Excerpt: 'Along for the Ride'

"Not really," I told him, unwrapping my burger. "She's still screaming." "Yikes." He pushed his chair back, standing up. "I better go check in." Finally, I thought as he disappeared up the stairs. I picked up my burger, taking a bite: it was cold, but still good. I'd only eaten about half of it when he reappeared, walking to the fridge and grabbing a beer. I sat there, chewing as he popped the top, took a sip, and looked out at the water.

"Everything okay up there?"

"Oh, sure," he said easily, moving the bottle to his other hand. "She's just colicky, like Hollis was. Not much you can do except wait it out." The thing was, I loved my dad. He might have been a little moody, and definitely more than a little selfish, but he'd always been good to me, and I admired him. Right at that moment, though, I could see why someone might not like him that much. "Does Heidi…is her mom coming to help out, or anything?" "Her mom died a couple of years ago," he said, taking another sip off his beer. "She has a brother, but he's older, lives in Cincinnati with kids of his own." "What about a nanny, or something?"

Now he looked at me. "She doesn't want help," he said. "It's like I told you, she wants to do this on her own."

I had a flash of Heidi craning her neck, looking down at my dad's office, the grateful look on her face when I brought her dinner. "Maybe," I said, "you should, you know, insist, though. She seems pretty tired."

He just looked at me for a moment, a flat expression on his face. "Auden," he said finally, "this isn't something you need to worry about, all right? Heidi and I will work it out."

In other words, back off. And he was right. This was his house, I was a guest here. It was presumptuous to show up and just assume I knew better, based on only a few hours. "Right," I said, balling up my napkin. "Of course."

"All right," he said, his voice relaxed again. "So…I'm going to head upstairs, get back to it. I'd like to finish this chapter tonight. You'll be okay on your own?"

It wasn't even really a question, only phrased to sound like one. Funny how intonation could do so much, change even what something was at its core. "Sure," I said. "Go ahead. I'll be fine."

© 2009 "Along for the Ride" by Sarah Dessen

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