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Excerpt from Stealing by Margaret Verble, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Stealing

A Novel

by Margaret Verble

Stealing by Margaret Verble X
Stealing by Margaret Verble
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2023, 256 pages

    Paperback:
    Feb 2024, 256 pages

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When I got closer to the cabin, Bella came out the front screen door and stood with one hand on her hip. I didn't know her name was Bella then, but I did know she wasn't like anything I'd ever seen before. She wore a dress with sleeves that just covered the tops of her arms and it was open at the collar. It was a normal dress, Mama had had some like it, but it looked different on Bella. She was tall for a woman, and slim, but with curves, too. And she didn't have on any shoes or any hose, although it was still early in the year for a grown-up to be dressed so cool. But mostly, what struck me about her at first sighting, beyond just the way she was standing there with her hand on her hip and her head cocked like she was waiting for me, was that she had the prettiest hair I'd ever seen.

It was brown with a sheen. And it sat on her shoulders like puffy clouds do on the ridge on the far side of the river on some fall and winter mornings. The top of her hair was pulled back so that her forehead showed. It wasn't high or low either one, it was more just right. And her eyebrows arched so high that I could see their curves from a distance. That let me know more than anything else that the woman standing on the porch of Uncle Joe's cabin, which was really a shack as I have said, wasn't a countrywoman at all. She was a woman who plucked her eyebrows.

Not only that, she was dark, and it was only the first week of April.

She was watching me like I was watching her. Not hiding anything, more directly than most people watch. And I walked right up to the porch, took my stick off my shoulder, and held my catch out in front of me. I said, "Want a fish? I got an extra."

Bella threw her head back, laughed and shook her hair.

I pulled the fish in closer. I didn't mean to get laughed at.

And Bella must have realized she surprised me because she got quiet quick and said, "I'd love one. That's the best offer I've had in a long time. What's your name?"

I said, "Kit. My real name is Karen, but everybody calls me Kit."

"I'm Bella. Have you got a last name?" When she said that, she gathered her skirt and sat down on the porch so that her legs hung off and we were closer in height.

"Crockett. Have you got one?"

She smiled and said, "No. Just Bella."

Well, I knew that wasn't true. Everybody has a last name. And I must have frowned, because Bella said, "I'm teasing you. I have a last name, but you can call me Bella because you've offered me a fish and I'm pleased to have it."

At that, I set the fish right down on the porch and started getting one off the stringer. And Bella got up, went in and came back out with a bowl. She sat down again with the bowl in her lap. It had a wet rag and a couple of eggs in it. She picked one egg up with her thumb and forefinger and said, "Want a boiled egg? It's all that seems handy for lunch."

I nodded and she held out the rag to me to wipe the fish off my fingers. I set her fish in the bowl and took it. Then she and I both peeled our eggs together, which, because they were so fresh, was a little slow. While I was chipping away, I hoped she'd say, "Let me get us some salt." But she didn't, and I didn't ask for it because I thought maybe she didn't have any because almost everybody salts their eggs. I ate the egg unsalted and didn't even lick the salt off my arm to help with the taste. But the egg was good enough. I was hungry.

That was the beginning of this whole awful mess. It was only four years ago. But now, it seems like it was a long, long time in the past.

Excerpted from Stealing by Margaret Verble. Copyright © 2023 by Margaret Verble. Excerpted by permission of Mariner Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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