Excerpt from The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Garden of Small Beginnings

by Abbi Waxman

The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman X
The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman
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    May 2017, 368 pages

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"Kind of. I met him at an opening."

"Cute?"

She grinned at me. "No, repulsive, with knock-knees and a squint. I thought it was time to broaden my horizons."

"Nice."

"Mommy?"

I looked down. Clare had appeared. "Yes, honey?" I tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, smoothing her cheek. The physical perfection of a small child is sometimes too much to deal with. Did the kid even have pores?

"I want to paint."

"Not now, sweetie. Dinner's ready."

"But I really, really want to." Sadly, the physical perfection is often paired with immense self-interest. The strand of hair popped out, and I started to reach for it again.

"I hear you, honey, but now is not a good time. Maybe in the morning."

"No. Now." Clare was hungry, apparently. She ducked her head away, not letting me tidy her hair.

"Go tell your sister to come and sit down for dinner, OK?"

She debated throwing a fit about the painting, the struggle between hunger and rage apparent in her puckered brow. Rachel intervened, picking her up and carrying her, upside down, to get Annabel. I tossed the drained spaghetti; threw in the egg, cheese, bacon, butter, and onions; and stirred it fast to cook the egg. Carrying the pan across to the table, I beat the kids to it, and by the time they sat, their dinner was steaming on their plates. I gave myself a small round of applause because no one else was going to do it.

Rachel looked up at me. "You can join me on my date, if you like. I'm sure this guy has a friend." She put a forkful of food in her mouth. "Actually, I hope he has more than one, but the squint could be putting people off."

I frowned at her. "Don't be silly." I never talked about dating in front of the kids, which made it easy to avoid the topic completely, as they were always there. I wasn't ready to date, the kids weren't ready for me to date, and, in fact, I was planning on not dating until they finished college. I would encourage them to take a year off first, to tour Europe. Plus there was the strong possibility of several years of postgraduate studies. I was safe for at least two decades, at which point my lady parts would have fused together like Barbie anyway.

I got drinks for everyone, a plate for myself, and finally sat down.

"Mommy," Annabel said. She was twirling spaghetti around her fork, a freshly acquired skill. Often the twirling went on much longer than it needed to, but these things take practice.

"Yes, sweets?" I reached for extra cheese.

"Did I tell you that I have a boyfriend?"

I flicked a glance at Rachel. "Nope. Who's that?"

"James."

OK, at least it was a kid I knew. An actual kid, not an imaginary kid.

"Really? I like James. He's nice." I filled my mouth with spaghetti and thanked God for the Italians. Spaghetti, pizza, ice cream. If they weren't so busy making love and whizzing around on Vespas, they'd probably rule the world.

Annabel made a face.

"He's silly. But he's my boyfriend."

"Does he know it?"

She looked scandalized. "No! Of course not!"

Rachel looked at Clare.

"Do you have a boyfriend, too?"

"No, I'm married." Clare had a mouthful of spaghetti, but she smiled around it.

"Oh yeah?" Rachel kept eating. "Who are you married to?"

"Frank."

Frank banged his tail on the ground, hearing his name.

"Huh. Did you know your husband has worms?"

Clare nodded.

Annabel was patient but firm. "Clare, you can't marry the dog." She put down her fork.

"I did. It's done." This was one of Clare's favorite things to say. "It's done" covered a lot of things, like drawing on the wall, peeing on the floor, eating candy. It's done, nothing can be changed, it's over. She was all about closure, that one.

"But people can't marry dogs."

Excerpted from The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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