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Friday, August 17, 1962

Jacksonville, Florida


Yesterday, I turned twelve.

Today, I remembered my birthday.

I woke up this morning and realized that I’m already twelve. I’m not sure how we all managed to forget. Mama had a doctor’s appointment yesterday and her blood pressure was high, so the doctor and nurses were worried about the baby she’s carrying. He made her stay in the office for a long time. That scared us.

When the doctor finally let us go we did some quick grocery shopping. Mama got tired, but she bought us some Oreos and we all felt happier.

So many things are different this year. The baby coming is the biggest difference. We’d gotten my birthday present, a new red bathing suit, a week and a half before, so I wasn’t expecting another gift. And my best friend, Stephanie, is in Philadelphia on vacation with her family. No point in planning a party or spend-the-night.

My birthday ended up as just another day, filled with the usual worries and work. That’s what Daddy says when Mama asks him how his day went.

I feel happy and sad all together. How could I forget my own birthday? But what makes me sad is that Mama and Daddy forgot.

As I walk to the kitchen, the speckled floor tile is cool and slick, and because of the humidity, my warm feet leave foggy footprints that fade away quickly. The pale green curtains at the kitchen window flutter in the breeze. I can smell a little bit of salt the air picks up from blowing across the ocean.

Through the window, I see wet laundry hanging on the clothesline, making it sag so low in the middle that the white bath towels almost touch the ground. Mama always hangs the clothes in order of size and color, starting with my sister Birdie’s little white socks.

Mama’s there, near the end of the clothesline, struggling with a wet bed sheet in the morning breeze. Her white Keds left a flat path in the St. Augustine grass Daddy is so proud of. Sweat darkens the underarms of her pink and blue striped cotton dress. The sheet flaps again before she snags it with first one clothespin, then another.

A Navy jet zooms over, roaring loud and low, and Mama jumps, dropping a clothespin. The end of the sheet floats in the breeze while Mama bends over, her hand pressed to her back as she picks up the pin. Finally, the sheet is anchored to the line.

As I move away from the window, the sunlight glinting on the aluminum cake cover catches my eye. I walk over to the buffet where the cake plate always sits and lift the cover. The rich, dark smell of chocolate blooms all around me, erasing the bacon and coffee scents left over from Daddy’s breakfast. Smooth, shiny frosting is swirling over the top of the cake like waves breaking against the jetty on the St. Johns River.

Mama never really forgot my birthday.

The screened porch door slams and I drop the lid over the cake, snuffing out the sweet smell with a metallic clang.

“Mornin’, Mellie.” Mama sets down the wicker laundry basket and wipes beads of sweat from her upper lip. She arches her back and rubs her hands back and forth across her hips. “You’re up early.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Mama reaches for her glass, fills it with tap water, and brings it to her lips.

I go stand beside her and rub my hand across her belly, stretched like she has a watermelon under her dress. “Is the baby moving a lot today?”

She shakes her head.

I kiss her tummy. Please, God, let it be a brother. I can’t take another sister. And I know Daddy wants a boy.

That’s one of my morning rituals—to kiss Mama’s tummy and pray. Scooting back a little so I can see her face, I say, “Guess what?

Mama puts her glass back on the windowsill. “What, sweetie?”

“No, you have to guess.”

“Um, let me see. Birdie lost another tooth?”

Not wanting to start the day off being sassy, I resist rolling my eyes. “No, Mama.” Sometimes it’s really hard being the oldest.

“Well, you might have to tell me. I can’t think fast enough to imagine what kind of trouble Birdie’s gotten into now.”

Swallowing a sigh, I say, “It’s not about Birdie at all. It’s about me.”

“Oh, sweetie, no! Don’t tell me you…”

Good grief! Was that what she thought? She’d given me the time-of-the-month talk last week because my birthday was coming up. I’m still waiting for the one about the birds and the bees. Stephanie’s already heard that one. Of course, her sister, Cherie, is sixteen, and tells Steph anything she wants to know.

“No, Mama. Thank God, it’s not that.”

“Watch your mouth, young lady.” Mama points her finger at me. “Nice young ladies don’t use the Lord’s name in vain.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“But, thank God, that’s not what it is. I don’t think I could cope with that just now.”

“Why can you say thank God but I’m not allowed?”

Mama pulls out a chair and plops into it like she can’t hold herself up anymore. “Like I told you: do as I say, not as I do.”

I frown. “Okay. But guess again.”

Resting her chin in her palm, she stares at the table. Suddenly she jerks upright, looking at me like I’m a ghost.

“Lord have mercy! We forgot your birthday.” She grabs me to her and hugs me up against her chest. “Oh, sweetheart. I’m sorry.”

No matter how old I get, I don’t think anything will feel quite as good as a Mama hug early in the morning. Right now she smells like bath powder and sunshine and just a little bit of sweat. Her body’s warm and soft against mine, and that shaky feeling that’s been in me all morning fades away. If I were my new brother or sister, I would try to stay safe inside Mama’s belly forever.

“How could we forget your birthday, Melanie Adams?”

I grin and snuggle closer to Mama. A thought zips through my brain, quick as a flash of lightning. Maybe I didn’t want to have my twelfth birthday. Somehow, I’m not so sure I’m going to like being twelve. But instead, I say, “I don’t know, Mama. Maybe I’m getting old.”

Mama chuckles, the sound coming from deep in her chest. It rumbles through me too. Deep and soothing. “Hey now, you can’t steal my excuse. How does cake for breakfast sound?”


Mama turns me around and pats my backside. “Well, you go get Birdie up, and I’ll call Daddy to see if he can come home to have some cake with us.” A little frown creases her brow. “Put some clothes on, sweetie. And don’t forget your bra.”


My God, she’s growing up so fast.

No wonder the girl frowns at you, Norah.

I shove up from the table, off balance like a horse on a tight rope. How could I forget my firstborn’s birthday? And if I forgot her birthday, how in the world will I manage three children? What am I going to do?

Grabbing the phone receiver from the wall mount, I dial the factory’s number. I hope Clay can come home from the office for a few minutes, like he used to. When did he stop coming home for lunch, anyway? I can’t remember, but it’s been a while, I guess. Maybe he got tired of bologna sandwiches.

I wait for the switchboard at the office to pick up.

“Reynolds Aluminum, Jacksonville. How can I help you?”

“Clay Adams, please.”

“May I say who’s calling?”

Shirley’s authoritative tone makes those five words sound like a political speech. I answer in the same precise manner. “His wife.”

“Oh. Norah. He’s on the floor. Everything okay?”

Sighing, I rub my aching back. Shirley and everyone else at the plant knows I’m expecting. She’s not really being nosy. “Yes, everything’s fine.”

“He’s really busy this morning. A machine went down. Do you really need to talk to him?”

So now Shirley decides if I’m important enough to talk to my husband? I don’t think so. “Yes, Shirley. I need to talk to him now.” Our daughter’s birthday is important, too.

“All right. Hold on.” The phone clicks, and I know she’s connecting and disconnecting lines, paging Clay on the factory floor, and answering other calls. I know all this because that was my job once. Two babies ago. A lifetime ago.

Staring out the window at the laundry hanging dead still on the line, I grab the folded newspaper and fan myself while I wait for Clay to pick up the line.

It gets under my skin that Shirley, and every other woman in that office, knows where my husband is eight or ten hours of the day, and I don’t really know anything but that he leaves me at seven-thirty every morning and comes home at six o’clock every night.

Then I think how ridiculous I am. Of course, I know where Clay is. He’s working to support his family. So what if Shirley knows exactly where he is.

It’s the hormones, I guess, making me illogical like this.

I’m thankful he comes home each evening. That he doesn’t go out for drinks with the guys. That he only rarely brings home a can of beer in a paper sack. Like he says, we don’t have the money for extras like that these days. But he has money for lunch every day? I’ve got to talk to him about that. We can’t afford lunch at a restaurant every day. Even the cost of Krystal burgers adds up.

“He’ll be right with you, Norah. Just stay on the line.” And Shirley is gone again.

Holding the phone against my shoulder, I turn on the hot water to add to the sink full of dirty breakfast dishes. Not waiting for the water to turn warm, I plunge my hands into the dishwater. The ickiness of slimy eggs and bacon grease makes my stomach roll. The dishrag slips out of my fingers and I close my eyes. How will I endure eight more weeks of this pregnancy?

“Norah.” Clay’s voice on the line startles me. “What’s wrong?”

“We forgot Mellie’s birthday yesterday.”


“Mellie’s birthday was yesterday. I had the cake made, but we forgot all about it. I promised her cake for breakfast this morning. Can you come home for a little while?”

“I shouldn’t. We had a machine break down this morning.”

“I know. Shirley told me. Mellie’s already twelve. This is important.”

“So’s my job, with another child on the way.”

“You don’t have to remind me of that.” I blink against the tears stinging my eyes. Just as quickly, anger simmers up from my gut. “But let me remind you that you were there when we made this baby, just like the other ones.”


I hear the frustration in his voice and for a moment I want to take it back. But I don’t. I won’t apologize, either. “How about coming home for lunch, then? It’s been a while since you’ve had lunch with us.”

He’s quiet for a few seconds. Is he wondering when I noticed he stopped coming home for lunch? “The broken machine is causing production to drop. It’s my job to make sure it’s fixed and we’re rolling again. I should stay until it’s done.”

“We’ll be fine without you.” I’m so upset my words pop like snapping gum. Yes. Yes, we will. “Don’t worry about it.”

“C’mon, Norah,” he sighs.

“Bye, Clay. Guess I’ll see you tonight.” Trying to contain my hurt and anger, I hang up the phone softly, straighten the long, curly cord, then reach for a tissue to blow my nose.


“Birdie, wake up.” Mellie yells at me. “We’re gonna have cake for breakfast.”

“Nuh-uh.” I lift my chin off my chest and take a deep breath. “Mama never lets us have sweets for breakfast,” I yell back.

“Well, we are today.” Mellie throws open the door to the bedroom we share. She stares at me for a few seconds, then says, “C’mon, Birdie, get up.”

Mellie stares at me because I’m in the middle of my twin bed with both of my feet tucked behind my head. She’s jealous because she can’t do this. Mellie thinks she can’t do it because she’s so grown up, but that’s not true. She never could do this trick.

We used to have regular contests to see who could do the funniest tricks, before Mama, she got ‘xpectin’. We’d stand on our heads, or do cartwheels. Mama can do the best cartwheel. Daddy can do the best handstand. But only I can put my feet behind my head. Daddy says I should join the circus and be a ’tortionist.

He told me a ’tortionist is someone who can move her body all kinds of ways and look like a human knot. Maybe I’ll get to wear a sparkly costume when I’m in the circus.

Just to aggravate Mellie, I stay put. I slap my butt four times and sing real loud, “Oh.” Again. Slap, slap, slap-slap, “Oh.”

From my ’tortion knot on the bed, I watch Mellie take her new bra, snowy white with a little pink rose bud in the center, out of the drawer. She turns her back to me and tugs her nightgown over her head. She doesn’t want me to see.

She didn’t used to care if I saw her. We took baths together, got dressed in front of each other, even slept together sometimes. Nothing was a big deal until a few months ago. About the time Mama told us we’d have a new baby brother or sister.

Please God, let it be a brother, I pray. Then I continue what I’m doing. Slap, slap, slap-slap. “Oh.”

“What are you doing anyway?”

“Singin’.” Slap, slap, slap-slap. “Oh.”

“You have to sing words to be singing, you idjit. You’re just slapping your butt and saying ‘Oh’.”

“Not if you’re singing Bingo. And Mama said not to call me idjit no more. I’m telling.” I unknot myself and somersault to the end of the bed and stand up, bouncing a couple of times before I land on the floor with my arms straight up in the air. I would be good in the circus.

Since I’m only six years old, I have time to work on my act some more. Heck, I’ll probably be ready to run away and join the circus by the time I’m as old as Mellie. Maybe I can be a clown, too. I look in the mirror, roll my tongue and stick the whole thing through the gap where I’m missing four front teeth. I don’t even have to open my jaw. When I do that in front of people, they laugh like it’s the funniest thing they ever saw.

Yep. I would be a great addition to the circus. Birdie, The Acrobat Clown ‘Tortionist. I pick up the hairbrush and run it through my hair. Even after brushing, it stands out like a yellow cotton ball. “Why are we having cake for breakfast?”

Mellie frowns at me. “Cause it’s my birthday.”

“Nuh-uh. Yesterday was your birthday.”

“But we forgot.”

“I didn’t.” I cross my eyes and look at the freckles on my nose so I won’t have to look at Mellie. I know she’s frowning real hard at me like a grown-up. It’s not my fault she forgot her own birthday.

“You remembered? Why didn’t you say anything?”

Besides, I didn’t remember until after we went to bed. Then it was too late. I was scared for Mama and the baby. Yeah, it wasn’t my fault. It was the stupid baby’s fault.

I balance on one leg, and do my special one-legged dance as I hop right through the door. Over my shoulder I say, “Well, it wasn’t my birthday, idjit.”


Gosh almighty! Isn’t that just like a bratty little sister to let you forget your birthday? I brush my hair into a ponytail and stretch the rubber band around it while I count to ten to keep from yelling at her.

When I reach the number twenty and finally calm down, I remember Mama saying, “What goes around, comes around.” I’m sure something like this will happen to Birdie someday, and she’ll see how it feels to be invisible.

In the kitchen, the percolator hums and gurgles, filling the house with new coffee smells. Birdie turns on “Captain Kangaroo,” adjusts the long silver rabbit-ear antenna to get rid of the static, and sprawls on the couch. The toilet flushes, and I hear Mama singing as she comes down the hall.

“Mama, which plates do you want to use?”

“We’ll use the good china. After all, this is a birthday party.”

“No, it’s not!” Birdie sings from the living room sofa. “Yesterday was her birthday.”

“We know, Birdie. But we’re going to celebrate today.” Mama pours two glasses of milk and fills the cream pitcher. She carries the creamer and sugar bowl to the table, placing them next to the cake plate.

“But it’s not a real birthday party. You can’t have a real birthday party if it’s not your birthday.” Birdie’s voice sounds kind of whiny, like she’s about to cry. Or maybe throw a tantrum. And she would, too, just to spoil my birthday.

Birdie’s tantrums are awful. Sometimes she collapses to the floor, screaming and kicking until you think the world is ending. I’ll do almost anything to avoid Birdie’s tantrums. Mama just ignores her and goes about her business. She says that’s what the pediatrician told her to do.

Easy for him to say. Dr. Withers has never seen one of Birdie’s tantrums.

“Okay. Calm down. We’ll just have cake.”

“Well, as long you know it’s not real. Nobody’s allowed to have two birthdays.” Birdie sounds calm now.

Thank goodness. I sure don’t want to have my almost birthday completely ruined.

Outside, the brakes on our old blue Ford squeal. Mama drops the cake knife. It clunks when it hits the floor.

“There’s Daddy.” I try to keep the excitement out of my voice. I just have a feeling that Daddy will do something special for me.

The front door opens, and he stands there with the sun shining behind him. Both his hands are behind his back.

There it is. There’s my real surprise.

He looks over my head toward the kitchen where Mama is, puckers his lips and blows her a kiss. Looking back to me, he shouts like an announcer in a parade, “Where’s the birthday girl?”

“It’s not her birthday!” Birdie yells from the couch. She jumps up and turns Captain Kangaroo louder.

Uh-oh. Here comes the tantrum.

Daddy just looks at her. That look. The one that doesn’t need any words at all, but says everything.

Birdie, still standing next to the television, snaps the switch off and goes to put napkins on the table.

“Here’s something for the young lady of the house.” He smiles and shoves the door closed with his foot. “Well, come over here and get it.”

I run to him, wondering what kind of surprise he might have for me.

“Oh, no. I get a kiss first.” He lowers his cheek for me to kiss. Daddy’s face is smooth and smells good, sweet and spicy, with a little tang of cigarette smoke blended in.

“Happy birthday, young lady.” He draws his hand from behind his back and hands me a rose, a beautiful, red rose with a long, straight stem. The fragrance, so heavy and rich, seems to hang in the air around the flower. I lower my nose right into the center of the bloom. The petals are like cool velvet on my skin.

The shaky feeling slips into me along with the sweet smell of my “young lady” gift. This is nice, but what happened to skates or records? Even a book?

“I’ve got surprises for everyone this morning.” He reaches into his pants pocket and pulls out a candy bar. “Birdie, this is for you.”

“Oh goodie! A Baby Ruth!” Birdie skips up to Daddy and hugs his legs.

Mama stands in the kitchen with her hands on her hips. She raises one eyebrow. “Glad you could make it after all, Big Shot.”

Daddy goes over and wraps his arms around Mama, kind of bending over so he can reach around the baby. They look at each other.

Daddy whispers in Mama’s ear and kisses her cheek. She smiles and murmurs, “I’m sorry, too.” Then he really kisses her.

I always feel invisible when they do that, when they look deep into each other’s eyes. I glance at Birdie. She scrunches up her nose at me, but looks back at Mama and Daddy standing there, hugging each other, and I know Birdie feels the same way. For a minute, there’s nobody in the world but the two of them, holding each other.

Somewhere inside, that one little speck of me that is looking forward to growing up and becoming a woman tells my brain that this is what love looks like. Aunt Lola always points to Mama and Daddy and says, “Don’t you settle for anything less than what you see there.”

Isn’t it funny how you can have all of this stuff happening in your head and heart while you stand in the dining room, holding a rose and watching your family do everyday stuff?

Daddy holds Mama’s face in his hands. “You’re going to like your surprise best, Norah.”

“Oh, really?” Mama pushes away from Daddy and bends to pick up the knife from the floor, but Daddy beats her to it. He puts it in the sink and gets a clean one out of the drawer.

Mama lifts the lid to the cake plate and says, “You can tell me while I cut the cake.”

“C’mon, girls.” Daddy pulls out a chair and motions for me. “Miss Melanie, for you.”

I sit down, and he pushes my chair in for me. I lay the rose on the table, and, all the while, the scent drifts up to me, reminding me that it’s a grown-up gift, not a kid’s gift.

Mama puts twelve candles in a circle around the middle of the cake. Daddy takes out his silver cigarette lighter and lights them. Everyone sings “Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday to you!”

Then Birdie climbs in her chair and shouts out, “You look like a monkey and you smell like one too!”

We all laugh, and Mama cuts the cake.

“Remember when I told you about Max’s sister?” Daddy asks, while he stirs milk into his coffee.

“The one who does housekeeping?” Mama slides a big wedge of cake onto a plate and hands it to me.

“Yep. Well, she has an opening on Mondays and Thursdays until Thanksgiving.”

“That’s too bad. I’m sure she needs the work.”

“No, she has work.”

Mama cuts the last slice of cake for herself. “Good.”

Daddy grins really big and grabs Mama’s hand. “Yes, it is good. She’s working for you.”

Mama’s fork clatters onto her plate. “What?”

“You need help with the housework since your back and legs hurt you so much. I know Mellie’s been a big help this summer, but she’ll be starting school soon.” Daddy gives Mama one of those winks that means they have a secret. “I’m just no good with those gathered skirts.”

Except that’s not a big secret. Daddy’s terrible at ironing. Period.

“Oh, Clayton.” Mama hugs him. “But I’m not sure I’ll be comfortable with anybody else in the house. And a colored woman? Nobody else in the neighborhood has colored help.”

Daddy shakes his head. “You don’t need to worry. Max is a good man. I’m sure his sister is good, too.”

“It’ll be nice to have someone to do the ironing for me. And you say she can help out until November?”

“Yep. She can start August twenty-third.”

“Are you sure we can afford this, Clay?”

He digs his fork into his cake. “Yes, Norah. I’m sure. The budget is tight, but you need help. I’ve got some overtime coming, and I can sell back the rest of my vacation days. So don’t worry, all right?”

Daddy winks at me over the rim of his coffee cup. “And as a special treat, I’m taking all my girls to the movies tonight. The new Elvis Presley movie is playing at the drive-in. It’s Dollar-A-Carload Night, too. I expect y’all to have a grocery sack of popcorn ready and be prettied up by six o’clock.”


“But Daddy said we have to do the dishes,” Birdie protests.

“I know what your Daddy said, but Mellie isn’t going to wash her own party dishes.” Plopping down on the sofa, I sigh. “Just put the dishes in the sink, then you can go outside and play.”

“Okay.” Birdie clatters the plates into the sink. “But that’s not what Daddy said.”

Clay not only came home from work for the little party, but he apologized for our spat on the phone, and he surprised me by hiring some help.

I’m still in shock.

When I hung up the phone earlier this morning, I had steam coming out of my ears. And it seemed strange that he couldn’t take a little break and run home. We only live about ten minutes from the plant. He used to come home for lunch all the time.

Now, I’m wondering what’s going on with him.

No, I won’t even think about it.

Besides, he did come home today, and he got us a housekeeper. I can’t help but wonder what it’ll be like to have someone else in the house with me. And a colored woman at that? A new experience, for sure.

“Mama?” Mellie’s voice interrupts my thoughts.

“What, honey?”

“Can I put my rose in a vase?”

“Sure, darling. There’s one on the top shelf, over the stove.”

From the sofa, I can see the stove right beside the open kitchen door. Mellie stands on a chair and reaches into the back of the cabinet. She holds up a bud vase from a long ago florist delivery. “This one?” she asks.

“That’s fine.” I pick up the newspaper and scan the headlines. Cuba. Russia. Missiles. Kennedy. Another story about Marilyn Monroe’s recent suicide. The newspapers can’t seem to get over the fact that she was nude when they found her. That poor woman is never going to have any peace, even in death.

If this new housekeeper, Flossie, can just take care of the standing chores for me—the ironing, the dishes, some of the laundry—I’ll feel like a queen. Mellie’s helped out an awful lot over the summer, but she’ll be back in school in a few weeks. That means I’ll be ironing dresses for the girls as well as Clayton’s dress shirts.

My Mellie sits down on the floor beside the sofa, the bud vase on the floor next to her.

I run my fingers through her silky ponytail. She still looks like a younger girl with her hair like that. But she’ll want to look older for the seventh grade, I’m sure. “We need to do your hair before school starts, sweetie. How about a permanent wave?”

“Oh, do we have to?” Mellie picks up a section of newspaper from my lap.

“If you have a permanent, your hair will look so nice when we set it with rollers. Don’t you want to look pretty for junior high?”

She shrugs like she doesn’t care a bit about school starting. But I know that’s not how she feels. Mellie tugs at a loose strand of hair and twirls it around her finger.

Her hair is brown like Clay’s. Really, she looks so much like him. She’s going to be a beauty, but she has no idea of that now.

I wish I could read her mind. She’s quiet so much of the time, and I just can’t tell what she’s thinking.

Mellie is so different from Birdie, sometimes I can’t believe I gave birth to both of them. Birdie is like a flashing neon sign telling everything there is to know about her, while Mellie is like a beautiful book you have to patiently study to understand. Will this baby be like Mellie or Birdie, or someone completely different?

What did I think about when I was twelve? I don’t remember at all, but I do remember that everything seemed important, urgent, overwhelming. So, what is urgent and important to Mellie? Not a permanent wave, that’s for sure.

I guess twelve was when I started learning to dance by practicing with my sister, preparing for the time we could go to the dances at the park.

But, somehow, Melanie seems too serious to be thinking about silly stuff like dancing. In fact, sometimes she seems sad. Am I a bad mother if my child is sad?

That’s the $64,000 Question.

“Honey, I’m sorry about your birthday.”

“It’s okay, Mama.”

“No, it’s not okay. But thank you for understanding. Things are a little hectic right now.”

Mellie turns and rests her cheek against my tummy. “Oh. He kicked me.”

I grin. “Maybe she kicked you.”

Shaking her head, Mellie says, “No. This is a boy. I just know it.”

“Well, we’ll find out in about eight more weeks, won’t we?”

“Are you scared, Mama?”

“About having the baby? No. I’ve done it twice before, remember?”

Mellie smiles and slips a loose strand of hair into the corner of her mouth. Her brows dip into a frown.

“What’s wrong, sweetie?”

“I don’t know.” Mellie shrugs and flips a page of the newspaper.

I catch a glimpse of the ads for back-to-school sales. Maybe that’s why she’s down in the dumps. “Why don’t we go shopping tomorrow? Just you and me?”

“Are you sure you feel like shopping, Mama?”

“Listen to you, all worried about me when you’re about to start junior high school.” I sit up on the sofa. “We’ll leave Birdie with Daddy.” Pointing to the tartan plaid purse and scarf ad in the corner of the page, I say, “Do you like the plaid? Maybe we can find a kilt for you. Wouldn’t that be cute with a white blouse?”

Mellie twists her hair and studies the paper. Is she reading the article about the Kennedy’s vacation in Italy? Maybe she’s thinking about how we didn’t have a vacation this year—or last year. We’ll make it up to her soon.

Beginning with a few new school clothes. “What about that shopping trip?”

Melanie shrugs and turns the page of the newspaper. Now she’s reading the comic strips. I have no idea what’s going on in her mind, but I intend to find out.