The significance of Sharon's call finally worked its way into the center of her brain. "She . . . is . . . coming . . . home. To my neighborhood."
"Technically, I don't think the Mannings live in Hunting Ridge. They're a few blocks outside the boundary."
Technically. How Sharon loved technicalities, legal and otherwise.
"She is coming home," Cynthia repeated. "To a house that is no more than six blocks from my house."
"Helen Manning's a city schoolteacher and a single mother. She doesn't have the resources to pick up and move." How quickly Sharon always switched from contrite to self-righteous. The defensive public defender, Warren had called her. You must understand, Cynthia . . . What purpose can be achieved, Cynthia . . . They are little girls, Cynthia . . . Your tragedy, great as it is, Cynthia . . . There will always be some ambiguity, Cynthia. You, of all people, must value justice, Cynthia. Cynthia, Cynthia, Cynthia.
As if what Cynthia wanted was anything less than justice. She had let them talk her out of justice.
"Can't you make it a rule that she has to live someplace else?"
"Of course not." Sharon's voice was huffy now, hurt. It was the paradoxical mark of the offensive, in Cynthia's experience, that they were offended so easily. The only feelings Sharon safeguarded were her own.
"When that man on North Avenue got pardoned, they made it a condition that he couldn't go back to the neighborhood where he had shot that child."
"It's not the same."
"No, he killed a thirteen-year-old boy. This was a nine-month old child. Oh, and he was pardoned." Cynthia did not add: He was a black man who killed a black child. These were white girls who killed a black baby. She let her silence say that part, let what was unsaid make Sharon squirm, in her little cubbyhole in that sad-ass state office building. All your scheming, all your planning, and you sit today where you sat seven years ago. What was the point?
"You live in two different worlds," Sharon said. "You'll probably never see either one of them again."
"We lived in two different worlds seven years ago, too."
"You know, I've always felt that the only way to understand what happened was to think of it as a natural disaster, almost like a tornado, or lightning." Sharon's voice was so reasonable, so sure of itself, the voice of a girl who had been on her high school debate team and still considered this a notable achievement. "A series of events came together and formed something horrible, something destructive. Wouldn't it make you feel better to see it in that light?"
From Every Secret Thing by Laura Lippman. Copyright Laura Lippman 2003. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher.
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