Excerpt of The Baker's Daughter by Sarah McCoy
(Page 2 of 5)
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She scooted farther beneath the countertop, crumpling the paper into
her lap and hugging the iron pot that stank of yesterdays stewed onions.
She waited for the flame to curl upright and steady, staring so hard that
her eyes began to burn. She closed them for relief and saw scenes like old
photographs: girls with matching bows at the end of plaited pigtails sitting
beneath a fruit tree; a boy with limbs so thin they looked like bent reeds on
the rivers edge; a man with a face marred by shadows swallowing chocolate
that oozed out a hole in his chest; a woman dancing in a bonfire without
smoldering; crowds of children eating mountains of bread.
When she opened her eyes, the flame had gone out. The black of night
was lifting to velvet blue. Shed fallen asleep in the hiding place. But morning
was coming, and it would no longer be safe. She crawled out, bones
creaking and popping.
She carried the letter with her, hidden in the flimsy folds of her nightgown, and once more took the steps on tiptoe, past the girls room; through her bedroom door, she slipped back beneath the covers; her husband abided in dreamlessness. Slowly and with great precision, she reached around the bedside and pushed the paper beneath the mattress, then rested her hand
on her chest.
Her heart felt foreign, as if someone elses thudded within, moving ceremoniously, while the rest of her lay numb and cold. The clock ticked on the bedside table tick, tick, tick without the tock of the pendulum swing. Her heartbeat filled the balancing pulse. In her mind, she read the letters words to the rhythm of the metronome. Then suddenly, the clock erupted in clattering shouts. The hammer struck the bell again and again.
She did not flinch.
Her husband rolled over, pulling the blanket with him and exposing
her body. She remained rigid as a corpse. He switched off the alarm clock, turned back to kiss her cheek, and rose. She feigned deep sleep. The kind that, when true, gives glimpse to eternity.
Soon enough she would join him in the day, keeping silent what she
knew and welcoming the white- hot sun as blamelessly as possible. She would tend to the children, scrub the dishes, wind the cuckoos, and sweep the floors. She would bake bread and glaze the buns in melted sugar.
3168 FRANKLIN RIDGE DRIVE
EL PASO, TEXAS
NOVEMBER 5, 2007
Reba had called Elsies German Bakery every day for over a week without
getting through. Each time, she was greeted by a twangy West Texan
voice on the answering machine. She took a swig of orange juice to coat her
voice sunny and sweet before the beep.
Hi, this is Reba Adams from Sun City
magazine. I was calling again to
reach Elsie Meriwether. I left my number in my last two messages, so if you
could ring me back . . . thatd be great. Thanks. She hung up and threw the
cordless onto the couch. P.S. Get your head out of the oven, and pick up
the damn phone!
Why dont you go over there? Riki pulled on his coat.
Guess I dont have a choice. My deadline is in two weeks, Reba complained.
I thought this would be an easy, fun
one to write. An hour on the
phone, send the photographer to take some shots, and Id be done. Its
just a feel- good profile. She went to the refrigerator and eyed the caramel
cheesecake Riki was saving for tonight. Christmas-round-the-world with
a local slant.
Uh- huh. Riki jingled his car keys. Well, that shouldnt be too hard. We
got Texas and Mexico what else matters? He smirked.
Reba rolled her eyes and wished hed hurry up and go. The happy anticipation
of his departure made her sadly nostalgic. Once upon a time, his
presence had incited waves of giddiness, like shed drunk too many glasses
of wine. The smart- aleck remarks had been cute in a cowboy way; his dark
looks and Spanish accent made everything feel exotic and afl ame, brazen
Excerpted from The Baker's Daughter
by Sarah McCoy. Copyright © 2012 by Sarah McCoy.
Excerpted by permission of Crown. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted
without permission in writing from the publisher.