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Excerpt from Villa America by Liza Klaussmann, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Villa America by Liza Klaussmann

Villa America

A Novel

by Liza Klaussmann
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  • First Published:
  • Aug 4, 2015
  • Paperback:
  • Jun 2016
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"Miss Church was just looking for her glove, Gerald," Father said, giving the lady a gentle push off his lap.

"Oh," said Gerald, rubbing his eyes. He stole a glance at his own pajamas; they were rumpled.

He looked back at the lady. She had a nice face and a very nice smile, and Gerald wondered if she was to spend the day with them. But then Miss Church gathered her cloak and, holding up a glove, said: "Well, I've found it. Good-bye, Patrick." And then: "Nice to meet you, Gerald."

Gerald smiled. "Good-bye," he said.

"We're leaving," Father said after Miss Church had gone. "The bellboy will be here soon. Pack your case." Whatever joke Father had been sharing with Miss Church he seemed to no longer find funny, his face set back in its usual expression.

"May I have breakfast?" Gerald asked, suddenly feeling very hungry.

"Breakfast is for ladies and invalids," Father said, "and people who miss trains." Then he rose and went into his bedroom, shutting the door with a small clack.

Gerald looked at the door. He liked closed doors, liked the way they looked, so neat and quiet, and so smooth.

He had finished his boiled beef, and the lady and gentleman from the hansom cab had long since disappeared inside the house two doors down. Gerald rose from the small table, retrieved one of the ledger books and a pen, and began to draw — a door, with panels for eyes. But he couldn't make it come out right, so he drew a leaf, trying to capture all the small bones in it. That's how he thought of dead leaves, like small brown skeletons but made from lace. Finer even than the lace his mother wore to church.

The light from the lamp near him had dimmed a little by the time he finished. He looked out and realized that it had begun to snow, big heavy flakes covering the branches of the trees like white moss. He wondered when Nurse would come to get him to say good night to Mother and Father. Perhaps she had forgotten. Out the window, another man, this one with a dog, strolled past, and Gerald imagined himself and Pitz one day, walking together on a January evening, snow falling on them, exchanging their thoughts about the world.

Gerald hadn't brought Pitz upstairs for a while, but when Nurse came to fetch him from the nursery, she complained of a cold, and Gerald saw his opportunity. After saying his prayers, he tiptoed downstairs, scooped up Pitz, and, heart hammering, took him to his bed.

He lay there with his dog's body curved against his. He put his face to Pitz's neck and breathed in and out. He listened for the sound of Nurse's footsteps, and when he was sure it was all quiet, he relaxed his grip and closed his eyes.

It must have been very late, and Gerald had been dreaming he was a pirate. Or he had been dreaming he was on the streetcar with Father and then he was a pirate. Then his arm hurt and he opened his eyes and saw Nurse, her face twisted in the light of her lamp. She was pinching him. Then it was loud and Nurse was screaming about the devil and his ways and dirty beasts, her spittle flying on his face, and Gerald sat up and saw Pitz cowering in a corner near his bureau, his back curved and his tail tucked under, making himself as round and unnoticeable as possible. His friend looked so very small. Gerald cried out and tried to get off the bed, but Nurse pushed him back, flew at the dog, and struck him. And then again, and again.

Then Father came in and Nurse was talking and Gerald couldn't say anything. He didn't say a word to save his special friend. Father picked Pitz up and left the room. Nurse pointed one big horrible finger at Gerald. "You could have killed Baby" was all she said, and then she left, slamming the door behind her.

In the morning, Father called Gerald into his study before breakfast. Gerald scrubbed his face hard before he went downstairs because he knew Father would be angry if he thought Gerald had been crying.

Excerpted from Villa America by Liza Klaussmann. Copyright © 2015 by Liza Klaussmann. Excerpted by permission of Little Brown & Company. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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