"It was a lovely party," I tell her. "I'll ring you." Sylvie's screams drown out my words.

Karen holds open the door for us.

I maneuver Sylvie down the path and along the darkening pavement. Her crying is shockingly loud, ripping apart the stillness of the street.

When I get to the car, I hold her tight against me and scrabble in my bag for the keys and manage to open the door. I sit in the driver's seat, holding her close on my lap. We sit there for a long time. Gradually she quiets, the tension leaving her. She sinks into me, crying more gently. Her face and the front of her dress are wet from the water that splashed on her and from her tears. Her eyelashes are clumped together, as though with cheap mascara.

I dry her face and smooth her hair.

"Shall we go home now?"

She nods. She climbs into the back and fastens her belt.

My hands on the steering wheel are shaking, and I'm cautious at intersections. I know that I'm not driving well. My car smells as always of pollen from the flowers I deliver; I flick a broken frond of fern from the dashboard onto the floor. I glance at Sylvie in the rearview mirror. Her face is absolutely white, like someone coming around from shock. There's a dull weight of dread in my stomach, the feeling I always try to overlook or push away: the sense I have that there's something about Sylvie that is utterly beyond me. There's too much sadness in her crying, too much fear.

Excerpted from Yes, My Darling Daughter : A Novel by Margaret Leroy, published in April by Sarah Crichton Books, an imprint of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. Copyright © 2009 by Margaret Leroy. All rights reserved.

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