Authors: Kevin Henkes
anny Swann popped the only red balloon, pretending that it was her father's heart. And then, within a matter of minutes, her anger dissolved into tears. After slapping at the remaining balloons, Fanny turned toward her mother, wrapping herself around her, burying her face in her mother's fancy dress.
“It's because of me,” Fanny said between snifï¬es. “I know it's because of me.”
“It's not because of you,” Ellen Cross told her daughter. “Don't think that for another second.” Ellen stroked Fanny's hair, pulling her ï¬ngers through it like a comb.
“I'm messing your dress,” Fanny said, stepping away from her mother and wiping her nose on her sleeve.
“Don't worry about my dress.”
“When will he come back?” Fanny asked, almost whispering. She looked at her mother up and down while she waited for an answer.
Usually her mother's long, thick, gray-streaked hair was drawn back into a ponytail that always managed to spill over her right shoulder and curve toward her neck. That night, Ellen's hair was twisted with a tinsel garland and small red berries into an elegant bun.
“Does it look stupid? Does it look like a Danish pastry?” Ellen had asked Fanny as she worked on her hair in the bathroom only hours earlier.
“It looks beautiful,” Fanny had responded, her eyes frozen on her mother, mesmerized by her mother's ability to create extraordinary effects out of things that were nothing very special on their own. The tinsel garland was just a scrap that had been lying on the stairs; the berries were from a scraggly bush in the backyard.
Ellen's dress was satin. It was bloodred with ï¬ecks of yellow and green worked into the fabric here and there. The blending of the colors reminded Fanny of an apple turning. Her shoes were red also, with straps that buckled
and heels that clicked on the bathroom ï¬oor.
“You look gorgeous,” Fanny had said somewhat wistfully, as though she knew her mother's beauty could rub off on her daughter only by magic. Something Fanny did not believe in, except in books. “And you smell nice, too. What is it?”
“Oh, I'm not really sure. A little of this, a little of that.”
“And add that to your already fragrant body odor,” Fanny had joked, “and there you areâa masterpiece.”