She'd been taken it was said.
Not said aloud! Not in our hearing.
But if you listened. If you listened hard. If you listened past the scared sound of your heart beating. That low rumbling sound like thunder. Taken!
A girl had been taken. From Highlands Park. I knew where that was. I knew who the girl was. We were not supposed to know, yet. We were too young to know. We were very quiet, we did not want to be taken, too. The girl who'd been taken had not been a quiet girl but giggly and squirmy and unpredictable in her behavior. I saw a giant bird descending from the sky to punish her. I saw the sky darken with the giant bird's outspread wings and bared talons and I saw Lilac Jimson seized in those talons and lifted screaming into the sky.
It was May 1988. I was ten years old. I was in fifth grade at Thomas Jefferson Elementary. I was not a close friend of Lilac Jimson. I saw Lilac running with her brother Roosevelt after school. Roosevelt was older than Lilac, and taller. And Lilac was a year older than me but not taller. Different cleaning ladies came to our house on Lincoln Avenue and one of them used to be Lilac's mother who was called Alina and who spoke in a strange way, it was hard to understand. When someone said That little gypsy-looking girl it was Lilac Jimson they meant. That little colored girl with the tooth. Because Lilac had a gold tooth that flashed when she smiled. Lilac had tight-braided dark hair and skin like creamy cocoa and beautiful sparkly-black eyes. I wanted to be Lilac Jimson's friend but there was some strangeness between us, Lilac laughed and smiled at everybody but not at me. Lilac's sparkly eyes just jumped over me like I wasn't there. I was hurt, I didn't understand. Maybe it had to do with Lilac's mother who'd used to clean our house but now another woman, a black woman, cleaned our house. Maybe Lilac's mother had told her not to like me because I was Mr. Graf 's daughter and because I lived in that big cobblestone house on Lincoln Avenue with all the trees. I wanted to invite Lilac home with me but I knew that Lilac would laugh and turn away without hearing me. Lilac was so pretty! -- the only girl who could climb the ropes in gym class, like a little monkey, to the ceiling. Lilac was the first girl at Thomas Jefferson Elementary to get pierced ears, when she was ten. Lilac was a girl to be scolded for being "wiggly" in her desk but our teacher laughed saying this, you could see Miss Hansen liked Lilac Jimson. But now suddenly Lilac Jimson was That poor little girl who was taken from the park nobody knows where maybe in the river the latest is police are questioning her own father isn't that tragic.
Excerpted from The Stolen Heart © Copyright 2012 by Lauren Kelly. Reprinted with permission by Ecco. All rights reserved.