Read Left Behind Online

Authors: Laurie Halse Anderson

Left Behind

All wrong

“How did she let that happen?” Maggie asks.

I don't want Maggie to get all riled up again, so I say, “I think she was just trying to be nice. Mrs. Van Hoven took the lamb without thinking about what she should really do with him.”

“All alone in the last stall,” Maggie says to Brenna.

“Yeah, that doesn't sound smart,” Brenna replies.

“But what about the rider? I think this is more the rider's fault than it is Mrs. Van Hoven's,” I suggest.

“That doesn't excuse her!” Maggie says. So much for not letting her get riled up. Now she seems mad at me, too. I can feel my face getting red. I'm also getting a bit angry. But not at Mrs. Van Hoven. I'm ticked off at Maggie. This was supposed to be a fun night. A night spent watching the documentary. A night spent talking about the new kitten I'm going to get and making a list of perfect kitten names. Now it just feels ruined.

Collect All the Vet Volunteers Books

Fight for Life

Homeless

Trickster

Manatee Blues

Say Good-bye

Storm Rescue

Teacher's Pet

Trapped

Fear of Falling

Time to Fly

Masks

End of the Race

New Beginnings

Acting Out

Helping Hands

Treading Water

Left Behind

PUFFIN BOOKS

An imprint of Penguin Random House LLC

375 Hudson Street

New York, New York 10014

First published in the United States of America by Puffin Books,

an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, 2016

Copyright © 2016 by Laurie Halse Anderson

Title page photo copyright © 2011 by Bob Krasner

Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA IS AVAILABLE

eBooks ISBN 978-0-698-17790-1

Version_1

Chapter One

I
t took some convincing, but I finally got my parents to allow me to stay with Maggie and Dr. Mac for the long holiday weekend. It's not like we were doing anything as a family anyway. My parents both have to work at the hospital all weekend, and my little sister and brother are spending time with our cousins in New Jersey. That's where I was supposed to go, too. But it's Dr. Mac's turn on the weekend emergency rotation, and we are short-staffed at Dr. Mac's Place. My parents really understand what that means for a hospital—even one where most of the patients have four legs!

My parents work with humans. I work with
animals. We all do at Dr. Mac's Place. Dr. Mac is Dr. J. J. MacKenzie, the veterinarian owner of the animal clinic. Dr. Gabe is our other vet. Then there is a whole gang of us, the Vet Volunteers, who help in every way we can. There's Maggie MacKenzie and Zoe Hopkins—Dr. Mac's granddaughters who also happen to live with her. And there's David Hutchinson and Brenna Lake, the twins Josh and Jules Darrow, and me, Sunita Patel.

Unfortunately, not many of us are available this weekend. Jules and Josh went back to Pittsburgh, where they used to live, to visit friends, and David is on his annual camping trip in the Adirondacks. And at the last minute, Zoe decided to fly out to see her mother on the West Coast. So Maggie and I—and maybe Brenna—will hold down the fort with Dr. Mac and Dr. Gabe this Fourth of July weekend.

I lean across the front seat and give my mother a hug when she drops me off in front of the clinic.

“Text me before you go to bed, Sunita,” my mother says, squeezing my arm gently. “And your father and I will do the same. Let's all check in both nights.”

“I will,” I say. “And tell Jasmine and Harshil I said hi,” I add quickly. I will miss my brother and sister, but mostly I'm just excited about my
weekend with Maggie. I know we're going to have a great time—plus, I have some good news to share with her.

I scoot across the seat and pull my sleeping bag and backpack with me. Maggie is at the car door as I open it.

“Hi, Dr. Patel! Thanks for loaning us Sunita,” she says, grabbing my sleeping bag from me.

“You girls have fun. I hope the clinic is fairly calm this weekend.” My mother smiles at Maggie.

“We don't have well-patient appointments, but you never know what might happen when you're on call. Gran is already preparing for the fireworks freak-outs,” Maggie says, trying to balance the rolled sleeping bag on her head.

“Fireworks freak-outs?” my mother asks.

“Lots of dogs and some cats get scared when they hear fireworks,” Maggie explains. “Just like they do in a thunderstorm. Sometimes we have extra cases come in. The animals try to hide from the noise. Sometimes they fall or get stuck and injured. Since we have two nights of fireworks this year, there's double the potential for trouble.”

“I never thought about that. Poor things.” My mother looks at me. She doesn't think I'm still scared of thunderstorms and fireworks, does she? Because I am not!

Maggie takes the sleeping bag off her head and motions to the couple of cars in the parking lot. “We have two dogs and a cat in there right now that have a history of fireworks trauma. Gran is getting them set up with sedatives so they're dozy and won't freak out.”

“Prevention of injury is always a smart plan,” Mother says.

We wave as she drives off. I'm practically skipping as we head inside to stow my stuff in Maggie's bedroom.

“Whoa, Sunita! You're acting like one of those puppies that we had in the clinic a few weeks ago!” Maggie comments.

I laugh. No one has ever compared me to a puppy before. But I can't help myself. This is going to be so much fun. I'm really looking forward to staying up late, chatting, and being with just Maggie. Maggie's cousin, Zoe, is fun, and I really do like her—and all the Vet Volunteers—a lot. I consider them my closest friends. But when we're in a group, it can be hard to do anything but just go along with everyone. That's why tonight is a special treat—I have Maggie all to myself. I've packed a new notepad and pen so we can make a very special list. I've also brought a wildcat
documentary DVD to watch. Maggie and I both love animal shows on TV, and we often exchange animal documentaries. If Zoe is around, she rolls her eyes at us and flips through her celebrity magazines when we start talking about documentaries we've seen. But tonight, since it's just Maggie and me, we won't have to worry about her. We'll probably eat popcorn, watch the DVD, and tell each other secrets, just like they do in my favorite books. At least, that's what I think we'll do. I don't exactly have a secret, but I do have great news—and we will need the special notepad and pen for it.

Zoe took her dog, Sneakers, with her on this trip, so their house seems quieter. I pet their cat, Socrates, as I walk by. He rubs his head against my wrist and then lies down so I'll scratch his belly. His big orange belly is fluffy-soft and jiggly. Socrates sighs, and I know he'd prefer me to stay right here and pet him all evening. But Maggie and I have other things to do. “Later, baby,” I tell him. Sherlock, their basset hound, is snoring beneath the kitchen table, so I resist giving him a pat. Instead, we grab apples from the kitchen and walk back through the house into the connected clinic. Dr. Gabe is talking with Dr. Mac outside the exam room.

“We're done here for the day, girls,” Dr. Mac says.

Maggie's grandmother is brisk, in a friendly way. She walks fast and talks fast and seems a lot younger than she is, with her athletic build and short-cropped hair. She is probably the peppiest grandmother I have ever known. She always makes the Vet Volunteers feel important. Though I guess we are pretty important. We're an extra hand calming a sick or hurt animal, getting Dr. Mac and Dr. Gabe the supplies they need when they're working on a patient, and keeping the clinic clean. Most of us want to work with animals in some way when we're adults. At Dr. Mac's Place we get a lot of training and a lot of encouragement.

Like now, for example, Dr. Mac is helping me learn to handle larger animals. I love cats and small dogs. I enjoy working with the rabbits, gerbils, guinea pigs, and birds that we see at the clinic. But I've always been a little nervous around the large dogs and bigger animals, like horses. They are just so big, and it seems like a million things could go wrong. It's not like working with cats. Though if I really think about it, I know cats are complex and can be dangerous, too. It's just that I'm much more comfortable with them. I almost never go with Dr. Gabe on his stable calls. Stable calls are visits to farms. That's what we call them, even if the farm
doesn't have any stables. But I'm trying to “move out of my comfort zone.” That's what my father keeps telling me I need to do. I know he's right, and I am trying. I have to if I am going to become a veterinarian someday.

“I have one last stable call to go on,” Dr. Gabe says. Maggie is automatically alert and bouncing a little on her toes. “Horse farm, Maggie. Do you want to come?” he asks.

“Of course!” she says. Then she turns to me and asks, “Unless you want to start hanging out now?”

“I have room for two in my truck,” Dr. Gabe suggests. He lifts his eyebrow and smiles at me. He and Dr. Mac both know I usually choose organizing the ever-present mound of clinic paperwork and leave the big-animal assisting to another Vet Volunteer. But I'll never get over my fears if I keep avoiding them.

“I'll come, too,” I say. Maggie and I toss our apple cores into the compost pail.

Dr. Mac pats me on the back a couple of times as we follow Dr. Gabe toward the front door. But before we get to the door, a young woman with dark hair pulled back in a ponytail comes through it. She doesn't have an animal with her—no carrier in her arms and no dog on a leash. But sometimes people leave their seriously ill or hurt animals in
the car until they have checked in and made sure that they can bring the animal directly into an exam room. Maybe Dr. Mac will need me here instead? But before I can ask Dr. Mac if she wants me to stay, she says, “You must be Melissa. I'm Dr. Mac.”

“It's very nice to finally meet you in person, Dr. Mac,” the woman says, extending her hand to shake Dr. Mac's.

“This is my colleague, Dr. Gabe,” Dr. Mac says. Melissa turns and shakes his hand, too. “And this is my granddaughter Maggie and one of the Vet Volunteers I told you about, Sunita.”

“It's nice to meet you all,” Melissa says.

I'm about to ask if I should stay when Dr. Gabe claps his hands and says, “All righty, then, I'll leave you two to talk, and the three of us will get over to the Van Hoven place.”

I guess Dr. Mac already knows she doesn't need our help. Dr. Gabe must have known, too, because he didn't offer to have one of us assist her. There is only one car left in the parking lot. I sneak a peek as we walk past it to Dr. Gabe's truck. Is this Melissa's car? Whoever it belongs to, there isn't any animal in it.

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