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A House For Me

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A hill is a house for an ant, an ant.
A hive is a house for a bee.
A hole is a house for a mole or a mouse
And a house is a house for me!

Possibly the strangest thing about the condominium was the feeling of being one cell in a tissue of cork.

That was a simplification, of course. There was also Lake Michigan out the living room window, stark and endless, and the odd compression of living in six rooms instead of nearly two dozen. But my awareness of strangers above and below and to either side was the first thing that struck me when Mother nervously ushered me out of the elevator, and it was the feeling I came back to that night when I couldn't sleep. I lay there in flannel sheets and did simple sums, how many people shared the building with us if you assumed an occupancy rate of 96% and an average family size of 2.67.

I wasn't sure whether more people would fill their rooms with people, like we had, or whether they might want a spare room or an office. Mother and Frank had debated it extensively, I knew, whether she could get by without a home office, whether we would feel crowded in summer when F came and I had to pack in with Andrea and Kirsty. She had never said so, but I thought she had made her decision on the basis of me: there was no possibility in such a small space of losing track of me again.

Likewise she had left the walls white, and hung the windows with vertical blinds rather than curtains, and the furniture was all very simple and modern, to the extent that the dining table was a large sheet of glass. Not that I was able to vanish into wallpaper or upholstery any more, but trying to see it from her point of view, I had to concede that it must feel safer not to take the chance.

My room was the one cluttered and motley space in the condominium, or it would be, once I unpacked. Right now it was floor-to-ceiling with boxes from our house in Bitter Creek. Mother didn't love that, but I'd had a bad few days after she suggested leaving all my tools and fabric and books behind when we moved to Chicago, and in the end she had let me pack as much as I could fit into fifty medium boxes, which sounded generous at first but completely ruled out the table saw and the drill press from the first go. It had been wrenching to leave them behind - to leave any of my father's tools - but, again, trying to see it from Mother's point of view, of course she had no fondness for the instruments of my disappearance. With the support of Kirsty and Andrea, I had won an exemption to the medium-box rule for my sewing machine, and between that and my bed and a trunk of clothes and things the room was quite stuffed. I already had plans to build customized shelves to manage everything, and to convert my bed to a Murphy bed so I'd have the floor space to work. Some sorts of projects, involving sawdust or solder or the like, you just don't want to do where you have to sleep.

Until I got all that done, though, the boxes lining the walls made the remaining space a snug nest. Perhaps a braided rug for the floor, I thought, that I could roll up out of the way when I needed to work, and fabric panels for the ceiling... quilted, maybe... so that I was insulated in all directions... I fell asleep thinking these thoughts.

A web is a house for a spider.
A bird builds its nest in a tree.
There is nothing so snug as a bug in a rug
And a house is a house for me!

Dear F, I wrote, The trip was tiring but endurable.

I contemplated the blinking cursor gravely.

I liked seeing the water towers. Even water sometimes wants to be in a house rather than laying out in the open..

There, F would be proud to know I'd looked out the windows instead of keeping my eyes on my knitting. I didn't so much mind being in cars - they were, after all, a little room for moving about outdoors without exposure to the elements, the appeal was obvious - but sometimes the speed of motion seemed excessive. Of course, the all-day journey from New York to Chicago had been quite long enough already, by far the longest I had ever been in a car, and I didn't want it drawn out any longer, either. Although I had started out with determination, as the trip wore on my fortitude had ebbed, and I had barely been able to get out of the car at our rest stops even armored in my hat and sunglasses.

I took a deep breath and deliberately looked away from the computer, out the living room window. Lake Michigan was grey in the thin January sunlight. It was part of my retraining to look out the window, if possible, whenever I started to think of the outdoors as hostile. I had gotten out of the car, I reminded myself, and I had ordered my own hamburger at the counter when Mother said "and for you, Anna?", and I had focused on the salty-greasy savor of it instead of thinking about the strangers watching me eat, and I wasn't going to explain all that to F in an email, but I thought he would be proud if he knew.

I closed the email with the usual pleasantries (that I was thinking of him, that I hoped his mother was well, that I looked forward to hearing from him in reply) and sent it off. I used the rest of my computer time for the day to see what was new in the rec.crafts.textiles hierarchy - there were interesting new threads in the needlework and quilting groups. Someone was looking for a pattern from a book of patterns that I thought I owned, unless it had been one that I'd had to lay aside when I ran out of space in my fifty boxes. It wasn't a book I ever used, but the size of my reference library itself had felt reassuring, like answers to any problems must be there sheerly on the basis of mass.

Well, if I had it, I would ask Mother to xerox the right pages and I would mail them off to Jenny530, or if I didn't, perhaps if I ever needed it someone else would xerox some pages to me. The internet was an amazing place full of people as excited about their projects as I was, people who appreciated my advice about French darts and had charts of bobbin compatibilities and embroidery-floss color conversions that they were eager to share. F had cautioned me that there were Usenet groups that weren't as nice as the rec.crafts part of things, and Frank had given me a very awkward talk about chat rooms, which I had concluded it might be best to stay away from entirely, but the whole thing seemed so clever and magical, like those first letters I had exchanged with F. Words, without the bother of faces! A whole world, from right there in the living room!

"Annnnna," Kirsty said from behind me, "It's my tuuuuurn." I apologized and retreated to my room, to see if I could find that book without opening too many of my fifty boxes.

A shell is a dwelling for shellfish:
for oysters and lobsters and clams.
Each snail has a shell and each turtle as well
But not any lions or lambs.

"Anna", Kirsty said, "Can I study here?"

She had poked her head in my door, which I was trying to leave open more often because I knew Mother liked it, and was hanging half-upside-down in the jamb like a sloth on a branch. (We had gone to the Lincoln Park Zoo in February, when Frank said it was less crowded than it would be in the warmer months. Kirsty had been disappointed that the outdoor animals were mostly off-exhibit, but I had been enthralled, having hardly seen animals before at all. I could have spent all day in the Small Mammal-Reptile House alone.)

"Yes," I said, "Of course, come in, but is something wrong with your room?"

Kirsty dumped herself and her backpack onto the braided rug with a sigh. I was at my desk in the corner, but I turned and looked down at her, and, when that wasn't enough, nudged her foot with my foot.

"I just hate sharing with Andrea," she said. "She mutters when she reads and she keeps taking my highlighters and I know it's just for not even a year but I never get the room to myself, unless she's out doing something and then I'm sad because I miss my friends, and - it's not fair!"

I felt bad. We all knew that making the two of them share and giving me the room to myself was a concession to my "history", as Frank liked to call it. Of course my tools and supplies constituted a sort of roommate of their own, in terms of volume, but they were quiet and perfectly agreeable, which could not be said for either Andrea or Kirsty. Perhaps it might have been easier to put Kirsty with me, and Andrea with the tools? But then, I was going to pay for my current privacy by sleeping on a cot mattress on Kirsty and Andrea's floor all summer, and I was sure Andrea would never agree to that, so perhaps this was best after all.

"You can come here whenever you like," I told Kirsty. "Only check with me before you move anything, in case something is drying or has loose pieces?"

"Like I don't know better than to mess with your stuff," Kirsty said, kicking me affectionately in the ankle.

I turned my attention back to my work. Frank had latched on to the question of my education (I thought it made a sort of comprehensible anchor-point for him, in the general peculiarity of my existence) and had found an educational specialist to come assess me thoroughly. It had turned out that there were some gaps in what I had thought to be my fairly comprehensive course of self-study - for instance I could work any sort of math problem, algebraic, geometric, estimations of area and volume that turned out to be a sort of rudimentary calculus, but I had no inkling of how to show the work, other than the purely arithmetical calculations Kirsty had been doing years earlier, or how to lay it out in the formalisms that I was told a math teacher would expect. I didn't really see the point of that as long as I was able to get the answers right, but apparently it was essential to how one learned math in a classroom. Likewise, I read a great deal, and remembered what I read, but I had no practice in regurgitating it back onto paper in ways that demonstrated what I knew.

"Regurgitated" was F's word, a rather distasteful one, but sadly apt, I felt, as I painstakingly wrote out essays for my tutors about information we both already knew. Such a contrast to Usenet, where we were trying to share knowledge, not just echo it back and forth! Still, it had to be done, for me to start high school next year. Frank had thought I might need a whole second full year of tutoring, but Kirsty and I had argued that it would be much more awkward for me to be Kirsty's older sister in the same grade than Kirsty's older sister one grade above, and the specialist had said that holding me back if I felt ready could undermine me as much as a rough adjustment.

"Ugh, repeating decimals," Kirsty muttered, and we frowned at our respective papers companionably.

Mosquitoes like mud holes or puddles.
Whales need an ocean or sea.
A fish or a snake may make do with a lake
But a house is a house for me!

"But I don't know what we might be doing after, but I just want to be flexible!" Andrea said, her voice rising. "It's my graduation, why does Anna even have to come?"

The habits of eavesdropping were hard to break. Maybe I should have closed my door. The condo was so small, it wasn't like they could go to a corner of the house where they wouldn't be overheard.

"She's your sister," Mother said.

"For most of my life I can remember she wasn't even here," Andrea said. "And now everything has to revolve around her? I thought when we moved to Chicago we were going to go try restaurants, and go to shows, and everything there wasn't in Bitter Creek, but, no, it's always 'I don't think Anna could handle that', 'sorry but I don't want to leave Anna', like we're all supposed to be walled up with her?"

"Andrea!" Mother said, upset.

They kept talking. I didn't hear. The blood was pounding in my ears and my brain felt it was flying in six directions at once.

Mother could have asked me about shows and restaurants. I had never asked Andrea to give anything up. How dare Andrea act like the victim when I had lost my entire world when I came out of the wall. How horrible that I had been limiting her. Did Kirsty feel that way too? Did Mr. Albright? ("Frank" suddenly felt too familiar.) What about F? And so forth. My brain and my stomach swirled together, until I had to put my hands on the wall to steady myself. I looked around wildly for something to do, someplace to anchor myself. The decoupage box of dorm-room essentials I had almost finished for Andrea's graduation? The sundress I was working on for Kirsty? Maybe they hated my home-made things, maybe they were just another way I was a millstone around their necks.

I would ask F, I thought. It felt bearable to ask him, in a way it wasn't to ask Kirsty, and although he was very kind to me, I thought it might be easier for him than for my sisters to tell me the painful truth, that I was a sort of small pot that kept everyone from growing.

Unfortunately, I had no telephone in my room. The cordless base-station was kept in the living room, past the master bedroom where Mother was talking to Andrea. Never had I wished so strongly for my network of passages back! But there was nothing for it. I summoned all my dignity and walked down the short hall with my head held high, neck rigid, not even letting my eyes flick over to the side to see if Mother and Andrea reacted to me. I retrieved the handset and walked with similar stiffness back to my room, where all at once I slumped onto my bed, stomach still roiling.

I didn't call F often, but I could dial the number by heart.

"Hey, Anna," he said, once his mother had called him to the phone. "Everything ok?"

How did he know?

"No," I said. I paused, trying to find the right words for what I wanted to ask. "Is your life smaller? Because I'm in it?"

"Smaller," he repeated. I wished I could see his face. "You think maybe the most unique person I know makes my life smaller."

I needed to explain, but it always felt awkward to mention Andrea. "They had the wedding at the house," I said instead, meaning my mother and his father. "And just a few guests, that can't be what they dreamed of."

"Oh, Anna," F said - fondly, maybe, I dared to think. "That was months ago. And my aunt is still going on about how beautiful it was, I think she's trying to get me to ask you to make her a dress or something."

"Oh!" I said, immediately veering onto this important sidetrack. "Of course I can make your aunt a dress if - " I tried to picture her to see if I could recall her well enough to guess at her measurements.

"Stop that," F interrupted. "I mean, if you really want to, charge her for it or something. I just mean." He paused.

"I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything," he finally said. "By, er, writing to you."

It wasn't what was really hurting me, but it was a warm blanket of a thought, that there was one person at least who didn't feel like I was a sort of human ball and chain. For everyone else, I would have to try harder to figure out how not to limit them.

In the end, I didn't go to Andrea's graduation. I told Mother I thought it would be too much for me, sitting in the sun in a crowd in the high school football stadium, and that I truly didn't mind staying home. It felt manipulative, dressing myself up in my own weaknesses like a costume, and Kirsty narrowed her eyes at me, like she knew I wasn't quite being honest. But Mother hugged me and said she was glad I had told her, that she always wanted me to tell her if something was going to be more than I could handle. And Andrea came home afterwards giddy and laughing. So I thought I had done alright.

A husk is a house for a corn ear.
A pod is a place for a pea.
A nutshell's a hut for a hickory nut
But what is a shelter for me?

For the tenth time, I looked around my room, looking for anything out of place or untidy. It was somewhat unnatural for me not to have four or five projects in progress, but in a short time (a very short time, perhaps within the hour, in mere minutes!) I would be handing my room off to F for the summer, and it wouldn't do for it to be less than ready. My summer clothes were already folded in Kirsty's dresser. My textbooks had moved to Andrea's desk. I smoothed and retucked the sheets - clean, of course - on my bed, where F would sleep. It was too much, to picture his head there on my pillow, and I walked out to the living room in agitation. Did Lake Michigan out the windows truly sparkle extra brightly, or was that just me?

I heard a key in the lock and there was Frank, coming into the front hall, and behind him was F with a duffel bag, looking around.

He looked taller, and his hair seemed longer in front. He looked wonderful. I am ashamed to say that I completely forgot whether I was supposed to hug him or say hello or ask whether he would like something to drink after his flight from New York: I just stared.

"Anna," he said. I waved.

"Francissimo!" Kirsty called, appearing from her room - our room, now - and F winced. And then Mother was bustling out of the kitchen asking the appropriate questions about the flight and whether there was traffic at the airport, and F and I somehow ended up in the living room at opposite ends of the beige sectional, Mother and Frank and Kirsty arrayed between us.

I wanted to ask F what it was like to fly in an airplane, whether he had liked it and whether the jumble of Chicago made more sense from the air. But there was nowhere I could squeeze in even the first word of a question like that, between Mother and Frank asking him about his final grades and summer reading, and Kirsty firing off questions about half a dozen Bitter Creek acquaintances in common. For all that they'd been so insistent I come out of the wall, nobody seemed to feel obligated to give me a chance to do anything but sit there like one. At least in the wall I could have looked at F without him seeing me staring. I looked down at my hands.

"Anna?" Mother said. I looked up. I had lost the thread of the conversation.

"Yes?" I said.

"Would you like to come show F his room?" she asked.

The door was literally twenty feet from the living room, it's not like I couldn't have caught up, but I thought it was nice that she'd asked. F hoisted his duffel and Mother waved him in apologetically.

"I know it's a bit cramped..." she said.

F looked down at the braided rug on the floor, and up at the quilted panels on the ceiling in matching colors.

"It's cozy," he said.

"I can show you how to move the shelves," I said, "In case you, uh, need something, and how to fold up the bed..."

It was the first thing I'd said since he walked in the door.

"Your shelves are on rails," F said. "Huh." He turned and grinned at me. "You never mentioned that."

"I did!" I said. "I'm sure I said I was putting in high-density storage." My voice was indignant but I could feel my face grinning back at him.

"Well," Mother said from the doorway, "I won't stay for the shelf demonstration. Remember the rules, Anna."

I spun around to face the shelves, face burning.

Andrea and Kirsty's door had to stay open when they had friends over if any boys were involved. Mother had announced last night that the same standard applied while F was living with us. "And to him, too," she had said. If he made friends with any girls while he was in Chicago, she meant.

I had no idea whether F hoped to meet girls in Chicago; I had no idea if he'd hoped to have private conversations with me. We sent email back and forth multiple times per week but there were entire categories of topics we never mentioned. When we traded lines of poetry (me) or song lyrics (F) we found particularly striking, they were never romantic. We never talked about our dance. When he infrequently mentioned friends, they were always boys - of course that didn't mean he couldn't be attracted to them, maybe I had grown up in a wall but I wasn't entirely oblivious, unlike Mother, apparently, who either found Kirsty's kissing practice with certain girl friends unobjectionable, or, more likely, had no idea it was taking place - but, anyways, he never talked about any of them the way he had about Andrea. I had no idea whether he was thinking romantically of anyone at all, and while I was occasionally tempted to let something into our correspondence that would illuminate my own feelings, I couldn't forget his words about dating one's stepsister, that it was "probably a felony" that would lead to police involvement. I had investigated, and it was not, but it threw an overlay of misfortune onto my feelings, when I read poetry that did make me think of him, when I thought wild, unlikely thoughts of trying kissing practice of our own. Even if I hadn't imagined the kernel of something between us, he would probably - sensibly - be happier to never see it sprout. Wouldn't he?

I realized I was rolling one of the shelves back and forth, my hands finding something to do while my mind had spun. I made my hands stop, and just as I did, F put his hand on my shoulder.

"Hey, Anna," he said nervously. I turned and looked up at him, and he snatched his hand away.

"It's, uh, great to see you," he said. "You look, um. Different."

The last time he had seen me had been at our respective parents' wedding; I had been wearing a red wool skirt suit with white accents, suitable for a just-after-Christmas wedding. Now I was wearing jean shorts and a T-shirt tie-dyed in a spiral of two different shades of green - I had dyed the T-shirt myself, but they were otherwise "normal clothes", as Kirsty put it. I had had some vain idea of impressing F with my progress on being comfortable with things that had scared me (it had taken me weeks to get used to the idea of exposing my knees).

"Sorry," I said stupidly.

F shook his head at me. "Same old Anna," he said, (so was I not different?) and then somehow we were hugging, my arms around his neck, his hands warm on my shoulders.

In my chest a little tendril of something uncurled and grew.

A glove is a house for a hand, a hand.
A stocking's a house for a knee.
A shoe or a boot is a house for a foot
And a house is a house for me!

The problem with hugging F was that I became absolutely mad to do it again, with no idea how to go about it. I had never thought of myself as particularly cuddly - I had lived in a wall for seven years, after all - but his skin, his substance, right there walking around our tiny condo - I was incoherent with it. When I took my turn at the computer after his, I imagined the keys still warm from his fingertips. When I took the milk from the refrigerator I recalled that it had last been in his hands. He used Mother and Frank's bathroom to brush his teeth, instead of ours, but they had the only bath, so when I showered I knew he had been naked in the same space, and I nearly passed out, hyperventilating in the steam.

I thought of asking if I could measure him, to wrap my tape measure and hands around his arms and waist and... whatever he would stand still for... but my mind betrayed me and couldn't come up with a single project I might use as a pretext. Saved me from myself, I should say, rather than betrayed me, because part of me was shocked by these unbridled thoughts. Part of me was appalled by the things that occurred to me. The rest of me cursed Kirsty somehow between us every time we sat down in the living room, the schoolwork that kept me at Andrea's desk, the glass-topped dining table stopping my feet from reaching out for his when we all sat down to dinner.

"My friend's loaning me the most interesting book," Kirsty said at dinner. "About a boy who grows up in a cupboard under the stairs."

"What!" Mother said. "Like a case study?"

"No, no," Kirsty said. "It's a kids' book, I guess he turns out to have magic powers or something? I just thought it was funny, it took everything I had not to blurt out 'I know someone who did that'."

F was nodding. "I had the weirdest argument about Scooby-Doo one time," he said. "I am the wrong person to tell that there could never be a house with so many secret passages."

"I'm glad it's so funny," I muttered while they laughed. I wanted F to laugh with me, not Kirsty. It was probably just as well I didn't have magical powers, who knows what I might have made happen. Even when I was hurt, I wanted to be near him, next to him, back under the stairs squashed into my armchair together. I was sure he couldn't feel the same way, and then while I was washing the dishes he offered to dry, and stood so close that our arms brushed together.

"So," he said quietly, "I wanted to ask..." My heart thrilled. "Andrea doesn't seem to be around much."

I wilted. "She got a job," I said. "Evening shift making pizzas."

In the corner of my eye, I saw F nod. "I guess we'll be pretty busy after camp starts next week," he said. "Would you, uh. Kirsty says you go to the mall?"

I winced. "I hate the mall," I said. The glaring lights, confusion of storefronts, the noisy, echoey spaces, people everywhere, trying to hand me flyers or asking if I needed help if I dared to step into their store... it was about as enjoyable as the dentist's office, another place where I had grudgingly agreed to go at Mother's urging.

"Oh," F said, and finished drying the rest of the dishes in silence, while I went back to feverishly considering what I might possibly do to bring us into contact again.

Cartons are houses for crackers.
Castles are houses for kings.
The more that I think about houses,
The more things are houses for things.

Are you surprised that I was going to camp? My heart beat like a trapped animal when I thought about it, and yet I admit there was anticipation, too. It had occurred to Frank when he was signing F up for piano camp that camp could be a sort of trial run for me for school, for going and spending every day in a large group of people my age, without the consequences of missing school if it was too much for me at first and I needed to skip a day. So Kirsty and I were signed up for two three-week sessions of dramatic arts day camp, while F was attending a month-long piano intensive and then leaving with Frank on a father-son bicycle trip across Iowa, which I knew he was dreading. I had agreed to the drama camp on the grounds that the brochure had a picture of a boy about my age holding a hammer, and mentioned learning about every aspect of a theatrical production, including set-building, costume-making, lights, and sound, as well as the actual performing.

"But you have to take a role if they give you one," Kirsty reminded me.

Is it strange to say that possibility was part of what I was excited about? Makeup and a role to play was its own kind of shelter, and how much easier would it be if your lines were actually scripted for you? If I were up on stage, I wouldn't be me at all, just the character. How lovely.

Likewise, I told myself, this person that I was - this person riding in the car, staring down at her knees - this wasn't my naked self (however bare my knees). This was camp-Anna, a person I was riding in to camp like I was riding in the car, a nice shiny shell around the squishy oyster heart of me. Whatever happened at camp was going to happen on the outside, waves pounding, algae growing, I didn't know what, but I was going to be safe inside all of that. I was going to be fine.

"We're here!" Kirsty said. I took a deep breath and hoped we got to the tool-using parts soon.

A box is a house for a teabag.
A teapot's a house for some tea.
If you pour me a cup and I drink it all up,
Then the teahouse will turn into me!

"I'm Anna," I said, "And I've never seen a play, but I liked reading Antigone."

I smiled to myself. It was, I thought, a rather clever, if dark, joke - the woman who grew up in a wall, enjoying a play about a woman who got buried alive - too bad no one there would get it. Maybe I could tell F.

The next three girls around the circle (it was a co-ed camp, but we were mostly girls) were Brooke, who liked Midsummer Night's Dream, Katy, who liked Rent, and Beth, who liked Noises Off. I wasn't sure whether we were going to be expected to remember all the names and plays, so I was trying to keep them straight in my head as we went, but I was already feeling uncertain about which of the blondes across the circle liked Arcadia and which one liked Cats, and I had a sneaking suspicion that if we all got up and changed seats, I'd lose the whole list. I was mostly relieved (and a little miffed, for my apparently pointless work in paying attention) when the recitation came all the way back around to the counselor who had started it (Laurie, Pippin) and she led us into voice warmups without any further reference to favorite plays at all.

The whole day went on like that. I never seemed to know quite what was happening, but none of it was bad, just disorienting. I was used to spending most of my time under my own direction, planning and carrying out projects, budgeting time for my educational work, presenting myself at the requisite moments like dinner but otherwise free to carry on. (When I had first come out of the wall, Mother had tried to give me a bedtime, but I kept forgetting, and after awhile she gave up.) The experience of camp, in contrast, was an almost total surrender of volition; one was simply carried along by the currents from theater shop to gymnasium, one read the dramatic reading placed into one's hand or echoed the note the counselor was singing. Even when the currents took us outside for lunch, I was so placid that I sat myself down next to Beth and took out my sandwich without thinking twice about the vacuum of space above us. It felt like I was doing almost nothing, and so it was strange to get to the end of the day and realize I was completely exhausted.

"How was it?" F asked at dinner. I was yawning into my mashed potatoes, too tired for my usual dinnertime yearning for the body across the glass.

"Hmm?" I said. "Oh. I think it's going to be fine. And you?"

He said something about getting stuck in a jazz elective, but I was, if I am honest, almost already asleep.

Barrels are houses for pickles
And bottles are houses for jam.
A pot is a spot for potatoes.
A sandwich is home for some ham.

I was, apparently, hilarious. I did deadpan very well, it seemed, and could put up a decent show of emotion by trying to imagine I was Kirsty or Andrea. Everyone kept saying my contributions in improv were "so original" and asking "where did I even come up with that stuff".

I had more lines for the show than I thought I could possibly memorize.

"I'll help," F said, coming to Kirsty and Andrea's door and looking down at me, sprawled on my mattress on the floor with my script pages spread around me. "That's how you learn your lines, right? Practice?"

"Not here," Andrea said at once. "Take it to your room! Ugh."

She was not, as far as I could tell, doing anything in particular, but Kirsty looked up from the book she was reading and nodded, so I gathered up the script and followed F next door. Kirsty had a lead role in the big dance number, but only a single line to memorize, a fact she had been gloating about since I had gotten my script.

F sat down at the head of the bed, and I sat down at the foot, although I wondered immediately after I did if I should have taken the desk chair instead.

"So," he said.

I looked up at the ceiling. It was nice to see my colorful quilt panels instead of Kirsty and Andrea's bare ceiling.

"So," I said. "Should I just... start?"

I quickly sorted the script pages back into order, flipped to my first line, and read.

"Now it's you," I said, passing F the script, "If you're all the other parts."

It was a short line, and then he passed the script back to me.

My line was short too.

"I think we'd need two copies to make this work," I said apologetically. "I mean, thank you so much for offering, but there's a lot of back and forth, maybe once I know more of it?"

"Do you think we could share it?" F suggested. "Here, we can hold it together."

He moved down to the middle of the bed, sitting on the edge.

I moved up and sat next to him.

He read the next line.

I read mine back.

I had tried to sit so that we weren't quite touching, but as we went on I became aware of our arms brushing, and we seemed to both be drawing closer to the script in the middle, so by the last page we were pressed together at the hip. The entire last Act I'd hardly known what I was reading, distracted by F's leg where it touched my leg and F's arm which had somehow gotten mostly behind me as he propped himself up.

"So," F said. "Was that helpful? Should we go through again?"

I sighed regretfully. "It's so kind of you," I said. "But I think next I'm going to try copying them all out in writing, the director gave us a list of techniques to try out and that's next on the list." And maybe that way I would actually pay attention to what I was supposed to be memorizing, I didn't add.

"Oh," F said. He bit his lip. "Well, I'm happy to practice any time, it's not like I can practice my own stuff. I think I'm the only person at piano camp who doesn't have a piano at home."

"We could fit one behind the sectional if we moved it out from the wall," I said, picturing the living room. "Uh, the end would stick out, if there was enough room for a bench."

"I think your mom would have a heart attack if you started moving the furniture," F said. "No, it's okay. Dad said he didn't think we'd have room, and there's something to be said for having an excuse not to practice."

F had seen some of my false walls and passages in the old house while I was taking them out - Kirsty had thought we should leave them all, for the delight of future children, but Mother had been worried about liability, and the realtor had thought the house would show better if more rooms had their original dimensions. It had occurred to me once or twice that you could run a false wall down the side of the living room here, by moving out the sectional in just the way I was describing, but it wouldn't have gone anywhere or connected to anything, so what was the point? It seemed unfair to not try to squeeze in a piano, though.

"Well," F said. "Did you want to write out your lines here? You can use the desk."

"Oh!" I said. I had forgotten for a moment that I was a guest in his room, in the present configuration, not the other way around. "That's alright, I'll get out of your way. Thank you though!"

"Any time," F said. As I went out the door I saw him flop face down onto the bed, muttering something I couldn't make out.

The cookie jar's home to the cookies.
The breadbox is home to the bread.
My coat is a house for my body.
My hat is a house for my head.

The audience clapped, and I held on tightly to Beth and Katy's hands for our final bow. Of course they clapped: they were mostly our parents and younger siblings, with a smattering of grandparents and a few loyal friends/girlfriends/boyfriends. But, there we were, we had gotten through the play, so we got to bow and be applauded.

Mother had asked Kirsty and me to come find her while we were still in our costumes, so once the curtain went down we found each other and made our way to the hall outside the theater. They were all there, Mother and Frank and Andrea and even F, clutching some rather limp carnations like he was trying to pretend he wasn't holding them.

"Kirsty! Anna!" Mother gushed, and then she had to tell us how wonderful we'd been in every scene, while making us pose for photographs together and separately.

I had been in photographs before, at the wedding. It was just as awkward this time; I had no idea what to do with my face.

"We have to go," I finally said. "They'll want to close the dressing room, we need to get changed."

"Here," F said quickly, shoving the carnations at me. I wasn't sure why he couldn't keep holding them - I had just said I needed to get changed, which wasn't going to be easier holding flowers - but I said a quick "thank you!" over my shoulder as I hurried back to the dressing room with Kirsty.

"Ooh," she said, "Flooooowers." She nudged me and giggled.

"I'm sure they're for both of us," I said, nudging her back. She stopped giggling and looked at me.

"Um, I really don't think so," she said.

"He's your stepbrother too," I said, scrubbing at my face with a wipe so I could get my costume off and clothes back on without smearing stage makeup all over them.

"Anna, those are not stepbrother flowers," Kirsty said.

I looked at the pink carnations dubiously. I had read that the Victorians had a whole language of flowers, but I had never made a study of it, fresh flowers not being a material at hand when one lived in a network of secret passages.

"Wait," I said, my own feelings about this possibility swept aside. "Do you think Mother and Frank think they're not stepbrother flowers? I don't want F to be in trouble!"

Kirsty rolled her eyes. "Mom's been mailing your packages for six months, I think she knows you guys are weird about each other."

I wasn't sure how many cookies one could send one's stepbrother before it became "weird", but I had to admit I was probably over the line, wherever it was.

I thought about this more while I finished changing. (I had pretty much given up on modesty, after camp and sharing a room with Kirsty and Andrea.)

"I still don't think they were flowers like that," I said finally.

"I'll tell you what," Kirsty said. "Why don't you give Francis flowers after his piano recital, and see how he reacts?"

It would only be fair to give him flowers like he'd given me. I thought about it on the way home, and while I arranged the carnations in a vase for the dining table. I had no idea where to buy flowers, and I didn't have any money, but it would be easy enough to make a few flowers out of gathered silk. Excited, I ducked into my room to grab the supplies I would need, and startled F, who was sitting on the bed.

"Oh!" I apologized. "Sorry!"

"Did you want something?" F asked, sitting up taller.

"Just a couple of things off shelf four," I said brightly, trying not to let on that it was for a secret project for him.

"Oh," F said, slumping again.

I took the silk and wire back to Kirsty and Andrea's room, and a week later, I was holding a fistful of silk flowers at F's piano recital, listening to him work his way through something the program said was Chopin. I didn't know much about music, except for a few bands that Andrea had liked and played over and over back in Bitter Creek. Nowadays she had a Discman and headphones. The Chopin was pretty. It would have been nice to have a piano at home so I could hear F play more often.

"I thought that was lovely," I told him afterwards. He was blushing - he had blushed the whole way through his performance, and it didn't seem to have gotten better.

"It can't have sounded like much compared with some of these guys," he said.

I shrugged. "Well, I liked it," I said, figuring that was unarguable. "Oh. Here."

He took the flowers and grinned at them and shook his head. "Did you make these?"

"I did," I said. "They're from me and Kirsty."

"Oh."

Kirsty elbowed me, and I elbowed her back. F was obviously feeling unsure about his performance, this was not the time for me to be selfish! He needed to know he had all our support!

Back home, I saw him take a glass from the kitchen and put the flowers on the desk, and then he shut the door.

It was stupid, but I missed him. I missed getting long emails with song lyrics and appreciative comments on my latest batch of cookies. I missed how I had felt the night he had arrived, when he had hugged me and it had seemed like something between us might be possible. Right that minute, he was in my very own bedroom, but he seemed so much further away than he had back in Bitter Creek.

A garage is a house for a car or a truck.
A hangar's a house for a plane.
A dock or a slip is a house for a ship.
And a terminal's house for a train.

I wasn't sure it was worthwhile to move back to my room while F was away on the bicycle trip, but Andrea said she was tired of having to try not to step on me at night and she would like her floor back, so back I moved. I had changed the sheets and was lying on the bed - my bed - when I looked over at the desk, and realized there was a folded note in the glass with the silk flowers I had made.

Of course I unfolded it.

 

 

Dear Anna,
I'm not sure whether I hope you'll find this while I'm in Iowa, or not until I'm back in Bitter Creek. I guess if I didn't want you to find it now I would wait until I was leaving for New York.
I'm also not sure what I want to say. I think I owe you an apology - you've made it pretty clear since I got here that you just want to be friends/stepsiblings, and I'm sorry if I've been a creep about that. I don't ever want to make you uncomfortable.
I still think you're the most amazing person I ever met. I hope it's okay that I think that.
Love,
F

I cried.

I loved him so much, and I was so stupidly ignorant of how to show it. I ran back through the weeks since he'd come to Chicago, trying to see when and how he'd come to this conclusion. It was all such a mess. I pulled at my hair and drummed my fists against my thighs; what was I supposed to do?

A project, I thought. A really nice gift, an apology gift. It would have to be something really special. A scarf. F was allergic to wool, but there'd been a strick of unspun flax in one of the attics, along with a few rovings of wool, and I had packed the flax and the drop spindle for the move with the idea in mind that I would someday spin it into linen yarn I could use to knit something for F. This was clearly the time. A linen scarf wouldn't have the warmth of wool, but I thought I could make something that looked nice, at least. I had spun wool and found it pleasant work (and had a nice pair of socks I'd made from it) - I could do this!

I couldn't do this.

An hour into the flax-spinning process, I had an ugly, snarled mess and no usable yarn at all. The flax didn't behave a thing like wool, and I couldn't figure out what I needed to do to make it work. I might as well have been trying to spin straw into gold.

I cried again.

Maybe it sounds ridiculous, but I had never failed before. I had never picked up tools that I couldn't make work, once I understood the nature of the materials I was using. My whole life, I had been able to execute anything I could plan, to make real anything I could envision. And now this stupid flax was refusing to cooperate, and I just couldn't figure out where I was going wrong. It was terrifying. What if this was just the start, and nothing new I tried would ever work again? What if old familiar skills I'd used dozens of times abandoned me? My body had grown out of invisibility, now my hands were growing out of their cleverness, and I was going to turn into an ordinary helpless adult and never make anything beautiful again.

I threw the spindle at the floor. If it hadn't landed on the braided rug, it would have shattered.

All at once I was disgusted with myself. Whatever was happening with my hands, it wasn't the spindle's fault! I picked it up and apologized, and as I knelt there, whispering to it about how hard it had tried, I thought of something.

When I had lost my invisibility, I had had to learn how to live with being visible like normal people. If I was losing my knack, I was going to have to do what normal people did when they needed to learn how to do something. Like at camp, when the counselors showed us how the light board worked, or how to change a gel. I was going to have to find someone who did know what they were doing to show me how it was done.

I sprang out of my room and rushed to the computer. I had fallen way behind in my rec.crafts.textiles reading since camp and line-memorization had started taking up all my time, but it was the work of moments (after the modem finally finished dialing) to send off a message asking whether there was anyone in the Chicago area who knew how to spin flax.

The next day at camp I started asking people about trains and buses - how did you figure out which one you needed to take, to go somewhere? Because camp people were part of my network of resources too. Beth, who had been in the previous camp session with me, told me she took transit a lot with her mom and showed me her CTA system map and bus schedules.

I took a deep breath. "Could I borrow these?" I asked. "I would take good care of them. And I could, um. Make you some cookies to thank you?"

I was new to the concept of exchange, I had no idea if this was a good offer or not.

"Sure," Beth said, laughing, "I wouldn't say no to cookies, but don't worry about it, my mom has copies too. You guys are pretty new to Chicago?"

I nodded.

"Oh, man," Beth said, "Get someone to take you to the aquarium, it's great."

"I liked the zoo," I said, holding on to the system map carefully.

That night I looked for replies to my message and saw that there was, in fact, someone in the Chicago area who knew how to spin flax and would be delighted to demonstrate. She lived out in Ravenswood and loved to have visitors. I emailed her to sort out the details, suggesting that I could come the following evening.

The next morning I checked my email before camp and she had given me directions to her house from the Brown line, and that 6 pm or so would be lovely.

I wrote back to say I would be there. In the kitchen I gathered up the cookies I had made the night before (a dozen for Beth and two dozen for Opal the flax spinner). There was a counter on the jar where Mother and Frank kept quarters for the laundry machines in the basement (which I did frequently) and paper money to pay for Chinese delivery (which I never did myself, but Andrea sometimes did if both Frank and Mother had to work late). Holding my breath, I reached in and took out enough for my fare to and from Ravenswood, plus extra just in case.

(Is this the point where you abandon my narrative as hopelessly criminal? It was stealing, yes, but I calculated that if I hand-washed my clothes in the bath for a few weeks I could pay it back in reduced laundry costs.)

I packed up my spindle and flax, went through camp as normal (Beth was excited about the cookies, and ended up sharing them with our whole group), and then, when I would normally have joined Kirsty in waiting for Mother to pick us up in front of the school where the camp was being held, went out the other way, towards a bus stop, and boarded a bus.

My heart was pounding like crazy, but someone else was getting on the same bus, and I watched how he paid and I copied him. The driver didn't turn and denounce me as a bus-riding fraud. None of the other passengers seemed to pay any attention to me at all.

The bus started to drive and I watched anxiously out the window, following along on the route map clenched tight in my grasp. I got out where I needed to get out and made my way up the stairs to the elevated train.

It was nothing like being outside at camp. This was all volition, pure self-determination, making my feet take me up the stairs, making my shaking hands handle the change and bills I needed to buy a transit card. It wasn't that different than putting coins in the washer and dryer, I told myself, and besides, I could do it because I had to. Because this was who I was now: a Chicagoan like everyone else around me, an ant in the big big hill, following a track to do my ant business.

The train came with an amazing screech - the loudest, least pleasant noise I'd ever heard - and I boarded among a horde of other people getting on and off. I felt simultaneously humbled, to be an ant in a swarm of ants, and proud, that I was a functional ant, an ant able to march with the rest.

It was easier to keep track of the sequence of stops than the progress of the bus, so I took more sneaking looks at the other passengers. A few seats ahead there was a woman with a baby! It was tiny and adorable, standing holding on to the back of the seat and bouncing. It looked at me and I waved to it and it smiled! I had seen babies at the mall but I had been too overwhelmed to really look. But eye contact with this one wasn't scary at all! Babies were amazing!

I was kind of giddy, but I made sure I got off at the right stop. I found the right street and walked the rest of the way to Opal's house, about fifteen minutes later than I had told her I would be. My next travel-time estimate would be better.

I rang her doorbell.

The woman who answered was the oldest person I had ever seen, seventy or eighty at least, I thought. She showed me in and asked if I needed coffee or tea. I declined both, eager to get to work, and followed her into her living room, where over the next hour I learned a great deal about flax, about spinning in general, and about Opal's life. Space does not allow me to provide any of these details, but let me just say that wet instead of dry spinning is crucial for linen, and Opal's adventures driving a truck as a WAC in World War II made me determined to learn more about both history and auto mechanics.

She pronounced the cookies delicious, and told me she had expected someone twenty years older but I should come back any time, she would take me to the Stitch 'n Bitch, Carla from rec.crafts.textiles.knitting went too.

I shook her hand and reversed my trip, altering my bus route to end up at home instead of camp, and walked into our building happy, proud, and excited to spin the rest of the strick. I rode the elevator up to our floor and knocked on our condominium door - there was a key we took when we went to do laundry, but I hadn't felt right about borrowing it.

My mother opened the door and fell on me, screaming.

And envelopes, earmuffs and eggshells
And bathrobes and baskets and bins
And ragbags and rubbers and roasters
And tablecloths, toasters and tins...

"I was terrified," Mother kept saying. "Terrified."

We were standing in the little front hall, and she was crying, and I was trying to understand.

"You just disappeared," Mother said. "I thought you'd been kidnapped. Or you'd picked a house somewhere and moved into their walls, I thought you were gone again, Kirsty said she'd seen you in your group at camp, and then you just weren't there! I called the police! I called Frank's hotel, he's trying to figure out how fast he can get home!"

"I was fine," I said, bewildered. "I took the L out to Ravenswood to learn how to spin flax."

"Ravenswood!" Mother said. "Flax, what are you talking about, who do you know in Ravenswood?"

"She's a fiber person," I said. "From rec.crafts.textiles."

Mother snatched my bag out of my hand and dug through it roughly.

"You're telling me you met someone in a chat room and you went to their house?" She was pretty much shouting at this point. "They could have been a serial killer!"

"Not a chat room!" I said. "I don't even go in chat rooms. She was really nice, did you know there were women in World War II?"

"Anna," Mother said, in a dire voice. "You are a child. You cannot just hop on the L and lark about Chicago. And definitely not without telling your mother and missing your dinner!"

"I'm sorry," I said. I was. "It didn't occur to me that you would be worried." Maybe it should have occurred to me. But for seven years, no one had kept track of me, and since then I had never tried to go anywhere.

"You are grounded," Mother said, still in that awful voice. "You are grounded from the computer, you are grounded from camp, you will stay in your room unless you need the toilet. I'll bring you dinner."

It was just catching up with me that my great triumph, that had made me so happy and proud, was not being viewed in those terms at all.

"You can't ground Anna," Andrea said from behind me. "That's like throwing Br'er Bear in the briar patch. Making her stay home is just rewarding her."

"Rabbit," I muttered. I thought she was wrong in the analogy, too, but I couldn't put my finger on why. I held my hand out for my bag, thinking in my confusion that it wouldn't be so bad to be grounded, that I'd still be able to spin, at least.

Mother held tight to the bag. "Whatever this is, you are grounded from it," she said.

My eyes narrowed. "Technically," I said, "You can't actually make me stay in my room." I had never talked back like that before, but I was furious at being robbed of my project just when I had finally (and so bravely) obtained the skills to do it.

"Technically," my mother hissed, "I will put a lock on your door if I have to."

I rolled my eyes. "I'd like to see you install one without my help," I said, and on that cutting piece of rhetoric I turned, held my head high, and walked stiffly back to my room, where I closed the door and promptly broke down into my third flood of tears that week.

Once I cried myself out, I fell asleep, exhausted, and didn't wake up until morning light was coming in my window. I stayed in bed for awhile, petulant, until necessity forced me out. Coming back out of the bathroom, I listened for a moment, but couldn't hear anyone. I supposed Mother had already taken Kirsty to camp, and took a few cautious steps down the hall to see if she had come back yet.

Andrea was sitting in the living room. She gave me a little wave when she saw me, almost a salute.

"I'm getting forty bucks to babysit you," she said. "Don't think I won't call Mom the second I hear power tools."

Power tools, I thought. What did she think I was going to do, escape through a hole in the floor? That was someone else's house down there, and contrary to what Mother apparently thought - that I would just break into anyone's house willy-nilly - I did see that that would be unforgivably rude.

"Will Frank and F be back soon?" I asked.

Andrea shook her head. "Mother called him back after you turned up," she said. "Wow, Anna, I have to say, I did not think you had the guts to get in that kind of trouble."

"I really had no idea there was a rule about not going places," I said sadly. "I guess I wasn't paying enough attention to how you manage going out."

Andrea, unexpectedly, smiled. "You're like a real teenager now," she said. "You're going to have to learn this stuff."

I shrugged and slunk back to my room with enough apples and cheese to last me all day, and then sat down on my bed, eating none of it.

I was sad and upset and hurt and I wasn't even sure I understood exactly why. Andrea had been right last night, hadn't she? It was awful that Mother had my spinning, but here I was, snug in my very own room, a thousand other things on my shelves that I could work on - I still had everything I truly needed, didn't I?

It was shattering to realize that I did not. At some point camp had become, not just a tide that swept me along, but the nourishing broth where I wanted to swim. If I was an oyster, I was an oyster who could be stranded dry and unhappy above the tideline. It wasn't just that I was not, at the moment, a happy clam - I was sorry to be missing the day's work, but I didn't think Mother could mean to ground me forever, and might even let me go back to camp in time to do my job as assistant light-board operator for this session's play. It was the vulnerability of knowing that at any point in the future, I could be pulled out of the water again. I could be grounded past the end of camp, and that would hurt. If I didn't get to give Beth back her bus schedules - if I didn't get to tell Opal how the spinning was going - I would feel bad, not just because I had said I would do those things, but because my life would be smaller and emptier if it didn't reach outside my room.

If I had thought it was hard to think I was losing my facility with tools, this was even worse. I had been happy living in a wall for seven years because I was self-sufficient, but now I wasn't. My independence, my strongest strength, had crumbled. I had learned to live as a bee in a densely packed hive, and now I cared about being part of the hive. At any time, I could be hurt just by being isolated from it. I was vulnerable and it was terrifying and now that it had happened, like my turning visible, I didn't think it would ever go away.

I should have known when I fell in love with F, I thought. I should have known that it kept happening, in greater and lesser intensities.

I cried again, for awhile. School in the fall suddenly loomed twice as critical to get right without my vocation for solitude to fall back on. F would have to be told how ordinary I had become.

I rolled my shelves back and forth, looking for the right materials for such a difficult letter - ink didn't seem serious enough, embroidery felt like cheating, pretending I was still the person who had answered his first letter - and then I caught myself and cried again. I wasn't some crafty sorceress in a tower. I was an ordinary teenager, like Andrea had said. I could use a pencil.

Dear F, I started, and then I stopped. I had written to F, in our emails, about how good it had felt to live in my own secret world, and he had listened, but I didn't think he had ever really been able to understand, not in the cozy way that Kirsty and I shared female stuff, or the connection I might be finding with Andrea as real teenagers. F would be much more interested to hear that I had navigated my way across Chicago. He would understand how proud I had been about that.

I tapped my pencil against the paper. That was my ordinary self who did that, I thought. Maybe I wasn't exceptional, but I was capable. I had misunderstood how my mother would view the situation, but the part before that, where I had figured out what I needed to do and had done it, that had worked. It had been a shock to discover that I no longer enjoyed isolation, but I could work with it, just like flax had to be spun wet. I just had to go about things properly.

Dear Mother, I started, on a clean sheet of paper, and then stopped, and started, and rewrote for most of the afternoon, nibbling cheese and trying to figure out what I needed to tell her. There was so much we still never talked about. But it seemed like part of accepting I didn't live in my own world any more was going to be figuring out what it meant that, for now, I lived in hers.

 

 

Dear Mother,
I'm sorry I went to Ravenswood without telling you. I really didn't know you would be scared. Andrea says I need to learn the rules for being a teenager - I think there are things that everyone knows that I've missed. I'm trying to do it but it doesn't help if you cut me off from things like camp and Usenet that are helping me.
I don't know how I can convince you I'm not going to move back into the walls. I feel like you're always going to see it as something bad that happened, and I don't. But it's not how I want to live now anyways, so I would like it if we could agree to disagree on how we remember it.
I think if you met Opal you would agree she is nice.
Love,
Anna

When Mother came home, she came to my room, and I wordlessly handed her the letter. It was strange to watch her read it; I wondered if I made so many faces when I read letters from F. She put her hand to her face, and then over her eyes, and then she took a deep breath and hugged me.

"Anna," she said, still holding on to me. "I am your mother, I can't agree to disagree with you that it was bad that I lost you for seven years." Her voice was choked and emotional, like she was trying to emphasize every word.

"Sorry," I said. "I never meant to hurt you." My voice was a little shaky too.

"Don't apologize!" she said. "It's not - you were seven. I was your mother." She moved back, a little, but kept hold of my shoulders, so she could look into my eyes. "I would miss you every day if you disappeared again. I did miss you every day. I can't - it's every parent's job to keep track of where their kids are, but I need that especially with you, Anna. You're right - " she smiled a little, watery - "you're right that now that you're doing things like camp, and school soon, I need to be clearer about my expectations. We can go over all of that."

"Does that mean I can go back to camp?" I asked.

She hugged me again. "You can go back to camp. And I'll try to find someone to talk to about my, um. Leftover feelings. So that I can focus more on right now. But, listen, Anna, I know you took care of yourself for a long time, but I want you to feel like you can ask me, if there's something you need. You don't have to do everything alone."

"I know that," I said. "It would be a pretty small life, doing everything alone."

A book is a house for a story.
A rose is a house for a smell.
My head is a house for a secret,
A secret I never will tell.

F came home sunburnt on his nose and cheeks, walking gingerly like his lower body was barely holding together. He talked about biking past deer and past turkey vultures eating something on the road. He said he was never going to do it again, and Frank said cheerfully that maybe they would try canoeing next year. F put his head down on the table and groaned.

After dinner I followed F back to my room, now his again. As soon as we were through the door I turned and shut it.

"What - " F started. I put my arms around his neck and kissed him.

I don't know what a first kiss is supposed to be like. To tell the truth, I don't really know what any kiss is supposed to be like. This was like spinning smooth, perfect yarn. It was warm and electric and it went on and on.

"Oh," F said, when we finally broke apart. His hands were on my waist like we were dancing. He blinked at me dazedly.

"Sorry," I said. "I guess I should have asked." I had been telling myself to be direct, but that might have been too far.

"That's okay," F said. "That's - wow." He grinned at me slowly. "I guess you got my letter?"

"I did," I said, smiling back. "Want to go to the aquarium when I get all the way un-grounded? I want to see the nautilus, I'm interested in shelled things growing bigger. How it adds rooms to its house."

"Yes," F said. "Yes, I would."

"It's a date," I said. I turned away to open the door again, before we had to find out if Mother or Frank had noticed it was shut. "They probably won't let us take the L, though. It's too bad, the Red Line goes underground. I want to see what it's like."

"Anna," F said, voice admiring, "I doubt they'll be able to stop you for long."

A flower's at home in a garden.
A donkey's at home in a stall.
Each creature that's known has a house of its own
And the earth is a house for us all.

*

from anewland@nyu.edu
to annaathome@yahoo.com
re: present

I thought you were nuts when you gave me a box of tools and sewing supplies, you know I don't know how to use any of that stuff, what did I want that for? But everyone on the hall comes to my room to borrow stuff and it's great! How did you know?

*

from annaathome@yahoo.com
to opalkirby@aol.com
re: re: re: stitch 'n etc

> Carla wants the recipe for those cookies, but I'm not giving it to her and you shouldn't either.

What if she trades for where she buys the cheddar scones?

*

from francissimo@yahoo.com
to annaathome@yahoo.com
re: package

I love the scarf, but not as much as I love you.

*

from annaathome@yahoo.com
to anybeth@aol.com
re: re: movies

My mom says it's fine if I come over Saturday! I can't wait to learn how to work the VCR.