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Authors: Lisa Tucker

The Winters in Bloom

BOOK: The Winters in Bloom
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ALSO BY LISA TUCKER

The Song Reader

Shout Down the Moon

Once Upon a Day

The Cure for Modern Life

The Promised World

A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2011 by Lisa Tucker

Excerpt from
The Winters in Bloom
copyright © 2011 by Lisa Tucker

Excerpt from
The Promised World
copyright © 2009 by Lisa Tucker

Excerpt from
The Cure for Modern Life
copyright © 2008 by Lisa Tucker

Excerpt from
Once Upon a Day
copyright © 2006 by Lisa Tucker

Excerpt from
Shout Down the Moon
copyright © 2004 by Lisa Tucker

Excerpt from
The Song Reader
copyright © 2003 by Lisa Tucker

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information address Atria Books Subsidiary Rights Department, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020

First Atria Books hardcover edition September 2011

and colophon are trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

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Designed by Kyoko Watanabe

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Tucker, Lisa.
The winters in bloom : a novel / Lisa Tucker.—1st Atria Books hardcover ed.
p. cm.
I. Title.
PS3620.U3W56 2011
813'.6—dc22
2010048089

ISBN 978-1-4165-7540-5
ISBN 978-1-4165-7575-7 (ebook)

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This book is for Judith and Greer, who convinced me I could write it, and for Laurie and Miles, who taught me that the story never ends.
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
—T. S. Eliot, “Little Gidding,”
Four Quartets

CONTENTS

Part One

One

Two

Three

Four

Five

Six

Seven

Eight

Nine

Ten

Eleven

Part Two

Twelve

Thirteen

Fourteen

Fifteen

Sixteen

Seventeen

Eighteen

Nineteen

Twenty

Twenty-one

Part Three

Twenty-two

Twenty-three

Twenty-four

Twenty-five

Twenty-six

Twenty-seven

Twenty-eight

Acknowledgments

Part One

ONE

H
e was
the only child in a house full of doubt. In bed each night, though it wasn’t dark—the floor lights his father had installed—and it wasn’t entirely private—the nursery monitor both parents refused to give up—he rehearsed the things he was certain of, using his fingers to number them. He was just a little boy, but he wouldn’t allow himself to sleep until he’d gone through both hands twice. Twenty was a good number, he thought, though of course it paled in comparison with the number of doubts, partly because his parents had had so many years to discover them, but mainly because the doubt list was always growing, towering above him like the giant boy at his old school, the one his father had called a bully. The giant boy, whose name was Paul, had never done anything to Michael, but his parents
doubted
that Michael could learn in such an environment and took him out of that school. The three schools that followed had led to three other doubts, and now Michael was finishing first grade in home school, even though homeschooling had its doubts, too.
I doubt he’ll get the socialization he needs
, his mother said.
I doubt we can teach him laboratory science
, his father said,
but we’ll have to deal with that when the time comes.
And then the words his parents didn’t have to say—
if the time comes
—because the future was always the biggest doubt of all.

“I will get bigger.” Michael whispered it every night, holding up his thumb. Then he said, touching his index finger, “I will not die before I get to drive a car.” He would force himself not to think of all the ways he could die, the hundreds of things his parents had told him all his life. He would also force himself not to daydream about what his first car would be like, because then he would fall asleep before he finished his counting and dream about rows and rows of shiny cars, all with headlights that looked like eyes and grills that looked like mouths.

In the morning, he was often very tired. When he slumped down for breakfast, his mother would put her hand on his forehead and ask if he was feeling okay. He hardly ever got sick, except when he was two years old and then he was so sick he had to spend weeks in the hospital, though all he remembered about that now was the pattern of elephants and monkeys on the nurses’ clothes. His mother always made him touch his chin to his chest, even if he told her his neck didn’t hurt. Sometimes she would take his temperature and inspect his throat and ears with a flashlight and push on his belly to make sure his appendix wasn’t about to burst. Only after she was satisfied that he wasn’t coming down with something would she ask, “Did you have any nightmares?”

He used to tell her, but he’d stopped when he realized that she and his father discussed his dreams the same way they discussed all the books they were reading about Raising Your Gifted Child. So he didn’t tell her about the dream he kept having where the ocean came up to his bedroom window and he jumped in a boat and floated off. He only thought of it as a nightmare because he knew it should have been scary—if he was alone in the boat, this meant his parents must have drowned. In real life, he would have cried and cried for his parents: their love for him was one of the things he was most certain of; it was always somewhere in the first five things he counted every night. But in the dream, it never occurred to him to wonder where they were. He was sitting on a flat wooden seat in the middle of the boat, listening to the sound of the water lapping against the sides, blinking at the sun hanging so low in the sky it looked like he could row right to it. He felt like the biggest, scariest parts of the world were all gone, washed away by something that was winking at him in the soft fat cloud that floated overhead.

The lady who appeared that day was like the cloud, though she wasn’t fat and she wasn’t at all soft. Her arms were so skinny that when she bent her elbows, Michael thought of the paper clips he liked to twist apart when he was supposed to be learning geography. He didn’t really like geography, though he loved the maps hung up in the room where he studied—the
schoolroom
, his parents called it, though it was nothing like school, because there was only one desk. The map of the city was right in front of him, and he’d stared at it so many times that he knew the lady wasn’t lying when she said she was taking him to the ocean. He’d always wanted to go there, but his father said a jellyfish might bite him, or he might swallow a mouthful of dirty, germy sand, or, worst of all, a tide current might pull him out to the sea and he would never, ever come back.

The lady had asked him where he wanted to go more than anywhere in the world. She was so nice to him that he felt like it might be true when she said she loved him, even though he’d never seen her in his life until that morning. He was outside the house, in the backyard. It was the second day of the
outside alone half hour
, which his mother had decided he needed after she read a book about letting kids be
free range
, like the good-for-you kind of chicken. Michael didn’t know what to do outside—his mother had told him to go ahead and do whatever he wanted, but he was afraid to touch anything, because dirt on your hands could make worms grow in your stomach, and he knew he should never climb a tree, he could fall and break his neck—so he walked around in circles and waved back each time his mother waved at him. She could see him perfectly while she did the dishes. So she must have seen the lady, and it must have been okay for him to go with her, like the lady said.
It’s a surprise! Like on your birthday, except better!

BOOK: The Winters in Bloom
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