Caddy's bed was close enough to touch. Saffy could tell by the feel of the darkness that Caddy was awake. She said, "Caddy, how long ago can you remember?"
"Oh," said Caddy, "ages. I can remember when I could only lie flat. On my back. I can remember how pleased I was when I learned to roll over."
"I can. And I remember learning to crawl. It hurt my knees."
"No one can remember that far back!"
"Well, I can. I remember it quite clearly. The burny feeling it gave my knees."
"Do you remember a white stone garden?"
"What white stone garden?"
"No," said Caddy. "That was you, not me."
The next morning Indigo gave Saffron his gold-speckled lump of coal, and Cadmium added an extra color square to the top row of the paint chart, Saffron Yellow. In London, Bill Casson shut up his small (and very expensive) studio midweek and caught the first train home.
None of these things meant anything at all to Saffron. All she could think of was the terrible news that she had forced from Eve the night before. Bit by bit, while Rose slept and Indigo argued and Caddy watched and was silent, Saffron had dragged it out.
That was how she discovered that Eve was not her mother. Nor was a real (and nearly successful) artist in London her father. Worst of all, Caddy and Indigo and Rose were not her brother and sisters.
"You're not my family," said Saffron.
"We are!" cried Eve. "Of course we are! We adopted you! We wanted you! Your mother was my sister! Caddy and Indigo and Rose are your cousins!"
"That doesn't count," said Saffron.
"I'm not doing this right," said Eve, weeping. "There are books on how to do it right. I have read them. You were only three. You looked just like Caddy. You called me Mummy.
You were so happy. Almost as soon as you arrived, you were happy!"
"Why was it a secret?"
"It wasn't a secret!" protested Eve, trying to hug Saffron (who ducked). "I was waiting for the right time to tell you, that's all. And the longer I left it, the harder it was. I should have done it right at the start!"
"Caddy knew! And didn't tell me!"
"I forgot," said Caddy.
"No wonder I'm not on the color chart," said Saffron.
Everything seemed to change for Saffron after the day she deciphered the color chart and discovered that her name was not there and found out why this was. She never felt the same again. She felt lost.
"But everything is just the same," said Bill, trying to help. "Nothing has changed, Saffy darling. We love you just as much as we ever did. You are just as much ours as you always were."
"No, I'm not," said Saffy.
Eve produced photographs of Saffy's mother, but they were very confusing. Saffron's mother had been Eve's twin sister. They were so alike that even Eve had to puzzle over some of the pictures before she could say who was who.
"What about my father?" Saffron asked.
This was a difficult question. Saffron's mother had never told Eve anything about Saffron's father.
"Your mummy never talked about him," she said at last.
"Not even to you?"
"Well," said Eve, sighing as she remembered. "She was in Italy and I was in England. So it was difficult. I was always going to go and visit her, and I never quite did. I wish I had."
"Was she an artist? Like you."
"Oh, no," said Eve. "Linda was much cleverer than me! She taught English. In Italy. In Siena. You were born in Siena, that's why I thought it would make such a good name...."
Saffron was not listening. She looked at the picture of her mother again and said, "Anyway, she's dead."
"Killed in a car crash."
Copyright © 2001 by Hilary McKay
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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