They lived in a mansion on Lake Ontario. A cold drafty, underfurnished, stately "summer place" with four fireplaces, a butler's kitchen and a second story veranda over the water. The driveway was a quarter of a mile long. He was a very sweet man. She didn't know she should feel lucky to have found him. He filled the house with expensive Christmas gifts from well known stores. She could have seemed more grateful. She could have known there would only be so many Christmases. She could have smiled on his extravagance, wrapped her arms around him and said the right thing. What ever that was.
Through the woods to bran muffins and sparkling crystal water glasses, "spills don't matter" see-through-plastic over white linen. Flawlessly smooth cylinder cranberries on a saucer or the chunky sort-of -sour homemade ones in cutglass handed down from ancestors. You choose. Grandchildren most welcome. Dwight Eisenhower courtesy Cloverine Salve presided regally over Grandmother's perfect Thanksgiving table.
When she was eleven she was second in line for the playground drinking fountain. In front of her, Michael Alter leaned forward to get a drink. She loved Michael Alter, worshipped at the Michael Alter daily. She moved closer, heart pounding, focused only on the red and black plaid of his twelve year old back. The bell rang. End of recess. There was jostling and shoving. She felt herself propelled forward. Her face disappeared deep into the checkered wool of Michael Alter's back. Be still my heart. In slow, slow motion, Michael Alter's handsome face slammed into the metal spigot. There was blood.
We moved to a little bungalow on Baker Avenue and we met the nice single lady next door. It turned out she had a lover. He was old, had a big car and a fat ass. He came each night and left by seven in the morning. It turned out that he was someone my parents knew...because he was married to one of their friends. So we kept our shades closed on that side of the house.. and the nice lady never ever met our eyes. And my parents only whispered as if they were ashamed of themselves for knowing.
Connie was sly and sarcastic and mean. She considered herself an in-tel-lec-tual... her parents were en-gin-eers and lived in a messy house in the best part of town. She had an older sister Victoria who was a certified genius, and a big slobbery dog. She was a Unitarian, maybe the first Unitarian. Her house was lit-er-ary. The rest of us were ig-nor- ants.
On the brink of Junior High the family moved to a flat in new, big city. From her window she could see the driveway basketball court and the two fat girls shooting hoops. She went outside and smiled across the street. The two fat girls played in their driveway for seven more years - never smiling back, not even once.