I breathed out and relaxed my chest, unable to hold back a smile. I nodded hard. "I think so too. I think we should come a few more times."
Finn smiled back and rubbed his pale hand across his pale forehead. "Yes. A few more," he said.
He asked us what we thought of the painting so far. I said it was fantastic and Greta didn't say anything. Her back was turned to us. She wasn't even looking at the painting. Both her hands were in her pockets, and when she twisted slowly around, her face was blank. That's something about Greta. She can hide everything she's thinking. The next thing I knew she'd pulled out her mistletoe and was standing there holding it up in one hand. She waved it in an arc like she was cutting the air above our heads, like she was holding something more than just a scrap of Christmas leaves and berries. Finn and I both looked up and my heart seized. We looked at each other for the amount of time that's maybe one grain of sand in an hourglass or one drop of water from a leaky tap, and Finn, my uncle Finn, read me - snap - like that. In that tiny slice of a second, he saw I was afraid, and he bent my head down and kissed the top of my hair with such a light touch it could have been a butterfly landing.
On the ride home I asked Greta if she thought you could catch AIDS from hair. She shrugged, then turned and stared out the window for the rest of the drive.
I shampooed my hair three times that night. Then I wrapped myself in towels and crawled under my blankets and tried to sleep. I counted sheep and stars and blades of grass, but nothing worked. All I could think of again and again was Finn. I thought about his soft kiss. I thought about how just for a second, just as he'd leaned in to me, AIDS and Greta and my mother had disappeared from the room. It was only Finn and me in that tiniest of tiny moments, and before I could stop myself I wondered what it might be like if he really did kiss my lips. I know how gross that is, how revolting, but I want to tell the truth, and the truth is that I lay in bed that night imagining Finn's kiss. I lay in bed thinking about everything in my heart that was possible and impossible, right and wrong, sayable and unsayable, and when all those thoughts were gone there was only one thing left: how terribly much I was going to miss my uncle Finn.
Excerpted from Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. Copyright © 2012 by Carol Rifka Brunt. Excerpted by permission of The Dial Press, 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.
Blood at the Root
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