Life After Death
It’s the little things you miss when you die. The feel of sliding into bed when you’re exhausted, the clean scent in the Arizona air after a storm during monsoon season, the flutter in your stomach when you see your crush walking down the hal . My kil er took al those things away from me just before my eighteenth birthday.
And because of fate—and a threat from my murderer—
my long-lost twin sister, Emma Paxton, stepped into my life. When I died two weeks ago, I popped into Emma’s world, a world that was about as different from mine as you could get. From that very first moment I saw what Emma saw, went where she went . . . and watched. I watched as Emma reached out to me on Facebook and as someone posing as me told her to visit. I watched as Emma traveled to Tucson, cautiously hopeful about our reunion. I watched as my friends tackled Emma, thinking she was me, and brought her to a party. I stood beside her when she got the note that said I was dead, warning her that if she didn’t continue to pretend to be me, that if she told anyone who she real y was, she’d be dead, too.
I watch today as Emma pul s on my favorite thin white tee and swipes my shimmery NARS blush onto her high cheekbones. I can say nothing as she slides into the skinny jeans I used to live in on weekends and sorts through my cherrywood jewelry box for my favorite silver locket, the one that sends rainbow prisms around the room when it catches the light. And I sit silently by as Emma sends a text confirming brunch plans with my best friends, Charlotte and Madeline, even though I would’ve worded it differently. Stil , Emma has the basics of me down cold—almost no one has noticed she isn’t me.
Emma puts my phone down, an uneasy look on her face.
“Where are you, Sutton?” she asks aloud in a nervous whisper, as if she knows I’m close.
I wish I could send her a message from beyond the grave: I’m here. And this is how I died. Only when I died, my memory died, too. I have glimpses here and there of who I used to be, but only a few solid, fleshed-out moments have bobbed to the surface. My death is as much a mystery to me as it is to Emma. Al I know in my heart, in my bones, is that someone kil ed me. And that same someone is watching Emma as closely as I am.
Does this scare me? Yes. But through Emma, I’ve been given a chance to uncover what happened in those final moments before I took my last breath. And the more I discover about who I was and the secrets I kept, the more I realize how much danger surrounds my long-lost twin. My enemies are everywhere. And sometimes, those we least suspect turn out to be our biggest threats.
“This way to the terrace.” A tanned, button-nosed hostess grabbed four leather-bound menus and marched through the dining room of La Paloma Country Club in Tucson, Arizona. Emma Paxton, Madeline Vega, Laurel Mercer, and Charlotte Chamberlain fol owed her, snaking around tables ful of men in tan blazers and cowboy hats, women in tennis whites, and children munching on organic turkey sausage.
Emma dropped into a booth on the stucco veranda, staring at the tattoo on the back of the hostess’s neck as she glided away—a Chinese character that probably meant something lame, like faith or harmony. The terrace had a view of the Catalina Mountains, and every cactus and boulder was in sharp relief in the late-morning sun. A few feet away, golfers stood around a tee, contemplating their drives or checking their BlackBerrys. Before Emma had arrived in Tucson and assumed her twin sister’s life, the closest she’d gotten to setting foot in a country club was working as an attendant at a mini-golf course outside Las Vegas.
I, however, knew this place like the back of my hand. As I sat, invisible, next to my twin, tethered to her always like a bal oon tied to a little kid’s wrist, I felt a tingle of memory. The last time I ate at this restaurant, my parents had brought me to celebrate getting straight Bs on my report card—a rarity for me. A whiff of peppers and eggs brought back my favorite meal—huevos rancheros, made with the best chorizo in al of Tucson. What I wouldn’t give for just one bite.
“Four tomato juices with lime wedges,” Madeline chirped to the waitress who’d appeared. When the waitress sauntered off, Madeline straightened her spine into her signature bal et-diva posture, whipped her obsidian black hair over her shoulder, and produced a silver flask from her fringed purse. Liquid sloshed as she shook the container back and forth. “We can make Bloody Marys,” she said with a wink.
Charlotte tucked a piece of red-gold hair behind her freckled ear and grinned.
“A Bloody Mary might knock me out.” Laurel pinched her thumb and forefinger on the bridge of her sun-kissed nose.
“I’m stil exhausted from last night.”
“The party was definitely a success.” Charlotte inspected her reflection in the back of a spoon. “What do you think, Sutton? Did we properly usher you into adulthood?”
“Like she’d know.” Madeline nudged Emma. “You weren’t even there half the time.”
Emma swal owed. She stil wasn’t used to the taunting banter between Sutton’s friends, the kind that grew out of years of friendship. Just sixteen and a half days ago, she’d been living as a foster child in Las Vegas, suffering silently with Travis, her vile foster brother, and Clarice, her celeb-obsessed foster mom. But then she discovered an online strangulation video of a girl who looked exactly like her, down to the oval shape of her face, high cheekbones, and blue-green eyes that changed colors depending on the light. After contacting Sutton, the mystery doppelganger, and discovering that they were long-lost identical twins, Emma took a road trip to Tucson, giddy and excited to meet her.