Trembling, her legs so wobbly it was hard to stand, Abbie Thompson clung to the rough trunk of an oak tree and waited for her father to appear. As a garish yellow porch light over the nearest apartment suddenly gleamed, Abbie sucked in her breath and slid farther back into the darkness behind the wide tree trunk.
Abbie knew she shouldn't be here. She shouldn't be spying. She'd die if her father saw her. Fearing to be seen, she had pulled a scarf over her strawberry-blond hair, which was light enough to stand out in the darkness. She must not be caught lurking, but she had to know. She had to!
The door of the apartment opened, and Davis Thompson stepped out, hand in hand with a young, very pretty, dark-haired woman. Both of them tall, trim, and attractive, they moved as though they knew they were an exceptionally good-looking pair. Laughing, they drew close to each other, and he bent to kiss her.
It was a light, quick kiss, but Abbie doubled
over in pain. It felt as if someone had socked her
hard in the stomach.
She watched her father and the woman run to his low-slung red sports car. Before she could react, before she could think, the car had driven away.
Abbie let herself slide to the ground, sitting cross-legged in the dark. She stared at the stillbright front window of the apartment, hating the woman who lived there and hating her father.
All through the seventeen years of her life, Davis Thompson had called Abbie "Daddy's girl," and she had loved this special nickname. He had been a real daddy then. He'd played ball with her and gone to her Fathers' Night dinners at school and applauded her piano playing at recitals. Lately, though, he had become so different that Abbie wondered if he could possibly be the same person.
Davis Thompson known to nearly everyone in the south Gulf Coast town of Buckler, Texas, as Dr. Davis Thompson, professor of English at Buckler College suddenly dyed his hair to cover the gray at his temples, wore expensive sports coats over cashmere turtleneck sweaters, bought a car that would fit a movie star's lifestyle, and walked out on his family.
"You must understand, Sandra, I'm not being fulfilled any longer," her father had told Abbie's mother just before he left. "Life should be rich and complete.''
"Davis, are you serious?" Mrs. Thompson's
voice had wavered with shock.
He raised his voice as if he were arguing not only with her, but with himself. "I've given this sincere and weighty consideration," he said. "For a long time I've felt that my life here is nothing."
Frozen in the hallway, Abbie couldn't help overhearing the conversation. She had gasped and leaned against the wall for support. Mom and Davy and she were nothing?
"Is there someone else?" Abbie's mother had asked. Her voice came out raspy and choked, and she had to ask the question again.
"Be reasonable," Dr. Thompson had said. "It wasn't working with us. You know that."
"No, I didn't know. I thought . . . well . your moodiness . . . I mean, when you didn't get the promotion to department head, I assumed .
"Perhaps I would have got it, if I'd had more support from you," Dr. Thompson had snapped.
"More support?" Mrs. Thompson's voice had risen. "After all I've done But the back door had slammed shut. Realizing that her father had left, Abbie had run to cling to her mom.
Now Abbie dug her fingers into the circle of freshly turned earth that surrounded the tree. As her hands slid over the ring of small, smooth stones that bordered the circle, she whispered to her absent father over and over, "How could you not want us? How could you?''
She tried to look away from the lighted apartment window. Behind the golden glow lived the woman with the dark hair, the woman who had kissed her father.
The pain in Abbie's mind and body turned to an anger hot and intense. Breathing heavily, she unconsciously gripped the stones, pulling them from their ring as she rose to her feet. She stepped out from under the wide limbs of the oak, aimed at the window, and threw the stones as hard as she could.
"I hate you! I hate you!" she yelled.
The glass smashed, gold-red splinters flying to each side like starbursts. There was a moment of total silence, as though the air had stopped moving. Then a young woman in a robe, her blond hair wet and stringy, ran screaming from the apartment. Doors of other apartments opened, and people scurried out, scrambling without direction like ants whose hill has been disturbed. A beefy man in his undershirt grabbed Abbie's arms. A plump woman kept yelling that she had called the police.
Abbie stood numbly, the red anger draining from her mind and body, as she tried to remember what she had done.
Like an automaton Abbie moved through the next few hours. She was driven in a police car to the station, where someone asked her a million questions, then fingerprinted and photographed her.
Her mother appeared, tear streaks on her face.
"Oh, Abbie! Oh, darling, I'll help you. This is all
your stupid, stupid father's fault."
Dr. Thompson arrived, scowling. "What a foolish thing to do, Abbie! What could you have been thinking? You can thank me for talking Jamie and her roommate out of pressing charges."
But local officials had recently waged war on malicious mischief. Getting tough on these troublemaking kids was a priority, and Abbie found herself sitting in an office opposite a man who introduced himself as Judge Arnold Wilhite.
The judge reminded Abbie of her late grandfather Bill, with his thin hair combed over his bald spot, and crinkle lines around his eyes. Judge Wilhite leaned back in his office chair and rested his tooled cowboy boots on his desk. "I want to hear what you have to say, Abigail. Why'd you throw rocks through Miss__" He stopped and glanced at the paper on his desk. " through the window of Miss Jamie Lane's apartment?"
So that was her name Jamie Lane, Abbie thought. "I guess I don't have a good reason," she told the judge. She stared at her hands, which were clenched in her lap. "I just did it." The numbness she had felt began to slide away, and Abbie was frightened, She breathed in small, shallow gasps, trying to steady herself,
Judge Wilhite studied Abbie for a few minutes, Then he said, "The D.A.'s office is talking about prosecuting you for malicious mischief. Is that what you'd call what you did? Malicious mischief?"
Abbie raised her head and looked at him, "It wasn't mischief, It was hate, I hated her, and I was angry.
"Had you given this act some thought? Had you planned to come to Miss Lane's apartment and throw rocks?"
Excerpted from Nobody's There by Joan Lowery Nixon. Copyright © 2004 by Joan Lowery Nixon. Excerpted by permission of Yearling, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.