The Lesson Of Her Death Excerpt

With every passing mile her heart fled a little more.

The girl, nine years old, sat slumped in the front seat, rubbing her finger along the worn beige armrest. The slipstream from the open window laid a strip of blond hair across her face. She pulled it away and looked up toward the stern man of about forty who drove with his eyes fixed beyond the long nose of the car.

“Please,” the girl said.


At the first click of the turn signal the girl jumped as if a gun had fired. The car slowed and rocked into the driveway, aiming toward a low brick building. She realized that her last hope was gone; the man was not going to weaken at the last moment.

The car rolled slowly to a stop.

The man reached over and pushed her buckle release. The seat belt retracted.

“I don’t want to. Please.”


“Just for today.”

“No,” the man said.


“Come on,” he said.

“I’m not ready!”

“You’ll be fine. Just do the best you can. Nobody expects more than that.”

Her inventory of excuses was depleted. Sarah opened the car door but remained sitting.

“Give me a kiss.”

She leaned over and kissed her father quickly on her cheek then climbed out of the car, which happened to be a late-model police cruiser. She stood completely still, breathing in the cool spring air heavily scented with the bus’s exhaust, breathing it fast, nervously, growing dizzy. She took three steps toward the building then paused, watching the police car pull out of the elementary school driveway.

Maybe her father would catch a glimpse of her in the mirror, change his mind and return.

The car vanished over a hill.

Filled with stinging hopelessness, close to panic, Sarah turned and entered the building. Clutching her lunch box to her chest she walked reluctantly through the corridors. Although she was as tall as any of the children swarming around her she felt younger than them all. Tinier. Weaker.

At the fourth-grade classroom she stopped.

Sarah looked inside. Her nostrils flared and she felt her skin prickle with a renewed rash of fear.

No one made fun of her. No one threatened her. No one even noticed her.

Go ahead, she told herself.

You’ll be fine. Just do best you can. Nobody expects more than that.

But, yes, they do, Sarah thought. Everyone expects more than your best. Always, always, always.

And she hesitated only for a moment before turning and walking resolutely out of the building, buffeted and jostled as she forced her way through the oncoming stream of shouting, calling, laughing children.

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