Excerpt | “Look for Her” by Emily Winslow
From Chapter One
Annalise Williams (Wolfson College),
University Counselling Service,
recorded and transcribed by Dr. Laurie Ambrose
My mother picked the name Annalise for me because of a girl who was killed. Her name was Annalise Wood, and she went missing when she was sixteen. My mother was the same age when it happened. Annalise was lovely, much prettier than my sister and I ever became. She was the kind of girl you look at and think, “Of course someone would want to take her.”
Don’t look at me like that. I know that what happened to her was awful. It just seems a very fine line between being the kind of person that others want to be with and be like and treat well, and being the kind of person that some others, just a few, sick others, want to take for themselves. That’s the same kind of person, isn’t it? The loved and lovely. Isn’t that from a poem somewhere? That’s what she was like. That’s the risk when you’re the kind of person who’s wanted. Good people want to be close to you, but the bad people want you too.
There were two photos of her that the media used most: her most recent school portrait, and a snapshot of her laughing, with the friends on either side cropped out. Taken together, they presented the two sides of a beautiful and perfect person: poised and thoughtful, and spontaneous and bubbly. The kind of person who deserves help and attention.
Realistically, if they wanted these pictures to help strangers identify her if they saw her out and about with the bad man, they should have used photos of her frowning or looking frightened. Either there weren’t any (which may well be the case; who would take a photo of that?), or they couldn’t bring themselves to advertise a version of her that was less than appealing. The narrative is important. If you want the “general public” to get worked up, you have to persuade. Attractiveness and innocence must be communicated, even if emphasising those traits makes the real person harder to recognise.
In the end, she was already dead, so it’s a good thing, I suppose, that they used the nice photos. They’re the images that everyone remembers. My mum was a teenager when those pictures were in the paper every day for weeks, then weekly for months. Annalise Wood was the most beautiful girl in the world. Everyone cared about her. It’s what any mother would wish for her child, to be the kind of person that everyone would care about and miss if she disappeared.
It wasn’t until Mum was over thirty that what really happened to Annalise Wood was discovered.
Excerpt from Look for Her by Emily Winslow. Copyright © 2018 by Emily Winslow. Reprinted by permission of William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.