Authors: Clyde Robert Bulla
Dorothy C. McKenzie
The train stopped at Palmville, and Sarah Ida had a sudden thought. What if she didn't get off? What if she just rode on to the end of the line? Maybe she could find a place where everything was new and she could start all over again.
But people would ask questions.
How old are you? .Â .Â . Only ten and a half? What are you doing here all by yourself?
Someone would be sure to find her and bring her back.
Anyway, it was too late. Aunt Claudia had already seen her. Aunt Claudia was at the station, looking through the train window and waving her thin hand.
Sarah Ida picked up her suitcase.
“Here, little lady, I'll help you with that,” said the porter.
“I can carry it myself,” she said, and she dragged it off the train.
Aunt Claudia gave her a kiss that smelled like cough drops. Then they took a taxi. They rode through town, and Aunt Claudia talked. “You've grown, but I knew you the minute I saw you. You've got your mother's pretty brown eyes, but you've got your father's jaw. Lookâover there. That's our new supermarket. Things may seem quiet to you here, after the city, but I think you'll like Palmville. It's getting to be quite a city, too.”
Sarah Ida said nothing.
“We're on Grand Avenue,” said Aunt Claudia. “It's the main street.” The taxi turned off the avenue and stopped in front of a square, gray house.
While Aunt Claudia paid the driver, Sarah Ida looked at the house. It was old, with a new coat of paint. It had spidery-looking porches and balconies.
They went inside.
“There's the telephone,” said Aunt Claudia. “Your mother wanted you to call as soon as you got here.”
“Why?” asked Sarah Ida.
“So she'd know you got here all right.”
call her,” said Sarah Ida.
“All right.” Aunt Claudia went to the telephone. “I'll dial the number for you.”
“Don't dial it for me,” said Sarah Ida. “I'm not going to talk to her.”
Aunt Claudia's mouth opened and closed. Then she said, “It's been a long trip, and I know you're tired. Come on upstairs. Shall I help you with your suitcase?”
“No,” said Sarah Ida.
They climbed the stairs. Aunt Claudia opened a door. “This is your room.”
Sarah Ida looked about the room. It wasn't bad. She rather liked the rag rugs on the dark wood floor, and she didn't mind the rocking chair. But the window curtains were fussy. So was the bed cover. And the pictures on the wall were terribleâa fat girl looking at a robin, and a horse with a blue ribbon around its neck.
She waited for Aunt Claudia to ask, “How do you like it?” She was going to answer, “I like
But Aunt Claudia didn't ask. “Maybe you want to unpack now,” she said. “We can talk later.”
“We can talk now if you want to.” Sarah Ida sat down on the bed.
Aunt Claudia sat in the rocking chair.
“We don't have to pretend,” said Sarah Ida.
Aunt Claudia looked puzzled. “Pretend?”
“About anything. You don't have to pretend you want me hereâ”
“I do want you here!” said Aunt Claudia.
“I doubt that. I doubt it very much.” Sarah Ida kept her voice cool. “I certainly didn't want to come. And I wouldn't be here if my father and mother hadn't wanted to get rid of me for the summer.”
“We're not off to a very good start, are we?” Aunt Claudia smiled a little. “Here's the way I understand it. Your father's work takes him away from home a lot. You and your mother have had a few problems. Your mother isn't wellâ”
“That's what she says,” said Sarah Ida.
“Your mother isn't well,” Aunt Claudia said again, “and you weren't making things easy for her. She and your father thought it would be better if you came here for a while.”
“That's their story,” said Sarah Ida.
“Do you want to tell yours?”
“Not especially. I don't think you'd listen.”
“You could try and see.”
“Wellâ” Sarah Ida began. “For a long time nobody cared what I did. Nobody paid any attention. Then all at once everything changed. Mother asked a million questions about everything I did. And my clothes weren't right, and my friends weren't right. I couldn't do thisâI couldn't do that.”
“You say everything changed all at once,” said Aunt Claudia. “Why was that?”
Sarah Ida looked away.
“You had a friend named Midge, didn't you?” said Aunt Claudia. “And Midge got into trouble. The way I heard it, she was taking a dress out of a store. It was a dress she hadn't paid for.”
“She wasn't stealing,” said Sarah Ida.
“What do you call it?” asked Aunt Claudia.
“She was just trying to see if she could get it out of the store. It was likeâit was like a game. Anyway, what does it have to do with me?”
“Maybe nothing,” said Aunt Claudia. “But she was a good friend of yours. If you'd been with her when she took the dress, you might have been in trouble, too. Maybe that's why your father and mother started to worry about you.”
“They started to worry about me because they don't trust me,” said Sarah Ida.
Aunt Claudia asked, “Do you always give them reason to trust you?”
“It's easy to see whose side you're on,” said Sarah Ida.
Aunt Claudia stood up. “I'd better start dinner. Put your things away if you want to. Or you can rest a while.”
She went downstairs.
Sarah Ida put her feet on the bed. She was
. But if she lay here alone in this strange room, she might start crying. And crying wouldn't help.
She got up. She opened her suitcase and began to unpack.
In the morning Sarah Ida put on an old shirt and her oldest blue jeans. She went down into the kitchen.
Aunt Claudia was there, frying bacon and eggs. “Good morning,” she said. “Did you sleep well?”
“Yes,” said Sarah Ida.
“There's apple jelly and plum jam. Which would you like with your toast?”
They sat down to breakfast. Aunt Claudia said, “You're going to have company.”
“Who?” asked Sarah Ida.
Sarah Ida frowned. “I don't know any Rossi Wigginhorn.”
“She's a neighbor,” said Aunt Claudia. “She's been wanting to meet you.”
“I told her you were coming. I thought it would be nice if you had a friend your own age.”
“Did you ever think,” said Sarah Ida, “that I might like to choose my friends?”
“I like to choose my friends, too,” said Aunt Claudia. “But when you're in a new place and haven't had a chance to meet anybodyâ”
“It doesn't matter,” said Sarah Ida, “whether I meet anybody or not.”
They finished breakfast.
Aunt Claudia asked, “Can you cook?”
“No,” said Sarah Ida.
“Would you like to learn?”
“At least, you'd better learn to make your own breakfast,” said Aunt Claudia. “It's something you might need to know. And there are things you can do to help me. I'll teach you to take care of your room, and you can help me with the cleaning and dusting.”
“How much do you pay?” asked Sarah Ida.
Aunt Claudia stared at her. “Pay?”
“Money,” said Sarah Ida. “How much money?”
Aunt Claudia took the dishes to the sink. She came back to the table and sat down. “I don't like to bring this up,” she said, “but I suppose I must. I'm not supposed to pay you anything.”
“And why not?” asked Sarah Ida.
“Because your mother asked me not to. She told me you had borrowed your allowance for the next two months. She said you had spent it all and had nothing to show for it. She asked me not to give you any money while you're here.”
to have money!” said Sarah Ida. “I'm going to
“What for?” asked Aunt Claudia.
“Lots of things. Candy and gum. Moviesâand popcorn when I go to the movies. I need it for magazines. And for clothes.”
“If you need clothes, I'll buy them,” said Aunt Claudia. “We can talk later about movies. If I buy you a ticket once a weekâ”
“I want money in my pocket!”
Aunt Claudia sighed. “That seems to be what your mother
want. I think she's trying to teach you the value of money.”
the value of money, and if you think you canâ!”
“All right, Sarah Ida. That's enough.”
Sarah Ida ran up to her room. She could feel herself shaking. They didn't know how she felt about money. They didn't understand, and she didn't know how to tell them. She
money in her pocket. It didn't have to be much. But she just didn't feel
with none at all!
Aunt Claudia was calling her.
Sarah Ida didn't answer.
“Sarah Ida!” Aunt Claudia called again. “Rossi is here.”
Sarah Ida lay on the bed and looked out the window.
“Rossi has something for you,” said Aunt Claudia. “Is it all right if she brings it up?”
“No!” said Sarah Ida. She went downstairs.
Rossi was waiting in the hall. She had pink cheeks and pale yellow hair. She wore a yellow dress without a spot or a wrinkle.
“I brought some cupcakes,” she said. “I made them myself.”
“That was sweet of you, Rossi,” said Aunt Claudia.
“Yes, that was sweet of you, Rossi,” said Sarah Ida.
Aunt Claudia gave her a sharp look. Then she left them alone.
The girls sat on the porch. They each ate a cupcake.
“I think you're awfully brave, coming here all by yourself,” said Rossi.
“It was no big thing,” said Sarah Ida. “My father put me on the train, and my aunt was here to meet me.”
“Well, it's a long trip. I'd have been scared. Are you having a good time in Palmville?”
“I just got here,” said Sarah Ida.
“I think you'll like it. There's a lot to see. Come on down the street. I'll show you where I live.”
They walked down to Rossi's house. It was old, like Aunt Claudia's. It was half covered with creepy-looking vines.