The moon shines through silver-gray clouds. My sister huddles beside my bed.
“It’s all right.” She wipes my tears. “Life offers something unexpected and surprising underneath the rocks.”
I smile, staring at the lights across the hillside. She knew Dad would leave. It’s a pity, the way she gets used to these things. First there was Mom, drifting in and out of our lives. She always said when she got in touch with who she was, she’d send for us. Personal happiness was the most important thing.
Then there was Margaret’s accident. She’d gone to Alice Cooper’s Billion Dollar Babies tour, when he played Philadelphia. She got hit by some Vietnam vet after the concert.
She was in the hospital for a month.
I stole Dad’s car to pick her up, even though I didn’t have a license. The first thing she said to me was that being close to death was like those childhood shadows you thought were monsters, always visible out of the corner of your eye, no matter how hard you tried to run. She wanted to scream, but no one was listening anyway.
Then there are Father’s women.
Margaret was twelve when he brought the first one home. Kate lasted only two days.
“We’ll get on,” she adds now. “We’ll find something better. We’ll leave this place behind.”
“We won’t know anyone.”
“When you’re a stranger, you can start all over.” She squeezes my hand. “Make it all up. It’s like being in the movies.”
“What about you? What about your college?”
She shakes her head. Dad threw it away for a red-haired neighbor and we’re left packing.
Packing photographs of football games and dance-classes past, Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books, ripped and dog-eared. Telling stories about the people we never became.
Margaret always wanted to be the big-name civil rights lawyer. I was the high-school history teacher. We’d piece together cases and historical facts, as swiftly as puzzle-pieces.
Unlike our lives.
So, we’re packing for glamorous cases and new classrooms, tours of cities unknown. Boston. Los Angeles. New York.
Stacking every photograph and book in neat little boxes.
Boxes rising like a temple.