"Mother says you're not to go out without her say so."
"What's this?" Father rumbled from the kitchen door. "Been bird watching again, Dis?"
Rashel, officiously, "Mother says she shouldn't go out, ever, without asking her."
"I scarcely think Dismé needs to ask anyone's permission to take a look at a bird, Rashel. You're living in Apocanew now, not out at the dangerour frontier."
Rashel stared at him impudently, then flounced out.
"Was it really a bird?" Father whispered. "Or were you up in that old tower again?"
"I was really watching birds," Dismé replied.
"Well, your cloak is buttoned crooked and your shoe laces are in peculiar knots, so I'd suggest getting yourself put together properly before Mother sees you."
"She isn't " Dismé began.
"I know. But you're to call her Mother. You've heard Rashel call me Father."
Oh, yes. Dismé had heard Rashel say Faahther, like a cat growling softly, playing with the word as though it were a mouse.
Father beckoned Roger from the adjacent room. "Roger, help your sister out, or she'll be in trouble."
Roger rolled his eyes, but he took her up to her room, where she had her own little white bed with a ruffled pink pillow. The pillow was a birthday present from Father.
"Where's your pillow?" Roger asked, as he retied her shoes.
Dismé whispered, "Rashel took it."
"Rashel!' said Roger. "I can't put anything down if she's around. She's a magpie for stealing. I'll speak to Father."
"Don't Roger. Please."
"I will. I'll make her stop this!"
And Roger did. And Father spoke to Rashel. And Rashel said the kind of thing she usuallt said.
"I did not! I saw her throw it under her bed her own self."
And when they went to look, there the pillow was, under the bed, dusty, with a hole torn in the ruffle, though Dismé knew she hadn't put it there.
Father shook his head, his face full of disappointment. Call-Her-Mother's voice cooed: "Well, Dismé, if you're not going to take care of things, we'll give it to Rashel. She takes care of things."
"Where's your shawl, Dismé?" Father asking. "The one that was your mother's?"
"I have it put away." She had seen Rashel put it in the back of her armoire, but it would not do to say so.
"Where's your quilt that Aunty made for you, Dismé?" Aunt Gayla asking.
"In the wash." As it well might be, though Dismé hadn't put it there.
Rashel tried taking things from Roger, too, but though Roger was a year younger than Rashel, he was bigger and stronger. One day, he slapped Rashel hard, leaving a red handprint on her face, and he told her if she ever told a lie about him or Dismé again, he'd tell the Regime! Dismé saw it all from the stair landing where a pair of heavy curtains made a perfect hideaway. From the time Rashel and Call-Her-Mother had come, Dismé had watched them, desperate to figure them out. True Mother once told her, "You must always know your enemies, Dis. The more you know, the safer you are." Maybe Rashel had believed Roger's threat, for none of Dismé's few remaining belongings disappeared or turned up broken for a while.
When spring came, so did Rashel's birthday, and Call-Her-Mother planned a picnic at Riverpark for the whole family. Father and Call-Her-Mother carried the baskets, striding on ahead of the children to the Stone Bridge that curved over the River Tey, at this time of the year roaring with muddy run-off from the snows up Mt. P'Jardas way. Dismé went across and stopped in the shade to wait for Roger, who was explaining to Rashel why she should stop showing off, walking on the railing.
"It's fun," said Rashel, loftily, arms extended for balance. "You're just afraid to try it."
"I have tried it, stupid. Just not this time of year, when the river's full like this! It's dangerous!"
Copyright 2002 Sherri S Tepper. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher HarperCollins.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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