<big><b>Prologue</b></big><br /><br /><P>THERE'S A FRONT PAGE PHOTO OF MY friend Jos standing by the side of a road on a hot summer day. I almost don't recognize him, because he's out of place. It's a frozen moment in time -- but I'm so used to Jos being animated, funny and moving. It bothers me that one picture can define everything in other people's minds but never really tell the whole story.<P>A cop in dark shades is touching him on the arm. Gently. The photographer was close, 'cause you can see every line on the cop's and Jos's face. There weren't any lines an hour before. It's early. Everything is quiet. Too quiet. I turn on the radio to make sure there hasn't been some kind of world-ending disaster. Hell -- they do happen. More than you could ever dream they do. I've seen them, been a part of them, don't even have to watch the news to see one happening.<P>My feet are cool on the old hardwood floors, and I don't even mind that I'm still trying to work out a splinter. I walk to the front window.<P>I love the cool.<P>And I love the feeling I get knowing I'm walking on floors people walked on a hundred years ago. I blow the candle out 'cause finally the sun is struggling past the clouds.<P>The radio crackles as I stare out at Lake Erie haze.<P>I press my face against the window and feel cobwebs on the side of my head but don't pull back. If I listen close I can hear cars blowing past on the road about a hundred yards away.<P>I listen for Curtis over the drone of the radio -- I do it without thinking. Then I see the groundhogs through the window and start peeling apples for them.<P>I do it like I breathe or walk to the sink to get a glass of water.<P>Automatic.<P>It starts to rain, and I watch like the photographer did on that burning hot summer day, while rain streaks every inch of the window.<P>Copyright © 2010 by Angela Johnson<P><center><big><b>1</b></big></center><br /><br /><P>THERE ARE LONG ARMS ALL AROUND ME and I know I'm gonna have a serious curb put on my social life if I don't get off this couch right now and go home.<P>When I try to get up, Curtis's arms squeeze me more, and I know that I'm not going anywhere, not until he gives it up and lets go.<P>Still, I'm thinking I got so much homework I'll be up all night trying to fi nish it. And if I want the parents outta my business I have to keep the low B going. I ain't never been an A student, so my parents are happy about those Bs I drag out every semester.<P>And there's Curtis....<P>I'd miss him if I were grounded for life. I'd miss the way he always smells like sweet leaves underfoot in the fall. I mean, that's what I think of when I'm close to him. The woods. Leaves. Pine needles.<P>And the feel of his skin...<P>Shit like that....<P>I don't say shit like that when I'm with Curtis, 'cause he doesn't swear. And even though he's never said anything when I do -- I do my best not to do it in front of him.<P>Raised by a religious grandma is all he'll say about it.<br /><P>I'm cold.<P>I'm cold and awake, and he's not here. No arms pull me back. I walk to the open window and smell the woods. I miss Curtis in his place on the couch beside me.<P>But I live here now too. So when I lean out the window to see what kind of morning sky is out there, I see Curtis, leaning against a tree. And just like that -- the cold is gone.<P>Copyright © 2010 by Angela Johnson <BR><BR><i>Continues...</i> <!-- copyright notice --> <br></pre> <blockquote><hr noshade size='1'><font size='-2'> Excerpted from <b>Sweet, Hereafter</b> by <b>Angela Johnson</b> Copyright © 2010 by Angela Johnson. Excerpted by permission.<br> All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.<br>Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.