The Atlas of Us
Tracy Buchanan

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Chapter Twenty-Two (#litres_trial_promo)

Chapter Twenty-Three (#litres_trial_promo)

Chapter Twenty-Four (#litres_trial_promo)

Chapter Twenty-Five (#litres_trial_promo)

Chapter Twenty-Six (#litres_trial_promo)

Chapter Twenty-Seven (#litres_trial_promo)

Epilogue (#litres_trial_promo)

Read an exclusive extract from MY SISTER’S SECRET (#litres_trial_promo)

Acknowledgements (#litres_trial_promo)

Author Q&A (#litres_trial_promo)

About the Author (#litres_trial_promo)

About the Publisher (#litres_trial_promo)

Prologue (#ulink_a18767bd-a478-5b25-b150-3e4d5f9f0907)

Everyone runs except her. Their movements are panicked, eyes wide, arms flailing. But she can’t move, legs frozen as she takes in the ferocity of the wave eating up the beach ahead of her. She takes a deep breath and wraps her arms tight around the atlas, her heart beating a strange beat against its cover: slow then fast then slow again.

Just a few moments before, she’d been walking along the shoreline, toes sinking into the warm sand. The soft beach had stretched out vast and gold before her, the walk to the bungalows seeming to take longer than usual.

Now the sea is buffeting against the bungalow three rows in front. It blasts around the sides, its bamboo walls rattling then breaking apart before disappearing into the watery depths.

Someone to her right screams. She turns, sees a long-tail boat thrashing about on top of the oncoming wave. It smashes into a palm tree, its wood splintering as the tree bends back. A man she’d seen swimming in the sea moments before is clinging to it. His eyes catch hers just before he tumbles into the whirlpool of water below, spinning around among deckchairs, beach bags and God knows what else.

Her legs find traction and she stumbles back, breath stuttering as the water surges towards her.

She peers behind her. There’s nowhere to run, just more flat ground, more palm trees.

The wave engulfs a small palm tree in front of her, its roar filling her ears. A food stall topples over in its path and careens towards her, fruit churning in the relentless gush of water.

The sharp smell of brine and seaweed fills her nostrils.

It’s so close now.

She suddenly feels a strange kind of serenity. She refuses to live what might be her last moments in a state of hopeless panic. This is what she has learned lately, a calm acceptance of what must be. It wasn’t always like this. She once fought against her fate, twisted out of its grasp, stumbled on regardless.

Not now.

She tries to face the wave, stand tall and strong, the atlas held against her like it might somehow protect her. But it’s no use, fear prevails. She runs into the tiny bathroom, slamming the door shut behind her and sliding down the wall until she feels the cool of the tiles against her thighs.

Maybe she’ll survive? She can swim, kick her way to the surface, see the sun and think how lucky she was. She’ll go back home, hold tight to the people she let down and never let them go.

Tears flood her eyes as she thinks of all she is leaving behind; of mistakes that may never be remedied.

Thank God she sent the letter.

There’s a creaking sound followed by a loud thud. The bathroom door quakes and she realises something has fallen against it.

She’s trapped. No chance now.

She quickly scours the room, eyes settling on the plastic bag used to line the bin. She grabs it, wraps the atlas in it then shoves the atlas into the bag slung around her chest, yanking at the adjustments until they’re so tight they hurt. She won’t let the atlas get destroyed, not after what she went through to get it back. The walls around her vibrate as objects are flung against them. She thinks of the man on the palm tree. That might be her soon, another piece of flotsam on the tide.

Dread overwhelms her.

There’s a thunderous rushing noise and someone screams, someone close enough to be heard over the roar.

It’s here.

The wall in front of her begins to crack, water tracing a long line down it, finding its path towards her. She pulls her knees up to her chest, pressing the bag against her stomach, taking comfort from the feel of the atlas’s bumpy cover against her skin. She closes her eyes and sucks in an urgent breath.

This is it.

As she hears the walls start to tumble, feels specks of water on her cheeks, an unbearable sadness takes over her.

Did she do enough for those she loves?

She closes her eyes as the wall in front of her smashes apart, water ploughing over her. She’s lifted with the wave and flung against the sink. The porcelain cracks against her shoulder, pain slicing through her.

The bamboo walls around her crash apart and she’s propelled outside with the wave, her body spinning with the force of it as it gallops towards the line of palm trees nearby.

She manages to keep her head above water, gasping for air, and tries desperately to grasp at something, anything, her dark hair blurring her vision as it lashes around her face.

Her fingers graze what she thinks must be the branch of a palm tree and, for a moment, she thinks she might have a chance. But the strength of the wave whips it away from her, thrusting her underwater and spinning her so erratically, she can’t tell what is sky and what is ground.

Water gritty with sand and debris rushes into her mouth. She snaps her lips shut, desperately trying to hold her breath as she’s pulled deeper and deeper, her chest bursting with the effort.

But the need to breathe is overpowering, every part of her yearning to exhale. Her chest expands, her head ringing. And then she’s giving in, mouth opening as she takes one last blissful breath, the faces of all those she loves strong in her mind.

For a brief moment, she thinks she sees red hair, green eyes. She reaches her hand out, but then everything is gone.

Chapter One (#ulink_ca600eed-1636-5fad-82b1-3e32f4cacaad)

Krabi, Thailand

2004

When I close my eyes, the water comes: the violent thud of waves, the tart smell of salty dampness seeping through the cracks of my dreams. But when I look out of the bus window, it’s nothing but mangled cars again; boats that have somehow found their way onto the roofs of two-storey buildings; suitcases flung open, their innards spilling out onto the dusty pavements below.

The bus takes a turn and I’m facing the sea again. It looks calm, ebbing and flowing like it’s forgotten the devastation it caused a few days ago.
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