Excerpt from Eye Contact by Cammie McGovern, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Eye Contact

By Cammie McGovern

Eye Contact

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Cara looks out the window. “What do they think happened?”

“They think it was a prank. Someone picked two vulnerable kids and told them to do something stupid.” Margot shakes her head in disgust. “That’s why I called the police so fast. I want whoever’s responsible for this to understand they’re in big trouble.”

In the past, Cara hasn’t worried excessively about bullying. Riding the bus with Adam the first week of school as she does every year, she got a glimpse of how little he registers to other children. They walk past him, look through him, hardly see him, beyond the obvious oddity of a third-grader riding the school bus with his mother. It is sad, of course, and also a relief. If bullies have an intuitive sense for who will burst into tears most easily, most spectacularly, it isn’t Adam. He might hum or walk away, but in all likelihood he will hear very little another child says to him. She has to be honest about this, has to remind herself, often, to remain clear on who Adam is and what he is capable of. “If another child told him to do something, I don’t think he would. That’s not like Adam.”

“You never know, Cara. He’s changing. Adam’s changed a lot this year.”

In any other context, she would take this as a cause for celebration. He’s changing! Even the principal noticed! Now it only seems worrisome. “Who is the girl?”

“Amelia Best?” she says as a question, as if hoping this name might ring a bell, which it doesn’t. “She’s new this year. Fourth grade. She’s been at this school . . . what? Six weeks. Unusually pretty little girl.
Very . . .” She tries to find the right word. “Blond.”

Adam has disappeared with a notably pretty little girl? For the first time in years, she thinks of her fifth-grade fixation on Kevin Barrows and panics. “Are you sure they’re together?”

“We don’t know. We know Adam better than we know her. We noticed Adam was missing first, because it’s so unlike him. He’s so compliant these days that when he didn’t line up at the first whistle, Sue knew something was wrong and called the office right away.”

“Is it possible an older kid came over from the high school? Or middle school?”

Margot presses her fingertips together. “Theoretically, they’re not allowed, but it’s possible.” The middle school sits within viewing distance of the elementary school—up a hill, with some soccer fields in between. “So I’m afraid I have to ask—where is Adam’s father?”

Cara looks up. She hasn’t expected this. “He’s not . . . in the picture.” This is her standard answer, the one nobody ever presses her past.

“Right, I know that, but where is he? I’m only asking because the police have asked several times. Apparently, an absent father is the first place they look.”

Cara feels her mouth go dry. “I don’t know who his father is . . . exactly.”

Margot raises her eyes in surprise. “Oh. So he’s never been in the picture?”

“No. He wouldn’t know.”

“At all? Anything about Adam? There’s no chance he’s involved in this?”

Cara shakes her head. “None.”

Margot holds up her hand. “That’s all I need to know.” She looks out the window of her office, as if she’s contemplating going out there right now, telling someone this. Then she turns back, with a new thought: “Do you think if Adam was out on the playground, he could have heard a radio, maybe, playing in the woods?”

Cara’s stomach begins to pound, like a second heart. Let him not be in the woods, she prays. “Yes,” she says softly. “He could have heard something no one else did.”

Excerpt from EYE CONTACT by Cammie McGovern. Reprinted by arrangement with Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from EYE CONTACT Copyright (c) Cammie McGovern, 2006

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