Excerpt of Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult
(Page 2 of 11)
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Greta yanks on the end of the fifteen-foot leash and hustles at
a clip for a few hundred feet. A beautiful bloodhound, she has a black widow's
peak, a brown velvet coat, and the gawky body of the girl who watches the
dancers from the bleachers. She circles a smooth, bald rock twice; then glances
up at me, the folds of her long face deepening. Scent will pool, like the
ripples when a stone's thrown into a pond. This is where the child stopped to
"Find her," I order. Greta casts around to pick up the scent
again, and then starts to run. I sprint after the dog, wincing as a branch snaps
back against my face and opens a cut over my left eye. We tear through a snarl
of vines and burst onto a narrow footpath that opens up into a clearing.
The little girl is sitting on the wet ground, shivering, arms
lashed tight over her knees. Just like always, for a moment her face is
Sophie's, and I have to keep myself from grabbing her and scaring her half to
death. Greta bounds over and jumps up, which is how she knows to identify the
person whose scent she took from a fleece hat at the day-care center and
followed six miles to this spot.
The girl blinks up at us, slowly pecking her way through a shell
of fear. "I bet you're Holly," I say, crouching beside her. I shrug off my
jacket, ripe with body heat, and settle it over her clothespin shoulders. "My
name is Delia." I whistle, and the dog comes trotting close. "This is Greta."
I slip off the harness she wears while she's working. Greta wags
her tail so hard that it makes her body a metronome. As the little girl reaches
up to pat the dog, I do a quick visual assessment. "Are you hurt?"
She shakes her head and glances at the cut over my eye. "You
Just then the Carroll police officer bursts into the clearing,
panting. "I'll be damned," he wheezes. "You actually found her."
I always do. But it isn't my track record that keeps me in this
business. It's not the adrenaline rush; it's not even the potential happy
ending. It's because, when you get down to it, I'm the one who's lost.
I watch the reunion between mother and daughter from a
distancehow Holly melts into her mother's arms, how relief binds them like a
seam. Even if she'd been a different race or dressed like a gypsy, I would have
been able to pick this woman out of a crowd: She is the one who seems unraveled,
half of a whole.
I can't imagine anything more terrifying than losing Sophie.
When you're pregnant, you can think of nothing but having your own body to
yourself again; yet after giving birth you realize that the biggest part of you
is now somehow external, subject to all sorts of dangers and disappearance, so
you spend the rest of your life trying to figure out how to keep her close
enough for comfort. That's the strange thing about being a mother: Until you
have a baby, you don't even realize how much you were missing one.
It doesn't matter if the subject Greta and I are searching for
is old, young, male, or femaleto someone, that missing person is what Sophie is
Part of my tight connection to Sophie, I know, is pure
overcompensation. My mother died when I was three. When I was Sophie's age, I'd
hear my father say things like "I lost my wife in a car accident," and it made
no sense to me: If he knew where she was, why didn't he just go find her? It
took me a lifetime to realize things don't get lost if they don't have valueyou
don't miss what you don't care aboutbut I was too young to have stored up a
cache of memories of my mother. For a long time, all I had of her was a smella
mixture of vanilla and apples could bring her back as if she were standing a
foot awayand then this disappeared, too. Not even Greta can find someone
without that initial clue.
Copyright © 2005 by Jodi Picoult. Printed by permission. Excerpted from the book Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult published by Atria Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc.