It was a while before Aida discovered those other possibilities – – like the swimming, dancing, climbing kinds – – because when she wasn’t in school she was always in her skates, always on the ice, always trying new tricks, trying to go faster, testing the limits of physics, geometry, gravity and of her own body. The other kids couldn’t understand…well, the kids at school couldn’t understand, but the kids at the ice rink were just like her, so they became her friends, at least for a few years until some of them got so competitive that their interest in medals outweighed their ability to relate to their peers.
It took a great deal of cajoling, but finally, at long last, and only with the promise that she could observe his interactions with her son from behind a one-way-window, Jasper convinced her to allow him a few precious moments alone with the little boy. Jasper sat across from him, leaning forward to make sure the boy would both hear him, assuming he could hear, and could read his lips, if indeed the boy had learned to do that by now.
The contest happened. Her stage fright held itself back sufficiently for her to get through in a way that earned her a second try, this time with an accompanist playing the orchestral part on a second piano. She was a finalist, one of only four contestants from the entire state to make it thus far in the competition.
Theresa’s hands were on the phone before she knew she’d crossed the room to pick it up. Never before, even in all the volunteer crisis training she had done, never before had Theresa dialed 911, but there it was, and she gave her own address and told them to hurry, hurry, please god, hurry.
Did I color in everything? Some parts of the design are so tiny, which is why I had to actually shave some of the crayons to make the points sharp enough to fit into those teeny-tiny lines. Yeah! Look! Everything is filled in! I really like how that magenta and blue look together, and I have to say the other colors are great where I put them… can’t believe I didn’t think this would be fun when Dolores gave me this set of crayons and the book last night when she was here during visiting hours. Dolores, I’m sorry, I should’ve been more gracious when I said thank you. Wait. Did I say thank you?
The Medusa-like strangler fig behind her left shoulder gave no foothold low enough to make climbing it an option. She considered getting behind its aerial roots that hung all about her like a veil made from dangling threads of burlap.
“I can’t let go!” she cried, squeezing even harder with her knees, calves and crossed ankles. “I don’t know how!” The rope was scratching the insides of her legs but the pain went unnoticed as her legs clasped themselves even tighter to each other while the trees around her swung by. There was a sudden realization at the corner of her awareness that this must be what the world looked like to daddy when he was drinking. Her fingers hurt. They’d been squeezing too, up against her chest and around the rope that was smooth there, worn down by decades of young hands like hers having the rope in their grip.
While she was alive, Freya made the most of her tiny window into the world, filling it with her boundless imagination and her innate desire to leave a mark, her own mark, a mark that no one else would think of. Maybe even a mark that no one would recognize for a very, very long time. Or maybe … ever.
The view from the top of Half Dome was just as spectacular as I knew it would be … and just as familiar. Kind of like coming home, really, to see the valley nearly 9,000 feet below, with its ancient glacial cut extending northeastward up Tenaya Canyon and El Capitan at the opposite end of the valley to the west; rolling mountaintops hiding fields and forests on the horizon opposite my granite perch. At 9:00 in the morning the sun warmed my back while I gazed into the distance, remembering Jossman Burrell and letting him know I’d finally made it. As I hoisted my backpack to pull out the notebook I felt the weight of the box containing his ashes. Two years Grampa Joss had been waiting for me to bring him back to this place that held his heart and soul.
A chocolate éclair seemed like a really good idea.
Instead, she went out and bought new art supplies. A blank sketchpad, acrylics, brushes, rollerball pens with glittery ink. Stars appeared on the paper, vivid blue stars outlined in silver; spiky orange stars with tulip buds in their centers; gently sloping emerald green stars that dripped lavender tears. She got up from her new art table, disbelieving the clock that told her three hours had passed.
“You’re in Poland, in the southwest part of Poland. Can you move your head?” because I thought maybe he had hit his head when he touched down. Even in the 1 a.m. darkness I could see how handsome he was, but it was cold out, and dark, and dangerous, and we had to move quickly. “Can you move your arms?” His arms were crossed across his chest, like a corpse, but I was so relieved that he wasn’t dead, I could barely speak. “Come on, we have to move quickly to get you out of this field.”
Mackenzie held the reins while Caitlin, Sherman and Deedee rode behind him, under the cover of canvas and surrounded by pots and piles of clothing. Mackenzie knew to go west, but keeping his terror and uncertainty hidden from his siblings took all of the effort that he wasn’t spending on guiding the horses. “Where are we gonna go, Mack?” wondered Deedee. Mackenzie thought to himself, “I’m only 11, how am I supposed to know where we’re gonna go?” but he knew better than to say it.