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59 10 ~ Pippa Pippa knew the exact moment she and Tian had started this baby. It happened during the heat spell in August, just before they found Abby’s body. Right where she was curled up, on the mattress filling most of her slanty-walled attic room. Tian believed that every adult should have a space in the house. A room of their own, even if the room had no door. That meant the generous bedrooms of the Pioneer Street house had to be partitioned into smaller ones. As the last person to join, Pippa was given the tiny back room on the third floor. Even when Meg and Enoch and their kids moved out, Tian wouldn’t let Pippa take one of their large second-floor bedrooms. They would be back, he promised, even though everyone else had given up on them. No one had ever deserted the family before. Not in six years in Springfield, or before that in Newark. Early on the Monday morning before Thanksgiving, Pippa’s attic nest was comfy and warm. It was tucked under the sloped roof, sheltered from the wind that searched out the cracks in the drafty old house. But, every August there were a couple of sweltering weeks, when stagnant weather patterns in the Connecticut River valley trapped hot air in the city. Most nights, Tian flashed his incendiary smile at her, and she joined him in his first-floor bedroom where triple bay windows wide open to the garden caught every wisp of breeze. That night last mid-August was roasting. Hoping to sleep downstairs, Pippa smiled at Tian. When he didn’t respond, she went upstairs alone. She set the fan blowing stale air across her body. She must have fallen asleep, because she woke to the shiver of Tian’s tongue on her belly and the vast undertow of his hands. Afterwards, resting her cheek against Tian’s chest, Pippa eavesdropped on the slowing of their heart rates. She traced the broken shape of his pinky finger, never set and poorly healed, the small blemish that defined his perfection. She inhaled the 60 ~ House Arrest smell of their mingled sweat. At that moment, soft as a moth’s kiss, the cells in her center rearranged themselves. Right then she knew that they had started another baby. She wouldn’t say anything to Tian until she missed her period. Maybe not even then, because she didn’t know what she felt; elation and sorrow battled inside of her. Tian would not be conflicted; he loved being a father. She only had one true secret from Tian. One private thing that she could never share. It started when she turned sixteen. She had heard girls at school chatter about birthday parties with cake and balloons and sleepovers, but for her Sweet Sixteen it was just the four of them. Ma made biscuit-fried chicken and a lemon meringue pie. After dinner, in a rare moment of brotherly love, Stanley invited her to tag along with him and their neighbors, Martha and Charley, to the Saturday night dance at Maxy’s Place. No one at Maxy’s that evening looked older than twenty-five, but they abided by the time-honored tradition in the county. White folks claimed the front bar, and black people sat at the tables along the rear of the room. Same with the dancing mostly, whites in the front half, blacks towards the back. Pippa sat with Charley and Martha in the shadowy front corner, lit only by the flickering Bud sign. Stanley carried their beers over, hoping nobody would make a stink that Pippa was underage. Not likely, because the Billy Boys were hot that night and the bar was as jam-packed as the dance floor. “Would ya look at them.” Martha elbowed Pippa and pointed back towards the bathrooms. A mixed-race couple danced slow and close, even though the music rocked. The guy’s back was towards them, but there was something familiar about the slope of his shoulders. Pippa stared as the couple slowly turned. “Isn’t that Delmar?” Martha squinted. “Who’s he with?” Pippa hadn’t seen Delmar since he dropped out of school two years before, the same month her father fired his daddy for drinking whiskey during haying. It had been a decade since the two of them snuck away together to play in the barn on rainy days. Sometimes Delmar’s daddy brought him along to...


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MARC Record
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