Sweet Saturday Samples

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This week for Sweet Saturday Samples, I’m using an excerpt from Chapter 37 of Adicia’s story, “The Year the World Went Up in Flames,” about the tumultuous year of 1968. The rating is PG-13, and please note, if you’re offended by this sort of thing, that it’s a girl-girl love scene. This coupling was never a part of my original story outline, but as the book wore on, the more natural and right it seemed for these two to become more than best friends. This is also the beginning of Girl’s transition to Deirdre.

I’ve included the girls’ soundtrack for their first kiss. I won Bookends as a college graduation present for myself on eBay in 2002, after it never showed up at the local record store. For a long time, it was one of the LPs I had on display for the great cover art.

***

“People in power can be such jerks,” Girl proclaims as she drops the new Simon and Garfunkel album Bookends onto the turntable. “I’m glad I still have you to cling to with everything crazy going on lately.”

“Six years this March we’ve been best friends,” Ernestine nods. “And what an incredible six years they’ve been.  It seems like a lot longer, but I remember Emeline once said time passes a lot more slowly when you’re younger.  To a grownup, six years is no big deal, but to us, it seems like a miniature eternity. The cover of this record reminds me of us.  So many times we’re like one person with two heads, thinking with the same brain, joined at the hip.  We think the same thing even before the other person shares it, like how we both decided John was our favorite Beatle, and that Peter was our favorite Monkee.”

“We’re soulmates, I believe.  There are many types of soulmates—lifelong best friends, romantic lovers, even partners who write songs or act together.  Remember how Emeline read that thing from Plato at Allen and Lenore’s wedding, about how there was once three races of human beings till Zeus split them all in half?  Maybe we’re descended from the race that once consisted of two women.” Girl smiles at her, giving her the kind of look several other people have seen them exchanging recently. “Will you be my friend forever, just like it says in the one song on side one, even until we are seventy?”

“Of course I will.  Call me crazy, but I useta assume I’d get a boyfriend and eventually marry when I was older, just like everyone else, but lately I’ve been feeling I don’t need a guy.  All I want is you.  You’re not just my best friend, but the soulmate I wanna be with throughout life.  I hope you don’t think that makes me mentally ill.  I didn’t plan to start feeling that odd way about you.  I mean, I did tell my second grade teacher that if most boys are so stupid they wouldn’t wanna marry a girl who wants to keep her last name, then maybe I’d hafta marry another girl, but I never dreamt I’d actually grow up to start having those kinds of feelings about my best friend.”

“Speak of the Devil.  I’ve been thinking much the same things about you, but I didn’t have the guts to tell you about it first.  I always assumed I’d get a boyfriend and then a husband once I was old enough, not that I’d start to get a crush on my very best friend I’ve known since I was nine.”

They look at one another awkwardly and nervously for a couple of very long minutes, not entirely sure what to do or say next.

Girl finally breaks the silence. “I don’t think anyone will suspect anything funny if we go on a date.  No one thinks anything of two girls going out socially or even living together, not like they often think weird things about two guys if they’re never seen out with women.”

“What exactly do you do on a date?  I mean, I know what you can do, but how is it different to go out to eat or the movies or something as friends versus a date?”

“We both do have better things to do with our time than go on dates, though.  You’re going back to school soon, and I have to do what I can to help with getting enough money to buy groceries, clothes, and treats.  How would it be if this was just our special little secret at first?  Ours is the love that dare not speak its name, after all.”

Propelled by adrenaline, her heart racing, Girl walks over to Ernestine as “Old Friends” is playing, puts her shaking arms around her, and kisses her.  Ernestine smiles a nervous smile at her and kisses her back.  Barely aware of what they’re doing, they walk over to their mattress and start making out as “Bookends,” the last track on side one, starts.  Ernestine involuntarily gasps when she feels Girl’s hand under her blouse.  So this is why Lenore said it felt so good to kiss, touch, and be touched when you’re with someone you really care about, she thinks as the needle automatically lifts off the last groove when neither of them gets up to flip it over.

“Oh, Girl,” she breathes.

“Deirdre.  My name is Deirdre to you from now on.  It ain’t my legal name yet, but it’ll be the special name between the two of us before I go official with it.”

Ernestine kisses her. “Deirdre.  I’ll never call you Girl again.  You’re my grownup lover Deirdre now, not the young girl simply known as Girl I met digging through the dumpster on Essex Street.”

Sweet Saturday Samples


(If you’re looking for the A to Z post, scroll to the one below this.)

This week for Sweet Saturday Samples, since the Western Easter is tomorrow, I’m jumping back quite a bit in Adicia’s story for an excerpt from Chapter 9, “Easter 1960.” Adicia is 5, Justine is 13 months, Ernestine is 8, Emeline is 11, and Lucine is 14. As always, the only holiday cheer Adicia and her sisters get comes from the festive meal at the Bowery Mission, where they also go for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I remembered in my original unfinished first draft, the girls went to some kind of big soup kitchen for Christmas and Thanksgiving, and I was very pleased to discover there really is a large soup kitchen and mission in their area, the wonderful Bowery Mission.

Ziessen Pesach and Happy Easter!

***

Adicia skips into the mission ahead of her sisters and Sarah and runs over to the nearest table with five empty place settings.  She can’t wait to be served the Easter dinner, since she knows it’ll probably be the last decent meal they’ll have a chance to eat until Thanksgiving.  The sight of the other Bowery guests makes her happy, knowing at least here they won’t be judged for not having pretty new Easter bonnets and dresses, or asked to compare Easter baskets.

Ernestine goes over to one of the mission workers, carrying the stroller and the wheel. “Excuse me, is there anyone here who can fix my baby sister’s stroller?  One of the wheels came off when we were walking to church this morning, and she’s not yet able to walk, so we’ve had to carry her around today.”

Justine smiles and coos at the mission worker from her snug place in Sarah’s arms.

“Of course we can find someone who can fix it.  We never turn away anyone who comes to us in need, particularly not on the holiest day of the year.  I’ll go get one of the handymen who works here, and we’ll come find you when it’s fixed.” The woman takes the wheel and stroller. “How old’s your sister?”

“Thirteen months,” Ernestine says proudly.

“You sure know how to make attractive girls,” the woman tells Sarah, smiling. “Are there any more besides these four?”

“Our other sister is sitting over there,” Emeline points. “We’ve also got some brothers and an older sister, who didn’t want to eat here.”

“Our oldest sister is celebrating Easter with friends, and our brothers are too proud to accept charity,” Lucine says.

“Our little brother made a big scene in church this morning,” Ernestine says. “When we were walking in, he asked loudly, ‘Who’s that on the cross?’  We went to an Episcopal church, and we usually go to Protestant churches, so he’d never seen a crucifix before.  I still don’t know how he could not know that was Jesus, even if we only go to church a few times a year.  That’s supposed to be one of the first things you learn at church!”

“I’d like to go to church more, but the other people are always judging our family when we go,” Lucine says. “On Christmas Eve the other kids were laughing about how we smelled bad.  I’m sorry, but if they’d taken a bath in cold bathwater a bunch of other people had already used without draining it, they’d smell bad too.  And they always look at us funny because our clothes aren’t as nice as theirs.”

“I’m very sorry to hear that.  I hope you know no one at this mission judges other people for not looking a certain way.”

“We love your mission!” Ernestine says.

Emeline leads the others over to Adicia.  Soon they’re being served delicious candied yams, cornbread rolls, lamb, hot cross buns, some kind of dish made with eggs, roasted vegetables, chicken, mashed potatoes, and candied orange slices, with milk, fruit juice, and sparkling water to drink.  Adicia always finds it hard to believe how so much delicious food can exist in such a dismal part of the city.

At the end of the meal, someone comes over to them to deliver the stroller, whose wheels are now all firmly attached.  The mission worker also gives Justine a stuffed white rabbit.  Justine doesn’t know what to do with it at first, since she’s never had any toys before.  Then she figures out it’s meant for hugging and cuddling, and falls asleep holding it as Sarah wheels her back home.

Mr. and Mrs. Troy are out drinking when they come back, and Carlos is hanging over the fire escape in his usual drug-induced state.  Sarah puts Justine down on a blanket on the floor to see if she needs her diaper changed.

Justine wakes up and smiles up at her sisters and Sarah. “Mama.”

“Did our baby just talk?” Emeline asks excitedly.

“Our baby just said her first words!” Ernestine echoes.

Adicia looks at her sadly. “No, not Ma-ma.  Sa-rah.  Our real mother is that other woman who lives here, the mean one who looks like she rolled out of a garbage dumpster.”

“Mama,” Justine repeats.

“She’ll learn soon enough, the way the rest of us did,” Lucine sighs.

“Maybe you can adopt us and take us away from this nasty place,” Ernestine suggests. “Then Justine can grow up seeing you as her real mother and not even knowing about the horrible woman who really gave birth to us.”

“I don’t tink any of us vill be leaving here anytime soon, unless a miracle happens,” Sarah says.

Emeline jumps up and runs into the bathroom. “Can anybody help me?” she calls. “I think I need a sanitary napkin, and I don’t have a belt yet!”

“Are you sure?” Lucine asks. “You’re only eleven!  Gemma and I were both twelve and a half, and some of the girls in my eighth grade classes still haven’t gotten theirs yet!”

“I’ll be twelve next month. And those goofy booklets and filmstrips did say some girls are younger than others.  You know I’ve been developing a bustline since I was even younger than this.”

Sarah gets two extra safety pins out of Justine’s diaper bag and goes in to help Emeline.  Lucine ducks into her bedroom to get a Modess pad from the big box Mrs. Troy buys every few months and embarrassedly dumps on her oldest daughters’ bed.

“Can’t you borrow Lucine’s belt?” Adicia asks.

“That’s not really sanitary,” Lucine says. “It’s like letting someone borrow underwear or a bathing suit.”

“Our mother does make us use hand-me-down swimsuits!”

“Will Emeline still be able to go swimming with us in the summer if she’s bleeding from that part of her body?” Ernestine asks.

“Not unless she’s using an applicator,” Lucine says. “According to the booklets and filmstrips, we’re not supposed to be in cold water or get chills, but I refuse to believe that’s true. Not too long ago, people used to think we’d die if we bathed or exercised then, and now we know that’s a bunch of malarkey.”

Adicia doesn’t understand much of what her older sisters are talking about.  She hopes with everything in her that their happy little quartet will continue as it always has, even though Lucine is soon to go to high school and Emeline has undergone the strange and secretive process that turns a girl into a young woman.  The one constant in her life, the friendship she shares with her sisters, means everything to her.  Without it, she would have to figure out a whole new way to navigate the rough hand she was dealt when she was born into a family plagued by poverty for generations.

Sweet Saturday Samples

This week’s excerpt for Sweet Saturday Samples again comes from Chapter 34 of Adicia’s story, “Changing Lives.” Adicia, her sisters, and their friends have come over to visit Lenore on the weekend, and discover some very exciting news.

Like Julie, my favorite Monkee has always been Davy too, and I also chose him because I thought he was the cutest. Had I discovered them at older than six, I’m pretty sure I would’ve chosen Peter as Ernestine and Girl have, but changing my favorite member of my first musical love would feel sacrilegious. It was like being kicked in the stomach to hear the news that Davy just passed away. There’s a blessing we make when we hear of a death, Baruch Atah Hashem, Elokeinu Melech HaOlam, Baruch Dayan HaEmet, Blessed are you, Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, Judge of Truth. May your memory be for an eternal blessing, dear Davy, and may your soul be bound up with the bonds of eternal life.

***

The first weekend in October, the girls arrive at Allen and Lenore’s apartment for their first visit since school began.  They’re very eager to hear all about the honeymoon Allen and Lenore took to Oyster Bay in Long Island the first weekend of September.

“Come sit down,” Lenore says, looking a little pale. “I haven’t been feeling so well lately, but I’m feeling well enough to show you our pictures and tell you all about our trip.”

“You’re not feeling well?” Justine asks. “I don’t want you to get sick again.  You can lie down on the sofa bed and we can sit around you as you show us the pictures.”

“You think you caught something in Long Island?” Girl asks. “Maybe you drank bad water or had fish with worms.”

“Does Allen know you’re not feeling well?” Ernestine asks. “I can’t imagine he would’ve just gone off to work had he known his bride wasn’t feeling well.  You know how overprotective he’s been of you since you almost died last year.”

“Enough about me,” Lenore says. “Why don’t you girls tell me about your lives first?”

“I’m here too,” Boy reminds them. “I hate being lumped together with all these girls.”

“Betsy turned us onto a really groovy new television show,” Ernestine says. “It’s called The Monkees and it airs on Monday nights.  Me, Julie, and Girl go over to the van Niftriks’ place to watch it.  We even got Baby into watching it.  She thinks they’re cute and can’t wait till we buy their album.”

“Baby’s really having her first celebrity crush?” Lenore asks. “She was just a little girl when I met her!”

“I’m nine now,” Baby says. “I was five when I met you.”

“Girl and I both like Peter best,” Ernestine says. “It’s like we share a brain.  And it’s the same way with how John is our favorite Beatle; we came to that choice by ourselves, without even knowing the other had made it.”

“I like Davy best,” Julie says. “I think he’s the cutest.”

“That was the same reason you picked Paul as your favorite Beatle,” Girl says. “I think they’re all cute too, but you should have a more solid reason for picking your favorite member of a group besides how cute he happens to be.”

“I don’t think I have a favorite,” Baby says. “I just think all four of ‘em are cute.”

“I wish I could watch that show,” Adicia says jealously. “My new friend Marjani’s parents would probably let me come over to watch it, since they have a television, but I don’t wanna walk alone after dark in Hell’s Kitchen.”

“What kinda name is that?” Lenore asks. “Is she foreign?”

“She’s a Negro, but she and her family don’t use that word.  They call themselves Black. That’s the new progressive word used by Negroes who are into their culture and equal rights.  She, her mother, and her older sister wear their hair in something called cornrows.  They look like tight little braids all over their heads, braided right against their heads instead of loose like Betsy’s braids.  They wear pretty colored beads in their braids.  She said their names are from a language called Swahili, which is used in some Western African countries.  Her name means ‘coral’ and her sister Subira’s name means ‘patience.’  Their brother Zuberi’s name means ‘strong.’  I don’t know if their parents have African names.  They’re just Mr. and Mrs. Washington to me.”

“They live in the tenement?” Boy asks. “I don’t remember you ever mentioning there was a Negro family there, though I know your mom hates that there are Puerto Ricans living there.”

“They live in an apartment about fifteen minutes walking distance away.  I’ve been over to their house a couple of times.”

“Wow,” Ernestine says. “How is Mother handling that?”

“I don’t think she even knows at this point.  All she knows is that I sometimes go to visit a new friend of mine who has a name that sounds a little funny.  Even if she knew, she’d probably grudgingly accept it like she accepts how Tommy always goes to visit his Puerto Rican friends on the second floor.  So long as we don’t bring our non-white friends over to the apartment, she’s okay.”

“Oh, Lenore, I got you and Allen a present,” Ernestine laughs. “It’s a single by some British group.  I thought of yous guys when I heard it, since it’s about a couple who meets the same way you met.”

“Someone actually made a song about a couple meeting at a bus stop?” Lenore asks in amusement. “Does the boy’s mother also accuse him of soliciting a hooker like your mother did?  I don’t know what kind of bus stops that woman has been hanging around if she’s so convinced the only reason to be there is to buy drugs or pick up girls of ill repute.”

“I think she’s smoked too much cocaine,” Adicia says.

“Excuse me for a moment. I think I’m going to be sick again.”

“Let me help you,” Ernestine says. “If you need to throw up, I can hold your hair back for you.  You’ve got so much of it.”

Lenore bolts into the bathroom and runs the water so they don’t have to hear her throwing up.  Girl and Ernestine rush into the kitchen to make chicken noodle soup, while Adicia puts some crackers on a plate and pours a glass of ginger ale.

“Are you gonna be okay?” Infant asks when Lenore comes back. “Why don’t you sit down and we’ll bring you some food as soon as it’s done being made.”

“Do you think it’s a stomach bug?” Julie asks. “I hope you’re not contagious.”

“I’ve been feeling really tired in the middle of the day, besides starting to vomit lately.  At least I’ve never thrown up when Allen’s home.  I’ve been having some weird dreams too.”

Girl looks at her with a slight grin. “Not that I was ever around her that much before she left, but I was five when my mother was pregnant with Baby and seven when she was having Infant.  I remember her getting tired in the middle of the day and throwing up a bunch.  She used to complain that morning sickness was the wrong name for it, since she didn’t only get sick in the mornings.  Do you think it’s possible?”

“I’d better not be.  That’s the last thing we need, after we spent a pretty penny on our wedding and just had a five-day honeymoon.  And I’m not even working now, though I did get my GED over the summer.”

“When did you last menstruate?” Ernestine asks. “For all anyone knows, maybe it really is a stomach bug, but you are newlyweds. I’ve heard stories of newlyweds getting careless with their birth control, since they no longer have to worry about a scandal if something happens.”

“August. But it’s normal sometimes to skip.  It’s only the first day of October now.”

“When in August?” Girl asks. “Can you remember?”

“Probably earlier in August.  I actually did forget my birth control pills when we went on our honeymoon—“

“What! How could you forget them, particularly when you don’t want a kid right away?  Were you thinking with newlywed brain?”

“I always keep them in the medicine cabinet, not my purse.  It slipped my mind to check the medicine cabinet for anything we needed to take.  This was during the last active week, and then came the week where you’re supposed to have your menses.  I just thought it was a little late in arriving.”

“Honeymoon babies are so romantic,” Girl says. “They’re like wedding night babies, a special reminder of how in love newlyweds are.”

Sweet Saturday Samples

This week’s excerpt for Sweet Saturday Samples is another sample from Chapter 33 of Adicia’s story, “Four Graduations and a Wedding.” It’s 29 July 1966, and Adicia, her sisters, and their friends are getting ready for Allen and Lenore’s wedding. They’re gathered in the dressing room of Father and Mrs. Murphy’s church in Midtown, the Episcopal Church of Christ Our Friend and Savior. I’ve included the processional music.

***

“Isn’t it nice to be a girl?” Adicia asks as they’re changing into their dresses. “The guys in the wedding party don’t get to wear pretty dresses and have their hair done all special.  All they’re doing is putting on suits.”

“We get our own special entrance too,” Justine says. “The guys are only entering by a side door and don’t even get their own special march up the aisle.”

Ernestine, Lucine, and Emeline start doing their makeup after they’ve put on their dresses.  Adicia looks at them wistfully, wishing she were old enough to wear makeup, while Girl cares less to put any on in spite of being fourteen.

“Why are you putting on makeup, Lenore?” Baby asks. “Allen says he likes you just the way you already look, with no makeup.”

“Makeup shows up better in pictures, and it’s fun to wear it on special occasions.  I’m not anti-makeup, just that I was never that interested in caking it all over my face to try to look prettier.”

“Can I wear a little too, just this once?” Adicia begs as Lenore puts on green eyeshadow. “I don’t wanna look like a little kid in the photos when I’m twelve.”

“You can take the stuff I’m supposed to wear,” Girl says.

“You have to put on makeup, Girl,” Ernestine pleads. “How can a teenage bridesmaid not wear any?”

“I cracked about wanting to wear a girly dress.  I ain’t cracking about the makeup.”

“Just this once?” Julie asks. “I’d like to wear makeup too.”

Adicia fiddles with the lapis lazuli bracelet she got as her bridesmaid gift. “We don’t have to look like girls of ill repute if we wear a little makeup.  I am going into junior high in the fall.”

“Okay, I’ll help you,” Lucine says. “I have blue eyeshadow for Adicia and a pale plum shade for Julie, to match your dresses.  You can wear a little lipstick too.”

“Your hair is pretty, Lenore,” Baby says. “I’ve never seen you wearing it up before.  It looks a lot nicer in that up style than that horrible beehive thing Gemma wears her hair up in.”

“Don’t say that to Gemma’s face when you see her today,” Lucine warns. “I think the beehive thing is heinous too, but I won’t tell her.  She’s always been about the latest fashions and won’t change her mind if someone tells her her hair or clothes look stupid.”

“I feel like a clown,” Girl complains when Emeline comes over and starts putting lipstick on her. “I’ll never wear this junk again after today.”

“I’m not really into makeup myself, but it’s nice to play dress-up once in awhile,” Emeline says.

Twenty minutes later, Infant goes to the door and peeks out toward the hall.  She can see the guests starting to arrive.  Gemma and the van Niftriks are among them.  When it looks as though everyone is in the church and seated, the cheerful trilling strains of Handel’s “Water Music” start to fill the air.

“It must be time to line up!” Ernestine says nervously. “Does everyone remember her place?”

“Take your bouquets,” Lucine reminds them. “It doesn’t matter which one, since they’re all identical except Lenore’s.”

Adicia grabs her small bouquet of baby’s breath, irises, and gladioluses and rushes to take her place second in the line.  There’s a brief moment after “Water Music” ends, and then Ernestine starts slowly walking up the aisle as they hear the starting notes of “Benedictus.” When Adicia hears the first few syllables of the word Benedictus starting, she begins her walk, remembering to make eye contact and smile.  Julie starts her processional at the word “qui,” Girl starts up at “in nomine,” Baby begins at the first repetition of “in nomine,” Infant begins at the second repetition, and Emeline makes her entrance as the maid of honor at the third “in nomine Domini.” Giovanni goes up at the final “in nomine,” and finally Justine makes her entrance as the flower girl at the final line, one final “in nomine Domini.”

Adicia smiles at them when they’re all at the altar, not only happy to be a bridesmaid at her beloved big brother’s wedding but also to have been escorted down the aisle by such a beautiful, angelic-sounding song that didn’t make her feel afraid or nervous.  A part of her almost wishes her mother would know about Allen and Lenore’s choice of music, since it wouldn’t be a bad thing if such a miserable woman and disgrace to motherhood really did have a double heart attack at the thought of her own offspring selecting a song taken from the Latin Mass and sung by two Jewish musicians.

Everyone stands up and turns when Lenore’s processional song starts.  Allen falls in love with Lenore all over again when he sees her carrying a bouquet of wildflowers, wearing makeup for the first time since he’s known her, a long lacy veil down the back of her hair, her hair worn in a soft updo, faux diamond barrettes in her hair, and wearing the ivory velvet gown with chiffon sleeves, which makes her look like a Medieval or Renaissance princess.  He doesn’t even care if the entire congregation and the wedding party see him tearing up in public.

Lenore smiles at him and joins her hands in his when she reaches the altar, handing her bouquet to Emeline.  She and the bridal party exchange smiles too before turning their attention to Father Murphy as he delivers the opening benediction.

Sweet Saturday Samples

This week’s edition of Sweet Saturday Samples is taken from Chapter 33 of Adicia’s story, “Four Graduations and a Wedding.” It’s mid-May of 1966, and everyone’s going to Long Island for oldest sister Gemma’s graduation from Hofstra. Adicia is very excited to take a bus across the Brooklyn Bridge, even more excited to ride a real train, and most excited of all to go to a real beach.

***

“Did you all bring your bathing suits?” Julie asks. “Mrs. van Niftrik took us shopping for them.  I don’t think any of us besides Ernestine has ever even gone swimming.”

“Lenore took Justine and me up to Macy’s to buy them,” Adicia says. “Mine is a pretty blue with yellow flowers, and Justine’s is pink with blue flowers.”

“Might the future Mrs. Troy be wearing a two-piece bathing suit at the beach?” Allen whispers to Lenore.

Lenore blushes. “It’s a one-piece green swimsuit with a skirt attached, so it doesn’t show off too much of my body.”

“You really didn’t have to take us with you on your beach trip to see your oldest sister,” Girl says. “Folks from our social class don’t come by that kinda dough overnight.  You’ll hafta work overtime now to get it back.”

“It’s my treat,” Allen insists. “When you grow up poor and come into a little bit of money when you’re a grownup, you wanna indulge yourself from time to time.  I still have enough set aside for the basics.”

When the bus stops in Long Island, Adicia, Justine, and Ernestine pick up their schoolbags and Ernestine’s friends pick up the pillowcases where they packed enough clothes and entertainment to last the weekend.  Allen and Lenore have packed their things in actual suitcases.  Adicia wonders if she’ll ever be able to pack her things in a suitcase, or if she’ll ever own enough things to fit in a normal-sized suitcase.

“It’s a real train!” Justine shouts when they walk up to the train station. “Just like in the old pictures I’ve seen in my schoolbooks!”

“It’s a modern train,” Allen says. “Those pictures you’ve seen were probably old-fashioned steam locomotives.  Trains have come a long way since then.”

“1966 really is our best year ever!” Adicia declares as the train comes into view. “The only way it could get better would be if Justine and I moved out of our parents’ house and back with you and Lenore!”

“Can I give you and Lenore the seashells I wanna collect?” Justine asks. “Knowing Tommy, he’d smash them and laugh in my face if he found them.”

“Of course you can, sweetie,” Lenore says. “We can even search for shells together.”

“There are also a lot of pretty rocks on the seashore,” Ernestine says. “I hear some people have a hobby of collecting rocks.”

“Can we take back any little animal friends, like hermit crabs, fish, or seahorses?” Baby asks. “I’d like a pet.”

“It’s not very nice to take strange animals away from their homes and families,” Girl says. “How would you like it if you were a hermit crab and some child on vacation kidnapped you?”

“Maybe someday we’ll have some kind of pet,” Ernestine says.

Adicia excitedly scrambles aboard.  After she, her sisters, and their friends have put their luggage in the baggage compartment above their seats, they start wandering the aisles and exploring their new surroundings.

“You might wanna keep seated,” Allen calls. “Hempstead isn’t too far from here.  It’s not like we’re going all the way out to the Hamptons.”

“Who are the Hamptons?” Baby asks.

“They’re not people,” Girl smiles. “The Hamptons are a bunch of villages on the east end of Long Island.  A lot of rich folks have beach homes there.”

“You mean we’re not allowed to wander around the train?” Infant asks sadly. “When will we ever get to take another train ride?”

“You’re not forbidden to walk around, but I think they like people, particularly kids, to stay seated,” Allen says. “Besides, with the train stopping so soon, we don’t wanna get separated.”

They reluctantly take their seats and try to compensate by people-watching and looking through the windows.  Adicia thinks Long Island’s a lot prettier than Manhattan.  The streets aren’t crowded with high-rise buildings, and the residents aren’t forced to be crammed on top of one another. People here also live in houses and have their own yards where they can grow flowers and fruit trees.

“Do you think someday we’ll have our own houses?” she asks as the train pulls into Hempstead.

“You bet,” Lenore says. “I want my kids to grow up with a yard to play in and a real house that’s all their own, not some apartment you have to share with a bunch of neighbors and pay to live in every month.”

“I’d like a mansion if I ever get enough money,” Justine says. “It’d have twenty bedrooms, so we all could live there together.”

“How are we getting to our hotel?” Girl asks. “I don’t think this city has a beach.”

“You’ll see,” Lenore says.

The depot is full of people, but Adicia manages to spot Emeline, Lucine, and Gemma in the crowd.  She and Justine run over to them, tugging the others with them.  Gemma is wearing a bouffant hairstyle and a skirt showing her knees, while Lucine and Emeline are wearing sundresses going to their mid-calves and wearing their hair long, loose, and natural as always.  Adicia thinks it looks like Gemma’s got a beehive on top of her hair and can’t understand why this is such a popular hairstyle.  Ernestine and Girl meanwhile think it’s very daring for her to show her knees, and wonder if they can start wearing skirts like that.  They’ve heard women used to be arrested for showing so much skin, and feel very lucky they’re growing up now instead of fifty or a hundred years ago.

“We’re parked a short walk from here,” Lucine says. “Gemma will take Allen, Lenore, Adicia, and Justine, I’ll take Ernestine, Julie, Girl, and Baby, and Emeline will take Boy and Infant.”

“You know how to drive?” Ernestine asks. “When did that happen?”

“When you live on the island, you need to know how to drive,” Gemma shrugs. “Lucine got driving lessons her freshman year at Hunter and got her license on her nineteenth birthday.  Emeline didn’t learn to drive yet, so you two will be going in a taxi with her.”

“You own cars?” Boy asks.

“They’re rentals,” Lucine says. “I wanted to learn to drive while I was still young enough to learn it well, and have that skill before I move outta the city.”

“We’ll be going in real cars?” Baby asks. “I’ve never ridden in a car before!”

“I rode in a police car once,” Adicia says. “Emeline, Tommy, Justine, Allen, and our mother were there too.  It was when that cop was taking us to see Carlos in the hospital after his accident.  I even got to wear a seatbelt, since I sat in the front seat.”

“These cars have seatbelts in the front seats too,” Lucine says. “You can put your luggage in the trunks.”

They all take in the fresh air as they go to the parking lot.  It’s a pity they’ll only be here over a weekend and then have to get back to reality in Manhattan, but it’s nice to get away for a little while.  Adicia tells herself that if she ever gets enough money, she’ll always take a vacation to a beach at this time of year, and stay there longer than just one weekend.  Justine, Baby, and Infant meanwhile are so overcome with excitement at the thought of staying at the seashore that they don’t even care they don’t have any beach toys to play with.  It’s enough that they’ll be going in the water and feeling the sand between their toes.

Lucine’s rental is a blue Volkswagen Beetle, and Gemma’s is a yellow Chrysler.  Boy and Infant don’t even care they’ll only be riding in a taxi, since to them a car is a car.  They try to remember their false names as they get into the cab with Emeline.  Infant is still overcome with fear at remembering how to spell her new name.  She knows the average person will probably assume she’s saying Eva with a lisp, but she’ll never be able to remember that funny Irish spelling Girl showed her.  It doesn’t make any sense to her to have three vowels in a row.

“I’m David,” Boy says. “That’s my sister Aoife.  We have two other sisters, but they’re going to our hotel in other cars.”

“Pretty name,” the driver smiles back at her. “I think you’re the first blonde Eva I’ve ever met.  All the Evas I’ve known had dark hair.”

“I’m Irish.  It’s the Irish form of Eva.  At least, I’m part Irish.  I don’t know enough about our family history to know if we’re Irish on both sides all the way back.”

“I’m not surprised.  It seems like about half the population of Manhattan is of Irish ancestry.  I have an Irish great-grandmother on my mother’s side myself.  Your older friend said she’s half French and half Belgian.”

“Our last name is Ryan,” Boy says. “ Our mother had an Irish name too.”

The girls in the other cars wave at them as the three cars pull out of the lot and start driving towards the hotel on the beach.  Justine stands up in the backseat and waves her rabbit’s paw at them too.

“That’s my best friend Justine,” Infant says. “Someone at a mission in my old neighborhood gave her that bunny at Easter when she was thirteen months old.  It’s been her friend ever since.  It’s just like in some story Emeline told us once, about some little boy who gets a stuffed rabbit for Christmas and loves it so much that it eventually turns into a real rabbit.”

The Velveteen Rabbit,” Emeline provides. “Isn’t that a beautiful story?  When someone loves you enough, even if you’re run-down and shabby-looking, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of you.  You’re beautiful and real to the people who love you.”

Gemma’s car is the first to arrive at the hotel.  Adicia and Justine scramble out and gaze at the seashore, only a short distance from the hotel.  They impatiently wait for Allen and Lenore to get their luggage and go into the main office to check in, so eager are they to put on their swimsuits and head down to the beach to swim, bask in the sun, and feel the warm sand underfoot.