How Sweet It is
By Gunn, Sophie
Forever Copyright © 2011 Gunn, Sophie
All right reserved. ISBN: 9780446561990
For over a week the envelope sat on the dining room table unnoticed, buried under a stack of birdseed catalogues and household bills like a bomb waiting to go off.
Life went on around it. Work, grocery shopping, and housework for Lizzie Bea Carpenter. School, babysitting, and friends for her fourteen-year-old daughter, Paige.
Tick tick tick.
Normal life. A good life. Maybe not great, but fine. Galton, New York, centrally isolated, the locals liked to say, wasn’t exactly the kind of town where momentous things happened.
Until Saturday, September 8, 8:22 in the evening, when Lizzie’s world turned upside down.
“Who do we know in Geneva?” Paige asked, coming into the kitchen, holding up an envelope covered in foreign stamps. It had been Paige’s turn to clean the dining room after dinner. She’d swept the crumbs under the threadbare Turkish rug, pushed around the ragtag assortment of antique chairs until they looked more or less orderly, and tossed most of the pile of mail, including an ominous-looking letter from her middle school, into the overflowing recycling bin with a quick, guilty second glance.
Lizzie turned off the faucet, put down the mac-and-cheese pan she was scrubbing in the sink, saw the handwriting, and said, “Ratbastard.” She backtracked quickly, her throat constricting. “I mean, Geneva? Ha! No one. Let me see that.” She grabbed for the letter, but Paige was too quick. Lizzie’s heart was pounding. Her throat was dry with dread.
“Who?” Paige tore the letter open while dodging around the counter.
“Don’t,” Lizzie said, but the word came out listlessly because she knew it was too late. Everything was about to change, and there was nothing she could do to stop it.
“It’s addressed to both of us,” Paige said, unfolding the single sheet.
Lizzie didn’t know that she knew anyone in all of Europe, much less Geneva, but apparently she did, because she recognized that handwriting at a glance, even after fourteen years. Her traitorous body knew it, too, and was responding as if it were still sixteen and stupid. This couldn’t be happening. Oh, Paige…
Paige read the letter. She stopped, frozen, on the other side of the counter. “Oh. I see,” she said, letting the letter fall to the counter. “Ratbastard.” She said it as if it were an ordinary name like Steve or Joe.
Lizzie wiped her hands on the dishrag, trying to look like a mother in control. “Well. He could have changed,” she said as carefully as she could. “We shouldn’t jump to any conclusions.”
“He wants to come here, Mom.”
Lizzie cleared her throat. “That’s lovely,” she managed to get out.
“On Christmas Day.”
“Ratbastard! Sorry. Lovely. Hell.” Nice work. Lizzie needed a few minutes to pull herself together. She needed to sit and to breathe and definitely not to cry. She wanted to hit something but she couldn’t. Not now, in front of Paige. At least, not anything that would break. Not that there was much left to break in their kitchen, which was clean, but failing. Two burners were dead on the stove. The icemaker had quit eleven months ago. The radio worked when you banged it. Hard. Couldn’t do much damage in here, even if she tried.
But that letter had done damage.
Paige looked as if she’d already been pummeled. Her face was blank and pale. Her new black, chin-length Cleopatra haircut made her face seem rounder and her brown eyes even huger than usual. She looked like an eight-year-old and an eighteen-year-old simultaneously, a special effect in a bad after-school movie about girls growing up too fast.
Lizzie picked up the letter. She imagined Ratbastard walking into a store and asking for the stationery that screamed I’m rich and arrogant the loudest. The cream-colored paper was heavy and stamped with a fancy watermark. The handwriting was neat, the tone straightforward. He spelled realize like a Brit, even though he had been born and bred in Michigan—I realise this is out of the blue. But I’d like to meet my daughter. I’ll be in the States over the holidays, and will stop by then. Twelve o’clock Christmas day? I hope she’ll be willing to see me. There was no return address, no phone number, no e-mail contact, nothing but a breezy signature—Ethan Pond. Then, in parentheses, Dad.
Lizzie excused herself, climbed the stairs, turned on the water in the bathroom sink to muffle the noise, and threw up.
Ethan Pond, Paige’s father, the boy who’d changed Lizzie’s life forever in the back of his Lexus during her senior year of high school, was coming back.
This was a matter for the Enemy Club. Continues...
Excerpted from How Sweet It is by Gunn, Sophie Copyright © 2011 by Gunn, Sophie. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.