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"They'reso...sopersistentwhentheywantsomethingandthey'vealwaysgottobeahead."
Oncemorethenightwasquiet.FranciegrabbedhermotherandNeeley."Alltogethernow,"
sheordered.Thethreeofthemleanedoutofthewindowandshouted;"HappyNewYear,
everybody!"
Aninstantofsilence,thenoutofthedarkathickIrishbrogueshouted:"HappyNewYear,youse
Nolans!"
"Nowwhocouldthatbe?"puzzledKatie.
"HappyNewYear,youdirtyIrishmick!"Neeleyscreamedback.
MamaclappedherhandoverhismouthandpulledhimawaywhileFrancieslammedthe
windowdown.Allthreeofthemwerelaughinghysterically.
"
Now
youdidit!"gaspedFrancie,laughingsohardthatshecried.
"Heknowswhoweareandhe'llcomearoundhereandfi...fi…fight,"gurgledKatiesoweak
fromlaughingthatshehadtoholdontothetable."Who...who...wasit?"
"OldmanO'Brien.Lastweekhecursedmeoutofhisyard,thedirtyIrish...."
"Hush!"saidMama."Youknowthatwhateveryoudowhenthenewyearstarts,you'lldoall
year."
"Andyoudon'twanttogoaroundsaying,dirty-Irishmicklikeabustedrecord,doyou?"asked
Francie."Besides,you'reamickyourself."
"You,too,"accusedNeeley.
"We'reallIrish,exceptmama."
"AndI'mIrishbymarriage,"shesaid.
"Well,dousIrishdrinkatoastonNewYear'sEve,ordon'twe?"demandedFrancie.
"Ofcourse,"saidmama."I'llmixusadrink."
McGarrityhadgiventheNolansabottleoffineoldbrandyforChristmas.NowKatiepoureda
smalljiggerfulofitintoeachofthreetallglasses.Shefilledtherestofeachglasswithbeaten
eggandmilkmixedwithalittlesugar.Shegratednutmegandsprinkleditonthetop.
Herhandsweresteadyassheworkedalthoughsheconsideredthisdrinkingtonightas
somethingcrucial.SheworriedconstantlythatthechildrenmighthaveinheritedtheNolanlove
ofdrink.Shehadtriedtocometoanattitudeaboutliquorinthefamily.Shefeltthatifshe
preachedagainstit,thechildren,unpredictableindividualiststhattheywere,mightconsider
drinkingforbiddenandfascinating.Ontheotherhand,ifshemadelightofit,theymight
considerdrunkennessanaturalthing.Shedecidedneithertomakenothingofitnormuchofit;
toproceedasthoughdrinkingwasnomoreorlessthansomethingtobemoderatelyindulgedin
ataseasonaltimes.Well,NewYear'swassuchatime.Shehandedeachatglass.Alot
dependedontheirreactions.
"Whatdowedrinkto?"askedFrancie.
"Toahope,"saidKatie."Ahopethatourfamilywillalwaysbetogetherthewayitistonight."
"Wait!"saidFrancie."GetLaurie,soshe'stogetherwithus,too."
Katiegotthepatientsleepingbabyoutofhercribandcarriedherintothewarmkitchen.Laurie
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openedhereyes,liftedherheadandshowedtwoteethinabefuddledsmile.Thenherhead
wentdownonKatie'sshoulderandshewasasleepagain.
"Now!"saidFrancieholdingupherglass."Tobeingtogether,always."Theyclickedglassesand
drank.
Neeleytastedhisdrink,frowned,andsaidhe'dratherhaveplainmilk.Hepouredthedrink
downthesinkandfilledanotherglasswithcoldmilk.Katiewatched,worried,asFranciedrained
herglass.
"It'sgood,"Franciesaid,"prettygood.Butnothalfasgoodasavanillaice-creamsoda."
"WhatamIworryingabout?"sangKatieinwardly."Afterall,they'reasmuchRommelyasNolan
andweRommelysarenotdrinkingpeople."
"Neeley,let'sgoupontheroof,"saidFrancieimpulsively,"andseehowthewholeworldlooks
atthebeginningofayear."
"Okay,"heagreed.
"Putyourshoesonfirst,"orderedmama,"andyourcoats."
Theyclimbedtheshakywoodenladder,Neeleypushedtheopeningasideandtheywereonthe
roof.
Thenightwasheadyandfrosty.Therewasnowindandtheairwascoldandstill.Thestars
werebrilliantandhunglowinthesky.Thereweresomanystarsthattheirlightmadetheskya
deepcobaltblue.Therewasn'tamoonbutthestarlightservedbetterthanmoonlight.
Franciestoodontiptoeandstretchedherarmswide."Oh,Iwanttoholditall!"shecried."Iwant
toholdthewaythenightis-coldwithoutwind.Andthewaythestarsaresonearandshiny.I
wanttoholdallofittightuntilithollersout,'Letmego!Letmego!'"
"Don'tstandsoneartheedge,"saidNeeley,uneasily."Youmightfallofftheroof."
"Ineedsomeone,"thoughtFranciedesperately."Ineedsomeone.Ineedtoholdsomebody
close.AndIneedmorethanthisholding.IneedsomeonetounderstandhowIfeelatatimelike
now.Andtheunderstandingmustbepartoftheholding.
"IlovemamaandNeeleyandLaurie.ButIneedsomeonetoloveinadifferentwayfromthe
wayIlovethem.
"IfItalkedtomamaaboutit,she'dsay,'Yes?Well,whenyougetthatfeelingdon'tlingerindark
hallwayswiththeboys.'She'dworry,too,thinkingIwasgoingtobethewaySissyusedtobe.
Butitisn'tanAuntSissythingbecausethere'sthisunderstandingthatIwantalmostmorethanI
wanttheholding.IfItoldSissyorEvy,they'dtalkthesameasmama,althoughSissywas
marriedatfourteenandEvyatsixteen.Mamawasonlyagirlwhenshemarried.Butthey've
forgotten...andthey'dtellmeIwastooyoungtobehavingsuchideas.I'myoung,maybe,in
justbeingfifteen.ButI'molderthanthoseyearsinsomethings.Butthereisnooneformeto
holdandnoonetounderstand.Maybesomeday...someday...."
"Neeley,ifyou
had
todie,wouldn'titbewonderfultodienow-whileyoubelievedthateverything
wasperfect,thewaythisnightisperfect?"
"Youknowwhat?"askedNeeley.
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"No.What?"
"You'redrunkfromthatmilkpunch.That'swhat."
Sheclenchedherhandsandadvancedonhim."Don'tyousaythat!Don'tyoueversaythat!"
Hebackedaway,frightenedatherfierceness."Tha...tha...that'sallright,"hestammered."I
wasdrunkmyself,once."
Shelostherangerincuriosity."Wereyou,Neeley?Honest?"
"Yeah.Oneofthefellershadsomebottlesofbeerandwewentdownthecellaranddrankit.I
dranktwobottlesandgotdrunk."
"Whatdiditfeellike?"
"Well,firstthewholeworldturnedupsidedown.Theneverythingwaslike-youknowthose
cardboardtootsyoubuyforapenny,andyoulookinthesmallendandturnthebigend,and
piecesofcoloredpaperkeepfallingaroundandtheyneverfallaroundthesamewaytwice?
Mostlythough,Iwasverydizzy.AfterwardsIvomited."
"ThenI'vebeendrunk,too,"admittedFrancie.
"Onbeer?"
"No.Lastspring,inMcCarrensPark,Isawatulipforthefirsttimeinmylife."
"How'dyouknowitwasatulipifyou'dneverseenone?"
"I'dseenpictures.Well,whenIlookedatit,thewayitwasgrowing,andhowtheleaveswere,
andhowpurelyredthepetalswere,withyellowinside,theworldturnedupsidedownand
everythingwentaroundlikethecolorsinakaleidoscope-likeyousaid.IwassodizzyIhadtosit
onaparkbench."
"Didyouthrowup,too?"
"No,"sheanswered."AndI'vegotthatsamefeelinghereonthisrooftonight,andIknowit'snot
themilkpunch."
"Gee!"
Sherememberedsomething."Mamatesteduswhenshegaveusthatmilkpunch.Iknowit."
"Poormama,"saidNeeley."Butshedoesn'thavetoworryaboutme.I'llnevergetdrunkagain
becauseIdon'tliketothrowup."
"Andshedoesn'thavetoworryaboutme,either.Idon'tneedtodrinktogetdrunk.Icanget
drunk,onthingslikethetulip-andthisnight."
"Iguessitisaswellnight,"agreedNeeley.
"It'ssostillandbright...almost...holy."
Shewaited.Ifpapawereherewithhernow....
Neeleysang.
Silentnight.Holynight.
Alliscalm,allisbright.
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"He'sjustlikepapa,"shethoughthappily.
ShelookedoutoverBrooklyn.Thestarlighthalfrevealed,halfconcealed.Shelookedoutover
theflatroofs,uneveninheight,brokenonceinawhilebyaslantingrooffromahouseleftover
fromoldertimes.Thechimneypotsontheroofs...andonsome,theshadowingloomingof
pigeoncotes...sometimes,faintlyheard,thesleepycooingofpigeons...thetwinspiresofthe
Church,remotelybroodingoverthedarktenements....Andattheendoftheirstreet,thegreat
BridgethatthrewitselflikeasighacrosstheEastRiverandwaslost...lost...ontheother
shore.ThedarkEastRiverbeneaththeBridge,andfaraway,themisty-grayskylineofNew
York,lookinglikeacitycutfromcardboard.
"There'snootherplacelikeit,"Franciesaid.
"Likewhat?"
"Brooklyn.Itsamagiccityanditisn'treal."
"It'sjustlikeanyotherplace."
"Itisn't!IgotoNewYorkeverydayandNewYork'snotthesame.IwenttoBayonneonceto
seeagirlfromtheofficewhowashome,sick.AndBayonneisn'tthesame.It'smysterioushere
inBrooklyn.It'slike-yes-likeadream.Thehousesandstreetsdon'tseemreal.Neitherdothe
people."
"They'rerealenough-thewaytheyfightandhollerateachotherandthewaythey'repoor,and
dirty,too."
"Butit'slikeadreamofbeingpoorandfighting.Theydon'treallyfeelthesethings.It'slikeit'sall
happeninginadream."
"Brooklynisnodifferentthananyotherplace,"saidNeeleyfirmly."It'sonlyyourimagination
makesitdifferent.Butthat'sallright,"headdedmagnanimously,"aslongasitmakesyoufeel
sohappy."
Neeley!Somuchlikemama,somuchlikepapa;thebestofeachinNeeley.Shelovedher
brotherShewantedtoputherarmsaroundhimandkisshimButhewaslikemama.Hehated
peopletobedemonstrative.Ifshetriedtokisshim,he'dgetmadandpushheraway.So,she
heldoutherhandinstead.
"HappyNewYear,Neeley."
"Thesametoyou."
Theyshookhandssolemnly.
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XLVII
FORthelittlewhileoftheChristmasholidays,ithadbeenalmostlikeoldtimesintheNolan
family.ButafterNewYear'sthingsrevertedtothenewroutinewhichhadgrownonthemsince
Johnny'sdeath.
Therewerenomorepianolessonsforonething.Franciehadn'tpracticedinmonths.Neeleydid
hispianoplayingeveningsintheneighborhoodice-creamsaloons.Hehadbeenexpertat
ragtimeandwasbecomingevenmoreexpertatjazz.Hecouldmakeapianotalk-sopeople
said-andhewasverypopular.Heplayedforfreesodas.SometimesScheeflygavehimadollar
onaSaturdaynightforplayingthewholeevening.Franciedidn'tlikeitandspoketohermother
aboutit.
"Iwouldn'tlethim,Mama,'shesaid.
"Butwhere'stheharminit?"
"Youdon'twanthimtogetintothehabitofplayingforfreerefreshmentslike...."Shehesitated.
Katiepickedupthesentence.
"Likeyourfather?No,he'dneverbelikehim.Yourfatherneversangthesongsheloved,like
'AnnieLaurie'or'TheLastRoseofSummer.'Hesangwhatthepeoplewanted,'SweetAdeline'
and'DownbytheOldMillStream.'Neeley'sdifferent.He'llalwaysplaywhat
he
likesandnot
caretwocentswhetheranyoneelselikesit."
"You'resaying,then,thatpapawasonlyanentertainerandthatNeeleyisanartist."
"Well...yes,"admittedKatiedefiantly.
"Ithinkthat'scarryingmotherlovealittletoofar."
KatiefrownedandFranciedroppedthesubject.
TheyhadstoppedreadingtheBibleandShakespearesinceNeeleystartedhighschool.He
reportedthattheywerestudying
JuliusCesar
andtheprincipalreadfromtheBibleeach
assemblyperiodandthatwasenoughforNeeley.Franciebeggedoffreadingatnightbecause
hereyesweretiredfromreadingallday.Katiedidnotinsist,feelingthattheywerenowold
enoughtoreadornot-justastheywished.
Francie'seveningswerelonely.TheNolansweretogetheronlyatthesupperhourwheneven
Lauriesatuptothetableinherhighchair.AftersupperNeeleywentout,eithertobewithhis
gangortoplayatsomeice-creamsaloon.MamareadthepaperandthensheandLauriewent
tobedateighto'clock(Katiewasstillgettingupatfiveinordertohavemostofhercleaning
donewhileFrancieandNeeleywereintheflatwiththebaby.)
Francieseldomwenttothemoviesbecausetheyjumpedaroundsoandhurthereyes.There
werenoshowstogoto.Mostofthestockcompanieshadgoneoutofexistence.Besidesshe
hadseenBarrymoreinGalsworthy's
Justice
onBroadwayandshewasspoiledforstock
companiesafterthat.Thatpastfallshehadseenamoviesheliked:
WarBrides
withNazimova.
Shehadhopedtoseeitagainbutreadinthepapersthatbecauseoftheimminenceofwar,the
filmhadbeenbanned.ShehadawonderfulmemoryofjourneyingtoastrangepartofBrooklyn
toseethegreatSarahBernhardtinaone-actplayinaKeithvaudevillehouse.Thegreat
actresswaspastseventy,butlookedhalfthatagefromthestage.Franciecouldn'tunderstand
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theFrenchbutshegatheredthattheplaywaswrittenaroundtheactress'amputatedleg.
BernhardtplayedthepartofaFrenchsoldierwhohadlosthislegintheWar.Franciecaught
theword
Boche
fromtimetotime.Franciewouldneverforgettheflamingredhairandthe
goldenvoiceofBernhardt.Shetreasuredtheprograminherscrapbook.
Butthosehadbeenjustthreeeveningsoutofmonthsandmonthsofevenings.
Springcameearlythatyearandthesweetwarmnightsmadeherrestless.Shewalkedupand
downthestreetsandthroughthepark.Andwherevershewent,shesawaboyandagirl
together;walkingarm-in-arm,sittingonaparkbenchwiththeirarmsaroundeachother,
standingcloselyandinsilenceinavestibule.EveryoneintheworldbutFranciehada
sweetheartorafriend.SheseemedtobetheonlylonelyoneinBrooklyn.
March,1917.Alltheneighborhoodcouldthinkortalkaboutwastheinevitabilityofwar.Awidow
livingintheflatshadanonlyson.Shewasafraidhe'dhavetogoandwouldbekilled.She
boughthimacornetandmadehimtakelessons,figuringhe'dbeputinanarmybandandplay
atparadesandreviewsonlyandbekeptawayfromthefront.Peopleinthehousewere
tormentedalmosttodeathby hisincessantfumblingcornetpractice.Oneharassedman,made
craftybydesperation,toldthemotherthathehadinsideinformationthatthemilitarybandsled
thesoldiersintoactionandinvariablywerethefirstoneskilled.Theterrifiedmotherpawnedthe
cornetimmediatelyanddestroyedthepawnticket.Therewasnomoredreadfulpracticing.
EachnightatsupperKatieaskedFrancie,"Hasthewarstartedyet?"
"Notyet.Butanydaynow."
"Well,Iwishitwouldhurryupandstart."
"Doyouwantwar?"
"No,Idon't.Butifithastobe,thesoonerthebetter.Thesooneritstarts,thequickeritwillend."
ThenSissycreatedsuchasensationthatthewarwaspushedintothebackgroundtemporarily.
Sissy,whowasdonewithherwildpast,andwhoshouldhavebeensettlingdownintothecalm
thatprecedessatisfiedmiddleage,threwthefamilyintoaturmoilby fallingmadlyinlovewith
theJohntowhomshehadbeenmarriedformorethanfiveyears.Notonlythat,butshegot
herselfwidowed,divorced,married,andpregnant-allintendays'time.
TheStandardUnion
,Williamsburg'sfavoritenewspaper,wasdeliveredasusualoneafternoon
toFrancie'sdeskatclosingtime:Asusual,shetookithomesothatKatiecouldreaditafter
supper.Franciewouldbringitbacktotheofficethenextmorningandreadandmarkit.Since
Francieneverreadnewspapersoutsideofofficehours,shehadnowayofknowingwhatwasin
thatparticularissue.
Aftersupper,Katiesatbythewindowtolookthroughthepaper.Aninstantafterturningthethird
page,sheexplodedher"Oh,my!"ofutterastonishment.FrancieandNeeleyrantolookover
hershoulder.Katiepointedtoaheading:
HEROFIREMANLOSESLIFEINWALLABOUTMARKETBLAZE.
Underneathinsmalltypewasasub-heading:"Hadplannedtoretireonpensionnextmonth."
Readingtheitem,FranciediscoveredthattheheroicfiremanhadbeenSissy'sfirsthusband.
TherewasapictureofSissytakentwentyyearsago-Sissywithatoweringcrimpedpompadour
andhugeleg-of-muttonsleeves-Sissy,sixteenyearsold.TherewasacaptionunderSissy's
picture:"Widowofheroicfirefighter."
"Oh,my!"repeatedKatie."Thenhenevermarriedagain.HemusthavekeptSissy'spictureall
thattimeandwhenhediedsomemenmusthavegonethroughhisstuffandfound-Sissy!
"I'vegottogooverthererightaway."Katietookoffherapronandwenttogetherhat,
explaining,"Sissy'sJohnreadsthepapers.Shetoldhimshewasdivorced.Nowthatheknows
thetruth,he'llkillher.Atleastthrowherout,"sheamended."She'llhavenoplacetogowiththe
babyandmother."
"Heseemslikeaniceman,"saidFrancie,"Idon'tthinkhe'ddothat."
"Wedon'tknowwhatallhewon'tdo.Wedon'tknowanythingabouthim.He'sastrangerinthe
familyandalwayshasbeen.PrayGodIdon'tgettheretoolate."
FrancieinsistedongoingalongandNeeleyagreedtostayhomewiththebabyonconditionthat
hebetoldeverysinglethingthathappened.
WhentheygottoSissy'shouse,theyfoundherrosywithexcitement.GranmaMaryRommely
hadtakenthebabyandretiredtothefrontroomwhereshesatinthedarkandprayedfor
everythingtocomeoutallright.
Sissy'sJohngavethemhisversionofthestory.
"I'mawayworkingintheshop,see?TheseheremencometothehouseandsaytoSissy,'Your
husband'sjustbeenkilled,see?'Sissythinkstheymeanme."HeturnedonSissysuddenly.
"Didyoucry?"
"Youcouldhearmeonthenextblock,"sheassuredhim.Heseemedgratified.
"TheyaskSissywhattheyshoulddowiththebody.Sissyasksisthereanyinsurance,see?
Well,itturnsoutthereis-forfivehundreddollars,paiduptenyearsagoandstillmadeoutin
Sissy'sname.SowhatdoesSissygotoworkanddo!ShetellsthemtolayhimoutinSpecht's
FuneralParlor,see?Afivehundred-dollarfuneralsheorders."
"Ihadtomakethearrangements,"apologizedSissy."I'mhisonlylivingrelation."
"Andthat'snotall,"hewenton."Nowthey'regoingtocomearoundandgiveSissyapension.I
won'tstandforit!"heroaredsuddenly."WhenImarryher,"hewentonmorecalmly,"shetells
meshe'sadivorcedwoman.Nowitturnsoutshe'snot."
"Butthere'snodivorceintheCatholicChurch,"insistedSissy.
"Youwasn'tmarriedintheCatholicChurch."
"Iknow.SoIneverconsideredIwasmarried,anddidn'tthinkIhadtogetadivorce."
Hethrewhishandsupintheairandmoaned,"Igiveup!"Itwasthesamecryoffutiledespairhe
hadutteredwhenSissyhadinsistedthatshehadgivenbirthtothebaby."Imarryheringood
faith,see?Andwhatdoesshedo?"heaskedrhetorically."Sheturnsrightaroundandmakes
usliveinadultery."
"Don'tsaythat!"saidSissysharply."We're
not
livinginadultery.We'relivinginbigamy."
"Andit'sgottostoprightnow,see?You'rewidowedfromthefirstoneandyou'regoingtogeta
divorcefromthesecond,andthenyou'regoingtomarrymeagain,see?"
"Yes,John,"shesaidmeekly.
"Andmynameain'tJohn!"heroared."It'sSteve!Steve!Steve!"Witheachrepetitionofhis
name,hepoundedonthetablesohardthattheblueglasssugarbowlwiththespoonshanging
arounditsrimclatteredupanddown.HepushedafingerintoFrancie'sface.
"Andyou!FromnowonI'mUncle
Steve
,see?"
Franciestaredatthetransformedmanindumbamazement.
"Well?Whatdoyousay?"hebarked.
"Hel...hel...hello,UncleSteve."
"That'smorelikeit."Hewasmollified.Hetookhishatfromanailbehindthedoorandjammedit
onhishead."Whereareyougoing,John...Imean,Steve?"askedKatie,worried.
"Listen!WhenIwasakid,myoldmanalwayswentoutandgoticecreamwhencompanycame
inhishouse.Well,thisis
my
house,see?And
I
gotcompany.SoI'mgoingoutandgetaquart
ofstrawberryicecream,see?"Hewent.
"Isn'thewonderful?"sighedSissy."Awomancouldfallinlovewithapersonlikethat."
"LooksliketheRommelyshaveamaninthefamilyatlast,"commentedKatiedryly.
Franciewentintothedarkfrontroom.Bythelightofthestreetlamp,shesawhergrandmother
sittingatthewindowwithSissy'ssleepingbabyinherlapandamberrosarybeadsdangling
fromhertremblingfingers.
"Youcanstopprayingnow,Granma,"shesaid."Everything'sallright.Hewentoutforicecream,
see?"
"Glorybetothefather,andtotheSonandtotheHolyGhost,"praisedMaryRommely.
InSissy'sname,Stevewrotetohersecondhusbandathislast-knownaddressandput"Please
Forward"ontheenvelope.Sissyaskedhimtoconsenttoadivorcesothatshemightremarry.A
weeklater,afatlettercamefromWisconsin.Sissy'ssecondhusbandinformedherthathewas
well,hadobtainedaWisconsindivorcesevenyearsago,hadpromptlyremarried,settleddown
inWisconsinwherehehadagoodjobandwasthefatherofthreechildren.Hewasveryhappy,
hewroteandinbelligerentlyunderlinedwordsthreatenedthatheintendedtostaythatway.He
enclosedanoldpressclippingtoprovethatshehadbeenlegallyinformedofthedivorceaction
bypublication.Heenclosedaphotostaticcopyofthedecree(grounds,desertion),anda
snapshotofthreebouncingchildren.
Sissywassohappyatbeingdivorcedsoquicklythatshesenthimasilver-platedpickledish
andabelatedweddingpresent.Shefeltthatshehadtosendaletterofcongratulationalso.
SteverefusedtowriteitforhersosheaskedFrancietodoit.
"WritethatIhopehe'llbeveryhappy,"dictatedSissy.
"ButAuntSissy,he'sbeenmarriedsevenyearsandit'ssettledbynow-whetherhe'shappyor
not."
"Whenyoufirsthearthatsomeone'smarried,it'spolitetowishthemhappiness.Writeitdown."
"Allright."Shewroteitdown."Whatelse?"
"Writesomethingabouthischildren...howcutetheyare...somethinglike..."Thewordsstuck
inherthroat.SheknewhehadsentthepicturetoprovethatSissy'sstillbornchildrenhadnot
beenhisfault.ThathurtSissy."WritethatI'mthemotherofabeautifulhealthybabygirlandput
alineunderhealthy."
"ButSteve'slettersaidyouwereonlyplanningtogetmarried.Thismanmightthinkitfunnythat
yougotababysosoon."
"WriteitlikeIsaid,"orderedSissy,"andwritethatIexpectanotherbabytobebornnextweek."
"Sissy!Youdon't,really!"
"Ofcoursenot.Butwriteitdownanyhow."
Franciewrotethatdown."Anythingelse?"
"Saythanksforthedivorcepaper.ThensayIgotmyowndivorceayearbeforehegotit.OnlyI
forgot,"sheconcludedlamely.
"Butthat'salie."
"I
did
getthedivorcebeforehedid.Igotitinmymind."
"Allright.Allright,"surrenderedFrancie.
"WritethatI'mveryhappyandintendtostaythatwayandputalineunderthosewordslikehe
did."
"Gosh,Sissy.
Must
youhavethelastword?"
"Yes.Justlikeyourmotherhastohaveit,andEvyandyou,too."
Franciemadenomoreobjections.
StevegotalicenseandmarriedSissyalloveragain.ThistimeaMethodistministerperformed
theceremony.ItwasSissy'sfirstmarriagebytheChurchandatlastshebelievedthatshewas
trulymarrieduntildeathdidtheparting.Stevewasveryhappy.HelovedSissyandhadalways
beenafraidoflosingher.Shehadleftherotherhusbands,casuallyandwithnoregrets.Hehad
beenafraidthatshe'dleavehim,too,andtakewithherthebabywhomhehadgrowntolove
dearly.HeknewthatSissybelievedintheChurch...anyChurch,Catholic,orProtestant;that
she'dneverwalkoutonachurchmarriage.Forthefirsttimeintheirrelationship,hefelthappy,
secure,andmasterful.AndSissydiscoveredthatshewasmadlyinlovewithhim.
SissycameoveroneeveningafterKatiehadgonetobed.Shetoldhernottogetup;thatshe'd
sitinthebedroomandtalktoher.Franciewassittingatthekitchentablepastingpoemsinold
notebooks.Shekeptarazorbladeattheofficeandcutoutpoemsandstoriesshelikedforher
scrapbooks.Shehadaseriesofthem.Onewaslabeled
TheNolanBookofClassicalPoems
.
Another,
TheNolanVolumeofContemporaryPoetry
.Athirdwas,
TheBookofAnnieLaurie
,in
whichFranciewascollectingnurseryrhymesandanimalstoriestobereadtoLauriewhenshe
wasoldenoughtounderstand.
Thevoicescomingfromthedarkbedroommadeasoothingrhythm.Francielistenedasshe
pasted.Sissywassaying:
"...Steve,sofineanddecent.AndwhenIrealizedit,Ihatedmyselfonaccountofthe
others-outsideofmyhusbands,Imean."
"Youdidn'ttellhimabouttheothers?"askedKatieapprehensively.
"DoIlooklikeafool?ButIwishwithallmyheartthathehadbeenthefirstandonlyone."
"Womantalksthatway,"saidKatie,"itmeansshe'sgoingintothechangeoflife."
"Howdoyoumakethatout?"
"Ifsheneverhadanylovers,shekicksherselfaroundwhenthechangecomes,thinkingofall
thefunshecouldhavehad,didn'thave,andnowcan'thave.Ifshehadalotoflovers,she
arguesherselfintobelievingthatshedidwrongandshe'ssorrynow.Shecarriesonthatway
becausesheknowsthatsoonallherwoman-nesswillbelost...lost.Andifshemakesbelieve
beingwithamanwasneveranygoodinthefirstplace,shecangetcomfortoutofherchange."
"I'mnotgoingintoanychangeoflife,"saidSissyindignantly."InthefirstplaceI'mtooyoung
andinthesecondplaceIwouldn'tstandforit."
"Ithastocometoallofussomeday,"sighedKatie.
TherewasterrorinSissy'svoice."Nottobeabletohavechildrenanymore...tobehalfa
woman...getfat...havehairgrowonyourchin.I'llkillmyselffirst!"shecriedpassionately.
"Anyhow,"sheaddedcomplacently,"I'mnowherenearthechangebecauseI'mthatway
again."
Therewasarustlefromthedarkbedroom.Franciecouldvisualizehermotherraisingherselfon
herelbow.
"No,Sissy!No!Youcan'tgothroughthatagain.Tentimesit'shappened-tenchildrenstillborn.
Anditwillbeharderthistimebecauseyou'regoingforthirty-seven."
"That'snottoooldtohaveababy."
"No,butit'stoooldtogetoveranotherdisappointmenteasily."
"Youneedn'tworry,Katie.Thischildwilllive."
"You'vesaidthateachtime."
"ThistimeI'msurebecauseIfeelthatGodisonmyside,"shesaidwithquietassurance.Aftera
whileshesaid,"ItoldStevehowIgotLittleSissy."
"Whatdidhesay?"
"HeknewallthewhileIhadn'tgivenbirthtoher,butthewayIclaimedIhad,gothimmixedup.
Hesaiditdidn'tmatteraslongasIdidn'thaveherby anothermanandthatsincewehadher
frombirthalmosthereallyfeelsthatshe'shisbaby.It'sfunnyhowthebabylookslikehim.She
hashisdarkeyesandthesameroundchinandthesamesmallearsclosetoherheadlikehim."
"ShegotthosedarkeyesfromLuciaandamillionpeopleintheworldhaveroundchinsand
smallears.ButifitmakesStevehappytothinkthebabylookslikehim,that'sfine."Therewasa
longsilencebeforeKatiespokeagain."Sissy,didyouevergetanyideafromthatItalianfamily
astowhothefatherwas?"
"No."Sissytoo,waitedalongtimebeforeshecontinued."Youknowwhotoldmeaboutthegirl
beingintroubleandwhereshelivedandall?"
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