Read The Road to Paris Online

Authors: Nikki Grimes

The Road to Paris


Not with the Boones. Not with Grandma. Not even with Viola, because she never seemed to belong anywhere, in particular.

was such a funny word. For most kids, home was where your mom and dad lived, where you felt safe, where the bogeyman was merely make-believe. Home was where you knew every square inch of the place by heart, where you could wake up in the middle of the night and know exactly where you were without even opening your eyes. Paris didn't have a place like that. She didn't even have an address she'd lived at long enough to memorize, no single place that felt familiar as all that. Except maybe the city itself.

For Paris, home was more a person, and that person was Malcolm.

I could follow that river back to Malcolm. But how do I know Malcolm is even there anymore?


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Nikki Grimes


Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Young Readers Group, 345 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3
(a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
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Registered Offices: Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

First published in the United States of America by G. P. Putnam's Sons,
a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2006
Published by Puffin Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2008

Copyright © Nikki Grimes, 2006
All rights reserved

Grimes, Nikki.
The road to Paris / Nikki Grimes.
p. cm.

Summary: Inconsolable at being separated from her older brother, eight-year-old Paris is apprehensive
about her new foster family but just as she learns to trust them, she faces a life-changing decision.

[1. Foster home care—Fiction. 2. African Americans—Fiction. 3. Brothers and sisters—Fiction.]
I. Title.   PZ7.G88429Ro 2006 [Fic]—dc22 2005028920

Puffin Books ISBN: 978-1-101-65800-0

Design by Marikka Tamura.
Text set in Cg Cloister.

Except in the United States of America, this book is sold subject to the condition that
it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out, or otherwise
circulated without the publisher's prior consent in any form of binding or cover
other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition
including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume
any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.

For Kendall Buchanan,
my foster brother,
and for the children of
Royal Family Kids

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Running Away

Chapter 2: To Grandmother’s House We Go

Chapter 3: Short Term

Chapter 4: Train Ride

Chapter 5: Meeting the Lincolns

Chapter 6: First Night

Chapter 7: Backyard Beast

Chapter 8: Breathless

Chapter 9: Secret

Chapter 10: New School

Chapter 11: Nat King Cole

Chapter 12: 99 Bottles of Beer

Chapter 13: Fun and Games

Chapter 14: Thanksgiving

Chapter 15: Address Unknown

Chapter 16: Marching to Zion

Chapter 17: Jingle Bells

Chapter 18: Fort Friendly

Chapter 19: What Hearts

Chapter 20: Fast Track

Chapter 21: The Visit

Chapter 22: Homecoming

Chapter 23: Choir Practice

Chapter 24: Saturday Surprise

Chapter 25: Word

Chapter 26: Easter Sunday

Chapter 27: The Photograph

Chapter 28: A Time to Weed

Chapter 29: The Great Escape

Chapter 30: Family Portrait

Chapter 31: May 24

Chapter 32: The Introduction

Chapter 33: Gone Fishing

Chapter 34: Me and my Shadow

Chapter 35: Phone Call

Chapter 36: The Gamble

Chapter 37: Destinations Unlimited


sk Paris if a phone call can be deadly. She’ll tell you. She learned the truth of it last night.

The evening seemed perfect. To begin with, it was the tail end of spring, Paris’ favorite season of the year. If you took a deep breath in the rainwashed air of Ossining, the spring green would pinch your nose with the tart smell of young leaves and the light scent of lilacs. You’d find a profusion of them right in the backyard of the brown-shingled box of a house where Paris lived. She’d clipped a few lilac blossoms for the table, and plumped them up prettily in a jelly jar. What did she care about fancy vases? It was the smell she was after. And, jelly jar or no, the fragrant patch of purple did a fine job of sprucing up the dinner table.

As she did every evening, Paris bowed her head while
Dad said grace. Keeping her eyes shut tight was another matter altogether. Jordan kept kicking her under the table. She shot him a few warning looks, for all the good they did. If he didn’t stop kicking her soon, she’d have to order up a brand-new pair of shins. She wouldn’t tell on him, though. She never did. After all, he was just being a garden-variety pest, like every other little brother on the planet, and that felt normal. In the world of Paris Richmond, normal was rare, and rich.

“Amen,” said Dad in his rumbling bass. Mom piled spaghetti and meatballs on the first plate and sent it down the table.

“Oh! Paris, could you get the garlic bread out of the oven? I forgot it.”

Paris hopped up from the table and grabbed the oven mitts. She’d forgotten the last time, and still had the burn marks to prove it.

She placed the foil bundle in a basket, peeled back the edges, and leaned down so the buttery steam could warm her face.

“Today!” snapped David, just to bug her. She whirled around and stuck her tongue out at him when Mom wasn’t looking, then passed the basket to Dad, who was clear at the other end of the table from David.

So there!

Paris settled back into her chair, grabbed her fork, and put it to work climbing the mountain of spaghetti on her plate. That was when the telephone rang. Mom rose to answer it.

“Paris, it’s for you.”

Paris took a bite of bread, then went to the phone, licking garlic butter from her fingers.


“Hi, sweetie,” said a familiar voice. “It’s me.”

Paris held her breath. Time always stopped when her birth mother was on the other end of the line.
Why is she calling me? What does she want this time?

Paris listened. Viola, her twice-divorced mother, had recently remarried. She wanted to give this family thing another go.

“Paris,” she said, “I want you and your brother Malcolm to come home.”

thought Paris, dropping the phone as if it were too hot to handle.
Not now!

Paris rubbed the burn mark on her palm. In her mind, she knew the pain of it was nothing more than memory. So why did it feel real, again? And where had her perfect evening disappeared to?

Paris slid to the floor, leaning her full weight against the kitchen cabinet.

The phone cord swung out from the wall and sent the handset banging loudly against the doorjamb.

“Hello? Hello? Are you still there?” said the tinny voice on the phone.

“Paris, what’s the matter?” asked Dad.

“Oh, Lord, what did that woman say to her? James, help her up,” Mom said to Dad.

“Hey, Sis. Stop fooling around and get up,” said Jordan.

“Yeah,” said David.

Paris looked over at her foster family. They were all speaking at once. She could tell because she saw their mouths moving. But for some reason, her ears weren’t working. Paris couldn’t hear a thing.

Chapter 1

he trouble with running away is you know what you’re leaving behind, but not what’s waiting up ahead. Paris Richmond learned that a year ago when she and her brother Malcolm ran away from a foster home in Queens.

They slipped out of the brick two-story house one morning in late summer, hours before the heat would wring them dry. Malcolm moved free and easy in shorts and T-shirt, his head shaved cool and clean for summer. Paris, on the other hand, felt weighed down by the humidity. Her sundress kept her body comfortable enough, but her thick halo of blonde waves hung limp and heavy this time of year. She kept stopping to brush stray strands from her eyes, or off her damp forehead. Sometimes she’d rest her suitcase on the sidewalk so she could use both hands.

Paris trudged down the street after her brother, totally oblivious to the amazing swath of sky, a marble of sun-streaked clouds and marine blue patches. Her attention was on Malcolm’s rapidly receding back.

“Hurry up!” said Malcolm. “Or we’ll get caught. Is that what you want?”

Paris shook her head no. The last thing she wanted to do was get caught.

The foster home they were leaving was no place to be. The mother, Mrs. Boone, slapped Paris around every time her real daughter did something that called for punishment. You’d think she was playing some freak game of tag, and every single time, Paris was It. The woman never tried beating on Malcolm, though. But then, why chase down a ten-year-old who’d sink his teeth into you if he got half the chance when you’ve got a quiet, acquiescent eight-year-old to kick around?

Just last week, Mrs. Boone had grabbed Paris and dragged her off to the bedroom, a strap dangling from her free hand. Malcolm followed close behind.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“Stay out of this, Malcolm,” warned Mrs. Boone.

“You leave Paris alone!” he screamed. “She didn’t do anything!” But the woman turned a deaf ear, locking the bedroom door behind her.

Malcolm banged his fists on the door.

“You better not hurt my sister!” he yelled.

Malcolm couldn’t yell loudly enough to cover his sister’s cries, but that never stopped him from trying.

After each beating, the daughter, Lisa, would swear she had no clue how her mama got the mistaken notion that Paris was the one who’d smashed a favorite vase, or stained the kitchen tablecloth, or whatever.
My name is Paris, not Stupid
, Paris would say to herself. And the last time Lisa made up a story, Paris called her a liar to her face. Lisa was shocked. Paris was rather surprised, herself. Malcolm was usually the one who did all the talking. Generally, Paris kept her thoughts to herself. She didn’t want to give Mrs. Boone any excuse to lock her up in the closet again, like she’d done every day the first month Malcolm and Paris were there.

They’d told their mother, one of the few times she called, but Viola just thought they were making it up. No matter what Paris said, or didn’t say, the beatings kept coming, and there didn’t seem to be anything to do about them, except run away.

•    •    •

Early that morning, Malcolm snuck into Mrs. Boone’s purse and grabbed enough cash for the train and bus. He and Paris tiptoed out of the house while the Boones were
enjoying their Saturday morning sleep in. The streets were empty at that hour, except for a drunk huddled in a vestibule, and he didn’t pay much attention to a couple of kids passing by.

Paris told her legs and feet to get a move on, and they did. Her suitcase kept bumping up against her leg, but she didn’t care. She and Malcolm practically ran the last half of the block and set a dog off barking like crazy. Paris looked around to see if it was coming after her and almost missed a curb. Good thing Malcolm had waited for her at the corner. He caught her by the elbow before she toppled.

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