Serendipity and Me (9781101602805)

Serendipity and Me (9781101602805) by Judith Roth Read Free Book Online

Book: Serendipity and Me (9781101602805) by Judith Roth Read Free Book Online
Authors: Judith Roth
    I don’t know.
    Into his sadness?
    She shakes her head.
    It would break your mother’s heart
    to see you both like this.

    Mrs. Whittier bumps me with her elbow.
    Remember how she used to sing
    â€œPut on a Happy Face”?
    With that cheesy tap dance?
    She loved to see you smile.
    She teases another memory
    from way back in my mind—
    sunlight bouncing off Mom’s bright hair
    as Mom leads me to a backyard room
    she made from branches
    wound with flowers and floaty scarves.
    Mrs. Whittier remembers it, too.
    You called it your fairy castle.
    In my mind, I see a pitcher of lemonade
    in Mom’s hands.
    She let me pick blossoms
    for the fairies’ cups.
    Of course, Mrs. Whittier says.
    Your mother got such a kick
    out of your imagination.
    Serendipity jumps off my shoulder
    and into her lap
    begging for attention.
    Yes, yes, Mrs. Whittier baby-talks to her.
    She would get a kick out of you, too.

    I wonder if she is just
    making small-talk.
    Would she really?
    Are you kidding?
    Your mother would have loved
    this little kitty, Mrs. Whittier says.
    I sit quietly
    heart beating loudly.
    Then why? I ask.
    Why did we never get a cat?
    Mrs. Whittier looks like someone
    who has just said too much.
    She shakes her head.
    I’m sorry, Sara.
    That’s something you’ll need
    to ask your dad.
    I consider stomping off in a huff
    but then I won’t get to talk
    about Mom.
    And I need this.

    Maybe Mrs. Whittier is thinking
    about what I’d face
    if I asked Dad.
    I remember once
    when your dad was grumpy
    from grading papers . . .
    At the sound of her sudden laughter
    Shoji’s and Kajiro’s heads pop up
    from where the cats are curled
    hidden behind a trailing vine.
    Mrs. Whittier’s plants look like
    she can never bear to trim them.
    They sprawl like
    cats outside on a warm day.
    She got you and herself
    dressed up in fifties-style clothes
    and turned on that song from Grease.
    She wipes a tear off her laughter.
    That one at the end.
    And you two danced and sang
    on the back deck
    for your daddy.
    What did he do? I ask.
    Don’t you remember?
    Matthew smiled so big
    he looked like his face would crack.

    She tells Mom stories
    until my insides feel satisfied
    like eating baked potato soup
    on a cold night.
    About the pictures . . .
    I ask finally.
    Where do you think they are?
    Mrs. Whittier shrugs.
    I’m guessing your dad
    has them somewhere close
    but not out where
    he has to see them
    all the time.
    I take a deep breath.
    I’m going to find them.
    I’m almost daring her to stop me.
    She looks at me steadily
    then holds out her arms
    and I lean into her.
    I think I remember this
    after all. . . .

    I make my hands like a leash
    around Serendipity’s tummy
    lean over and let her feel
    the grass under her toes.
    I’m planning my search
    as we make our way
    slowly back to the house.
    It would be easiest to tell Dad
    I need a family picture
    but I want more than that.
    I want to see them all.
    So when he calls out,
    I have office hours.
    See you at five thirty.
    Mrs. Whittier is on standby,
    I make my move
    at the sound of the door closing.
    His room is his sanctuary
    so I start there
    in the forest green gloom.
    I search under the unmade bed
    in his messy drawers
    in his closet that twangs
    with unused hangers
    and behind the abandoned tennis racquets
    I find the box stashed way in back.

    My hands start to shake
    so I can barely lift the box.
    I take it back to my room.
    I don’t want to be caught
    with the rose-covered box
    in his dark room.
    I close my door.
    I lift the lid.
    I start to

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