We never found a meadow. Or a brook. We did find a pair of broken binoculars, a size 6 shoe, a whole Walmart bag full of cans to recycle, and 1,354 cigarette butts. Give or take a few.
I invited Violet home for dinner. She asked if my parents would mind. "They won't mind" I blurted, without considering.
I'd never had a friend home for dinner before. I'd never really had a friend home for any reason before. My parents would probably have a hard time concealing their giddy delight. Maybe Violet wouldn't notice.
Pushing open our glass front door, I called out "I'm home!" and walked into the kitchen, Violet on my heels.
I had interrupted something. I could tell. My dad was standing at the sink, twisting the life out of a dishrag. His face was composed into a tight calm. My mom was stirring something in a pan--her shoulders slightly hunched. She didn't look up. Rose was standing across from them giving her very best teenage girl "I resent authority" glare. I hadn't noticed how much she had perfected that art form before.
"Hey" I chirped, falsely, suddenly embarrassed by the awkward silence, "this is my friend, Violet."
My Mom jumped and sloshed something over the side of the pan. It landed on the burner and started to smoke. My Dad slapped a smile on his face that appeared genuine, "Well, hello, Purple! Nice to meet you!"
Violet wore a gigantic smile as she shook his hand comfortably. She looked so at ease. I snuck a glance at Rose, who was now glaring at the curling, faded linoleum. Her arms were folded across her chest, her hands balled into fists against her sides. "What's with her? What were they talking about?" I wondered. I never sensed tension like this in my family before.
My Mom finished wiping off the stove and turned, finally, to meet Violet. "Violet. Hello. We didn't know Clementine was expecting company." As she said this, she shot me a glare that said "Some warning, next time, please?" Trying to make up for things, I asked if there was anything I could do, to help with dinner.
"No. Just grab a seat. We're just about ready" said my dad, placing a bowl of lettuce on the table. Rose, letting out a sigh that was meant to be heard, stomped out of the room. At least she didn't slam her door.
Good. She was gone. We only had 4 chairs at the table and I didn't feel like dragging one of the living room chairs in. My mom put a hot pad on the table and set the pot on it, while my dad poured some milk. He even found some napkins in a drawer and put those next to the plates. I could tell they were trying to make things nice, because I had a guest. I would have to wait until later to find out what they were all fighting about.
Once my parents were seated, we started to dish up. Violet rummaged in her pocket and I saw her pull out another little wad of pills in a tissue. She popped them expertly into her mouth when my parents weren't looking at her, and swallowed quickly. At least, she thought they weren't looking. I could tell from a slight tilt of my mom's eyebrows that she had seen. Might as well get it over with.
"Violet has C.F." I tried to sound offhand about it. I hoped she didn't mind me just dumping it out there like that. I was watching for their reaction. Ever the nurse, my Mom's eyebrows shot up to her hairline. My Dad, of course, didn't skip a beat, "C.F.-- Clown Feet?! Oh, how terrible for you, Purple! Do you mind if I call you Purple? But I'm sure that you can special order shoes from the circus, right?" He shot us a wink. I giggled, and Violet put on a tragic air "Thank you for your sympathy, sir. It is so difficult to find shoes in a size twenty around here. Especially in green, which is my favorite color." I was laughing, stirring cheese as it melted into my chili.
Which reminds me, what was my mother thinking--cooking chili on a summer day? Two options: dings and dents bin at SaveMart or Special Buy at Big Lots.
I was relieved, now that they knew about Violet. My Mom would be able to explain it to me. And they wouldn't think she was bad for taking pills. They would know why she coughed a lot. They would make it all make sense.
Rose came back in the room. She was wearing her swimsuit under a pair of shorts, a towel over her arm. "I'm going swimming with some friends."
My Mom didn't even try to veil her surprise, "Swimming? Where?" There was the slightest hesitation from Rose, and I could tell my parents had sniffed it out. "At a friend's house. They have a pool." I knew my parents wanted to find out every blessed detail--whose house this was, what friend it was, if parents were going to be home, who else was going to be there. But I had a guest. They didn't want a fight. Violet was looking at them, with her wide eyes, so they finally just nodded.
"Home by 10:00." said my Mom.
"Yeah. Sure." said Rose, slinking noiselessly from the room and out the front door.