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Authors: Judy Blume

Smart Women (8 page)

BOOK: Smart Women
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Oh, why did he have to go and ruin things? Why couldn’t he just have continued to be a good husband, going to work, playing with the kids, not getting in the way?

The year Francine was named first vice-president of Pride Properties, Aunt Sylvie died of stomach cancer and a year later, right after the unveiling, Uncle Morris married her mother. “I’m happy as a lark, Francie,” her mother said. “All in all, I think Aunt Sylvie would be pleased, don’t you? And if she wouldn’t, what can I say? Life is for the living.”

Andrew began to talk about taking a leave from the paper to write a book.

“What kind of book?” Francine asked.

“I don’t know yet.”

“When you know we’ll discuss it,” she told him.

But they never got around to discussing it because two months later Bobby was killed.

7

S
ARA WAS HELPING HER FATHER
clean out his truck. It was a mess from his long drive cross-country. Her father chewed pack after pack of gum on the road. He said it helped him to stay awake. So his truck was full of Juicy Fruit wrappers and when you were riding in it, with the windows open, the wrappers blew all over the place.

Sara’s mother still hadn’t accepted the idea of Daddy living in Boulder. If she had she wouldn’t be making such a big thing out of Sara seeing him. And Sara wouldn’t have to sneak over to his place, the way she had today. She would just be able to say,
I’ll be at Daddy’s after school. I’ll be home by six.

And then Mom would say,
Okay, Sweetie . . . see you then.

Daddy’s place wasn’t much—just this little apartment over Mr. Hathaway’s garage, at the end of a long dirt road, which was bumpy and eroded from the summer rains and hard to manage on her bicycle. Twice she had fallen off and scraped her knees.

Sara was helping him fix up the apartment, trying to make it feel more like a home. Last Sunday they had shopped for a cast iron frying pan because her father said it was impossible to cook eggs evenly without one. They had also bought some plants and three posters. Daddy had hung Sara’s favorite poster, three coyotes wearing roller skates, over the sofa in the living room. The sofa pulled out into a bed and that’s where Sara was going to sleep when she had overnights. Daddy promised that soon she would come for the whole weekend. But for now she should just be patient and not discuss the subject with her mother.

Sara was allowed to visit her father only on Sundays, from ten until six. But what her mother didn’t know wouldn’t hurt her. Besides, that was such a dumb rule. For the first time in six years her father was living nearby. And until next week, when school started full time, she had every afternoon free and her father did too. So why shouldn’t they spend their time together? After all, that had been the whole idea.

S
ARA’S FATHER HAD COME UP
with the plan last April, while Sara was visiting over spring break. They were sailing in Biscayne Bay that day and Daddy seemed really lonely. “I wish I could see you more often,” he had said.

“I wish I could see you too.”

“I wish you could live with me for a while.”

“That would be nice.”

“Really?” Daddy asked. “You mean it?”

“Well, sure . . . but I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“I can’t leave Mom . . . she needs me.” Sara hoped that her father wouldn’t say that he needed her too, because then she wouldn’t know what to do.

Her father understood. And that was when the idea first hit him. Since Sara couldn’t leave Boulder to be with him, he would come there to be with her. And that way she would be able to see him whenever she wanted. At the time it had seemed like a very good idea.

Later, Sara wasn’t so sure.

Sara’s parents never talked on the phone or wrote letters, like some of Sara’s friends’ parents who were divorced. But they never fought either, which Jennifer said was the pits. Jennifer’s parents were always fighting about money and visiting rights and each other’s lovers, especially since Jennifer’s mother had a new baby from her lover.

Sara’s mother didn’t have a lover now, but she used to have one named Mitch. He had made her mother cry all the time. Sara had hated him.

Sara had this fantasy that when her parents saw each other again they would realize that they still loved each other and would get married a second time. Then both her parents would live not only in the same town but in the same house. That could happen. Jennifer knew this family who had been divorced for seven years and then the parents got married again. But Jennifer wasn’t sure that was a good idea because if they didn’t get along the second time you had to go through a whole other divorce.

Sara had been only six when her parents were divorced. Before the divorce they’d lived in a big house in Florida. Sara had a room with a door to the patio so she could wake up early and go swimming in the pool. Except she wasn’t allowed in unless someone was there to watch, even though she was a really good swimmer. But it was silly to think that just because someone was watching you were going to be okay. Even if it was Daddy. Because Bobby had been with Daddy when the accident happened.

There were no pictures of Bobby in their house. It was as if there never was a Bobby. Sara said that she was an only child. That’s the way her mother wanted it. Sometimes she felt like saying,
I had a brother, but he died.
But she didn’t say it. It would have upset her mother too much. Besides, it all happened a long time ago.

Sara had a picture of the four of them. Mom, Daddy, Bobby, and herself, but she kept it hidden away under the false bottom of her jewelry box. Bobby was only ten when he died, younger than Sara was now. If he were still alive Bobby would be a teenager. Sara wondered what it would be like to have a teenaged brother. Would they be friends or would they fight all the time?

When Daddy’s book was published he sent her a copy. Inside he had written,
To my darling Sara, I hope some day you will understand. I love you very much, Daddy.
Sara was just nine when the book was published and she didn’t understand all of it, except that it was about a family something like theirs, but not exactly. And in it there was an accident and the youngest child was killed. A boy. Daddy called him David. On the back of the book there was a picture of Daddy before he grew his beard. He was sitting on the sea wall wearing his favorite jacket, the denim one with the torn pocket.

Sara’s mother caught her reading the book one time and threatened to take it away from her, but Sara had cried, so her mother let her keep it. She told Sara that she never wanted to see it again. So Sara kept it hidden in the bottom of her closet, in her game box.

S
ARA WAS STILL STUFFING
the gum wrappers from her father’s truck into a trash bag when a blue Subaru drove down the dirt road and pulled into the driveway. Sara was really surprised when Margo and her kids got out. She wondered what they were doing here.

Her father, who was hosing out the back of the truck, stopped when the car pulled into the driveway and called, “Hello . . .”

“Oh, hello,” Margo said.

“Who is that?” Sara heard Michelle ask Margo.

“Andrew Broder,” Margo told her.

“B.B.’s husband?” Michelle asked.

“Former husband,” Margo said.

Daddy walked over to their car. Sara climbed out of the truck and followed him.

“How are you today?” he asked Margo. Sara was surprised that her father knew Margo.

“Okay . . . how about you?” Margo said to her father.

“Much better,” her father said.

What did he mean? Sara wondered. Had he been sick?

“Were you sick?” Michelle asked.

“No,” Sara’s father said, laughing. “I passed out in the hot tub a few nights ago.”

The hot tub? Sara thought. What hot tub?

“Our hot tub?” Michelle asked him.

“Yes,” her father said. “I guess the heat was too much for me.”

“Andrew,” Margo said, “I’d like you to meet my children, Stuart and Michelle. Kids, this is Andrew Broder.”

Her father wiped his hands on his jeans, then he and Stuart shook hands. Michelle kept her hands in her pocket.

Then her father turned to her. “And this is my daughter, Sara.”

“We already know each other, Daddy,” Sara said, embarrassed.

“Oh, right,” her father said. “I forgot . . . it’s a small town.”

“I used to babysit Sara,” Michelle said.

“A long time ago,” Sara said, to set the record straight. “When I was just a little kid.”

“You mean a little brat,” Michelle said.

“You weren’t the greatest babysitter,” Sara said.

Then Margo laughed a little and said, “Well, Sara . . . how was your summer?”

“Very nice. I went to camp near San Diego.”

“Yes, I know,” Margo said. “Your mother told me you were going.”

“And I started junior high this year,” Sara said, more to Michelle and Stuart than to Margo.

“Wow . . . junior high,” Michelle said.

“Which school . . . Casey?” Stuart asked.

“Yes.”

“Watch out for Mr. Loring. I’ve heard he fails half his class every year just for smiling.”

“Really?” Sara asked. “For smiling?”

Michelle snorted. “I’m going inside.”

“Same here,” Stuart said. “Nice to meet you, Mr. Broder.”

“Andrew,” Sara’s father said.

“Andrew,” Stuart repeated, shaking her father’s hand again.

“I’ll be in in a minute,” Margo called after her kids.

Then Margo and her father just stood there, looking at each other. “Well . . .” Margo finally said, “those are my kids.”

Sara did not move.

“How about a movie tonight?” her father said to Margo.

“No, not tonight,” Margo said.

“Tomorrow night?”

“I don’t know,” Margo said. “We’ll see.” She looked over at Sara.

“Maybe I could go with you, Daddy. I could ask Mom . . .”

“That would be nice,” her father said. “Say, could you run inside and get me that vinyl spray cleaner for the front seat of the truck?”

“Now?” Sara asked.

“Yes, now.”

Sara knew he was trying to get rid of her. What did he have to say to Margo that he couldn’t say in front of her?

“Please . . .” he said.

“Okay . . . okay . . .” Sara said and she ran up the path leading to the Hathaway house. Probably her father wanted to tell Margo something about how Sara wasn’t supposed to be visiting today and that Margo shouldn’t mention it to Mom.

When Sara returned with the vinyl cleaner her father and Margo were standing close, talking. When they saw her, they stopped.

“I’ve got to go in now,” Margo said. “But maybe I will go to the movies with you some night . . . if something good is playing.”

“Let me know when you think something good is playing,” her father said.


Return of Frankenstein
is at the Fox,” Sara said.

Margo started to laugh. Then her father laughed too.

Sara didn’t see what was so funny, especially since
Return of Frankenstein
was a really scary movie.

8

B
.
B
.’S OFFICE WAS IN A STATELY FEDERAL HOUSE
on Spruce. She had restored it over the past few years and had rented the second floor to a State Farm insurance agent. The house itself was listed in the guidebooks as an historic site, dating back to 1877, and B.B. was as proud of it as she was of her home.

But now it was being painted inside. The painter had convinced B.B. to go with an oil rather than a waterbase paint. It would last longer and look richer, he’d said. She had gone along with him and that had turned out to be a mistake. The strong odor was causing everyone in the office to feel headachey and nauseous and her secretary, Miranda, could not stop wheezing. B.B. assured them all, as well as the insurance agent upstairs, that the painting would be finished by Friday and that she, personally, would make sure the house was aired out all weekend so that on Monday, when they came back to work, the odor of the paint would be gone.

It had also been a mistake to agree to have the house painted during the first week of school. She should have arranged to keep her afternoons free, to make plans with Sara to go into Denver to the museum, or shop—anything. She did not like the idea of Sara hanging out after school. Now that she had started junior high B.B. would have to keep a careful eye on her. Sara would be exposed to drugs, to sex, to kids without values. And it was up to B.B. to make sure that Sara did not stray. It made her dizzy to think of all the problems that lay ahead.

BOOK: Smart Women
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