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      Migratory Animals (P.S.)

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The Secret Between Us

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Excerpt

Chapter 1

They were arguing in the seconds before impact. Later, Deborah Monroe would agonize about that, wondering whether, had she been focused solely on the road, she might have seen something sooner and been able to prevent what occurred—because the argument had been nearly as distracting as the storm. She and her daughter never argued. They were similar in looks, temperament, and interests. Deborah rarely had to tweak Grace—her son, Dylan, yes, but not Grace. Grace usually understood what was expected and why.

This night, though, the girl fought back. “Youre getting hyper about nothing, Mom. Nothing happened.”

“You said Megans parents were going to be home,” Deborah reminded her.

“Thats what Megan told me.”

“I would have thought twice if Id known there would be a crowd.”

“We were studying.”

“You, Megan, and Stephie,” Deborah said, and, yes, the textbooks were there, damp from Graces dash to the car in the rain, “plus Becca, and Michael, Ryan, Justin, and Kyle, none of whom were supposed to be there. Three girls study. Four girls and four boys make a party. Sweetie, its pouring rain, and even above the noise of that, I could hear shrieking laughter all the way from the car.”

Deborah didnt know if Grace was looking guilty. Long brown curls hid broad-set eyes, a straight nose, and a full upper lip. She did hear the snap of her daughters gum; its spearmint shrouded the smell of wet books. But she quickly returned her own eyes to the road, or what she could see of it, despite the wipers working double time. Visibility on this stretch was poor even on the best of nights. There were no streetlights, and moonshine rarely penetrated the trees.

Tonight the road was a funnel. Rain rushed at them, swallowing the beam of the headlights and thrashing against the windshield—and yes, April meant rain, but this was absurd. Had it been as bad on the way out, Deborah would never have let Grace drive home. But Grace had asked, and Deborahs husband—ex-husband—too often accused her of being overprotective.

They were going slowly enough; Deborah would repeat that many times in subsequent days, and forensics would bear it out. They were less than a minute from home and knew this part of the road well. But the darkness was dense, the rain an unreckoned force. Yes, Deborah knew that her daughter had to actually drive in order to learn how, but she feared this was too much, too soon.

Deborah hated rain. Grace didnt seem fazed.

“We finished studying,” the girl argued around the gum in her mouth. Her hands were tight on the wheel, perfectly positioned, nothing wrong there. “It was hot inside, and the AC wasnt on yet, so we opened the windows. We were taking a break. Like, is it a crime to laugh? I mean, its bad enough my mother had to come to get me—”

“Excuse me,” Deborah cut in, “but what was the alternative? You cant drive by yourself on a learners permit. Ryan and Kyle may have their licenses, but, by law, theyre not allowed to take friends in the car without an adult, and besides, we live on the opposite end of town from the others—and whats so bad about your mother picking you up at ten oclock on a weeknight? Sweetie, youre barely sixteen.”

Exactly,” Grace said with feeling. “Im sixteen, Mom. Ill have my real license in four months. So whatll happen then? I'll be driving myself places all the time—because we dont only live on the opposite end of town from everyone else, we live in the middle of nowhere, because Dad decided he had to buy a gazillion acres to build a McMansion in the forest, which he then decided he didnt want, so he left it and us and moved to Vermont to live with his long-lost love from twenty-five years ago—”

“Grace-” Deborah couldn't go there just then. Grace might feel abandoned by her father, but the loss hit Deborah harder. Her marriage wasnt supposed to end. That hadnt been in the plan.

“Okay, forget Dad,” Grace went on, “but once I get my license, Ill be driving places alone, and you wont see whos there or whether theres a parent around, or whether were studying or having a party. Youre going to have to trust me.”

“I do trust you,” Deborah said, defensive herself now, but pleading. “Its the others I dont trust. Werent you the one who told me Kyle brought a six-pack to the pool party at Katherines house last weekend?”

“None of us had any. Katherines parents made him leave.”

“Katherines parents. Exactly.”

Deborah heard her growl. “Mom. We were studying.”

Deborah was about to list the things that could happen when teenagers were studying—things she had seen both growing up, when her father was the only family doctor in town, and now, being in practice with him and treating dozens of local teenagers—when a flash of movement entered her line of sight on the right. In quick succession came the jolt of a weighty thud against the front of the car, the slam of brakes, the squeal of tires. Her seat belt tightened, holding her while the car skidded on the flooded pavement, fishtailed, and spun, all in the space of seconds. When it came to a stop, they were facing backward.

For a minute, Deborah didnt hear the rain over the thunder of her heart. Then, above it, came Graces frightened cry. “What was that?

“Are you okay?”

What was that?” the girl repeated, her voice shaking this time.

Deborah was starting to shake, too, but her daughter was upright, belted in, clearly okay. Scrabbling to release her seat belt, Deborah hiked up the hood of her slicker and ran out to search for whatever it was they had hit. The headlights reflected off the wet road, but beyond that paltry light, it was totally dark.

Ducking back into the car, she fumbled through the glove box for a flashlight. Outside again, she searched the roadside, but saw nothing that remotely resembled a downed animal.

Grace materialized at her elbow. "Was it a deer?" she asked, sounding terrified.

Deborah's heart continued to pound. “I dont know. Sweetie, get back in the car. You dont have a jacket.” It was a warm enough spring night; she just didnt want Grace seeing what they had hit.

“It had to be a deer,” Grace cried, “not even hurt, just ran off into the woods—what else could it be?”

Deborah didnt think a deer wore a running suit with a stripe up the side, which was what she swore she had seen in the split second prior to impact. A running suit meant something human.

She walked along the edge of the road, searching the low shrubs with her light. “Hey,” she called out to whoever was there, “are you hurt? Hello? Let me know where you are!”

Grace hovered at her shoulder. “Like, it came from nowhere, Mom—no person would be out here in the rain, so maybe it was a fox or a raccoon—or a deer, it had to be a deer.”

“Get back in the car, Grace,” Deborah repeated. The words were barely out when she heard something, and it wasn't the idling car. Nor was it the whine of wind in the trees or the rain splattering everything in sight.

The sound came again, definitely a moan. She followed it to a point at the side of the road and searched again, but it was another minute before she found its source. The running shoe was barely visible in the wet undergrowth some four feet from the pavement, and the black pants rising from it, half hidden under a low branch of a hemlock, had a blue stripe. A second leg was bent in an odd angle—broken, she guessed—and the rest of him was crumpled against the base of a tree.

Supine, he ran no risk of suffocation in the forest undergrowth, but his eyes were closed. Short dark hair was plastered to his forehead. Scrambling through a clump of wet ferns, Deborah directed her flashlight to his head, but didnt see any blood other than that from a mean scrape on his jaw.

Omigod!” Grace wailed.

Deborah felt for a pulse at his neck. It was only when she found it that her own began beating again. “Can you hear me?” she asked, leaning close. “Open your eyes for me.” He didn't respond.

Omigod!” Grace cried hysterically. “Do you know who that is, its my history teacher!”

Trying to think quickly, Deborah pulled her daughter back onto the road and toward the car. She could feel the girl trembling. As calmly as she could, Deborah said, “I want you to run home, honey. It isnt more than half a mile, and youre already soaked. Dylans alone. Hell be scared.” She imagined a small face at the pantry window, eyes large, frightened, and magnified behind thick Harry Potter glasses.

“What'll you do?” Grace asked in a high, wavery voice.

“Call the police, then sit with Mr. McKenna until an ambulance comes.”

“I didnt see him, I swear, I didnt see him,” wailed Grace. “Cant you do something for him, Mom?”

“Not much.” Deborah turned off the engine, turned on the hazards. “I don't see any profuse bleeding, and I dont dare move him.”

“Will he die?”

Deborah grabbed her phone. “We werent going fast. We couldnt have hit him that hard.”

“But he got way over there.”

“He must have rolled.”

“He isnt moving.”

“He may have a concussion or be in shock.” There were plenty of worse possibilities, most of which, unfortunately, she knew.

“Shouldnt I stay here with you?”

“There's nothing you can do here. Go, sweetie.” She cupped her daughters cheek, frantic to spare her this, at least. “Ill be home soon.”

Graces hair was drenched, separating into long, wet coils. Rain dripped from a gentle chin. Eyes wide, she spoke in a frightened rush. “Did you see him, Mom? Like, why would anybody be walking on the road in the rain? I mean, its dark, how could I possibly see him, and why didnt he see us? There are no other lights here.”

Deborah punched in 9-1-1 with one hand and took Graces arm with the other. “Go, Grace. I need you home with Dylan. Now.” The dispatcher picked up after a single ring. Deborah knew the voice. Carla McKay was a patient of hers. She worked as the civilian dispatcher several nights a week.

“Leyland Police. This call is being recorded.”

“Carla, its Dr. Monroe,” she said and shooed Grace off with a hand. “Theres been an accident. Im on the rim road, maybe a half mile east of my house. My car hit a man. We need an ambulance.”

“How badly is he hurt?”

“Hes unconscious, but hes breathing. Id say there's a broken leg, but Im not sure what else. The only cut I see is superficial, but I cant look more without moving him.”

“Is anyone else hurt?”

“No. How fast can you get someone here?”

“Ill call now.”

Deborah closed the phone. Grace hadnt moved. Soaking wet, curls long and bedraggled, she looked very young and frightened.

Frightened herself, Deborah stroked wet hair back from her daughters cheeks. On a note of quiet urgency, she said, “Grace, I need you home with Dylan.”

“I was driving.”

“Youll be more of a help to me if youre with Dylan. Please, sweetie?”

“It was my fault.”

Grace. Can we not argue about this? Here, take my jacket.” She was starting to slip it off when the girl turned and broke into a run. In no time, she had disappeared in the rain.

Pulling her hood up again, Deborah hurried back into the woods. The smell of wet earth and hemlock permeated the air, but she knew what blood smelled like and imagined that, too. Again, she looked for something beyond the scrape on Calvin McKennas jaw. She saw nothing.

He remained unconscious, but his pulse was strong. She could monitor that and, if it faltered, could manually pump his chest. Studying the angle of his leg, she suspected that his injury involved the hip, but a hip injury was doable. A spine injury was something else, which was why she wouldnt move him. The EMTs would have a backboard and head immobilizer. Far better to wait.

It was easier said than done. It was an endless ten minutes of blaming herself for letting Grace drive, of taking Calvin McKenna's pulse, trying to see what else might be hurt, wondering what had possessed him to be out in the rain, taking his pulse again, cursing the location of their house and the irresponsibility of her ex-husband, before she saw the flashing lights of the cruiser. There was no siren. They were in too rural a part of town for that.

Waving her flashlight, she ran back onto the road and was at the cruisers door when Brian Duffy stepped out. In his mid-forties, he was one of a dozen officers on the town force. He also coached Little League. Her son, Dylan, had been on his team for two years.

"Are you all right, Dr. Monroe?" he asked, fitting a plastic-covered cap over his crewcut. He was already wearing a rain jacket.

“Im fine. But my car hit Calvin McKenna.” She led him back to the woods. “I cant tell how badly hes hurt.” Once over the ferns, she knelt and checked his pulse again. It remained steady. She directed her flashlight at his face; its beam was joined by the officers.

“Cal?” she called futilely. “Cal? Can you hear me?”

“What was he doing out here?” the officer asked.

Deborah sat back on her heels. “I have no idea. Walking? Running?”

“In the rain? Thats strange.”

“Particularly here,” she said. “Do you know where he lives?” It certainly wasnt nearby. There were four houses in the circle of a mile, and she knew the residents of each.

“He and his wife have a place over by the train station,” Brian replied. “Thats a few miles from here. I take it you dont treat him?”

“No. Grace has him in school this year, so I heard him speak at the open house last fall. Hes a serious guy, a tough marker. Thats about all I know.” She was reaching for his pulse again when the road came alive with light. A second cruiser arrived, its roof bar thrumming a raucous blue and white. An ambulance was close behind.

Deborah didnt immediately recognize the EMTs; they were young, likely new. But she did know the man who emerged from the second cruiser. John Colby was the police chief. In his late-fifties, he would have been retired had he been working anywhere else, but he had grown up in Leyland. It was understood that he would keep working as long as his health allowed. Deborah guessed that would be a while. He and his wife were patients of theirs. His wife had a problem with allergens-dander, pollen, dust—that had resulted in adult-onset asthma, but Johns greatest problem, beyond a pot belly, was insomnia. He worked days; he worked nights. He claimed that being active kept his blood pressure down, and since his blood pressure was chronically low, Deborah couldnt argue.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

Rayleedixon, December 16, 2013 (view all comments by Rayleedixon)
The Secret Between Us

Deborah and her daughter Grace were driving home from a party at her friends house. Grace was the driver of the car that night. She suddenly hits someone that was running in the dark,Deborah tells Grace to run home before the police arrived so she could take the blame for her. Later in the story this causes a rift between two relationships.

`I have really enjoyed reading this book, it makes you wanna keep reading and never put the book down. It keeps you on your toes at all times. The story is filled with so much guilt that it starts to make you feel like you’ve become apart of the story. The plot is very interesting as well as the theme of the novel, thats why i kept reading the story from the beginning.
The only difficulty I had with this novel was memorizing the characters. Sometimes it was hard to keep track of each person's background and who they were. I don’t particularly think that this would be a great novel for book groups because i don’t think it would be that interesting and the same topics would keep coming up. I think this would be a good book to read before you go to bed, or if you're on vacation and wanna read a good book that you just sink into and into and never wanna stop reading. I would honestly recommend this book to anyone, I give this novel a 4 out of 5 stars.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780307388476
Publisher:
Anchor
Subject:
General
Author:
Delinsky, Barbara
Subject:
Mothers and daughters
Subject:
Teenage girls
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Edition Description:
Mass market paperback
Publication Date:
20090728
Binding:
Paperback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
448
Dimensions:
6.80x4.10x1.30 in. .50 lbs.

Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » Contemporary Women
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » Family Life
Fiction and Poetry » Romance » General
History and Social Science » American Studies » Popular Culture

The Secret Between Us
0 stars - 0 reviews
$ In Stock
Product details 448 pages Anchor Books - English 9780307388476 Reviews:
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