Rosewood Short – Part 10
Blue. That perfect, pearly shade of deep blue that was the purest autumn sky at moments, the glittering shine of summer pool water at others. The smooth, shiny fenders of the Chevelle. The glassy Caribbean Sea. It was the color of countless smiles, of grief, of laughter, of the warm inviting dark, and of supreme loneliness. It was the blue of so many nights, and so many days, and the ways they’d spent them. And now it was a blue that belonged to two little girls, both with heads of tangled black hair, one with her mother’s pixie face and the other with her father’s roman nose.
Jo regarded them over the kitchen island in the main house, instantly suspicious. “What’ve you guys been up to?”
“Nothing,” Will said. Avery held her big sister’s hand and blinked.
“Uh-huh. And how destructive is ‘nothing’ today?”
Will had the grace to look at her shoes and fidget.
Avery sucked at her lower lip and reached to push her bangs off her face. She was the more stoic of the two of them. Will reminded everyone of Jo, or so everyone said. But Avery Jay was Tam’s child, through and through. Quiet, careful, watchful, suspicious. She wasn’t squealing, and Jo didn’t guess she blamed her.
Finally, Willa sighed. “We broke the big pitcher in the hall.”
“The one with the sunflowers in it?”
“Yeah. Yes, ma’am.”
“Broke it doing what?”
Will looked like she hid a smile.
“Maybe,” Jo suggested, “I don’t want to know?”
She earned two nods.
She sighed. “Dustpan and broom are in the supply closet. Clean it up.” And they went off hand-in-hand to do as asked. Jo supposed that if she was going to have destructive children, they should at least be able to pick up after themselves and admit to their accidents.
Destructive child. Avery didn’t so much as disturb dust.
Her mind wandered, as it always did when she was supposed to be prepping food. She went wandering back through the shifting tides of mental mist to the day they’d brought Avery home from the hospital. They’d had Will with them; they did everything as a family, collectively, and the kids were always included, tagging along or being toted. Like dogs, she’d always thought, and she’d always thought that favorably. Will was ecstatic to have a sister; until she realized it would be a couple years before they could play together. Then interest quickly waned.
After Jo tucked Will in for the last time – after story number two – she shuffled her sore, exhausted way down the hall to her own room. Tam sat on the edge of the bed, holding the baby. Her body lay along his forearm, her head cradled in one big palm, his wedding ring catching stray lamplight, shining. He had an almost alabaster complexion, but by contrast, the baby’s head looked pink and white and smooth. He had his father’s hands. Strong hands. They had the potential for violence – she’d seen them in action before – but they were feather-light on her, on their babies.
His head lifted at the sound of her entrance; his hair was sticking up in odd patches from countless finger rakings. His face was tight around the eyes and mouth; he was exhausted. Watching her go through labor took a physical toll on him, something she hadn’t witnessed in her brothers. Tam had suffered more; he cared more, even if it was selfish of her to think that of her husband, to give him that elevation. Oh well.
“Is she sleeping?” Jo asked as she crossed to the bed.
“No.” His expression was rapturous. “She’s watching me.”
And she was. Jo settled in next to him, legs tucked beneath her, leaning into his strong shoulder. Avery – his second, third, girl with a boy’s name – had her eyes open and was staring up at them, innocent and uncomprehending. But Tam was acting, she thought with an inward smile, just as enchanted as he had with Willa.
“She’s already got hair,” Jo said of the tiny black tuft on the very top of her head. “It’s gonna be dark.” She curled an arm around Tam’s shoulders, fingers finding the nape of his neck, ruffling his hair. “Like you.”
I hope she’s got blue eyes too, Jo thought. That perfect cobalt blue that was his, that had been his mother’s. She’d never understood what he’d seen in the mirror – not completely – but she knew he despised his DNA. He hated the taint in his veins. But it wasn’t a taint. And she thought, maybe, through his girls, he’d begin to understand her love of blue.