s not even a word. Zombified?
He keeps at me. “So, you going back to school or something? You go to school in Maine?”
I shake my head no, but I can’t explain it all to him. I can’t explain it all to myself. My mom sent me up here because for four months I haven’t been able to smile. For four months I haven’t been able to cry or feel or do anything.
“I’m going to my grandmother’s to stay,” I finally manage.
He nods, coughs, and says, “Oh. That’s good. Bad time of year for Maine, though. Winter. Cold as hell.”
My grandmother, stepgrandmother officially, is picking me up at the Bangor Airport in Maine, which is probably the smallest airport with the longest runway in the world. Our plane lands and I see sunless skies, which figures. You know things aren’t going to be good when even the sky is gray and cold.
I eye my parka, but don’t slug it on. It’s like giving in too soon.
It’s late October, right?
How bad can it be?
Cold air rushes in as soon as the flight attendant opens the plane door. I shiver.
“Toto, we aren’t in the tropics anymore,” the guy next to me says. He hauls a parka out of his carry-on bag. He’s a much smarter guy than I gave him credit for. My dad used to say that we should expect the best in people.
People say my dad’s heart attacked him, but the truth is his heart failed him. It decided not to beat anymore, not to move the precious blood around in his veins. It seized up and failed.
He died on our kitchen floor next to a water bottle I dropped. That doesn’t seem like it should be real, but it is.
Anyway, I slip on the stairs leading out of the plane and onto the tarmac. The man behind me (aka my seat mate) catches me by the arm.
“It’s hard to save the world when you can’t save yourself,” he says, all smartass.
I stumble some more and a knot starts forming in my stomach.
“What?” I ask, even though I got what he said, I just can’t believe he said it. It’s so mean. He doesn’t repeat it.
The wind gusts and my hair smashes against my cheek. I duck low, like it’s going to protect me from the wind.
“Got to love Maine,” the flight attendant at the bottom of the stairs says.
She’s not smiling.
What I’m afraid of, right now, in this very moment, is being helpless as I watch my dad die of a heart attack on our kitchen floor.
But that has already happened, right?
So I will go with my second-biggest fear, fear of the cold. This is cheimaphobia, also known as cheimatophobia or frigophobia or psychophobia. There are lots of words for that one.
I’m not used to the cold. But I will be soon. You have to face your fears. That’s what my dad always said. You just have to face them.
So, to face them, I chant them. Each slippery f
Why is it that naming the fear doesn’t make it any better?
My grandmother, Betty, is waiting in the terminal. The moment she sees me, she strides over like a lumberjack and folds me into a big hug with those long arms of hers. She’s built just like my dad and I kind of lean into her, happy to be with someone but at the same time wishing she were him.
“Well, aren’t you a sight for sore eyes. Hard trip?” she asks, then steers me out into the parking lot and up into her huge black pickup truck. She stashes my suitcase and backpack in the back.We’ve already shipped up the rest of my Charleston stuff, not that all those T-shirts and camis are going to do me much good in Maine. She comes back around and smiles at me as I struggle to get inside the cab.
“This is a monster, Betty,” I say, hauling myself in. I start shivering. I can’t help it. All my bones feel broken from the cold. “Your truck is massive.”
She smacks the dashboard and laughs. “You better believe it. All the better to haul butt in.”
“You want me to say ass? I don’t want to affect your tender sensibilities.”
Tender sensibilities? I almost laugh, but I can’t quite do it. “Is it new?”
“Yep. Your mom see you off?” she asks.
“She cried.” My finger runs along the edge of where the window meets the door and stops. “I felt awful when she cried.”
I dare to look up into her eyes. They are light amber brown like my dad’s. They tilt at the ends, by her temples, slanting up, just the tiniest of bits. They soften a little as I stare into them. Since I don’t know my biological father, Grandma Betty is the only grandparent I have. My mom’s parents died when she was a teenager. She actually lived here with Betty and her husband, Ben, and my dad, while she finished up high school. Betty was amazing, just taking her in like that, kind of like how she’s taken me in.
Betty nods and turns on the car. “She would. It’s hard on her, letting you go.”
“Then she probably shouldn’t have gotten rid of me.”
“That’s what you think she’s doing?”
I shrug and put my hands back in my lap.
“She’s just trying to keep you . . .”
“What? Sane?” I laugh but it’s hard and bitter and it doesn’t sound like something that should come out of me. It sort of echoes in my chest. “She’s shoving me off to the land of zero population growth to keep me sane?”
“Little bitter there, sweetheart?”
“Yeah. I know. I’m sorry.”
Betty smiles. “Bitter is better than nothing. From what your mom says you’ve been awful depressed, nothing like your normal stubborn, save-the-world self.”
“He died, Betty.”
“I know, sweetie. But he would want us to keep living. God, that’s a cliché, but it’s true.”
Betty’s pretty decent as far as grandmothers go. She used to head up a life insurance company, but then my grandfather died and she retired. She didn’t have anything to do other than play golf or go fishing, so she decided to start some new ventures.
“I’m going to improve myself and then the community,” she told my dad. So she started running, and trained until she could compete in the Boston Marathon at the age of sixty-five. That goal achieved, she got a black belt. Then, she decided to become an EMT. So that’s what she does now. She’s the head EMT for Downeast Ambulance in Bedford, Maine. She doesn’t let them pay her, though.
“I have retirement money. I want them to give it to the young guys with families,” she explained to my dad back when she first started riding ambulances. “It’s only fair.”
Grandma Betty is big on fair.
“I’m not sure how fair it is you being stuck with an old coot like me,” she says as we drive down Route 1A toward Bedford.
I shrug because I don’t want to talk about it.
Grandma Betty notices. “The leaves are beautiful, aren’t they?”
That’s her way of letting me not talk about it.
“They sure are,” I say. We drive past all the trees turning colors. It is a last stand, I know. Soon they’ll be naked and dead looking. They’re beautiful, but they’re barely hanging on to the branches. They’ll plunge off soon. Lots already have. They’ll rot on the ground, get raked up, burned, trampled on. It’s not easy being a leaf in New England.
I shiver again.
“You know we’re all just worried about you?”
I shrug; it’s all I can bring myself to do.
Betty turns up the heat and it blasts in my face. She laughs. “You look like a model with the fan blowing your hair so you look suitably sexy.”
“I wish,” I mumble.
“You’ll adjust to the cold.”
“It’s just so different from Charleston, so cold and bleak . . .” I put my head in my hands and then realize how melodramatic that is. “I’m sorry. I’m so whiny.”
“You’re allowed to whine.”
“No, I’m not. I hate whining. I have nothing to whine about, especially not to you. It’s just the land in Maine isn’t half as lush or alive. It looks like the whole state is getting ready to be buried under snow for winter—a season of death. Even the grass looks likes it’s given up.”
She laughs and makes a creepy voice, “And the trees. They crowd in on you so that you can’t see off in the distance and you can’t see what is on the ground, hiding in the ferns or behind the tree trunks, in the bushes.”
My hand presses against the cold glass window. I make a hand print.
“It’s not a horror movie, Zara.” She smiles at me so I know she’s kind of sympathetic, but also teasing. This is how Betty is.
“Maine is cold compared to Charleston, though. You’re going to have to bundle up here.”
“You still chanting phobias?”
“Did I say it out loud?”
“Yep.” Her hand leaves the steering wheel and she pats my leg for a second before adjusting the heat again. “I’ve got a theory about that.”
“Yeah, I think you are one of those people who believe that if you can name something, then you can overcome it, conquer it, which is what you’re going to have to do about your dad dying. And I know that it hurts, Zara, but—”
“Betty!” There’s a tall guy standing on the side of the road, not moving, just staring.
Betty jerks the truck across the double yellow line and then puts us back where we belong.
“Crap!” she yells. “Idiot!”
She’s almost panting. My hands clutch my seat belt. She pulls in a couple big breaths and says, “Don’t start talking like me or your mom will kill me.”
I finally manage to speak. “You saw him?”
“Of course I did. Damn fool standing on the side of the road. It’s a good thing I saw him too, or else I’d have run him over.”
I stare at her, trying to figure it out. Then I look behind us, but we’ve gone around a curve, and even if the tall man was still there I wouldn’t be able to see him anymore.
“You really saw him?” I ask.
“Of course I did. Why did you ask?”
“You’ll think I’m stupid.”
“Who says I don’t already?” She laughs so I know she’s joking.
“You are one mean grandmother.”
“I know. So, why did you ask?”
She’s not the type to give up, so I try to make it sound like no big deal. “I just keep thinking I see this same guy everywhere, this tall, dark-haired, pale guy. That couldn’t be him, though.”
“You saw this guy in Charleston?”
I nod. I wish my feet could touch the floor so I wouldn’t feel so stupid and little.
“I know. It’s silly and weird.”
“It’s not silly, honey, but it is most definitely weird.” She honks at another truck heading the other way. “John Weaver. He builds houses. Volunteer firefighter, good guy. Zara, honey, I don’t mean to scare you, but I want you to stay in the house at night, okay? No fooling around, no going out.”
“Just humor an old woman.”
“Tell me why.”
“A boy went missing last week. People are worried that something happened to him.”
“He could’ve just run away.”
“Maybe. Maybe not. That’s not the whole reason, though. Look, my job is all about saving people, right? And I know you are used to training at night in Charleston, but there aren’t that many streetlamps here. I don’t want to be scraping my own granddaughter off the Beechland Road, got it?”
“Sure.” I stare at the trees and then I start laughing because it’s all so ridiculous. “I’m not running much anymore.”
“You aren’t doing anything much anymore is what I hear.”
“Yeah.” I pick at the string around my finger. It’s part of a rug my dad bought. It used to be white but now it’s sort of a dull gray.
I shudder. Grandma Betty and I toss back some tidbits for the rest of the ride, and I try to lecture her about the War on Terror’s impact on worldwide human rights issues. My heart’s not in it though, so most of the time we’re pretty quiet.
I don’t mind.
“Almost home,” she says. “I bet you’re tired.”
“You look tired. You’re pale.”
Betty’s house is a big Cape with cedar shingles and a front porch. It looks cozy and warm, like a hidden burrow in the cold woods. I know from what my mom told me that there are three bedrooms upstairs and one down. The inside is made of wood and brick with a high ceiling in the kitchen, a woodstove in the living room.
The first thing Betty does when we pull into the driveway is wave her hand at the Subaru parked there.
My mouth drops open. I manage to say, “It still has the sticker in the window.”
“It’s brand new. The driving’s tough in Maine. I wanted you to be safe. And I can’t be driving you around everywhere like some sort of damn chauffeur.”