<br><h3> Chapter One </h3> <b>I</b> lost my only sister in the last days of November. <p> It's a rotten time to lose someone, when all the world is dying too and darkness comes on earlier, and when the chill rains fall it seems the very sky is weeping. Not that there's ever a good time to lose your best friend, but it seemed somehow harder to sit there and watch in that hospital room, with the white-coated specialists coming and going, and see only grey clouds beyond the hard windows that offered no warmth and no hope. <p> When my sister had first fallen ill, we would sometimes go out to the garden and sit side by side on the bench by the butterfly bush. We would sit a long time, saying nothing, just feeling the sun on our faces and watching the butterflies dance. <p> And the illness had seemed very small then—a thing she could conquer, the way she had overcome everything else fate had flung in her path. She was famous for that, for her spirit. Directors would cast her in roles that were more often given to men than to women, the rogue hero roles, and she'd carry them off with her usual flair and the audience loved it. They loved <i>her</i>. The tabloids were camped round the house through the summer, and when she went into the hospital they came there too, standing vigil around the main entrance. <p> But just at the end there were only the three of us there in the room: me, my sister Katrina, and her husband, Bill. <p> We were holding her hands, Bill and I, with our eyes on her face because neither of us could have looked at the other. And after a time there were only the two of us left, but I couldn't let go of her hand because part of me couldn't believe she was actually gone, so I sat there in dull, hollow silence until Bill stood slowly and took the hand he was still holding and laid it with care on Katrina's heart. Gently, he pressed his own hand on hers one final time, then he slipped something small off her finger and passed it to me: a gold ring, a Claddagh ring, that had belonged to our mother. <p> Wordlessly he held it out and wordlessly I took it, and still we couldn't meet each other's eyes. And then I saw him feel his pocket for his cigarettes and turning, he went out, and I was left alone. Entirely alone. <p> And at the window of the room the cold November rains slid down the glass and cast their shifting shadows in a room that could no longer hold the light. <p> I didn't go to her memorial service. I helped arrange it and made sure her favorite songs were sung, her favorite verses read, but when the crowds of fans and friends turned up to pay their last respects, I wasn't there to shake their hands and listen to their well-meant words of sympathy. I know there were people who thought me a coward for that, but I couldn't. My grief was a private one, too deep for sharing. And anyway, I knew it didn't matter whether I was at the church or not, because Katrina wasn't there. <p> She wasn't anywhere. <p> It seemed to me incredible a light as strong as hers could be extinguished so completely without leaving some small glow behind, the way a lamp that's been switched off will sometimes dimly shine against the darkness. I'd felt certain I would feel her presence somewhere ... but I hadn't. <p> There were only dead leaves round the butterfly bush in the garden and flowerless shrubs round the porch with its empty swing, and when I started to pack up her closets there wasn't so much as a movement of air in the hallway behind me to let me believe that my sister, in some way, was there with me still. <p> So I went through the motions. I dealt with the small things that needed attention and tried to get on with my life in the way everybody was saying I should, while a great hollow loneliness grew deep inside me. Then spring came, and Bill came—turned up on my doorstep one Saturday morning without calling first, looking awkward. And holding her ashes. <p> I hadn't seen him since November, not in person, though because he had a film just out I'd seen him fairly often on the entertainment news. <p> He didn't want to come inside. He cleared his throat, a bit uncomfortably. 'I thought ...' He paused and held more tightly to the plain oak box that held Katrina's ashes. 'She wanted me to scatter these.' <p> 'I know.' My sister's wishes hadn't been a secret. <p> 'I don't know where to do it. Don't know where to take them. I thought maybe you ...' His pause this time was more a moment of decision, and he held the box towards me. 'I thought you could do a better job.' <p> I looked at him, and for the first time since her death, our eyes met and I saw the pain in his. He coughed. 'I don't need to be there when you do it, I've said my goodbyes. I just thought you'd know better than I would where she was the happiest. Where she belongs.' <p> And then he pushed the box into my hands and bent to kiss my forehead before quickly turning from my door and walking off. I wouldn't see him after that, I knew. We moved in different circles, and the bond we'd had between us was reduced now to the simple box he'd handed me. <p> Inside, I set it on the narrow table by my window, thinking. <p> Where she'd been the happiest, he'd said. There were so many places, really. I tried narrowing the choices in my mind, recalling images: the morning we had stood and watched the sun rise from the brink of the Grand Canyon, and Katrina's face had radiated wonderment as she had pointed out a small, white airplane flying far below us, and she'd said she'd never seen a place so beautiful; the time she'd made a movie in Mumbai and the director had rewarded her for days of grueling action with a weekend in Kerala on the southern coast of India, and I had flown over to join her and we'd spent our evenings walking on the black sand beach while gorgeous sunsets flamed the sky above the blue Arabian sea, and Katrina had splashed through the waves like a child, and been happy. <p> But then, she'd been happy wherever she went. She had danced through her life with an air of adventure and carried that happiness with her, so trying to imagine where she might have felt it the most was a difficult task, far beyond my abilities. Finally I gave up and turned my focus to the last thing Bill had said: <i>where she belongs.</i> <p> That should be easier, I knew. There should be one place that would rise above the others in my memory, so I closed my eyes and waited. <p> It was coming on to evening when I thought of it, and once I'd had the thought, it seemed so obvious to me where that place was, where I should take her. <p> Where both of us, once, had belonged. <p> <p> <h3> Chapter Two </h3> Crossing the Tamar for some reason made me feel different inside. It was only a river, yet each time I crossed it I felt I had stepped through some mystical veil that divided the world that I only existed in, from the one where I was meant to be living. It was, my mother always used to say, a kind of homecoming that only those with Cornish blood could feel, and since my blood was Cornish on both sides for several generations back, I felt it strongly. <p> I'd been born in Cornwall, in the north beyond the sweep of Bodmin Moor, where my film-directing father had been working on a darkly Gothic thriller, but both my parents themselves had been raised on this gentler south coast—du Maurier country—and after my father had settled into lecturing in Screen Studies at the University of Bristol, his more regulated schedule made it possible for us to cross the Tamar every summer and come back to spend our holidays with his old childhood friend George Hallett, who lived with his young and lively family in a marvelously draughty manor house set on a hill above the sea. <p> We'd come back every year, in fact, until I'd turned ten and my father's work had taken us away from England altogether, setting us down on a different shoreline, in Vancouver, on the western coast of Canada, where he'd become a fixture at the University of British Columbia's Centre for Cinema Studies. <p> I had loved it in Canada too. And of course it had been in Vancouver that my sister, newly turned eighteen, had first begun to get her acting roles—small parts at first, then larger ones that brought enough attention from the Hollywood directors who came up to film their movies in Vancouver that they'd wanted her to go down to L.A., and so she had. <p> I'd followed her in my own turn years later, more by accident than anything. My own career path took me into marketing, and sideways through an unexpected string of opportunities to corporate public relations, and from there, again by chance, to a PR firm that worked mainly in the entertainment industry, and so I found myself at twenty-five being transferred down from Vancouver to the office in Los Angeles. <p> It never was my favorite place, L.A., but shortly after I'd moved down, my parents had crossed paths with a drunk driver on a rain-drenched road back home, so after that Katrina was the only family I had left, and I was loathe to leave her. <p> We were close. When she was shooting somewhere, I would always find the time to visit. I was there when Bill proposed to her and there when they were married in a private ceremony to avoid the paparazzi. And she'd hired me, of course, to represent her. Just to keep it in the family, she had said. These past two years, with her success, she had become my main account. <p> But I had never really settled in L.A., not with apartments—I had gone through four—nor with the men I'd met and dated. I had gone through even more of those, and none had stuck, the last one fading from the picture with convenience when Katrina had grown ill. <p> I'd barely noticed his departure then. I didn't miss him now. I had been all but dead myself these past six months, a walking shadow, but this morning as my First Great Western train ran rattling on its rails across the Tamar I felt something deep inside me stir to life. <p> I was in Cornwall. And it <i>was</i> a kind of homecoming—the swiftly passing landscape with its old stone farms and hills and hedges held a warm familiarity, and when I'd changed the big train for a smaller one that ran along the wooded valley branch line leading down towards the coast, I felt an echo of the childish sense of thrilled anticipation that had signaled each beginning of those long-lost summer holidays. <p> The station at the line's end was a small one, plain with whitewashed walls, a blue bench set beside it and a narrow platform with a white stripe painted at its edge, and a handful of houses stacked up the green hillside behind. <p> Three people waited on the platform, but I only noticed one of them. I would have known him anywhere. <p> The last time I had seen Mark Hallett he'd just turned eighteen and I'd been ten, too young to catch his eye but not too young to be completely smitten with his dark good looks and laughing eyes. I'd followed him round like a puppy, never giving him peace, and he'd taken it in the same good-natured way he took everything else, neither making me feel like a bother nor letting it go to his head. I'd adored him. <p> Katrina had too, though for her it had gone a bit deeper than that. He had been her first boyfriend, her first great romance, and when we had left at the end of the summer, I'd watched both their hearts break. Hers had healed. I assumed his had too. After all, we were twenty years on and our childhoods were over, although when I stepped from the train to the platform and Mark Hallett turned from the place he'd been standing, his eyes finding mine with that shared sense of sure recognition, his smile the same as it ever was, I couldn't help feeling ten again. <p> 'Eva.' His hug was familiar yet different. He wasn't a tall man, despite his strong West Country build, and my chin reached his shoulder, whereas in my memories I'd barely come up to his chest. But the comfort I felt in his arms hadn't changed. <p> 'No trouble with the trains?' he asked. <p> 'No, they were all on time.' <p> 'A miracle.' He took my suitcase from me, though he left me with my shoulder bag, I think because he knew from what I'd told him on the phone what I'd be carrying inside it. <p> The station didn't even have facilities, it was so small, and the car park wasn't much more than a leveled bit of gravel with a pay phone at one side. Mark's van was easily identifiable by the 'Trelowarth Roses' logo on its side, ringed round by painted vines and leaves. He noticed me looking and smiled an apology. 'I would have brought the car, but I had to run a late order to Bodmin and there wasn't time to stop back at the house.' <p> 'That's all right.' I liked the van. It wasn't the same one his father had driven when I'd come down here as a child, but it had the same mingling of smells inside: damp earth and faintly crushed greenery and something elusive belonging to gardens that grew by the sea. And it came with a dog too—a floppy-eared mongrel with shaggy brown fur and a feathered tail that seemed to never cease wagging, it only changed speed. It wagged crazily now as we got in the van, and the dog would have crawled right through onto the front seat and settled itself on my lap if Mark hadn't with one gentle hand pushed it back. <p> 'This is Samson,' he told me. 'He's harmless.' <p> They'd always had dogs at Trelowarth. In fact they had usually had three or four running round through the fields with us children and traipsing with muddy feet through the old kitchen and out to the gardens. Mark's stepmother, Claire, had forever been washing the flagstone floors. <p> Scratching the dog's ears, I asked how Claire was doing. <p> 'Much better. She's out of the plaster now, up walking round on the leg, and the doctor says give it a few weeks and she'll be as right as rain.' <p> 'Remind me how she broke it in the first place?' <p> 'Cleaning gutters.' <p> 'Of course,' I said, sharing his smile because we both knew how independent Claire was, and it was no surprise that, even now that she'd moved from the manor house into the cottage, she still tried to do all the upkeep herself. <p> 'It's a good thing,' said Mark, 'it was only the gutters, not roof slates.' The dog pushed his way in between us again and Mark nudged him back, starting the van and reversing out onto the road. <p> Cornish roads were like none other anywhere. Here by the coast they were narrow and twisting with steep sloping banks and high hedges that blocked any view of what might lie ahead. My father had shaved several years off my life every time he had driven down here at high speeds, simply honking the horn as we came to a corner and trusting that if anyone were approaching unseen round the bend they'd get out of the way. When I'd asked him once what would have happened if somebody coming towards us had chosen to do the same thing he was doing, to honk without slowing down, Dad had just shrugged and assured me it never would happen. <p> And luckily for us, it never had. <p> Mark drove a little less recklessly, but I nonetheless needed some kind of distraction from watching the road, so I asked him, 'Is Susan still living at home?' <p> Susan being his sister, a little bit younger than me. <p> 'She is.' Mark pulled a face, but he didn't convince me. I knew they were close. 'We got rid of her once. She was living up near Bristol, but that didn't stick and now she's back, with plans to start some sort of tearoom or something to bring in the tourists. She's full of ideas, is Susan.' <p> 'You don't want a tearoom?' I guessed from his tone. <p> 'Let's just say I don't think there'll be too many tourists who want tea so badly they'd brave the hike up from the village to get it.' <p> He did have a point. We were entering the village now—Polgelly, with its huddled whitewashed houses and its twisting streets so narrow they were closed to all but local traffic and the taxis that each summer ferried tourists to and from the trains. Mark's van, as compact as it was, could barely squeeze between the buildings. <p> Polgelly had once been a fishing port of some renown, but with the tourist influx into Cornwall it had changed its face from practical to picturesque, an artist's haven full of shops that sold antiques and Celtic crafts, and bed & breakfast cottages with names like 'Smuggler's Rest'. The old shop near the harbor where we'd always bought our fish and chips still looked the same, as did the little fudge shop on the corner. And The Hill, of course, remained the same as ever. <p> <i>(Continues...)</i> <p> <!-- copyright notice --> <br></pre> <blockquote><hr noshade size='1'><font size='-2'> Excerpted from <b>The Rose Garden</b> by <b>Susanna Kearsley</b> Copyright © 2011 by Susanna Kearsley . Excerpted by permission of sourcebooks landmark. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.<br>Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.