As she crumpled the wrapper to put in her backpack, Jodi noticed something glinting overhead. A six-sided star swaying from a tree limb. Her star. Jodi stood to pluck the star from the branch. She thought about all that had just happened. About what she knew about their mom. About her secret. “I’m afraid,” she
She met the tattooed lady’s eyes, looked to the tattoo on the back of her hand, and back to her eyes. “I asked for help.” The tattooed lady held her gaze. “I made you up,” Jodi whispered. “You weren’t really at the fair.” “I was as real then as I am now,” she answered softly.
“When is daddy coming back?” Stacy cried. “He isn’t.,” Jodi said. Her matter of fact tone of voice gave away none of the turmoil she was feeling inside. It was as if the ground were being taken out from under her feet. “Is he?” She turned to their mom. There was a distant, pained expression
“That wasn’t the first time she said that about me being too smart,” Jodi whispered. She kept her eyes on Seymour. He was a skinny old tom cat, all pointy bones and sharp angles. She could feel each vertebrae in stark relief along his orange and cream striped back. The tattooed lady lay down another
Her face was kind, and at the same time, Jodi knew that the tattooed lady across from her would see through any lies. There wasn’t room in this cozy little cottage for anything but the truth. The tattooed lady lay another card on the table. As before, pictures formed in Jodi’s mind. Fragments of memories
“You’ve been so full of nightmares and questions there hasn’t been room for much else. Has there?” The question came so tenderly, it was as if the tattooed lady were reading her heart. Jodi’s hands fell from her face. She wiped away tears and looked across the table as the cat jumped onto her lap.
Jodi looked from the six-sided star tattoo on the back of the lady’s hand to her plump, rosy-cheeked face. “I want to know what happened,” she said. The tattooed lady frowned sympathetically. “You know what happened.” “I know mom was killed—” Jodi stopped, her throat constricting with emotion. She closed her eyes, willing herself to
“Hello,” the tattooed lady said, opening the door wider. She looked the same as the day at the fair, right down to the handkerchief-hemmed dress. Jodi didn’t wonder at that, any more than she wondered at being dry as soon as she stepped inside. Heat radiated from the fire crackling in an old brick fireplace.
The star swung, like a metronome… back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, until Jodi felt something shift inside—like finely tuned tumblers clicking into place. It was as if she were watching herself from somewhere outside of herself. She watched herself dismount her bike and walk it up the walkway to the cottage.
“There wasn’t any lady,” Stacy announced. Her feet swung inches above the carpet. Jodi swiveled her entire body until she gaped at her sister. “Yes, there was.” Stacy shook her head, the tips of her blonde pony tail hitting the sides of her cheeks. “Uh uh.” Jodi let go of Stacy’s hand and turned to