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175 35 ~ Pippa Francie said it always snowed on December 21, but the softening of the backyard contourswasstillasurprise .Pippastoodatthekitchendoorwatchingthesnowflakesease thebleakwintershapes,thenreturnedtothediningroomtable,tothestringsofcranberries and small clay beads stamped with Isis symbols. She was grateful for the lastminute tasks. Maybe everyone else was thinking about the anniversary too, and that was why they were so cross. Francie strode around the house, telling everyone what to do,untilevenJeremysnappedather.“Whomadeyoubossoftheworld?” Liz just pursed her lips at Pippa, said the ceremony wouldn’t work without a pregnantwoman .MarshallsaidhehadbeendoinghisbesttogetFranciepregnant.Francie saidmaybehisbestwasn’tgoodenough. Pippa had to leave the room then, her mouth bursting with secrets she had promisedEmilynottotell .Inhermind,sherehearsedthestepsoftheMotherDancethatshe hadstudiedwithAdeleandpracticedeveryday,aloneintheattic.Shefeltworstabout notbeingtruthfulwithJeremyandTimothy,whohoveredaroundherallevening. “Iwishyoucouldcome,Pippa.”Timothyburiedhisfaceinherneck. “We’lltellyouallaboutit,”Jeremypromised. Pippahuggedthemboth.“I’llbeokay.Nothingbadwillhappenthisyear.” Franciesetherarmfulofheavywhitecottonrobesdownonthediningroomtable, so she could hug Pippa too. “I’m sorry you have to stay home. Tonight’s got to be the worst night for you to be alone. I wish there were some way.” She paused, and Pippa thoughtshecaughtanedgeofasmile.DidFranciesuspectsomething? “I’llbeallright,”Pippasaid.“MakemyapologiestoIsis.” Francie leaned back and stared at Pippa, and Pippa felt her face flushing. Maybe she’dbetteractmoreupset.“Please.Ican’ttalkaboutit.” At nine p.m., Pippa helped load the van—tarps and sleeping bags and extra blankets ,theYulelogandcandlesandjugs.Lastthefamily,dressedinlongwhiterobesover 176 ~ House Arrest fleece pants and extra wool socks and insulated boots and thermal underwear. Pippa wavedatthetwinsinthebackwindowofthevanuntiltheredtaillightsdisappeared. Whentheywerefinallygone,Pippastoodinfrontofthepainting. “I won’t let you down.” She spoke out loud, her voice sounding silly in the empty house.“I’mnotsosurewhatIthinkaboutyou,butI’llbetheretonight.” Pippashowered.Sheleftherskinbareundertheanklestrapsothehiveswouldstart togrow.Shedressedcarefullyinwarmlayersofblackclothes.WhenEmilyknockedat thefrontdoor,Pippawasready. “Areyoudressedreallywarmly?”Emilyasked.“Lotsoflayers?” “Yup,andIhavethethermosofhotteaandtheextrasockforlater.And,I’mgrowing a good crop of hives.” She pulled up the leg of her sweatpants, slipped down the thickwoolsock,liftedthethermallongjohnsandstuckherfootoutforEmily’sinspection .“Lookiehere.” Emily squatted to examine Pippa’s ankle. “Pretty impressive. Not itching too badly ?” “NothingIcan’tstand.Whatnext?” “Next, we call Nan’s office. To establish the time and that we’re still at your house. Tosetupyouralibi.” Ouralibi,Pippathought,listeningtoEmilyleavehernameonNan’svoicemail. “It’s 10:30,” Emily said into the phone. “Pippa Glenning called me. Her ankle is swollenandsplotchyanditchingunderthemonitor.I’vebeenworriedaboutherrash, soIcameovertocheck.” PippathoughtEmily’svoicesoundedconvincinglynervousandtense. “The hives are spreading up her leg. It looks like latex allergy. This could become a systemic reaction, possibly anaphylaxis. I’m taking her to the E.R. for evaluation. She mightneedashotofepinephrine.” Pippa watched how Emily’s thin neck curved into the telephone receiver, how her voicestrainedforauthority.Shemusthatelyingaboutmedicalstuff.Whatwouldhappen if they got caught? She would probably lose her job. Did Emily see tonight as part ofherjob,oroutsideofit? MaybeEmily’sdecisionhadsomethingtodowithherfather,whoshewouldn’ttalk about,whodidn’tgetanyjustice.Well,Pippa’sownfatherprobablydidn’tgetwhathe deserved, either. She wondered what was happening at the farm in Georgia, how her Mawasdoing.ShewonderedifshewouldhavethecouragetodowhatEmilywasdoing rightnow.Totakesuchamassivechance,forsomeonewhowasn’tevenrelated. “I’llcheckinlater.”Emily’svoicewaswindingdown.“AndletyouknowwhathappensattheE .R.” Pippafelttheflutteringinherbelly.Sheslippedherhandunderhersweatshirtand caressedherbellythroughtheheavymaterialofherwarmlayers.I’mhere,littlefellow. She would do anything to protect this baby. But she’d felt that way about Abby too. Had she been irresponsible, to bring Abby to the Solstice last year, even when that’s Ellen Meeropol ~ 177 whatmotherswereexpectedtodoinherfamily?Awholeyearhadpassed,andshestill didn’tquiteknowtheanswertothatquestion.ButsheknewthatshehadfailedAbby. “Youokay?”Emilystoodinthearcheddoorway. “Yeah.Whatnow?” “Theemergencyroom.” ...


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