"I'm fine," I manage, again. "I had my music on loud. I didn't hear your car." I reach up to my hair and pull some leaves and sticky needles out of it.
"Did you hit your head?"
"No, it's just tree stuff, in my hair." I blush.
He stares at me for a second. I look at the sky. Like maybe I could somehow slip out of this situation. Fly up and away.
"Are you John Wells' daughter?" He's starting to sound relieved. Runs another shaking hand through his hair. "I thought I heard you'd come up here."
I nod. God knows what he's heard. I'm sure I made the news last May. The Telegraph doesn't miss a chance to print stories on my dad. Their adopted famous son. Never mind that his work leaves them scratching their heads and laughing at what people will pay good money for and call "art."
I look at my hands. Both palms are torn up and pitch-sticky. I pick a small piece of rock out of one. The knee of my jeans is torn. Like I'm an eight-year-old and just wiped out on my bike in the park.
His eyes follow mine. "You're hurt." He winces. "Let me take you into town. Dr. Williams can check you out, clean you up."
"No, no. That's okay. I'm okay." I don't want to go anywhere, see anyone. Certainly not to the clinic. Or anywhere remotely like a hospital.
"I'm fine," I say more assertively. "Really, I'll just go home and wash up. It's no big deal."
"Let me give you a ride home, at least," he says, getting in the car, reaching across the front seat, and pushing open the passenger door.
I start to pick up my bike but my palms are a wreck. I stop a second, wipe them a little on my thighs.
"Leave it," he says, watching me. "Please. You're bleeding. I'll come back for it later."
I lift the frame a little more, lean it against the tree. A bird is loud overhead. A hawk maybe, hunting. That strange raspy screeching sound.
I wasn't even close to the end of my ride. I need to be out, alone. But he's not going to let me walk home, that's obvious. I kick around in the needles to find my iPhone, buy myself another few seconds to get it together, calm down a little. I look at my bike one last time and walk around to the waiting car door.
A pair of metal crutches lean against the passenger seat. He moves them over a bit and I slide in. He watches me look at them.
"Break an ankle?" I ask. I always say the right thing.
His turn to blush. Shakes his head. "I'm sick." Looks away. "Buckle up."
I'm thrumming from adrenaline. Takes me a minute to get the buckle in the right place.
He backs the car into the woods a bit, whips a U-turn, heads for my dad's.
Excerpted from Lovely, Dark and Deep by Amy McNamara. Copyright © 2012 by Amy McNamara. Excerpted by permission of Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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