Four or five things arrived for me on my thirteenth birthday. There was a Gap gift card from Gram and a bookstore one from Aunt Sarah. My cousin, Gennifer, sent a CD she’d burned. There might have been another card, too, but I don’t remember right now.
What I remember is the package.
I found it lying beneath the mailbox on my front porch, a box the size of a brick, wrapped in shabby brown paper and enough wrinkled tape to make me think, Psycho bomber. Anthrax. Some poor creature lacking opposable thumbs.
No sender’s name. No return address. Not even any postage.
I looked up and down our tree-lined street. The Douglases’ demented Great Dane had escaped again and was tearing around Ms. Clark’s front lawn despite her big rotating sprinkler. A dog and a sprinkler—those were the only things moving. Even the air was still.
Lifting the package off the porch, I sat with it on the bench by our front door. My name and address were printed on a scrap of paper attached to the front:
I’m going to have to kill someone, I thought, squinting at the unfamiliar handwriting. Nobody in Providence—or any of the last three towns I’d lived in—even knew my real name. I’d been going by Lily for at least six years, ever since I’d figured out Lilybet was a guaranteed hard time for the new girl. Even my mother called me Lily now.
I thought about waiting for her to get home to watch me open my package. Then I started ripping.
After all, it was my birthday.
The explosion knocked me off the bench and broke our living room window. I remember the flash, the sting of gunpowder in my nose, the porch boards thumping the back of my head. The Douglases’ dog started howling, but I could barely hear him over the ringing in my ears.
I remember lying on my back, staring up into the porch overhang, seeing the peeling paint there fade from white to gray to black.
I especially remember the black, all shot through with green sparks, like a sky full of fireworks, dancing green and red diamonds. Nearer. Then farther.
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