Thursday 23 February 2017

The Follower by Koethi Zan

Published by Harvill Secker on February 23, 2017

Chapter 1

Julie Brookman’s life was absolutely fucking perfect. She turned the rearview mirror of her brother’s car toward her face and wiped a stray smudge of mascara from the corner of her eye. Admiring her long reddish-gold hair, she smiled at herself the way she knew made her green eyes sparkle.

She’d finished her paper on the transcendental poets four days early and would turn it in to her professor in the morning. Professor Greenfield was her favorite. She may have even had a slight crush on him, but that had nothing to do with it. Julie always did things ahead of schedule, always made sure her work was better than anyone else’s.

For this paper, she’d stayed up at her parents’ place in Westchester because she believed she wrote best in her childhood bedroom. Routine was crucial to success. That was one of her maxims. She’d decided to take the late train back, and give her essay a final proofread first thing in the morning before hitting send.

Ryan pulled into the station parking lot.

‘Okay, kiddo,’ Julie said, turning to the backseat to grab her computer bag. ‘This will be just fine.’

‘I can wait with you,’ he said, but only after a conspicuous hesitation.

Julie took out her phone.

‘We got here early. It would be silly for you to stay. I got it.’ She nodded toward the train station. ‘Look, Kurt’s in there. You go meet Janie.’

He looked at her uncertainly, but it was obvious he wanted to go.

‘Come on. It’s totally fine.’ She rubbed her hand over his hair, so long it would have hidden his eyes but for the natural upward sweep it took at the ends. He was adorable. ‘You’ve got good cover now. Mom won’t even ask where you’ve been. Get your precious time in before they ground you again.’

Ryan rolled his eyes.

‘Listen –’ he paused, still looking unsure – ‘just wait inside, okay?’

Julie nodded as she slung the strap of her bag over her shoulder and pulled twice on the tiny silver heart medallion hanging from the clasp. Her good-luck charm.

‘Yep. Me and Kurt, best buds.’

Julie got out of the car and peered through the window into the station. Kurt’s outline was just visible as he stood behind the counter going through the receipts. She knew he’d be there until one a.m. She’d taken this late train a hundred times.

She glanced back as Ryan was pulling his car onto the road, his tires spinning out in the gravel at the edge of the turn. She waved half-heartedly but knew he wouldn’t even look back. Kids today. She smiled.

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