Thirty-three: Puzzle Pieces
"I didn't tell him my real name," Aunt Andersol said. "So if he did an internet search on me, he wouldn't see me. But if he did one on Port Laughton, he might see pictures of me with the family and know that I misled him about my name."
"The internet is a wonderful thing. But it is a sword with two edges. One makes the world a smaller place, the other makes the world a crowded place in which one can hardly take a bath in peace."
"Jesse was concerned that he'd want a piece of the estate."
"Yes. That is a point."
"It was a stupid mistake in judgment," said Aunt Andersol, holding her head in her hands. "An internationally stupid mistake, and I don't know how to repair it."
Grandmother Claire patted her shoulder. "Go to bed, child, and don't worry about this. There may be a solution. I've been thinking, but I am not yet done thinking."
"I won't abort," said Aunt Andersol, suddenly fierce.
"Good," Grandmother said. "That is never a solution."
They both stood, and for the first time I ever saw, Grandmother opened her arms to Aunt Andersol for a hug. With surprise, I watched her kiss my aunt's cheek.
Aunt Andersol left, and I suddenly itched to get to my journal. "Goodnight, Grandmother," I said. "I have a project that needs attention."
"Your mother has forbidden you to go up to the third storey."
"This is a writing project, not exploration." I hugged her gently.
I retrieved my personal journal from my father's office. I didn't want to write there, oddly enough, nor did I want to take it to my room to write. Instead, I went to Aunt Sully's study, draped an afghan across my legs, and thought about the last few days.
Go backwards. First words on the page. Grandmother has a plan about Aunt Andersol's babies. My pants are too short and my dress shirts don't fit. Aunt Sully was ticked off about fences. Why was I so stupid as to not get Rachel's phone number or email address?
Because I don't know how to do this boy/girl stuff, Dad, I wrote, as though I was talking to him. I wish you were here to help me through it. Would you tell me to follow my heart or tell me to take it easy, she's not in our class? I shifted uneasily on the loveseat, putting a spare cushion under my knees. A new paragraph: What, exactly, is 'our class?' We're not nobility or royalty, we're just wealthier than most.
She's beautiful, she's smart, and she's ... clean.
What did that mean to me? Rachel had no festery-looking piercings, no smeary little tattoos ... her hair was clean and not greasy with hairspray or mousse. Nor was she pimply or over-caked with makeup. She seemed to me to be like a wild animal, fresh and wary, her blue eyes like fire ...
I sighed, realizing that it would be a week and a day before I'd see her again -- a long, long prospect. And I just couldn't see my mother or my aunt approving of me asking someone on the staff to drive me around the streets looking for her car, or riding Mackerel up and down a housing development. There was nothing to do but wait it out, wishing for school in complete opposition to my usual attitude.
Working backwards again, I wrote, Aunt Sully is grouchy, because ... 1) She had to go to the dinner and she more or less hates those, 2) she had to report someone for the cows being out, 3) she's sore from riding, 4) because Aunt Andersol is pregnant, 5) because Gabe is dead.
Looks like she has plenty of reasons to be upset. The only one that I can understand is about Gabe, though. He should be lying here near me, suggesting with his expression that he ought to be allowed to go downstairs and make sure no one gets out of the house without dog slobbers on their clothes.
Did Gabe enjoy the scent of fear he indisputably caused in strangers? I couldn't smell them, of course, but I remember him sitting at Aunt Sully's side, staring at guests, and them being very uneasy about his unleashed presence and big white teeth. I smiled as I wrote, remembering his expression of mischief and menace. I wonder if we'll ever have another dog -- and if we do, will it turn out to be like Gabe in temperament? Or do all dogs have their own personalities?
We've met other dogs, of course. Obese Labrador retrievers, all waddling and stupid and happy animals kept in back yards or pens, smelly and untrained, and yappy lap dogs who would just as soon bite anyone as say hello; dull spaniels and bug-eyed frantic snarling dachshunds shut out of houses, and once, a big poodle who sat beside her mistress on a leash and choke collar, and showed her teeth at us whenever we fidgeted.
But was Gabe Gabe because he belonged to Aunt Sully, or did he just arrive on earth that way?
We Five were all different, but very similar in some aspects. Michel and Kelsa were more easy-going, Marca was a beast, Oesha a quiet and secretive beauty, and I was curious about why and how people acted as they did. Yet we were all the same in that we savored our family life in its privacy, in that we were united against the adults (except for Aunt Sully), and also in that we wanted little or no part of our schoolmates' activities. Were we born that way, or did we grow that way because of Father and our Nanny and Aunt Sully? How will the new kids grow up? Will they be like us, or will they be strangers?
My sisters and I have acquaintances whose babies will grow up with the new brothers and sisters. We Five will seem like adults to them as soon as they're born. We're about to join our parents' generation.
That thought disturbed me deeply, so I shut my journal and took it back to the office, hiding it behind books. Afterwards I went to my room and picked a book to read, changed into pajamas, and fell asleep, before I had read five paragraphs. I awoke once during the night, wishing I was a real kid and that I could sneak into the dark kitchen and raid the cupboard for corn chips and ham sandwiches, then went back to sleep.