My name is Elizabeth but no ones ever called me that. My father took one look at me when I was born and must have thought I had the face of someone dignified and sad like an old-fashioned queen or a dead person, but what I turned out like is plain, not much there to notice. Even my life so far has been plain. More Daisy than Elizabeth from the word go.
But the summer I went to England to stay with my cousins everything changed. Part of that was because of the war, which supposedly changed lots of things, but I cant remember much about life before the war anyway so it doesnt count in my book, which this is.
Mostly everything changed because of Edmond.
And so heres what happened.
Im coming off this plane, and Ill tell you why that is later, and landing at London airport and Im looking around for a middle-aged kind of woman who Ive seen in pictures whos my Aunt Penn. The photographs are out of date, but she looked like the type who would wear a big necklace and flat shoes, and maybe some kind of narrow dress in black or gray. But Im just guessing since the pictures only showed her face.
Anyway, Im looking and looking and everyones leaving and theres no signal on my phone and Im thinking Oh great, Im going to be abandoned at the airport so thats two countries they dont want me in, when I notice everyones gone except this kid who comes up to me and says You must be Daisy. And when I look relieved he does too and says Im Edmond.
Hello Edmond, I said, nice to meet you, and I look at him hard to try to get a feel for what my new life with my cousins might be like.
Now let me tell you what he looks like before I forget because its not exactly what youd expect from your average fourteen-year-old what with the CIGARETTE and hair that looked like he cut it himself with a hatchet in the dead of night, but aside from that hes exactly like some kind of mutt, you know the ones you see at the dog shelter who are kind of hopeful and sweet and put their nose straight into your hand when they meet you with a certain kind of dignity and you know from that second that youre going to take him home? Well thats him.
Only he took me home.
Ill take your bag, he said, and even though hes about half a mile shorter than me and has arms about as thick as a dog leg, he grabs my bag, and I grab it back and say Wheres your mom, is she in the car?
And he smiles and takes a drag on his cigarette, which even though I know smoking kills and all that, I think is a little bit cool, but maybe all the kids in England smoke cigarettes? I dont say anything in case its a well-known fact that the smoking age in England is something like twelve and by making a big thing about it Ill end up looking like an idiot when Ive barely been here five minutes. Anyway, he says Mum couldnt come to the airport cause shes working and its not worth anyones life to interrupt her while shes working, and everyone else seemed to be somewhere else, so I drove here myself.
I looked at him funny then.
You drove here yourself? You DROVE HERE yourself? Yeah well and Im the Duchess of Panamas Private Secretary.
And then he gave a little shrug and a little dog-shelter-dog kind of tilt of his head and he pointed at a falling-apart black jeep and he opened the door by reaching in through the window which was open, and pulling the handle up and yanking. He threw my bag in the back, though more like pushed it in, because it was pretty heavy, and then said Get in Cousin Daisy, and there was nothing else I could think of to do so I got in.
Excerpted from How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff Copyright© 2004 by Meg Rosoff. Excerpted by permission of Wendy Lamb Books, 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.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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