Tully frowned. This wasn't how it was supposed to happen. Her mommy hadn't hugged her or kissed her or asked how she was. And everyone knew you were supposed to pack a suitcase to leave. She pointed at her bedroom door. "My stuff"
"You don't need that materialistic shit, Tallulah."
"Huh?" Tully didn't understand.
Gran pulled her into a hug that smelled sweetly familiar, of talcum powder and hair spray. These were the only arms that had ever hugged Tully, this was the only person who'd ever made her feel safe, and suddenly she was afraid. "Gran?" she said pulling back. "What's happening?"
"You're coming with me," Mommy said, reaching out to the doorframe to steady herself.
Her grandmother clutched her by the shoulders, gave her a little shake. "You know our phone number and address, right? You call us if you get scared or something goes wrong." She was crying; seeing her strong, quiet grandmother cry scared and confused Tully. What was going on? What had she done wrong already?
"I'm sorry, Gran, I"
Mommy swooped over and grabbed her by the shoulder, shaking her hard. "Don't ever say you're sorry. It makes you look pathetic. Come on." She took Tully's hand and pulled her toward the door.
Tully stumbled along behind her mother, out of the house and down the steps and across the street to a rusted VW bus that had plastic flower decals all over it and a giant yellow peace symbol painted on the side. The door opened; thick gray smoke rolled out. Through the haze she saw three people in the van. A black man with a huge afro and a red headband was in the driver's seat. In the back was a woman in a fringed vest and striped pants, with a brown kerchief over her blond hair; beside her sat a man in bell-bottoms and a ratty T-shirt. Brown shag carpeting covered the van floor; a few pipes lay scattered about, mixed up with empty beer bottles, food wrappers, and eight-track tapes.
"This is my kid, Tallulah," Mom said.
Tully didn't say anything, but she hated to be called Tallulah. She'd tell her mommy that later, when they were alone.
"Far out," someone said.
"She looks just like you, Dot. It blows my mind."
"Get in," the driver said gruffly. "We're gonna be late."
The man in the dirty T-shirt reached for Tully, grabbed her around the waist, and swung her into the van, where she positioned herself carefully on her knees.
Mom climbed inside and slammed the door shut. Strange music pulsed through the van. All she could make out were a few words: somethin' happenin' here . . . Smoke made everything look soft and vaguely out of focus.
Tully edged closer to the metal side to make room beside her, but Mom sat next to the lady in the kerchief. They immediately started talking about pigs and marches and a man named Kent. None of it made sense to Tully and the smoke was making her dizzy. When the man beside her lit up his pipe, she couldn't help the little sigh of disappointment that leaked from her mouth.
The man heard it and turned to her. Exhaling a cloud of gray smoke right into her face, he smiled. "Jus' go with the flow, li'l girl."
"Look at the way my mother has her dressed," Mommy said bitterly.
"Like she's some little doll. How's she s'posed to be real if she can't get dirty?"
"Right on, Dot," the guy said, blowing smoke out of his mouth and leaning back.
Mommy looked at Tully for the first time; really looked at her. "You remember that, kiddo. Life isn't about cooking and cleaning and havin' babies. It's about bein' free. Doin' your own thing. You can be the fucking president of the United States if you want."
Excerpted from Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah. Copyright © 2008 by Kristin Hannah. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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From NYT bestselling author Ann Leary
The captivating story of an unconventional New England family.
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