Excerpt of A Family Daughter by Maile Meloy
(Page 3 of 5)
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"No," Clarissa said. "I'm in the most beautiful place in the world,
and the first time I call, my kid has chicken pox. So I feel guilty and
horrible. And I've felt guilty and horrible all week just in
anticipation of something. I knew there was going to be something
"You sound like you think it's my fault," Yvette said.
"No," Clarissa said, unconvincingly.
"I'm not asking you to come back," Yvette said. "She'll get better."
"I didn't think she'd get sick. She has to play with someone. That
time alone is my sanity."
When Yvette hung up, she took a fresh glass of juice to the living
room, where Abby lay on the couch reading a comic book. She was at the
age to have communion, and she wasn't even baptized.
"Your mom said good-bye and to tell you she loves you," Yvette
"Where am I going to live now?"
Yvette pushed Abby's hair from her face. "I think you'll live with
"No, I think at home," Yvette said.
Abby looked at her pink-splotched knees. "With just my mom?"
Yvette sighed. "I don't know, sweetheart," she said.
Yvette kept the drapes drawn to keep the house cool, and the dimness
increased Abby's gloom. Yvette tried to teach her to crochet, but Abby
got frustrated with the yarn. They played Boggle and Go Fish. Sometimes,
in bored wanderings through the house, Abby took pictures off the master
bedroom wall and lay on the bed looking at them. She liked Yvette's
wedding picture, with Teddy in his pilot's uniform during the war. And
she liked a picture of the two girls: Clarissa with her dark hair coming
out of its curls, and Margot standing behind her, polished and serene.
Abby would study the pictures and then hang them back on the wall and
turn on the TV. In the heat wave they were airing Coke and Pepsi and 7UP
commercials, and Abby had memorized them all. She sang the jingles
absently in the bath. It was killing Yvette.
At the end of the week, Yvette called Jamie, her youngest, who was in
college in San Francisco. She begged him to come home.
"I'm taking a summer class," Jamie said.
"You should see her," Yvette said. "She's so miserable. Mrs. Ferris
won't let her play with Cara. I could just wring that woman's neck."
"My car might not make it."
"I'll send Triple A," Yvette said.
He was home by late afternoon, with a duffel bag full of laundry that
he dropped on the kitchen floor. Her handsome, mischievous boy: he had
caused her so much trouble over the years, but now he had come when she
needed him. She kissed his cheeks out of gratitude, as Abby sidled into
"Where's my favorite niece in the whole world?" Jamie asked.
Abby wrinkled her nose at him. "I'm your only niece."
Yvette noticed that Abby had washed the calamine off her face and
arms, in honor of Jamie's arrival. She still had spots, but she didn't
look like she was dying of a pink plague.
"Oh, yeah," Jamie said. "Well, if I had others, you'd still be my
favorite. Want to hit the beach?"
Copyright © 2006 by Maile Meloy