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Authors: Patricia Reilly Giff

Winter Sky

BOOK: Winter Sky
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Text copyright © 2014 by Patricia Reilly Giff Jacket art copyright © 2014 by Shane Rebenschied/Shannon Associates

All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Wendy Lamb Books, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, New York.

Wendy Lamb Books and the colophon are trademarks of Random House LLC.

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Giff, Patricia Reilly.
Winter sky / by Patricia Reilly Giff. — First edition.
pages cm
Summary: Almost twelve-year-old Siria, who chases firetrucks in the middle of the night to ensure her fire fighter dad’s safety, learns about bravery one winter as she tries to mend a broken friendship.
ISBN 978-0-375-83892-7 (hardback) — ISBN 978-0-385-37192-6
(lib. bdg.) — ISBN 978-0-385-37193-3 (ebook)
[1. Family life—Fiction. 2. Friendship—Fiction.
3. Courage—Fiction. 4. Fire fighters—Fiction.] I. Title.
PZ7.G3626Wi 2014
[Fic]—dc23
2013022399

Random House Children’s Books supports the First Amendment and celebrates the right to read.

v3.1

 

ALSO BY PATRICIA REILLY GIFF

All the Way Home

Eleven

The Gift of the Pirate Queen

Gingersnap

A House of Tailors

Lily’s Crossing

Maggie’s Door

Nory Ryan’s Song

Pictures of Hollis Woods

R My Name Is Rachel

Storyteller

Water Street

Wild Girl

Willow Run

For Jillian Rose O’Meara
,

my granddaughter
,

with love

Once upon a time, before there was time, the night sky was dark. With no stars, there was nothing to see
.

Coyote, that rascal, was bored. He was also clever. He went from burrow to nest, from the sands of the sea to the crests of the mountains. He gathered all the stars he could find in his backpack
.

Not only was Coyote smart, he was a good friend. “Draw yourself in the sky with these stars,” he told Big Dog
.

Big Dog picked out a few; he trotted across the sky and drew his own picture: a star here, another one there
.

Little Dog came next …

Then Orion
.

Orion drew himself with a sword and a club
.

Everyone had a turn
.

Still stars were left in Coyote’s backpack
.

The pack was heavy, too heavy …

So Coyote reached up and threw the stars across the sky: red, yellow, and white, glowing blue
.

He sat back on his haunches, satisfied. He’d rescued the night sky from the darkness
.

CHAPTER 1

A blast of sound: the clang of sirens, the rumble of fire engines. Siria heard it clearly, even from their seventh-floor apartment.

She ran her fingers over Mom’s star book, then tucked it under her pillow. Tonight was like the beginning of that coyote story: no moon, no stars, only flakes of snow rushing through the darkness.

She tiptoed across her room and opened the door an inch. Yes. Mimi, her sitter, was dozing on the pullout couch in the living room, her glasses still perched on her nose.

Siria grabbed her jacket off the desk chair and shrugged into it. She pushed up the window without a sound, bracing herself against the freezing air. The fire escape was slippery with ice. She imagined
tumbling through the open stairs all the way down to the bottom floor. Dead as a doornail.

Toughen up, Siria
.

She ducked outside and leaned over the edge. On the avenue below, a traffic light turned red, and a minivan screeched to a stop. The store windows were dim except for those at Trencher’s Market, where red and green Christmas lights flashed on and off. Beyond the avenue, the sledding hills rose like pale pillows.

The sirens grew louder as the engines turned the corner onto the avenue. The minivan screeched again as it veered out of the way.

Siria slid down the icy steps, holding hard to the railing. Down one flight, her friend Laila’s window, where she must be asleep by now. At the fifth floor, she stopped for a breath. Inside, Mr. and Mrs. Byars were watching the late-night news. A surprise. They were usually fighting.

On four, she angled around a pile of cracked flowerpots, then took a quick look into three, where Douglas lived. Douglas, with curly red hair he hated and kept hidden under a falling-apart baseball cap. Douglas, who loved working with his hands and said he’d build roads and houses one day. Douglas, her best friend since kindergarten.

She tapped on his dark window. “Hurry,” she
whispered, and there he was, jacket on already, ratty blue baseball hat on backward.

He climbed out the window. “Yeow, freezing out here.”

“Let’s go,” she said.

They raced down the last flights to the snowy sidewalk. That afternoon they’d jammed their bikes in behind the apartment-house fence, and now, in a moment, they wheeled them out and brushed off the snow.

They followed the fire truck, bent over the handlebars, splashing slush against the wheels. The truck turned and Siria pedaled faster, right behind Douglas, almost careening into Jason, the Trencher’s Market delivery boy. He leaned against the store window with the teenage kid who followed him around like a shadow. Mike? Yes, that was his name. She could see the tattoo on the back of his neck, a dark
M
against his pale skin.

Siria’s bike skidded, but she righted herself and called “Sorry” over her shoulder. They hadn’t seen who she was. Lucky! If anyone knew what she was doing, she’d be in huge trouble.

Fire chasing!

Chasing Pop, a firefighter who rode high up on the ladder truck.

Following him to keep him safe. If only she could.

Look out for your pop, Siria
. Had Mom said that long ago? Maybe it was a dream. She couldn’t remember Mom, who had died when she was little. She had only the star book to remind her.

Pop was her whole family. She could picture him bending over his ship models, showing them to Douglas, who spent hours watching and sanding. Pop, who’d painted her room Easter-egg purple because it was her favorite color, and spattered gold on the ceiling for stars. Pop, who loved to laugh. He’d never been hurt at a fire, but still, Siria worried.

Ahead of them, the fire truck pulled to a stop. Wheels grazed the curb; lights flashed red against the snow.

Pop climbed down and rushed up the path of the old linen factory, Izzy right behind him. Danny and Willie, almost like twins in their turnout gear, began to work with the hose at the fire hydrant.

Siria leaned against a telephone pole, staying back with Douglas, hidden. She couldn’t stop shivering. Snow had edged its way into the holes in last year’s leopard boots, and wind blew her hair into her face. Next to her, Douglas waved his hands, trying to warm them. “No time to grab my gloves,” he whispered.

She glanced around to see who else might be there: a few older people and four or five teenagers. One of them was Douglas’s cousin, Kim, whose hoop earrings dangled almost to her shoulders.
Cool. Siria had earrings, too: tiny star studs that Pop had given her.

A stray dog stood on the corner. Siria had seen him around lately, sometimes even in her building’s basement. He was fierce-looking, with matted hair, trailing a chain behind him.

Upstairs, a roaring sound! Windows shattered; sheets of glass flew out and smashed onto the street. One of the firemen ducked even though he wore his helmet and mask. Greasy black smoke poured from the openings, and orange-red flames shot out from the jagged glass. Siria clenched her fists deep in her pockets.

Piece of cake, Siria
. Pop said that after every fire, hugging her to him, his eyes bloodshot from smoke and his dark hair smelling of it.

Pop, tall and rubber-band skinny, was a hero with two or three medals for bravery thrown in his dresser drawer. One was for rescuing a woman trapped in her car. The firefighters had used a set of instruments they called the Jaws of Life: cutters and spreaders had pried the doors apart and Pop had set the woman free. He never talked about the medals, though, except to say, “Rescue is the heart of firefighting.”

He climbed the ladder now, while below, it took three others to hold the hose as water pumped through it, hitting the flames.

At last it was over. The fire sizzled and disappeared; smoke hung in ragged wisps. Siria could almost feel Pop’s arms around her, his face filthy with soot.

BOOK: Winter Sky
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