H Is For Happy Once

She died, the man’s face twisted as he pushed the words out. His eyes were puffy and swollen, his voice a breathless dullness. Your mother is dead, he looked around the living room at the six faces so much like hers and my face that was like none of theirs. Six faces crumpled and broke into tears, Mommy! Mommy! Oh Roberta! the man caught up the smiling photograph of her that had been taken on the family photograph day less than two years before. His entire face was suddenly bright red. It crumpled. Tears flowed. I’ve never seen him cry, the thought flashed through my mind. I sat and watched, eyes wide, eyes dry. A hard lump plugged the well in my heart. The image of the man’s hand slapping the woman played across the screen of my mind. I heard him shouting, You’re crazy! He cried. I went to get my books and the coat I wore.The day was bright and crisp. You’ll be staying out of school for a while, the man told me as I descended the steps.

I’ve brought you some dinner, Mrs. P. caressed my hair. You like macaroni and cheese and green beans? She stared hard into my eyes, You poor child. Mrs. P. fluttered around the kitchen. I sat on the kitchen stool watching. Every half hour or so, the front doorbell rang. Women carried food into the kitchen. A turkey, and stuffing! I told my Friend as I helped shift the contents of the refrigerator. Mrs. P. served cups of tea. Feminine voices whispered, Those poor children! What do you think he’ll do? I don’t know. He can’t raise all these children alone. And he certainly can’t take in anymore!

You three kids had better get to bed, at nine o’clock the man’s voice cut through the silence of the living room. I want to stay down here, Ames hugged the man’s arm. Eve, put Matthieu to bed, the man lifted Matthieu from where he nodded on his rocking horse. Poor little boy, the man kissed the sleepy child and passed him to Eve. I followed her up the stairs and locked myself in the bathroom. I have to be alone with You, I told my Friend as I bent over the sink to splash water on my face. I looked at my wooden face in the mirror. Suddenly, my mouth broke into an ugly, wide grimace. I shrugged. Tears burst out but the hard place remained. I tried to cry harder, to release the well in my heart but could not budge the stoniness. I’m not really crying, am I? I queried my Friend. The tears that were not tears subsided. You are going to New York. My head whipped around. There was no one to be seen. Still, the sound echoed through the room, bounced off the white tiles and pale green walls. I looked at myself in the mirror again. My forehead crinkled, God? The voice spoke again, You were happy once. You will be happy again.

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