“I don’t know how you do it,” Jaclyn said to Cypress.
“Stay married. To the same person. And not only that, live with him, day after day after bloody day.”
Cypress laughed. “We’re happy!” she said. “I love McRae. He makes every day fun.”
“I love Davion, too,” replied Jaclyn, “but that doesn’t mean I want to be around him every single day. I’m getting tired of feeling like my wings are clipped.”
“But you’re free, right?” Cypress said. “My mom always said that in the right love, you find you’re free, and that’s what it’s like for me with McRae.”
Jaclyn walked Cypress and Sempervirens out to the road.
“It’s not how I feel it,” said Jaclyn.
“Why don’t you come over tomorrow?” Cypress suggested. “I’ll show you the garden.”
“We can have ice cream!” Sempervirens said.
“For ice cream, I’ll come!” Jaclyn replied. She knew that Cypress really wanted her to get a taste of their style of domestic bliss: two tents and a kitchen in a big meadow. It wouldn’t change how she felt, Jaclyn knew this. But they were neighbors and friends, and she knew her love of freedom was in no danger of being persuaded away.
She woke in a far better mood. The birds were singing, she was alone in her big bed, and she wasn’t expecting Davion to call or drop by.
She loved Davion, there was no doubt about that. And it had been her idea that he become her boyfriend. It wasn’t him–it was the whole “being a couple” thing that brought her down.
But this morning, with the sun shining on the empty road and not a single letter or bill waiting for her in her mailbox, she felt free!
Sparkroot and Florinda Tea ran over the hill and through the meadow and dropped by just as Jaclyn was washing up the morning dishes.
“Are we too late for tea?” Sparkroot asked.
“You’re just in time for elevenses!” said Jaclyn.
“Ha! I told Ama we’d get our something to eat here! You’re always eating!”
Jaclyn chuckled. “Can’t do to let one’s stomach grumble, now, can it?”
“I think that must be why you’re always happy! You always have something yummy and sweet to look forward to!”
“Well, I’m not always happy,” said Jaclyn, “but I did just get a fresh jar of marmalade that will taste absolutely delicious on a toasted muffin! And that’s something to smile about, certainly!”
“We can’t stick around too long, Spark,” Florinda said. “We’re going to Little Green’s. You wanna come, Auntie Jac?”
“Why, I certainly do!” replied Jaclyn. “I was headed over that way myself. Shall I toast the muffins so we can eat and go?”
“Yes!” shouted Sparkroot. “With marmalade!”
Sparkroot and Florinda’s ama was there to join them when they arrived at the big meadow.
“I brought over some basil seeds,” Cathy said.
Sempervirens and Bryant Cho were having a conversation about family domestic arrangements.
“So, I live with my mom and dad, and you do, too, right Bryant?”
“No,” he said, “I live with my sissy and my ma.”
“Oh. Well, Jennifer and Bridget live with their mom but not their dad, and their dad lives with Mikaela’s mom but Mikaela’s dad lives with Pierce and Pierce’s mom. Whose mom does your dad live with, Florinda?”
“Nobody, right, Ama?” said Florinda.
“That’s right,” said Cathy Tea. “Your dad lives by himself in his white and blue house and we live in our house.”
“But he comes and visits,” said Florinda.
“We don’t even live in a house,” said Sempervirens. “We live in two tents, a kitchen, and a meadow!”
“When I grow up, I want to live in a forest! And I want all the moms and all the dads and all the kids to live together!” said Florinda. “Then, it’s not so complicated! You want to see your ada? Fine! He’s right there!”
“That sounds a lot like my people’s way,” said Jaclyn. “My mother’s people, they lived together in tree-tops, all the elvene, and every man was your Osi’Tan, and every woman was your Osi’Nys. Selde were raised by the troupe.”
Florinda imagined what that would be like. The more she thought about it, the less sure she was that it would really be something worth wishing for. Maybe she didn’t want to live in a forest with the whole tribe.
Sure, it was fun to see her ada now and then–but not too often. Sometimes, their house was more peaceful when he was at his house and not visiting over.
And she sure wouldn’t want him to help raise Little Green or Bryant. What if he yelled at them, the way he sometimes liked to yell?
On the other hand, if they were raised by the whole village, then that would mean that she could also be raised by Little Green’s dad, Knox McRae.
Florinda thought that she would like that. Knox was a very kind and gentle man.
“Can I stay the night?” Florinda whispered to Little Green.
“Sure!” said Sempervirens, and they asked all the adults if it was OK.
After her mom and Sparkroot left for their home, and Jaclyn left for hers, and Bryant walked up the big hill to his house, Florinda sat in the kitchen with just Cypress, Knox, and Sempervirens, as if she were part of the family. Knox asked, “Would you like something to eat, Flor?”
He said it with such a kind voice, and his eyes were soft and gentle, too, and he smiled a real smile.
While she sat at the table with her stuffed potato, Florinda pretended, just for a moment, that this was her home and that he was her uncle–or maybe even, her dad, and that he always spoke to her with so much tenderness and kindness., without ever raising his voice. What a different world that would be!