Page 58 - WTP Vol. XI #3
P. 58

Ages of Juliette (continued from page 46)
eryone talked about their tiny fingers and toes?”
Her little sister nods and she tells her that babies don’t always have fingers and toes. They begin as zy- gotes, very tiny creatures in their mommies’ tummies. “So itsy bitsy, they don’t even have arms and legs,
let alone finger and toes. But then they start to grow and grow, and soon they have everything they’ll ever need. Arms and legs, and hands and feet. Necks and heads, tummies and bottoms. Everything.”
“Why do you do that?”
“Do what?”
“Open and shut your hand like that.”
She’s never told anyone about Portia... how could she tell someone about that sweet, imaginary telepathy that never fails to assure her everything will be all right. That no matter how badly she screws up, her secret sharer will accept her without question, sup- port her without fail, and forgive her without limit.
She gives her sister a distracting tickle, and Amy asks if she was ever a zygote.
“Everyone begins as a zygote.”
“Even Melany’s twins? Even Taylor and Justin?”
Her book open before her, her little sister on her lap, and their altered universe at bay for a few minutes more, Juliette sing-songs. “Everyone... everyone... everyone... begins as a zygote.”
Amy’s singing along when their mother calls from below. “Hey, you guys, come downstairs. I have some-
thing to tell you. Come downstairs, guys. There’s something important you need to know.” And the
girl hears how her mother’s nearly chocking on her voice’s forced, bitter brightness, so she closes her book, sets her little sister off her lap, and opens her door. With every step down the stairs she feels the weighty role she’s always played—the good daughter, the reliable child—growing heavier. Her left hand opens and closes. She wants a drink.
Juliette at Seventeen
An April Sunday afternoon and at the birthday party for Melany’s twins, Hayes has manned the punch bowl on the dining room table. Juliette wants a refill of his famous Hurricane Rum Fun and holds out her cup. Her uncle gives her a wink.
“Having ourselves another big-girl drinky drinky, Juliette? Don’t worry, your secret’s safe with me.” Good-hearted Hayes has noticed that this is her second cupful, and she appreciates how he’s trying to tease her into cutting back.
But it’s spring, and she’s about to graduate, and what the hell. She locks her gaze onto his, then directs their joined eyes to the backyard, where a throng of four year olds is chasing her younger sister around the birdbath. Her hands high, Amy runs and trails a rivulet of blue and white paper streamers over her head.
Juliette takes a sip and clinches her left hand. “If dan- delions were red, Amy’s hair could be their fluff.”
“It’s a good thing your sister’s got that carrottop. It makes her stand out... you’re a tough act to follow, Juliette,” Hates says, referring to her top perch on the family tree’s “brainy” branch.
Besides Macalester and Swarthmore, she’s been ac- cepted at Davidson. She’s happy, yet somehow the “Dear Juliette Holbrook” in their acceptance letters seems to address someone else. Someone other than the Juliette Holbrook who cribbed her way through calculus and gave a boy a blowjob to write her Haver- ford essay.
Hayes’s rum punch nests itself nicely in the back of her head, and its tendrils massage the knot in her neck. Her smiles loosen. She raises her cup and salutes her uncle. “Excellent... truly excellent, Uncle Hayes. You’ll have to give me your secret recipe, so I can serve it at my wedding. Whenever that may be.”

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