Hidden Hearts

Hidden Hearts by Ann Roberts Read Free Book Online

Book: Hidden Hearts by Ann Roberts Read Free Book Online
Authors: Ann Roberts
Tags: Gay & Lesbian
father sold the enclave, and you’ve lived here illegally ever since.”

Chapter Three
    February, 1954
    By the time I’d climbed halfway up the orange tree, my legs and arms were covered in scratches. Thin and spindly, the tree was nothing like the solid oaks in Iowa and the limbs sagged under my weight.
    I was a tree expert, having fallen out of practically every type that grew in the Midwest. After so many times Mama no longer ran outside with her hands covered in flour or furniture oil. Instead she’d just call from the back door, “Vivi, are you hurt or just being a moron?”
    “Just a moron,” I’d call back most times, but once in a while she’d have to haul me to the doctor. Yet my falls never stopped me from climbing up high.
    I wasn’t sure what she’d say when she saw me in the orange tree. She was at the store, and I was staging a protest against the destruction of the orchard now that I finally understood that to build all of his homes, Mr. Rubenstein would be killing my beautiful trees. I’d assumed men with big shovels would come and gently remove each one and plant it somewhere else, just like Pops did at his new job with Harper’s Nursery. People came in and purchased huge trees that sat in enormous square boxes, and then he went out and planted them in their new yards. I’d imagined my beautiful orange trees waiting to be picked up by Pops’ truck.
    But instead I’d come home from school to find a bulldozer smashing against the frail trunks until the trees toppled against each other. Without thinking I’d climbed up the nearest one while a man maneuvered the huge steel bucket. When he saw me, he jumped down and stared up between the limbs. 
    “I haven’t got all day, missy,” he called. “I’m on a schedule.”
    He was a large black man wearing jeans, a work shirt and a green baseball cap that covered most of his face. I couldn’t tell how angry he was, but his tone was much nicer than Mama’s would be when she found me. I knew she’d yell and carry on, and I imagined I wouldn’t be listening to the radio any time soon. But I didn’t care. I loved the trees and it wasn’t right to cut them down.
    A breeze sifted the leaves and the heady smell of blossoms made me dizzy. I sulked, thinking about the oranges that would never grow again.
    Our new black Cadillac, that was the first purchase with Mr. Rubenstein’s money, growled up to the house and I prepared myself for Mama’s wrath. The workman took off his cap and squished it in his powerful hands. I thought he might be just as nervous as me.
    She wasted no time confronting him and pointing to the quiet bulldozer. “What’s going on, Mac?”
    “Well, ma’am, we have a situation.” He pointed up and her gaze followed until she saw me.
    “What in the world?” she asked. “Vivian Battle what are you doing? Get yourself down here right now!”
    “No!”
    She moved closer to the trunk and stared up at me, her gloved hands resting on her tiny hips. Although she wore a simple cotton dress, she’d put her flowing blonde hair in the chignon. 
    “Get down,” she said slowly.
    I shook my head. “I don’t want them to take the trees.”
    She glanced at Mac, and I could tell she was trying to hold her temper in front of him. Normally she’d be shrieking at me after the first no , but it wouldn’t be proper to call me an idiotic moron in front of a stranger.
    “Vivi, this isn’t ours anymore. We sold it, and you need to get down or you’re going to get in real trouble.”
    I imagined I was sitting at the edge of a waterfall and was about to plunge into the rapids. “No!”
    She threw up her hands and whispered to him. I was fascinated. I’d never seen either of my parents talk to a black person.
    He cleared his throat. “Vivian, you need to come down now. You’re upsetting your mother.”
    “No!”
    Mama screamed, “Vivian!”
    He held up a hand and she closed her mouth just like she did with my father. Maybe it was the

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