Authors: Janet Ruth Young
Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Family, #Parents, #Love & Romance, #Social Issues, #Suicide, #Social Themes, #Dating & Sex, #Dating & Relationships, #Depression & Mental Illness
To volunteers everywhere
Thanks to the people who agreed to be interviewed for this book: Lieutenant Kathy Auld and Officer Larry Ingersoll of the Gloucester Police Department, Captain Barry Aptt of the Gloucester Fire Department, Dan Quirk of Beauport Ambulance, Jen Shairs and David Allen, and the painters Ed Touchette and Elynn Kroger. Painter and teacher Susan Guest-McPhail shared her insights with me and reviewed the book for accuracy. Thanks also to my loyal reader/critiquers—Cassandra Oxley, Bridget Rawding, Jan Voogd, and Diane Young. Finally, my appreciation to the people at Atheneum, especially my editor, Ruta Rimas, for their help in shaping and presenting this story.
Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.
he was a girl talking to me in the dark.
Everybody knows what happened with my parents. Everybody I talk to when I call.
“You can turn your life around,” I had told her. “Starting today, you can be free. You can do anything you want. Don’t you see that?”
I’m down, but I’m not out. I’m a fighter. On my good days, few can defeat me.
“I admire that about you,” I had told her.
I remember every compliment you ever gave me. Especially when you said I was strong.
“I have to go. Will you be okay?”
I’ll handle it. I always do. Good night, sweet Hallmark prince.
here is everyone?” Dad asked when he got home. It was October 25, and he had just come from his therapy appointment. Dad looked good these days, like someone who had a purpose. He shaved in the morning and dressed for work in a jacket and tie and Rockport loafers. He stood straighter and was no longer bony. His felty red hair was cut short, so that it verged on stylish, and he wore a sharp, arrowlike goatee. He worked as a draftsman at Liberty Fixtures, a company that made shelving for department stores. He looked a lot like me, if I were fifty and had accepted that I would always hate the job I needed.
I was just in from a bike ride. Mom and Linda were making pizza and salad for supper. Dad dropped a bag marked
on the dining room table. You could hear the rush-hour traffic going by out back; the highway ran right behind our house.
Drive past our house: the bright orange door, the brass
knocker in the shape of a salamander (unnecessary because we have a functioning doorbell), our name and house number (Morrison 32) painted in black Gothic lettering on a white rock at the end of the driveway—that’s all Linda’s work. And Mom directed a museum. We might as well have a sign outside saying Artistic People Live Here. Right now Linda and Mom were laying the pepperoni slices in overlapping circles to look like a chrysanthemum. The art supplies could have been for almost anyone—anyone but me.
“I’m going to paint again,” Dad said. He looked quietly fierce, like a gladiator before the lion is let out.
“Yippee!” Linda danced around, wriggling and elfish. She switched from teenager mode to little girl mode when she wanted to feel closer to my parents.
Mom dried her hands and wrapped her arms around Dad’s middle.
“That’s exciting, honey. But you’ve always painted.”
“I mean get
about painting. I want to be in the art world again. I put my art aside. Because of the needs of making a living and raising a family.”
Excuse me for being born
, I thought.
“That’s a sad story,” Linda said. Linda’s style reworked droopy clothes that had belonged to an elderly person, which made her look younger than thirteen. She came up to Dad’s armpit, and she had a wormy way of sharing his space. Now she slipped her hand into Dad’s, and he held it in the air like it was a prize. I was as tall as he was, so he never looked at me, or my hand, that way.
“I never stopped you,” Mom said. “I never told you you couldn’t paint.” Like Linda, Mom worked to separate
herself from the run of humanity. She wore her black hair perfectly straight, wore dark lipstick, and owned only necklaces that were one of a kind. Usually they were made for her by someone noteworthy, such as a blind sculptor, a poetry-writing shepherd, or a male nun.
“Of course not, sweetie,” Dad said. He crinkled his eyes at Mom, like he was winking to make her admit a lie.
“Don’t forget, Bill, I fell in love with you over
“I’m not forgetting.”
was the ocean-on-top sunset painting of Dad’s that was shown by a Fifty-Seventh Street gallery in New York City when Mom was in graduate school and Dad was working at a paint store. He ended up selling that to a collector, as well as his vertical sunset painting
. He once told me that they were the best things he had ever done—part technical exercise, part making fun of the sunset cliché, and part, he said, “Just something great to look at.”
At the opening reception, Mom stood in front of
for a long time. A tall guy in an army fatigue jacket and tuxedo pants came along and stood beside her, and without his saying anything, she knew he was the painter. Although I don’t like to view either of my parents as a love object, I always felt that was a good way to meet someone: nothing flashy or obvious, just a meeting of the minds and a sense of being immediately understood.
“Well, for the record,” Mom continued, “I completely support your painting. As of today, as of right now, and for the future. Completely.”
“I completely do too, Dad.” Linda scurried away from Dad and emptied the bag: tubes of paint, brushes, brush cleaner.
“Why all of a sudden?” I asked, leaning on one end of the table. I didn’t touch Dad or his art supplies. I knew enough to see that he had about three hundred dollars’ worth.
“Dr. Fritz and I talked about it. Art is my missing piece.” Dad pointed to the paints, then tapped a spot somewhere between his heart and his gut. “The missing piece of my emotional puzzle.”