Temnikova had dropped to the Persian rug, behind the piano bench, where she'd been standing and listening to Gus. Right in the middle of a Chopin nocturne.
"Yeah. They'll be here soon. Let's go . . . somewhere else."
"I don't want her to be alone," he said, and sat in Grandpa Beck's armchair, a few feet away from Temnikova's head. She'd been coloring her short hair an unnatural dark red as long as Lucy's family had known her.
Lucy went to Gus and rested her hip against the chair. She should try her mom's cell, or her grandfather's, and her dad's office.Only she didn't want to. And the situation was no longer urgent,clearly.
One of the EMTs said it looked like a stroke, not a heart attack, and there was "probably" nothing Lucy could have done. He typed into his phone or radio or whatever it was while he talked.
Probably. It wasn't exactly a word of comfort.
While the other EMTs loaded Temnikova's body onto a gurney they'd parked in the foyer, the "probably" guy clipped his radio back onto his belt and checked off things on a form. Lucy gave her name and parents' names and the house phone number. He paused halfway down the page and rested his finger over one of the check boxes. "You're over eighteen, right?"
"Really." Hesmall and wiry, maybe two inches shorter than Lucygave her a once-over. Their eyes didn't quite meet.
"You look older."
She never knew what to say to that. Was it supposed to be a compliment? Maybe she didn't want to look older. Maybe she didn't even want to be sixteen. Twelve. Twelve had been a good age: going to the symphony with Grandma Beck in excessively fancy dresses, unembarrassed to hold her hand. Being light enough that her dad could carry her from the car to the front door on late nights. Shopping with her mother and not winding up in a fight every time.
"So I've been told," she said. He smiled. There should be some kind of rule against smiling in his job. She said, "Just another day for you, I guess."
"I wouldn't put it that way." He handed her a card. "I'll need to have one of your parents call this number as soon as they can. You said she's not a relative?"
His look turned into a stare that lingered somewhere between Lucy's neck and waist. She stood straighter, and he returned his attention to the clipboard. "She's my brother's piano teacher."
Lucy gestured to Gus, who'd been sitting on the stairs, his chin in his hands. He didn't appear traumatized. Bored, possibly. Or, knowing him, simply thinking. Maybe thinking about how if he'd been allowed to go to his school sleepover at the Academy of Sciences, like he wanted, this wouldn't even be happening. But, as usual, their parents and Temnikova had said no, reluctant to take any time away from his scheduled practice.
The EMT blew a breath through his thin lips. "That's rough. It happening right here, during a lesson."
Where else would it happen? Temnikova practically lived there, in the piano room. Gus wasn't your average ten-year-old, fumbling through "Clair de lune" and "London Bridge" while everyone who was forced to listen held back the eye rolls. He had a career. A following. Like Lucy used to have. And Zoya Temnikova had been working with him since he turned four, when Lucy's grandfather flew her to the States from Volgograd, set her up in an apartment down the street, and helped her become a legalized citizen.
Her dying at the piano made perfect sense.
Still, it was sad. She'd given her life to their family, and now it was over.
After the EMTs rolled the body out, Gus got up off the stairs and stood next to Lucy in the starkly hushed foyer. If he was upset about Temnikova, he didn't show it. When Lucy asked, "You okay, Gustav?" all he had to say about the death of the woman with whom he'd spent so much of his time over the last six years was:
Excerpted from The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr. Copyright © 2013 by Sara Zarr. Excerpted by permission of Little, Brown 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
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