Excerpt from The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Story of Arthur Truluv

A Novel

by Elizabeth Berg

The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg X
The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg
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  • First Published:
    Nov 2017, 240 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2018, 272 pages

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When it's time, she raises her bedroom window, climbs out into the foundation shrubbery, and crouches down, listening, making sure she has not awakened her father. No; she hears nothing. She walks to the corner to wait. She stands there seven minutes, she counts every second with a despairing kind of dread, but then here come his headlights and the car pulls up next to her. His arm is hanging out through the open window and the smoke from his cigarette is rising up and it's so sexy, it's so right, he's so manly, nothing like the dumb boys in her school, whose idea of a good time is trying to slam locker doors on each other's hands.

She wets her lips, runs to the passenger side, and leaps in. He nods but says nothing, just drives off to a forest preserve a couple of miles away. He pulls into one of the parking spaces, cuts the engine, and turns to face her.

"Hey," he says, and he rubs at the corner of one eye. The gesture is endearing to her, somehow, and she leans over to kiss him. But he pulls away, saying, "I gotta get back soon, I gotta get up early. So, you know. What's up?"

"What's up?" she says.

"Yeah, what's the trick?"

"Oh," she says. "Well, so . . . Want me to show you?"

"Yeah." No need for her to get undressed after all. No time.

She puts her hand to his crotch, unbuttons his jeans, and carefully pulls the zipper down. Apparently there's this little place back there where you can rub when you do it. Apparently they love that. Awkwardly, she gets on her knees on the floor in front of him.

He leans his head back, closes his eyes. Tosses his cigarette out the window. She looks at his handsome face, then begins.

Afterward, she says, "So . . . ?"

"Yeah, it was great. Thanks."

Thanks? "You're welcome," she says. She moves back to her side of the seat.

"Listen, Maddy," he says, looking down, and her insides jump at the sight of his long lashes, the planes of his cheekbones, the way his hair falls into his face.

He looks at her to say, "I gotta tell you. I think we need to cut back on seeing each other."

She freezes. Cannot speak. Does not breathe.

"Okay? I mean, I'm busy at work, and I'm trying . . . you know, I'm trying to do some other stuff."

"What stuff? Something I can help with? I could help you."

"No, it's nothing. . . ." He looks out the side window, then back at her. "Aw, Maddy, I can't lie to you. You're a good kid. You're a pretty girl, we had some good times, right? But you . . . Okay, I'm just going to say it right out because I respect you, okay? Like, I'm not going to lie to you. I found someone. . . . She's more my age, okay?"

"Who is it?" Maddy has no idea why she has asked this question. Or how. She doesn't want to hear a single word about whoever this person might be.

"She works at the store, we run into each other a lot."

We. It burns. Maddy presses her lips together tightly. Must not cry. Really must not cry.

He laughs. "At first we hated each other. It's really funny, it's like a sitcom, right? We like really hated each other. This one time she came into— "

"It's okay," Maddy says. "I don't want to hear any more."

"Aw, come here," he says softly, and some force moves her closer to him. Where else can she go?

"Hey. I got something for you." He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a small jewelry box.

Oh, my god. This was a joke! The other girl, that was a joke! Because look, he's going to propose! And she will say yes, she will say, Just take me to your apartment and we'll start living together right now. She stares at the box, her heart galloping in her chest. To be out of her house, away from her father, who is like constant bad weather. To wake up excited for the day ahead! To feel seen and appreciated! Maddy feels she wears a mask behind which is a wondrous kaleidoscope. Look through here: she knows things; turn the wheel: she can do things. She can sing, she's a good dancer, she can curl her tongue on demand, every dog and cat on the street comes up to her, she's an amazingly fast reader. Now she can show someone everything: her heart, her humor, her loyalty!

Excerpted from The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg. Copyright © 2017 by Elizabeth Berg. Excerpted by permission of Random House. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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