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Dead Girls Don't Say Sorry

Paperback
$12.00 US
5.49"W x 8.18"H x 1.03"D   (13.9 x 20.8 x 2.6 cm) | 14 oz (386 g) | 24 per carton
On sale Feb 06, 2024 | 400 Pages | 978-0-593-81071-2
Age 14 and up | Grade 9 & Up
Reading Level: Lexile HL590L
Sales rights: World
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What does it mean when your best friend is dead and your instinct is relief? A stunningly immersive debut about toxic friendships, grief, romance, and new beginnings.

Friendship, at least for me, has never been anything but complicated.

Before:
One year ago, best friends Nora and Julia were starting their senior year of high school, with plans to apply to the same university so they wouldn't be separated. When Dillan Fletcher comes back to town, life as Nora knows it begins to unravel. And then, the unthinkable happens.

After:
Months after surviving the accident that killed her best friend, Nora Radford is stagnating. Dillan has remained by her side, but he and other friends are starting university, while Nora is still trying to unravel the lies that Julia told, lies disguised as friendship.

DEAD GIRLS DON’T SAY SORRY is an absorbing page-tuner told in two timelines about how friendships evolve, how growing up can reveal the dark side of those you trust most. And it’s about how even in the face of tragedy, we can find our way out of the dark and have the courage to step into something better.
ONE



Before


“Nora, are you even paying attention to me?”

I looked up from the wood grain of the table and offered Julia a sheepish grin. “I’m paying attention.”

It was halfway true.

She shook her head, exasperated. “How are you supposed to see anything if you don’t even look?”

“You’re the one who wanted to come here,” I pointed out.

Our favorite haunt, mostly at Julia’s insistence, was a little café within walking distance of both of our houses. It wasn’t all that scenic--the view through the dust-coated windows consisted of a persistently shabby parking lot and the back entrance of the even shabbier recreation center--but every Tuesday at ten after one, the back doors of the rec center opened and the members of Centennial High’s summer debate team started trickling out, and the view improved.

Spying on people wasn’t my style, but it was Julia’s. So, with mild reluctance, I agreed to be dragged here once a week all summer. It’s what you do for a friend.

“Here he comes.” Julia reached across the table and tapped my arm.

“Can you be any more obvious?” I looked around and then glanced out the window. “He’s going to think we’re creepy.”

Nate Gibson, the object of our attention that day, stood outside the door to the rec center, deeply involved in conversation with another member of the team.

“Who cares? We are being creepy.” Julia mimed a pair of binoculars.

I rolled my eyes. “Cut it out.”

Julia laughed, tossing her blond hair over her shoulder. “I’m just glad you’re finally into someone who isn’t boring.”

I crossed my arms, watching Nate catch a set of car keys with one hand and grin. “The others weren’t boring.”

“Are you kidding me?” She scoffed. “Please. Collectively, they had the personality of a peanut, and you know it.”

“Whatever.” I slumped in my seat, knocking my sunglasses down over my eyes. The AC unit next to me ticked to life, raising goose bumps on my calves. Julia always shot down guys I liked, which meant I’d never actually dated any of them. She said she was looking out for me and I should be grateful. We both knew where I’d stood on the social hierarchy when we met, so maybe she had a point.

Nate Gibson was a lot of things, but boring wasn’t one of them. He was the sort of person Julia liked to ogle: conventionally attractive, captain of the debate team, decent hockey player, popular. He was smart, too. He’d been an alternate for Team Canada in debate last year, and I knew for a fact that he’d been top of the class in biology. Julia had broken into the school records to change her grade on a social studies project, and she’d shown me a picture of his report card.

Those weren’t the reasons I liked him, though.

He had a nice smile, and he wasn’t afraid to speak up in class, and once, I’d seen him doodling a field of flowers in the corner of his notebook.

“Nate’s not boring,” I told her.

“He certainly isn’t.” She raised her eyebrows.

“Hey!” I swatted her arm.

“What? I’d never go for your man. You know that.”

“He’s not my man.” I watched him hoist an amp into the back of the van, then glanced down at the chipped polish on my fingernails.

“Yet.” Julia shoved my leg with her foot. “Don’t look. He’s looking.”

“Why are you looking?” I slumped even farther in my chair. In the reflection of the half-empty pastry case, I saw the team climb into the van and drive away.

Julia stirred her iced coffee absentmindedly with her straw.

“Can you believe summer is almost over?” I asked.

“Don’t remind me.” She wrinkled her nose. “I’m enjoying the last of it in blissful ignorance.”

I probably wouldn’t tell her this, but I was looking forward to going back to school. This year was it. That’s how Julia talked about it. She’d clench her fist and say, This is it. After this, it was on to the next adventure. An adventure Julia had been planning for years. She had everything sorted, from our destination--McGill University--down to matching sweatshirts, notebooks, and water bottles that we’d bought and bedazzled in bright red sequins.

She was a lot braver about it than me. Daydreaming about graduating was one thing. Actually doing it, well--that was going to be another.

Julia tapped her straw against her glass. “Hey, you were friends with Dillan Fletcher, right?”

I blinked. I hadn’t heard that name in years. “What?”

“Dillan,” Julia said impatiently, pointing the straw at me, “Fletcher. You guys were friends.”

“Yeah, why?”

Before Julia, it was me and Dillan. His mom ran the preschool we went to, and then we went to the same kindergarten, and then they moved next door when we’d both turned six. I’d never tell Julia, but I was pretty sure that Dillan had been my first-ever best friend.

Dillan and my older brother, Simon, and I spent entire afternoons constructing elaborate forts, having water-gun fights, and digging around in the dirt. Mostly, I remembered a lot of skinned knees and stupid games. We did everything together as a Dillan-and-Nora duo, an inseparable unit with inside jokes and a thousand silly games.

He’d moved away right before fourth grade. Julia had arrived in fifth grade like an explosion, raising a dust cloud and filling every gap he’d left behind, and then some.

I hadn’t spoken to Dillan much since then, not out of any kind of animosity. It was just harder to see each other when we lived farther apart, and when school had started, we’d drifted.

“You were neighbors,” Julia said.

I smiled. “How do you even know that?”

“I know everything.”

She did.

“Like, I know he’s enrolled at Centennial.”

That surprised me. “Who’d you hear that from?”

“Through the grapevine.” Julia grinned conspiratorially. “Actually, I heard he got kicked out of Forest Lawn.”

“What?”

She had my full attention now. “Yeah. Expelled. That’s what I heard, anyway.”

That was just how Julia was. She’d say the most absurd thing in a deliberately offhand way, and then smile like she’d made an excellent joke when I was surprised.

“For what?”

She shrugged and leaned back, pulling her hair into a ponytail. “Dunno. Probably something extreme, though.”

I had a hard time reconciling what I remembered of Dillan with this new information. “And he’s coming back to Centennial?”

“Yeah.” She nodded. “I heard he’s got this whole delinquent thing going on now.”

“Huh.”

Then, like this information was trivial rather than a revelation, she tossed her ponytail and asked, “Are you coming to soccer tryouts?”

I gave my head a shake, still stuck on Dillan. “Uh, yeah? Obviously.”

I didn’t play soccer. Julia did, though, and she was good. I went to all her games, and I always went to her tryouts.

“Good.” She took the straw from her glass and tossed it at the trash can. It bounced off the rim and landed on the floor. “I really want to make the team again.”

“Of course you’ll make the team.” Julia didn’t need my reassurance. She’d been team captain since sophomore year, but she still liked to hear me say it.

“You’re gonna be on the student pub list this year too, right?”

I grinned. “Obviously.”

Soccer was Julia’s thing. The school newspaper was mine.

“Come on.” She stood. “Let’s see if we can convince my mom to let us use the projector tonight. I want to watch Clueless.”

While Julia jingled her keys and shouldered the front door open, I ducked down and picked up her straw, gingerly dropping it into the bin, and then followed.


Two


After


Pain is an old story.

People like asking about it until the response starts being the same over and over. Honesty earns discomfort. Dishonesty earns distrust. There isn’t a correct answer.

There are no words for this awful, crushing guilt.

My best friend is dead, and nothing will ever be the same.

Eve thinks I’m depressed.

We’ve never talked about it, but when she thinks I’m not looking, I see her watching me. And sometimes she comes over just to sit on the edge of the bed, and doesn’t talk.

Eve was the third member of our trio. Julia, Eve, and me. She’s one of my closest friends now. One of my only friends. I’m grateful for her for a lot of reasons, but the main one is that Eve has a lot of other people to spend time with, and she never seems to mind that I don’t have much to say.

Like today, for instance.

She could be doing other things on the last Saturday before school starts, but she’s dragging me to the dog park, like she has nearly every weekend this summer.

I forgot my sunglasses, so I squint at her, the warm September air heavy on my skin.

Next to us, Strider walks along the path, nose in the grass, thrilled to be alive. Since I don’t want to be outdone by a dog, I try to take on a similar attitude.

Eve’s cut her hair recently. I can’t remember if I’ve already told her I like it, so I don’t say anything. It suits her, though: short on the sides, long on the top, the sort of style my mom would probably call funky. She looks like she’s spent a lot of time in the sun, too. Eve’s always been darker than me, but especially now. Over the summer, she and her family went back to Sri Lanka for a few weeks, and I haven’t told her that I didn’t follow through on my promise to do something out of the house while she was gone.

I clear my throat. “Are you excited about starting school?”

“I think so.” She shrugs. “Feels weird. Like a next step that I’m not quite ready for.”

She glances at me, and I pretend not to notice, because we’ll both feel better if she thinks I don’t pick up on what’s underneath that look: I’m sorry you’re not joining us. I’m sorry life derailed your plans.

“Is Dillan excited?” she asks.

I shrug.

Dillan has refrained from talking about it too much for my sake, but he is, because when he talks about it, he gets this goofy little grin. He’s always been excited for new beginnings, and I’m excited for him--that’s what friends are for, after all. “I think he’s looking forward to getting back into school.”

She wrinkles her nose. “Makes one of us.”

“I thought you were looking forward to cosmetology.”

“I am,” she said. “But it’s still school.

Eve and I are nothing alike. It’s evident in the last year especially--she’s only blossomed, grown brighter, while I have the unpleasant feeling that all I’ve done is shrink further into myself.

My phone buzzes. It’s Dillan--I know by the distinctive triple-tap vibration against my leg. Eve chases after Strider, who’s seen a squirrel, so I look.


abducted by aliens???

how worried should i be


I text him back:


Sorry

Meant to text this am, all good


I fell asleep in the middle of our late-night TV show--whenever we’re not watching it in person, we start episodes simultaneously and text about it the whole time. The fact that I forgot to say anything this morning makes me feel an odd twinge of guilt.

He would have texted me.

Eve and Strider come bounding back toward me. She shields her eyes with her hand. “Is that Nate?”

I look up from my phone, about to ask why she thinks I’d be texting Nate Gibson of all people, but she’s looking out over the field.

“It is!” She breaks into a smile.

Before I can stop her, she’s walking toward him, and I realize that’s how Eve makes friends: by ignoring what I consider human instinct and marching right up to people.

I’m still surprised when Eve reaches him and they hug sideways like old friends.

“Eve!” He looks genuinely thrilled to see her.

Strider’s cold, wet nose touches my hand, and I jump. The two of us trail after Eve until we catch up.

“Hey, Nora,” Nate calls over warmly. “Long time no see--how have you guys been?”

I almost tell him I’ve been busy, like an excuse, but that would be a lie, and I’m trying to do less of that. I should be okay with not being okay, considering. So I just smile, though the gesture feels foreign on my face, like I can’t quite remember how.

“Great!” Eve beams. “I’ve been working a little, but mostly making mischief. You?”

“Good, good.” Nate nods. “I spent most of the summer volunteering up at a camp in BC.”

I know this in the peripheral way I know a lot of things: through social media. Over the summer, I watched the rest of my graduating class go on vacations and prepare for their first year of university--which is right around the corner--while I stagnated.

That’s the word I heard my mom use.

Stagnating.

She said it to my dad one night, when she thought I was sleeping.

Eleanor is stagnating.

I don’t know. I feel justified in it.

Eve and Nate are talking enthusiastically, and I probably should contribute to their conversation, but I’m unsure of how to interject without sounding awkward.

It comes on all at once. I’m exhausted, and I can’t even begin to describe how much I’d rather be at home, or at work, or anywhere else.

I wonder how Eve knows how to do this so well, with such ease. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s Nate we’re talking to, and he used to make me nervous, but my palms are sweating. I’ve missed the window to say what I’ve been doing. It’s not exactly thrilling, anyway: get up, go to work, come home, wait to sleep.

What’s the appropriate etiquette here? Nate and I are sort of acquaintances who were almost . . . something else. Not friends, though.

I miss exactly what Eve says, but it must have been funny, because they both laugh, the sound carrying through the open air.

Dillan would describe them as zesty. The thought almost makes me laugh. I want to be able to join in and laugh easily too, but my life’s like a TV show somebody’s paused, while everyone else has gone on playing.

The sensation is both foreign and familiar. Wanting, cousin to jealousy. I really haven’t wanted anything since Julia died except for it to not have happened.

I exhale, a long, trembling breath.

“Nice to see you both,” Nate says, even though I’ve hardly said two words.

“You too.” Eve’s smile is bright. “I’ll see you later, then?”

He nods and walks away.

I smile weakly. As soon as he’s out of earshot, I turn to Eve. “You didn’t tell me you’ve been hanging out with Nate.”
"Propels readers through one gut-wrenching discovery after another....Unsettling and sharply observed." —Kirkus Reviews

"Attentive pacing, riveting dialogue, and emotionally well-rounded characters." —Publishers Weekly
Alex Ritany is a lifelong reader and writer. When they’re not at the keyboard, you can find them hosting tabletop game night, working on illustrations, or at their other keyboard composing music. Alex’s love of art, music, and the western Canadian landscape regularly spills into their writing, which tends to feature complex friendships, twisty romances, and explorations of queerness. They live in Calgary with their roommate, cat, and dice collection. Dead Girls Don’t Say Sorry is their debut novel. View titles by Alex Ritany
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About

What does it mean when your best friend is dead and your instinct is relief? A stunningly immersive debut about toxic friendships, grief, romance, and new beginnings.

Friendship, at least for me, has never been anything but complicated.

Before:
One year ago, best friends Nora and Julia were starting their senior year of high school, with plans to apply to the same university so they wouldn't be separated. When Dillan Fletcher comes back to town, life as Nora knows it begins to unravel. And then, the unthinkable happens.

After:
Months after surviving the accident that killed her best friend, Nora Radford is stagnating. Dillan has remained by her side, but he and other friends are starting university, while Nora is still trying to unravel the lies that Julia told, lies disguised as friendship.

DEAD GIRLS DON’T SAY SORRY is an absorbing page-tuner told in two timelines about how friendships evolve, how growing up can reveal the dark side of those you trust most. And it’s about how even in the face of tragedy, we can find our way out of the dark and have the courage to step into something better.

Excerpt

ONE



Before


“Nora, are you even paying attention to me?”

I looked up from the wood grain of the table and offered Julia a sheepish grin. “I’m paying attention.”

It was halfway true.

She shook her head, exasperated. “How are you supposed to see anything if you don’t even look?”

“You’re the one who wanted to come here,” I pointed out.

Our favorite haunt, mostly at Julia’s insistence, was a little café within walking distance of both of our houses. It wasn’t all that scenic--the view through the dust-coated windows consisted of a persistently shabby parking lot and the back entrance of the even shabbier recreation center--but every Tuesday at ten after one, the back doors of the rec center opened and the members of Centennial High’s summer debate team started trickling out, and the view improved.

Spying on people wasn’t my style, but it was Julia’s. So, with mild reluctance, I agreed to be dragged here once a week all summer. It’s what you do for a friend.

“Here he comes.” Julia reached across the table and tapped my arm.

“Can you be any more obvious?” I looked around and then glanced out the window. “He’s going to think we’re creepy.”

Nate Gibson, the object of our attention that day, stood outside the door to the rec center, deeply involved in conversation with another member of the team.

“Who cares? We are being creepy.” Julia mimed a pair of binoculars.

I rolled my eyes. “Cut it out.”

Julia laughed, tossing her blond hair over her shoulder. “I’m just glad you’re finally into someone who isn’t boring.”

I crossed my arms, watching Nate catch a set of car keys with one hand and grin. “The others weren’t boring.”

“Are you kidding me?” She scoffed. “Please. Collectively, they had the personality of a peanut, and you know it.”

“Whatever.” I slumped in my seat, knocking my sunglasses down over my eyes. The AC unit next to me ticked to life, raising goose bumps on my calves. Julia always shot down guys I liked, which meant I’d never actually dated any of them. She said she was looking out for me and I should be grateful. We both knew where I’d stood on the social hierarchy when we met, so maybe she had a point.

Nate Gibson was a lot of things, but boring wasn’t one of them. He was the sort of person Julia liked to ogle: conventionally attractive, captain of the debate team, decent hockey player, popular. He was smart, too. He’d been an alternate for Team Canada in debate last year, and I knew for a fact that he’d been top of the class in biology. Julia had broken into the school records to change her grade on a social studies project, and she’d shown me a picture of his report card.

Those weren’t the reasons I liked him, though.

He had a nice smile, and he wasn’t afraid to speak up in class, and once, I’d seen him doodling a field of flowers in the corner of his notebook.

“Nate’s not boring,” I told her.

“He certainly isn’t.” She raised her eyebrows.

“Hey!” I swatted her arm.

“What? I’d never go for your man. You know that.”

“He’s not my man.” I watched him hoist an amp into the back of the van, then glanced down at the chipped polish on my fingernails.

“Yet.” Julia shoved my leg with her foot. “Don’t look. He’s looking.”

“Why are you looking?” I slumped even farther in my chair. In the reflection of the half-empty pastry case, I saw the team climb into the van and drive away.

Julia stirred her iced coffee absentmindedly with her straw.

“Can you believe summer is almost over?” I asked.

“Don’t remind me.” She wrinkled her nose. “I’m enjoying the last of it in blissful ignorance.”

I probably wouldn’t tell her this, but I was looking forward to going back to school. This year was it. That’s how Julia talked about it. She’d clench her fist and say, This is it. After this, it was on to the next adventure. An adventure Julia had been planning for years. She had everything sorted, from our destination--McGill University--down to matching sweatshirts, notebooks, and water bottles that we’d bought and bedazzled in bright red sequins.

She was a lot braver about it than me. Daydreaming about graduating was one thing. Actually doing it, well--that was going to be another.

Julia tapped her straw against her glass. “Hey, you were friends with Dillan Fletcher, right?”

I blinked. I hadn’t heard that name in years. “What?”

“Dillan,” Julia said impatiently, pointing the straw at me, “Fletcher. You guys were friends.”

“Yeah, why?”

Before Julia, it was me and Dillan. His mom ran the preschool we went to, and then we went to the same kindergarten, and then they moved next door when we’d both turned six. I’d never tell Julia, but I was pretty sure that Dillan had been my first-ever best friend.

Dillan and my older brother, Simon, and I spent entire afternoons constructing elaborate forts, having water-gun fights, and digging around in the dirt. Mostly, I remembered a lot of skinned knees and stupid games. We did everything together as a Dillan-and-Nora duo, an inseparable unit with inside jokes and a thousand silly games.

He’d moved away right before fourth grade. Julia had arrived in fifth grade like an explosion, raising a dust cloud and filling every gap he’d left behind, and then some.

I hadn’t spoken to Dillan much since then, not out of any kind of animosity. It was just harder to see each other when we lived farther apart, and when school had started, we’d drifted.

“You were neighbors,” Julia said.

I smiled. “How do you even know that?”

“I know everything.”

She did.

“Like, I know he’s enrolled at Centennial.”

That surprised me. “Who’d you hear that from?”

“Through the grapevine.” Julia grinned conspiratorially. “Actually, I heard he got kicked out of Forest Lawn.”

“What?”

She had my full attention now. “Yeah. Expelled. That’s what I heard, anyway.”

That was just how Julia was. She’d say the most absurd thing in a deliberately offhand way, and then smile like she’d made an excellent joke when I was surprised.

“For what?”

She shrugged and leaned back, pulling her hair into a ponytail. “Dunno. Probably something extreme, though.”

I had a hard time reconciling what I remembered of Dillan with this new information. “And he’s coming back to Centennial?”

“Yeah.” She nodded. “I heard he’s got this whole delinquent thing going on now.”

“Huh.”

Then, like this information was trivial rather than a revelation, she tossed her ponytail and asked, “Are you coming to soccer tryouts?”

I gave my head a shake, still stuck on Dillan. “Uh, yeah? Obviously.”

I didn’t play soccer. Julia did, though, and she was good. I went to all her games, and I always went to her tryouts.

“Good.” She took the straw from her glass and tossed it at the trash can. It bounced off the rim and landed on the floor. “I really want to make the team again.”

“Of course you’ll make the team.” Julia didn’t need my reassurance. She’d been team captain since sophomore year, but she still liked to hear me say it.

“You’re gonna be on the student pub list this year too, right?”

I grinned. “Obviously.”

Soccer was Julia’s thing. The school newspaper was mine.

“Come on.” She stood. “Let’s see if we can convince my mom to let us use the projector tonight. I want to watch Clueless.”

While Julia jingled her keys and shouldered the front door open, I ducked down and picked up her straw, gingerly dropping it into the bin, and then followed.


Two


After


Pain is an old story.

People like asking about it until the response starts being the same over and over. Honesty earns discomfort. Dishonesty earns distrust. There isn’t a correct answer.

There are no words for this awful, crushing guilt.

My best friend is dead, and nothing will ever be the same.

Eve thinks I’m depressed.

We’ve never talked about it, but when she thinks I’m not looking, I see her watching me. And sometimes she comes over just to sit on the edge of the bed, and doesn’t talk.

Eve was the third member of our trio. Julia, Eve, and me. She’s one of my closest friends now. One of my only friends. I’m grateful for her for a lot of reasons, but the main one is that Eve has a lot of other people to spend time with, and she never seems to mind that I don’t have much to say.

Like today, for instance.

She could be doing other things on the last Saturday before school starts, but she’s dragging me to the dog park, like she has nearly every weekend this summer.

I forgot my sunglasses, so I squint at her, the warm September air heavy on my skin.

Next to us, Strider walks along the path, nose in the grass, thrilled to be alive. Since I don’t want to be outdone by a dog, I try to take on a similar attitude.

Eve’s cut her hair recently. I can’t remember if I’ve already told her I like it, so I don’t say anything. It suits her, though: short on the sides, long on the top, the sort of style my mom would probably call funky. She looks like she’s spent a lot of time in the sun, too. Eve’s always been darker than me, but especially now. Over the summer, she and her family went back to Sri Lanka for a few weeks, and I haven’t told her that I didn’t follow through on my promise to do something out of the house while she was gone.

I clear my throat. “Are you excited about starting school?”

“I think so.” She shrugs. “Feels weird. Like a next step that I’m not quite ready for.”

She glances at me, and I pretend not to notice, because we’ll both feel better if she thinks I don’t pick up on what’s underneath that look: I’m sorry you’re not joining us. I’m sorry life derailed your plans.

“Is Dillan excited?” she asks.

I shrug.

Dillan has refrained from talking about it too much for my sake, but he is, because when he talks about it, he gets this goofy little grin. He’s always been excited for new beginnings, and I’m excited for him--that’s what friends are for, after all. “I think he’s looking forward to getting back into school.”

She wrinkles her nose. “Makes one of us.”

“I thought you were looking forward to cosmetology.”

“I am,” she said. “But it’s still school.

Eve and I are nothing alike. It’s evident in the last year especially--she’s only blossomed, grown brighter, while I have the unpleasant feeling that all I’ve done is shrink further into myself.

My phone buzzes. It’s Dillan--I know by the distinctive triple-tap vibration against my leg. Eve chases after Strider, who’s seen a squirrel, so I look.


abducted by aliens???

how worried should i be


I text him back:


Sorry

Meant to text this am, all good


I fell asleep in the middle of our late-night TV show--whenever we’re not watching it in person, we start episodes simultaneously and text about it the whole time. The fact that I forgot to say anything this morning makes me feel an odd twinge of guilt.

He would have texted me.

Eve and Strider come bounding back toward me. She shields her eyes with her hand. “Is that Nate?”

I look up from my phone, about to ask why she thinks I’d be texting Nate Gibson of all people, but she’s looking out over the field.

“It is!” She breaks into a smile.

Before I can stop her, she’s walking toward him, and I realize that’s how Eve makes friends: by ignoring what I consider human instinct and marching right up to people.

I’m still surprised when Eve reaches him and they hug sideways like old friends.

“Eve!” He looks genuinely thrilled to see her.

Strider’s cold, wet nose touches my hand, and I jump. The two of us trail after Eve until we catch up.

“Hey, Nora,” Nate calls over warmly. “Long time no see--how have you guys been?”

I almost tell him I’ve been busy, like an excuse, but that would be a lie, and I’m trying to do less of that. I should be okay with not being okay, considering. So I just smile, though the gesture feels foreign on my face, like I can’t quite remember how.

“Great!” Eve beams. “I’ve been working a little, but mostly making mischief. You?”

“Good, good.” Nate nods. “I spent most of the summer volunteering up at a camp in BC.”

I know this in the peripheral way I know a lot of things: through social media. Over the summer, I watched the rest of my graduating class go on vacations and prepare for their first year of university--which is right around the corner--while I stagnated.

That’s the word I heard my mom use.

Stagnating.

She said it to my dad one night, when she thought I was sleeping.

Eleanor is stagnating.

I don’t know. I feel justified in it.

Eve and Nate are talking enthusiastically, and I probably should contribute to their conversation, but I’m unsure of how to interject without sounding awkward.

It comes on all at once. I’m exhausted, and I can’t even begin to describe how much I’d rather be at home, or at work, or anywhere else.

I wonder how Eve knows how to do this so well, with such ease. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s Nate we’re talking to, and he used to make me nervous, but my palms are sweating. I’ve missed the window to say what I’ve been doing. It’s not exactly thrilling, anyway: get up, go to work, come home, wait to sleep.

What’s the appropriate etiquette here? Nate and I are sort of acquaintances who were almost . . . something else. Not friends, though.

I miss exactly what Eve says, but it must have been funny, because they both laugh, the sound carrying through the open air.

Dillan would describe them as zesty. The thought almost makes me laugh. I want to be able to join in and laugh easily too, but my life’s like a TV show somebody’s paused, while everyone else has gone on playing.

The sensation is both foreign and familiar. Wanting, cousin to jealousy. I really haven’t wanted anything since Julia died except for it to not have happened.

I exhale, a long, trembling breath.

“Nice to see you both,” Nate says, even though I’ve hardly said two words.

“You too.” Eve’s smile is bright. “I’ll see you later, then?”

He nods and walks away.

I smile weakly. As soon as he’s out of earshot, I turn to Eve. “You didn’t tell me you’ve been hanging out with Nate.”

Praise

"Propels readers through one gut-wrenching discovery after another....Unsettling and sharply observed." —Kirkus Reviews

"Attentive pacing, riveting dialogue, and emotionally well-rounded characters." —Publishers Weekly

Author

Alex Ritany is a lifelong reader and writer. When they’re not at the keyboard, you can find them hosting tabletop game night, working on illustrations, or at their other keyboard composing music. Alex’s love of art, music, and the western Canadian landscape regularly spills into their writing, which tends to feature complex friendships, twisty romances, and explorations of queerness. They live in Calgary with their roommate, cat, and dice collection. Dead Girls Don’t Say Sorry is their debut novel. View titles by Alex Ritany

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