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Momma once told me that she and Daddy named me Dawn because I was born at the break of day. That was the first of a thousand lies Momma and Daddy would tell me and my brother Jimmy. Of course, we wouldn't know they were lies, not for a long time, not until the day they came to take us away.
Chapter 1: Another New Place
The sound of dresser drawers being opened and closed woke me. I heard Momma and Daddy whispering in their room, and my heart began to thump fast and hard. I pressed my palm against my chest, took a deep breath, and turned to wake Jimmy, but he was already sitting up in our sofa bed. Bathed in the silvery moonlight that came pouring through our bare window, my sixteen-year-old brother's face looked chiseled from granite. He sat there so still, listening. I lay there listening with him, listening to the hateful wind whistle through the cracks and crannies of this small cottage Daddy had found for us in Granville, a small, rundown town just outside of Washington, D.C. We had been here barely four months.
"What is it, Jimmy? What's going on?" I asked, shivering partly from the cold and partly because deep inside I knew the answer.
Jimmy fell back against his pillow and then brought his hands behind his head. In a sulk, he stared up at the dark ceiling. The pace of Momma's and Daddy's movements became more frenzied.
"We were gonna get a puppy here," Jimmy mumbled. "And this spring Momma and I were gonna plant a garden and grow our own vegetables."
I could feel his frustration and anger like heat from an iron radiator.
"What happened?" I asked mournfully, for I, too, had high hopes.
"Daddy came home later than usual," he said, a prophetic note of doom in his voice. "He rushed in here, his eyes wild. You know, bright and wide like they get sometimes. He went right in there, and not long after, they started packing...Might as well get up and get dressed," Jimmy said, throwing the blanket off him and turning to sit up. "They'll be out here shortly tellin' us to do it anyway."
I groaned. Not again, and not again in the middle of the night.
Jimmy leaned over to turn on the lamp by our pull-out bed and started to put on his socks so he wouldn't have to step down on a cold floor. He was so depressed, he didn't even worry about getting dressed in front of me. I fell back and watched him unfold his pants so he could slip into them, moving with a quiet resignation that made everything around me seem more like a dream. How I wished it were.
I was fourteen years old, and for as long as I could remember, we had been packing and unpacking, going from one place to another. It always seemed that just when my brother, Jimmy, and I had finally settled into a new school and finally made some friends and I got to know my teachers, we had to leave. Maybe we really were no better than homeless gypsies like Jimmy always said, wanderers, poorer than the poorest, for even the poorest families had some place they could call home, some place they could return to when things went bad, a place where they had grandmas and grandpas or uncles and aunts to hug them and comfort them and make them feel good again. We would have settled even for cousins. At least, I would have.
I peeled back the blanket, and my nightgown fell away and exposed most of my bosom. I glanced at Jimmy and caught him gazing at me in the moonlight. He shifted his eyes away quickly. Embarrassment made my heart pitterpatter, and I pressed my palm against the bodice of my nightgown. I had never told any of my girlfriends at school that Jimmy and I shared even a room together, much less this dilapidated pull-out bed. I was too ashamed, and I knew how they would react, embarrassing both Jimmy and me even more.
I brought my feet down on the freezing-cold bare wood floor. My teeth chattering, I embraced myself and hurried across the small room to gather up a blouse and a sweater and a pair of jeans. Then I went into the bathroom to dress.
By the time I finished, Jimmy had his suitcase closed. It seemed we always left something else behind each time. There was only so much room in Daddy's old car anyway. I folded my nightgown and put it neatly into my own suitcase. The clasps were as hard as ever to close and Jimmy had to help.
Momma and Daddy's bedroom door opened and they came out, their suitcases in hand, too. We stood there facing them, holding our own.
"Why do we have to leave in the middle of the night again?" I asked, looking at Daddy and wondering if leaving would make him angry as it so often did.
"Best time to travel," Daddy mumbled. He glared at me with a quick order not to ask too many questions. Jimmy was right -- Daddy had that wild look again, a look that seemed so unnatural, it sent shivers up and down my spine. I hated it when Daddy got that look. He was a handsome man with rugged features, a cap of sleek brown hair and dark coal eyes. When the day came that I fell in love and decided to marry, I hoped my husband would be just as handsome as Daddy. But I hated it when Daddy was displeased -- when he got that wild look. It marred his handsome features and made him ugly -- something I couldn't bear to see.
"Jimmy, take the suitcases down. Dawn, you help your momma pack up whatever she wants from the kitchen."
I glanced at Jimmy. He was only two years older than I was, but there was a wider gap in our looks. He was tall and lean and muscular like Daddy. I was small with what Momma called "China doll features." And I really didn't take after Momma, either, because she was as tall as Daddy. She told me she was gangly and awkward when she was my age and looked more like a boy until she was thirteen, when she suddenly blossomed.
We didn't have many pictures of family. Matter of fact, all I had was one picture of Momma when she was fifteen. I would sit for hours gazing into her young face, searching for signs of myself. She was smiling in the picture and standing under a weeping willow tree. She wore an ankle-length straight skirt and a fluffy blouse with frilly sleeves and a frilly collar. Her long, dark hair looked soft and fresh. Even in this old black and white photo, her eyes sparkled with hope and love. Daddy said he'd taken the picture with a small box camera he had bought for a quarter from a friend of his. He wasn't sure it would work, but at least this picture came out. If we'd ever had any other photos, they'd been either lost or left behind during our many moves.
However, I thought that even in this simple old photograph with its black and white fading into sepia and its edges fraying, Momma looked so pretty that it was easy to see why Daddy had lost his heart to her so quickly even though she was only fifteen at the time. She was barefoot in the picture, and I thought she looked fresh and innocent and as lovely as anything else nature had to offer.
Momma and Jimmy had the same shimmering black hair and dark eyes. They both had bronze complexions with beautiful white teeth that allowed them ivory smiles. Daddy had dark brown hair, but mine was blond. And I had freckles over the tops of my cheeks. No one else in my family had freckles.
"What about that rake and shovel we bought for the garden?" Jimmy asked, careful not to let even a twinkle of hope show in his eyes.
"We ain't got the room," Daddy snapped.
Poor Jimmy, I thought. Momma said he was born all crunched up as tightly as a fist, his eyes sewn shut. She said she gave birth to Jimmy on a farm in Maryland. They had just arrived there and gone knocking on the door, hoping to find some work, when her labor began.
They told me I had been born on the road, too. They had hoped to have me born in a hospital, but they were forced to leave one town and start out for another where Daddy had already secured new employment. They left late in the afternoon one day and traveled all that day and that night.
"We were between nowhere and no place, and all of a sudden you wanted to come into this world," Momma told me. "Your daddy pulled the truck over and said, 'Here we go again, Sally Jean.' I crawled onto the truck bed where we had an old mattress, and as the sun came up, you entered this world. I remember how the birds were singing.
"I was looking at a bird as you were coming into this world, Dawn. That's why you sing so pretty," Momma said. "Your grandmomma always said whatever a woman looked at just before, during, or right after giving birth, that's what characteristics the child would have. The worst thing was to have a mouse or a rat in the house when a woman was pregnant."
"What would happen, Momma?" I asked, filled with wonder.
"The child would be sneaky, cowardly."
I sat back amazed when she told me all this. Momma had inherited so much wisdom. It made me wonder and wonder about our family, a family we had never seen. I wanted to know so much more, but it was difficult to get Momma and Daddy to talk about their early lives. I suppose that was because so much of it was painful and hard.
We knew they were both brought up on small farms in Georgia, where their people eked out poor livings from small patches of land. They had both come from big families that lived in rundown farmhouses. There just wasn't any room in either household for a newly married, very young couple with a pregnant wife, so they began what would be our family's history of traveling, traveling that had not yet ended. We were on our way again.
Momma and I filled a carton with those kitchenwares she wanted to take along and then gave it to Daddy to load in the car. When she was finished, she put her arm around my shoulders, and we both took one last look at the humble little kitchen.
Jimmy was standing in the doorway, watching. His eyes turned from pools of sadness to coal-black pools of anger when Daddy came in to hurry us along. Jimmy blamed him for our gypsy life. I wondered sometimes if maybe he wasn't right. Often Daddy seemed different from other men -- more fidgety, more nervous. I would never say it, but I hated it whenever he stopped off at a bar on his way home from work. He would usually come home in a sulk and stand by the windows watching as if he were expecting something terrible. None of us could talk to him when he was in one of those moods. He was like that now.
"Better get going," he said, standing in the doorway, his eyes turning even colder as they rested for a second on me.
For a moment I was stunned. Why had Daddy given me such a cold took? It was almost as if he blamed me for our having to leave.
As soon as the thought entered my mind, I chased it away. I was being silly! Daddy would never blame me for anything. He loved me. He was just mad because Momma and I were being so slow and dawdling, instead of hurrying out the door. As if reading my mind, Momma suddenly spoke.
"Right," she said quickly. Momma and I started for the door, for we had all learned from hard experience that Daddy was unpredictable when his voice turned so tight with anger. Neither one of us wanted to invoke his wrath. We turned back once and then closed the door behind us, just like we had closed dozens of doors before.
There were few stars out. I didn't like nights without stars. On those nights shadows seemed so much darker and longer to me. Tonight was one of those nights -- cold, dark, All the windows in houses around us black. The wind carried a piece of paper through the street, and off in the distance a dog howled. Then I heard a siren. Somewhere in the night someone was in trouble, I thought, some poor person was being carried off to the hospital, or maybe the police were chasing a criminal.
"Let's move along," Daddy ordered and sped up as if they were chasing us.
Jimmy and I squeezed ourselves into the backseat with our cartons and suitcases.
"Where we going this time?" Jimmy demanded without disguising his displeasure.
"Richmond," Momma said.
"Richmond!" we both said. We had been everywhere in Virginia, it seemed, but Richmond.
"Yep. Your daddy's got a job in a garage there, and I'm sure I can land me a chambermaid job in one of the motels."
"Richmond," Jimmy muttered under his breath. Big cities still frightened both of us.
As we drove away from Granville and the darkness fell around us, our sleepiness returned. Jimmy and I closed our eyes and fell asleep against each other as we had done so many times before.
Daddy had been planning our new move for a little while because he had already found us a place to live. Daddy often did things quietly and then announced them to us.
Because the rents in the city were so much higher, we could afford only a one-bedroom apartment, so Jimmy and I still had to share a room. And the sofa bed! It was barely big enough for the two of us. I knew sometimes he awoke before me but didn't move because my arm was on him and he didn't want to wake me and embarrass me about it. And there were those times he touched me accidentally where he wasn't supposed to. The blood would rush to his face, and he would leap off the bed as if it had started to burn. He wouldn't say anything to acknowledge he had touched me, and I wouldn't mention it.
It was usually like that. Jimmy and I simply ignored things that would embarrass other teenage boys and girls forced to live in such close quarters, but I couldn't help sitting by and dreaming longingly for the same wonderful privacy most of my girlfriends enjoyed, especially when they described how they could close their doors and gossip on their own phones or write love notes without anyone in their families knowing a thing about it. I was even afraid to keep a diary because everyone would be looking over my shoulder.
This apartment differed little from most of our previous homes -- the same small rooms, peeling wallpaper, and chipped paint. The same windows that didn't close well. Jimmy hated our apartment so much that he said he would rather sleep in the street.
But just when we thought things were as bad as they could be, they got worse.
Late one afternoon months after we had moved to Richmond, Momma came home from work much earlier than usual. I had been hoping she would bring something else for us to have for dinner. We were at the tail end of the week, Daddy's payday, and most of our money from the previous week was gone. We had been able to have one or two good meals during the week, but now we were eating leftovers. My stomach was rumbling just as much as Jimmy's was, but before either of us could complain, the door opened and we both turned, surprised to see Momma come in. She stopped, shook her head, and started to cry. Then she hurried across the room to her bedroom.
"Momma! What's wrong?" I called after her, but her only answer was to slam the door. Jimmy looked at me and I at him, both of us frightened. I went to her door and knocked softly. "Momma?" Jimmy came up beside me and waited. "Momma, can we come in?" I opened the door and looked inside.
She was facedown on the bed, her shoulders shaking. We entered slowly, Jimmy right beside me. I sat down on the bed and put my hand on her shoulder.
Finally she stopped sobbing and turned to look up at us.
"Did you lose your job, Momma?" Jimmy asked quickly.
"No, it's not that, Jimmy." She sat up, grinding her small fists against her eyes to wipe the tears away. "Although I won't be havin' the job all that much longer."
"Then what is it, Momma? Tell us," I begged.
She sniffed and pushed back her hair and took each of our hands into hers.
"You're gonna have either a new brother or sister," she declared.
My pounding heart paused. Jimmy's eyes widened and his mouth dropped open.
"It's my fault. I just ignored and ignored the signs. I never thought I was pregnant, because I didn't have no more children after Dawn. I finally went to a doctor today and found out I was a little more n' four months pregnant. Suddenly I'm gonna have a child, and now I won't be able to work, too," she said and began to cry again.
"Oh, Momma, don't cry." The thought of another mouth to feed dropped a black shadow over my heart. How could we manage it? We didn't have enough as it was.
I looked to Jimmy to urge him to say something comforting, but he looked stunned and angry. He just stood there, staring.
"Does Daddy know yet, Momma?" he asked.
"No," she said. She took a deep breath. "I'm too old and tired to have another baby," she whispered and shook her head.
"You're mad at me, ain'tcha, Jimmy?" Momma asked him. He was so sullen, I wanted to kick him. Finally he shook his head.
"Naw, Momma, I ain't mad at you. It's not your fault." He swung his eyes at me, and I knew he was blaming Daddy.
"Then give me a hug. I need one right now."
Jimmy looked away and then leaned toward Momma. He gave her a quick hug, mumbled something about having to get something outside, and then hurried out.
"You just lay back and rest, Momma," I said. "I almost have the dinner all made anyway."
"Dinner. What do we have to eat? I was going to try to pick up something tonight, see if we could charge any more on our grocery bill, but with this pregnancy and all, I clean forgot about eating."
"We'll make do, Momma," I said. "Daddy gets paid today, so tomorrow we'll eat better."
"I'm sorry, Dawn," she said, her face wrinkling up in preparation for her sobs again. She shook her head. "Jimmy's so mad. I can see it in his eyes. He's got Ormand's temper."
"He's just surprised, Momma. I'll see about dinner," I repeated and went out and closed the door softly behind me, my fingers trembling on the knob.
A baby, a little brother or sister! Where would a baby sleep? How could Momma take care of a baby? If she couldn't work, we would have even less money. Didn't grown-ups plan these things? How could they let it happen?
I went outside to look for Jimmy and found him throwing a rubber ball against the wall in the alley. It was mid April, so the chill was out of the air, even in the early evening. I could just make out some stars starting their entrance onto the sky. The neon lights above the doorway of Frankie's Bar and Grill at the corner had been turned on. Sometimes, on his way home on a hot day, Daddy would stop in there for a cold beer. When the door was opened and closed, the laughter and the music from the jukebox spilled out and then died quickly on the sidewalk, a sidewalk always dirtied with papers and candy wrappers and other refuse that the wind lifted out of overflowing garbage cans. I could hear two cats in heat threaten each other in an alleyway. A man was shouting curses up at another man, who leaned out a two-story window about a block south of us. The man in the window just laughed down at him.
I turned to Jimmy. He was as tight as a fist again, and he was heaving all his anger with each and every throw of the ball.
He didn't answer me.
"Jimmy, you don't want to make Momma feel any worse than she already does, do you?" I asked him softly. He seized the ball in the air and turned on me.
"What's the use of pretending, Dawn? One thing we definitely don't need right now is another child in the house. Look at what we're eating for dinner tonight!"
I swallowed hard. His words were like cold rain falling on a warm campfire.
"We don't even have hand-me-downs to give to a new baby," he continued. "We're gonna have to buy baby clothes and diapers and a crib. And babies need all sorts of lotions and creams, don't they?"
"They do, but -- "
"Well, why didn't Daddy think of that, huh? He's off whistlin' and jawin' with those friends of his who hang around the garage, just as if he's on top of the world, and now here's this," he said, gesturing toward our building.
Why hadn't Daddy thought of that? I wondered. I had heard of girls going all the way and becoming pregnant, but that was because they were just girls and didn't know better.
"It just happened, I guess," I said, fishing for Jimmy to give his opinion.
"It doesn't just happen, Dawn. A woman doesn't wake up one morning and find out she's pregnant."
"Don't the parents plan to have it?"
He looked at me and shook his head.
"Daddy probably came home drunk one night and..."
"Oh, Dawn...they made the baby, that's all."
"And didn't know they had?"
"Well, they don't always make a baby each time, they..." He shook his head. "You'll have to ask Momma about it. I don't know all the details," he said quickly, but I knew he did.
"It's going to be hell to pay when Daddy gets home, Dawn," he said, shaking his head as we walked back inside. He spoke in a voice just above a whisper and gave me a fearful chill. My heart pounded in anticipation.
Most of the time when trouble came raining down over us, Daddy would decide we had to pack up and run, but we couldn't run from this. Because I always cooked dinner, I knew better than anyone that we didn't have anything to spare for a baby. Not a cent, not a crumb.
When Daddy arrived home from work that night, he looked a lot more tired than usual and his hands and arms were all greasy.
"I had to pull out a car transmission and rebuild it in one day," he explained, thinking the way he looked was why Jimmy and I were staring at him so strangely. "Somethin' wrong?"
"Ormand," Momma called. Daddy hurried into the bedroom. I busied myself with the dinner, but my heart started to pound so hard I could barely breathe. Jimmy went to the window that looked out on the north side of the street and stood staring as still as a statue. We heard Momma crying again. After a while it grew quiet and then Daddy emerged. Jimmy pivoted expectantly.
"Well, now, you two already know, I reckon." He shook his head and looked back at the closed door behind him.
"How we gonna manage?" Jimmy asked quickly.
"I don't know," Daddy said, his eyes darkening. His face began to take on that mad look, his lips curling in at the corners, some whiteness of his teeth flashing through. He ran his fingers through his hair and sucked in some breath.
Jimmy flopped down in a kitchen chair. "Other people plan kids," he muttered.
Daddy's face flared. I couldn't believe he had said it. He knew Daddy's temper, but I recalled what Momma said: Jimmy had the same temper. Sometimes they were like two bulls with a red flag between them.
"Don't get smart," Daddy said and headed for the door.
"Where're you going, Daddy?" I called.
"I need to think," he said. "Eat without me."
Jimmy and I listened to Daddy's feet pound the hallway floor, his steps announcing the anger and turmoil in his body.
"Eat without him, he says," Jimmy quipped. "Grits and black-eyed peas."
"He's going to Frankie's," I predicted. Jimmy nodded in agreement and sat back, staring glumly at his plate.
"Where's Ormand?" Momma asked, stepping out of her bedroom.
"He went off to think, Momma," Jimmy said. "He's probably just trying to come up with a plan and needs to be alone," he added, hoping to ease her burden.
"I don't like him going off like that," Momma complained. "it never comes to no good. You should go look for him, Jimmy."
"Go look for him? I don't think so, Momma. He don't like it when I do that. Let's just eat and wait for him to come back." Momma wasn't happy about it, but she sat down and I served the grits and black-eyed peas. I had added some salt and a little bit of bacon grease I had saved.
"I'm sorry I didn't try to get us something else," Mommy said, apologizing again. "But Dawn, honey, you did real fine with this. It tastes good. Don't it, Jimmy?"
He looked up from his bowl. I saw he hadn't been listening. Jimmy could get lost in his own thoughts for hours and hours if no one pestered him, especially when he was unhappy.
"Huh? Oh. Yeah, this is good."
After supper Momma sat up for a while listening to the radio and reading one of the used magazines she had brought back from the motel she worked in. The hours ticked by. Every time we heard a door slam or the sound of footsteps, we anticipated Daddy coming through the door, but it grew later and later and he didn't reappear.
Whenever I gazed at Momma, I saw that sadness draped her face like a wet flag, heavy and hard to shake off. Finally she stood up and announced she had to go to bed. She took a deep breath, holding her hands against her chest, and headed for her bedroom.
"I'm tired too," Jimmy said. He got up and went to the bathroom to get ready for bed. I started to pull out the sofa bed, but then stopped, thinking about Momma lying in her bed, worried and frightened. In a moment I made up my mind -- I opened the door quietly and left to look for Daddy.
I hesitated outside the door of Frankie's Bar and Grill. I had never been in a bar. My hand trembled as I reached out for the doorknob, but before I could pull it, the door swung open and a pale-skinned woman with too much lipstick and rouge on her face stepped out. She had a cigarette dangling from the corner of her mouth. She paused when she saw me and smiled. I saw she had teeth missing toward the back of her mouth.
"Why, what you doing coming in here, honey? This ain't no place for someone as young as you."
"I'm looking for Ormand Longchamp," I replied.
"Never heard of him," she said. "You don't stay in there long, honey. It ain't a place for kids," she added and walked past me, the stale odor of cigarettes and beer floating in her wake. I watched her for a moment and then entered Frankie's.
I had seen into it once in a while whenever someone opened the door, and I knew there was a long bar on the right with mirrors and shelves covered with liquor bottles. I saw the fans in the ceiling and the sawdust on the dirty brown wood slab floor. I had never seen the tables to the left.
A couple of men at the end of the bar turned my way when I stepped in. One smiled, the other just stared. The bartender, a short stout bald-headed man, was leaning against the wall. He had his arms folded across his chest.
"What do you want?" he asked, coming down the bar.
"I'm looking for Ormand Longchamp," I said. "I thought he might be in here." A glance down the bar didn't produce him.
"He joined the army," someone quipped.
"Shut up," the bartender snapped. Then he turned back to me. "He's over there," he said and gestured with his head toward the tables on the left. I looked and saw Daddy slumped over a table, but I was afraid to walk farther into the bar and grill. "You can wake him up and take him home," the bartender advised.
Some of the men at the bar spun around to watch me as if it were the evening's entertainment.
"Let her be," the bartender commanded.
I walked between the tables until I reached Daddy. He had his head on his arms. There were five empty bottles of beer on the table and another nearly emptied. A glass with just a little beer in it was in front of the bottle.
"Daddy," I said softly. He didn't budge. I looked back at the bar and saw that even the men who had continued to watch me had lost interest. "Daddy," I repeated a little louder. He stirred, but didn't lift his head. I poked him gently on the arm. "Daddy." He grunted and then slowly lifted his head.
"Daddy, please come home now," I said. He wiped his eyes and gazed at me.
"What...What are you doing here, Dawn?" he asked quickly.
"Momma went to bed a while ago, but I know she's just lying there awake waiting for you, Daddy."
"You shouldn't come in a place like this," he said sharply, making me jump.
"I didn't want to come, Daddy, but -- "
"All right, all right," he said. "I guess I can't do nothing right these days," he added, shaking his head.
"Just come home, Daddy. Everything will be all right."
"Yeah, yeah," he said. He gazed at his beer a moment and then pushed back from the table. "Let's get you outta here. You shouldn't be here," he repeated. He started to stand and then sat down hard.
He looked down at the bottles of beer again and then put his hand in his pocket and took out his billfold. He counted it quickly and shook his head.
"Lost track of what I spent," he said, more to himself than to me, but when he said it, it sent a cold chill down my back.
"How much did you spend, Daddy?"
"Too much," he moaned. "Afraid we won't be eating all that well this week, either," he concluded. He pushed himself away from the table again and stood up. "Come on," he said. Daddy didn't walk straight until we reached the door.
"Sleep tight!" one of the men at the bar called. Daddy didn't acknowledge him. He opened the door and we stepped out. I was never so happy to confront fresh air again. The musty smell of the bar had turned my stomach. Why would Daddy even want to walk in there, much less spend time there? I wondered. Daddy appreciated the fresh air, too, and took some deep breaths.
"I don't like you going in a place like that," he said, walking. He stopped suddenly and looked at me, shaking his head. "You're smarter and better than the rest of us, Dawn. You deserve better."
"I'm not better than anybody else, Daddy," I protested, but he had said all he was going to, and we continued to our apartment. When we opened the door, we found Jimmy already in the pull-out bed, the covers drawn so high, they nearly covered his face. He didn't turn our way. Daddy went right to his bedroom, and I crawled under the covers with Jimmy, who stirred.
"You went to Frankie's and got him?" he asked in a whisper.
"If I had been the one, he'd be furious," he said.
"No, he wouldn't, Jimmy, he'd..."
I stopped because we heard Momma moan. Then we heard what sounded like Daddy laughing. A moment later there was the distinct sound of the bedsprings. Jimmy and I knew what that meant. In our close quarters we had grown used to the sounds people often make whenever they make love. Of course, when we were younger, we didn't know what it meant, but when we learned, we pretended that we didn't hear it.
Jimmy drew the blanket up toward his ears again, but I was confused and a bit fascinated.
"Jimmy," I whispered.
"Go to sleep, Dawn," he pleaded.
"But, Jimmy, how can they -- "
"Just go to sleep, will you?"
"I mean, Momma's pregnant. Can they still...?" Jimmy didn't respond. "Isn't it dangerous?"
Jimmy turned toward me abruptly.
"Will you stop asking those kind of questions?"
"But I thought you might know. Boys usually know more than girls," I said.
"Well, I don't know," he replied. "Okay? So shut up." He turned his back to me again.
It quieted down in Momma and Daddy's room, but I couldn't stop wondering. I wished I had an older sister who wouldn't be embarrassed with my questions. I was too embarrassed to ask Momma about these things because I didn't want her to think Jimmy and I were eavesdropping.
My leg grazed Jimmy's, and he pulled away as if I had burned him. Then he slid over to his end of the bed until he was nearly off. I shifted as far over to mine as I could, too. Then I closed my eyes and tried to think of other things.
As I was falling asleep, I thought of that woman who had come to the bar door just as I was about to open it to enter. She was smiling down at me, her lips twisted and rubbery, her teeth yellow and the cigarette smoke twirling up and over her bloodshot eyes.
I was so glad I had managed to get Daddy home.
Copyright © 1993 by Virginia C. Andrews Trust