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
ask.
    Â 
    I don’t know.
    Into his sadness?
    She shakes her head.
    It would break your mother’s heart
    to see you both like this.
    Â 
    Â 

 
    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.
    Â 
    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.
    Â 
    Mrs. Whittier remembers it, too.
    You called it your fairy castle.
    Â 
    In my mind, I see a pitcher of lemonade
    in Mom’s hands.
    She let me pick blossoms
    for the fairies’ cups.
    Â 
    Of course, Mrs. Whittier says.
    Your mother got such a kick
    out of your imagination.
    Â 
    Serendipity jumps off my shoulder
    and into her lap
    begging for attention.
    Â 
    Yes, yes, Mrs. Whittier baby-talks to her.
    She would get a kick out of you, too.
    Â 
    Â 

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

 
    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 . . .
    Â 
    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.
    Â 
    Mrs. Whittier’s plants look like
    she can never bear to trim them.
    They sprawl like
    cats outside on a warm day.
    Â 
    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.
    Â 
    What did he do? I ask.
    Â 
    Don’t you remember?
    Matthew smiled so big
    he looked like his face would crack.
    Â 
    Â 

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

 
    I make my hands like a leash
    around Serendipity’s tummy
    lean over and let her feel
    the grass under her toes.
    Â 
    I’m planning my search
    as we make our way
    slowly back to the house.
    Â 
    It would be easiest to tell Dad
    I need a family picture
    Â 
    but I want more than that.
    Â 
    I want to see them all.
    Â 
    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.
    Â 
    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
    Â 
    and behind the abandoned tennis racquets
    I find the box stashed way in back.
    Â 
    Treasure.
    Â 
    Â 

 
    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.
    Â 
    I close my door.
    I lift the lid.
    I start to

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