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Her father used to say it was a good thing her name was Grace, because that was sure as the world all she had going for her. Her hair wasn't gold-streaked and curly like her sister Faith'sit was just plain brown. And when it rainedwhich it seemed to do at the most inappropriate timesits thick waves frizzed themselves into an unholy mess. Her eyes weren't green like Faith's either, or sable-dark like her brother Steven's. They were just plain brown like her hair. The only time you could even tell she had eyelashes was when she remembered to use the eyelash curler and then apply two coats of the kind of mascara that came in a hot pink cylinder. Grace, being Grace, didn't remember to do that real often.
She wore overalls most all the time, and they bagged in the butt because she was built straight up and down like a boy who hadn't yet reached puberty. Her legs were far and away her best feature, but she hardly ever showed them because that meant remembering to shave nearly every day. Grace generally only remembered on Saturday nights when she locked herself in her bathroom and filled up the claw foot tub and turned the radio on real loud. It was the only time she ever took for herself and even her father didn't have the heart to interrupt. When she came out of the bathroomwearing a chenille bathrobe that most likely came over on the arkher hair would be all damp and fuzzy. She'd curl up on the end of the couch in the parlor with a romance novel from the library and a bottle of cheap white wine she bought at the drugstore and try to ignore the fact that she had no life.
That's what she was trying to do, on this hot May evening of her father's funeral, but people kept interrupting her. Didn't they understand about Saturday nights? This was her time, not to be interfered with or impinged upon.
"Gracie." Faith's voice was soft. It was always soft, and Grace wished just once Faith would give in and bellow. Bellowing was good for the soul. "Honey, you need to decide what you want to do."
"Decide?" With regret, Grace laid her book on the back of the couch on top of a puddle of Louisa May's cat hair and swung her chenille-covered legs so that her feet rested on the floor. "When in my life have I ever decided anything, Faith? It's always been decided for me, so why don't you and your husband and Steven just decide for me? Maybe you can find a reasonable apartment complex that caters to single ladies with one-eared cats. I can get a nice little job down at the textile factory so that no one has to worry about me being destitute and you all can continue your lives uninterrupted.
"Gracie." It was Steven's voice this time, low and lazy. Grace's friend Promise used to say Steven's voice was calculated to make women's knees go weak and their brains turn to curdled milk. Of course, Promise was in love with him, which no doubt made a difference. "You're being a pain in the ass."
"Well, yes," Grace admitted, "I probably am. But I'm overdue, don't you think?"
He reached for her wine bottle and refilled his glass. "Yes, I do, and so does Faith, but you're shooting the messengers. As I remember it, we tried to get you out of here, tried to help you make a life for yourself. You wouldn't leave Papa and you wouldn't leave Peacock."
"He was our father, Steven."
"He was a mean and cantankerous man," he said.
"Steven," Faith said reprovingly, "you shouldn't speak ill of the dead."