Coming Apart (9780545356152) (20 page)

BOOK: Coming Apart (9780545356152)
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“The last bit,” he said, “will go right here.” And he spread the remainder of the ashes under the bench. “Good-bye,” he said. “You were a wonderful friend.”

“Good-bye,” murmured the Row House neighbors.

Flora hugged Mr. Pennington. Then she walked back to her house, arms once again linked with Nikki's and Olivia's. Ruby trailed behind, alone.

Here is Camden Falls, Massachusetts, at the end of March, which is unseasonably mild this year. A man seated on a stool in the window of Frank's Beans, the coffee shop, turns to his companion and says, “I could have predicted it. A long, warm autumn and now an early spring.”

Jackie, who works in the post office, waits until there's a lull in business, and then, fanning her face with a catalog, says to her only customer, “Not as many snowstorms as usual this year.”

At Sincerely Yours, Robby props the door open with a brick to allow fresh air into the store, and Olivia's father says, “I have a feeling it's going to be a hot summer. I hope our air conditioning holds out.”

At Three Oaks, Flora, wearing her Helping Hand smock, sits on a terrace with Mrs. Willet and several other residents in wheelchairs.

“Isn't this nice?” says Flora, feeling the sun on her face. “Can you believe we can sit outside at the end of March?”

No one answers her, but Flora thinks the four old women are enjoying the sunshine and the breeze and the birdsong. They sit in silence until the door to the terrace opens and a nurse signals to Flora.

“Okay,” Flora replies. She rises, unlocks the brakes on Mrs. Willet's wheelchair, and pushes her inside to the day room, where the nurse is waiting. One by one she brings the other women inside, too. “I have to go now,” she announces, and again no one answers. But when Flora bends down to kiss Mrs. Willet's cheek, her old neighbor says, “Good-bye,” and takes her hand.

Flora smiles. “I'll see you next week.”

“Yes,” says Mrs. Willet.

Flora finds Mr. Pennington waiting for her in the lobby. “Did you have a nice visit with Mr. Willet?” she asks. As they walk to his car she tells him about her afternoon. The ride home is quiet, though, until Flora says, “Mr. Pennington? Excuse me if this is too personal — or nosy — but have you thought about getting another dog?”

“That's neither personal nor nosy,” replies Mr. Pennington, braking slightly at the sight of a twig in the road. “I have thought about getting another dog. But I haven't made a decision yet.”

Several miles outside of Camden Falls, off the county road, Mae Sherman is playing in her yard with Paw-Paw. She has managed to fit a Red Sox cap on his broad head, and now she calls to her sister, “Nikki, what if Paw-Paw were a professional baseball player?”

Nikki has no idea how to answer that question, but she smiles. Mae looks content; it's been several days since she asked a question about her father.

“Want to help me feed the dogs?” Nikki asks, and Mae jumps to her feet. The stray dogs have been coming to their new shelter every day. Nikki keeps the bowls filled with chow and fresh water, and she's spread blankets on the floor. She's pleased to see that the dogs use the shed in bad weather.

The mild afternoon begins to draw to a close. Peek in the windows of Needle and Thread, and there are Min and Gigi at the back of the store. Two customers are choosing fabric, and while they make their decisions, Min and Gigi bend over the worktable, the pieces of the first of the two Camden Falls quilts spread before them.

“Flora can help us with this over the weekend,” remarks Min.

“We ought to be able to finish both quilts by June, don't you think?” says Gigi.

“Probably. Maybe then we can have an auction party here at the store.”

Down the street and around two corners are the Row Houses. The younger kids — Alyssa and Travis Morris, Cole Hamilton, and Olivia's brothers — have spent the entire afternoon in their backyards and running in and out of one another's houses. Now their parents call them inside for supper and to start their homework.

At the Hamiltons' house, Cole's father is warming lasagna in the oven. “Come sit down,” he says to Cole and Willow, motioning to the kitchen table. “I want to talk to you. Your mother will be coming home in a month, and we need to start thinking about how things will change.”

Cole doesn't know whether to feel pleased or frightened.

Several doors away, Olivia carries the phone into her bedroom, gently closes the door, and dials Jacob's number. “Hi,” she says when she hears his voice. “Did you start your composition yet?”

In another part of town, Mary Woolsey settles herself in an armchair after a day of work at Needle and Thread. She pulls out her knitting and says to Daphne and Delilah, “I think I'll be able to finish this tonight.” It's a sweater for her grandniece, who will be visiting soon, along with Mary's sister.

And in a small house on a street on the east side of town, Mr. Barnes picks up his telephone and notices that his hands are trembling. He dials Allie Read's number, then hurries to his window and peers across the street to see whether her lights are on. They are. He holds his breath until she answers the call.

Back on Aiken Avenue, in the fourth Row House from the left, Ruby Northrop runs upstairs after finishing an afternoon of work as the Doer of Unpleasant Jobs. She has two bills in her pocket, and she fingers them eagerly. She closes her door, crosses the room to her desk, removes the envelope full of money, adds the bills to it, and begins counting. When she finishes, she lets out a sigh. At last she has enough to buy the owl.

Ruby hears her sister's footsteps on the stairs. A moment later, there's a knock on her door. “Can I come in?” calls Flora.

“No,” Ruby says, and begins counting the money again.

Belle Teal

A Corner of the Universe

A Dog's Life

Here Today

On Christmas Eve

P.S. Longer Letter Later
written with Paula Danziger

Snail Mail No More
written with Paula Danziger

Ten Kids, No Pets

The Baby-sitters Club series

Main Street #1:
Welcome to Camden Falls

Main Street #2:
Needle and Thread

Main Street #3:
'Tis the Season

Main Street #4:
Best Friends

Main Street #5:
The Secret Book Club

Main Street #6:
September Surprises

Main Street #7:
Keeping Secrets

Main Street #8:
Special Delivery

Copyright © 2010 by Ann M. Martin. All rights reserved. Published by Scholastic Inc. SCHOLASTIC and associated logos are trademarks and/or registered trademarks of Scholastic Inc.

First printing, September 2010

Cover art by Dan Andreason

Cover design by Steve Scott

e-ISBN 978-0-545-35615-2

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. No part of this publication may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of the publisher. For information regarding permission, write to Scholastic Inc., Attention: Permissions Department, 557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012.

BOOK: Coming Apart (9780545356152)
5.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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