Late in the summer of 1980, Kemy knocked on the door (that was a
rule) when the twins were trying to decide whether Ida and Aubrey should get a
divorce or not. Georgia had put a jar of roses on the windowsill so that she
could picture them while she was deciding, and sliced a nectarine for them to
share afterwardthe nectarine was their favorite fruit, because its flesh was
the color of sunset. Bessi had wrapped her special duvet around her because she
couldn't think when she was cold. Sky-blue slippers on their feet, they sat
down in the strawberry corners and shut their eyes. They thought long and hard
about it, drifting through possibles. Five minutes passed and ten minutes. Then,
into the silence, Georgia said, "Mummy can't drive." Bessi had not
thought of this. It was definitely important because they needed a car for
shopping and getting Ham to the vet next week to see to his cold. A cold could
kill a hamster.
That was a No.
What Bessi had been thinking about was the apple trees that were
Her Responsibility. Ida liked to make pies, and Aubrey liked to eat them, so
Bessi had to watch the apple trees all year round until the apples started
thumping to the ground in September. Then she'd make the announcement,
projecting her voice: "APPLE PIE TIME!" And everyone had to follow her
with their baskets and stepladders and Safeway bags, even Bel with her hips.
Bessi didn't know whether she could give up this position because she felt, in some way, it
was important training for the future. And it was almost September. So now she
murmured, "It's almost apple."
That was another No.
But if they did get a divorce, thought Georgia, they'd all get
more sleep, wherever they were, and surely that was a yes.
But not if they ended up sleeping in Gladstone Park. And that
wasn't definitely impossible.
Then Kemy knocked on the door, which was irritating because they
hadn't gotten very far.
"What?" they moaned.
"Can I come in?"
"No," said Bessi, "we're deciding."
"What about?" Kemy was disappointed. "I want to
"No. Go away," said Georgia. "'Simportant."
Kemy was five and didn't know what simportant meant, so
she started crying. "I'm telling Daddy you're deciding," she
shouted, and stamped downstairs.
Georgia and Bessi adjourned the divorce decision, agreeing that
it would be best to wait until after the vet and after this year's apples. And
anyway, "It's not up to us," Bessi pointed out, taking apiece of
nectarine. "No," said Georgia, "it's up to Bel."
IN THE MORNINGS they went first into the
sun lounge to check on Ham and then out into the garden for the apples and the
roses. They put their anoraks onGeorgia's red and blue, Bessi's yellow
and greenover their pajamas when it was cold. It was usually cold because
heating was expensive in the sun lounge (thin walls, a plastic corrugated roof )
and there was no heating outside unless it was summer. They understood that. It
would be a waste of money to put heaters along the fence outside. Imagine how
much it would cost to heat all the outsides in the world. Probably more than three
Georgia climbed the stepladder and unhooked the hose from the
wall. Ham watched. He'd been awake for hours watching the hazy dawn pull in
the morning. Today, a Wednesday, he was especially not happy. Wednesdays were
hard and the twins understood this too. It was the being in the middle of the
beginning and the end when things tumbled, things tossed. The day was reluctant
and didn't know what to wear. It dreamed and reached out for dusk, but people
carried on as if it was Tuesday, or Friday, as if time's moods didn't
matter. This was confusing for Ham and the twins, but they did the best they
could to join in.
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