All That is Lost Between Us


by Sara Foster

Prologue

GEORGIA

It was only a memory now. The three of them, walking along the dark, narrow lane. The awkward silence that lingered in their footsteps. The phone buzzing insistently in her pocket. They had been there just a few hours ago, but already it had become a distant recollection of a time when their lives travelled in a neat, straight line. Georgia could see them vividly without needing to close her eyes – hear the tread of their shoes on the deserted road, feel the chilly late-September wind toying with her hair, a contrast to the warmth of her right hand, wrapped within Danny’s. They hadn’t known that they were sleepwalkers, unaware of what headed towards them, until it was too late. Until all Georgia could see was darkness, before the minutes snuck in and made an unbridgeable gap of time, and it was impossible to go back and change anything.

‘You can take my car,’ her mother had volunteered at dinnertime, when Georgia’s friend Bethany had called and invited her over. Georgia knew she should have welcomed the offer. She was usually keen to practise driving, so proud of her brand-new licence, and Bethany’s house was in Ambleside, a few miles away down a steep and winding road. But no, she wanted to walk; she would cut through the woods. She didn’t add that she also wanted to drink – Bethany’s parents were away again, and Bethany thought there was enough alcohol in the house that a few knock-offs wouldn’t be noticed.

Georgia wouldn’t drink too much, though, she had decided as she ran upstairs to get ready, because tonight she planned to confess everything to her cousin Sophia. It wasn’t so much that she needed to get things off her chest, but rather that she was hoping to close the gap that had opened between the two of them since the summer.

Sophia and Georgia had been best friends since they were babies, but for the first time things were coming between them. It had been fine until Sophia went away on holiday, but by the time she got back Georgia had a secret – one so immense she could hardly believe it was contained inside her, because it also seemed to be out there in the world, waiting for her everywhere she went, adding its own slant on all that she did. So harmless at first, it had become a burden she couldn’t carry alone. Her brain was increasingly tuned to this one frequency, a relentless, questioning chatter she couldn’t clear. She was hoping it was that which had caused the chasm between her and Sophia, because for the first time in her life she felt she was losing her best mate.

It was only little things that bothered her, but she didn’t know if they added up to something bigger. When Bethany had called she had let slip that she had been with Sophia that morning. And yes, Sophia already knew about the party. Georgia was trying not to be possessive, but what had they been doing together, and why hadn’t they included her? Sophia had had all afternoon to call and tell her, but she hadn’t. Why?

The secret she had been so nervous about sharing suddenly felt like the ace up her sleeve. Instead of finding excuses to stay home, as she had been doing regularly since term started, she had agreed to go. Then she had messaged Sophia.

I need to talk to you.

Her phone buzzed seconds later. OK.

Georgia had slipped the phone into her pocket once she’d seen the reply. If this didn’t get Sophia’s attention, then there was definitely something strange going on.

It hadn’t taken long for Georgia to get ready – it was too cold for anything except skinny jeans and her beloved parka – and then it was just a matter of getting past her parents without any more probing questions about who was going and what time she would be home. But her father had already gone out, and since Georgia had turned seventeen her mother had slackened the maternal reins a little further. So, she was able to announce her departure and head confidently towards the door, only pausing out of courtesy while her mother added the predictable, ‘Don’t forget it’s a school night.’

Once outside, Georgia had stopped to breathe in the cool evening air, while she tried to steady her nerves. The family home was on the outskirts of the tiny Lake District village of Fellmere, situated at just the point where the hillside settlements petered out and the untamed countryside took over. Autumn had already visited their front garden, and the plants were mostly bare, bent branches. A mole had kicked up a few mounds of dirt in the grass as he tunnelled his way through, and everything was covered in leaves. Her father’s rake stood rusting against the wall.

Eventually, Georgia took a long, deep breath and set off. She regularly turned towards the hills at this time of day, on a late-afternoon run, but this evening, for once, she set her back to them and headed for the woodland path. The rough track was well worn by tourists and Fellmere locals, although at this time of year the increasing rain and first fall of leaves could make the journey slippery. Along the way, a few benches were situated at the finest viewpoints over the valley, where you could look south across Lake Windermere and west towards the Langdales.

‘These are the places that have made poets fall to their knees in wonder,’ Georgia’s English teacher had said last year, when they made a trek up Haystacks, a popular mountain in the Buttermere Valley, in search of inspiration for an essay project. It had been a sweeping reference to the many fells and mountains and valleys that belonged to the Lake District, and Georgia could already feel that reverence growing within her. Even the best oil paintings and watercolours seemed stifled by their two dimensions when she could stand on a summit and turn a complete circle of glorious panoramas, bear witness to nature’s careful brushstrokes in infinite degrees. Not only that, but the scenery was preternatural, apt for more change in moments than millennia, thanks to the continuous interventions of the weather. White clouds could drop deep shadows into the greenest valley, while their darker storm cousins could turn the entire scene grey and violent in seconds. Yet with one quick kiss from a benevolent sun, every colour and surface in the landscape would be repainted with rich golden hues, sending idle photographers scrambling for tripods and timers.

Georgia’s love of her surroundings had deepened in the past few years, thanks to fell-running. It was a sport unlike any other – competitive racing through this ever-changing mountainous terrain that might see her scrabbling up grassy banks, balancing along jagged rocky summits, negotiating waterfalls and sliding down scree slopes. It was racing that might take hours – even days, at the most competitive levels – and required her to pack water, sustenance, wet-weather gear, a map, a compass and a whistle. It was an activity that challenged her body and cleared her mind while nature pushed her to her limits and called her as witness to its treasures – from the tiny songbirds and shy red squirrels that hid in the forests, to the vast rocky peaks that shone like steel above verdant valleys shimmering in sunshine.

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