Excerpt from 26a by Diana Evans, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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26a
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2005, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2006, 304 pages

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Late in the summer of 1980, Kemy knocked on the door (that was a rule) when the twins were trying to decide whether Ida and Aubrey should get a divorce or not. Georgia had put a jar of roses on the windowsill so that she could picture them while she was deciding, and sliced a nectarine for them to share afterward—the nectarine was their favorite fruit, because its flesh was the color of sunset. Bessi had wrapped her special duvet around her because she couldn't think when she was cold. Sky-blue slippers on their feet, they sat down in the strawberry corners and shut their eyes. They thought long and hard about it, drifting through possibles. Five minutes passed and ten minutes. Then, into the silence, Georgia said, "Mummy can't drive." Bessi had not thought of this. It was definitely important because they needed a car for shopping and getting Ham to the vet next week to see to his cold. A cold could kill a hamster.

That was a No.

What Bessi had been thinking about was the apple trees that were Her Responsibility. Ida liked to make pies, and Aubrey liked to eat them, so Bessi had to watch the apple trees all year round until the apples started thumping to the ground in September. Then she'd make the announcement, projecting her voice: "APPLE PIE TIME!" And everyone had to follow her with their baskets and stepladders and Safeway bags, even Bel with her hips. Bessi didn't know whether she could give up this position because she felt, in some way, it was important training for the future. And it was almost September. So now she murmured, "It's almost apple."

That was another No.

But if they did get a divorce, thought Georgia, they'd all get more sleep, wherever they were, and surely that was a yes.

But not if they ended up sleeping in Gladstone Park. And that wasn't definitely impossible.

Then Kemy knocked on the door, which was irritating because they hadn't gotten very far.

"What?" they moaned.

"Can I come in?"

"No," said Bessi, "we're deciding."

"What about?" Kemy was disappointed. "I want to too."

"No. Go away," said Georgia. "'Simportant."

Kemy was five and didn't know what simportant meant, so she started crying. "I'm telling Daddy you're deciding," she shouted, and stamped downstairs.

Georgia and Bessi adjourned the divorce decision, agreeing that it would be best to wait until after the vet and after this year's apples. And anyway, "It's not up to us," Bessi pointed out, taking apiece of nectarine. "No," said Georgia, "it's up to Bel."

 

IN THE MORNINGS they went first into the sun lounge to check on Ham and then out into the garden for the apples and the roses. They put their anoraks on—Georgia's red and blue, Bessi's yellow and green—over their pajamas when it was cold. It was usually cold because heating was expensive in the sun lounge (thin walls, a plastic corrugated roof ) and there was no heating outside unless it was summer. They understood that. It would be a waste of money to put heaters along the fence outside. Imagine how much it would cost to heat all the outsides in the world. Probably more than three hundred pounds.

Georgia climbed the stepladder and unhooked the hose from the wall. Ham watched. He'd been awake for hours watching the hazy dawn pull in the morning. Today, a Wednesday, he was especially not happy. Wednesdays were hard and the twins understood this too. It was the being in the middle of the beginning and the end when things tumbled, things tossed. The day was reluctant and didn't know what to wear. It dreamed and reached out for dusk, but people carried on as if it was Tuesday, or Friday, as if time's moods didn't matter. This was confusing for Ham and the twins, but they did the best they could to join in.

From 26a by Diana Evans, pages 1-17.  Copyright Diana Evans.  All rights reserved.  Reproduced with the permission of William Morrow Publishing.

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