Anna stood, lightheaded, not sure what to do: rush out and greet them? Wait until they rang the bell? She heard car doors slam, a man's voice: "Take that off right now, Flynn."
"No," the child said.
"Get the cat," he said. "And I told you to take those goggles off."
The doorbell rang. Anna walked down the hall stairs, turned on the lights. Marvin's big frame filled the doorway. "You made it," she said, and stepped aside. "I was getting a little worried."
"Sorry," he said. "We got a bit behind schedule. We had, uh, a slight problem along the way."
"Oh?" She peeked around him for Poppy.
Marvin cupped Anna's elbow lightly, led her away from the door.
"Flynn?" he called over his shoulder.
"I'm getting the cat," she called back. "I'll be right in."
Marvin sank down on the couch, sighed, and ran his hands through his hairstill shoulder-length, the way it was when Anna first laid eyes on him. He smoothed it back and secured it in a ponytail. She'd forgotten how beautiful he was.
"We had a little problem in Pennsylvania." He took off his jacket, loosened his shoelaces. "Poppy disappeared."
"What? What do you mean, disappeared?" Anna stood, turned toward the door as if some part of her believed he was lying.
"Anna, please," he said, and led her back to the couch. "Let me say this before my girl comes in, okay?"
Anna couldn't catch her breath and her head was pounding. "How could you do this to me? Call me and disrupt my life, get my hopes up again of seeing Poppy and not bring her back?"
"I tried. I did. We've been having problems. This visit was her idea. She was actually looking forward to it. But she has this mood thing. The closer we got to you the more she got cold feet. In Pennsylvania, we stopped for breakfast. The next thing I knew, there was a note on the windshield saying she'd changed her mind. That Flynnie and I should go on without her. She said she'd check in from the road. She'll be here later. That's what her note said, anyway."
"How could you do this? Why didn't you go and find her? Disappeared where?"
"Poppy has problems. She's always been moody. I can live with that.
But things have intensified in the past few years."
Anna started to speak, then heard Flynn's footsteps on the stairs.
"We'll talk about it later," Marvin said softly. "Flynn?"
"I am here," Flynn called from the stairwell.
"Come in and meet your grandmother."
"I'll be in shortly."
"I'll go get the rest of our luggage," Marvin said.
Anna was astonished: he'd already brought in enough stuff for two months. And not the ordinary things for a short stay, either. There was a carton of coffee mugs, one filled with pots and pans. Dishtowels. Both summer and winter clothes. They weren't visiting at all; they were moving in. She felt strained to her bitter limits.
When Anna looked up, Flynn was standing in the doorway holding a giant cat. She had on a pair of ancient optometrist's gogglesthe old-style optimeter doctors once used to test visionand a carrot stick in each nostril.
"You must be Flynn," Anna said.
"I am the walrus." She walked into the room.
Marvin walked in and dumped an armload of things on the floor. He looked over at his daughter. "I told you to put those goggles away, Flynn. Do you want a time-out?"
Flynn removed the goggles and the carrot sticks, frowned, and slumped cross-armed on the couch beside Anna. "Do you know that in a former lifetime I was married to Marvin, who is now my father, and that Poppy, my mother, was a blind cowherd who used to beg for grain. We were Hindu then. Marvin beat me."
Excerpted from Above The Thunder by Renée Manfredi. Copyright 2004 by Renée Manfredi . Excerpted by permission of McAdam Cage. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
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