Excerpt of Lost In The Forest by Sue Miller
(Page 2 of 4)
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Two pretty, dark, young women, one tall, one short: his daughters. He got out
of the truck to go and help them. As he started up the walk, he saw Theo
emerging from the house behind Emily. The little boy, not yet three, was
carrying a brown paper grocery bag by its handles. Something stuck out of it--a
pillow? a blanket? He spotted Mark and smiled. Now Emily took Theo's hand to
help him down the wide porch stairs. He paused on each one, and the bag plopped
slowly from step to step behind him as he descended.
Mark met them on the walk. "Hey," he said. He kissed each girl on her head.
They smelled identical, a ladylike herbal perfume: shared shampoo. He took
Daisy's sleeping bag from her. "Theo!" he said, and extended his hand down to
him. "To what do we owe this pleasure?"
"I'll explain it all to you," Emily called back. She had moved ahead of them
down the walk, between the orderly gray-green procession of rosemary plants. She
was tossing her stuff into the open back of the truck.
"So he's supposed to spend the night too?" Mark asked Daisy. Theo was not his
son. Theo was his ex-wife's son, by her second marriage. He liked Theo. He was,
in fact, charmed by him--he knew him well from various extended-family
events--but he had never before been asked to babysit for him. And actually, no
one had even asked.
Daisy shrugged. She looked, as she often did, sullen. Or evasive. Her face
was narrower than Emily's, her nose still slightly too big on it--she was
fourteen--her eyebrows darker and thick. She had shot up within the last two
years, and now she was only a few inches shorter than Mark. She carried it
badly, trying to hide it. Mark had worried when she was younger that she would
be plain, which seemed to him an almost unbearably sad thing--a plain woman.
Within the last six months or so, though, her face had changed and strengthened,
and he saw that that wouldn't be the case. That she might, in fact, be
better-looking than Emily in the end, more striking. It had made him easier
around her, he realized.
They had caught up to Emily, who said again, "I'll explain it later." She
sounded irritated, as though she were the adult and he a nagging child. She took
Theo's hand and led him to the door of the truck's cab.
Mark went around to the driver's side. He opened his door and stood there
looking across the cab's wide seat, waiting for Emily to look back at him. She
wouldn't. Or she didn't. First she was helping the little boy clamber into the
truck; now she climbed up herself and was busy buckling him in. When she finally
raised her eyes and met her father's, he was ready. He lifted his hands. "Hey,
Em," he said. "You will admit--"
"Daddy, it's an emergency. A real emergency." Her eyes, he noted now, were
red-rimmed, their lids swollen.
Theo looked over at him and nodded. "It's a mergency," he said, and inserted
his thumb into his mouth with an air of finality.
Daisy squeezed in next to Emily, and Mark got in and started the truck. He
pulled into the street. After nearly a full minute had passed, he asked, "So,
the nature of this emergency is . . . ?"
He could feel Emily's gaze on him, and he looked at her. She was
frowning--her dark eyebrows made fierce lines. She shook her head. "We can't . .
. we shouldn't . . . talk about it now." She gestured at Theo, sitting between
them, watching them soberly.
Mark nodded. After another long moment he said, "But at some point it will be
"Yeah," she said. She turned away, and when he looked over again, he saw that
she and Daisy were holding hands. What the hell was going on? Daisy's mouth hung
open stupidly, as though she'd been sucker punched.
Excerpted from Lost in the Forest by Sue Miller Copyright © 2005 by Sue Miller. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.