Goldengrove

Goldengrove by Francine Prose Read Free Book Online

Book: Goldengrove by Francine Prose Read Free Book Online
Authors: Francine Prose
Tags: Contemporary, Adult, Young Adult
always saddened me, but now I imagined being their sister.
    I hit the mute button and watched a senator work his mouth like a sucker fish as his face turned redder and redder. On the Discovery Channel, a scientist was talking about building an outer-space umbrella to shield our planet from UV death rays. Once, I would have been interested, but now I turned off the TV and picked up a paperback mystery Mom had been pretending to read. The few drops of tequila had misted my brain like frying-pan spray. Every sentence slid out even as I read it.
    How long had Mom and Dad been away? Why couldn’t lightning strike twice?
    I shut my eyes. I awoke to the sound of my parents’ car—I hoped it was their car—pulling into the driveway. I jumped up and rinsed out the tequila glass and swished water around in my mouth. I found the cartoon channel, turned down the TV, and tried to do a convincing imitation of myself chilling at home.
    I needn’t have bothered. My parents looked like patients who had just heard that some promising new treatment had failed in clinical trials. They’d brought their own weather inside, the way that people carry winter into a warm room. I could tell they’d been arguing all the way home from the theater.
    “How was the movie?” I said.
    Mom said, “My God, Henry, how the hell was I supposed to know it was a horror film about drowning? Your dad seems to think I would purposely take him to a film about girls disappearing under the water—”
    “It’s called The Lake ,” Dad said. “What did you expect? And there’s no need to involve Nico in this.”
    “I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking,” Mom said. “I can’t always do the thinking for both of us.”
    “Maybe you think too much,” said Dad. “Maybe that’s your problem.”
    “All right,” I said. “All right.” I imagined Margaret saying, “At least it was Korean.”
    Dad said, “Nico, are you okay? Were you all right, alone here . . . ?”
    I said, “I was fine. I had a nice time.”
    The truth was, I couldn’t breathe. I was trying to see Margaret’s face, but I’d forgotten what she looked like.
    Which reminded me of the final rule:
     
    6. No photographs. Why had I never noticed that our house was a Margaret museum? I couldn’t walk into a room without seeing two little blond girls preserved under glass, beaming from my mother’s piano or my father’s desk. Every time I opened a kitchen drawer, Margaret smiled up at me from a nest of receipts and rubber bands.
     
    I’d made these rules for my own protection. But every so often I broke one just to see how it felt.
    One afternoon, in the supermarket, I faked a craving for cookies. My father was so thrilled that I was showing any interest in food, he handed over the shopping cart and said, “Go. Fill it with every delicious, teeth-rotting baked good they have.”
    Marigold-colored biscuits, marshmallow mounds, sandy discs swirled with hibiscus beckoned to me from the shelves. I opened a package and inhaled, playing to the security cameras. Let them get this on tape! The box smelled like baked chemicals, but nothing at all like Margaret. I’d thought I could recapture her smell, but it was gone forever. I couldn’t imagine asking my parents if they remembered what she’d smelled like. I stretched out my arms, as if to lean back on the evil waves that the cookies were transmitting to innocent baby brains.
    As we pulled out of the supermarket parking lot, Dad said, “Nico, is something wrong?”
    “You’ve got to be kidding,” I said.
    “I mean, did something happen in the store? You seem . . .”
    “Nothing happened,” I said.
    “You didn’t find any cookies you liked?”
    “They were gross,” I told him.
    We were passing Golden Oldies, where Margaret used to make Mom and Dad stop and buy things for the house. Our red kitchen table, a giant orange floor lamp—stuff that my parents didn’t really like because it reminded them of their childhoods, but that

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