Genre: YA Contemporary Fantasy
Word Count: 85,000
Fifteen-year-old Lauren Rousseau doesn’t want to be her sister’s keeper, but she’s the only one in her family who notices that her once-athletic, fun-loving sister seems to be vanishing right before her eyes.
Wendi’s terror grows every time the family visits Grandmother Winifred; Grandmother perks up at the same time Wendi shuts down. The care facility staff is thrilled to see the family arrive; family visits change Winifred’s violent bad days into good ones. Their father is awed by his older daughter’s effect on his mother. Only Lauren recognizes Wendi’s repulsion as their grandmother strokes her hair and calls her pretty. By the end of each visit, Wendi is a little more wraith, a little less Wendi. A little less of a sister, or anything at all.
Grandmother glares out from Wendi’s eyes, and Lauren believes the impossible is happening: Grandmother Winifred is stealing her sister’s life. When Winifred’s health declines and Wendi starts to disappear physically, Lauren will to do anything to save her sister, even follow her into worlds that exist only in the imagination of the three Rousseau women, real worlds that appear when needed and disappear without warning, the way memories do. And if Lauren isn’t careful, she might just disappear along with her sister, forever.
The frayed wood sign over the shop door read: “Remains: Rags & Bones” and Lauren wanted – no, needed – to see what wonders waited inside. The front windows boasted such a panoply of weirdness, so many disparate items, and the name was so promising.
She knew in the back of her mind she ought to wait for Wendi. If she were honest with herself, it wasn’t even back of the mind stuff. It was front and center. She needed to wait for her sister. Her mother had turned them loose within the cul-de-sac of eclectic Sacramento shops and only because the street looked like a craft fair, self-contained and crowded. Even then they were only to be out of mother’s sight for a short time and with the prohibition that they go nowhere without each other.
It was hardly any kind of freedom at all except Lauren knew how very easy it was to evade her careless, dreamy older sister. So they wandered together, until a puzzle shop distracted Wendi, and Lauren slipped away.
The inside of the shop was dark, and colder than she expected. When the bell over the door chimed a voice called from somewhere in the back, “Make yourself at home,” or maybe it was, “Make yourself a gnome,” which totally made as much sense as anything else she might expect in the crazy, jumbled shop she’d stumbled into.
The sunlight shoved its way into the shop with her, then hung suspended, seemingly uncertain how to proceed under the weight of dust.