Celeste Ng meets THIS IS US in Hawaii. The Lao family’s problems mirror their home’s design: an exploding volcano. Mom and Dad’s marriage is falling apart, and their teenage kids are struggling with adult issues on their own. When a health scare and a neighbor’s disappearance threaten to destroy what’s left of their bond, all their doors – and secrets – will be blown wide open.
Scarlet entered her dad’s study certain to find something dead inside. The flies were the first clue. The second was the smell – like spoiled meat.
She was scanning the orange shag carpet when Allen, the handyman, popped up from behind the desk.
“Oh!” She jumped.
“Sorry, Scar.” Allen held up his hands like he’d been caught stealing. “Didn’t mean to scare you.”
Scarlet squinted at the dirt and dust that floated by his head. The sunlight beaming in through the window had a way of catching every speck. Two flies buzzed around him in a spirally dance, their shadows on the carpet looking like ghosts.
A white heat stroked the back of Scarlet’s neck, followed by a cold breeze across her cheek.
“You okay?” Allen asked.
The hot-cold sensation came again, then another whiff of the dead thing. “Can you smell that?”
He sniffed. “What?”
He sniffed again. “In here?”
A fly buzzed by his ear. He swatted at it, and it tumbled to the carpet. Funny how something so annoying just a second ago was now just a tiny black fleck by their feet.
Before Scarlet could bend down to pick it up, Allen stepped on it.
He chuckled. The scar at the corner of his mouth almost turned his permanent frown into a smile. Then he frowned again, or at least his scar did. “Well, there’s something dead.”