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Weave a Circle Round: A Novel
Author:Kari Maaren

Weave a Circle Round: A Novel

Kari Maaren



For my sister Jan,

who gave Mel her supremely

unruffled demeanour

and quite a bit of her logic





acknowledgements

This book has been a long time coming. I wrote it in 2010 and finished the first round of revisions in 2011. It was accepted by Tor in the spring of 2015 and published in the fall of 2017. Therefore, my acknowledgements—as is proper for a book with a debt to fairy tales—go back seven years. Okay, let’s do this. Cracks knuckles

I owe a lot to Andrew House, Helen Marshall, Ben Fortescue, and Peter Buchanan, the other members of the writers’ group to which I belonged while I was writing Weave a Circle Round. Extra thanks go to Andrew, who went over the whole manuscript and made detailed notes on it when the first draft was done, and Helen, who was responsible for connecting me with David Hartwell of Tor.

Thanks also go to David for taking a chance on a completely unknown writer whose claim to fame was that she had written a silly song about every body hating elves. David passed away unexpectedly in January 2016, and his loss has reverberated through the SF community. I would also like to thank his brilliant assistant editor, Jennifer Gunnels; the wonderful Diana Pho, who took over from David and Jennifer in early 2016; Jamie Stafford-Hill, the designer of the book’s beautiful cover; the people at Tor in general; and my patient, attentive agent, Monica Pacheco.

A special note goes out to my parents, George and Jean Maaren, for their support through an extremely difficult time in their lives. Mum died in December 2016 after a long strug gle with Alzheimer’s disease. As well, I would like to thank my sister Jan, always one of the first people to read all my manuscripts, and Paul, Lindsay, and Aaron, Jan’s awesome family.

Thanks to the many friends who have supported me in all my grumpiness for the past seven years. I’m not going to list you because there are a lot of you, and I’ll inevitably leave someone impor tant out, and then there will be tears and recriminations, and it will end badly. However, you know who you are.

And finally, thanks to the city of Burnaby, British Columbia, in which I grew up, and which I have, in this novel, callously replaced with the fictional municipality of Roncesvalles. I haven’t lived in Burnaby for ages, but I miss it a lot.





prologue

Freddy never knew exactly how well she remembered that encounter in the park. She hadn’t done much with the memory—taking it out whenever she touched the key, but not for more than a few seconds at a time—and she sometimes thought she preferred it vague. But she found it varied much more than her other memories did. Some things that had happened to her she remembered sharply, as if she had stepped away from the time of the memory only just now, while some had faded to a fuzzy grey. Mel told her once that this was supposedly normal and had something to do with synapses, but Freddy didn’t pay much attention to Mel when she used words that were bigger than she was. The encounter in the park was sharp and fuzzy at the same time. She could feel the wood of the bench digging into her legs; she could see the key flashing between the woman’s fingers. She thought she remembered every word they had spoken. Maybe she was just pretending she did. A lot of the images were blurred, incomplete.

She thought it had gone like this:

The voices from the house faded behind her as Freddy tore across the front yard and the street, heading into the park. She had run into the park a lot lately. Her parents didn’t ever really talk any more. It was all screaming, broken by intervals of icy silence. But until today, she had never heard either of them mention what Mel and her friend Jonathan called “the D-word.” Jonathan’s parents had been D-worded since he was five. Three years later, he had a world-weary air about it all. Mel tried to copy him. Freddy couldn’t.

It was one of the hottest days of the summer so far. The sun beat down on Freddy’s skin as she stumbled across the brown grass towards the trees. There was a whisper of breeze, but not enough to cool her. Her vision was breaking up into prisms and quivering flashes of sunlight. She swiped impatiently at her eyes. She didn’t like crying, but she never seemed to be able to stop herself. She had once overheard her teachers telling her parents she was “sensitive.” Freddy didn’t want to be “sensitive.” Sensitive people ended up cringing behind doors as their parents shouted at each other, then running blindly into the park to bawl like six-year-olds. Sensitive people got stomped on by life. Not for the first time, Freddy wished she were about a foot taller and could bring herself to try the cigarettes her cousins were always sneaking in her backyard when they came into town for Christmas. She had never asked them. She had told herself they would just say she was too young. She knew she was doomed to be sensitive forever.

She had a favourite place in the park, a big clump of evergreens with a path through them and a bench near the path. Whoever had designed the park hadn’t thought very hard about that path. It didn’t go anywhere; it twisted into the trees for a bit and stopped. People only took it when they were looking for privacy, and they weren’t heading for the bench. The path went on past it for a hundred me tres or so, finally ending in a small clearing that teenagers used for parties and … other stuff. Freddy’s cousins told her she wasn’t old enough to know about the other stuff. Freddy’s cousins told her she wasn’t old enough for a lot of things. She did know, though, and she avoided the clearing, though it was technically more private than the bench. People didn’t pay much attention to her when she sat on the bench. It was set a bit back from the path, under three cedar trees whose needles she was always having to brush off onto the ground. If she squinted straight ahead, she barely noticed the grey strip of the path in front of her, seeing only the trees, sheathed in underbrush, poking into the sky. She could spend hours there, completely alone, even the sounds of cars and the neighbourhood kids muted by the trees. A thirty-second walk would take her back out onto the street. She could pretend it wouldn’t, though.