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Map of the Heart

Part One

Bethany Bay

“Thank you for all the Acts of Light which beautified a summer now passed to its reward.”–letter from Emily Dickinson to Mrs. John Howard Sweetser

Chapter 1

Of the five steps in developing film, four must take place in complete darkness. And in the darkroom, timing was everything. The difference between overexposure and under exposure sometimes came down to a matter of milliseconds.

Camille Adams liked the precision of it. She liked the idea that with the proper balance of chemicals and timing, a good result was entirely within her control.

There could be no visible light in the room, not even a red or amber safe light. Camera obscura was Latin for dark room, and when Camille was young and utterly fascinated by the process, she had gone to great lengths to practice her craft. Her first darkroom had been a closet that smelled of her mom’s frangipani perfume and her stepdad’s fishing boots, crusted with salt from the Chesapeake. She’d used masking tape and weather stripping to fill in the gaps, keeping out any leaks of light. Even a hairline crack in the door could fog the negatives.

Found film was a particular obsession of hers, particularly now that digital imagery had supplanted film photography. She loved the thrill of opening a door to the past and being the first to peek in. Often while she worked with an old roll of film or movie reel, she tried to imagine someone taking the time to get out their camera and take pictures or shoot a movie, capturing a candid moment or an elaborate pose. For Camille, working in the darkroom was the only place she could see clearly, the place where she felt most competent and in control.

Today’s project was to rescue a roll of thirty-five millimeter film found by a client she’d never met, a professor of history named Malcolm Finnemore. The film had been delivered by courier from Annapolis, and the instructions inside indicated that he required a quick turn-around. Her job was to develop the film, digitize the negatives with her micrographic scanner, convert the files into positives and email the results. The courier would be back by three to pick up the original negatives and contact sheets.

Camille had no problem with deadlines. She didn’t mind the pressure. It forced her to be clear-headed, organized, in control. Life worked better that way.

All her chemicals waited in readiness–precisely calibrated, carefully measured into beakers, and set within reach. She didn’t need the light to know where they were, lined up like instruments on a surgeon’s tray–developer, stop bath, fixer, clearing agent–and she knew how to handle them with the delicacy of a surgeon. Once the film was developed, dried and cured, she would inspect the results. She loved this part of her craft, being the revealer of lost and found treasures, opening forgotten time capsules with a single act of light.

There were those, and her late husband, Jace, had been among them, who regarded this as a craft or hobby. Camille knew better. One look at a print by Ansel Adams–no relation to Jace–was proof that art could happen in the darkroom. Behind each finished, epic print were dozens of attempts until Adams found just the right setting.

Camille never knew what the old film would reveal, if it hadn’t been spoiled by time and the elements. Perhaps the professor had come across a film can that had been forgotten and shoved away in the Smithsonian archives or some library storage room at Annapolis.

She wanted to get this right, because the material was potentially significant. The roll she was carefully spooling onto the reel could be a major find. It might reveal portraits of significant people no one had ever seen before, landscapes now changed beyond recognition, a rare shot of a moment in time that no longer existed in this world.

On the other hand, it might be entirely prosaic–a family picnic, a generic street scene, awkward photos of unidentifiable strangers. Perhaps it might yield pictures of a long-gone loved one whose face his widow longed to see one more time. Camille still remembered the feeling of pain-filled joy when she’d looked at pictures of Jace after he’d died. Her final shots of him remained in the dark, still spooled in her camera. The vintage Leica had been her favorite, but she hadn’t touched it since that day.

And only last week, a different storage box had yielded a rare collection of cellulose nitrate negatives in a precarious state. The images had been clumped together, fused by time and neglect. Over painstaking hours, she had teased apart the film, removing mold and consolidating the image layers to reveal something the camera’s eye had seen nearly a century before–the only known photograph of a species of penguin that was now extinct.

Another time, she had exposed canned negatives from a portrait session with Bess Truman, one of the most camera-shy first ladies of the twentieth century. To date, the project that had gained the most attention for Camille had been a picture of a murder in commission, post-humously absolving a man who had gone to the gallows for a crime he hadn’t committed. Write-ups in the national press gave her credit for solving a long-standing mystery, but Camille considered the achievement bittersweet, knowing an innocent man had hanged for a crime while the murderer had lived to a ripe old age.

Touching the digital timer, she scarcely dared to breathe as she prepared to launch the special alchemy of the darkroom.

The moment was interrupted by a ringing phone, located just outside the door. She couldn’t have a phone in the darkroom, due to the keypad that lit up when it rang, so she kept the volume turned on loud to hear incoming voicemail. Ever since her father’s cancer diagnosis, her pulse jumped each time the phone rang.

She waited through several rings, chiding herself for panicking. Papa’s disease was in remission now, though his doctors wouldn’t say how long the reprieve might last.

“This Della McClosky of the Henlopen Medical Center, calling for Camille Adams. Your daughter Julie has been brought into the ER–”

Julie. Camille ripped open the door of the darkroom and snatched up the phone. The film can clattered to the floor. Already, fear thudded through her. “This is Camille. What’s Julie doing in the ER?”

“Ma’am, your daughter has just been brought by ambulance to the ER from her surf rescue class at the Bethany Bay Surf Club.”

Ice cold terror. It took her breath away. “What? Is she hurt? What happened?”

“She’s conscious now, sitting up and talking. Coach Swanson came with her. She got caught in a riptide and aspirated some water. The doctor is checking her out.”

“I’m on my way.” She lunged for the back door, scooping her keys from the hook as she leaped down the porch steps to her car. There was no thought. No planning. Just action. When you get a call that your kid is in the ER, there could be no room for thinking. Just the deepest fear imaginable, the kind that gripped like a steel band around her chest.

She hurled herself into the car, started it up and tore down the driveway, her tires spitting an arc of crushed oyster shells in her wake. She roared around Lighthouse Point at the end of her road. The rocky shoals there had been guarded for a century by the sentinel overlooking the bay.

The car radio was on, broadcasting a surf report at the top of the hour by Crash Daniels, owner of the Surf Shack. “We are getting our first taste of summer, people. The whole Delmarva Peninsula is basking in temperatures in the mid-eighties. The ocean side looks rad. Bethany Bay is totally off the hook...”

She snapped off the radio. Panic about her daughter demanded total focus. Surf rescue class? What the hell was Julie doing in surf rescue? She wasn’t even taking that class, an optional PE credit offered to ninth graders. Camille had forbidden it, even though Julie had begged. Far too dangerous. The tides on the ocean side of the peninsula could be deadly. There was no satisfaction in being right. Julie got caught in a riptide, the nurse had said. A surge of horror filled Camille’s throat, and she felt like puking.

“Easy,” she told herself. “Deep breath. The woman on the phone said Julie is conscious.”

Jace had been conscious, too, moments before she had lost him forever, five years before when they were on a romantic second-honeymoon getaway. She couldn’t stop herself from thinking about that now. That was the reason she had refused to sign the permission slip to allow Julie to participate in surf rescue. She simply couldn’t survive another loss.

There had been a time when Camille had led a charmed life, cheerfully oblivious to the devastation that could strike without warning. Throughout her idyllic childhood in Bethany Bay, she’d been as wild and carefree as the birds that wheeled over the watery enclave at the edge of the Atlantic. She herself had excelled at surf rescue, a rigorous and physically demanding course all high schoolers were encouraged to take. In this community, surrounded on three sides by water, safety skills were mandatory. Thanks to the popularity of the beach, with its pipeline waves rolling in, local youngsters were trained in the art of rescue using special hand-paddled boards. It was a time-honored tradition at Bethany Bay High. Each May, even when the water was still chilly from the currents of winter, the PE department offered the challenging class.

At fourteen, Camille had been clueless about the dangers of the world. She’d shot to the head of her group in surf rescue, ultimately winning the annual competition three years in a row. She remembered how joyful and confident the victory had made her feel. She still remembered reveling in the triumph of battling the waves under the sun, laughing with her friends, intoxicated by the supreme satisfaction of conquering the elements. At the end of the course, there was always a bonfire and marshmallow roast on the beach, a tradition still observed by the surf rescue trainers so the kids could bond over the shared experience. She wanted that for Julie, but her daughter was a different girl than Camille had been.

Up until five years ago, Camille had been an adrenaline junkie–surfing, kiteboarding, attempting harrowing rock and mountain climbs–anything that offered a dangerous rush. Jace had been her perfect partner, every bit as keen as she for the thrill of adventure.

Those days were long gone. Camille had been remade by tragedy, cautious when she used to be intrepid, fearful when she used to dare anything, restrained when she used to be unbridled. She viewed the world as a dangerous place fraught with hazards for those foolish enough to venture out and take a risk. She regarded everything she loved as fragile and apt to be lost as quickly as Jace had been.

Julie had processed the death of her father with the stoic innocence of a nine-year-old, quietly grieving and then accepting the fact that her world would never be the same. People had praised her resilience, and Camille had been grateful to have a reason to put her life together and go on.

Yet when Julie brought the permission packet home and announced she was taking surf rescue, Camille had flatly refused. There had been arguments. Tears. Stomping and flinging on the bed. Julie had accused Camille of trying to sabotage her life.

With a twinge of guilt, Camille knew her own fears were holding her daughter back, but she also knew they were keeping Julie out of harm’s way. Yes, she wanted the same kind of fun and camaraderie for Julie that she herself had found in high school. But Julie would have to find it through tamer pursuits. Apparently she had found a way to join the surf rescue class, probably with the age-old trick of the forged permission slip.           

There were few forces greater than the power of a fourteen-year-old’s determination when she wanted something? A teenager would stop at nothing in order to get her way.

Camille should have been more vigilant. Instead of becoming so deeply absorbed in work, she should have kept a closer eye on her daughter. Maybe then she would have noticed what Julie was up to, sneaking off to surf rescue instead of dodgeball or study hall or some other tame substitute for the course on the beach.

When Jace was alive, he and Camille had both made sure Julie was a strong swimmer. By the age of eight, she’d learned about the way a riptide worked, and how to survive if she happened to get caught in one–tread water, stay parallel to the shore and don’t fight it. Camille could still remember Jace explaining it. The riptide will come back around in three minutes, so there was no need to panic.

These days, panicking was Camille’s specialty.

Keeping her eyes on the road, Camille groped in her bag for her phone. Her hand bumped up against the usual suspects–wallet, pen, checkbook, hair clip, comb, mints. No phone. Shoot, she had forgotten it in her rush to get to the hospital.

The hospital, where her wounded daughter had been taken while Camille was holed up in her darkroom, ignoring the world. With each negative thought, she pressed her foot harder on the accelerator, until she realized she was going fifty in a thirty mile per hour zone. She refused to ease up. If she got pulled over, she’d simply ask the police for an escort.

The word please echoed over and over in her head. She begged for this to not be happening. Please. Please not this. Please not Julie.

Fourteen, smart, funny, quirky, she was Camille’s whole world. If something happened to her, the world would end. I would simply end, thought Camille with rock-solid certainty. I would cease to exist. My life would be kaput. Over. Sans espoir, as Papa would say.

The coast road bisected the flatlands embraced parenthetically between the teeming mystery of the Chesapeake Bay, and the endless, vast expanse of the Atlantic. Fringed by sand dunes filled with native bird rookeries, the bay curved inward, framing the crashing Atlantic and forming one of the best surf beaches on the eastern seaboard. It was there, on this stunningly beautiful sugar-sand beach that drew tourists every year, that Julie’s accident had occurred.

Camille accelerated yet again, on the home stretch. Five minutes later, she careened into the parking lot of the medical center. The place held both distant and recent memories for her. She leapt from the car, hitting the ground at a run.

“Julie Adams,” she said to the woman at the reception desk. “She was brought in from surf rescue.”

The receptionist consulted her screen. “Curtain area seven,” she said. “Around to the right.”

Camille knew where that was. She ran past the memorial wall–the Dr. Jace Adams Memorial Wall, which never failed to pierce her heart with remembrances.

She missed Julie’s father every single day, but never more sharply than when she was scared. Other women could turn to their husbands when disaster struck, but not Camille. She could turn only to the sweetest of memories. In the blink of an eye, she had found and lost the love of her life. Jace would remain forever in the shadows of her memory, too distant to comfort her when she was terrified.

Which was pretty much all the time.

She hastened over to the curtain area, desperate to see her daughter. She caught a glimpse of curly dark hair, a delicate hand lying limp. “Julie,” she said, rushing to the side of the wheeled bed.

The others present parted to let her near. It was a singular nightmare to see her daughter hooked up to monitors, with medical personnel surrounding her. Julie was sitting up, a c-spine collar around her neck, several printed bands on her wrist, an IV in her arm and an annoyed expression on her face. “Mom,” she said. “I’m okay.”

That was all Camille needed to hear–her daughter’s voice, saying those words. Her insides melted as relief unfurled her nerves.

“Sweetheart, how do you feel? Tell me everything,” Camille devoured Julie with her eyes. Did she look paler than usual? Was she in pain? Not really, Camille observed. She was wearing her annoyed-teenager face.

“Like I said, I’m okay.” Julie punctuated the statement with a classic roll of the eyes.

“Mrs. Adams.” A doctor in seafoam green scrubs and a white lab coat approached her. “I’m Dr. Solvang. I’ve been taking care of Julie.”

Like a good ER doc, Solvang went calmly and methodically through the explanation. He looked her in the eye and offered short, clear statements. “Julie reports coming off her rescue board when she was trying to knee-paddle around a buoy during a speed drill. She got caught up in an undercurrent. Julie, isn’t that right?”

“Yeah,” she mumbled.

“You mean a riptide?” Camille glared at the coach, who hovered nearby. Hadn’t he been watching? Wasn’t avoiding riptides the first lesson of surf rescue?

“Apparently, yes,” said the doctor. “Coach Swanson was able to bring Julie to shore. At that point, she was unresponsive.”

“Oh my God.” Unresponsive. Camille could not abide the image in her head. “Julie...I don’t understand. How did this happen? You weren’t even supposed to be in surf rescue.” Camille took a breath. “Which we’ll talk about later.”

“Coach Swanson brought her in and performed CPR, and the water she’d aspirated came up. She came around immediately and was brought here for evaluation.”

“So you’re saying my daughter drowned.”

“I got knocked off my board, is all.”

“What? Knocked off? My God–”

“I mean, I fell...” Julie said, her eyes darting around the curtain area.

“The contusion should heal just fine on its own,” Dr. Solvang said.

“What contusion?” Camille wanted to grab the guy by his crisp white lapels and shake him. “She hit her head?” She touched Julie’s chin, looking for the injury amid Julie’s dark salt-encrusted curls. There was a knot at her hairline above one eye. “How did you hit your head?”

Julie’s glance skated away. She lightly touched the damp, salt-crusted hair above her temple.

“We’ve done a neural assessment every ten minutes,” said the nurse. “Everything is normal.”

“Weren’t you wearing a safety cap?” Camille asked. “How did you get a contusion?”

“Mom, I don’t know, okay? It all happened really fast. Do me a favor and stop freaking out.”

Surliness was a new thing with Julie. Camille had started noticing it earlier in the school year. At the moment, her surliness was a hopeful sign. It meant she was feeling normal. “Now what?” Camille asked the doctor. “Are you going to admit her?”

He smiled and shook his head. “No need. The discharge papers are already being prepared.”

She melted a little with relief. “I need a phone. I dashed out of the house without mine, and I need to call my mother.”

Julie indicated her Bethany Bay Barracudas team bag. “You can use mine to call Gram.”

Camille found it and dialed her mother.

“Hey, you,” said Cherisse Vandermeer. “Did school get out early today?”

“Mom, it’s me,” said Camille. “Using Julie’s phone.”

“I thought you would be buried in your darkroom all day.”

The darkroom. Camille had an oh shit moment, but thrust it away in favor of the more immediate matter.

“I’m at the hospital,” Camille told her. “Julie was brought to the ER.”

“Oh, dear heavenly days. Is she all right? What happened?”

“She’s okay. She had an accident in surf rescue class. Just got here myself.”

There was an audible gasp. “I’ll be right over.”

“I’m all right, Gram,” Julie said loudly. “Mom’s freaking out, though.”

Now Camille heard a deep, steadying breath on the other end of the line. “I’m sure it’s going to be all right. I’ll see you there in ten minutes. Did they say what–”

The call dropped. Cell phone signals were iffy this low on the peninsula.

For the first time, Camille took a moment to look around the curtain area. Principal Drake Larson had shown up. Drake–her ex-boyfriend–looked utterly professional in a checked shirt and tie, knife pleats in his pants. But the rings of sweat in his armpits indicated he was anything but calm.

Drake should have been perfect for her, but not long ago, they had mutually decided, like two grown-ups, that their relationship was over. He still called her, though. He kept hinting that he wanted to see her again, and she didn’t want to hurt his feelings by turning him down.

She’d tried for months to find her way into loving Drake. He was a good guy, gentlemanly and kind, nice looking, sincere. Yet despite her efforts, there was no spark, no heart-deep sense that they belonged together. With a sense of defeat, she realized she was never going to get there with him. She was ready to close that short and predictable chapter of her utterly uninteresting love life. Breaking it off with him had been an exercise in diplomacy, since he was the principal of her daughter’s high school.

“So when my daughter was being dragged out to sea in a riptide, where were you?” she demanded, pinning Coach Swanson with an accusatory glare.

“I was on the beach, running drills.”

“How did she hit her head? Did you see how it happened?”

He shuffled his feet. “Camille–”

“So that’s a no.”

“Mom,” said Julie. “I already told you, it was a stupid accident.”

“She didn’t have my permission to be in the program,” Camille said to the coach. Then she turned to Drake. “Who was in charge of verifying the permission slips?”

“Are you saying she didn’t bring one in?” Drake turned to the coach.

“We have one on file,” Swanson said.

Camille glanced at Julie, whose cheeks were now bright red above the cervical collar. She looked embarrassed, but Camille noticed something else in Julie’s eyes–a flicker of defiance.

“How long has this been going on?” Camille asked.

“This was our fourth session,” said the coach. “Camille, I’m so sorry. You know Julie means the world to me.”

“She is my world, and she nearly drowned,” Camille said. Then she regarded Drake. “I’ll call you about the permission slip. All I want is to get my daughter home, okay?”

“What can I do to help?” Drake asked. “Julie gave us all quite a scare.”

Camille had the ugly sense that the words tort liability and lawsuit were currently haunting Drake’s thoughts. “Look,” she said, “I’m not mad, okay? Just scared out of my mind. Julie and I will both feel better once we get home.”

Both men left after she promised to send them an update later. The discharge nurse was going down a list of precautions and procedures when Camille’s mother showed up. “The x-ray shows her lungs are completely clear,” the nurse said. “As a precaution, we’ll want to have a follow-up to make sure she doesn’t develop pneumonia.”

“Pneumonia!” Camille’s mother was in her fifties, but looked much younger. People were constantly saying Camille and Cherisse looked like sisters. Camille wasn’t sure that was a compliment to her. Did it mean she, at thirty-six, looked fifty-something? Or did it mean her fifty-something mom looked thirty-six? “My granddaughter will not come down with pneumonia. I simply won’t let it happen.” Cherisse rushed to the bed and embraced Julie. “Sweetheart, I’m so glad you’re all right.”

“Thanks, Gram,” Julie said, offering a thin, brief smile. “Don’t worry. I’m ready to go home, right?” she asked the nurse.

“Absolutely.” The nurse taped a cotton ball over the crook of her arm, where the IV had been.

“Okay, sweetie,” said Camille’s mom. “Let’s get you home.”

They both helped unstick the circular white pads that had been connected to the monitors. Julie had been given a hospital gown to wear over her swimsuit. Her movements as she got dressed were furtive, almost ashamed as she grabbed her street clothes from her gym bag. Teenagers were famously modest, Camille knew that. Julie took it to extremes. The little fairy girl who used to run around unfettered and unclothed had turned into a surly, secretive teen. “You don’t need to wait for me,” Julie announced. “I can dress myself.”

Camille motioned her mother out into the waiting area.

“I’m ready to go,” Julie said, coming out of the curtain area a few minutes later. She wore an oversized “Surf Bethany” T-shirt and a pair of jeans that had seen better days. There was a plastic bag labeled Patient Belongings that contained a towel, headgear, glasses, and rash guard. “And just so you know, I’m not going back to school,” she added, her narrow-eyed expression daring them to contradict her.

“All right,” said Camille. “Do we need to stop at school and get your stuff?”

“No,” Julie said quickly. “I mean, can I just go home and rest?”

“Sure, baby.”

“Want me to come?” asked Camille’s mother.

“That’s okay, Gram. Isn’t this your busy day at the shop?”

“Every day is busy at the shop. We’re getting ready for First Thursday Arts Walk. But I’m never too busy for you.”

“It’s okay. Swear.”

“Should I come in later and help?” asked Camille. She and her mother were partners at Ohh-La-La, which, a bustling home goods boutique in the center of the village. Business was good, thanks to locals looking to indulge themselves, and well-heeled tourists from the greater DC area.

“The staff can handle all the prep work. The three of us could have a girls night in. How does that sound? We can watch a chick flick and do each other’s nails.”

“Gram. Really. I’m okay now.” Julie edged toward the exit.

Cherisse sighed. “If you say so.”

“I say so.”

Camille put her arm around Julie. “I’ll call you later, Mom. Say hi to Bart from us.”

“You can say it in person,” said a deep male voice. Camille’s stepfather strode over to them. “I came as soon as I got your message.”

“Julie’s okay.” Cherisse gave him a quick, fierce hug. “Thanks for coming.”

Camille wondered what it was like to have an automatic person to call, someone who would drop everything and rush to your side.

He gathered Julie into his arms, enfolding her in a bear hug. The salt air and sea mist still clung to him. He was an old-school waterman who had a fleet of skipjack boats, plying the waters of the Chesapeake for the world’s tastiest oysters. Tall, fair-haired and good-looking, he’d been married to Cherisse for a quarter century. He was a few years younger than Camille’s mom, and though Camille loved him dearly, Papa owned her heart.

After the bear hug, he held Julie arm’s-length. “Now. What kind of mischief did you get yourself into?”

They walked together toward the exit. “I’m okay,” Julie said yet again.

“She got caught in a rip tide,” Camille said.

“My granddaughter?” Bart scratched his head. “No. You know what a rip tide is. You know how to avoid it. I’ve seen you in the water. You’ve been swimming like a blue marlin ever since you were a tadpole. They say kids born out here have webbed feet.”

“Guess my webbed feet failed me,” Julie muttered. “Thanks for coming.”

In the parking lot they parted ways. As Julie got into the car, Camille watched her mother melt against Bart, surrendering all her worries into his big, generous embrace. Seeing them caused a flicker of envy deep in her heart. She was happy for her mother, who had found such a sturdy love with this good man, yet at the same time, that happiness only served to magnify Camille’s own loneliness.

“Let’s go, kiddo,” she said, putting the car in gear.

Julie stared silently out the window. She chewed her thumbnail, a habit she’d taken up recently. Camille resisted the urge to correct her. The kid had endured a bad day and didn’t need any more nagging.            

She took a deep breath, not knowing how to deal with this. “Jules, I honestly don’t want to stifle you.”

“And I honestly don’t want to have to forge your signature on permission slips,” Julie said softly. “But I wanted this really bad.”

She’d been blind to her daughter’s wishes, she thought with a stab of guilt. Even when Julie had pleaded with her to take surf rescue, she’d refused to hear.

“I thought it would be fun,” Julie said. “I’m a good swimmer. Dad would have wanted me in surf rescue.”

“He would have,” Camille admitted. “But he would have been furious about you going behind my back. Listen, if you want, I can work with you on surf rescue. I was pretty good at it in my day.”

“Oh, yay. Let’s homeschool me so people think I’m even more of a freak.”

“No one thinks you’re a freak,” said Camille.

Julie shot her a look. “Right.”

“Okay, who thinks you’re a freak?”

“Try everyone in the known world.”


“I just want to do the class, Mom, like everyone else. Not have you teach me. It’s nice of you to offer, but that’s not what I want, even though you were a champ back in your day. Gram showed me the pictures in the paper.”

Camille remembered the triumphant photo from the Bethany Bay Beacon years ago. She had big hair, railroad track braces and a grin that wouldn’t quit. She knew taking the course was not just about the skills. Surf rescue was such a strong tradition here, and the group experience was part of the appeal. She remembered the end of the course, sitting around a bonfire and telling stories with her friends. She remembered looking around the circle of fire glow, seeing all those familiar faces, and there was such a feeling of contentment and belonging. At that moment, she’d thought, I’ll never have friends like this again. I’ll never have a moment like this again.

Now she had to wonder if she was robbing her own daughter of the same kind of moment.

Your mom let you do the class,” Julie said. “She let you do everything. I’ve seen the pictures of you surfing and mountain biking and climbing. You never do any of that stuff anymore. You never do anything anymore.”

Camille didn’t reply. That had been a different life. Before. The Camille from before had grabbed life by the fistful, regarding the world as one giant thrill ride. She had thrown herself into sports, travel, adventure, the unknown–and the greatest adventure of all had been Jace. When she’d lost him, that was when after began. After meant caution and timidity, fear and distrust. It meant keeping a wall around herself and everything she cared about, not allowing anything or anyone in to upset her hard-won balance.

“So, about that permission slip,” Camille said.

Julie lifted one shoulder in a shrug. “I’m sorry.”

“If I wasn’t so scared by the accident, I’d be furious with you right now.”

“Thanks for not being furious.”

“I’m going to be later, probably. My God, Julie. There’s a reason I didn’t want you to take the class. And I guess you found out today what that reason was–it’s too dangerous. Not to mention the fact that you shouldn’t be sneaking around behind my back, forging my signature–”

“I wouldn’t have done it if you’d just let me take the class like a normal kid. You never let me do anything. Ever.”

“Come on, Jules.”

“I kept asking, and you didn’t even hear me, Mom. I really wanted to do the course, same as you did when you were my age. I just want a chance to try–”

“You took that chance today, and look how that turned out.”

“In case you’re wondering, which you’re probably not, I did great at the first three sessions. I was really good, one of the best in the class, according to Coach Swanson.”

Camille felt another twinge of guilt. How could she explain to her daughter that Julie wasn’t allowed to try something Camille had been so good at?

After a few minutes of silence, Julie said, “I want to keep going.”


“In surf rescue. I want to keep going to the class.”

“Out of the question. You went behind my back–”

“And I’m sorry I did that, Mom. But now that you know, I’m asking you straight up to let me finish the class.”

“After today?” Camille said, “You ought to be grounded for life.”

“I have been grounded for life,” Julie muttered. “Ever since Dad died, I’ve been grounded for life.”

Camille pulled off the road, slamming the car into Park alongside a vast, barren salt meadow. “What did you say?”

Julie tipped up her chin. “You heard. That’s why you pulled over. All I’m saying is, after Dad died, you stopped letting me have a normal life because you keep thinking something awful is going to happen again. I never get to go anywhere or do anything. I haven’t even been on an airplane in five years. And now all I want is to take surf rescue like everybody else does. I wanted to be good at one thing.” Julie’s chin trembled and she turned away to gaze out the window and the swaying grasses and blowing afternoon clouds.

“You’re good at so many things,” Camille said.

“I’m a fat loser,” Julie stated. “And don’t say I’m not fat because I am.”

Camille felt ill. She’d been blind to what Julie wanted. Was she a terrible mother for being overprotective? Was she letting her own fears smother her daughter? By withholding her permission to take surf rescue, she’d forced Julie to go behind her back.

“I don’t want to hear you talking about yourself that way,” she said gently, tucking a strand of Julie’s dark, curly hair behind her ear.

“That’s right, you don’t,” Julie said. “That’s why you’re always busy working at the shop or in your darkroom. You stay busy all the time so you don’t have to hear about my gross life.”

“Jules, you don’t mean that.”

“Fine, whatever. I don’t mean it. Can we go home?”

Camille took a deep breath, trying not to feel the places where Julie’s words had dug in. Was it true? Did she throw herself into her work so she didn’t have to think about why she was still single after all these years or why she harbored a manic fear that something awful would happen to those she loved? Yikes. “Hey, sweetie, let’s do each other a favor and talk about something else.”

“Jeez, you always do that. You always change the subject because you don’t want to talk about the fact that everybody thinks I’m a fat, ugly loser.”

Camille gasped. “No one thinks that.”

Another eye roll. “Right.”

“Tell you what. You’ve been really good about wearing your headgear and your teeth look beautiful. Let’s ask the orthodontist if you can switch to night time only. And something else–I was going to wait until your birthday to switch your glasses for contacts, but how about you get contacts to celebrate the end of freshman year. I’ll schedule an appointment–”

Julie swivelled toward her on the passenger seat. “I’m fat, okay? Getting rid of my braces and glasses is not going to change that.”

“Stop it,” Camille said. God, why were teenagers so hard? Had she been that hard? “I won’t let you talk about yourself that way.”

“Why not? Everybody else does?”

“What do you mean, everybody else?”

Julie offered a sullen shrug. “Just...never mind.”

Camille reached over and very gently brushed back a lock of Julie’s hair. Her daughter was smack in the middle of prepubescent awkwardness, the epitome of a late bloomer. All her friends had made it through puberty, yet Julie had just barely begun. In the past year, she’d gained weight and was so self-conscious about her body that she draped herself in baggy jeans and t-shirts.

“Maybe I do need to let go,” Camille said. “But not all at once, and certainly not by putting you in harm’s way.”

“It’s called surf rescue for a reason. We’re learning to be safe in the water. You know this, Mom. Jeez.”

Camille slowly let out her breath, put the car in Drive and pulled back out onto the road. “Doing something underhanded is not the way to win my trust.”

“Fine. Tell me how to win your trust so I can take the course.”

Camille kept her eyes on the road, the familiar landmarks sliding past the car windows. There was the pond where she and her friends had once swung a rope swing. On the water side was Sutton Cove–a kiteboarding destination for those willing to brave the wind and currents. After a day of kiteboarding with Jace nearly sixteen years before, she’d emerged from the sand and surf to find him down on one knee, proffering an engagement ring. So many adventures around every corner.

“We’ll talk about it,” she said at last.

“Meaning we won’t.”

“Meaning we’re both going to try to do better. I’m sorry I’ve been so buried in work, and–” A horrid thought crash-landed into the moment.

“What?” Julie asked.

“A work thing.” She glanced over at her daughter. “Don’t worry about it. I’ll deal.” Her stomach clenched as she thought about the project she’d been working on for Professor Finnemore. The moment the ER had called, Camille had dropped everything and burst out of the darkness–thus ruining her client’s rare, found film forever.

Great. The one-of-a-kind negatives, which might have offered never before seen images nearly half a century old, were completely destroyed.

Professor Finnemore was not going to be happy.

Map of the Heart
by by Susan Wiggs

  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Mass Market Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Avon
  • ISBN-10: 0062425498
  • ISBN-13: 9780062425492