At twelve years old, Avery Norton had everything: a boyfriend who was also her best friend, the entirety of Martha's Vineyard as her playground, and her very own garden to tend.
By thirteen, it was all over.
The discovery of a secret crypt in the basement starts the Norton family down many unexpected avenues, including one that leads to Avery's arrest for murder and her subsequent imprisonment in Taunton State Lunatic Asylum.
Set in 1950s Massachusetts, Rabbits in the Garden follows Avery Norton's struggle to prove her innocence, exact her revenge, and escape Taunton with her mind intact.
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She swatted at them with her hands open at first, but they quickly clenched. Like balls of iron, her fists mercilessly pummeled the bad rabbits, wriggling and shrieking under her knuckles until they were no more than furry bags of mashed flesh and shattered bone. She sat panting in shock as she stared at the carnage around her, and when she lifted her hands, rivers of blood dripped down her arms and into the sleeves of her dress. The smell of death forced its way into her brain, and her head began to spin until she couldn’t hold on any longer. She surrendered to hot, choking heaves of sickness that splashed across the blood soaked patches of raspberries. As she wiped off her mouth, her eyes fearfully turned to the window, expecting to see her mother’s horrified expression, but she wasn’t there: a small mercy.
She had to hide what she’d done. As she gathered the corpses into a pile, her mind began rattling off justifications that her heart combated. The rabbits were poisoned, after all, so they were doomed whether she’d killed them or not. On the other hand, it was her fault that they’d been poisoned. She’d brought in the bad water. She’d doomed them to death long before her fists ever touched them. She gathered up the rabbits into her arms, but the matted fur tickled her nose, and when she sneezed, one of the rabbits fell with a smack onto the stone walkway. She bent down to pick it up, but she could only get hold of its ear between two fingers. She hurried around to the cellar door before any more dropped, hooked her foot under one of the door handles, and lifted it open. When the door fell, it bounced heavily with a loud clang that caused Avery to flinch and drop the rabbit hanging between her fingers. Her eyes shot to the window again, but thankfully, it still remained empty. She kicked the limp bunny down the stairs, and it rolled with soft thumps and clicks of bone against the steps. She hurried downstairs to where the rabbit lay twisted, staring up at her with its bulging eyes speckled by broken blood vessels. It looked like it was smiling, but when she picked it up again, the top of its head flipped back and the rabbit lost all expression.
“Well, you’re our new Lizzie. She was in Taunton too, you know.”
“Great, so everyone’s going to be calling me the same name as a girl who killed her parents?”
“Well, it is pretty fitting. You did kill your father, didn’t you?”
“No, I didn’t.”
“They just identified one of the bodies as your father. I just heard it on the news.”
Avery leapt out of bed and rushed to the common room where several girls were draped across the furniture, smoking cigarettes, and chatting amongst themselves. She had to struggle to hear over a girl named Brianne who kept trying to tell a story but kept getting distracted, and a girl named Sheila who kept snapping for her to “finish the fucking story”. Avery stood behind them quietly and watched in increasing horror as the television disclosed the newest facts about the aptly named “Martha’s Vineyard Massacre”.
“…her own father, thought to have abandoned the family eight years ago, making it the oldest of the bodies discovered in the basement of this Oak Bluffs home. The police have yet to release the names of the other sixteen victims, and no official charges have been brought against either mother or daughter, but we have received confirmation that Avery Norton is indeed confined to Taunton State Hospital.”
The girls hooted and clapped their hands at the mention of Taunton, but when a picture of Avery was slapped up on the screen, she gave a tiny gasp and the girls on the couch turned around.
“Look, ladies, we have a star in our midst,” a plump girl with a crooked smile said as she circled Avery.
“Leave her alone, Pam. It’s her second day,” Flint said.
“Not her first rodeo though. Based on her experience, she shouldn’t have any problem defending herself.”
“What, against you? I don’t even know you.”
“You will, Lizzie.”
“My name is Avery.”
“Lizzie,” Pam sung mockingly.
Avery could feel her rage boiling into her throat and clawing up to her brain. She clenched her hands into fists without being cognizant of doing so and her face had turned a fierce shade of red. The resonating sing-song pushed her forward, gritted her teeth, and raised her fists, but it was Avery herself who struck. It was Avery who aimed and made contact with Pam’s cheek and shoulder and anywhere else she happened to hit. She felt like a tornado of emotion: rage and sorrow, pride and self-loathing, but she wasn’t aware of the myriad of emotions until after she felt hands pulling her off of Pam. The next thing she felt, however, was a curious sensation: cold metal burrowing into her neck and hot fluid surging from her throat to every other part of her. Then there was the dizziness: the disorienting spin of faces and voices and heat covering her skin in cold sweat that made her want to faint and sigh at the same time.
Then there was the sinking collapse.
Then there was the darkness.
Then there was Paul.