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cherry

Precocious - opening paragraphs

Everything was the way mom described it. The front door handles were pear shaped and inset with pink jade. The hall was wide enough for three people to walk side by side. It had paintings that weren't pictures of anything, but made you suspect they might be, like the secrets hidden in grown-ups' jokes. Mom called them 'artistic'. From the hall they went into the TV room, where one wall was nothing but fireplace and another nothing but glass. French doors led to the garden, and immediately they stepped through they found themselves beneath the vast overhang of a cherry tree, with one branch reaching down as if it would shake their hands.
But Shasta hadn't been told about a woman. The one who let them in had introduced herself as Simone; she wore a red velvet dress with no sleeves. She said and did things as if she'd been in the house a lot. When they got to the tree, Simone held Shasta by the shoulders and tried to steer her over the patio.
“The cherry juice will stain your shoes,” she explained. “I ruined a beautiful pair of sandals that way.”
“Nick should get someone to pick his fruit,” mom said.
“He should cut down the tree period,” was Simone's solution. “But he says he likes to see things ripen in his own garden.”
“He does like cherries,” mom admitted.
“He still buys them! I am not kidding you--,” Simone pretended to claw her forehead with red fingernails while mom laughed, “I will not understand that man if I live to a hundred.”
It all indicated to Shasta that Simone must have spent time with Nick already, and planned to spend more. Mom never said her boss had a girlfriend. That could make the task harder.
The cherry tree filled the narrowest place in the garden. On either side of it were two swells of lawn like the top and bottom of an hourglass. They sloped down to the fence, so from the french doors you could see how high up you were. The rest of Vancouver, the rest of the Lower Mainlaid, spread out under you, a pretty blue-green carpet that came to the foot of your throne. Because the name of this part of the city, British Properties, always made Shasta think of royalty.
“Anyway, Irene,” Simone touched mom's arm, “he's got everything the kids could possibly want. Your girl won't know where to start.”
She pointed to the left side of the garden, which had a trampoline, two hopscotch squares painted on sheets of plywood, a swing set, a sandbox, a lot of soft, bright tubes you could crawl through and a playhouse. Two boys were there already, operating remote control cars.
“You can rent all this stuff,” Simone said, “would you believe it?”
Shasta did not move or speak. She stood straight with hands clasping her white purse which contained four dollars and a tube of Lip Smackers. Cherry flavour – she bought it for this party. It made her mouth look darker, like a woman with real makeup. She did glance once at mom, who might have understood everything, but at least understood enough.
“Shasta's doesn't really get excited about kid's games,” mom said. “Because she's only got me for company, I guess. But she mixes really well with older people. Would Nick mind?”
“I don't see why,” Simone replied.

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January 2015

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