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Day in the Life

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"You're not dressed for work," Rindy accused Harge as she let Miss Ava help her into her seat at the breakfast table.

Harge peered at her over top of his paper, narrowing his eyes playfully, "And you're not dressed for school, are you?"

Rindy tried to mimic his expression, "I'm on school break, silly." She'd been on school break for over a week now and didn't have to go back until just after New Year’s. That meant more than two weeks of playing in the snow and staying home with Daddy and visiting Mommy and Mama, and Lizzie.

"And I'm working from home today, silly," he replied, setting his paper aside when Miss Ava returned, setting toast – dry, how icky was that? - in front of Daddy and a pink bowl full of cereal in front of her.

Her eyes widened and she heard Daddy make a funny coughing noise beside her. "Miss Ava bought Sugar Frosted Flakes," Rindy said in surprise once he'd dismissed Miss Ava with a 'thank you'.

"I told her to." He looked like he wanted to laugh as he picked up his coffee mug, "Since it is school break. They're good enough for Superman, so I'm sure they're good enough for a Princess."

"Captain America doesn't like them," Rindy told him as she took a big bite. It was better than cornflakes with sugar! When you added sugar it ended up with grainy stuff in it, but this was just sweet. She never got sweet things as breakfast.

"Another point in their favor." He smiled, winking at her as he took a drink of his coffee.

"How can you work from home?" Rindy asked after several bites, feet swinging against the chair legs.

"Miss Lilah is going to come over with some papers I need, and I have a few people that are going to stop by to talk with me in my office," he answered, folding his paper around so Rindy could see the front page that held more pictures than words, "But other than that, I'll be all yours today."

"What about when I'm not here?" Rindy asked with what she felt was a very confident voice.

"Well, once you're not here, I'm going to a Christmas party tonight," he said with a smile, "Which will be dreadfully boring without you. Miss Lilah is going to go with me to keep me company so I won't be all by myself."

"What if I have to talk to you?"

"They have a phone there. I'll make sure to write the number down for you before you leave tonight, that way you can call me any time, no matter what."

"Before I go to Mommy’s?" Rindy questioned, testing to see if he remembered. Not wanting to be forgotten, have Mommy forgotten.

"Before you go with Aunt Abby to go Christmas shopping." He emphasized the last two words, "Won't that be special?"

 "Christmas shopping for you." Rindy couldn't help but smile in return, "And Mommy, and Mam-Aunt Therese."

He never said she couldn’t call Aunt Therese that. It was only Mommy, really, who’d told her where and when it was okay. Told her that sometimes she’d have to go back to just thinking of Aunt Therese as Mama instead of saying it. Daddy never said she couldn’t, but sometimes when she did, he made a funny face. Like the one he’d made when Rindy switched the sugar for his coffee with salt.

Grandma made that face every time she talked about Aunt Therese at all. Or Mommy. Or Aunt Abby.

Rindy found it was best to play quietly with whatever new toys Grandma and Grandpa always had. If she didn’t talk about Mommy or Mama or Aunt Abby long enough, she was pretty sure they’d give her a puppy for Christmas.

"Yes, for your mother, Therese, and I." Daddy nodded.  "And then, after shopping, do you remember where you're going?"

"Home," Rindy replied quickly to help him remember, "So I can hide my presents here for Miss Ava to help me wrap, and get my stuff so I can go...where do I go?"

"To Mommy’s, for the weekend.”

“The whole weekend?”

“That’s right, a whole weekend with Mommy.”

"And Aunt Therese!”

"Yes, and Therese. And," he drew the word out, "Hmm... what was the name of that friend of yours? Lily? Iggie?"

"Lizzie!" Rindy laughed, accidentally dribbling milk that she wiped up with the back of her hand, "Not Iggie!"

“Are you sure? Are you sure she doesn’t look like an Iggie?”

“Yes! I mean no!” Rindy shook her head and pointed, even though it was rude to point at people. “She’d push you if you called her that,” Rindy said, giggling at the idea.

“Would she? Well that’s not very lady-like, is it?”

“Lizzie’s not lady-like. That’s why she’s the best.”

"Oh, I see Did you figure out what present you wanted to give her?"

"Lizzie has everything," Rindy frowned, thinking on it. Lizzie had a whole playroom, and lots of toys, and parents who could get her anything she wanted, "Maybe... do you think she'd like snow toys?"

"I bet she'd love them. Who doesn't love playing in the snow? I think they had some nice sleds downtown, how about I take a look tonight when I drive by there, and figure out one for Lizzie?”

“Okay,” Rindy agreed, nearly dragging her sleeves in her cereal as she reached for her juice cup. The truth was, she and Lizzie planned to take Uncle Steve’s shield and see how it worked as a sled. It was plenty big enough for both of them. But they couldn’t use that all the time because Uncle Steve needed it to pose with for pictures and to hit people. Plus he’d yelled at them last time, when they tried to ride it down the stairs and out the front door. Well, it was mostly Aunt Angie who yelled about that. But Lizzie would need a sled after Uncle Steve hid his shield again, until Lizzie found it again.

Maybe they could get Rindy’s Christmas puppy to pull it for them.

“And then I come home on Sunday?” she asked, thinking it best not to mention any of this to Daddy.

Lizzie didn't have to do this, she thought, remember all the time where she was going when, which people she'd get to see today. Lizzie had three parents all in one house, and she wasn't like Rindy, thinking of what to say in front of who so Mommy or Daddy or Grandma wouldn't get mad. Lizzie said whatever she wanted

“Monday night, sweetheart. Because this time you don't have school, so you can spend a whole third day with Mommy if you want.”

“But only if I want?” Rindy clarified as Daddy sorted through his papers again.

“Exactly, only if you want.”

“I think I want to,” Rindy decided after a moment. She liked spending time with her Mommy and Mama, and with her friend and aunts and uncle. “Is the paper good?” she asked after a minute, taking a bite of slightly soggy cereal.

“Some of it.”

“Aunt Therese works for the paper. Sometimes she even gets her name in for everyone to see! Isn’t that great?”

“Fantastic,” Daddy said, made a funny face as he sipped from his coffee.


 Daddy being home from work, and no school meant Rindy got to run around in her nightgown and watch cartoons and play, until near ten when Miss Ava finally chased her upstairs and made her put on some 'real clothes.’

Real clothes that involved warm tights and a new dress, but not a princessy dress, just a nice dress, Rindy thought.

Miss Ava was nice and always helped her with her clothes, but Rindy did the hair brushing on her own. A hundred brushes on each side, just like Mommy. Miss Ava was nice, but she always had more things to do and liked to cheat and skip numbers. Just to see if Rindy was paying attention, she said. But Rindy liked doing it herself, so she could tell Mommy she was a big girl without lying, and Miss Ava knew now to give her extra time for it.

She might not know how to brush hair right, but Miss Ava was good otherwise. She even let Rindy leave her shoes off “For now” when she returned to the living room with her Lincoln logs and train set. Daddy had taken a look at her toys, laughed, and excused himself to his office, leaving her to play.

Miss Ava's only warning was not to make 'too big' a mess, “Otherwise Santa might worry about bringing you more building toys!”

She'd made it through three containers of logs and had half the living room covered by the time Miss Lilah showed up.

“I didn't realize we had construction work ongoing!”

Miss Lilah wasn't as tall as Mommy, but she was nearly as blonde. With pale skin and bright blue eyes, Rindy felt she looked almost like a Christmas angel tree topper, but saying that might be mean, even though Mommy called Mama ‘Angel’ all the time and it wasn’t mean. Adults were funny about things sometimes, and Rindy liked Miss Lilah too much to risk it.

She crouched down next to Rindy, skirt smoothed carefully against her legs, blonde curls bouncing around her shoulders when she moved, “Are we building a whole city?”

“Yes. This is New York,” Rindy declared, amused by Lilah's confusion, and by her stocking clad feet. “See, that's the Empire State Building.”

“Of course, how could I miss that? It's beautiful, truly amazing, Miss Rindy.” She spoke pretty like Aunt Peggy did, but her words were more like hot chocolate than flowers, “You have a gift.”

“And you don't have shoes on,” Rindy observed with a giggle, “Me either.”

“Oh, well,” Lilah lowered her voice, “mine were lost in the snow. How about yours? Did the goat eat them?”

Rindy laughed again, nearly toppling over her shopping department when she did so, “No! He lives at our country home now because he ate the flowers and Miss Ava said he could live there, or she'd find recipes from the Jamaicans.”

She missed her goat. Daddy got it for her after he and Mommy said they were going to be a different kind of family now.

Lilah snorted, “I see. Well, I hope he's enjoying his new home.”

“He is. He misses me though.”

“Well of course. Who wouldn’t miss you?”

“I know. But he has more room to play and do goat stuff at the country house anyway. Do you want to build blocks with me?”

“Unfortunately I have some business with your father, but maybe we can play in just a bit, once we've gone over our papers together. How does that sound?”

Rindy nodded, “Okay. But I'm leaving tonight so it can't be too late.”

“No fear, I'm sure we can manage playtime before dinner.”

Maybe she should buy her mom a new coat for Christmas, Rindy thought as she worked on her crayon artwork, her lunch laying on its plate next to her papers. It was snowing still, it had been all morning, so a coat would be good. But she already had quite a few coats.

Maybe mittens. Mama said her mom was always losing her mittens.

Like those three little kittens, Rindy thought with a giggle, adding a bow to her drawing of a Christmas tree.

Or she could do pretty perfume, but then she'd have to go into the smelly section of the store where old women always got too close and tried to touch her and all smelled like Grandma's vanity bottles.

Mama… maybe something for her camera. Or matching mittens.

“Eat your lunch, Miss Rindy.”

At Miss Ava's reminder, Rindy sighed and took a bite of her peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

It didn't taste as good as Mama’s, but she chewed it anyway, the peanut butter sticking to her mouth. She could get Mama a photobook, for all her new photos. Maybe.

And Daddy… “What do you buy daddies for Christmas?” Rindy asked around the peanut butter.

“How about a tie?”

Rindy wrinkled her nose, “Daddy has too many ties. And robes.”

“Then how about new house shoes? Or a smoking jacket?”

“Those aren't fun though,” Rindy sighed, tapping her fingers on the plate as she took another bite. “Books?”

“He loves books. You could get some new ones for you to read together

 “I could! We could get animal books!”

She was almost done with her lunch when Miss Lilah peeked into the kitchen, “Hello, Miss Rindy. I'm available for building lessons whenever you're ready.”

“Have you ever built houses before?” Rindy asked curiously, trying to take big bites of her sandwich to finish it quicker. Miss Ava wouldn't let her down to play if it wasn't eaten.

“Not toy ones, no. I have been around a home or two being built though, it's rather interesting but loud.” Lilah sat down on the chair across from her, “Too many tools and smelly men.”

Rindy wrinkled her nose, “Ew. No, we build nicer things. You can help me with Daddy's office building. You know it better.”

“I might, yes. I'll be sure to follow your directions though, since you know the blocks so much more than me.”

Miss Lilah was a better builder than she thought she was, and Rindy barely had to show her how to build to make the tall big buildings. They weren't exact to the real buildings, Rindy knew, but they were close enough.

Halfway through their first attempt Miss Ava brought them hot chocolate and flipped the radio on, so it played Christmas music on repeat along with people talking about stuff that held no interest to her at all.

“Do you like Christmas?” Rindy asked curiously as Lilah sang along to the radio, something about Santa and babies.

“I love it. Do you?”

“Yeah. And Mommy does too, it’s her favorite. Daddy says my Aunt Abby is a real Scrooge though. Do you know what that is?”

“I believe that's a character from A Christmas Carol,” Lilah said, “I managed to catch it last year on a friend’s television.”

“Oh. Is that a bad thing?” Rindy asked, giggling at the title with Mommy’s name in it.

“Perhaps, yes, but Scrooge is a good person in the end.”

“Oh. Aunt Abby's taking me shopping.”

She’d told Daddy over and over that she wanted to do her own shopping this year, told Mommy too. Then they’d talked on the phone and sometimes Daddy talked too loud, and it seemed like it took forever. But then he’d handed her the phone so she could have her goodnight call with Mommy and Mommy said Aunt Abby was going to come visit her at Daddy’s and be her Christmas elf.

“I know. How exciting, going shopping without your parents! Do you know what you want to get them?”

Rindy looked around to make sure no one heard, “Some books for Daddy, that we can read together. I don't know about Mommy though, or Ma-Aunt Therese.”

“Hmm,” Lilah tapped her lower lip with her finger, “Well, how about…a new hair kit for your mommy? A brand new brush, comb, and mirror? Does she like those sorts of things?”

“She does! Oh, I could get her a prettier set than she has!”

“I bet she'd adore any present you gave her.”

“What about Aunt Therese?”

“I can't say I know much about your aunt Therese,” Lilah admitted, “but you could always go back to the old standby.”

“What's that?”

“Socks and candy.” Lilah said with such seriousness Rindy couldn't help but laugh.

By the time they'd run out of Lincoln logs to build with, Miss Lilah had the radio turned up a little more, and had pulled Rindy to her feet with her, showing her how to dance to the different music it was playing, to 'kickstart the Christmas spirit'.

Miss Lilah didn't dance like her Mommy and Daddy, just swaying in little circles. She spun and swayed and moved her feet, holding Rindy's hand in hers to help her spin, easily picking her up in her arms to dance around when Rindy asked, giggling and a bit breathless after a few fast songs.

“What's a winter wonderland?”

“It's where everything is bright and white and covered in snow,” Lilah answered when the song ended, a wide, pretty smile on her face. Rindy found herself wondering if Mama could lift her like this.

“Oh. I like the snow.”

“Me too.”

Rindy noticed her Daddy in the doorway as Miss Lilah started singing along to the next one, swaying with, her hand in Rindy's in an exaggerated dance. Her Daddy tapped his finger to his lips in a 'hush' gesture that had Rindy giggling.

“My mother will start to worry,” Lilah sang along, words rich and warm.

“Beautiful what's your hurry?” her Daddy picked up when the other voice went to sing and Lilah whirled in place, making Rindy laugh as Lilah actually gasped in surprise, how silly.

“Oh, sorry, I didn't realize-- I'm sure we look a sight.”

“Indeed, you do.” Daddy smiled at them and Rindy couldn't help giggling again, running to him to be picked up once Lilah sat her down. “But that's not always a bad thing,” he added, picking up the words again and twirling Rindy like Lilah had, dancing with her a little in place for a moment.

“I didn't know you could sing,” Rindy told him.

“I am a man of mystery.” he answered seriously. “And you miss, are a gal with plans. Your Aunt is at the door. Best go get your shoes on.”

“Is she really? Why didn't she come inside?” Rindy asked, squirming to get down and find her shoes.

“I didn't answer the door,” he replied, and she heard Lilah cough over a laugh.

“Ha—Mr. Aird!”

“What?” Rindy heard his voice echo after her as she ran off to locate her boots, “At least I made sure to notice she'd shown up.”

Rindy grabbed her snow boots as fast as she could, trying to slide them on without messing about with the laces, and nearly tumbled herself over.

“Careful, sweetheart,” Lilah caught her, kneeling down on the cool tile to help her slip her feet into the boots, gently tugging them into place before lacing them up. “Don't crack your head. A trip to the shops becoming a trip to hospital is a bad change of plans.”

“Snow boots are annoying,” Rindy said. They were so much harder to put on than regular shoes. “Ice skates too.”

“Are you planning to skate, Miss Rindy?”

“Mommy’s taking me. Mommy’s a good skater. Aunt Therese isn’t, but she goes ‘cause I ask.”

“Someone else wrapped around your finger, hmm?”

Rindy didn’t know what that meant, but Miss Lilah was smiling, so Rindy smiled back. She almost told how she didn’t think Mama was that bad a skater, how she sometimes wondered if Mama was pretending just so Mommy would hold onto her more. Nobody could be that bad at skating if they weren’t pretending. Then Rindy heard movement and remembered Aunt Abby and forgot about the skating.

“Daddy, don't let Aunt Abby leave without me!” Rindy called out over Lilah's shoulders when the woman had to pause to undo a knot in the laces.

“I won't, Princess,” Daddy called back as he moved to open the door just out of their sight.  “Afternoon.”

She heard Aunt Abby's voice flit through the hallway. "You could have invited me in, instead of leaving me to freeze."

"I thought your heart would match the weather. Besides, I like my housekeeper. My gardener not as much, and you tend to poach."

“What’s poaching?” Rindy asked, though she could see Lilah was trying not to laugh.

“It's a way to cook eggs and pears. Are you wearing your navy coat or your red coat tonight?”

“The navy one, it matches my boots.”

She managed to get her coat on and buttoned up with minimal help, and even got her hat on without fuss before heading for the door.  "If your heart's really cold, Aunt Abby, I can get you a sweater." Rindy offered the moment her Aunt Abby was in sight.

"No, darling, that's quite alright. The gardener's sure to help enough."

"I like him," Rindy said like it was a secret the other adults couldn't hear, "He's really nice and made us a garden for vegetables too and he's really pretty like flowers."

“I'm sure he is,” Abby smiled. “I don’t need a sweater, but you know what I do need?”

“What?”

“A proper hello from you, missy.”

Ignoring the grumpy tone (Aunt Abby almost never meant it), Rindy threw herself forward. Aunt Abby picked her up and spun her around over and over and Rindy loved it even if it made her a little dizzy, with all the spinning she’d already done. Aunt Abby’s coat smelled like the stuff they used at the shop to make the furniture shiny.

“You came!” Rindy said once Aunt Abby set her down.

“Well of course I did.”

“You came to be my Christmas elf!”

Aunt Abby made a funny face at that. Rindy heard Daddy cough, but it also sounded like laughing.

“Is that what I’m here for?”

Rindy nodded. “That’s what Mommy called you when she said you were coming to get me.”

“Of course she did. And what have we here, a fellow elf?”

Rindy turned to see what Aunt Abby was talking about. “No! That’s Miss Lilah. She helps Daddy with things.”

“I’m sure she does. Maybe someone should help her find her shoes.”

“She lost them in the snow.”

“It’s getting late,” Daddy said. “And you and your elf have plans, don’t you, sunshine?”

“But I wanted to show Aunt Abby my room!” Aunt Abby never visited here, and there were so many toys and drawings Rindy never got to show her.

“Maybe next time, sweetheart.” Aunt Abby smoothed a hand through Rindy’s hair. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Miss Lilah. You work for Harge?”

“For Mr. Aird, yes ma’am.”

“My condolences then.”

“What’s condolaces?” Rindy asked

 “Leave the top up, Abigail.” Daddy said. Rindy hated when he ignored her. “And for God's sake do the speed limit.”

“Picky, picky, for someone who hasn’t gone anywhere without a driver since 1945.”

Daddy knelt down next to Rindy, “Okay, sunshine. When are you going to see me again?”

“Monday,” Rindy answered. “Or whenever I want to.”

“That's right.” He pressed a kiss to her forehead, and handed her a folded slip of paper. “All my numbers where I'll be are written down right there. I stopped in at Macy's and at Frankenberg's, and let them know that my little girl was going to come down and go Christmas shopping, so just ask for the manager, tell them who you are, and they'll make sure to bill it later, okay?”

‘You could just give me the money,” said Aunt Abby.

“Yes. That worked out so well for Lindberg, didn’t it?”

“Who’s that?” Rindy asked.

“Never you mind,” said Daddy. “Just have your elf ask for the manager, okay?”

“Okay.” Rindy nodded and hugged him tightly. Her stomach always felt weird before leaving, here or at Mommy’s, all twisty and like she'd swallowed a windup toy. “Promise I'll see you Monday?”

“Of course! Santa will have come, we'll have to hurry home and see what he's brought you, won't we?”

“Yeah.” Rindy thought of something suddenly. “Who’s going to help me hide Mommy’s present?”

“I’m sure your little elf will help with that. Aunt Abby’s very good at hiding things.”

“C'mon, sweetheart,” Aunt Abby said, “We have things to do before we meet your mom tonight!”

“Okay…bye Daddy,” Rindy repeated, hugging him again before turning and hugging Lilah impulsively, “Bye, Miss Lilah.”

“Goodbye, Miss Rindy.”

“It was lovely meeting you,” Aunt Abby said. “We’ll keep a lookout for your shoes.”

Rindy took Abby's hand, took a breath, and set off through the snow to her aunt's car.


 “Nerinda Abigail Aird. If your behind isn’t on that seat in the next three seconds, the Elf Express is turning around and you’re going home.”

“No it won’t,” Rindy said with a laugh. Daddy never used her middle name, even when she was in trouble.

“You want to bet on it? Butt. Seat. Now.”

Rindy laughed again at the word Aunt Abby used, but she listened.

“That’s better. Now sit still, unless you want the back, and the car seat.”

“No car seat!”

“Then behave yourself.”

Aunt Abby was watching the road and not smiling, but Rindy could hear the smile in her voice. Aunt Abby wasn’t as grumpy as she wanted Rindy to think. “Can we make the top go away?”

“Your dad said no.”

“So?” Rindy asked. Aunt Abby did the opposite of what Mommy and Daddy said all the time. Especially Daddy.

“So, you’ll get sick.”

Rindy slumped in her seat. She wouldn’t get sick, and it was more fun with the top open, and they’d be the only ones doing it, because no one else was like Aunt Abby. Mama said she was the only one crazy enough to drive an open-topped car in December. “Please?”

“The wind would blow you away like a balloon, and then I’d have to chase you all over the city.”

Rindy loved that idea and told Aunt Abby.

Aunt Abby called her silly, then asked about Miss Lilah. How long she’d worked for Daddy, which Rindy didn’t know, and lots of other questions she didn’t know either. She was glad Aunt Abby liked talking about Muss Lilah so much. Rindy liked it too.

“Miss Lilah taught me how to dance.”

“She did?”

“Yup. Not boring like Mommy and Daddy dance either. And Daddy sang.”

“Really?”

“Yup. Before you came. He made his voice go all rumbly and funny.”

“You heard your daddy sing? Oh you poor darling, your ears must hurt!”

Aunt Abby took a hand off the wheel to tug gently at her ear and Rindy laughed and swatted her away.

When they got out of the car in front of Frankenberg’s, Aunt Abby said they had to hold hands, just like Mommy and Mama and Daddy always said. Even though Rindy was a big girl and Aunt Abby was a slowpoke. Rindy bounced impatiently while Aunt Abby grumbled about sludge and puddles.

“Come on, Auntie!” She tugged on Abby’s arm, but it didn’t help.

“Take it easy, missy. You want me to tie a leash on you?”

Rindy laughed, swinging her arm back and forth in Abby’s. “No!”

“I didn’t think so.”

“Mommy loves the snow.”

“Yes well. Your mother always did have questionable taste in some things.”

“Like what?” Rindy asked, though she wasn’t entirely sure what Aunt Abby was saying.

“Men. Everything except women, really.”

It was warmer inside the store, but crowded, and Aunt Abby held her hand tighter. Aunt Abby reminded her what Mama’s favorite color was, and helped Rindy find a photobook in red. It reminded her of the colors Mommy liked to wear. Then Aunt Abby and a lady in a Santa hat helped her pick a new hair kit for Mommy. 

Daddy was harder to pick for. She’d get the books, like Miss Ava said, but Daddy was a very good daddy and she figured he deserved something grownup too, something just for him. She still didn’t want to get him more ties, or a robe, or slippers. That’s what Mommy always used to get him, and he always got her the same flowers or perfume every year. That was boring and Rindy didn’t want to be boring. Aunt Abby wasn’t helping much either.

“You could get him some socks.”

Rindy shook her head. “I already told Miss Ava no socks, they’re boring.”

“These would be special socks though.”

Rindy looked up at her as they wandered the store with all it’s pretty decorations. “Special?”

“You could poke some holes in them, make them special.”

Rindy shook her head. Aunt Abby was always funny. “Maybe a fishing pole?” she asked, thinking of the trips to the lake Daddy took her on.

Aunt Abby made a joke about Daddy slipping and drowning in the lake

Aunt Abby said maybe they should get the books first, they could find something else for Daddy after. Rindy agreed and they made their way over to the book section. There were too many people in the aisles, kids and grownups, and Rindy wished Daddy was here. He could lift her on his shoulders so she’d be able to see everything. Or Uncle Steve. Uncle Steve was stronger than Daddy, but whenever Rindy said that, Daddy grumbled about drugs and Frankenstein. Whatever that meant.

Which reminded her. What would she get Uncle Steve? Uncle Steve was always nice to her, and he drew and colored better than anyone she knew, and he’d taught her some new tricks no one else in her class knew. What would Uncle Steve want?

“This is stupid!” a voice said somewhere nearby. Rindy stopped and listened. She knew that voice! Didn’t she? It was hard to hear over all the other noise.

“I’m sorry? Um, we have lots of other books if…”

That was a grownup voice that Rindy definitely didn’t know.

“Elizabeth.” Another grownup, a lady. “Be nice. Would you like me to give your mother a bad report this close to Christmas?

“But look, Auntie Rose! That’s not how the story went and you know it! And they made Daddy ugly.”

“Elizabeth.”

“Well they did. The lines are all weird and crooked. They can’t have a book with my Mommy and Daddy here where everything’s wrong, it’s not fair.”

“It’s a story, Lizzie. Stories are supposed to be made up, remember?”

“It’s not a story if it’s made up about a real person, then it’s just lies.”

“Sweetheart.” That voice Rindy didn’t know again. “We really do have plenty of other books.”

“I’m having Auntie Rose call Uncle Howard and he’s going to buy this store and you’ll only be able to sell good books.”

Someone said something about censorship, and Rindy didn’t know what that was, but she squirmed her hand out of Aunt Abby’s and ran to the end of the aisle. She looked left, then right, and then saw Lizzie and someone else Rindy kind of remembered, a lady, and a man in a Santa hat.  He had a book in his hand and Rindy saw from the bright red and blue that Captain America was drawn on the cover.

“Lizzie!”

Rindy went toward her and Lizzie ducked under the man with the hat and almost knocked Rindy over, even though Lizzie was smaller. “What are you doing here?” Lizzie asked.

“Shopping with Aunt Abby. What are you doing here?”

“Shopping with Aunt Rose!”

Lizzie gestured to the redhead with curls and glasses, who smiled and waved at Rindy. Rindy remembered her better now, she thought. She’d been at Lizzie’s house before, at Aunt Peggy’s parties.

“Aunt Rose is the best,” Lizzie continued. “She’s a spy!”

Rose laughed and said something about kids and their imaginations. “Well, I guess I do spy on people’s conversations a little. I work for the phone company.”

“She does not,” Lizzie said. “She pretends about that, even though she’s a grownup and too big for pretend.”

Rose said she resented that, whatever that meant, and said something to the salesperson and he went away.

“When did you get here?” Rindy asked, excited. She’d thought it would be days before she saw Lizzie.

Lizzie put a hand to her face and breathed very loudly. “You would not believe the day I’ve had!"

Rindy giggled. Lizzie sounded like Aunt Angie when she said that. Both of them were good at telling stories. Rindy stepped forward a bit to listen.