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And Lucy MAG
I sit in the afternoon sun with my father, eating Strawberry Sensation Sherbet. This is a treat – not the sherbet, him. Since he's been back, my mother says that the less I see him the better. The park bench is uncomfortable on my backside, and if I lift my thigh, I can see where kids have carved things like “TJ & NM 4 EVA.”
I watch the sherbet drip down the cone and over my fingers. We didn't have to be in a park; we could've been anywhere, preferably somewhere with air conditioning. But this is our spot. It's the bench we come to whenever there is “something important to discuss,” and I think there is. Just then, he pipes up: “You see that girl over there?”
He points across the cobblestone path to a bench a few yards away, just out of earshot. A mother sits with her daughter, who looks about three or four. She's wearing an ironed beige dress, knee-high socks and a pair of Mary Janes. They share the same treat we do.
“But Mommy,” she whines, “I wanted orange.”
A piece of me whines with her. What's this about?
“I used to dress you both like that,” my father continues. “You and your sister.”
Bingo. “Stepsister,” I correct him. I haven't seen Lucy in a while. “How is she?”
“Good. She's been traveling this summer.”
“In fact, she may be coming up to see us soon.”
I don't hear myself, but this must be when I ask him just how soon soon is, because from faraway he says, “Her plane lands early tomorrow.”
Unfair. The word gets comfy in my mind as I watch the sweetness of summer fall and splatter on the sidewalk, and someone starts to cry.
I think I'm in the mood for orange, too.
When Dad drops me off at home, there's a plate of warm ravioli sitting there for me, courtesy of my mother's husband, who can only make this and TV dinners. Their son, Peter, sits across from my bowl with one of his own. He jumps when he sees me. Peter already knows.
“Terri!” he chirps. “Tell me about your sister, please?”
I roll my eyes and stick my pinky into his lunch. “Go stand in the street, please?”
“You don't have to be a jerk about it.” His tiny features turn to a frown, then twist into a smile. “I'll ask your dad. He'd know more about his favorite daughter anyway.”
He wins, and he knows it. He saunters out of the room a little taller than usual, and I feel my face turn the color of ravioli. I think about what I would've told him. What did I know? I knew that she was only a year younger than me, and that for the last 16 years, Dad had been with Lucy and her mother in California until that family, much like his first, fell to pieces. And now he was here in Florida with me, Plan B.
Now Plan A was on its way here to do what I still couldn't, which was stay with him. “He better not let her in my room,” I mutter into my bowl. I had helped Dad pick an apartment when he moved back a year ago. Someplace cozy, I thought. Just for me and him.
And Lucy, of course.
Suddenly, I'm not in the mood to eat. Not sherbet, not ravioli. I sit back in my chair and sigh. I can hear Peter and my mother coming down the hall toward the dining room.
“Don't bug Terri about it.”
This was supposed to be a whisper, but it sounds more like her hissing at him. Being bugged is the least of my worries. Then the idea hits me like a plane from California.
She enters the room with Peter, wearing her you-didn't-hear-what-I-just-said look. “What is it?”
She looks hopeful and wide-eyed, like I'm going to dump my 16 years of baggage onto her. “Can I spend the night at Dad's?”
Peter clears his throat so loudly, it turns into a cough. We ignore him.
“Why?” she asks.
I don't want her in my room. “I want to welcome her to Florida.”
Peter is still coughing, and turning a little red. She raises a plucked eyebrow at me.
“Fine. I can see this is important to you,” she says.
Then she says the two words I never thought I'd hear: “Call him.”
Dad's happy to drive back for me, telling me the whole ride how Lucy and I are blood, and that it's thicker than anything.
“'Cause you and Lucy are blood, and that's thicker than anything,” he repeats, opening my car door. I smile at him, and wonder if he does that for her, too.
We eat spaghetti before bed on the plates I helped him pick out, and I wait until I hear him yawn and close his bedroom door. Then I grab his family photos. The album is black with lace trim on the outside and the word “Memories” in cursive on the front.
I'm only in one picture, since he left when I was a baby. The rest are Lucy: him and Lucy at her fifth birthday party, he and Lucy at her volleyball game, he and Lucy saying good-bye at the airport. Soon there will probably be one of him and Lucy here. The next morning, I tell him that I'd rather not join him to pick her up.
“No, thanks. I want to stay here. Get everything, you know, ready.”
He frowns, but doesn't argue. “I'll be back with her in an hour.”
One hour. For one hour, I keep my world to myself.
But an hour doesn't pass as quickly as you'd think. I came to find that in an hour, I could clean my room and mess it up. I could make three sandwiches and eat them. I found that I could take photos of my father's family, the one I'm not a part of, rip them to shreds, and hide them.
And at the end of an hour, when I'm full of mayonnaise and covered in paper cuts, I can bandage myself, pull out the couch bed, and let them in.
Him and Lucy, the two of them together.