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88 16 ~ Emily Anna and I bickered all the way to Maine. I picked most of those fights. “No way I’m driving through Worcester,” I said, scowling at the green exit sign. A pre-dawn gloom hovered over the Mass Pike. I knew I was being crabby and contradictory . I wasn’t eager to get there, but was in no mood to dawdle either. Anna rarely challenged my cranky moods. “It’s more direct,” she said, her voice even. “Quicker too, except at rush hour.” I stared straight ahead, hands at two and ten on the steering wheel. “It doesn’t really matter.” Anna’s voice softened. “Gorgeous morning, huh?” It was. Dawn ignited the charcoal horizon. But I wanted daylight already, easier to drive. I wanted to turn north, away from the hopeful sunrise. I wanted to get this trip over and done with. When we brought Zoe upstairs an hour earlier, Anna told Sam we would be home to pick her up by the weekend. That was too long for me. “Listen,” I had insisted. “Today’s Tuesday. Tomorrow is the funeral. We can drive home on Thursday and roast a turkey on Friday. Celebrate Thanksgiving with Zoe, just one day late.” “Zoe doesn’t care about Thanksgiving. Besides, she’ll have a great time with Sam. Let’s wait and see what Aunt Ruth has planned before we decide.” Sometimes Anna was so damn stubborn, it drove me crazy. Besides, she was wrong. Zoe was old enough to appreciate Thanksgiving, and even help stuff the turkey this year. Sam would probably take her out for fast food for the holiday dinner. Speeding past the exit to Worcester, I glanced over at Anna, but neither of us spoke. Guess I won that argument, but the victory gave me little satisfaction. Had she always been so bossy? We never used to argue, when I first moved in. When Anna had a good idea, not about driving through Worcester, I didn’t mind admitting it. Like about cutting my hair. Daddy used to say my hair was the exact color of bittersweet chocolate, and he would make me giggle pretending to munch Ellen Meeropol ~ 89 my braids. Once I mentioned my chocolate hair to Chad, but when he tried chewing my braid, it just seemed pathetic. “Gorgeous hair,” Anna had said on the day I moved in. “Too bad no one can appreciate it,” she always added, since I confined it every morning in a thick braid that hung heavy along my spine. Anna was right; the headaches pretty much disappeared after she cut my hair to swing just above my shoulders. We let the long snakes fall onto the newspapers on the kitchen linoleum. “Beautiful,” Anna said, always trying to pump up my confidence, as if I were one of the at-risk teenagers in her Life Skills class. Telling me to go out more, join social groups, meet men. She was persistent. Interfering. She meant well, and I loved living with her and Zoe. But sometimes I wished that my cousin would just butt out. Somewhere between Lowell and Lawrence, Anna’s voice broke the stormy silence in the car. “Let’s sing.” No way. Folk songs were a running joke between us, but today it wasn’t funny. I could never remember more than six words to any song. Compared to my father, who rarely forgot a phrase. He could recall even dense lyrics like “Violets of Dawn,” a song he knew from his college career as an Ann Arbor hybrid of Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs. But that didn’t mean it was a genetic trait. My approach was more fluid, like the time I substituted “floating in the breeze” for “blowing in the wind.” The folk process. There had been plenty of opportunity to make jokes about my faulty memory, because Zoe begged us to sing in the car, even driving ten minutes to the grocery store. Just like I had done at her age. Anna didn’t push the singing. We rode in silence until she pointed to the bridge. “Maine.” The sun rising over the steering wheel reminded me of Pippa’s spiky sunray hair. I wondered if the Family of Isis celebrated Thanksgiving. If I were doing her home visit this week, I would ask her about that, and maybe learn something about her religion. I hoped Gina wouldn’t be too hard on Pippa tomorrow. I would miss seeing Josu...


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