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Siena Sterling | Exclusive Excerpt: TELL US NO SECRETS


Tell Us No Secrets
Siena Sterling

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A Novel


June 2022
On Sale: June 7, 2022
384 pages
ISBN: 006316180X
EAN: 9780063161801
Kindle: B09FLRFMYS
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Also by Siena Sterling:
Tell Us No Secrets, June 2022
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Prologue

 

2018

APRIL 12

 

She sent me a Friend request. Usually I get stupidly excited by one of those—someone out there wants to get in touch. At my age, anything unexpected that doesn’t involve disease or death is a relief. So unless it’s from some random weird person, a Friend request is a plus.

But when I saw her name I winced.

Why had she contacted me after all this time? Almost fifty years had passed since I last saw her. I know that school ties, especially at a boarding school, are strong ones. We spent four years together in classrooms, on sports fields, in dormitories. Four years seeing each other every day and every night. Four teenage years cooped up like chickens in a pen. We all got to know each other much too well.

Yet our class has been a ghost class: it’s been as if we never existed. Not for us the “are you married/do you have children/what job do you have/you’re looking great” staples of school reunion banter. The Stonybridge School for Girls graduating class of 1970 never had a class reunion. We effectively disappeared ourselves. We all wanted to forget. So why look me up on Facebook?

Why now?

She didn’t have a photo of herself, just one of those shady outlines. I stared at her name. What did she want?

Trying to envision her as a sixty-six-year-old woman, all I could see was the girl in the blue-and-green-plaid uniform and those heavy brown lace-up Oxford shoes.

I saw her in the classroom, in the gym, in the dining hall, sit- ting on the bus as we went off to a dance or a school excursion.

Whatever had happened to her, she was, in my mind, still at Stonybridge and still a teenager.

It felt as if a laser beam had focused on the part of my memory that contained those years, shining its light, releasing all those particular neurons, and setting them flying. I was back in New England. I was back at Stonybridge School for Girls.

Our campus was on the outskirts of Lenox, Massachusetts, a typical small New England town that would have been indistinguishable from other small New England towns if there hadn’t been a famous classical music festival held there every summer. Tanglewood was renowned and drew cultured visitors from all over the country, though because it was only two-and a half hour’s drive from Manhattan, it was an especial favorite of New Yorkers. Set in the midst of the Berkshire Mountains, Lenox was the perfect place for classical music lovers gathering on a warm summer evening to hear conductors like Leonard Bernstein  make their magic.

Stonybridge itself was smallish with its hundred and twenty students and looked exactly as a boarding school for girls should look. Redbrick buildings covered with ivy surrounded a court- yard that had a square of grass and a tree in the middle of it.  One of the redbrick buildings had been converted into a gym. Another was designated for classrooms; a third for the dining hall, school offices, and Senior Room; and the fourth for dorms and an infirmary. It was a self-contained organism with students constantly crisscrossing the courtyard.

The only time we left during the week was to go to the sports fields, which were a few minutes’ walk away, or to go into town.

Because it came alive in the summer, Lenox had a few shops most small towns didn’t. There were two clothes stores, a pharmacy, a coffeehouse aptly called the Café, and a record store that stocked the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix as well as Brahms and Beethoven.

Girls at Stonybridge were allowed to go into town after sports two afternoons a week, as long as they signed out, went in pairs or larger groups, and stayed only an hour before signing back in. One weekend every two months we could go home if we chose to, but we also had a required number of school outings on Saturdays—expeditions to a place of historical or geographical interest. And once every six weeks or so we’d be shipped off in a bus to a boys’ boarding school for a dance.

In town we’d hang out in the Café or the record store, feeling a little liberated and a touch more adult. If a dance was on the horizon we might try the shops for clothes, but they were aimed at women, not teenagers, so generally we made fun of the clothes and left quickly.

Academic excellence was not a requirement. You went to Stonybridge if you couldn’t get into a school like Madeira or Miss Porter’s, or if your mother had gone there and it was a family tradition. It wasn’t a Swiss “finishing school”; we weren’t taught manners or how to walk with the right posture, but we weren’t supposed to worry about our future careers either. Careers were for men.

Our class entered Stonybridge in 1966. At that time boarding schools for girls were supposed to be havens of respectability for the entitled and respectable: a WASP variation of Catholic schools run by nuns.

What our parents didn’t take into consideration was the six- ties and the legacy of the sixties that hit the seventies and just kept running.

They weren’t prepared for the generational seismic shift that was happening. Girls weren’t getting their hair permed and wearing bobby socks anymore. Teenagers had become rebellious and hungry for experience. And suddenly there were a lot more experiences out there to be had.

So the parents of Stonybridge girls might have thought their daughters were safely tucked away, but they had no idea what kind of trouble we could get in.

But then again, neither did we. Not one of us could have fore- seen the doom heading our way.

The Class of 1970 considered ourselves a special class, one that played on the edges of the rule books and got away with it. One with a shared sense of humor, a cohesive group that should have kept in touch over the years because we were different. We were memorable.

There had been that morning in May of our senior year when someone had put Aretha Franklin on her stereo and blasted “Chain of Fools” out over the courtyard. Everyone in our class jumped up on the wall separating the courtyard from the class- rooms and danced our hearts out as the lower classes looked at us with what we knew was admiration.

They’d miss us when we were gone. So would the teachers.

Everyone would miss us.

I remember thinking then that we should do the exact same thing on our tenth reunion. Get up on the wall and re-create the joy, the spirit, the beautiful abandon of those minutes dancing in the sun.

It would have been a perfect way to celebrate a tenth reunion.

Or any number reunion.

But the Class of 1970 was never going to get back up on that wall and try to re-create the past.

How can you link arms and dance when you don’t know which person in that chain of fools is a murderer?

 

Adapted from Tell Us No Secrets by Siena Sterling. Copyright © 2022 by Sterling. Reprinted courtesy of William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

TELL US NO SECRETS by Siena Sterling

Tell Us No Secrets

A Novel

 

Female friendship is intense and that intensity can erupt into dangerous passions when teenage girls are cooped up in an exclusive East Coast boarding school.

Beautiful, streetwise Cassidy Thomas; debutante jock Abby Madison; academic, sensitive Karen Mullens; and sophisticated troublemaking Zoey Spalding are four seventeen-year-olds who should be cruising happily through their Senior Year. But jealousies are simmering. And when Zoey plays a game with the class list—if you lose your virginity you get a star beside your name—it sets in motion a chain of shocking events.

Nine months later, when one of the girls is murdered, the others must ask themselves if they can carry the truth of what happened the rest of their lives.

 

Women's Fiction Psychological [William Morrow Paperbacks, On Sale: June 7, 2022, Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9780063161801 / eISBN: 9780063161825]

 

 

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