Excerpt from Sold by Patricia McCormick, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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  • First Published:
    Sep 2006, 272 pages
    Apr 2008, 272 pages

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Print Excerpt


I'm wiping the makeup off my face when the dark-skinned
girl comes in.
"What do you think you're doing?" she says.

"I'm going home."

Her tear-shaped eyes grow dark.

"There is a mistake," I tell her. "I'm here to work as a maid for
a rich lady."

"Is that what you were told?"

Then Mumtaz arrives at the door, huffing, her mango face
pink with anger.

"What do you think you're doing?" she says.

"Leaving," I say. "I'm going home."

Mumtaz laughs. "Home?" she says. "And how would you get

I don't know.

"Do you know the way home?" she says.
"Do you have money for the train?
Do you speak the language here?
Do you even have any idea where you are?"

My heart is pounding like the drumming of a monsoon rain,
and my shoulders are shaking as if I had a great chill.

"You ignorant hill girl," she says.
"You don't know anything. Do you?"

I wrap my arms around myself and grip with all my might.
But the trembling will not stop.

"Well, then," Mumtaz says, pulling her record book out from
her waistcloth.
"Let me explain it to you."

"You belong to me," she says. "And I paid a pretty sum for
you, too."
She opens to a page in her book and points to the notation
for 10,000 rupees.

"You will take men to your room," she says. "And do whatever
they ask of you. You will work here, like the other girls, until
your debt is paid off."

My head is spinning now, but I see only one thing: the number
in her book. It warps and blurs, then fractures into bits that
swim before my eyes. I fight back tears and find my voice.

"But Auntie Bimla said -- "

"Your 'auntie,' " she scoffs, "works for me."

I understand it all now.

I blink back the tears in my eyes. I ball my hands into fists.
I will not do this dirty business. I will wait until dark and
escape from Mumtaz and her Happiness House.

"Shahanna!" Mumtaz snaps her fingers and the dark-skinned
girl hands her a pair of scissors.

This Shahanna leans close and whispers to me, "It will go
easier on you if you hold still."

There is a slicing sound, and a clump of my hair falls to the
floor. I cry out and try to break free, but Shahanna has hold
of me.

Mumtaz draws back, the jaw of the scissors poised at my
"Hold still," she says, her teeth clenched. "Or I'll slice your

I look at Shahanna. Her eyes are wide with fear.

I stay very still, looking at the girl in the silver glass. Soon
she has the shorn head of a disgraced woman and a face
of stone.

"Try to escape with that head of hair," Mumtaz says, "and
they'll bring you right back here."

And then they are gone, leaving me alone in the locked-in

I pound on the door.
I howl like an animal.
I pray.
I pace the room.
I kick the door.

But I do not cry.


Each day, a thousand people pass below my window.
Children on their way to school. Mothers hurrying home
from the market. Rickshaw pullers, vegetable sellers, street
sweepers and alms-seekers.

Not one looks up.

Each morning and evening Mumtaz comes, beats me with
a leather strap, and locks the door behind her.

And each night, I dream that Ama and I are sitting outside
our hut, looking down the mountain at the festival lights,
and she is twining my hair into long dark braids.


Tonight when Mumtaz comes to my room, she sees that
her strap has left raw sores on my back and neck, my arms

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Excerpted from Sold by Patricia McCormick, pages 105-111. Copyright (c) 2006, Patricia McCormick. Reproduces with permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

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