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Pa smiled down at me and squeezed my hand. I squeezed back.
“Do you like your gift?” He asked me. I looked at the girl standing in front of me. She was taller than me.
“Yes, daddy.” I said because I knew that would make him happy.
“Happy birthday baby girl.” Pa was already distracted. One of the kitchen girls was walking past the window. Daddy squeezed my hand again and walked away. I looked up at my Nana. My gift and Nana were the same color.
“She looks like you Nana.” I told her.
“Is that so?” Nana looked down at me. I nodded.
“What do I do with her?” The girl was standing in front of me, silent.
“Ask her name.” I looked at my gift. Her eyes were dark, just like Nana’s. They looked the same, but Nana’s face was rounder, older.
“No.” I said. I looked up at Nana. “Daddy gave her to me, she’s mine now. I get to name her.” Nana smiled down at me but didn’t say anything. I looked back at her. “I’m going to call you Addie.”
“Are you sure?” Nana asked, surprised to hear here real name.
“Nana, I told you I want to name her.” I was tired of Addie. She didn’t say anything. I turned to her. “You’re too quiet. Go away.” Addie nodded and left. I looked up at Nana. “Braid my hair.”
“Yes, Miss Katie.” I sat on Nana’s lap as she braided my hair.
The morning sun was not yet over the trees, and Addie stood by my window.
“What are you doing?” I sat up and pushed back my coverlet. “I didn’t say you could be here.”
“Massa says I gotta be sure you’re happy.” She shuffled towards my bed. “He says I gotta follow you round and do what you ask.”
“You talk funny.” I crawled out of bed and stood next to her. “How did you get so tall?” Addie’s chin was at my forehead.
“I’m twelve. When you’re twelve you’ll be tall too.” Addie answered. I thought about that for a minute.
“I don’t like you.” I told her finally.
“Why?” She didn’t look surprised like I thought she would. Most girls didn’t like when I said that.
“You’re too old. You can’t be my friend.” Addie smiled. She wasn’t supposed to be smiling. She was supposed to look sad. Everyone wanted to be my friend. “Why are you smiling?” Addie didn’t answer. She looked down at me like she was bored. The way Pa sometimes looked when I talked to him too long. “Go away!” Addie left. I crossed my arms. I didn’t like her at all. When Momma didn’t like the black girls she told daddy. Sometimes it made daddy mad. But he always hugged momma later. I wanted a hug. I opened the door and peeked down the hallway. Nana was standing just outside my door.
“Nana! Where’s daddy?” I asked her. Nana shrugged. “Why don’t you talk?” I asked.
“My throat is hurtin’ today.” She said.
“I don’t care. You’re supposed to answer me. Momma says you should always answer me. Where is Momma?”
“In the kitchen, child.” Nana looked at the floor. She was like one of those big dogs with droopy ears and sad eyes.
“I’m sorry Nana. Maybe you can get some tea when we find momma.” I reached up to grab Nana’s hand. Her hand was big and rough. I tugged on it a little as we walked down the hall. “Am I pretty Nana?” I asked. “Momma says I’m the lightest child in the county. Is that pretty?” I looked up at Nana.
“Yes child, you are the lightest.”
“But am I pretty?” I persisted.
“Yes child.” I Nana sighed. Was she annoyed with me? Why did everyone get annoyed with me? I tugged on her hand some more.
“Are you tired of me?” I asked.
“No.” Nana and I continued walking in silence. Down the stairs, through the Dining room, into the kitchen. Momma was yelling at the servant girls. I remembered seeing one of them through the window yesterday.
“Momma!” I ran up to her and tugged on her skirt. “Momma!” She looked down at me.
“She is no good. I don’t like her.” I crossed my arms. Momma raised her eyebrows. She turned to the girl she had been yelling at.
“Her?” She asked. I looked at the girl she was looking at. Her belly stuck out over her feet in a funny way, but she didn’t have a rounded face like the other fat ladies. “Do you not like her?” Momma asked again. Her voice was soft. I stood on my tiptoes to whisper to her.
“Am I supposed to like her?” Momma sighed. And looked away, annoyed. I was losing her attention. “No momma. I don’t like her. I don’t like her and I don’t like Addie.” My mother gasped a little and looked at Nana. Her face changed, from very pretty to hard and mean.
“Go play Katie, I’ll take care of it.” I looked from her to Nana to the kitchen girl. Momma was mad, but I was getting what I wanted. So I left the kitchen.