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165 31 ~ Sam At the slam of a car door, Sam looked up from the computer and rolled his desk chair to the window. Emily was home before Zoe’s school bus. He had to admit she hadn’t reneged on her responsibilities to Zoe, even if she had let pretty much everything else slide during the two weeks since Pippa’s court hearing. The Sunday before, she served herself a two-inch square of Anna’s lasagna and carried it to her room. A headache, she mumbled on the way out of the kitchen, navigating as if the air had become ocean. When Emily brought her plate back to the kitchen, Sam asked what was wrong. He didn’t tell her that he had observed the hearing from the back corner of the courtroom . Emily would have reminded him what he already knew: it was none of his business. But Pippa showed up when Zoe was in surgery and Sam wanted to return the favor. Besides, he was curious. He didn’t tell Emily any of that. And she didn’t answer his question either. “I’m fine,” she had insisted. “Are you scared?” he asked. “Because of the cat?” Emily just gave him a look. It meant scorn and regret that she ever told Sam and Anna about the murdered cat. But Sam could see behind the scorn and through the regret. Emily was drowning. Sam knew that feeling. Thick, sunken, underwater. His drowning had started the day Zoe’s ultrasound showed the hole in her spine. After work the day after, he had waited for Anna in Forest Park. They were supposed to talk. The park that afternoon had been a carnival of families. A guy in a Red Sox cap chased a toddler in and out of patches of sunlight. The boy glanced back and lost his balance, toppling sideways onto the grass. The dad scooped him up, babyfat legs still bicycling the air. Sam watched father and son, and his lungs began filling with seawater. 166 ~ House Arrest Sam stood alone in the shadow of the trees at the edge of the playground and watched Anna, alone, the wicker basket untouched on the picnic table. He wanted to sit close to her and share a beer. He had never been very good at figuring out what she was thinking, but that wasn’t true this time. Anna wanted to have this baby and he didn’t. Anna wouldn’t change her mind. The ocean surged between them and he couldn’t swim. When he couldn’t think of any more excuses to wait, he waded through the facepainted children and parents chasing toddlers, through a tsunami of misgivings. “Sorry I’m late,” he had whispered into her ear, nuzzling her hair. He used to love the smell of her scalp. He wondered what their baby’s scalp would smell like, and how he could be a good father when he couldn’t swim. • At the toot of Zoe’s school bus, Sam scooted back to the window. The bus driver helped Zoe down the stairs and handed Emily the backpack. Emily and Zoe disappeared under the roof of the front porch. Sam wanted to be downstairs, helping Zoe with her afternoon stretches. He tried to concentrate on his project, but building a website for two sisters from Ludlow selling hair-removal gel mixed in their garage couldn’t compete with his daughter. He knocked twice on the kitchen door before walking in. Zoe sat at the table dipping carrot sticks into peanut butter. “Okay if I spend some time with my Poose this afternoon?” he asked Emily. “Look, Papa.” Zoe handed him a card. “I’m invited to Jessie’s birthday party Saturday . Ice cream and cake, and real clowns who make animals out of balloons.” “Great.” He lifted Zoe onto his lap. “The eighteenth. Almost the solstice,” he said. Emily ignored him, handed Zoe a glass of milk. “Don’t get your hopes up. You’re allergic to balloons.” Zoe started to argue, but Sam interrupted. “Don’t worry. If your mother calls Jessie’s mom and explains, they’ll skip the balloons and you can go.” He flashed an annoyed look in Emily’s direction, but she had already turned back to the stove. His solstice comment must have irritated her. But he forgot all about it and made up counting rhymes to accompany Zoe’s stretching exercises, then played Knock Knock jokes...


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MARC Record
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