Excerpt of A Perfect Stranger by Roxana Robinson
(Page 9 of 10)
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Something, again, in the kitchen. I looked at Sam. His face was solemn.
"She said, 'I started this program, and it feels like it's mine. But if
I take money from the state, it will be the state's program. I'll start
worrying if I'm doing it right, or if I should ask someone how to do it,
and I'll worry that someone will come in and start telling me how to run
it. So I don't want the money. I'd rather do it on my own.' "
Grandpère was watching my father. He was sitting in a high-backed wing
chair facing the fire, and I could see the firelight on his face. "And
what did you say to her?" he asked. His face looked warm, as though he
were about to smile, and it made me feel safe, watching my grandfather
look that way at my father.
My father shook his head, rueful, smiling slightly. "There was nothing
to say. It was her program. I wanted her to have the money, but I
couldn't make her take it. And I admired her for refusing it. When I was
thanking her and congratulating her she hadn't said anything, she'd just
looked at me. It had made me uncomfortable at the time, and afterward
I'd wondered if I hadn't been doing, myself, just what she was talking
about, trying to intrude onto something that belonged to her and the
children she'd helped, instead of being helpful." My father shrugged his
shoulders. "There was really nothing I could do. I told her I understood
her position, and that if she wanted help we'd give it to her in any way
we could. I thanked her for the coffee and left. She was a very
"My goodness," said Grandmère, smiling. She shook her head. "A lady of
principle." She looked at me and patted my hand. I smiled back at her.
Now the noise seemed too loud and too persistent to ignore. My father
said to Grandpère, "Do you hear something in the kitchen?"
Grandpère's face had changed; he looked serious. He set his glass down
on the little table next to the sofa. "I wonder what's going on in
there," he said. "Sometimes Bud outdoes himself at Christmas revelry."
He stood up.
I looked at Sam: Bud! The fabled Bud!
"I'll come with you," my father said and stood up. Sam stood up too, but
my mother shook her head.
"I think you children should stay in here with us," she said.
The two men walked through the big arch into the dining room, toward the
long portrait of Grandpère in his "pink" hunting coat. They pushed open
the pantry door, and as it swung wide we could hear a voice, suddenly
loud; then as it swung shut the voice was muffled again.
Grandmère and my mother looked at each other. Grandmère looked worried;
her mouth had lost its smile. "I hope Bud isn't making trouble again,"
she said, "it's so hard on Molly when he does that." She didn't move.
The living room was quiet. The fire hissed and murmured, and its light
flickered on the silver ashtrays. On the mantel was a round clock with a
white face, with a black sphinx lying on either side of it. In the
silence we could hear its steady ticks. The Christmas tree towered,
glittering, in the corner. My arm was getting hot from the fire, and I
moved closer to Grandmère. She patted my shoulder, pulling me toward
There was a roar from the kitchen. "You think I don't know that?" It was
a man, shouting, wild. Sam and I looked at each other. We heard Molly's
Excerpted from A Perfect Stranger by Roxana Robinson Copyright © 2005 by
Roxana Robinson. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division
of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may
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