Excerpt of Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr
(Page 8 of 8)
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“We don’t really need to go into this right now, do we, Nance?”
Mr. Hathaway looks at Robby. “Sam’s mom doesn’t have cancer,
bud. She’s going to be fine.”
“Yeah,” I say to Robby, who’s staring at me with eyes that are the
same blue as Vanessa’s. “She’s going to be fine.”
Out in the yard the ripe tomatoes are almost jumping into our
hands. It’s dusk, and the hummingbird moths hover and swoop
around the lavender bushes while Daisy, Vanessa’s golden retriever,
walks the perimeter of the yard over and over. The Hathaways’
yard is smaller than ours — they live a little closer to the main part
of town where the houses are packed in a little more tightly. But
it’s definitely a better yard. They have a drip irrigation system, with
a trickle of water constantly seeping out, just under the soil, and
neat rows of summer produce. I wonder if I could do that without
“My mom is so dumb sometimes,” Vanessa says, straightening
up among the tomato plants.
“It’s okay. It’s just . . . I didn’t know she knew. And that you
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
I move to another plant, but most of the tomatoes on this
one are still a little green. “I was going to. You haven’t been back
Vanessa, along with almost the entire youth group except for
me, went on a mission trip to Mexico. A lot of kids had to raise the
money, but Mom didn’t want me to because of how my dad’s job
already involves asking for money. When you stand there every
week and pray before the offering plate is passed, people get funny
I change the subject. “I love your haircut. It makes you look
She reaches a hand to her neck. “Really? It feels so short. This
one old lady in Mexico thought I was a boy. Ugh.”
“No, it’s cute. And with the highlights cut off it looks more
cocoa-y.” I find a dark red tomato and pluck it from the vine. “Maybe
I should chop my hair off, too.” Even though I’ve always had long
hair, the same ashy blond as my mom’s, maybe short hair like Vanessa’s
could help me feel less weighed down by . . . every thing.
“I like your hair the way it is.”
We pick for a while, just listening to the crickets, before she
says, “I wish you could have been there, in Mexico. It wasn’t the
same without you.”
“Thanks. I wish, too.”
“Sam? Is your mom really going to be okay?”
I blink several times and bend low, pretending to be interested
in the plants. “Yeah. It takes time.” That’s what they said in the
family orientation. It takes time, and patience, and perseverance.
“Are you okay?”
She wants me to talk, as in really talk, about my feelings. And
I know she’ll try again when we’re in our sleeping bags tonight, and
in the morning when we’re getting ready for church. And every
time, I know I won’t be able to.
“Mm-hmm.” I hold up my bowl of tomatoes. “Do you think this
The outline of her head in the dimming yard nods.
Excerpted from Once Was Lost
by Sara Zarr. Copyright © 2009 by Sara Zarr.
Excerpted by permission of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted
without permission in writing from the publisher.