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127 23 ~ Emily Sunday mornings during the winter were cozy times at Anna’s. She and Zoe would work on an art project, while I built a roaring blaze in the fireplace and wandered through the local paper and the Globe. The Sunday after Thanksgiving I slept late, and an anemic fire was already burning when I carried my coffee into the living room. Anna and Zoe sat at the card table, building a birdhouse from pre-cut pieces of balsa wood. “Hey, sleepyhead,” Anna said. “Good morning.” “Look,” Zoe said. “We’re going to paint it purple to match Rufus.” She jumped the stuffed rhino from her lap to the table, then scratched at the bandage on her head. Anna pulled Zoe’s hand away, straightened the tape over the gauze, and rescued Rufus from the glistening glue nozzle. I retrieved the newspapers from the front porch. Kneeling on the floor in front of the fireplace, I maneuvered the heavy iron tongs to expose the smoldering belly of the half-burnt log. I fed two chunks of wood to the fire and blew the embers into flame. Then, leaning back against the sofa in the renewed warmth, I spread the newspapers over my lap, the pages still radiating cold. Staring at me from the front page from the local paper was the blank face of Pippa’s house. Danger on Pioneer Street? the caption read. Cult members face hearing on babies’ deaths. Story on page B1. “Holy shit,” I said, forgetting Anna’s halfhearted rule about cleaning up our language around Zoe. “What?” Anna asked, measuring the front wall of the birdhouse against the sides and picking up the sandpaper. I passed the front page to Anna and opened the City Section to the banner headline, Frozen Babies to Get Day in Court. Anna returned the front page. “What do they say?” 128 ~ House Arrest I skimmed the opening paragraphs. “More innuendo than news. Nasty comments from the neighbors. Mug shots of Pippa and Tian and someone named Murphy . They even list their address.” I looked up from the paper. “Can they do that? What about their privacy?” Anna shrugged and turned back to help Zoe hold the two halves of the peaked roof together while the glue set. Then she looked back at me. “You okay?” I had to swallow hard before answering. The story didn’t say anything new, but the tone was ugly and Pippa seemed so exposed. As if the facade of her life had lifted off, like the birdhouse Zoe was building, and a city of strangers could see inside. Anna started cleaning up the wood scraps from the card table. She turned to Zoe, “This has to dry overnight. You and Sam can finish it tomorrow while I’m at work.” “And paint it purple,” Zoe said. “Right?” “Purple sounds great. Go wash the glue off. And don’t touch anything on the way.” Zoe held her palms together and teetered side to side towards the bathroom, unsteady without her crutches. Anna turned to me again. “You look awful. What are you so worried about?” I rolled the newspaper section into a thin cylinder. “Everything. I’m scared for Pippa and her family, mostly. And I’m terrified about having to testify at her hearing on Tuesday.” Anna’s face was kind, but I turned away and stared into the flames, drumming the rolled-up newspaper against my thigh. “I can’t stop thinking about my parents,” I mumbled towards the fire. “Those dumb pebbles you gave me. I can’t stop thinking about this stuff, but I can’t figure it out either.” Anna came over and joined me on the rug in front of the fireplace. “Maybe you should stop running away. Like bailing out on the conversation at Laura’s.” “I did it with Aunt Ruth too. She wanted to tell me something more about my parents, and I wouldn’t let her.” I thumped the newspaper tube against my head. “And?” “And now I’m curious.” “Then, that’s easy,” Anna said. “Call Ruth. She wanted an update on Zoe anyway .” “Now?” Anna spread her arms in a gesture of something. Exasperation, maybe. “Yeah.” I took a sip of my coffee, now chilled, then stood up and tucked the newspaper roll under my arm. I grabbed the fleece blanket from the back of the sofa, and carried the phone onto the sun porch. The sky was dark with squall...


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MARC Record
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