Friday, January 29, 2010

Returning to School Fifty Years Ago

Fifty years ago society regarded single support and unwed mothers as pariahs.  The welfare system was almost non-existent, and most people did not even consider applying because of the stigma.  Universal health care was unheard of.  Few young women raising children alone had the necessary skills to get jobs that would cover the cost of daycare and bus fare.  And there were no adult high schools with daycare facilities on-site to make it easier to get the pieces of paper necessary to enter or re-enter the work force. 

These were the bad old days before women's liberation began to demand some measure of equality for women, before such luxuries as maternity leave and equal pay for equal work were in place.  Women in Quebec did not receive the right to vote until 1949, so it is really not surprising that women teachers did not receive equal pay until the 1961-62 school year.  When I went to court in Montreal for the custody hearing in 1959, a judge towered above me in a public hearing and chastised me at length for leaving my marriage.  no one chastised my husband for being unable to keep up his end of things.  It was illegal to buy contraceptives in Quebec until the late sixties, and the trade in back alley abortions flourished, and killed sexually active women.  It was not a good time or place to be  female.

In a society that made it all but impossible for women to rise once they had fallen, I was luckier than most.  My father provided a roof over our heads and put food in our bellies.  My grandmother provided daycare.  Because she was in her late seventies, there were conditions attached, and it was not a completely worry-free situation, but she was there when I needed her.  I was able to finish high school, the first step to becoming self sufficient.

But there were conditions there too.

Three years before, I had flounced out of the John Rennie office, sure that I was on my way to better things than a high school could provide. Now I was the girl who spent her evenings spelling words with the neighbours in order to keep her brain alive. Cap in hand, I pleaded for re- admittance.  I was lucky.  Even though they remembered the mouthy sixteen year old who had thought about nothing but boys and skipped most classes, they gave me another chance. 

I had to sign an agreement that stated that I would not cause any trouble and that I would not date any of the students.  It took no deliberation at all to sign it.  After all I was there for one reason only.  I wanted to get that piece of paper.  I wanted to learn.  The thought of dating pimply-faced sixteen year old boys struck me as funny, and I certainly had no intention of breaking any school rules.

I was behind, of course, because I had missed the first term, and I knew I would be playing catch-up all year, but I also knew I could do it if they just gave me a chance.

People who go back to school now are given truncated courses, special conditions,  and lots of support and leeway, because educators recognize that adults have responsibilities that kids don't have to deal with.  They know that it makes good sense to fast track adults so that they can get into post-secondary programmes that will prepare them for the work force. Fifty years ago you went back to regular high school if you went back at all. 

I took ten subjects, just like everyone else.  In June I would sit for ten examinations: English Literature, English Composition, French written and oral, History, Geometry, Algebra, Chemistry, North American Literature, and Geography.  A lot of catching up, a lot of remembering, and a lot of homework for a woman with two children, one of whom was still in diapers.

For a while I despaired of ever learning Geometry.  I am left brained and this subject made demands I found daunting.  In addition there were great holes in my background.  I was now doing Book 4 without having done Book 3 ... and this on a leaky foundation from three years before when I did Book 2 without Book 1.  In addition, the only class with room for me was an enriched class in which the teacher could whiz through explanations and go on to more challenging problems.  I found myself sitting in the front seat listening hard, and, in the middle of working on a problem, by using common sense, I would see how to solve it, but find I was missing the reference.  I would turn around to ask if there was a proposition to prove that angle A was equal to Angle B, and the bright,  nerdy sixteen year old boy behind me would furnish the proof  I needed to continue. 

The School Board worried about me dating my fellow students ... contaminating them with my sexual experience. In fact,  my interest in these boys had far more to do with what was in their heads than in their trousers;  they were the ones with the valuable experience.  In June, I passed the geometry exam with a mark in the eighties.

French presented a different kind of problem.  I was years behind people educated in Quebec when I came from Nova Scotia at fifteen, and, even with tutoring,  had barely scraped a pass in Grade 10.  In grade 11,  I was placed in the class of the scariest teacher in the school, Ray Bolla.  I couldn't do anything right, it seemed.  When I skipped his classes in order to avoid the misery, he reported me, so I began skipping school completely. 

Mr. Rouse, my French teacher when I returned to school, was not at all frightening --  simply incompetent.  I realized I needed better teaching if I hoped to pass, so I went to Mr. Bolla and asked for tutoring.  I didn't pass French with flying colours, but, thanks to his help, I managed a decent pass in each of the French exams.

My own French teacher almost had me kicked out of school shortly before graduation.  A paper was being circulated for yearbook write-ups.  I asked the person who passed it to me what it was and  Mr. Rowse gave me a detention for talking.  After class, I told him it was impossible for me to serve the detention; that I had to get home to my children.  He made no comment and I assumed that he understood.  The next day my home room teacher kept me behind for a few minutes to tell me that they were thinking of expelling me for not attending the detention.  I explained, and  Mr. Howse told me to go to Mr. Rowse and offer to serve the detention at noon.  I did this, but when I went to the French classroom, the door was locked and he never showed up.  The following morning I told Mr. Howse what had occurred and asked what I should do now.  He said, very succinctly, that I should consider the detention served.  I never heard anything else, and I assume he took care of it.

When I returned to John Rennie, I discovered that I had several guardian angels besides Ray Bolla who gave of his time, and John Howse who stood up for me against injustice.  In the weeks before the June exams were written, my geography teacher, John Jared, was preparing to move to the Arctic with twin babies and the rest of his young family.  I realized after he'd packed everything away that I had missed learning about aerial photography and that one of the compulsory questions would be on that first term work.  I met him at the shopping centre on a Saturday.  I had the babies with me, and he offered me a lift home in the van he had just had detailed before leaving.  I mentioned the aerial photographs.  Then one of my children got car sick, messily, all over his back seat.  I forgot all about aerial photographs in my embarrassed efforts to clean up the mess.  John Jared, however, remembered.   On Monday he presented me with the photographs and study notes he'd dug out over the weekend.

The woman who taught me English three years before, Dr. Alanna Smith, called me in to her office to apologize for not having done more to help me stay in school.  I assured her that nothing she could have done, not even giving me a part in the school play, the failure she was regretting, would have changed my headstrong resolve to quit school and get married.

My English teacher when I returned was one of the best in the department.  Michael Witham was Cambridge educated, knowledgeable and strict ... and he liked me because I loved his subject.  His guardianship was to extend beyond high school, as was that of the vice principal, Lloyd Patch.

I decided to become a teacher because of Mr. Patch's advice, but it was the teachers I encountered when I returned to school who were the real reason I decided to join their ranks.

But college is another story.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Escape: Part 2

Peter means rock ...

Peter was a tall attractive man with blond hair who drove his ancient car all over Canada, almost always on a whim.  He was extremely intelligent but flighty. He cared deeply about the world we lived in; once walked from Montreal to Ottawa to fight for nuclear disarmament.   He had long slim fingers, played the piano, loved jazz and classical music.  Those same hands fashioned wooden toys for my babies. He was a reader, a writer, a thinker, a philosopher.  It was Peter who forced me to think about things like the existence of God.  The term "Renaissance Man" was unknown to me when I knew him, but Peter was the only real Renaissance Man I ever knew.

He saved me because he loved me.  He saved me because he saw something inside me that was invisible to most people.  He saw what Pat saw ... an intelligent young woman trapped in poverty and ignorance.

My grandmother loved him.  Even though he didn't speak German (he tried), they got along well.  Most of their communication was non-verbal.   He helped her with dishes.  He showed his appreciation of her cooking.  She knew he loved and valued her.

My father thought the world of Peter.  They shared a love of art and music.  Peter was always willing to help Dad at his "farm" in Mansonville, providing the manual strength, a  knowledge of tools, and an extra pair of hands.  Once they hooked a chain onto a building and hauled it from one location to another using Peter's old car.  Peter sat in the trunk hanging onto the chain and a rope.  They both loved doing the unthinkable. My father would have loved to have had a son like Peter.

Peter was my best friend, my brother, a surrogate father to my babies, and my boy friend.  We talked endlessly. We encouraged one another to be the best we could be.  I remember hours and hours of exploring the city ... of driving to see new things ... of spending time at his parents' home ... sometimes alone but just as often with the children.  We kissed.  We cuddled.  We even slept together occasionally. 

But we were not lovers.  We tried once; it was not the high point of our relationship.

Peter was gay in an era when that term with all it implies had much uglier appellations.  Pansy.  Queer. Fruit. Faggot.  It was a time when homosexuality was thought to be a mental aberration, a form of insanity, an affliction that could be fixed by psychiatry.

Peter committed suicide about five years after I met him.  We were in our twenties.  We spent his last evening together ... at a jazz club in Montreal.  It was a week night and I had to work the next day.  I remember my last words to him ... "I'm going to kick you out now, Peter," I said.  "I have to get up in the morning and you can't stay here."  He kissed me good bye.  I had no idea that would be the last time I would feel his arms around me.

It was over a week before I heard that he had driven that old Plymouth up into the Laurentians north of Montreal and parked it in a field where he sealed up the windows and turned the exhaust hose into the car.  He was found by a stranger several days after his death.  His family got in touch with my father after the funeral. 

I still cry when I think about the loss of my dearest friend, my brother, the man who saved my life, the man I wish could have been my husband, my children's father.  My tears, of course, are for my own loss, but they are also tears of regret that Peter could not have lived long enough to be accepted for who he was, that he died before it was possible for men and women to be openly gay. It is more than forty years since Peter committed suicide.  If Peter had lived today, his story, our story, would have been very different.

The road to freedom was a pretty bumpy road.  First there was the confrontation with my husband.  It hurt Peter to hurt anyone, and my husband was stunned.  Peter smashed his fist into a concrete basement wall to hurt himself as he knew my husband was hurting. 

I found it harder to understand my husband's surprise and pain.  It had been a while since we had admitted that we didn't love each other.  We'd comforted ourselves by making love afterward.  We knew that we were trapped, that there was no out for us.  We had two little girls born just eleven months apart.  We had nothing in common, not even the babies.  All we had were our bodies and their need for each other.

I had been complaining for a long time about my unhappiness, about his total lack of interest in me or the children.  I had screamed ugly things about my entrapment that was more complete than his.  He could escape occasionally but I couldn't ever get away because he couldn't be trusted to look after the babies. 

The only time I ever left them in his care was the day I took the two hour bus ride into Montreal to pick up a snowsuit my father had won.  I visited with Dad and stayed to attend a movie.  I was gone for about eight hours.   When I returned, the babies were screaming in their cribs, their little bottoms blistered and raw, empty bottles lying in and near the cribs.  I comforted them, bathed them, applied ointment and dressed them in clean clothes, and then confronted him with the accusation that he didn't give a damn about anyone but himself, not even the babies.  Why had he just left them alone all day while he watched television?  He said he had poured cold milk into bottles from time to time and given them to them in their cribs.  I guess that gave him some respite from their crying; allowed him to watch the football game undisturbed. 

Maybe that was the last straw for me.  Maybe that is why I asked Peter to take me away just before the Christmas when they were one and two years old.

At first, we went to a grungy room ... student digs in a boarding house.  I think it was Tom's place.  Peter went out during the day to try to find us a better arrangement.  While he was gone, I washed diapers in the tiny kitchen sink and dried them on radiators.  The landlady arrived at the door and told me that the room was not intended to house a family.  I was relieved when Peter came back and took us away.

This time we went to his parents' place.  He had simply told them that he was bringing a woman and her two children.  They, god bless them, said, "Oh, Peter, what have you done now?" And then they welcomed us into their home.  It was a safe haven of cleanliness and warmth.

But of course we couldn't stay there either.

I felt I could not go to my father; that I had made my bed.  So I turned to my mother, a woman I hardly knew, a woman I had only met after leaving my father's house.  When I phoned, she said we could come.

Peter and I got into the car and drove to Toronto.  When we arrived, my mother told us we couldn't stay, that her husband didn't want us there, that their lives couldn't accommodate two toddlers.  When she had received my call she had contacted my father.  He told her we could stay with him.  So we drove back to Montreal.  My father and grandmother welcomed us as warmly as Peter's parents had.  Only this time I knew we could stay, that we were finally safe.

As soon as the babies were asleep, my father asked me what I wanted to do.  "Go back to school," I said.

 "That's fine.  Oma will look after the children," was the response. 

And that was the beginning of the next hurdle on the road out of ignorance and poverty.


We were such a care-less generation, those of us who spent our adolescence in the fifties. However did we grow up to be people who cared about the world? Pat, Claire and I all became women who stood up. Perhaps now we don’t stand quite as tall as we once did, but we all still care. We marched as long as we could, and we continue to care even though we do so from home now.

In the mid-fifties I was never inside their heads, despite the fact that we talked all the time, but my memory seems to tell me that Pat at least did some thinking. Claire remembers thinking, if not in 1955, at least in 1958.

What I remember about my own thinking is not very flattering. My head was filled with cotton candy, sickly sweet thoughts utterly empty of substance. I cared about clothes and boys and sex. I wanted to make as much money as possible so that I could buy more clothes, attract more boys, have more sex. I didn’t care a whit about school in 1955. I was sure that I knew enough to do what I really wanted to do, have babies.

And my life was just as empty as my head.

They went on to university. I descended into a world of diapers. Their minds expanded. My bubble filled up with trite dullness. My only contact with adults was occasionally with parents of babies and toddlers, women who, like me had traded lives for mothering ... not in any conscious intelligent way, but simply because that was what we did. And even that contact disappeared when we moved east of the city.

The paucity of intelligent thought was matched by our physical poverty. We lived in rent to income housing on the outskirts of  Pointe-aux-Trembles in a concrete, faceless collection of anonymous three storey buildings. In some ways they make me think of a refugee camp I saw in Jordan, but worse. In Jordan the refugees had a sense of community. The poor anglos living in the Point-aux-Trembles ghetto led atomized, separate lives.

My husband was a man who spent hours commuting on a series of buses. When he got home he collapsed on the couch in front of the television set as soon as he had eaten supper, a meal that was as dull and flat as the rest of our lives. My grocery budget was $15 a week so we made do with wieners and hamburger. A wiser older woman, a better cook, could have done something interesting with so little, but I was still a teenager.

We never talked. We shared a bed and a dinner table, nothing else. We didn’t even share an interest in the children. They were my children, his burden to support. They were simply the bars of the trap we shared.

He escaped to play softball and to go out drinking with the boys. Even his job was an escape for him.

Until the couple moved in next door, there was no escape for me. They were both nurses who had training if not education. On the nights my husband was out I would slip over to their apartment leaving our two front doors open so that I could hear the children.

And we would have spelling bees. I find it hard to imagine a life so devoid of colour that a spelling bee could be vitally important, my only escape. Then one day even that escape route was cut off.

My husband came home drunk one night and we went to bed almost immediately. We slept in a single bed with a bookcase headboard, the same bed I had slept in since I was eleven. Normally we adjusted our bodies quite easily to the cramped space we shared, but this night he became angry instead of simply rolling over to accommodate my movements.

His elbow crashed into my eye with such force that I was knocked onto the floor. All I remember now is how fast my eye swelled up. I could barely cup my open palm around the lump. When I got to the bathroom, it was already beginning to discolour, and the eyelid was split open.

As soon as he saw me, he was immediately sober and contrite. He was not a brutal man. He was a boy ... a trapped child, just like me.

The next day I spent as much time as possible lying down, getting up only to change diapers and feed the babies.

About 10 a.m. there was a knock on the door. It was my friend from next door. He was off duty till the afternoon. He took one look at me and told me my eye needed attention. He bathed it and then went in to the hospital to get some advice and whatever he needed to treat it.

When he came back he sat down on the edge of the couch and looked after me ... and then his hand strayed to my breast. That was the end of my friendship with the couple next door. I was afraid to be alone with him. I didn’t tell his wife. I just distanced myself from them. The spelling bees ended.

The next time I escaped was when Pat came back into my life. She was living with Tom. Peter was their friend. They talked about things that young university students talk about, at least all the things that young university students who imagine themselves to be budding intellectuals and bohemians discuss. I was enthralled. I saw them seldom; I lived in Pointe aux Trembles after all, but those brief glimpses of life outside the ghetto walls were like oxygen to a starved brain.

One day I packed up my babies, climbed into Peter’s old Plymouth and fled my barren existence.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Foghorn on Halifax Common

March 8, 2007 Fog Horn on Halifax Common 1174 words

I can still hear its melancholy honking ...sort of the way I imagine a hurt moose might sound ... rhythmic ... repetitive ... not at all tiresome. That November evening it seemed to be the only thing alive in the damp greyness ... except for my breath mingling with the fog ... my heart beating under my clothing. I was returning home after riding, past Queen Elizabeth High School, moving along Quinpool Road towards Oxford Street. The Commons was the only part of the route that was scary. It was such an empty space. Anything could happen there, and no one would know. I always walked faster as I moved past the darkened high school on my left, the wind-haunted Common on my right. My steps slowed when I reached Quinpool Road. The shops were closing. It was supper time. But all the streets that ran perpendicular to Quinpool were residential, and their lights were visible ... and friendly.

In November, the days had shortened so the paddock was lit allowing us to ride till six. By the time I stripped off Happy's tack, toweled him off, blanketed, fed and watered him, it was six thirty. The walk home usually took about half an hour.

I was a small unobtrusive figure, moving purposefully along the sidewalk, occasionally glancing into store windows. I wore jodphurs with long underwear beneath them, a warm sweater and a brown leather bomber jacket. My hair was untidy, and I smelled like a stable. Once, in a movie theatre, as I was getting seated, I heard a boy's voice saying, "Jeez! A horse just walked in." I liked the smell, but I knew that my grandmother would expect me to wash and change before supper. I was always starving when I get home. It had been hours since lunch time and I had done a lot of walking and riding in between.

Oma had arrived from Germany only a few months before. She spoke no English so I was learning German quickly. We didn't discuss weighty ideas requiring long words or complex grammar. Our conversations revolved around such things as food and clothing, the dog, Mitzi, or when to expect my father back. I was learning the language the way all small children do at their mother's knees ... little by little. Oma needed help understanding Canadian ways and I needed help communicating in her language. It was a symbiotic relationship, and I was still enjoying the novelty of having someone home when I returned after my day. Before Oma came I would go directly to one of the two restaurants in the neighbourhood where my father had a tab running for me. I ate alone every night then ... and no one cared if I smelled like manure ... or if they did, they didn't say anything to me about it. Later I would let myself into the darkened apartment and start my homework.

On this particular night, I was thinking about school, mentally going over what I had to do before bedtime. I had about half an hour's work. I liked school so doing homework was not as onerous as it might have been. I glanced at my watch. I'd be home by 7 and finished eating by 7:30. Lots of time for homework and phone conversations with friends.

When I passed the Jubilee Restaurant on the other side of the road the lights were on, and the windows all steamed up. The place looked crowded. Someone was just leaving and the smell of french fries wafted out onto the street. I had eaten many hot chicken sandwiches with chips there over the past two years, and also a good many Devil's Delight sundaes. It seemed a friendlier place tonight than it had before Oma arrived. I still went there occasionally, but after a movie, with friends for chips and a coke ... never for dinner.

I was almost home. I just had to make it past the blackness of the Quinpool Road school yard. The school itself was being demolished. It has been declared unsafe the year I was in grade six. In June that year I graduated to Cornwallis Junior High School, Mrs. Shackleton retired, and uniformed city workers nailed condemned signs onto the wooden fire escapes.

I ran the last fifty yards and then I was home. Home was an apartment above The Blossom Shoppe, Bligh Radio and the Royal Bank, right at the corner of Quinpool and Oxford, tucked in between the school and the Oxford Theatre. The trolley ran right past my front door on Quinpool.Road. I thought I was the luckiest person around to be living here in the midst of everything that mattered.

I pushed open the door, and made my way up the steep stairs. Two more doors and I was in our apartment. The apartment smelled as though people really lived there. My stomach rumbled as I breathed in the aromas of cooking food. My grandmother called out "Barbel" from the kitchen and I responded. The kitchen was brightly lit with a Chinese red sloped ceiling. The red arborite table was already set and the stove was crowded with pots and pans. "What's for dinner?" I asked as I went past Oma to the bathroom. I heard the word, "Bifsteak" through the door.

By the time I came back to the kitchen wearing jeans, a flannel shirt and fleecy slippers, my hair damp and clean, Oma was beginning to whip the potatoes. She mounded them on my plate, made a dent in them with a spoon, carefully ladled on the tiny crispy, golden brown onions cooked in butter, added a spoonful of buttered carrots on the side, and a mound of spinach.

Yes, spinach. Oma cooked spinach in a way that no child could resist. It was steamed, then chopped fine and then dressed with butter and with tiny onion pieces fried crisp in butter on top, (always butter ... Oma used to say that she put the butter on the rye bread to hold the quark to hold the sugar ... but I know now that the butter was the most important ingredient, not the sugar).

I think about Oma's spinach often as I toss a handful of Costco's spinach leaves on top of rice to cook down and stir in ... a glass of red wine in my hand. I am a carefree cook ... a handful of this, a dollop of that ... care-less my Oma would say ...

She placed the perfectly cooked steak on the plate and sprinkled a few more onions over it. I ate quickly, enjoying every morsel. When I finished Oma asked if I were still hungry. I was. She fried a second steak in butter and created an entire second dinner for me.

No one before or since has ever fed me the way my grandmother did. It's probably just as well in view of the fact that I am no longer a growing adolescent spending hours every day exercising in the fresh air.

Monday, January 26, 2009



Kate's blue eyes widened when she saw Miss Johnson's face. Swallowing a gasp and closing her mouth, she looked down at the floor as she mumbled an apology for being late.
"Well, don't just stand there gawking, Miss. You've already wasted too much time. Sit down and get busy copying the note from the front board," was Miss Johnson's response.
Kate edged onto the stool next to Miriam's, and noticed with dismay her best friend's white cooking bag. She glanced around the room at all the white cloth bags by the three ring binders, some neatly placed, others splayed out like beanbags that had landed on the counter tops. Cripes! I'm the only one who forgot the damned thing. What else can go wrong?
She turned to say something to Miriam who shook her head almost imperceptibly and continued copying from the blackboard. Kate looked at the first two rules, smiled ruefully, and quickly opened her binder. Miriam whispered, "Don't forget the date," and Kate wrote down November 1, 1954, before scratching down the list.
1. Do not arrive late to class.
2. Bring your apron and cooking bag to every class.
3. After each class, wash and iron your apron and bag.
4. Do not forget to bring your notebook and writing implements to class.
5. Wash your hands before handling any food.
6. Do not leave your work station dirty.
7. Do not speak unnecessarily to your cooking partner.
"Gads, how many are there?" Kate muttered to Miriam. "I've already broken the first two."
"You, there at Station 3. What is your name? Can't you read the rules? Not only have you arrived late to class; now you are talking unnecessarily. And where is your white cooking bag? I don't see it anywhere?"
"I forgot it, Miss Johnson," Kate faltered. "It completely slipped my mind till I saw everyone else's. I'm really sorry. I won't forget it next time. My name is Kate, Kate Hennigan."
"I should send you to the office, Hennigar, but I won't since it's the first class. Instead, you will stay after school and wash the cooking room floor. And, without an apron, you will be excluded from today's class. While the others are cooking you will write out the lines: 'I will not be late to class again' and 'I will remember to bring my apron to all my cooking classes from now on'. One hundred times." Miss Johnson had moved across the floor as she spoke and now stood beside Kate and Miriam. She looked down at Kate's scribbled notes and concluded, "And you will write the lines in considerably neater fashion that the notes you have copied."
Kate looked gloomily at Miriam and made a face at Miss Johnson's retreating back. Miriam grinned for an instant and then turned a solemn face toward the front of the room.
Miss Johnson read aloud her list of rules, elaborating on the reasons for each, then turned to a side blackboard where she had charted the term's work. Today they were making boiled eggs. Next class was porridge, and the one after that, grilled cheese sandwiches. Kate looked ahead to December and saw that Christmas mints were listed. What a useless class. Even she knew how to boil eggs and make grilled cheese sandwiches, and besides, she never ate porridge.
Breakfast was usually instant coffee, lunch, canned soup and toast, and dinner whatever the restaurant had on special or a hot chicken sandwich with its yellow gravy congealing on the white bread and its neat little piles of peas and chips on the side. She liked pouring the ketchup on the side of the plate, cutting the sandwich into bite- sized pieces, and then eating everything in a strict order: first the peas, one by one, then the sandwich, and finally the chips dipped into the ketchup. Afterwards she usually ordered a Devil's Delight or some other extravagant sundae.
Kate knew that Miriam envied her daily restaurant meals with no limit to what she could spend. Mim's father was the minister of the West End Baptist Church, and she lived in the cramped house next door to the church with her parents, three sisters and a brother. At Christmas Miriam gave gifts that her dad got free, little bookmarks with Bible verses on them, and most of Mim's clothes were carefully pressed and mended hand-me-downs. Kate could think of only two things she had been unable to talk her father into buying for her: a red pedal car when she was eight, and, more recently, a horse of her own.
Kate considered Miriam's life unduly regulated. Her own home had no set rules. Unlike the Stockwell's, whose lives were inextricably bound together, Kate and her father co-existed in their small apartment without a great deal of contact with one another. She liked their arrangement, but she also liked spending time at the Stockwell's. She liked the Saturday smell of baking bread and the solid healthy breakfasts Mrs. Stockwell insisted the kids eat each day. She often arrived early to pick Miriam up for school just so she could watch as Mrs. Stockwell, her grey hair caught up in an untidy bun, forced either Diane or Miriam back to the table to finish their eggs scrambled in milk, or checked to see that Wayne's fingernails were clean. Sometimes when Kate's dad was on a business trip he asked Mrs. Stockwell to keep Kate for a few days. Life always felt more orderly during those times.
Miss Johnson's harsh voice brought Kate out of her reverie. "You haven't written a thing, Miss. What have you been doing all this time? Are you being deliberately obstreperous or are you just plain stupid?"
Kate's head reared back and she responded without thinking, "I'm not stupid and that is not something a teacher should say to a student. Check with my other teachers, why don't you?" When she tossed her head, her nutmeg brown ponytail grazed Miriam's cheek. She heard Miriam's quick intake of breath and then Miss Johnson's voice.
"Insolence will not be tolerated in this classroom, Hennigar, and you had better get that straight right now. Go down to Mr. Harris and explain why you have been sent from my classroom. I don't expect to see you again until you have a note from Mr. Harris and you are ready to apologize."
"But I didn't do anything, and my name's not Hennigar, you old cow," Kate muttered under her breath as she pulled her zippered binder to her chest and stormed out of the classroom without even a glance at Miriam as she brushed past her. Hideous old bitch. No wonder she's MISS Johnson. No man could stand her. She looks like she's been dumped in a vat of lye -- all those lumpy things on her face. And one eye droops so she seems to be looking in two directions at once. Creepy old biddy.
Mr. Harris was not in his office so Kate reported her presence to the secretary who pulled her student file and filled in the complaint form. Under 'Reason for Referral' she wrote "Sent by Miss Johnson" and rolled her eyes. She said, "Haven't seen you before. Don't you like cooking?"
"I haven't had a chance to find out," Kate said. "She kicked me out before I could do anything, right or wrong."
The secretary smiled sympathetically.
A few minutes later the burly form of Mr. Harris could be seen striding toward the office. He took the file and form from the secretary's outstretched hand and gestured toward his office door. "In you go, Miss. What's the problem?"
"Miss Johnson said I was insolent, Sir. It was the first day of her class and I was late and I forgot to bring my cooking bag to class. In Miss Hilton's sewing class last term we left our things in the classroom cubbyholes. But I wasn't insolent, Sir. She called me stupid and I objected."
He looked up from the file he had been perusing. "What exactly did you say?"
"I said I wasn't stupid and she had no right to say that."
"Well, you may be right but you probably said it in some way that was offensive. Try to mind your manners," Mr. Harris paused significantly, " and your tongue, in Miss Johnson's class from now on. You don't want to lose your honour roll standing for the sake of your pride now, do you?"
"No Sir, but she wasn't being fair."
"Life often isn't, but you will find it's simpler if you refrain from telling teachers what rights they have or do not have, Kate. Go back and apologize and make a fresh start with Miss Johnson. You'll see. It will be worth the damage you might do to your pride."
"Yes, Sir. Do I still have to wash the floor after school?"
"You do. Now run along. It's almost lunch time."
Kate left the office just as the bell began to ring. She had just snapped her combination lock shut when Miriam arrived, her black curly hair glinting a dozen shades of red gold in the sunshine. "Hurry up, Mim. Wait till you hear what Old Harris and his secretary think of Miss Johnson." Miriam's brown eyes widened and the two girls set off for home.

Alice Johnson looked around the home economics lab after the last grade nine student had hurried through the door. She often thought that it was a pleasant room when it wasn't overrun by clumsy adolescent girls who would rather be anywhere but in a classroom. Even on a grey November day like this one, the cheerful red-checkered cloths on the institutional arborite tables, and the cafe curtains, with their checkered tie-backs that Doreen Hilton had sewn last year, created a cheerful atmosphere. She remembered her mother's kitchen with its startling fire engine red ceiling, the only touch of colour in a scoured white kitchen. It had always pleased her that her mother had, one day, in a whimsical moment, brightened her life in this way.
A shadow crossed Alice's face as she turned to take a crumpled brown paper lunch bag from the refrigerator. She filled the enamel kettle with water for her tea. It was exhausting having to face a new group every term; having to re-establish the rules and teach them things they should have learned at home. What were parents doing with their children these days? Some of these new girls had never boiled an egg, and were quite disinterested in learning the correct procedure. And they never seemed to listen. Even after they had copied a note stating clearly that gentle cooking was necessary to prevent toughening, there were two stations where the heat was turned to high for the entire fifteen minutes. Her mother had made sure she understood the necessity of keeping a decent house long before she'd ever taken a home economics course.
She poured boiling water over the tea bag in the small metal pot and returned the kettle to the stove, giving its already spotless white surface a swipe with a tea towel. Then she removed two wax-paper-wrapped sandwiches from the refrigerator, one tuna, the other cheese, carefully re-folding the bag and putting it into her purse. She seldom varied her lunch menu; it was easier to stay in a routine than to think of something new to eat each day. She'd heard that in Norway, all the teachers in the country opened their lunch bags at 11:00 a.m. and ate bread and brown cheese as they drank coffee in their staff rooms. She seldom ate with the staff, preferring the solitude of her classroom to the discussions about students and the idle chatter she associated with the teachers' lunch room.
For the first few years, Alice had attended staff functions, thinking it politic to do so. She recalled vividly the Christmas party five years ago which had ended her reluctant participation.
They'd all gathered in the staffroom at four. The room, decorated by Elsie Maxwell's art class looked a little gaudy, but no matter; it was the thought that counted. Elsie had collected her accolades with a great beaming smile and the words,"It was all the children's doing, really."
Stuff and nonsense, of course. The students would never have thought of the idea on their own, let alone executed it. It was a good way to get out of the last class before the Christmas holiday, that's what it was. But Alice had said nothing.
The food was all laid out near the kitchenette area ... cookies, cakes, dainty sandwiches, and Alice's Christmas mints. A punch bowl with little cups hanging on the rim sat at one end of the table. Doreen Hilton said cheerfully, "There are only eight punch cups, I'm afraid, so after that we'll have to use paper." Grace Hanson had asked, her thin scarlet lips pursed, whether there was alcohol in the punch, and Doreen had laughed and said, "No fear, Grace. Mr. Harris warned me that the school board would look askance if I added the usual rum."
Grace had sniffed and whispered later to Alice, "I've no doubt she'd have put it in if she thought she could get away with it. In our day, Alice, young women wouldn't have thought of drinking alcohol."
She'd looked at Grace thinking that their day had been a hundred years ago, and wondered if the librarian had ever been young, but she'd said merely, "Times change, Grace," and had walked over to the food table.
Doug Adams and Helen Brown were filling their plates."What in God's name are these things?" Doug had asked pointing to the pastel mints.
"They're Alice Johnson's mints, Doug," Helen had replied. "I'm sure they're very good."
"Probably as sour as she is," he responded, and passed them by.
"Don't be cruel," Helen had said softly, and then had looked up and seen Alice. She had reddened, dropped her paper plate, and attempted to cover her confusion with a
mishmash of French and English apologies for her clumsiness. Doug had simply walked away from the scene.
When Helen had asked Alice to join her and some of the other women, Alice had been unable to think of an excuse and had joined them on the sofa. Margaret Cole, a first year teacher, and terribly keen, was expounding on how wonderful her students were. To hear her talk, one would think that she was teaching saints, not teenagers. Helen Brown asked how she managed to control them so well, and admitted to having problems with discipline. Margaret said that the students' natural interest in stories and writing was half the battle, and Helen said she wished there were even a smidgen of natural interest in learning French. "There are tricks to discipline just as there are to anything else," a bombastic health teacher had said. "You have to look at the problem in a clear headed detached way and figure out the solution. It doesn't work to try and solve it in the middle of a classroom riot." The animated conversation had continued long after Alice had excused herself.
She found herself stuck in between Jim Sullivan and Bill Stevens, both social studies teachers, but as far apart in age, experience and attitude as two men could be. Jim had come back into teaching after the war. His ideas had been rigid when he left, but were absolutely calcified by the time he came home. Now he expected students to behave like little soldiers who never questioned their commanding officer, and who spat back his own words verbatim on every test. Bill, a first year teacher, was trying to explain the importance of getting students to think for themselves, to work with facts to reach conclusions. "Ridiculous to expect a fourteen year old to come up with anything intelligent, man," Bill had stated unequivocally. Jim had said something about how discussion among students kindled good ideas, and been given a tongue lashing that ended with the words, "Garbage in, garbage out. Keep on with that kind of sloppy thinking, young man, and we might as well kiss standards goodbye."
By five thirty, Alice had said perhaps ten words, and had heard thousands more than she wanted to hear. It seemed as if there were two camps: those who were completely out of touch with students and those who were completely out of touch with reality. She knew her students would place her in the first category, but in truth she belonged nowhere.
She was about to leave when Mr. Harris arrived dressed as Santa, and asked that June Wallace, the music teacher, go ahead with her surprise. Several teachers got up, left the staffroom and returned dressed in green tunics wearing jaunty elves' caps on the heads. June blew into her pitch pipe, and the group burst into song, performing a Christmas medley. When they asked the remaining staff members to join them in some carols at the end, Alice had not opened her mouth. Why hadn't they asked her if she wanted to be part of the choir? Because she wouldn't have looked good in the outfit? Or because no one even stopped to think that she might have something to offer? She'd left before the applause and hadn't gone into the staffroom voluntarily since.
Just as she was pouring her tea, there was a knock at the door. Who's forgotten something, this time? she wondered, as she made her way to respond. "Oh, hello, Sir. What can I do for you?" she asked, and wondered what in heaven's name Mr. Harris was doing here. "I've just seen Kate Hennigan, and wanted to let you know how I handled the situation."
"Insolent little piece of baggage, isn't she? The first day of class and already in trouble. Late, unprepared, talking to her partner, and then rude, to boot."
Mr. Harris' eyebrows lifted ever so slightly, but he said calmly, "I've told her to apologize and to behave herself from now on. She'll be in after school to serve her detention with you. She's a good student and I'm sure things will be fine from now on." Before she had a chance to say anything, she found herself looking at Mr. Harris' broad back as he hurried down the hall in the direction of the teachers' lunch room. He never knew how his words affected Alice.
As she closed the door, Alice's reddened face crumpled and angry tears began to flow down her pocked cheeks. She blew noisily into a clean white handkerchief, a pink monogram, AMJ, embroidered in one corner. You get no support in this school at all. They're always taking sides with the students, and not just the office; the other teachers too. They're all going soft. I can imagine the time I'm going to have with that one now. She'll think she can get away with murder. Well, I'm certainly not going to put up with any nonsense from her. What was it my father always used to say? Spare the rod and spoil the child.

Miriam and Kate checked the timetables taped to the inside of their lockers, gathered their books for the first two afternoon classes, and went their separate ways, Miriam to math and Kate to Miss Cole's class for English. Kate was looking forward to her afternoon. Her favourite teachers were Miss Cole and Mr. Stevens, the history teacher, and she always enjoyed Mrs. Maxwell's art classes even though she had no artistic talent.
Miss Cole was not alone today; Mr. Stevens was up at the front talking to her as the class filed in through the open door. They were both smiling and consulting the handouts on the desk.
"I wonder why Mr. Stevens is in here," Shona Morgan asked quietly. "They make such a cute couple, don't you think?"
Kate looked at the two young teachers. Mr. Stevens' dark head was bent to catch something Miss Cole had said, and then he said something that made her smile. Kate didn't know whether they were a couple or not. Miss Cole's smiles surfaced easily for students too.
The bell rang and conversation ceased. Miss Cole said, "Mr. Stevens and I have designed a special project for you this term. It will combine a history research assignment with several writing challenges. Sometimes you will be doing assignments that are quite strictly history and other times you will be doing more English-oriented tasks. This means that you may sometimes be doing history in English class or English in history class ... but you won't get into trouble for it this term." The students smiled and looked at Shona who was notorious for finishing her history assignments in English and regularly got caught by Miss Cole.
Mr. Stevens took up where Miss Cole had left off. "The very first thing we want you to do is to take this period to look over the term unit, discuss it with your partners or group members, and consider the event that you will be researching. Miss Cole and I will simply be here to help you with any questions you may have." By the time he had finished, Miss Cole had already started to hand out the small booklets that still smelled of spirit duplicating fluid.
"Gads, there's an awful lot to do," Shona said, glancing at the assignments in dismay.
"Yeah, but we've got all this term to do it, Shona," countered Kate. "And after the research part, the assignments look like fun -- imaginary dialogues, letters, journal entries."
"But an essay at the end," moaned Shona.
"Only if you want to write an essay. It could be a short story or a play or a series of poems. You can even choose songs. You're good in music. Maybe that's what you should do."
Robert put up his hand to get the attention of one of the teachers circulating among the students. "What topics can we choose from, Sir?" he asked when Mr. Stevens came over to him. The teacher signaled for silence by raising his hand. When all the students were quiet, he repeated Robert's question and said, "We want you to choose a topic you find interesting so we have an open list. Some of the topics are very definitely regional; others are more Canadian in scope. If you don't see a topic listed that you would like to see included, you may discuss it with us. If we think you can find the necessary research materials, and if the topic is both relevant to Canadian history and manageable, we will allow you to work on a topic of your choice. The initial list is on the side board."
As soon as he stopped talking, the classroom buzzed again. "Some interesting topics," murmured Kate. "Maybe I'll do something on the wild ponies. But how much can there be on wild ponies that would be fun to do for the English assignments. I can't quite see a conversation between someone who started the first herd and a Junior Bengal Lancer who is now riding one of the descendants of that herd. I don't think they'd let a wild pony into the stable!"
"My Dad's told me a lot about the Cape Breton coal miners," said Shona, "and they have some really interesting folk poetry. I could write folk songs for it. Maybe I'll choose the Springhill mine disasters."
"That sounds really great. And look, there's the Halifax Explosion. Now that would be a good one. Imagine talking to a survivor and writing three journal entries for that person; one right after the event, one six months afterwards, and one ten years later. Do you know anything about the Explosion, Shona? I just know about the anchor that's still stuck in the earth."
"Nope. But there must be all kinds of people who were alive then that you could interview. That might make it even more interesting, and you wouldn't have to do as much reading."
By the end of the period, most students had tentatively chosen their topics and, when they moved into the history classroom, were anxious to begin delving into the books and magazines that their teachers had accumulated. Kate picked up Heart Throbs of the Halifax Horror by Stanley K. Smith, and, with her usual single mindedness, buried herself in the book and was transported to Halifax in 1917. The bell rang, and with a start she re-entered the 1954 world of the grade nine classroom, alive with pre-recess chatter. "Can I keep this book, Sir?" she asked.
"Yes, Kate. Just sign it out here so I know where the different copies are."
As she headed off to her locker to find Miriam, her mind was alive with the drama of the events leading up to the collision of the Imo with the Mont Blanc. Miriam's afternoon had been dreary, beginning with Mr. Adams' math class. Mr. Adams' whole life seemed to be composed of rules and details. He liked teaching the basic math classes because he felt they needed much more structure than average or superior students, and he was an expert on structure. "What he doesn't seem to realize," Miriam lamented, "is that we may find math difficult but that doesn't mean we are idiots. I hate being treated as if I'm dumb just because I don't like algebra, and if I hear once more that we must always use an HB pencil so that we can correct the errors we are bound to make, I will scream."
Kate laughed, "You know you'll bring the HB pencil and smile sweetly and say 'Yes Sir, No Sir, Three Bags Full Sir,' like you always do, Mim."
Miriam's brown eyes crinkled up when she laughed and she pretended to throw the apple she'd brought for recess at Kate. Kate thought, for perhaps the hundredth time, that she wished she had Mim's long eyelashes and curly black hair instead of her own ordinary brown hair and nonexistent lashes. Mim didn't need the makeup she was forbidden to wear. A little Vaseline on her lashes and lips and she looked great. Mim's hair was like that of Kate's boyfriend, Rick. It wasn't fair for a boy to have curly hair and a double set of dark lashes. She sighed, and wished the week would fly. She almost never saw him except on weekends, and it was only Monday. Kate refreshed her lipstick and they headed off for the washroom before their last period class.
"We're doing a neat project in English and History, Mim. I'm going to research the Halifax Explosion, and then do all kinds of creative writing exercises based on the research. Miss Cole and Mr. Stevens worked together on it. Shona thinks they're dating. What do you think?"
"I don't know, but you're sure lucky to have them as teachers. Mrs. Simpson's nice but she never does anything new. Every week it's read a story, answer the questions, do spelling, vocabulary, and grammar exercises, and write a composition on Friday. She gets excited if she has us read a Bliss Carman poem! And Mr. Sullivan's geography classes are deadly. Just wait till you have him. You'll hate it. He makes you memorize every word in his notes and then spout them all back to him on the tests. If you change a single word he marks the question wrong. You'll have your share of fights with him! By the way, don't forget you have a detention with Miss Johnson after school. She'll eat you alive if you forget."
"We'd better hurry. Mrs. Maxwell's class is at the other end of the school," Kate said as they washed their hands and checked their reflections in the mirror. They dashed off, binders held tight to their chests, and joined the milling crowds of students in the halls.

Art class had been fun. Mrs. Maxwell had brought in twigs and dead leaves and all kinds of other things from her cottage near Lunenburg, and they had created pictures from them. When Kate had to draw, she produced rigid figures with no life or movement, but when she was allowed to play with materials and move them around on the page, she could set free her imagination and her natural sense of order and beauty. She had created a haunted wood peopled with fantastic creatures. The trees and undergrowth gave hints of their presence, but there were no actual representations of them. She particularly liked the bark of one tree in which she could see a Puckish face. She thought it might provide the inspiration for a poem. Maybe she'd do something with it in Friday's creative writing class.
There were a few grade seven students lingering by their lockers when she arrived at Miss Johnson's door. This better not take long; she wanted to get to the riding club in time for her group riding lesson with Dick Zwicker. She nudged open the door with her shoulder, and set her binder down on the counter top. "I'm here to wash the floor, Miss Johnson," she said to the teacher's back.
"Have you written out your lines, Hennigar?"
Kate gritted her teeth. Mr. Zwicker called all of them by their last names, and he sometimes got her name wrong too, but she knew he liked her. When she'd recited "Abou Ben Adem" and won an elocution competition in grade six, he'd been the only adult to make a fuss. Her father had been too busy to come, but the next day Mr. Zwicker had called her over to the box stall where he was trimming Fairy's hooves, and had said, "Congratulations, Hennigar, I heard you won the speaking contest. I'm always proud when one of my kids does well, " and then he'd planted a big sloppy kiss on her cheek. She'd thought 'yuck' but had hugged that memory to her ever since.
"No, Miss Johnson. I thought that was homework. I've been in class all day. I'll give it to you Friday during class."
"All right, but see that you don't forget. It might be a good idea to do it tonight so that you don't."
"I don't forget things," Kate said coolly. When Alice reminded her of the forgotten apron, Kate flushed, and, in a more subdued tone, asked how she should wash the floor.
"The broom, bucket, cloths, brushes, and soap are all in the tall cupboard. Sweep it well first and then fill the bucket with warm water, add soap, and scrub it well."
"On my knees?" Kate asked incredulously. "I'm wearing my good kilt and stockings. They'll be ruined."
"You can use the small mat to kneel on. It's the one I use, and I never get runs in my stockings," Miss Johnson countered quietly. She had made up her mind to deal with this girl calmly. She'd taught five classes today and she didn't need any more stress. Her head ached and she just wanted to get home to her apartment where she could lie down for an hour before dinner.
"Haven't you got a mop I can use?" Kate asked.
"No, I don't, and even if I had, you can't get into the corners properly with a mop."
"Well I'm not going to crawl all over a wet floor on my hands and knees in my good clothes. You may be a charwoman, but I'm not. And besides, I've got riding and I'll be late if I take forever washing this floor. I thought this would be a fifteen minute detention not an hour's drudgery. "
Alice Johnson felt the scar tissue on her face grow fiery red, and she knew that Kate must be as aware of it as she was. She willed her fury to subside, closed her eyes and said quietly, "You will wash the floor, Miss, and you will do it properly."
"The hell I will," Kate said, and flounced out of the room. As soon as she was out in the hall she knew she'd gone too far, but she tossed her head and marched defiantly past the staring grade seven kids. "That ugly old fart has no right to expect me to do her job," she spat out as she headed down the stairs, past the gym, and out the front door.
Alice's response to Kate's outburst was to draw a deep breath and to let it out slowly. I don't want that girl in my class. She's one of those kids who can destroy a class. She sat down and wrote a report on the confrontation and tucked it into the corner of her desk pad to deal with the next day. Then she took the broom and dust pan from the cupboard and swept the floor. As she filled the bucket, she thought how soothing the warmth of the water was, and felt her headache receding to that place just outside her skull; the place where she still knew she had a headache, but where it didn't pound with each heart beat.
She dropped the rubber-backed mat to the floor and with some difficulty let herself down to a kneeling position. It had certainly been easier when she was a girl and her mother had overseen her floor washing. Then she could move with the agility of a young animal, and never felt discomfort from being on her knees. However; despite the nuisance of aching knee joints, she got a certain satisfaction from seeing the clear black and wine tile emerge from the greyed surface, just as she always did. When she rose after forty minutes on her knees, it was with the grace of a fifty-three year old elephant, and she thought wryly of her mother's words,"Of course you must wash the floor, Miss, I'm past the age when I can do everything in this household. I'm forty-four and you're fourteen. If you don't learn now, you'll be useless when you get married." Oh, Mama, if you had only known then what the future held.
At five o'clock, Alice glanced with satisfaction around the clean room, tucked her scarf in at the neck of her coat, picked up her handbag, and locked the door behind her. The corridors were quiet, and except for the odd teacher still marking at a classroom desk, and some students playing volleyball in the gym, the school was deserted. She walked out onto Preston Street and strode north until she reached Quinpool Road where she turned left. She lived above Bligh's Radio and Record Store and a florist shop beside the Royal Bank building at the corner of Oxford and Quinpool. It was an easy walk to school and handy to the stores and buses. The Oxford Theatre was on the opposite corner, and one bus ride took her out to Armdale where she could shop at Simpson's.
Once she climbed the dark staircase and let herself into her apartment, she felt a sense of relief she never felt at school, or indeed anywhere else. She carried her coat into the bedroom to hang in the closet, took off her shoes and considered lying down for a half hour before starting dinner, but decided against it. Her headache had subsided on its own, and she'd rest after dinner.
As she passed through the small livingroom on her way to the kitchen she thought about what she would do after supper. She'd read all the books in the shelves, all Victorian novels, and she hadn't been to the library for a couple of weeks. The show at the Oxford was Roman Holiday with Audrey Hepburn. Maybe she'd go to that, or maybe she'd just listen to music and write in the diary she'd kept since she was a girl. Yes, she thought, a quiet evening would be nice.
She walked back into her bedroom, changed into a faded house dress and slipped her bare feet into a pair of comfortable shaggy slippers with rundown heels. It was cool so she took out an ancient grey cardigan whose elbows had been darned with a wool that didn't quite match and put it on over the dress which in its youth had been Kelly green but was now a shade almost indistinguishable from the cardigan.
She was having fish tonight, a piece of cod she'd bought on Saturday that needed eating up. She peeled two potatoes and put them in a small pot. A quick glance in the fridge revealed no fresh vegetables, not even carrots, so she took a can of peas from the cupboard, and dumped them unceremoniously into a second pot. Using a wooden kitchen match, she lit the gas stove and set the two pots on the burners. Then she washed, floured and seasoned the fish fillets. She melted a small piece of butter and checked the potatoes. Yes, just turning tender, time to put the fish on. The butter sizzled when she placed the fillet in the pan, and she turned the heat a notch lower. She was reminded of the only time she had taught a class to cook fish. Never again. Most of them said they hated fish and the smell made them sick. She'd remonstrated with them saying they were Nova Scotians, that the mainstay of Nova Scotia's economy was the fishing industry. They were unmoved and most refused to touch the fish to wash it, and, when she had expected them to eat it, had become absolutely mutinous. She'd finally had to call in an administrator because she had lost control of the class.
Being a young teacher had been difficult. That first class and their looks of disgust when they looked at her face. She'd almost given up, but an older teacher had said to her, "Alice, give it a little more time. You'll get better at classroom management. The secret is to be tough at first so that they know who's boss. I know teachers who never smile till Christmas, my dear. And the other thing is that your scars are still quite new. They'll fade in time, you'll see. Soon the girls won't even notice them." Well, she'd been right. Alice's classroom discipline was now excellent, and the girls no longer looked at her in horror, but she couldn't remember when she'd last smiled in a classroom, and she felt stressed all the time.
She'd begun to dream of being a home economics teacher when she was about fifteen. Her mom had been very strict about teaching her to keep her room clean as a small child, and, once she was eleven, had expected her to help with the running of the household. Until she met Kjell, she'd resented any household responsibility that had interfered with her social life. If the girls thought she was tough, they should have lived with her mother!
She'd been a pretty little thing back then. In fact she'd looked a lot like that Stockwell girl, Miriam that is, not the older one, Donna; the same electric black curls, brown eyes and full lips. But she'd been more wilful than Miriam appeared to be. As a matter of fact, she'd been more like that uppity Kate Hennigar. A wry grin creased her face as she thought about her younger self.
Then she remembered when her mother was so ill after her brother was born. She'd been eleven, and they'd had Mrs. Cormier from Spryfield come in to help keep house for about a month. Alice had resented her obtrusive presence in the kitchen. She was a poor, raw boned woman with reddened hands attempting to support her twelve children. Alice was angry about the extra burdens her mother's illness forced her to carry, and missed being able to rely upon her mother, so she was unable to feel much sympathy for Mrs. Cormier. One day, after a particularly unappetizing meal, Mrs. Cormier had asked Alice to take out the garbage and she'd yelled, "Take it out yourself. It's your job. That's what you're being paid for, and if you can't do your job then you'd better clear out."
Mrs. Cormier had gone directly to her father who had taken her down to the coal cellar, his belt in his hand. As he strapped her, he spat out the words that hurt as much as the licking. "You had better learn to have some feeling for other people, young lady. Mrs. Cormier has a hard enough life and does not deserve your scorn. What she does deserve is respect for her hard work. You could be helping out a lot more than you are. She won't be coming back, and you'll soon realize just how much you should have appreciated her, because you'll be doing her job from now on."
How right he had been. She'd learned to cook and clean and do laundry, and she'd looked down at her hands one day, and gone crying to her mother's bedside, "Look at my hands. They're as ugly as Mrs. Cormier's. When are you going to get better?"
Her mother had put her arms around her and said, "As soon as I can, Alice. Perhaps my illness has helped you to understand something about people. We all have to chip in when there's work to be done. Can't any of us just leave things for the rest, can we?" And within another month, Mama had been up and about and Alice's life had returned to normal ... well as normal as possible in a house with a demanding new baby.
By the time Jock was a red-cheeked four year old, loved and spoiled by everyone, they were in the middle of a war, and she'd met Kjell. She'd been singing for the patients at Camp Hill one weekend. He'd been working on one of the British merchant ships when his appendix ruptured and they'd moved him to Camp Hill for emergency surgery before leaving port. The two months that elapsed before his ship returned to Halifax had given them the time to fall in love.
Kjell was just eighteen when she'd brought him home the first time. He loved to play with Jock, tossing him in the air, and in his lilting accent, would spend hours telling the little boy folk tales. Even her dad liked Kjell although he had some misgivings when she'd first started seeing him. "He's too old for you, Alice. Three years are a lot at your age, and those Scandinavian boys are too fast for a fifteen year old Canadian girl."
Little did he know that she was the one who would move faster if Kjell would only let her. It was Kjell who always drew back when their breath quickened and her temperature rose. He'd say, "You're too young, Alice. Wait, Love, till you're sixteen; then we'll get engaged."
Her mother had a suspicion that Alice's sudden interest in home-making was directly connected to her interest in Kjell. The girl who'd had to be coerced into every domestic activity just a few short weeks before suddenly began asking for recipes for pies and cakes. One Saturday night she subjected all of them to something called risengrynsgrøt: a rice porridge that Kjell said all Norwegians ate for their Saturday evening meal. Jock was delighted, particularly by the melted butter and the sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar, an almost unknown luxury in the war years with rationing. Kate's father had refused the toppings and gone looking for ketchup. "Anything to turn a breakfast into a decent supper," he'd growled. "I hope you're not intending to feed us this every Saturday night from now on."
Alice had laughed and said, "Don't be silly Daddy. Kjell's away more often than he's here, so you'd hardly need to worry about eating risengrynsgrøt every Saturday night," and her mother had reminded him of the scarcity of butter and sugar needed for the dish.
Alice sighed. All so long ago now ... Mrs. Cormier, Saturday evenings at Camp Hill, life with her parents and Jock, those years as a young teacher coming to terms with the scraps of a life without Kjell.


Kate let herself into the apartment at 7:00, and turned on the light. She hung her jacket in the hall closet, and went down to her bedroom where her kilt was flung on the floor in a heap with her sweater set and her underwear. A gold chain, on which hung a finely wrought young foal with gangly legs, was curled around small gold earrings on the limed oak bureau. She picked up the binder from the bed and stepped over another, considerably ranker smelling, pile of clothes in the middle of the floor, and walked into the livingroom to a large chair. After setting her open binder and an ash tray and cigarettes on the oversized arm rests, and covering herself with a light mohair throw, she climbed into the nest she had created, took one of the Craven A's from its pack, lit it with a silver plated Ronson table lighter and puffed on it, tapping a non-existent ash into the silver plated ashtray.
She glanced at the book she had borrowed from Mr. Stevens, but turned from it to the science section of her binder. Mr. Killawee had given homework this morning, but it wasn't due till Wednesday. She looked at the assignment, and seeing that it consisted mainly of simple math problems connected with speed and distance, she set it aside. Taking a few drags from the cigarette, and using Mr. Stevens' book as a table, she proceeded to write in her best handwriting "I will not be late to class again. I will remember to bring my cooking apron to all my cooking classes from now on" . By the time she had written the two sentences twenty-five times her hand was stiff, and her cigarette had burned away to a long grey ash. She extricated herself from the tangle of papers and blanket and walked into the bathroom, and then into the kitchen. She opened the refrigerator door, and, in the half light, noted that it was only half past seven. She took a coke from the top shelf of the refrigerator and closed the door casting the kitchen once more into darkness.
She wished she could call Rick, but she always felt funny if anyone else answered, and tonight was one of his biology tutoring nights anyway. She hoped he'd call when he was finished, but he might not be able to. He was in his last year of high school with tons of homework every night, and his parents expected him to get the marks he needed for medical school.
I'll call Mim, she decided. She turned on the overhead light and dialed Miriam's number. It was answered on the third ring by Reverend Stockwell. "Yes, I'll get her for you, Kate, but just a short conversation. Miriam has homework to finish before bedtime."
"God, why does he always have to say that, Mim?"
"Say what?"
"Get off the phone in two minutes. How can you have a conversation with a stopwatch going?"
"He isn't timing me. But he's been helping me with my math homework and he wants us to get it finished soon. He has to prepare a speech or something for the Church Women's meeting tomorrow. What's up? How did things go with Miss Johnson after school?"
"I don't even want to think about it. I walked out when she wanted me to wash the floor on my knees."
"But, Kate, everyone washes the floor that way. You've been over here on a Saturday when we're all doing our chores. You've seen Donna scrubbing the kitchen and bathroom floors."
"But not everyone is wearing an expensive kilt from Scotland. I said I didn't want to talk about it and I don't. The last thing I need is you taking Miss Johnson's side in everything."
There was a sigh on the other end of the line and then Miriam's voice resumed, "What did you do after school?"
"The usual. Came home and changed into my jodphurs, rode for an hour or so, came home and took a bath and changed into jeans and went to the Jubilee for supper, and then came home and started my homework."
"What did you have for supper?"
"A hot hamburger sandwich, a coke and a hot fudge sundae."
"Yum. We had liver and onions. Yucck! Oops, gotta go. Dad's holding up one finger. See you tomorrow morning?"
"Yeah." Kate hung up slowly coiling the cord around her hand. She bit her lip, and then went back into the livingroom where she took up from where she had left off. "I will not be late to class again ..." She wondered what Miss Johnson would do about this afternoon. She felt a sick sense of dread when she remembered her words ... you may be a charwoman but I'm not ... the hell I will ... And had she heard what she'd said to the grade sevens?
Just as she finished the last of the lines, she heard a key in the lock. Her father came in shaking himself like a damp dog. Walter Hennigan was a slim man with thinning blond hair and hazel eyes. He was wearing a navy pinstriped business suit and a lustrous silk tie with a crisp white dress shirt. His shoes gleamed. The only resemblance between him and Kate was their short stature. "It's started to snow. Probably won't last. Too early for that, but it's been a grey November day. Any calls for me while I was out? How was your day?"
Kate threw herself on him and gave him a hug. "No calls. I'm glad you're home. I've had a rotten day. We started cooking this term and we have this absolute witch for a teacher. She's ancient and has these awful lumps all over her face. They turn red when she gets mad. She's ugly enough to be in a house of horrors. She probably glows in the dark. And her eyes are lopsided. One hangs halfway down her cheek.
Her father laughed and said, "Well maybe you'll finally learn how to cook, anyway."
"I doubt it," Kate retorted. "She's doing things like boiled eggs and porridge, and after what happened today I may not have to go back to her class anyway."
Mr. Hennigan's face clouded. "What did you do today?"
"I refused to wash her filthy old floor on my hands and knees in the good kilt you brought back from Scotland last trip."
Walter Hennigan laughed and tousled her hair. "You're quite a Tartar, aren't you? How was supper?"
"Okay. Are you going to play a game of crib with me before I go to bed?"
"Not tonight, honey. I'm beat. Maybe tomorrow night. Sleep tight," and he disappeared into his bedroom, not even stopping to brush his teeth.
"Not any night, you mean," Kate muttered to the closed door. "When was the last time we did anything together? I might as well still be living with Mom and Dad Hall, or be back at Edgehill for all I ever see of you."
Kate went into her own room and closed the door behind her. She turned on a bedside table lamp, slipped out of her jeans and shirt and put on a flannel nightgown hanging on the cupboard door. She looked around the room and brightened up. She loved this room and could remain oblivious to the three piles of clothing on the floor and unaware of the unmade bed and concentrate on the treasures on shelves and walls. Standing in the headboard of the bookcase bed were a small blue radio and several porcelain horses her dad had brought back from London, The walls were hung with mementoes of other European cities: a cuckoo clock from Geneva; silk paintings of children in Alpine dress from some other Swiss town; dolls in a variety of national costumes; and two framed blue silk scenes from Lyons where for centuries tapestries had been made. Her curtains and matching bedspread were made of a bright yellow printed cotton from Provence. One of his girlfriends who could sew had made them. Kate thought that one had been called Mary. Joanie was his current girlfriend, and Kate liked her. She was younger than some of the others had been but wasn't one of those glamour pusses who had her picture taken with him in some club. Kippy was a bleached blonde from New York who fit into that category. She'd liked the woman who'd given her the blue Evangeline figure too Adele, a dietician who worked at the Camp Hill veteran's hospital and made wonderful pumpkin pies. Sometimes Kate dropped in to see Adele on her way home from riding. Dad had said he'd broken off with her because they didn't have much in common, but Kate thought it was because she was middle aged and heavy and looked comfortable instead of young or glamorous. Joanie was coming to stay with her next week when her dad went to New York for a few days. Kate was looking forward to it.
She pushed some stuffed animals onto the floor and stretched luxuriantly. Then she retrieved the ancient Rudolph and planted a kiss on it red plastic nose. Her dad had given the stuffed reindeer to her the Christmas she'd arrived in Halifax. That flight had been a rollercoaster ride. The plane had taken off and landed at every city between Toronto and Halifax, and all the landings had been rough, especially the final one. Her father had been standing on the tarmac, the stuffed Rudolf in his hands, when the plane taxied in, and Kate, still feeling ill, had hugged him, grateful to feel solid ground under her feet.
The emotional ride had been just as turbulent. Fear of the unknown battled with the excitement of an adventure. One moment she delighted in the notion that her father would be only forty miles away; the next she remembered Mom Hall and her throat tightened. She'd read Edgehill's rules. Would she ever again be free to wander off alone for hours, just being a kid, she'd wondered.
And weaving its insidious way through all of these thoughts was the knowledge that she had instigated the whole affair by telling Mom Hall about the woman who'd given her the blue Bakelite radio. If she hadn't told anyone about meeting her real mother, nothing might have happened.
Kate fell asleep, cuddling Rudolf, the what if's tumbling around in her head.

When she met Miriam on Tuesday morning, Kate was quieter than usual, causing Miriam to ask tentatively, "You're not still mad because I couldn't talk last night, are you?"
"No," Kate replied, "I'm just wondering what Miss Johnson will do about my not washing the floor yesterday. Do you think she'll report me to Mr. Harris?"
"Probably," said Miriam gloomily. "At least you won't get grounded for a month the way I am because of that Hallowe'en dance."
"That was really unfair. I wish I hadn't talked you into staying with me that night. I'd never forgive my father if he ever went to a school dance and hauled me out in front of everyone. That was a cruel thing to do. I can't understand how you ever forgave him. And I'd still like to know who ratted on you. It had to be one of your sisters or Wayne."
Miriam's response was less indignant. "I'm sure it was one of the girls. Wayne's so busy breaking rules himself that he wouldn't even notice if I was planning anything. It was likely Diane. She knew there was a dance, and she didn't want to be the only one who wasn't allowed to go. Or maybe she thinks Dad's right to forbid us to play cards or dance."
"That's nuts."
"No," said Miriam thoughtfully, "It's part of being a Baptist."
"Well, if you weren't the Baptist minister's daughter, I'd stop going to church myself. I can't quit my best friend's church so I guess it would be pretty hard for you to quit your dad's. At least he hasn't banned me from the house. I know he thinks I'm a terrible influence."
Miriam giggled, "Remember the time in grade six when you got us all playing "Truth, Dare, Consequences, Promise or Repeat" in our garage and Dad walked in just as Robert was giving you a big French kiss? If he'd been going to tell me I couldn't play with you any more, that's when he would have done it. He nearly had a bird and was upset for days."
"Yeah, and that was a pretty tame version of the game compared to the dares at boarding school! I'll bet Edgehill was almost as glad to see the back of me at the end of grade 5 as I was to be rid of them! See you later."
The morning flew by and then it was French class. Kate liked French; she'd started studying it in grade 4 at Edgehill rather than in grade 7 as her classmates had. But that was not the reason she enjoyed the class so much. She found it consistently entertaining to watch Mademoiselle Brown's ineffectual methods of dealing with the boys who saw no earthly reason for studying French. Before almost every class she would administer the strap to some boy from the last class. He usually looked quite cheerful, but she was dishevelled and red faced as she brought the strap down again and again onto a withdrawn palm, and eventually onto her own thighs. By the end of these sessions, the boy and his teenaged audience would be howling with laughter, while Mademoiselle Brown dissolved in tears.
Kate wondered how she was able, after such a scene, to start the next class with any degree of equanimity, but she always did. She taught them lists of nouns and verbs, emphasizing the correct pronunciation by contorting her mouth and face into strange shapes. The whole class would say the words in unison and then Mademoiselle would check the pronunciation of individuals in the class. Almost invariably her comment on Kate's pronunciation was a smiling "Très bien, Katherine." The boys were more likely to hear her exclaim, "Encore. Not like the a in cat but somewhere between the o in cloth and the a in cat. Aaaah! Aaaah! Manger ... aaaah ... manger." Sometimes she exhorted them to get themselves to the point where they would dream in French. Then they would know they had become bilingual. Kate occasionally tried to imagine a dream which consisted of the names of vegetables or animals or the rooms and furniture in a house and the present tense of the verbs they had learned, but found it a very limiting exercise for the imagination. 'Le garcon mange la carotte' and ' La jeune fille coupe la poire' had about as much appeal as reading Dick and Jane.
Today as usual she aced the test which opened the class, and then laughed as Bobby Bairstow, William Short and the others started their antics. They dropped pencils, threw erasers and sent paper missiles flying into the hanging light fixtures and out the window, while Mademoiselle shrieked, "Robert! Guillaume! Asseyez-vous, maintenant. Silence! Silence! Méchants enfants!" And the boys, spurred on to further exploits by the effect they had on her and on the class, which by now was cheering on the victors, laughed even harder. The lesson ended as it always did with a homework assignment and a list of boys who were to remain after class for a strapping. Kate was usually in a good mood for lunch after French class. They say laughter is good for the digestion. But today Mademoiselle Brown had turned toward Kate in the midst of the ruckus, and, when Kate had continued to support the boys with her laughter, Mademoiselle had given her a look of profound disappointment, and Kate wished she had behaved differently.
She and Miriam took their time walking home for lunch. As soon as Kate arrived at her apartment on the other side of Quinpool Road, she went directly to the kitchen where she dumped a can of Campbell's chicken with rice soup into a pot of water. Then she took the bread out of the bread box and made toast. While she ate, the melted butter dripping down her chin, she read a bit more of the book she was working on in history class. The Mont Blanc had been a real wreck to be used as a munitions ship, and they'd loaded her to the gunwales with explosives, and gun cotton, and then added huge drums of a new super gasoline. She wasn't able to join a convoy because she was too slow so that was why she'd come to Halifax. Mackey, the Halifax pilot, spoke no French and that contributed to the confusion. Maybe Mademoiselle Brown should tell the boys that story to convince them that they should learn French.
Kate finished the soup and went into the bathroom to wash up, brush her hair and put on fresh lipstick. She picked up her jodphurs, a sweater and a jacket and put them into a bag with her boots and socks. She figured she might find herself in Mr. Harris' office after school and wouldn't have time to come home and change before going riding. Glancing at her watch, she saw that she had half an hour to get to school, so she picked up the Black Watch tartan kilt and the forest green sweater set to drop into the cleaners on her way. By the time she met Miriam they had to run to make it back to school on time.
Miss Cole smiled as Kate rushed into the classroom just before the bell rang, and then she turned to the class and said, "Today you should be working on your research. Is there anyone who needs to go to the library? Put your names on the blackboard. Before you do anything, I want you to keep a special section of your looseleaf binder for a logbook while you are doing this unit. It will have a value of 10% of the term mark, so keep it up religiously. This will serve as your guide while you are doing the unit, and from time to time I will be asking you to reflect on how things are going. Date today's entry and note what you intend to get accomplished in this class. Is there anyone who still hasn't chosen a topic yet and needs to discuss things with me?" A few hands went up. "Okay, then the rest of you get to work and use me as a resource person whenever you need me. I'll start with you, Pam. Come up to my desk with your notebook, please."
Kate and Shona burrowed down in their seats at the back of the room near the door, Shona spread out before her a pile of handwritten poems composed by the Cape Bretoners after a mine cave-in. "Where'd you find the poems?" Kate asked before she settled in with her book.
"My dad had these in a trunk. He comes from Cape Breton, you know. Some of his uncles and cousins are miners. He's always saying he was lucky to escape the life of a mole."
Kate picked up her book, and a sheaf of typewritten sheets stapled together, got her notes in order and took a pen from her pencil case. She said to Shona, "Don't forget the logbook," and then wrote at the top of a fresh page: Log Book, November 2, 1954. I have been reading about the Halifax Explosion and taking notes from Heart Throbs of the Halifax Horror. Today I am going to continue with that and maybe look at Mr. Stevens' collection of survivors' letters, diaries and poetry.
She opened the handmade book. Mr. Stevens had collected a variety of documents and copied them for the students to use. Kate was particularly intrigued by the personal account written by a young female Dalhousie student. She skimmed past a few other personal recollections, and stopped to look more closely at D. Carl Moulton's letters to his girlfriend. There were some newspaper clippings and more letters and then series of poems. Several versions of one by William Dawson were included, and at first Kate thought Mr. Stevens had made a mistake. Then she looked more closely and realized that these were different drafts, and in one he'd referred to the Imo as a Belgian tramp; in another as a Nordic tramp.
Kate decided to continue reading Heart Throbs and put the booklet to one side. She'd ask Mr. Stevens later whether the Imo was Norwegian or Belgian.
The Imo captain had been held up getting fuel and wanted to get out of the harbour as quickly as possible. The part of Halifax around the harbour was just as shabby in those days from the sounds of it. At the corner of Kempt Road and Robie Street was the Dominion Textile factory where hundreds of girls operated spinning machines. Most of them came from the neighbourhood, but lots were from places like Yarmouth.
She'd only been to Yarmouth once, when she was twelve. The Lancers had gone to the Yarmouth Fair to compete in games and jumping competitions and to perform the musical ride. It was a nice little town and she wondered why these small town girls were so anxious to come to the city. Even today whenever an American ship came into port, the buses from all over the mainland brought girls to Halifax. Personally she'd give anything to live in the country and have a horse of her own.
The Royal Naval College was also by the harbour and the cadets were writing exams in December when the Mont Blanc and the Imo were in port. She wondered if they were anything like the University Naval Training Division, the UNTD's or the Untidies as they were known. Her riding club friends could only go out with the midshipmen from the American ships or with the Canadian UNTD's, the officers in training. Nice girls did not date ordinary sailors. Kate was perfectly content with her friends' house rules, but, in the summer, when the Waegwoltic Club opened its gates to the American navy, they found it awfully hard to distinguish between the banned sailors and the acceptable midshipmen all wearing bathing trunks and silver ID bracelets.
Her mind stopped wandering when she got to the point where the actual collision occurred at about 8:30 in the morning of December 6, 1917. It was just as the North End households were getting ready for their day. The Imo got very close to the Mont Blanc and Mackey, the Mont Blanc's pilot, turned to port to avoid a collision. That meant that the Mont Blanc had turned left and was now on the wrong side of the harbour. Kate knew that ships have similar rules to cars, and she tried to imagine two cars approaching one another on a narrow road. If one got really far over on your side of the road you'd have a choice. You could either hit the ditch or you could swerve to the left side of the road. The Mont Blanc had chosen to move to the left. When the Imo captain realized that a collision was imminent, he set her engines full speed astern. He tried to
back up! That made the bow of the Imo swing toward the Mont Blanc, and it ripped through the plating on her Number 1 hold. People watching the collision were unaware that the Mont Blancwas carrying enough explosives to flatten a city, and so merely noted that two ships had collided in the harbour, and found it an interesting event.
Kate began to read even faster, forgetting now to take notes. The Mont Blanc crew knew the danger that had been unleashed and the French captain knew they could not control the blaze that had been started on her foredeck. He considered scuttling the ship but that too was impossible. The crew was beginning to panic. The pilot, Mackey, suggested going full speed ahead in an effort to extinguish the flames by forcing seawater into the Number 1 hold. Captain Le Medec ignored the Canadian pilot's words and gave the order to abandon ship. A witness said he'd never seen two lifeboats filled so quickly in all his life. They rowed like mad for the Dartmouth shore where they scattered and took cover as soon as they landed.
What creeps, Kate thought. They didn't even warn anyone else to get out of the way. Wonder what happened to the Imo?
Other ships in the harbour, the Stella Maris and the High Flyer, were concerned about the fire and both dispatched help. They soon realized that they could do nothing to put out the fire with the equipment they had. Brannan of the Stella Maris summed up their impotence when he said, "We're doing no good with what we've got here. Might as well try to put Hell out with spit!"
The Mont Blanc's fleeing life boats were aware of other ships moving towards the flaming Mont Blanc, and Mackey, the pilot, attempted to warn them off but his words never reached them.
Lieutenant Commander James Murray was one of the few people who knew that the Mont Blanc was carrying huge quantities of explosives. When the Sea Transport Officer saw that the French ship was on fire, he immediately issued a general warning. Vince Coleman, a train dispatcher, was one of the people who received the warning. He could have saved himself but he remembered that there were trains coming from Rockingham and Truro and went back into the office to tell them to remain where they were. At 9:06 a.m., just as the young telegraph operator tapped out the last words of his message, "...munition ship on fire in the harbour -- Goodbye," the Mont Blanc exploded.
Kate sat in her chair silently thinking about the cowardice of the Mont Blanc crew and of the courage of Vince Coleman. She was startled out of her quiet reflection by the loudspeaker on the wall above her head. It was Mr. Harris' voice and his tone was brusque. "Kate Hennigan to the office immediately,"
This is it, thought Kate, and she packed up her binder and quietly left the room.


Kate squared her shoulders and walked with her head held high toward the office. The last time she had been here, she had been absolutely certain she was in the right. This time she was less sure. She smiled, a little unsteadily, at the secretary who had been so friendly yesterday, and whose expression now was unreadable. "I'm Kate Hennigan," she said, "Mr. Harris called me down just now."
"Yes, I know. Just wait here and I'll tell him you've arrived."
Kate heard Mr. Harris growl, "Send her in," and she moved towards his office door with considerable trepidation.
Mr. Harris wasted no time on pleasantries. "Well, Miss, it seems I was wrong about you. I thought you had agreed to start out fresh with Miss Johnson. You were going to write the lines, apologize and wash the floor. Instead you have been openly defiant and very rude." He scanned the discipline form in his hand. "Miss Johnson says you refused to wash the floor; that you said she might be a charwoman but you weren't; and that when she insisted, you responded by saying 'The hell I will'. She also says that you made some very rude remarks about her appearance to some younger students when you slammed out of the room. What do you have to say about this?"
"Everything she said is true, Sir, and I am really sorry, even though it doesn't really count if you're sorry when you're about to get into trouble."
"Why in God's name did you refuse to wash the floor in the first place, Kate?" Mr. Harris' voice was somewhat gentler than it had been.
"I had a riding lesson at 4:30 and I thought I'd never make it if I had to do that huge floor on my hands and knees. And I was wearing a good kilt and I didn't want to ruin it."
"Miss Johnson says she offered you the use of a mat."
"Yes she did, but Sir, I've never washed a floor before. I had no idea how to do it and I just guessed that I'd end up a mess if I tried."
"Well, this afternoon you'll have an opportunity to learn how to wash a floor wearing a skirt. Do you have a riding lesson today?"
" No. Tuesdays and Thursdays I lead new students around on the lead line when I get to the club, and I have lessons on Mondays and Fridays. Wednesday is free riding, like the weekend."
"Okay, now I want to be absolutely clear about this. Today and Thursday you have the responsibility of helping with beginning riders, and tomorrow you have a holiday from lessons and from the work you do at the club. Is that right?"
"Yes, Sir. Today is lead line day. Tomorrow I just ride for fun."
"Well, I don't want to interfere with your responsibilities at the riding club but I am quite happy to interfere with your fun, so I will schedule you in for a detention with Miss Johnson tomorrow afternoon. You'll miss out on your free riding time and if you are really concerned about your clothes, bring a pair of jeans tomorrow afternoon.
None of your other teachers seem to have any trouble with you. Miss Hilton says you were not very competent in sewing last term, but you tried. Miss Cole and Mr. Stevens sing your praises, and your French and math teachers say you are one of the best students in the class. And all your cultural options teachers say you are imaginative. Is there something else going on with Miss Johnson?"
"I don't think so, Sir, but she seems tougher than the other teachers, like she has a barricade up against us. The others seem glad to see us come into the classroom. Miss Johnson doesn't seem to like teaching us."
"Nothing to do with her appearance? Are you sure you are giving her as fair a chance as you do the others?"
Kate drew in her breath sharply. Surely she wasn't judging Miss Johnson on the basis of things she couldn't help. No, Miss Johnson wasn't just ugly; she was bitchy.
She looked up at Mr. Harris and said firmly, "I'm sure I'm not prejudiced against her because she's scarred, Sir. She doesn't behave kindly to students. It has nothing to do with her face."
Mr. Harris looked at her intently and then said, " I have prepared a letter, Kate. You will deliver it to your father this evening. Your behaviour yesterday went beyond the realm of simple silliness that can be remedied within the school. Your father and I need to discuss the incident."
Kate looked dismayed and started to say something, and then subsided into silence. She simply said, "Yes Sir," and took the letter from his outstretched hand.
"All right, Kate. Off you go now. Don't forget the detention tomorrow. I'm counting on you to be a big enough young woman to get beyond all this. Don't let me down again."
Classes had changed while Kate had been in Mr. Harris' office, and she went directly to History and sat down immediately and prepared to continue her work. Shona raised her eyebrows and asked, "What did the office want?"
"Nothing. I was in trouble for not serving a detention. Have to do it tomorrow."
"I thought you were being expelled, he sounded so mad."
"Nothing nearly as dramatic as that. How is your research on Springhill going?"
" Good. My dad is going to let me call my uncle tonight, and I'm making up interview questions like Miss Cole suggested."
"Good idea. Maybe I'll find someone to interview too."
The girls returned to their projects. Shona, a gnawed yellow pencil between her teeth, was thinking of questions. Kate slid lower into her chair and opened her book, but the words blurred on the page and she found herself re-living her visit to the office. Was she giving Miss Johnson a chance? She thought about her dad's young friend, the orderly at the hospital who was a recent immigrant from Germany. The two men had become friendly when her dad was recuperating from an operation and Hans had shaved him every day. Hans had appreciated having someone to speak German to, and her dad had enjoyed practising his native tongue after all these years. Hans had laughed when the man with the Irish name had spoken to him in German. He'd asked how a German had gotten the name Hennigan. Dad's friends, the O'Shea's in Toronto had befriended him when he'd first arrived in Canada in 1929, and, so, later, when his boss at Simpson's had told him it would be a good idea to change the name "Schütz" to a more Canadian sounding name, war being on the horizon, Dad had asked the O'Shea's what name he should choose. They had picked Hennigan after a good friend back in the old country.
Hans had dropped in one evening last week hoping to find her dad at home, and had stayed for a cup of coffee. It had not been a very pleasant visit. First of all he'd criticized her for smoking. Then he'd asked what movies she'd seen lately. When she told him she'd seen On the Waterfront at the Capital, he'd said she shouldn't go to the Capital. She asked why not and he'd said they let niggers in there. He went to the Gaiety where niggers weren't allowed. Kate had become icy and she'd told him that decent people didn't call Negroes niggers, and his precious Gaiety might not let Negroes in but they sure had their share of lice. She'd far rather go to a clean theatre with a decent attitude to people than that flea-ridden prejudiced Gaiety. Nice girls weren't even allowed to go there! He'd left in a huff saying he'd be speaking to her father about her behaviour.
Was she guilty of doing exactly what Hans and the Gaiety management did?
Mr. Steven suddenly appeared beside her desk. "Why were you late, Kate?" he smiled.
"I was with Mr. Harris, Sir," and when he nodded, she asked, "Could you explain something, Mr. Stevens? Was the Imo Belgian or Norwegian? In one of the poems the writer calls her a Nordic tramp and later a Belgian tramp."
"Oh, so you've been using my old research notes. I did a paper on the Explosion when I was a student at Dalhousie, and made copies of the materials I found in the Archives. I'm glad to see you're using them. She was a Norwegian ship, Kate, but she was loaded with relief supplies for Belgium, likely blankets and medical supplies and clothing, anything that would help the people who needed help in a war-torn country." He smiled down at her and asked how her research was going.
"Great but I hated the captain and crew of the Mont Blanc. Why didn't they try to warn the others? All they cared about was themselves."
"Sometimes when people are really scared, Kate, they just act instinctively to survive. They don't think about anyone else."
"But the telegraph operator, the one who warned the trains. He was in real danger and he didn't run."
"Yes, that's true. Vince Coleman was a very courageous young man. I think it takes a very special kind of person to go beyond himself ... or herself ... when they themselves are hurting or scared or both. It's easy to divide the world into heroes and cowards, but most of us are somewhere in the middle. We hope we'll act courageously and unselfishly when the chips are down, but we don't always."
Kate thought a moment, and said, "Well I think I'd act better than they did." Mr. Stevens smiled and said he hoped he would too, and Kate returned to her reading.
The force of the explosion not only blew the Mont Blanc apart, it actually caused the harbour floor to split open. Wharves and railway bridges; ships and heavy equipment; buildings and roads; all were destroyed. The streets closest to the explosion were obliterated, and their houses crumbled. Windows shattered as far away as Truro, but the bulk of the blast was expended on the city's north end. Citadel Hill swallowed the main force of the blast and protected the south end of the city from the worst of the repercussions.
Right after the blast there was a vacuum effect that caused still standing walls to cave in and flung the glass and other debris everywhere. Overturned wood stoves set the rubble ablaze, and broken gas lines fueled the fire. At the same time, the sky began to rain down rocks scooped up from the ocean floor and the red hot fragments of the Mont Blanc.
No sooner had the sky dropped everything it had to drop when a thirteen foot tidal wave dashed itself against the craft in the harbour and flung them up far inshore. The wave then swept over McNabb Island and out to sea where it caused storm conditions for ships many miles out in the Atlantic. The final dramatic event was the mushroom cloud that rose three miles into the air above the North End. It would be almost thirty years before another explosion of such magnitude was unleashed by mankind -- the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.
It was with difficulty that Kate put the book away when the bell rang. She would have preferred reading to going to music, but did not dare run the risk of rousing Mr. Harris' wrath by skipping a class. Outside her locker she said to Miriam, "I sure hope she isn't going to ask us to sing today."
"Oh, come on, your voice isn't that bad. Just sing softly." Music was Miriam's favourite class. She had a clear soprano that had been trained since infancy in church choirs. No need for her to sing softly.
Kate laughed. "It's a good thing we only have it once a week. Even you'd want to gag me if you had to put up with my singing any more often."
It did turn out to be a singing class, but before Kate knew it she was released by the 3:30 bell. They had spent most of the period learning "Do You Ken John Peel?" and Mrs. Wallace had amused them with the stories associated with the song before getting them to sing the words. Kate left Mim talking to Mrs. Wallace and headed off to her locker to collect her riding gear.


The route to the riding club was so familiar that Kate usually walked it automatically and abandoned herself to imagination and dreams. Today's thoughts were nightmarish. First came images of the Explosion. She imagined the force of the blast, the Mont Blanc being blown to smithereens and the pieces raining down on the hapless city; and then the mushroom cloud rising high above the devastation. She thought about the captain and crew of the Mont Blanc running for cover and ignoring the other ships in the harbour, and again felt a surge of righteous indignation. How could they? She'd have shown more courage. She cared about other people, and stood up for their rights.
That's what she'd done with Hans. Of course, that hadn't required courage because she didn't much care what Hans thought of her anyway. He was so bigoted, his opinion didn't matter at all. Even his threat to tell her father hadn't had much impact because she knew her dad would never get angry about something like that.
She thought about her dad. When she was living near Toronto with Mom and Daddy Hall, he came up from Halifax every three months or so and turned everything upside down. He argued politics with Daddy Hall who was a Conservative. He even listened to a Catholic mass on the radio and went for drives in the country on Sunday morning instead of going to the United Church service. His visits provided Kate's only exposure to a different kind of thinking.
She remembered an election when her Toronto suburb of Long Branch was peppered with CCF lawn signs. After considerable discussion with Mom and Daddy Hall, Kate had gone to school the next day and carefully explained to her fellow marbles players by the school yard fence that anyone who voted CCF was voting to have their bank accounts all emptied into a common one. Kate thought of her worn blue bank book with its $32.15 balance. It never occurred to the eight year old that if it had been true, she would have been able to buy her horse.
During her dad's visits, almost everything in the house on Lake Promenade lit up for a few days. Mom Hall blossomed when he flirted with her. Daddy Hall just continued to scowl in his corner, where he read the Globe and Mail and smoked his wet sloppy White Owl cigars that stank up the whole house, but at least he didn't growl at her and Claire quite as often. Kate and her foster sister, Claire, delighted in the gifts Kate's dad always brought ... pedal pusher outfits from New York, silver lockets that opened, dolls that walked and talked, and, when she was seven and having her tonsils removed at home, their first two-wheeled bikes. Mom and Dad Hall had bought the bikes in Toronto, and Mom always chose things that the princesses in England would have worn or used. The winter Kate was nine Mom Hall had reluctantly abandoned her choice of smart navy blue winter coats when Claire and Kate had begged relentlessly for the imitation leopard skins. The bikes, however, had been black English sidewalk models, and very classy.
Life with the Hall's had been the next best thing to having a mom and dad, and sure a lot better than the boarding school where she was sent when she was nine. Edgehill Church School for Girls had been Kate's purgatory. She'd felt completely isolated there. Nothing could have prepared her for the reality of Edgehill. When her dad had said she must leave the Hall's and start boarding school, Mom Hall had done her best to make her excited about going by telling her rousing stories of camaraderie gleaned from such British sources as The Girls' Own Annual. The school had compiled a list of required clothing and her dad had given Mom Hall his Simpson's credit card. Mom Hall had been delighted with her mandate to buy navy blue coats and hats for winter, spring and fall. For afternoon wear, she had chosen skirts and sweaters that any upper class English girl would have looked at home in. Claire would have given anything for the maroon blazer with the Fideliter crest on the left breast pocket. But Kate just felt lonely and scared. She'd rather have continued wearing her jeans and moccasins and enjoying the freedom of being a kid at the Hall's.
Before she knew it, Kate had turned the corner onto Bell Road and was within sight of the stable. She quickened her steps and felt herself relax as she entered the stable and breathed in the pungent steaminess of the stalls. The bumpy cobblestoned floor insinuated itself through the soles of her boots, and she smiled as the ponies snorted and whinnied, and stamped their iron clad feet. Several small leadliners, the beginners who were led during class, were clustered near the stalls where Flash and Queenie stood side by side, Flash so docile and Queen so old, that they were always the first choices of the more nervous new riders. A little further along were the matching blacks, Magic and Mystic, which the juniors and leadliners shared, as they did Rigoletto and Champ, two not quite so predictable bays. The more adventurous leadliners liked them, because there was always a chance that they might act up and then they could pretend that they were riding spirited horses. Kate liked the feisty kids but her horse Happy preferred the less temperamental ponies, so she was of two minds when Jennifer, her braids down to her waist, wearing jeans and sweatshirt under a plaid hunting jacket, called out to her, "Kate, will you lead me today? Miss Winter says I can ride Rig. I'm just going to get him saddled and bridled."
Kate looked at Jenn's expectant face and remembered herself at eleven, arriving early and even coming on non-leadline days hoping that one of the older kids would feel sorry for her and take her out. Surprisingly, several did, and she hadn't forgotten how much it had meant to her. "Okay, Jennifer. Get him ready and let me check his girth before we go out. Jennifer grinned and she reached up on tiptoe to get the saddle down from the rod outside the stall.
Kate moved quietly into Happy's stall. He searched her pockets for apples, and she laughed and said, "No you don't. I know your tricks. You'll never let me out if I give you something in here. Stop that nibbling and behave yourself." She placed the reins over Happy's thick neck, and slid the bridle up so that she could place the double bits in his mouth. Happy had a habit of taking off with the bit between his teeth, and she couldn't take a chance on using a gentler bit today, not when she was leading Rigoletto.
With some difficulty she left the stall to get his saddle, using her elbow to thump him on the side and her rump to move his rear end over, grumbling as she did so, "Get over, you fool. You can't keep me in here. We'll both be out in a second. Don't be so silly." Happy's ears flickered and Kate imagined that he understood every word. She flung the saddle over his back and nuzzled the soft velvet of his nose before she did up the girth and then smacked his belly to make him expel the air he had used to blow himself up. She'd learned long ago how easy it was to slide right over to the side if you didn't double check the girth. Horses were smart but not as smart as people.
She backed him out of the stall and tied him to one of the guide lines in the central corridor between the rows of stalls. Jennifer was struggling with Rigoletto's bit, nervous because he had bitten her once before. "Easy, Rig," murmured Kate, as she patted his neck gently. "Just let me get in here," she said quietly to Jennifer. Jenn slid under Kate's arm and squeezed between her and the horse, handing Kate the bridle as she did so. The reins were already over his head, and Kate moved them slowly down toward his withers. She talked softly keeping herself turned towards his head, until the white eyes gradually became calmer and returned to their normal shade of brown. Then she slipped the bits into his mouth, tucked in his ears, and did up the strap, testing the space between it and his throat with her fist. She petted him again and backed him out. Jenn held him while she tightened his girth.
"Okay, we're ready. Hop aboard and I'll check your stirrups. " Jennifer mounted competently and slid her left foot out of the stirrup to check the length. The stirrup came inches below her boot, and she laughed, wondering who had last ridden Rig. Kate guess it had been Johnnie. Rig was his regular horse. Kate undid the buckle and tightened it. "Five holes, Jenn. You do the right one and then we'll get going."
Jennifer tightened the stirrup leather and then tested the tightness of the girth and the stirrup length by standing up in the stirrups. "Ready," she smiled. Kate held her hand out to Rig and giggled as his soft lips moved the sugar cube into his mouth, tickling her open palm with his chin whiskers.
They were working in the back paddock today. Most of the leadline classes were held in this smaller ring, and Kate was glad she didn't have to lead Rig across the road. Rig was tossing his head and Happy's ears were laid flat back against his head, and she could sense his hind end bunch to kick. She slapped his rump and said," None of that. You be a good boy." And then she noticed Rig snapping at Happy's haunch. She was holding Rig's curb rein in her right hand, and both sets of Happy's reins in her left. Rig's snaffle rein was tied up and Jennifer was holding onto the neck strap. "Just give his rein a bit of a tug, Jenn. It'll bring his head up so that he stops trying to bite Happy."
"Okay," said Jenn, happy to be doing something other than acting as a passenger. Kate thought she'd probably be ready to come off the lead line in another couple of lessons, and told her so. Jenn's smile was radiant.
Once they got out into the paddock, and joined the group, things became routine. They were walking in a circle, each pair of riders keeping a horse's length from the pair in front. Miss Winter stood in the middle of the circle, wearing brown jodphurs, a creamy Fisherman knit turtle neck sweater, a Harris tweed jacket, and tall riding boots. She was tall and slim and her own horse, Dancer, stood quietly near the gate to the paddock. She always started her lessons on foot and then modelled the correct moves in the second half of the lesson when she led the class through its paces. "I want everyone to stop, and when I say 'Walk' to kick your horse once and say firmly 'Walk and then the horse's name. Jennifer, you would give Rig a single kick and say, 'Walk, Rig.' Is that clear to everyone?" There was a general murmur of assent, and then she said clearly, " Okay, now. Walk!"
Kate and Jennifer gave their signals and Happy and Rig moved forward obediently. The pair ahead were not quite as quick off the mark, and Kate held the two horses back until Jill and the little boy she was leading started forward. She heard Jill say, "Just one clear kick, Grant, and talk to Flash in a voice that sounds as if you are the boss," Kate was glad that today she had Jennifer on her leadline.
Miss Winter asked them to trot and watched the students carefully to ensure that their form was good. The familiar sounds of half a dozen young people repeating the mantra of "Up, down, up, down" to keep the leadliners posting to their horses' trots, and of Miss Winter's criticisms: "Don't let me see air between your saddle and your seat, Betty"; "Keep your heels down, Sam"; "Margaret; you're getting too close to the horse ahead" ; and the occasional punctuation of an encouraging word, "Good form, Jennifer; nice straight back and slight forward lean. Kate, untie her snaffle rein next time round at the trot."
And then she had them stop and Kate showed Jennifer how to hold her reins. "Just remember that you don't need to pull on the reins at all; they're just there to indicate to Rig that you want him to turn. Hold onto your neck leather with your right hand and just lay the reins in your left hand across his neck toward the direction you want him to go. Okay?" Jenn nodded.
Miss Winter mounted Dancer and indicated that Glenn and his leadliner were to follow her. She led them in a series of circuits of the ring at both the walk and the trot, varying her route every so often to give them practice in navigating. Before long the lesson was over and Kate was looking forward to exercising Happy without worrying about Jennifer and Rigoletto.
Jennifer asked hesitantly, " Could you take me around a couple of times without the others. I'd like to see if I can guide Rig and stop him."
Kate looked at her and sighed, "I guess so, but only a couple of times. I have things I need to do today."
Once Jenn was safely back in the stable, and Johnny had reclaimed Rig, Kate was truly free and she headed across the road to the big ring where she worked with Happy on some low jumps and then practised the collected and extended gaits necessary for her next test. It was 5:30 when she put Happy back in his stall and rubbed him down, and 6:00 by the time she changed and started for home.
"I've got a violin lesson," Jill said when she passed her stall. "Do you want to walk over with me and have supper on Spring Garden Road on the way?"
"Next time, Jill. I'm going to visit an old girl friend of my dad's tonight. I need some pumpkin pie. It's been a long day."
Jill laughed and Kate left the warmth of the stable to step out into the cool dark night.


Walking home alone from the stables after dark was sometimes scary. The route led past some pretty lonely spots, especially by the Halifax Common. On summer evenings, soccer games drew crowds, and people strolled or flew kites with their children, but in November, it was a barren field across which the wind whistled. She drew her jacket closer around her and hunched her shoulders forward around her binder and the bag of riding clothes.
She thought about the letter in her binder. She wasn't looking forward to the prospect of giving it to her father when he got home from work exhausted. She knew he'd be furious about having to take time off to see Mr. Harris, especially right now. Christmas was a busy time for everyone at Simpson's, but especially for her father. He had a three month European buying trip coming up the beginning of January so had to fit in trips to Toronto and New York before he left. She considered ways of calming the storm before it started. Maybe if she pretended to be sick. She looked up at the night sky, located a star and wished futilely that the problem would just disappear.
As Kate turned north onto Robie Street, keeping the Common on her right, she checked her watch. Adele always got home from the hospital at 6:00 on the dot. She'd be there by now. She thought she heard footsteps behind her and turned around. Nothing. She shivered. Anyone could be out there and you'd never see them in the dark. She thought about Pam's friend Betty , who had lived in the North End when she was little. The Hallowe'en she was nine or ten she'd been out trick or treating with a bunch of kids. A guy had come along and told Betty that her dad had sent him to get her; that it was time to go home. Betty had gone along with him and he'd taken her to a burned out church and raped her. The other kids had eventually gone home and Betty's father had asked where Betty was. When they told him, he had raced to the spot she had last been seen and found the church basement minutes away. He'd stormed in and beaten the guy to a pulp, and then gotten the police. Pam said Betty was still scared to be around boys or men, and that Betty's dad was always really careful to pass women walking on the street at night so that they wouldn't be frightened by hearing a man's footsteps behind them.
Kate stopped and turned around. She surveyed the area carefully, peering into the fog that now rolled across the Common, listening for the steps. Nothing. Her imagination must be playing tricks on her. She hoisted her binder and the bag up a bit and walked on. Up ahead she could see the street lights of Adele's neighbourhood and she relaxed.
"Well, hello, dear. How nice of you to drop in." Adele's voice was as welcoming as the warmth emanating from her apartment. "Take off your jacket, and give me those things. We'll just put everything on this stool. Can you stay for supper? I'm just getting things ready."
"That would be great. Thanks, Adele. Something sure smells good."
"It's a pumpkin pie. It will be ready for dessert. A little warm, but no matter. Tell me. What's new with you and your dad?"
"He's really busy, working night and day and going to New York next week. I never see him at all. He has trips to Toronto and Montreal before Christmas and then all the European buying after the New Year. I'll be glad when it's Christmas. It's the only time he stops for awhile and has any fun."
"Yes, he works hard, Walter does. It's too bad he doesn't really take the time to live life. You'll be a woman and he'll wonder where your childhood went; and he'll be an old man and wonder where he spent his youth. Oh well, he is what he is and no one is going to change that, I guess. Come on into the kitchen and talk to me while I cook."
Kate followed Adele's ample behind into the cheerful kitchen and sat down at the red arborite table. Adele had made seat and back covers for the chairs so that you hardly noticed that they were ordinary kitchen chairs. The covers were made of a white cotton on which bright red apples and yellow pears were painted. "What's happening in school?"
Kate explained about the research project and mentioned that she was going to try to get some newspapers from the time, and that she'd like to wander around some of the important places.
"You just passed an important place. The Common was where thousands of people ran right after the Explosion, when they thought the magazine was going to go up next. Some went to Point Pleasant Park and most went to Citadel Hill. Hard to imagine a thousand people bedded down over there." She waved a plump arm in the general direction of the Common.
"But it was December. It must have been freezing."
"It was. A terrible storm came up right after the Explosion and made everything worse."
"How do you know all this? Were you living in Halifax then?"
"No, I grew up in Montreal. I came here in 1946, the same year your dad came from Toronto. But at Camp Hill Hospital lots of the veterans remember it. Some of them were soldiers in the first war and were home on leave when it happened. They were pressed into service. Others fought in the second war and were kids at the time of the Explosion ... 1916, wasn't it?"
"I917," Kate responded, her brow suddenly furrowed.
Adele busied herself with flouring the ground beef and pork patties, and looked at the vegetables. She set a frying pan on an element. Then she placed the patties in the sizzling butter with slivered onions. Kate's mouth began to water. She was always starved after riding.
"Do you think any of the vets would be interested in giving me an interview, Adele? Would they mind talking to me about the Explosion?"
"Mind?" Adele laughed. "They'd be delighted to have a pretty young girl come in to talk to them. They almost never have any company at all. When would you like to do it?"
"On a Saturday or Sunday, I guess."
"Okay. I'll work on it. Well, I'll just take the pie out of the oven and let it cool, and then everything is almost ready. Could you set the table while I put the finishing touches on the vegetables and make the gravy?"
Kate found two red heart shaped place mats with matching napkins in a drawer, and set each place with dark blue plates and cutlery. She asked Adele what they were going to drink, and Adele said she thought they'd both have milk tonight. She put the two glasses on the table.
Adele placed a trivet in the centre of the table, and on it a platter of meat patties swimming in a rich brown gravy in which floated morsels of onion. She flanked the platter with a blue bowl mounded with fluffy mashed potatoes and a smaller bowl in which buttered carrots glistened. She turned out the overhead light, put a flowered gravy boat on the table and sat down opposite Kate.
"This looks so good," breathed Kate, almost reverently.
"I'm always happy to see you at my front door at supper time, Kate. I like having the company. Food always tastes better when you have someone to share it with."
"It sure does, especially the food you make. This is yummy."
"Are you taking cooking at school?"
"Yes, but I'm not doing very well. I have Miss Johnson and we don't get along."
"What's wrong?"
"I'm not really sure. But I'm really in hot water now because I acted like a smart alec and said some things I shouldn't have said, and now the principal wants a meeting with Dad."
Adele raised her brows. "He won't like that. Have you told him yet?"
"Tonight. I've been trying to figure out a good way to break it to him. Any suggestions?"
"Perhaps we should send home part of the pie. The way to a man's heart is through his stomach, my mother always told me ... of course here I am, unmarried, and my whole life is cooking ... so no guarantees. At any rate that will be one less pie that makes it onto my hips, and your dad likely hasn't had a good home cooked meal for awhile. Do you think you can manage with everything else you're carrying?"
"I'll find a way to carry it somehow."
They finished eating and Adele took the beaters and a silver bowl filled with cream out of the freezer, and searched the crowded fridge door for candied ginger. She chopped it into a fine dice and added it to a small amount of sugar in a cup. Then she whipped the cream until soft peaks formed and slowly added the sugar and ginger. When the bowl could be turned upside down she declared it ready and cut two generous slices of the pie. She scooped large dollops of the cream onto each slice and placed forks on the plates. Kate, who had been standing beside her while she created these desserts, carried hers to the table. Adele poured bowling water into a tea pot and joined her. The warmth of the pie had melted the topping sufficiently to create a creamy pool on each blue plate. It looked delicious and Kate sniffed appreciatively before bringing the fork to her mouth. "Mmmn," she sighed. "It's wonderful. If Dad doesn't succumb to this, nothing will work." She was so busy eating that she didn't notice the look on Adele's face, a look that was not nearly as assured as Kate's words.
"He loves you more than anything, Kate, and I think that is what will save your skin, not the pie."
By the time Adele had packed up the remaining dessert into a manageable package, and they'd cleared the table and organized the dishes, it was 8:00. "You'd better head home now, Kate. I don't want you out walking the streets any later than this. You never know what can happen. I'll finish the dishes in no time."
Adele bundled Kate into her jacket, placed the various parts of the burden securely in her arms, and gave her a kiss on the cheek. "Good luck with tonight, and I'll call you about the interview. Scoot right home ... no dilly dallying along the way, now. And call me when you get in to let me know you're home safe. Okay?"
Kate smiled. Adele always made her feel like a protected little kid, and she realized every time she did just how much she had missed that. "I'll call. Don't worry, though."
The distance from Adele's house to hers was equal to the distance from the riding club to Adele's but walking past houses on lighted streets was a lot more comfortable. Most of the lighted windows were draped, but the occasional one gave her a glimpse of the family life going on inside -- a small child at bedtime, two sisters doing dishes, a couple walking a crying baby, and in one dining room window a teenaged boy and his dad at the table. Kate couldn't tell whether they were working on something together or whether they were playing a game, but their heads were close together and she had a warm feeling, just slightly tinged by envy.
At her triplex, she took the key from her pocket and let herself into the darkened apartment. Her first stop was the fridge to put away the pie and whipped cream. She made a quick call to Adele, dumped the bag of clothes in her bedroom and took her binder into the living room. She did her science homework first and then her French, and afterwards went back into her bedroom to get a book. She scanned the old familiar titles: Heidi, The Secret Garden, Little Women and Jo's Boys, A World of Horses, and several from the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series . She finally chose A Man Called Peter and returned to the livingroom. It was almost 10:00. She hoped he'd be home soon. She was suddenly tired.
Not more than halfway through Chapter 1, she heard the key in the lock. A chill iced its way down her spine; not the kind of chill she'd have felt if she'd been afraid of a burglar. No, this was a sick kind of chill that she could feel deep in her stomach. She stood up and met him at the door as he came in.
"Hi Honey. You still up? You'd better get to bed. School tomorrow."
"I stayed up to talk to you, Dad."
"Not great timing, Sweetie. I've brought home a pile of work."
"It has to be tonight. It can't wait."
She was gratified to notice that his interest had been piqued. "Come with me," she said, and led him into the kitchen. She got the package out of the fridge and prepared a slice of pie for him.
"What's this? I can't eat pie at 10:00 at night. You'll have to put it back in the fridge, I'm afraid. Where did it come from? Your cooking class?"
"No, from Adele," Kate said. "I went over there for supper tonight after riding."
"I really wish you wouldn't bother Adele. She has enough to do without having you arriving unannounced for supper."
"She likes having me come over. She doesn't like eating alone."
"She's just being polite. I don't want you bothering her any more, and that's final. Now off to bed, and don't eat all that pumpkin pie yourself or you'll end up with a pumpkin bottom the size of Adele's."
"That wasn't what I had to talk to you about," Kate said quietly, and handed him the white envelope.
"What's this?" He slit open the envelope with a knife lying on the counter. It took him only a few minutes to scan the contents and to turn to her with a frown. "I have no time right now to go into your school. What have you been up to that this Mr. Harris wants to see me?"
"I told you about refusing to wash the floor in my kilt."
"Harris says here that you were rude. I am sure I would have remembered if you'd told me that."
"You didn't ask. You went straight to bed. You didn't want to talk. You never want to talk." The words shot out of Kate's mouth like bullets, and her father looked startled by this unaccustomed barrage.
"That doesn't excuse rudeness, Kate. I paid good money to send you to Edgehill where they could teach you manners. Didn't you learn anything?"
" I learned a lot," Kate mumbled. Her lip trembled and she didn't trust her voice to speak. She thought of all the lessons Edgehill had taught her. She'd learned what it was like to feel so lonely you wished you could die. She'd learned to walk with her eyes straight forward when the town kids called them Edgehill snobs, when she knew they were right and wished she could trade places with them. She'd learned how to sneak candy and gum into the school in the body of her rubber doll, because their rules were so stupidly strict. She looked up at her father through glistening lashes. And, Daddy, you helped me learn that by laughing at my ingenuity when I first twisted off the doll's head. I learned how to be polite but everything was just a set of rules, not like the decent kindnesses Mom Hall had tried to teach me. I'm a lot more concerned that I may have been cruel to Miss Johnson and not just rude, but you wouldn't know anything about that. Her voice finally emerged high pitched and wobbly. "You don't want me seeing Adele because you broke off with her because she's fat. Well I like her and she's still my friend." This wasn't the way she had intended to present the letter at all. She burst into tears and ran into her bedroom.
Her father sat down at the table and re-read the letter. "The only time I can fit in this damned meeting is a week from Thursday when I get back from New York. Harris better agree to that time." He raised his voice so that Kate could hear it through the closed door. "Tell Mr. Harris that I will see him next Thursday before work. I'll have my secretary confirm with him tomorrow."
Kate opened the door and mumbled, "Okay. I'll tell him tomorrow. Good night Dad." She slid on sock feet across the kitchen floor to where he was sitting. "I'm sorry I yelled, Dad, and I'm sorry you have to go to this meeting. Still love me?"
"You know I do, but hop into bed now. I have a briefcase full of papers to work on before tomorrow morning. Sleep tight."


"You look well rested, Kate," Mrs. Stockwell said when she popped her head into their kitchen Wednesday morning. And she was, surprisingly. It didn't make sense in view of the blow-up yesterday with her dad. She usually avoided any kind of confrontation with him and she wasn't quite sure why. He didn't roar and bellow the way Daddy Hall had. But she always felt really uneasy after any kind of disagreement with him.
"Do you ever fight with your dad?" she asked Mim as they walked toward the school.
"All the time, why?" Mim looked at her quizzically.
"What do you argue about?"
"I dunno. Dating, my clothes, spending money, being allowed out at night, chores. The usual things, I guess."
Kate thought about Miriam's list. None of those things were ever issues in her house. She could date anyone she wanted to. She had tons of clothes and she chose them herself or Dad brought them home to her. She had an allowance she couldn't possibly spend in a week, and no chores. And her dad would never have known whether she was in or out at night. "Do you ever say things you wish you hadn't said?"
"All the time. What is this all about? Have you been arguing with your dad?"
"Yeah, but that's not what I want to talk about. I want to know if fights with your dad scare you."
"What do you mean?" Miriam looked genuinely puzzled. "How could I be scared of my dad?"
"Don't you ever worry that he might not want you any more, that he might stop loving you if you get too nasty?"
"He's my father. He can't stop being my father any more than I can stop being his daughter. I can get really angry, and so can he, but where would either of us go for goodness sakes?"
Kate became pensive, and said, "I sometimes feel really sick after my dad and I fight, and I wish I had just kept my mouth shut, but of course it's too late then."
Mim turned to face her. "My mom says your dad really loves you. He just doesn't know how to be a father. I don't think you need to worry about him not loving you."
"I guess you're right," Kate said and felt suddenly weightless. "Race you the last block," she shouted, and took off before Miriam knew the contest had begun.
"No fair," Miriam gasped through her laughter as she caught up to Kate at the entrance to Cornwallis Junior High.
Kate's first stop was Mr. Harris' office where she passed on her father's message. The rest of the morning slipped by and then it was French class. Robert Cummings was the one getting the strap today. Kate had liked him in grade 6 and they were still friends, but she went straight into the classroom rather than watching this morning's show with the other kids. The lesson proceeded predictably through the vocabulary test and the new lesson. Today Mademoiselle was teaching them geographical terms: l'îsle, la terre, la rivière, la montagne, and the list went on. The verbs today all had to do with eating. While Mademoiselle spent extra time with the boys' deliberately vile pronunciation, Kate played her game of imagining the rivers eating islands and the land drinking the rivers. A paper airplane dove past her cheek landing on her notebook. She considered tossing it back to Jeff whose name was emblazoned on the side, but instead placed it quietly inside her binder.
The classroom had erupted while Kate had been daydreaming, and Mademoiselle Brown was now running from one situation to another looking for all the world like a demented woman attempting to put out a grass fire that had gotten out of control. Her voice had become more shrill and an incomprehensible melange of English and French words exploded impotently from her mouth. Kate realized that she needed help, but even she was startled when she heard her own voice saying strongly, "Come on you guys. Give her a chance. She's only trying to do her job."
"Don't tell me you're becoming a sucky baby, Kate!" Bobby shouted.
The classroom quieted, and Mademoiselle Brown gave Kate a grateful look and then assigned the homework and dismissed them without reading off her customary list of miscreants. At the door she said quietly, "That was very courageous of you, Katherine. It is not easy to put yourself at risk for someone else. Merci." Kate blushed but said nothing as she left the room.
"Boy what a suck. You turning into a teacher's pet? What's with you anyway?"
Kate turned to face William. "I was just trying to treat her the way I'd want to be treated if I were trying to teach blockheads like you. You guys made up your minds not to learn any French long before you ever started taking the subject. You haven't even got the brains to realize that you might need it some day."
"When would I ever need Frogspeak?" William asked.
"What if you ever went to Montreal or France?" Miriam piped up.
"Mind your own business, Stockwell. Who'd want to go there anyway?"
Kate thought about Mackey, the Halifax pilot on the Mont Blanc, and looked William in the eye. "You want to work in the harbour like your dad when you grow up. Do you think every ship that comes in is going to be Canadian, American or English? Did you know that one of the reasons for the Halifax Explosion was the fact that the Halifax pilot couldn't understand any French at all so he and the French captain couldn't communicate?"
"Bull roar."
"During the hearing, they asked him what the French was for half speed and he said "demitasse". Ask your dad, William, and tomorrow I expect you come back with your tail between your legs when you find out I'm right."
She thought about Mademoiselle Brown's words often during the afternoon, and felt a warm glow each time. When the bell rang at 3:30, she was feeling happier than she had for some time, and after stopping at her locker and the girls' washroom, she headed off quite cheerfully to Miss Johnson's room wearing her jeans and a plaid flannel shirt.
She knocked at the door and opened it in response to Miss Johnson's muffled, "Come in," noticing for the first time that the room was brighter than other classrooms. Here the sun came in through café curtains to dapple the table cloths and to highlight the dust on the floor. In most classrooms the huge banks of glass along the outer walls were covered by drapes in both summer and winter to control the temperature, and the only source of light was the overhead fluorescent fixtures that hummed constantly. Some of her friends said the fluorescent lights caused migraines but she wasn't bothered by headaches so she didn't know whether that was true. Today's sunshine reminded Kate that she was missing a great riding day and she felt a flicker of annoyance, but quickly quelled it. She couldn't blame anyone but herself for today's detention, and she intended to get through it with as little fuss as possible.
"I've never washed a floor before, Miss Johnson. Can you explain exactly how I should do it?" After a second's hesitation she added a please.
Miss Johnson lifted an eyebrow, but said mildly, "I was washing floors long before I was in grade nine, and I can't imagine how you've escaped this long, but yes, I'll teach you how to do it properly. Get the equipment from the cupboard and fill the bucket with warm water at the sink."
Kate discovered as she moved along the floor using the tiles as markers that she could think about other things while doing this job, and that she was actually enjoying a sense of accomplishment as she counted off the rows and looked ahead at the clear wine-coloured and black tiles that were emerging from the grey. Miss Johnson's voice interrupted her progress about halfway through. "Your water looks like it's getting pretty dirty, Hennigar. Time to re-fill the bucket."
Kate looked at the grimy water in surprise. "How does the floor get this filthy in one day?" she asked as she stood at the sink waiting for the pail to fill.
"One hundred pairs of shoes each day plus all the cooking. It's not really surprising."
The job took about forty-five minutes and then Miss Johnson released her.
"I'm really sorry about everything, Miss Johnson," Kate stammered as she left the room. The teacher nodded silently.


Kate and Miriam sat side by side on the stools, diligently copying the note from the front board. "I thought people just followed the instructions on the box when they made porridge," Kate whispered.
"Shh," warned Miriam. "We want this class to be like a good ocean voyage. Uneventful. No icebergs."
Miss Johnson was now talking to the class. "Cereals are staple foods all over the world," she was saying. "In Africa corn meal is the mainstay of most diets and a porridge made from it is eaten at every meal. It is called nsima in Malawi in Central Africa, and goes by other names in other countries. In Asia, the most common cereal grain is rice, and it provides almost all of the Asian's calories. We eat many different grains in Canada, including rice and oatmeal. We seldom think to eat a sweet rice porridge for breakfast. Instead, we use rice as a savoury accompaniment to meat, and sometimes eat it instead of potatoes for dinner. In Norway, the favourite Saturday evening meal is a rice porridge poured onto a plate and served with butter and cinnamon and sugar."
Kate raised her hand and then told the class that in Germany, where her dad came from, they served something called griess, and that it was like the Norwegian rice porridge except that it was made from semolina or Cream of Wheat. "It used to be my favourite breakfast when I was little," she said. We only had it on very special occasions because butter and sugar were rationed during the war."
"Thank you, Hennigar," said Miss Johnson. "The Norwegian rice porridge is called risengrynsgrøt, and it is served as an evening dish. You are going to be making the most common Canadian cereal, oatmeal, which is eaten only for breakfast."
"I wish we could make one of the others. They sound much more interesting, and this is likely to be my lunch, not my breakfast," Kate said to Miriam quietly.
"Hennigar, no unnecessary talking."
Miss Johnson began to give the instructions and the ten pairs of girls tied on their aprons and set to work making oatmeal. Later they ate the cereal with milk and brown sugar, and did the dishes. Kate and Miriam's had been somewhat lumpy, and Pam and Shona complained that theirs was salty. Kate suspected that they hadn't decided who would be responsible for adding the oatmeal and salt to the water, and so the salt had been added twice. There was not enough to spoil anyone's lunch and when they left the classroom it was to hurry home for a real meal.
Alice watched them file out and retrieved her lunch from the refrigerator, thinking she really should make risengrynsgrøt again soon. It had been a long time since she'd thought of those Saturday evenings so long ago. They'd have supper and then listen to her mother playing the piano, and would sing along. Kjell would pick Jock up and dance him around and later she and Kjell would go to the Jubilee Boat Club or the Franklyn Park dance hall. Kjell loved to dance, and she felt like a dandelion puff in his arms. He was dark haired and tall, and when his arms were around her she felt more secure than she did anywhere else. They'd Charleston to the upbeat rousing tunes, but her favourite was a slow song called "Will Your Anchor Hold in the Storm of Life?". As they danced cheek to cheek she could feel the length of Kjell's body against her own, and she was absolutely certain of the answer to the second question in the song, "Will it drift or remain secure?" After the dance he'd walk her home along the darkened streets, not a single window showing light from within because of the blackout imposed during wartime. At the door, he'd open his greatcoat and pull it around her, and she'd melt into him. At first his kisses goodnight had been chaste pecks on the cheek, but after awhile they had become more passionate. Alice hated to see him go back to the ship after one of their evenings, but at fifteen she was too young to marry him. He had said they'd get engaged on her sixteenth birthday, on Christmas Eve, 1917. They could be freer after that. Her parents would understand. Even now they didn't mind her taking a half hour to say goodnight to Kjell. They trusted him just as she did.
Some evenings they went to a movie. They both laughed till they cried at Charlie Chaplin's antics in The Pawn Shop. They didn't need a common language to watch the films, to dance or to cuddle. Nor was language necessary to share food. She wondered now whether Kjell's limited command of English might have been a concern later, but brushed away the thought. Later he'd have been completely fluent, or later they might have moved to Norway. Of course later what really happened was that it didn't matter at all.
Alice brushed the crumbs absently from the table and folded away her brown paper bag. She relaxed with her cup of tea and, today, took an apple from the fridge and washed and ate it. The crunchiness of the apple seemed to return her to her own normal crispness and she started to prepare for the afternoon class. 'No more daydreaming,' she told herself sternly. 'Those Saturday nights are over and done with,' and she thought with not a little dismay of her Saturday nights now.
As Kate passed the office on her way home that afternoon, Mr. Harris called to her, "I have something for you to take home to your father, Kate."
"What have I done now?" she asked without thinking.
"Nothing that I know of," the principal laughed. "This is just an alternative date for a meeting. Your father didn't realize that the school is closed on November 11. I'd like to see him on the 12th. It's a Friday."
"Oh, gee. That's always a bad day because the store's open on Friday nights. I hope it works out."
"He's your father, Kate, and you are more important than his job."
"Yes, Sir," Kate murmured, quite unconvinced, but not about to argue the point with him. "I'll give him the letter tonight."
By the time Kate had changed and walked over to the stable she had less than five minutes to get Happy ready, so she wasted no time talking to anyone, horse or human. Mr. Zwicker was running two classes back to back this afternoon. After the Level III class ended, the Level II students filed into the ring on their ponies. They were using the north end of the large paddock so the south end was free. Kate decided to spend an extra half hour working with Happy on a manoeuvre he'd stumbled over during class. She gathered the reins and squeezed her knees firmly, seesawing the bits gently as she did so, saying, "Back, Happy. Back." After he had backed up smoothly several times, Kate repeated the procedure, this time being gentler on his mouth, just letting him feel the bit as she squeezed and gave the command. At first his mouth seemed completely numb, but gradually he began to respond immediately.
Kate jumped down and gave him a sugar cube and praised him. Three more times she rewarded him when he responded. The next time Happy successfully backed with just a touch of the reins, Kate decided to lean down and give him the sugar rather than dismounting. She leaned around to the right and placed her hand with its sugar cube under the horse's mouth. Before she knew what had happened, her right thumb was held in the vise-like grip of Happy's teeth. She gasped and then slid wordlessly down to the ground so that she was standing beside Happy's head, one hand in his mouth. She shoved her left forefinger in behind his teeth forcing his jaw open and removed her hand. It looked disgusting, so covered in the hay-green spit and blood that she couldn't really assess the damage. She looked over at Mr. Zwicker engrossed in his class, and shouted, "Sir, Happy bit me."
Mr. Zwicker gave her a cursory glance and said, "Go wash it and put some gentian violet on it, Hennigar," and turned back to his students.
Kate led Happy back to his stall and put his halter on over the bridle, and then went to the water tap. Their stable had only cold water but she supposed it would have to do. Once the saliva had been rinsed off she could see that the skin was torn rather than cut and that there was less blood than she had thought. She went over to the cabinet that held the first aid supplies for the horses and located the gentian violet on the second shelf. They used it all the time for minor cuts on the horses and it stained your skin for days if you spilled any. Oh well, she thought, and poured some into the open wound. Once she finished treating it, her hand looked far worse than it had a moment ago. Kate asked Jill who was grooming Gay Girl if she'd take off Happy's saddle and bridle and blanket him. Jill started to say, "Why?" and then caught sight of Kate's hand. She grimaced and asked how it had happened. Kate recounted the incident and Jill said, "You better look after that properly. You probably need a tetanus shot."
"Mr. Zwicker said gentian violet would be enough," Kate said. "It feels fine now, and it's not bleeding or anything."
"Are you coming to my house for the party tonight?" Jill asked her.
"Yes," answered Kate. "What are people wearing? Slacks?"
"Umhmmn," responded Jill, paying more attention to Kate's hand than to the question. "My mom will look at it when you come over tonight."
"Okay, see you around 7:30," Kate said, "and stop worrying about me. I've been a walking accident since I was a little kid. All my self portraits in kindergarten had scab-covered knees and I've survived this long."
Jill smiled, and as Kate left the stable she could hear her voice from Happy's stall, "Oh for pity sakes, you big goof, get over. Haven't you had enough to eat this afternoon? A bunch of sugar cubes and a thumb should be enough for anyone." Kate walked out into the damp cold air smiling despite the pain in her thumb.


Kate's thumb had stopped throbbing by the time she got home, but her stomach felt queasy so she ran a warm bath instead of going out for supper. There would be snacks at the party; she wouldn't starve She was relieved to see that the bath water had faded the lurid purple of the gentian violet to a softer hue of mauve, and once she put a bandaid on the bite, it was not very noticeable at all.
As she was leaving the bathroom, the phone rang, and when she picked it up, a disembodied voice said, "Hi. I'll be over in fifteen minutes. Are you ready?"
Kate said, "Just about, Rick. I'll meet you downstairs," and she ran into the bedroom throwing the wet towel that had been wrapped like a turban around her hair onto the hardwood floor. She seized a pair of grey flannel slacks from a hanger in the closet, ripping the white cleaner's bag as she did so, and threw the paper on top of the pile of riding clothes heaped beside the bed. Then she scrabbled through the top drawer of the oak bureau searching for underwear and socks. Clad only in a bra, panties, and a white cotton camisole, she searched the other drawers for a clean sweater. She chose a red cardigan, did up all the buttons and pulled it over her head backwards. She looked at the cultured pearls in their long blue velvet box for a few seconds and then lifted the gold chain from the dusty bureau, blew on it and slipped it over her head. The little gold foal fell just above her small breasts. She searched through the mismatched jumble of shoes on the closet floor until she found her penny loafers, jammed her sock feet into them and buffed them on the legs of her slacks.
Back in the bathroom, she yanked a comb through her damp hair and pulled it back into an elastic band and fluffed out her bangs. Just as she was applying lipstick and smoothing her eyebrows, the doorbell rang. Kate closed doors on the chaos she had created in bathroom and bedroom and grabbed her grey suede jacket from the front hall closet and ran downstairs. Rick was peering down into the window in the front door, one lock of his dark curly hair almost touching his brows. His deep blue eyes were smiling. Kate felt her stomach give that familiar little lurch it always gave when she saw Rick. "Sorry I'm late," Kate murmured as she opened the door.
Rick said nothing, just gave her a kiss, and they got into his dad's beige Desoto parked at the curb. Kate immediately slid across the wide front seat toward the driver's side. "Leave me enough room to steer," Rick grinned. "Have I got any lipstick on me? I don't want any comments when we get there." Kate examined his face and pronounced him fit for public view.
They were almost at the Daley's when Rick noticed her hand. "What happened to you?" he asked.
"Happy bit me," Kate explained.
"That stupid nag. Why don't you ask for a better horse? You can handle any of them now. I don't see why you keep riding him."
"I like him. I know he's a pain sometimes, but I like teaching him things. And this time it wasn't his fault at all. I did something really stupid. I leaned over his right shoulder to give him a lump of sugar and my thumb was lying across the palm of my hand when I gave it to him."
"Why in the name of heavens didn't you dismount?" Rick asked incredulously. Rick had been riding since he was five and Kate was sure he would never have fed anything to a horse without ensuring that the treat was offered on an extended flat palm.
"I was getting tired of dismounting every time I wanted to reward him for doing something properly," Kate responded, wishing the conversation were over.
"I don't suppose it ever occurred to you," Rick asked wryly, " to say 'Good boy,' and pat him on the neck."
"Maybe I should start doing that with you when you're nice instead of kissing and necking," Kate laughed.
"Never mind that," responded Rick, turning onto Kaye Street and parking the car in the only spot available for a block or more.
"It's too bad you didn't tell me about the bite before we left your place," Rick noted as they started toward the Daley's bungalow. "We could have stopped by the house and either Dad or Selwyn could have given you an anti-tetanus shot."
"I'm fine," Kate remonstrated. "Mr. Zwicker said to put gentian violet on it."
"Dick Zwicker is used to treating horses not humans," Rick replied.
They were still arguing when Janice opened the door. "Let me see your hand," she said as soon as she saw them. "Jill said you made a real mess of it."
"Jill saw it when it was covered in gentian violet," said Kate. "It doesn't look nearly as gory now. Jeez, all of you are making such a big deal of it. It's nothing really."
Mrs. Daley's voice floated out of the livingroom. "Is that Kate now? Come on in here young lady. I want to take a look at that hand."
Kate and Rick went in to greet the older Daleys. "I think she should have a tetanus shot. What do you think, Mrs. Daley?" Rick asked.
Mrs. Daley took Kate's hand in her own and removed the bandaid covering the wound. "It's a nasty looking bite, but I don't think he did any serious damage. The skin has been broken, though, and you should always be careful of open wounds in a stable area. You should all be getting anti-tetanus shots on a regular basis, you kids," she said. Then she turned from Kate's hand to address Rick. "Why don't you take Kate over to your house and have your father look at it, and then you can come back here and enjoy the party?" Rick gave Kate a smug "I told you so" look and they went back out to the car.
Before he turned on the ignition, Rick turned to her and gave her a gentle kiss. "You're not afraid of a shot are you?" he asked.
"It's not that. It's just that I'm not used to having people pay so much attention to my cuts and bruises, I guess. It's kind of nice, but it makes me uneasy."
The drive to Rick's home took less than fifteen minutes, and Dr. Carleton took very little time to administer the shot, ensure that the wound was clean, paint it with a vile smelling orange antiseptic and bandage it neatly. "There, that will do you," he smiled when he finished. "That shot will keep you safe from lockjaw for two years, not that I'd advise you to continue putting your hands in horses' mouths for the next two years. Will we see you on Sunday, Kate? Ed Sullivan's on."
"I think so, Dr. Carleton. Thanks."
By the time they got back, the party was in full swing. Kate put her jacket and purse in the girls' room and went downstairs to the playroom. The lights were still on and a stack of 45's sat by the turntable. The song playing was an old Rosemary Clooney hit called "Botch-A- Me". Kate eased past a couple she didn't know and tugged at Rick's sleeve. "Dance with me? I like this one." He smiled and caught her around the waist, spinning her out in time to the music.
Kate looked around at the guests. As usual they were a mix of Jill's Queen Elizabeth High friends and Janice' university crowd; many of both groups part of the familiar riding club gang. Kate was the youngest person there, as always. She divided her time between laughing and joking with the girls and dancing with Rick. Twice, Graham, Janice' latest boyfriend, asked her to dance. Graham liked Kate and Kate loved the feeling of playing the part of kid sister to a handsome twenty year old.
At 10:30, Lizzie, the woman who worked for the Daleys called down the stairs, "I need some helping hands up here. Some of you girls come on up now." Five or six of them went up to the kitchen and returned bearing platters of egg and chicken sandwiches, great bowls of chips and pretzels and a case of coke which they placed around the room. Kate made short work of the sandwiches, her first food since lunch time, and then joined a couple of the fellows to share their ashtray. After a few minutes, Glenn looked at Kate and said, laughingly, "You smoke like a little girl pretending to smoke. I should teach you how to do it properly."
At that moment Rick joined them and said, "She doesn't need to learn how to inhale, Glenn. Leave her alone."
"Oh come on, Rick. I don't want to look like a fool," Kate said. "Show me, Glenn."
Glenn took a deep drag of his cigarette and then in an exaggerated rendition of inhaling gulped it down his throat and held it for a moment before releasing it into the air. "If you do that you'll get sick, Kate," warned Rick.
Kate ignored his warning and imitated Glenn. Suddenly everything in the room began to swim before her eyes and she held onto the pillar against which she'd been leaning, saying, "Ooh, I don't feel so good." Glenn and Allan laughed and Rick said, "I told you what would happen."
Janice suddenly appeared beside them and she looked at Kate's pale face and said, "Don't tell me she inhaled. Kate, I've been trying to quit ever since I started nursing school in September. They do terrible things to your lungs."
"They do terrible things to your stomach," moaned Kate.
"Do you want to go home now?" asked Rick.
"Do you mind very much?" Kate asked him.
"No. I've got a hockey game with the guys tomorrow. We managed to get ice time, but it's really early tomorrow morning ... 6:00. I don't mind getting home early tonight."
By the time they had said their goodbyes and were outside in the fresh cool air, Kate was already starting to feel better. "Are you going to stop at the park?" she asked when they got into the car.
"Are you sure you're well enough?"
She nodded and Rick turned toward Point Pleasant Park.
"Gee I haven't felt like that since I was a little kid getting sick every time I got into a car," Kate said.
"You've got a chance to stop before you start, Kate, and if you were smart you'd quit now before you get addicted like the rest of us."
"Maybe you're right," she murmured and then cuddled up against him. He turned off the ignition and the lights and put his right arm around her drawing her close. Kate thought as he kissed her that he had the softest lips imaginable and she let herself sink into the warm sensation of utter safety she always felt in Rick's arms. She imagined that babies must feel this way when they nursed, completely secure; nourished by love.
Rick loosened her pony tail and smoothed her hair back from her face. "Do you know how much I care about you?" he asked.
"Uh huh," Kate replied.
Rick's hand moved from her hair to the little gold foal resting on her breast bone. He placed it right side up and said, "It's beautiful," and moved his hand to her breast.
Kate stiffened and said, "I don't think you should do that, Rick."
"Why not?" he asked.
Kate couldn't think of an answer. The subject had never come up in conversation with her girl friends, so she had only her gut instincts to rely on, and they were giving her very mixed messages at the moment. "I don't know," she said, "but I just think we shouldn't."
"You know I love you and I wouldn't hurt you, don't you."
"Yes," Kate murmured, relaxing into his arms again.
Much later, Kate asked the time. Rick looked at his watch. "Nearly twelve."
"We better get going. You have to get up early tomorrow, and Dad will be home by now," Kate said. Rick's response was to turn the ignition key. Kate's sweater and camisole felt twisted and rumpled and her gold chain had disappeared. Rick switched on the interior lights and they searched for the chain and foal. Kate finally found it inside her jacket sleeve. The catch had somehow come undone. She turned her back to Rick and handed him the chain. He fastened the clasp and brushed the nape of her neck with his lips. Kate shivered and felt her body respond once again. "We've got to go," she breathed, doing her best to tidy her pony tail.
"I guess so," Rick whispered and then kissed her once more. By the time they backed out, it was nearly 12:30. They drove home wordlessly, and Kate jumped out as soon as they arrived at her door. "Phone me tomorrow," she called and ran up the stairs.
The lights were on when she turned the key in her lock. "A little late aren't you?" her father asked quietly from the livingroom. "Where were you?"
"At Jill's party," Kate's voice was muffled as she hung up her jacket.
"What time did you leave the party?" Walter Hennigan asked.
"The usual time, I guess," Kate said.
"Mrs. Daley called to make sure you were okay. She said you left early. Weren't feeling well. You look a little pale. Were you sick?"
"Yes. I felt queasy, but I'm okay now."
Walter Hennigan looked at her closely. "Have you been drinking, Kate?"
Kate was so stunned she didn't even laugh. It had never occurred to her to drink. Nobody in their gang drank at all. One of the kids had alcoholic parents and they all felt sorry for him. "Of course not," she said.
"I'm not sure I believe you. Why are you feeling sick? You were well enough to go to a party. Then you got sick; and now you get home and say you are feeling fine. It doesn't make any sense to me. Does it to you?"
"You can believe me that I was not drinking."
Mrs. Daley says you left the party around 11:00. You don't get home till after 12:30. Where have you been since 11:00?"
"Just driving around, Daddy."
"For an hour and a half? Where did you drive to? If you were feeling queasy, the last place you'd want to be is in a car."
"It felt better to be getting fresh air."
Walter Hennigan abandoned that line of questioning and started in on the state of the house. "I'm not pleased about the way you left this house, either. It was a pigsty when I came in ... the tub filled with filthy purple water, the bathroom floor covered in crumpled towels and bath mats, shampoo and razor floating in the tub along with a bar of soap that had melted away to almost nothing. And your bedroom smells like a stall. The hardwood floor is ruined where you threw a wet towel. When was the last time you cleaned that room, Kate? You are becoming a slut, just like your mother was."
"Don't you say anything about my mother," Kate shouted. "She wasn't a slut. That's a filthy thing to say."
"A slut is a slattern, a woman who is unclean. Your mother was a terrible housekeeper, and your room is that of a slattern, Kate. I won't stand for it. I brought a friend home with me tonight and was terribly embarrassed by the mess you left here."
Kate started toward her bedroom. Her father's voice stopped her. "Do you realize that half the buttons down your back are undone? What in hell have you been up to young lady?" His voice was so cold and so quiet, Kate shivered.
"I smoked a cigarette and tried to inhale. I got sick. Rick took me home early and we sat in the car till I felt better. He rubbed my back. Can I go to bed now?"
"I don't want you going out for the rest of the weekend. You can spend the time cleaning your room and the bath tub. And I don't ever want to be embarrassed by the state of this house again."
"But I'll miss Ed Sullivan on Sunday night. I can get everything done tomorrow."
"No arguments. Go to bed."
Kate went into the bedroom wearily and kicked aside the mess on the floor. She looked down at her slacks. You'd never know they had just been dry cleaned. The crease was completely gone, replaced by dozens of little horizontal wrinkles. Good thing he only noticed the sweater she thought as she stripped off the rest of her clothing and cuddled herself into a foetal position in the nest that her bed had become.
She fell asleep thinking of ways to convince her father to let her go out on Sunday. She didn't want to miss the show and she only saw Rick on the weekends. She didn't know what she'd do if anything ever happened between her and Rick. She knew that her dad would never try to split them up. He liked being able to tell his friends that his little Kate dated Dr. Carleton's son, just as he liked telling people she was a Bengal Lancer. The two things that mattered most to her were riding and Rick, and she felt pretty sure her father would never deprive her of either. She sank into a dreamless sleep.

Kate's morning did not begin well. Her father was just going out the door when she awoke. Barefoot, she raced to intercept him to ask if he had read the new note from Mr. Harris. "Now is not the time, Kate," he snapped. "I'm in New York on Monday and I won't be home until Wednesday. God knows what I'll come back to here. With twenty minutes to get to the store, this is certainly not the time to sort it out. Why are they closing the schools anyway? Don't teachers get enough holidays?"
"Okay," sighed Kate, " maybe we can talk about it tonight?"
"Tonight I've got a dinner meeting."
"So I'm going to have to eat alone again," Kate's eyes filled with tears.
"I'm afraid so," he answered.
He looked a little disconcerted by the question. Kate forged ahead, "I can't go out with my friends all weekend and now I've got to eat a lousy hot beef sandwich at a greasy spoon while you have a great dinner at the Nova Scotian or the Lord Nelson? It's not fair." Kate's hands were clenched into fists. Her face was flushed.
"It's fair. If you had acted responsibly, there wouldn't be a problem, would there?" her father lashed back. " Don't blame me for your failings, Kate. I'm still not convinced that you weren't drinking last night. I should be able to trust you to behave. Now get out of my road. I'm going to be late for work." He brushed past her and closed the door with rather more force than necessary.
Kate stood in the empty hallway seething with indignation. Angry tears welled up in her eyes, but she forced herself to blink them back as she considered her options.
The first and most obvious, that of open disobedience, was abandoned immediately as just too dangerous. Sneaking out with Rick or one of her friends after he had gone to dinner was also eliminated. What if he found out? He'd be even angrier than he was now. When she asked herself 'What's the worst thing he could he do to you?' the responses were frightening. He could place her in another foster home. He could send her back to Edgehill. The boarding school was the closest thing to a jail he had at his disposal.
Many of the girls had been sent there by parents who didn't have time for their children. Kate's father had removed her from the care of the Hall's because he hadn't wanted her mother to have any contact with her, but he had no way of looking after a nine year old, so Edgehill had been his logical choice. When she turned eleven, Kate had convinced him to let her live with him in Halifax. She could not give him any reason to think that she now needed more of him than he had to offer. She might find herself back at Edgehill with no riding and no Rick, and with all the rules and restrictions she had thought she'd left behind.
At nine when she had been separated from the only family she knew by twelve hundred miles and governed by school rules that restricted her father's visits to three hours on a Sunday afternoon, she had felt like an orphan. At fourteen she might not feel as isolated and lonely as she had at nine because she was older and more independent now, but she would still miss her friends, her activities and her freedom. It occurred to her that her father would probably love to be allowed only three hours weekly with her. It would absolve him of any vestiges of guilt.
She resigned herself to the realization that she was powerless, and began to plan her day: riding at 9:30, maybe lunch with some of the gang, and then home to clean that damned bathroom. He hadn't even asked why the water was purple, she thought resentfully. He didn't even care that she'd been hurt. Some father!
Kate dressed quickly and wolfed down a piece of toast and a few sips of cold coffee. She tucked her wallet and keys into her pockets, slammed out of the house, and headed off toward Bell Road. The air was crisp and soon she was looking forward to riding Happy. He was always perky on days like this.
She was just saddling up when Rick walked into the stable. "Hi there," he called to her. "Come here for a minute? I want you to take a look at Beauty's left front foot."
Kate joined him in Beauty's stall, wondering what was going on. She was about to ask when Rick's arms encircled her and his lips were on hers. "Box stalls are private places," he said. He let go of her long enough to give Beauty a gentle pat on the neck.
"Hi," Kate returned quietly. "How was your hockey game?"
Rick said, "Fine," and then asked her if she could get away by six that evening. She considered the best way to tell him about her grounding and then just blurted it out.
"Any chance he'll change his mind?" Rick asked.
"I don't think so. Sorry. So, what are you doing tonight?" she asked, hoping that he wouldn't be having too much fun without her.
"I've promised Bev I'd babysit the monsters so that she and Eric can go out to dinner. I was hoping you'd come over. You're better at feeding the little guy his bottle and I'm not crazy about the diaper thing." Rick looked disappointed. Kate knew it wasn't just her babysitting skills he'd miss. "I'll call you from there, okay?"
"Sure. Are you going to ride here or at the park this morning?"
"Here, I think. I have to get back home by noon. Mom has a bunch of errands for me to run. Sometimes I think I'm the family chauffeur. All those cars sitting in the driveway and I'm the only one who goes anywhere."
Kate laughed. "You love it," and left to go out to the paddock.
All the horses were frisky this morning and she had trouble holding Happy back. She and Rick were racing. It was fun at first but Happy couldn't quite get the idea that a race had a beginning and an end. She would far rather have been having the trouble Johnny was having with Rigoletto. Rig was bouncing all over the ring in a kind of dance parody. He'd take four or five stiff legged steps and then his head would go down and his back feet would shoot out. "Keep his head up, Johnny," Kate called over. "He can only buck if you let him get his head down."
"I know," said Johnny. "I like it when he bucks. It's never hard enough to throw me, and he's pretty predictable." At that moment, Rig stopped his little dance and ran straight for the fence. When he got there, he planted his feet firmly in the earth, shooting Johnny right over his head and into the grass beyond. Now free, Rigoletto took off toward the other side of the paddock, his movement hampered by the reins catching on his hooves. Rick had no difficulty catching him to lead him back to Johnny.
Kate dismounted and went to help Johnny. "Are you okay?" she asked.
He winced when she pulled him up by the hand. "It's my shoulder."
"Can you get back on Rig?" Kate asked. Dick Zwicker had very few rules, but one of them was that you always got back on a horse that had thrown you so that the horse would know who was boss.
"I don't think so," Johnny said shakily. His face had turned ominously pale. "I just want to sit down for a few minutes.
Kate tied Happy to the nearest fence rail, and called to Rick, " I'm going to ride Rig for a few minutes." As soon as Rick led the horse over, Kate swung herself up onto his back and adjusted the stirrups. "Now you little beast, do your worst," she muttered, and gave him two sharp kicks in the ribs. He broke into a trot and started his stiff legged dance almost immediately. "No, you don't," she said and pulled his head up sharply with the snaffle reins. She trotted him once around the ring and then slowed him to a walk. "Now, Rig, one, two, three, canter," she said sharply and squeezed her knees, keeping a firm grip on his reins. She ran him around the paddock several times until he was sweating and blowing. "Had enough?" she asked and walked him out for a few minutes to cool him down. Johnny was back on his feet and she slid off and handed him the reins. "You okay to take him back over and dry him off?" she asked.
"Sure, Kate, and thanks."
"It was fun," Kate said, and remounted Happy. Later she and Rick left the stable together.
"Why don't you come over to the house for lunch and then I'll drive you home when I start my errands?" Rick suggested.
"I'd like to but I have some chores of my own now. Maybe my dad will decide to let me off early for good behaviour. If it works I'll come over to Bev's tonight; if not maybe I'll see you tomorrow. She reached up and gave him a hug and a kiss. Rick held her close for a moment, and then released her.
"Can I give you a lift home?"
"No, I'm okay. I feel like walking. Call me tonight."

Kate swallowed the last of her milk, changed into her oldest jeans and a plaid flannel shirt, rolled up her sleeves and pant legs and headed into the bathroom. She pitched all the towels and face cloths in a heap outside the bathroom door, and let the water out of the tub. Encircling the tub at water level was a dark purple ring. A grey scum coated the bottom surface. Gads, what a mess, she thought, as she looked for a can of scouring powder. She found the Bon Ami and sprinkled it on one of the face cloths she had thrown into the hallway, and started rubbing at the purple stain. After five minutes of work, the stain had faded slightly but was still evident. A good thing riders have strong wrists, she thought, and continued her way around the tub. Then she attacked the soap scum. In comparison it was a breeze. She rinsed away the dirty suds and dried the tub with one of the towels. You could still see vestiges of purple, but it was the best she could hope for. She gave the basin a lick and a promise as Mom Hall used to say and ignored the toilet completely. When she cleared the counter top and sink of the litter of bandaid wrapper scraps, twisted tubes and lipsticks, she looked around with satisfaction. Only an eye more discerning than that of a fourteen year old would have noted the dirty floor and smeared mirror. Kate bundled the pile of damp towels on the hall floor into a pillow case from the linen closet and put the bulging bag by the front door to be picked up by the laundry man on Monday.
Her next challenge was the bedroom. As she looked at the clutter, wondering where to begin, she was reminded of a passage describing the conditions people faced after the Explosion. Pieces of houses were mixed with broken furniture, tables, chairs, bedsteads, stoves, household linen, dishes, pictures, baby wagons, toys, and clothing to form one indistinguishable and broken mass. If they could sort out that kind of chaos, surely she could deal with a week's worth of dirty clothing strewn about her floor. She stripped the bed, and, using the pillow case for a laundry bag, crammed most of the week's clothing in with her sheets, and carried the bag out to the front door.
Taking fresh sheets from the linen closet, she made the bed with the neat hospital corners Mom Hall had taught her to make. Her father had told her about the duvets and feather beds they'd used in Germany when he was a boy, and Kate had asked him to bring some home from one of his trips, but he had said they were old fashioned and unnecessary, so hadn't done so. Kate thought they sounded cozy and she could imagine falling asleep in the downy nest created by them. She also thought that bed making might be a lot easier if she just had to shake out a duvet and spread it on the bed. Maybe this year, she thought.
She threw her riding boots, a pair of saddle shoes and her loafers into the closet and placed the rest of the clothing she had worn that week on the bed and made a fat package of the entire assortment. She'd take it over to the dry cleaner's later.
She tidied the top of the bureau and used a pair of socks from the top drawer to do the dusting. Kate didn't notice that each ceramic horse now stood on a small patch of noticeable dust; she saw only the graceful lines of the horses and was pleased with her efforts. She took the socks out to the laundry bag by the door and put on her jacket. Checking her pocket for keys and wallet, she picked up the bundle of dry cleaning, closed the door behind her and ran down the stairs.
At the Spic and Span store, the clerk reminded her that she had some things to pick up. She signed the bill and took the kilt on its hanger and the brown paper package containing her sweater set from the girl's outstretched hands. "Thanks," she grinned. "Now I have something to wear on Monday." On the way home she stopped at the French pastry shop and bought a cream puff. Before she got home she had tasted it, and the single bite had squeezed out such a large dollop of the fresh whipped cream that her mouth had been unable to contain it all. She looked like a little girl with her nose dusted with sifted icing sugar, and a remnant of the whipped cream peeking out of the corner of her mouth.
She let herself into the apartment and considered her options for the rest of the afternoon. She could visit Miriam, but Saturday was chore day at the Stockwell's. She could go over to Bligh's Radio and Record store and spend an hour in one of the booths listening to records. She had no homework, but still, she could do some reading for the history project. They had one more week to complete the research and to write up the summary. It had seemed like forever when the work had been assigned, but she had tons more to read and she still hadn't interviewed Adele's veterans. She called Adele and asked if she could talk to them next weekend and was told that it had already been arranged. By the time she got out her books and went into the livingroom to study, it was 3:30.
Kate was still engrossed in the stories of the disaster's victims when her father walked into the house at 6:00. Startled, she looked up from her book, "I thought you were going out for dinner."
"We're going to the Lord Nelson. Mr. Lacey suggested I bring you along." Walter Hennigan gave his daughter a quick glance. " Get yourself ready. Wear something nice and do something with your hair."
Kate was relieved to pack up her books. The descriptions of the victims had read like a horror story. She knew that any chance of babysitting at Bev's with Rick had disappeared but at least she'd have a good dinner, and she liked Charles Lacey. He was a large rotund man who was quick with a joke. Most adults were either too sweet or too stiff, but he actually listened when you said something. She went into the bathroom to get ready.
She undressed, filled the tub and sprinkled in some bath salts , a birthday gift from Joanie, and eased herself into the water. "Oh damn, the shampoo," she muttered and got up to get it. She sank back into the bath letting her hair flow out behind her. Her feet planted on the front of the tub, she closed her eyes inhaling the fragrant steam. Heaven.
Her breasts floated just above the surface of the water, and Kate looked down and
thought about last night. Unexpectedly, an image from her reading superimposed itself upon the memory. All kinds of people in north end Halifax had seen a woman walking down the street after the blast. She was naked and bathed in blood. Her left breast was hanging by a shred of flesh, and she held it in her hand. Kate's breasts were still new enough for her to remember their budding tenderness, and the pain if they were accidentally bumped. She and Miriam had walked around for almost all of grade seven shielding their breasts from anything that might cause them to wince and cry out. Now, just thinking of the woman's pain, she cringed, and wrapped her arms around herself.
Kate couldn't stop the flood of images. After the Explosion, the streets had been filled with men, women and children, their faces streaming with blood. Hundreds blinded by flying glass stumbled about, searching for help. Bodyless limbs and heads; a man holding his entrails in with his hands; a woman cut in two. Kate felt as if she were caught in a nightmare of kaleidoscopic images of horror.
One seven year old girl had been thrown hundreds of feet and came to amidst dead bodies. Badly injured and blinded, she crawled sightlessly over the debris and corpses. She alone of her whole family survived. Kate realized with surprise that she was crying.
Enough of this, she thought. I'm going to have nightmares tonight. She washed and rinsed her hair quickly, lathered herself, slipped once more beneath the surface of the water, and then hopped out wrapping herself in a thick towel. She was about to leave the bathroom when she thought of her afternoon's efforts. She blotted her hair dry and then used the damp towel to wipe out the tub.
"How dressed up do I have to be?" she called from her bedroom.
"No slacks." her father replied from his room.
She stood looking into her closet. Way at the back was a skirt she hardly ever wore. It was a long grey tartan kilt. Maybe that with my grey cashmere turtleneck, she decided. She rooted through her drawers for the grey sweater with the fine cable stitching, pulled on some black knee socks and slid her gold chain over her head. The foal looked nice resting just below the soft folds of the long turtleneck. Her hair was almost dry and she ran a comb through the tangles and then brushed it. She wished she had enough time to try and get some curl into it, but decided to pull the sides back into a braid and leave the back loose. A touch of lipstick and she was ready.
As she left her room, her father looked at her approvingly and said, "Don't leave the towels on the hardwood floor again."
Kate turned and picked up the damp towels and put them into one of the overstuffed pillowcases near the front door. There was a strange odour in the hall. She decided that someone in one of the other apartments must be cooking something foreign. She shrugged on her grey jacket and the two of them headed down the stairs. "What time are we supposed to be there?" she asked.
"7:30," Walter Hennigan said. "We've got plenty of time."

Charles Lacey and his business partner were already seated when Kate and her father arrived, and when they stood up to greet her, Kate felt very grown up. Charles gave her a friendly hug, and Stanley, his partner, bent his extremely long frame down to bow to her when Charles introduced them. The two men had Manhattans sitting in front of them, and the waiter asked what the two newcomers would like to drink. "I'll have a Manhattan, too," said Kate's dad, "and my daughter will have a Shirley Temple."
"I'd rather have a coke," Kate said quietly, and the waiter gave her a smile and nodded.
"Well, Kate, what's new and interesting in your life?" Charles asked.
"Not a whole bunch. Just riding, school and having fun with my friends," Kate replied with a smile. "School's interesting right now. I'm researching the Halifax Explosion."
The two men leaned toward Kate. "I don't know anything about an explosion," Stanley said. "When did it happen?"
Kate began to tell them about the human suffering. Her father intervened when she started to describe in quite graphic detail some of the more terrible wounds people had received, "Kate, that's enough. No one is interested in having dinner ruined by tales of empty eye sockets."
"I'm finding it fascinating, Walter," said Charles, "but you've probably heard it all before."
"As a matter of fact, I haven't told Dad anything about it," Kate said evenly. "He's very busy." Her father flushed but said nothing. Fortunately the waiter arrived at that moment and handed each of them a leather bound menu and placed the wine list beside Charles' plate.
"I love coming to Halifax," said Charles. "All this wonderful seafood. You're lucky to have it available all the time, Walter. I think I'm going to start with oysters on the half shell, and then have the honey baked salmon." Stanley chose an oyster bisque and the broiled lobster tail, and Walter decided to have a shrimp cocktail and the prime rib. "How about you, Kate? Have you decided yet? The seafood papaya cocktail looks very good, or would you prefer to start with the New England clam chowder?"
"I hate fish," Kate said. "I'll have the chilled strawberry soup and the grilled sirloin steak."
"How can you hate fish when you live here?" Stanley asked. "In Ontario all our seafood comes to us frozen. You have your choice of fresh fish daily."
"At Edgehill we had to eat fish every Friday and at least once during the week. They boiled the fish for hours and that was all you could smell all day. By the time we got to the dining room, I felt sick to my stomach, and then I had to force down the food. In Toronto at the Hall's I used to like fish. We'd get fish and chips at the take-out nearly every week. They'd wrap it up in newspaper and, when we got home, we'd unwrap the greasy packets, sprinkle on the vinegar and salt and gobble it up. I haven't eaten any fish since I left Edgehill three years ago."
"Well I think tonight should be the night we re-introduce you to good seafood, Kate. You order whatever you like but have a little taste of our appetizers and main dishes." Charles smiled at Kate, and then turned to Walter. "What kind of wine would you like, Walter? I think Stanley and I will have a white with our fish, but you'd probably like a nice French red with your beef. Maybe a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Beaujolais? And Kate could have a small glass of your wine with her steak."
"I'm not a wine drinker, Charles, and I don't want Kate drinking anything alcoholic. I'll have another Manhattan, instead."
The waiter came and took the orders and Kate looked around while the men discussed hosiery. Almost everyone was dressed up tonight. One couple were arrayed in formal evening wear. His tuxedo looked a little tight, but she looked wonderful with her red hair piled on top of her head and wearing a low cut strapless evening gown. She got up to go to the washroom and Kate excused herself from the table to follow her into the marbled room with the high ceilings and the mirrors lit by tiny lamps along the edges. Kate fussed with her hair and sneaked covert glances at the woman's outfit. Her shoes had been dyed to match the dress, and even her nylons were tinted jade. From a small silver purse that looked as if it were made of chain mail, she took out a tube of lipstick and a compact and touched up her makeup. She smiled at Kate as she left, and Kate wondered if she'd ever look that sophisticated. She'd give anything to have even a hint of cleavage.
When she returned to the table, the appetizers had already arrived. She dipped her spoon into the strawberry soup and sighed, "Ooh, it's really smooth and yummy."
"Now how about an oyster, Kate?" rumbled Charles.
"No, thanks, Mr. Lacey. I'm fine with my soup."
"Well then try a spoonful of my bisque," suggested Stanley. "It's the best I've ever eaten.
"No really, I'm fine," Kate insisted.
"Well, let's make this sporting," Stanley laughed. "I'll bet you $5.00 you won't eat a spoonful of my oyster bisque. I'll bet you're too chicken to try it."
"I'm not a chicken," Kate said. "Give me a spoonful and you'll see."
Stanley passed his spoon over to her and Kate took it very carefully in her left hand, closed her eyes, held her breath and swallowed it. "Okay, are you satisfied? Where's my $5?" She grinned at him.
"Did you like it?"
"No, but I held my breath so that I wouldn't taste too much," Kate said honestly.
"Try mine, Kate. Oysters are really better cold with a lemony or spicy sauce. You can make yourself another $5 if you'll try one of my oysters on the half shell."
Kate dipped the proffered oyster into the sauce and swallowed it. It slid down in its fiery broth and she felt only the discomfort of knowing what she had eaten. She had not tasted the oyster at all, just its sauce.
The two men dug into their wallets and brought out $5 bills. Mr. Hennigan said, " Put away your money, gentlemen. Kate doesn't need any money."
Kate looked at her father in amazement. "I won it fair and square. I would never have eaten the oysters except on a dare. I won the bet and I'm taking the money." Her voice had risen and the people at the next table were looking in their direction.
Mr. Hennigan said in a low angry tone," Keep your voice down, Kate. Don't make a spectacle of us. You may take the money, but that's the end of the joke, now." Kate smiled but the two men looked uncomfortable as they handed over the bills.
Kate began to eat her soup silently. Her thumb gave a twinge and the spoon twisted, spattering the white table cloth with tiny droplets of pink cream. Her father frowned at her and said, "What's wrong with you tonight? You're not usually so clumsy."
Kate shrugged her shoulders and Stanley said, "It's probably her hand, Walter. I don't have a bandaged hand and I've managed to spill some of my bisque too. Charles is going to be saying he can't take me anywhere."
Charles looked up and said, "What happened to her hand, Walter?"
"I don't know," Walter Hennigan said, looking at Kate thoughtfully. "It seemed fine when we left the house, but I guess we were rushing to get ready and I didn't notice."
"My horse bit me," Kate told them. After a moment she looked at her father and added, "On Friday. It's fine, but I sometimes get a slight twinge in the thumb, and that's what happened just now."
The waiter arrived with the entrees, and a young busboy removed their soup and appetizer plates. Charles pronounced his salmon perfect and Stanley dug into his lobster tail immediately. "It's really too bad that you don't like seafood," he said, "but I don't think I'd want to share this with you anyway," he said, dipping the pieces of lobster into the melted butter.
The waiter brought the wine and Charles nodded his head. "Are you sure that you and Kate don't want some red wine, Walter?"
"No, thanks, Charles. We're fine."
"Oh," said Kate, "there's Dr. Carleton. He and Mrs. Carleton must be taking Bev and Eric out for dinner." Dr. Carleton noticed Kate at the same moment and came over to their table.
"How is the thumb, Kate?" he asked taking her right hand in his. You'll need to change the bandage each day. When you come over tomorrow night, I'll re-bandage it for you." He turned to the men at the table. "I don't know which of you gentlemen is Katherine's father, but I'm pleased to meet her dad after all these months. We enjoy having her around, and my daughter says she's the best babysitter she's ever had."
Kate blushed and smiled. "Thanks, Dr. Carleton . This is my father, Walter Hennigan. You'll have to ask him if I can come over tomorrow night."
"We'd certainly miss having her, Mr. Hennigan. We've gotten used to our regular Sunday evening audience for Ed Sullivan. Richard will pick her up and get her home early if that's the problem. And she should have that bandage checked before the end of the weekend, especially since she seems to be getting the wound wet in the bath." He turned with a smile and returned to his own table. Bev looked over at Kate and waved. Kate waved back and then turned to her father.
"Can I go to Rick's tomorrow night, Dad?"
Walter Hennigan looked defeated. How could he possibly refuse to allow a doctor to treat his daughter, especially in front of Charles and Stanley who were aware that he hadn't even known that Kate had been bitten? He already looked foolish. He didn't want to make himself look like an even more careless father. "Yes," he said.
"Would you like dessert, Miss?" asked the waiter, holding out a menu to her.
Kate looked at the list of chocolate and creamy rich temptations, and then turned her gaze on her father. "No, thanks, I think I'm completely satisfied now."


Sunday morning Kate awoke to bright sunshine lighting up the ice crystals in the corners of the bedroom window. She lay in bed thinking about last night's dinner and savouring her small triumph over her father. He had been absolutely silent on the drive home and they had each gone straight to their own rooms. If she was lucky, he'd have gotten over it by now. Looking at her watch she realized she would not have time to make it to the eleven o'clock service without a real rush, and lay back against her pillow thinking of ways to appease her dad. He was flying out after supper and Joanie was coming over in the afternoon to stay with Kate while he was in New York. They could do something nice this morning and then she'd get out of his hair when Joanie was due to arrive. Maybe she'd get him to make griess for brunch. Her lazy thought rambles screeched to an abrupt halt when her father's voice exploded in anger. "Kate, get out here right now!"
"What is it?" Kate asked in a small voice when she reached his side.
"Just look at this mess." Kate looked at the clothing, bedding and towels scattered all over the front hallway.
"Those things were all neatly stuffed into the bags, ready for the laundryman to pick up," Kate said. "What happened to them?"
"Everything is ruined. That's what's happened to them. Everything has become mildewed. How could you be so careless? Do you think money grows on trees? I work hard to put decent clothes on your back, and you can't even be bothered to take care of them. The linens alone that you've ruined here will cost over a hundred dollars to replace."
"But all I did was put them in the bag, Daddy," Kate was almost in tears.
"Are you so stupid that you don't realize that you have to dry damp things before storing them away?"
"I didn't know that. I'm sorry."
"And I suppose you didn't know that you were embarrassing me last night, either."
Kate blinked at the abrupt turn the conversation had taken. "I didn't try to," she said quietly. "You'd have known about my hand if you'd talked to me at all after it happened, but all you did was yell at me because the bathroom was a mess. It was a mess because of the gentian violet I had put on the bite."
"Well you and I are going to have to get some ground rules sorted out when I get home on Wednesday. There have been too many problems with you lately. I haven't got the time to deal with a little child. I thought you were mature enough now that you didn't need constant supervision. That was why I let you talk me into allowing you to leave Edgehill. I may be forced to send you back."
"You wouldn't do that, Daddy, would you? I'd run away before I went back there."
"Then don't force me to, Kate. It's entirely up to you."
"I'll try to be good. I promise. " Kate's voice was not much more than a whisper, and she escaped into her bedroom where her tears could flow unchecked.
When she came out, her father was in the kitchen. "What should we have for breakfast?" he asked her. His face betrayed no sign of their latest skirmish.
" Could we have griess this morning, do you think?"
"Good idea. I'll make the cream of wheat and the coffee. You brown the butter and get the cinnamon and sugar ready."
They moved around one another gingerly, apologizing unnecessarily as they prepared the meal. At the table they were more polite than usual. Too many pleases. Too many thank you's.
Although brunch had created a kind of temporary truce, the atmosphere between the two still felt charged, and potentially explosive. Joanie was neutral territory and both Kate and her father were relieved to hear her high heels clattering along the hallway at 1:00.
Her colour was high and her dark blonde hair looked wind blown when she came in. Walter Hennigan gave her a kiss on the lips and said, "That's a nice suit. Green suits you."
"Thanks, Walter. How are you, Kate? I haven't seen you for ages. I'm really glad we'll be having a few days to catch up."
Kate mentioned that she'd thought of going for a ride in Point Pleasant Park, it was such a nice day, but said she'd be happy to do something with the two of them if they wanted her to. Her father's response was amusingly quick. "No, no, dear. You run along. We don't want to spoil your afternoon," and Kate thought of the times he'd actually given her money to go to a show for a couple of hours in the afternoon so that he could entertain a girl friend. At eleven or twelve, she'd often wondered what adults needed to discuss outside the presence of children, but since she'd started dating Rick, she'd begun to understand why her father had been so anxious to have some privacy.
The afternoon flew by, and when she came home at 6:00 it was to a warm, welcoming dinner of roast chicken with mashed potatoes and brussel sprouts. Joanie had made a special stuffing with nuts and raisins in it, and her gravy was smooth and creamy. She'd even managed to make a chocolate cake with icing and had written Bon Voyage on it. Kate wondered when they'd had time to enjoy their afternoon but for once she was wise enough not to ask any questions.
Her father was at his charming best throughout dinner and the three of them laughed about the odd people he'd had to deal with during the week. Kate told the story of Happy biting her and even the $5 oyster story came out as a sunny incident. Joanie had a recipe for bleaching out mildew stains that she was going to try that evening. Kate wished Joanie would become a more permanent part of their lives. Her dad was a lot happier when she was around, and she'd give anything to have a mother. "Why don't you two get married?" she asked when Joanie described a bridal shower she'd attended during the week.
The two adults exchanged amused glances. "Your father is divorced, Kate, and Catholics aren't allowed to marry divorced men."
"Maybe you should become a Baptist. I did. They have great church services ... lots of singing. I'm sure Reverend Stockwell would be really happy to marry you and Dad."
"It's not that simple, Kate," Joanie said softly, her eyes more serious than they had been a moment ago. "My parents would be very upset if I married a non-Catholic. Then she became brisk and efficient once more. "Let's wash and dry the dishes while your dad gets himself packed. Then we'll drop you off at the Carleton's before we go to the airport."
"Have a good trip, Dad. See you around ten, Joanie," Kate called as she got out on Spring Garden Road.
"Not around 10:00, young lady. At ten!" Joanie laughed. "Bye now. Have fun."
"Good bye, Kate. You be a good girl for Joanie, now."
Ed was putting on a great sheooow as he did every Sunday night. Every couch and chair was filled with family members, neighbours and friends. Very few Haligonians had television sets, and so the Sunday evening t.v. watching had become a regular social event at the Carleton's. After the programme, Dr. Carleton led Kate into his office and examined her thumb. "You'll have a small scar, but nothing serious," he pronounced. "Try to keep it dry, but if you do get it wet, put a new bandage on it. By tomorrow an ordinary bandaid should be enough."
"Thanks, Sir. I'll keep it dry and clean."
"I promised Mr. Hennigan you'd get Kate home early tonight, Richard," he said to his youngest son. "You'd better drive her home now."
"As long as I'm home by ten, it will be all right," Kate said.
"Okay, then, have a coke before you head off. You take care of her now, Richard."
On the way home Kate told Rick about the $5 oysters and asked about the babysitting. "I'm sure your evening was more exciting than mine was," Rick laughed. "Ian wanted twenty bedtime stories. Jill refused to wear a diaper and then wet the bed. And Bobby spit up an entire bottle of formula all over me and the couch. Even raw oysters beats that."
"Raw?" asked Kate, her eyes suddenly wide.


Alice's weekends all followed much the same pattern during the school year. She usually went to a movie on Friday evening, ran errands and cleaned the small apartment on Saturday, and then spent Sunday relaxing and catching up on school work. This weekend she had seen Roman Holiday at the Oxford Theatre, and, on Saturday, had gone into Bligh's to buy "Three Coins in a Fountain". Listening to the record, she re-lived Audrey Hepburn's Roman holiday, and thought about taking a vacation herself. Not that she would ever have that kind of holiday, but maybe she could go to St. John to see her cousins this summer.
Just before closing time at 5:30, she interrupted her cleaning to pick up the flowers she bought each week from Gordon at the Blossom Shoppe next door to Bligh's Radio and Record Store. She believed in patronizing the neighbourhood shops and these two were neighbours in the true sense of the word. Her apartment straddled the two stores and butted onto the Royal Bank where she had her account.
Gordon always greeted her with a gentle smile and engaged her in conversation while they chose the flowers. Today, he'd suggested an arrangement of sunny gold and deep orange mums to brighten up the gray November days. The white patch in his hair above his long face, his rimless glasses, and his kindly manner always made Alice think of him as a much older man than he was. He couldn't be much more than forty. Too bad he didn't have a family, she thought, and then caught herself. She didn't have one either, and she was surviving all right. Still, he was a man, and men didn't seem to make homes for themselves.
Saturday evening was spent reading. The school librarian had given her an odd look when she had passed Jude, the Obscure across the desk to sign it out. "That's one I don't lend out to students, Alice. A little too risqué for fourteen year olds, I always think. The only reason we have it is that some of the younger English teachers insist."
"Well you don't need to worry about my morals, Grace. I'm long past having an impressionable mind," Alice said laconically, putting the book into her briefcase.
After dinner on Saturday she had her bath, put her hair in pincurls, wrapped a scarf around her head to hold the bobby pins in place, and climbed into her single bed. She reached over to turn on the bedside lamp and placed Jude the Obscure against her knees. As she read, her bifocals placed quite low on her nose, it occurred to her that Hardy wrote in such a circumspect manner that only an extremely intelligent fourteen year old would ever be able to recognize the sexual allusions. There was more sex in Jo Stafford's hit song, "Make Love to Me", which all the kids knew by heart, than in any of the love scenes described in Hardy's quaint Victorian prose. Grace was worrying for nothing, she thought, just a little ruefully.
On Sunday morning she was pleased to see the sun streaming in through her windows. A lovely day for a long walk to the cemetery, she decided. She'd listen to the church service on the radio, mark for awhile and then walk over to Fairview Cemetery where her parents and little Jock were buried. Maybe she'd take some of the fresh mums with her. She only needed one or two for the table.
Before sitting down to eat her poached egg on toast, she turned on the radio. The Christian service this morning was coming from the West End Baptist Church. The ecumenical nature of the programming pleased Alice. It gave her the opportunity to sample different religions. She liked the formality and tradition of the Catholic and Anglican services with their set prayers, but she also enjoyed the commonsensical homilies that filled the United Church sermons. It was nice to be part of a familiar ceremony one week; to get some straight-from-the- shoulder practical advice the next and to be startled out of your complacency another week. Occasionally the Baptist sermons would erupt into teeth rattling condemnations of sin, and the congregations of those churches seemed to sing their hymns with more intense fervour too. She wasn't anticipating anything very unusual this week though. Reverend Stockwell often sounded more like a United minister than a Baptist ... solid, down-to-earth sermons were his style.
The warm sun had induced a state of near somnolence, and she sat there in the kitchen dreamily sipping her tea listening to the hymns. Then Wallace Stockwell began his sermon. He started with a Bible verse about the meek inheriting the earth. She listened as he expounded on the theory that meekness did not mean unwillingness to stand up for your beliefs. It meant willingness to accept God's will.
"Nonsense," she said aloud. "If you just accept what happens to you in this life you might as well roll over and die. You'd be a fool to think that calm acceptance of rotten luck would get you anywhere."
The minister went on giving examples of people who had been struck down by disease and who had put their faith in God. They might not have gotten better, he said, but they accepted their fate and died Christians. And it was the Christians who would inherit the earth. They would have a serene afterlife.
"All very well to die happy and go to Heaven," Alice said. "But an awful lot of people inheriting the earth while they're alive don't seem to be very meek or very Christian. I 'd like to see a little fairness in the here and now."
She got up and rinsed her cup and saucer under the tap, and turned off the radio on the shelf above the sink. It was nearly noon. She'd mark for an hour and then take an apple and a muffin with her to the cemetery.
When she arrived at the grave, she brushed away the dead leaves that had fallen from the nearby tree, and placed the flowers in front of the grey stone with the simple lettering. James Edward Johnson 1869-1917, wife Martha Jane Edwards Johnson 1871-1917, son James Johnson " Wee Jock" 1911-1917. Alice sat down on the grave, and remembered her family. So young to die. Her parents hadn't even been her age, and Jock's life had barely begun when it ended.
It was her mother she missed most, then and now. Her dad had been caring but he was a stern man who left most of the children's upbringing to her mother. Jock had been everyone's ray of sunshine, and Kjell had been very upset by his death. He'd lit candles at the grave and had cried. Alice was just beginning to see her mother as a friend and when she was gone. They had stopped sniping at one another, and Alice had started to appreciate her mother's lessons.
She remembered one conversation in particular, probably because it was so embarrassing for both of them. Alice had been going out with Kjell for almost a year by that time. She and her mother were baking because Kjell was shipping out the next day, and they were having a surprise farewell party for him. They had been saving their sugar and butter ration coupons ever since Kjell had told them he'd be leaving on the seventh, and their next door neighbours had contributed some too. Alice's mother made the pies and Alice baked a chocolate cake and decorated it. She had been going to write Bon Voyage but had decided on Safe Journey instead. She was trying to decide how to get Kjell to provide the Norwegian translation without alerting him to the surprise in store for him when her mother turned a pink face toward her, and said in a halting voice, "Just how serious are you about Kjell, Alice?"
"I love him," Alice said guilelessly. "I'd do anything for him, I love him so much."
"You want to be careful, girl. These sailors, especially in wartime, are going into a different port every few weeks, and when they're not fighting the war or bringing in supplies to keep it going, they need to unwind. Kjell could well be seeing other girls in England or one of the other ports. It may not be just Alice in Halifax who's captured his heart."
"But Kjell has been here for months, Momma. I know he loves me. And he loves our family. You've seen him with Jock. Why are you saying such mean things?"
"I don't want you to be hurt, Alice. And I don't want you to get sick either."
"What do you mean? Kjell's perfectly healthy. The only reason he was in the hospital was because of his appendix."
Martha Johnson wished that James were the one having this conversation. He'd spoken to her about it in bed last night and said she'd have to talk to Alice about these things.
"I'm not talking about the flu or a cold, Alice. There are diseases that loose women give men. If they come back to their wives or girl friends afterwards they can pass these diseases on to them."
Alice had looked absolutely confused. "How do they get them?" she asked. "Do they kiss other women?"
"Yes," said her mother, "and ... and ... more."
"Kjell won't kiss anyone else, Momma. Don't worry about it. He loves me too much."
"Alice, are you doing anything besides kissing with Kjell?" Her mother's voice was almost inaudible, and her face was flushed.
It was Alice's turn to blush. "Momma. What a question. We hug and kiss. That's all."
Martha Johnson turned her attention to the pies coming out of the oven. "See that's all you do, Alice. After the war if you and Kjell are still in love, you can think about marriage and a family. And who knows, maybe you'll meet a nice Canadian boy by then and marry him. You're still a baby yet. Lots of time to grow up," and she'd given Alice a floury hug.
"Well Momma," Alice said to the silent stone, "I did as you said, and now I'm a fifty- three year old virgin, a woman made of ice. You gave me the best advice you knew to give, but I'm not sure it was good counsel, not in light of what happened." Alice got to her feet clumsily. One leg was full of pins and needles, and she nearly fell. She rubbed her right calf and half stumbled toward the gate of the cemetery and home.
Kjell had been delighted by the party and afterwards they'd been the ones to tidy up the house and do the dishes. He'd stayed till after her parents had gone to their bed, and, for the first time, they'd been able to cuddle in the comfort of the livingroom. It was considerably more romantic than what they had become accustomed to -- the furtive hand holdings in a darkened theatre, the stolen kisses on the dance floor, their embraces on the front porch, chilly in winter and very public in summer. Kjell had laughed the first warm evening and said he might as well be in northern Norway. In summer it was wonderful to have the sun twenty-four hours a day after the long dark winter, but young lovers had no privacy at all in a land without darkness. "Here", he had said, "it's either bitter cold or else everyone's out on the street enjoying the warmth and saying good evening to you."
But tonight they had both warmth and privacy and they knew that this might be the last chance they'd have to love one another for a very long time. His hands had crept under her blouse and she had longed to relax into his embrace, but her mother's words were too fresh in her mind to be easily dismissed. "We can't, Kjell," she had said, "Not till we're married." He sighed and kissed her, and then said he'd have to be going but that he'd come to her as soon as his ship was back in port. He had left a few minutes later. She hadn't see him again for three months, not till after she had turned sixteen.
It was 4:00 when Alice got home, and she immediately busied herself with her Sunday dinner preparations. After placing the small vase with the three remaining mums on the table cloth, Alice searched the kitchen drawer where she kept her string until she found a pink candle that had only burned down a bit, and settled it into the silver candle holder she had taken from the cupboard. She set a place with her best china and her silver plate, and then debated whether she should climb up to the top shelf of the cupboard to get a wine goblet, and decided against it, saying to herself, "No point in that. I'd have to wash it first, and there's no wine anyway. Maybe at Christmas."
The last time she'd used the goblets had been Easter Sunday. She'd invited Gordon to dinner thinking that neither of them had family, and maybe if they shared a meal they'd be able to have a ham or a bird. Single people never get to eat roasts because of the leftovers that are always thrown out after a few days. It had been an awkward meal. It seemed the only thing they had ever had to talk about had been the weekly flower purchase, and so, after Gordon had praised the turkey, the dressing and the cranberry sauce, the meal had been silent except for the occasional moment when both would attempt to fill one of the dead air spaces with a flurry of polite words, and then they'd apologized and insisted that the other speak first before falling silent once more. She was very relieved when the apple pie had been served and eaten and she had been able to brush aside Gordon's offer to help with dishes.
Never again, she'd thought, and had gone back to her regular Sunday dinners. One week she'd cook steak, the next a chop, the third a piece of chicken and the last Sunday of the month a piece of salmon, or lobster when it was in season. She went to a bit of a fuss with the potatoes each time and made sure that she always had a fresh vegetable. There was usually a dessert even if it was only a bit of pudding.
Tonight was pork chop Sunday and she had made apple sauce to go with it. The mashed potatoes were creamy and smooth and she had glazed the parsnips and turnips. Her dinner smelled delicious, but she found herself looking at the plate of almost colourless food lit only by the candle in front of her, and realized that she wasn't very hungry. When she put a piece of pork dipped in apple sauce into her mouth and began to chew, her mouth was dry and it was almost impossible to swallow it past the lump in her throat. She drank some water and got through the meal finally.
By the time she blew out the candle and stripped the table cloth from the table, it was still only quarter to six. She had a whole evening to fill. She decided to wash the dishes and then write a bit in her diary before taking Jude the Obscure to bed with her.


The grilled cheese class on Monday morning had gone smoothly. The girls had all been anxious to eat the sandwiches they were making, so they had been careful not to allow them to burn, and little else can ruin a grilled cheese sandwich. Miss Johnson had actually lightened up enough to smile at the girls as they left for lunch. At home Kate found that Joanie had left a note on the kitchen table saying there were chicken sandwiches in the fridge for her lunch, and later, Happy had been a delight during riding class. All in all, Kate decided, today had been a great day.
That evening, she and Joanie had cooked a lamb chop dinner together, and afterwards, Joanie had made a soup from last night's chicken remnants, saying that Kate could have that for lunch on Tuesday. When the dishes were done, Kate had put on some records and Joanie curled up on the couch and said, "Let's take a half hour to unwind and then you should get your homework done. Maybe we can play a game of crib before you go to bed."
With "Let Me Go Lover", "Mister Sandman", and "Wanted" as background, their
conversation ranged from one topic to another. Joanie worked in a real estate office, and she shared an anecdote about a sale that almost fell through because the couple selling the house decided at the last minute that they couldn't bear to leave their neigbourhood. Only when the neighbours gave them a big going away party did they sign the papers figuring it would be too embarrassing to stay after opening all those gifts. Kate talked about her riding class for awhile, and then told Joanie how nice it had been to come home to a chicken sandwich instead of canned soup for lunch. "But you could make yourself a different kind of lunch," Joanie said. "You must have taken cooking in school by now."
"Today was the first class we've had where we made something good to eat," Kate said. "Grilled cheese sandwiches."
"We made those in cooking class when I was in school too. We had a really strict teacher without an imagination. I remember the oatmeal class best, though. No one wanted to eat porridge and some kids burned theirs to the bottom of the pan. Others forgot to stir it so they had a pot full of glutinous lumps. My partner and I poured in the salt almost as freely as the oatmeal and created an inedible mess."
"Sounds like Miss Johnson's class," laughed Kate
Joanie looked up startled. "Surely she can't still be teaching. She must be ancient now. We thought she was old when I was in grade nine twenty years ago. What does she look like?"
"This one is really old, about eighty, and really ugly. Lumps all over her face and one eye drooping down. And she's miserable most of the time. Acts like she hates kids."
"It has to be the same Miss Johnson. There couldn't be two like her. So she's still teaching the oatmeal lesson, is she?"
"Yeah. Did you ever get into any trouble with her?"
"No, I went to a Catholic school, and those nuns would have had our hides if we were lippy to any teacher."
"We've got a teacher who straps kids every day, but nobody takes her seriously."
"They'd sure take Sister Margaret, our head mistress, seriously. When she strapped, she meant business. She always brought in one of the other teachers as a witness, and then she'd call you into her office and have you roll up your sleeves. First she inspected your wrists and had the witness look too. Then she made you place one hand on top of the other, palms up and she'd tell you to tuck your elbows in tight to your waist. She'd place her left hand over your wrist, and then bring that strap up from floor level in an arc that was terrifying. It made a horrible thwacking sound as it came down on your hand. I think the sound was worse than the sting you felt. After each stroke she'd say, "That's one. That's two. That's three." Very few kids ever went into her office twice."
"They only strap boys at Cornwallis. Thank goodness," said Kate with a shiver.
"I think strapping is a really cold blooded way to punish anyone," Joanie continued. "Some of the teachers who had to witness it must have thought so too. One of my friends was getting the strap because of an incident in Miss Johnson's class. She'd made some comment to another student about how ugly Miss Johnson was. Miss Johnson had to witness her strapping and Cathy said every time the strap came down on her hand, Miss Johnson winced and closed her eyes, and afterwards she had tears running down her cheeks. I always liked her a little better after I heard that. She may have been a dull teacher and very strict, but she wasn't cruel. Now you'd better get your homework done. How long will you be, do you think?"
"About an hour," Kate said, and went off to get her binder.
Later, after winning two of the three cribbage games, Kate headed into her bedroom. Joanie's voice followed her. "Make sure you hang up your school clothes and give me your riding things. I'll let them air on the balcony." When Kate climbed into her bed, Joanie appeared in the lighted hallway. She came into the room. " Don't let the bedbugs bite."
"If I see them on the wall ..."
"You'll take a spoon and eat them all," Joanie smiled and gave Kate a light kiss on her forehead. "Don't forget to say your prayers."
"Good night," Kate murmured, and closed her eyes. When Joanie closed the door behind her, sinking the room into darkness, she silently uttered the prayer she had said when she was a little girl. "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. God bless ..."
From the time she was five until she was nine, it had been "God bless Mommy and Daddy and Mom Hall, and Daddy Hall, and Claire, and please make my mommy and daddy go back together again." The prayer always seemed to create a peaceful hiatus after the day's activity and Kate could think about things. In the hustle bustle daylight world she was just a kid. In the darkened bedroom she became a lost little girl whose father lived in Halifax, twelve hundred miles away; a stray who hadn't seen her mother since she was five. There were few nights that she didn't cry herself to sleep.
In December, 1949, her mother had learned where she lived and had stopped her on the street to tell her that she would have a little brother or sister in a few months. Kate realized then that her parents would never be getting back together. When he heard, her father immediately enrolled her at Edgehill to prevent her mother seeing her again. Kate had never understood why, and she had stopped asking. She had also stopped praying.


The next two days with Joanie raced by. They ate breakfast together before heading off to work and school, and when Kate returned after riding in the afternoon, it was to a warm hug and a hot meal. At school everyone was busy getting their research completed and Mr. Stevens had taught them how to do a proper bibliography. He had stressed the importance of giving credit to your sources of information explaining that plagiarism was a crime and if a university student were caught stealing ideas he would be expelled immediately. Miss Cole had taught them how to summarize information from more than one source and how to integrate quotations into their writing. She had explained how footnoting makes it easy to avoid plagiarism. Kate liked the little Ibid's and Op Cite's, but Shona just shook her head and said, "I'll never get all this straight."
On Tuesday night Kate asked Joanie if she would help her come up with good interviewing questions for Saturday's meeting with the Explosion survivors. They had cleared the kitchen table after supper and had created an interviewing form that could be used for interviewing a whole group of people. It had a column entitled QUESTIONS, and then five columns with room for people's names to record the different responses.
Then they had started work on the actual questions. "What exactly are you interested in finding out, Kate?" asked Joanie.
"I want to know what the Explosion was like for each of them," Kate began, "and then I want to know what it was like afterwards when they were injured. What they felt like, things like that."
"All right, then. Let's start with 'Can you describe what happened to you when the Mont Blanc exploded?' and then, 'What kind of injuries did you sustain?'"
"Okay," said Kate, writing them in the first two boxes of the QUESTIONS column. "But I really want to know how they felt inside, not just how much it hurt, because one of Miss Cole's assignments is to write diary or journal entries right after the Explosion, and then a few weeks or months later, and finally years later."
"Then ask questions that will give you that information."
Kate thought for a moment and then wrote down, "Could you describe how you felt the day after the Explosion when you realized just how badly hurt you were and you were beginning to understand just how big the disaster was?"
"Good," smiled Joanie, "and then ' Did your feeling change over the next few months? Could you tell me about that?'"
"And then," Kate said, writing quickly, "I could ask something like, 'How do you feel now, all these years after the Explosion?' She thought for a moment and then asked, "Do you think I should ask how they've managed to survive? They must have been awfully unhappy at first. I wonder how they got over that, or if they did get over it."
"I would," said Joanie. "I think the best thing you could learn from this assignment is how to get beyond the bad things that happen in your life. Some people never get over the cards they're dealt. Other people seem to have found a way to do it. If these old men are survivors, maybe they have something important to teach all of us."
Joanie went into the livingroom to read the newspaper and Kate neatly copied out her interviewing form so that it would be ready for Saturday. She was beginning to look forward to Saturday's meeting.
On Wednesday they finished supper at 6:30 and left for the airport at 7:00. On the drive over to Dartmouth, Kate said, "I'm going to really miss you, Joanie. I get tired of eating alone every night and never seeing Dad. At first it was fun going by myself to a restaurant and signing the bill like a grown-up. Not any more."
Joanie reached over and patted her knee. "Your dad should be spending more time relaxing than he does, Kate. Not just for you. For his own sake too. He needs to take a break from work. Maybe we can find a way to make him realize what's best for him."
Walter Hennigan was standing by his tan leather suitcase with all the hotel labels on it when they got to the Incoming Flights area. He gave Joanie a hug and then put an arm around each of them. "My flight got in five minutes earlier than scheduled. Did you two girls have a good time together?"
"It was great," Kate said. "I wish Joanie could come to stay."
Joanie laughed, "I enjoyed myself too. We discovered I had the same Home Economics teacher in 1934 as Kate has now, and I learned a great deal about the Halifax Explosion over the three days. Kate is interviewing a group of survivors on Saturday. We worked on the interview form last night. You've got a very special daughter, Walter."
"And we played crib every night. Joanie is getting good enough to start playing for dimes next time," Kate said.
"You are becoming completely mercenary, young lady. First $5 oysters, and now gambling at cards." He turned to Joanie. "Don't let her talk you into that. She plays to win when there's money involved." He smiled at Kate to show that he wasn't serious, and Kate felt more secure with him than she had in a very long time.
Joanie suggested that he drop her at her house and then take Kate home. "I have something for both of you in my bag. Why don't we go to the apartment first and then when Kate goes to bed I'll drive you home," Walter Hennigan asked.
Kate said, "Oh yes, please, Joanie. I'd like to see what Daddy brought from New York, and if he takes you home first we may never get to see each other's gifts."
"All right," Joanie agreed.
Walter Hennigan parked on the street, and carried the heavy suitcase up the flight of stairs to the apartment. "Maybe I didn't bring you anything at all," he teased Kate as he hung up his coat and place his fedora on the closet shelf. Kate wasn't worried. She knew her father well enough to know that he never came back from a trip empty handed.
They sat down in the living room while Joanie got them coffee and a plate of banana bread and Walter Hennigan made a big production of finding the key to the suitcase. When Joanie arrived, he opened the lid and shuffled through some shirts still in their laundry packaging, until he got to two tiny packages tied with gold cords. "Well," he said, "I know how much you liked your oysters the other night, Kate. This one is for you."
Kate slid the cord off the package and opened the lid of the box. Inside on a bed of white cotton batting were two gold earrings. They were shaped like oyster shells but of Lilliputian scale and inside each was a pearl. "Oh, Daddy," Kate sighed. "They're beautiful. Thank you." She stood up and gave her father a big hug. "I love them."
"And now, my dear Joanie, as a very big thank you from both Kate and me for staying with Kate this week, this is for you."
The box was not much bigger than the one containing her earrings and Kate could hardly wait to see what it contained. "Hurry up, Joanie. Just slip the cord off. You don't need to untie it," she begged.
Joanie finally opened the box to reveal a simple gold crucifix on a chain. "I saw you looking at them in Simpson's one day, and I knew you didn't wear one. Is it okay?" Walter asked with a hesitancy that was unusual for him.
"It's perfect, Walter, but much too expensive a gift."
"I'm glad you like it. I had some second thoughts on the flight home. I wondered if it was proper for non-Catholics to give this kind of gift."
Joanie laughed. "It's fine. Thank you very much. And now this Catholic girl had better be getting home. Are you too tired to drive me, Walter?"
"Of course not," he said and went to get his coat.
Joanie and Kate carried the dishes back into the kitchen, and Joanie put her arms around Kate and said, "I've had a wonderful time being your roommate these past few days. I'll see you soon. Do you mind doing up these dishes?"
"No," Kate said and squeezed Joanie's hand. "Thanks for everything."
On the drive home, Joanie broached the subject of the November 11 school holiday with tactful delicacy, and managed to convince Walter that he should take time off and spend at least part of it with Kate. "She needs to spend time having fun with you, Walter, and you need to spend some time just enjoying life and your daughter. You have been looking too tired for a young man lately. Why don't the two of you go hiking? I'll bet it's been a year since you did that."
"You're probably right," Walter said ruefully. "What are you doing tomorrow?"
"My dad's a vet and we always go to Mass on Remembrance Day and then we go to the service at the Citadel."
"What about the afternoon?" asked Walter.
"I can't, dear. It's a special family day for us. And I think you should make it a special one for you and Kate too." She gave him a light kiss on the lips when she got out of the car, and, carrying her small neat overnight bag, ran up the steps to the modest home her family had occupied since she was born.


When Kate woke up, the sun was shining but the apartment felt cold and empty. It was the first time she'd been alone here since the weekend, and she missed the sense that there was someone else around. She pulled on a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt and yawned and stretched her way into the kitchen. On the table a note was propped up against the sugar bowl. Her father would be home at 11:00 and wanted her to pick up groceries to make a picnic lunch. She grinned. That would be fun. She had just enough time to get breakfast and do the shopping.
The phone rang just as she was buttering the toast. She picked up the receiver with a greasy hand and said cheerfully, "Good morning."
"Hi. Did you realize we were off today?" It was Rick.
"Sure. I've known for awhile."
"Do you want to do anything?" Rick asked. Kate told him that her dad had just gotten home from New York and that he wanted her to go out for a picnic lunch with him. Rick sounded disappointed, and they talked for a few minutes about inconsequential things and hung up.
Kate felt funny when she replaced the receiver, that same empty sensation she'd had on awakening, but she couldn't quite put her finger on the reason for the feeling. She took a bite of her cold toast and washed it down with a mouthful of orange juice. "It's probably nothing," she said aloud, and finished the juice and threw the remaining toast into the garbage under the sink.
At the store she bought bread, eggs, cold ham slices, some liverwurst, oranges and apples, and two small containers of chocolate milk. The store owner wrote down the total, $4.90, in the black ledger he kept by the cash register. "You planning on a picnic, Kate?" he asked.
"Yes, Mr. Steeves. Dad and I are going somewhere this afternoon. I'd like to see the anchor. Do you know where it landed?" Kate asked.
"Well," Mr. Steeves' brow furrowed, "I know it landed on the Arm some place, so I guess it's still there, but I'm not so sure it's in a good spot for a picnic. Why don't you and your dad go to Point Pleasant Park, or out to the Dingle Tower? I guess Peggy's Cove would be a little chilly this time of year."
"We'll probably end up going to the park, but I'd like to see the anchor because I've been studying about it in history."
"Well, good luck then, Kate. By the way, could you tell your dad the bill hasn't been paid for awhile? If he's home maybe he'd like to drop in."
"Okay, I'll tell him," Kate said and left with her purchases.
She was just putting everything away when her father arrived. He had a picnic hamper in his hand. "I brought it home from the store," he said. "Might as well do this right."
Kate was reminded of the time when she was twelve and one of her friends had told her boyfriend to take Kate home because it was getting late. Fourteen year old Eric had been less than thrilled by this, and had shoved Kate from the curb edge of the sidewalk over to the other side and grunted, "Might as well do this right if I have to do it." That was the first time Kate had been officially escorted anywhere by a boy, and certainly the first time by a boy who knew the protocols involved. When she asked why, Eric had told her the custom had originated in the times when people dumped their chamber pots out the windows. Gentlemen walked on the outside so that the ladies would not be splattered. Kate had been delighted by the information, and by the fact that she was being walked home by an "older man". She was almost able to forget that her escort had been coerced into accompanying her.
Now, she looked closely at her father. Was he being forced to take her on this picnic? She took six of the eggs and put them in a pot to boil. She couldn't remember what her cooking notes had said about cooking eggs, but she did remember eight minutes and set the timer. Then she set about buttering bread while her father added the meats and condiments. "Is there any lettuce?" he asked. She shook her head hoping he wouldn't be annoyed.
He was just packaging the sandwiches in waxed paper when the timer went off. "Are you sure those eggs are done?" he asked.
"They're supposed to take eight minutes," Kate said.
"Okay, but I thought they had just started to boil," said her father.
"Should I leave them for a while longer?" asked Kate.
"No, it's getting late. Just run them under cold water, and wash the apples and put them all in the basket."
"Don't forget the oranges and Joanie's banana bread. It's really good," Kate reminded him, and her father cut four slices and put them in with the eggs and fruit.
They settled the picnic basket in the back seat and headed out onto the street. "We've got a choice," said Walter Hennigan. "It can be Peggy's Cove or Point Pleasant Park. Which will it be?"
"I'd like to see the place where the anchor from the Mont Blanc landed. Could we go there first and then if it's not a good picnic spot, go to the park?" Kate looked hopefully at her father.
"There's an anchor at the park," said her father. "That must be it."
"I don't think so, Daddy. I've seen that anchor. The Mont Blanc's anchor is just a piece of the shank."
"Well, let's go to the park and make sure," Walter Hennigan said impatiently. "I'm getting hungry." Kate said no more because she too was looking forward to eating.
They parked the car in the lot Kate and Rick sometimes used, and headed off along a path with Walter Hennigan carrying the basket. Some chipmunks were still gathering acorns, and Kate wished she had something to feed them. They passed benches on which old people sat with bags of bread in their laps. Sparrows, squirrels and chipmunks gathered around to get the crumbs. Kate noticed a flicker of movement just on the edge of her field of vision. It was white and moving up and down at waist height. "Look, Daddy," she whispered, "A deer," and she pointed wordlessly into the forest to their right. Walter Hennigan gave Kate his first real smile that day.
"That's the first time I've seen a deer in this park," he said.
"Me too," smiled Kate.
Up ahead was the Martello Tower. "There's a bench," said Walter Hennigan. "We'll stop and eat there."
In a few minutes time they had settled themselves with the picnic basket between them, and were unwrapping their sandwiches. The wind was cool but the tower afforded some protection and the sun was warm on their faces. "Good sandwiches," said Kate.
"Mmn hmmn," mumbled her father appreciatively. He took an egg and tapped it on the bench intending to roll it in his hands and peel off the shell. Yellow yolk and half cooked white splurted out over his hand. "What the hell?" he exclaimed. "Kate, can't you ..." his voice trailed off. "I'm sorry. I'm as much to blame as you are. You did offer to cook them longer."
Kate's stomach muscles unclenched and her shoulders, which had scrunched together in an instinctive response to her father's anger, slowly relaxed, and she let out her breath. "I guess I'd better pay attention in Miss Johnson's class, eh?" she said softly.
Her father patted her on the shoulder and gave her a smile. "That wouldn't be a bad idea." They finished their milk and ate the oranges. Then they stuffed the milk containers with the peelings and the waxed paper. "They should have a garbage container somewhere around here," Walter Hennigan said.
"There's one," murmured Kate and walked over to it. "Let's put the apples in our pockets and take the basket back to the car, Dad. Then we can go for a real hike and maybe find the anchor."
As they walked back to the car, her father saw a fox cub. "Look, over there," he said and pointed.
"There's another one," Kate said excitedly, "and another. Look there are four of them. I wonder if they're hungry." She took the basket from her father and put it on the ground; then broke open an egg and held it out toward the nearest cub.
"Be careful, Kate. They could be rabid."
"They look fine, Dad. No foaming at the mouth. No strange behaviour. They just look like puppies playing together." She got down on her haunches and her voice gentled to become the voice she used at the stable. "Come here, baby. I won't hurt you. Tsk ... tsk ... tsk. ... tsk."
One of the cubs edged toward her very tentatively. When she pushed the egg toward him, he dashed forward and then fled back into the woods with it in his mouth. The others set up a great commotion as soon as he returned to their midst, and within minutes all four were standing within a few feet of Kate. "You're hungry, aren't you?" she cooed, and broke open the rest of the eggs, tearing them into pieces which she threw toward the fox cubs. "That's all," she said, wiping her sticky hands on her jeans, when they approached her looking for more. "Next time. Away you go now," she laughed and shooed them from her.
Her father had been watching her silently. When he spoke it was to say, "I wish we'd brought the camera. That was something to see. I can understand why you're good with horses. Not everyone has a way with animals." Kate's face glowed, but she said nothing.
"Are you sure you still want to find that anchor?" he asked when they got to the car, "Or would you rather go home?"
"It's only 2:00, Dad. Could we hike for an hour or so?"
"I guess so," replied her father, rubbing his hand across his distended belly. " I feel stuffed. I probably need the exercise."
They took a different path which eventually followed a small, fast flowing brook. Kate started across the stepping stones that jutted out of the stream. "Come on this way, Dad," she called. "It's beautiful on this side."
"For goodness sakes, be careful, Kate. Remember the last time you decided to cross a stream. It was on one of those Edgehill Sundays. You ended up soaked."
Kate laughed, "And you made me strip off all my clothes and wrap up in the car rug so that you could dry my clothes over the fire. Miss Briggs was upset when I went back to school smelling like wood smoke." She reached down and put her hand in the flowing water. "I remember how cold the water was. Like this!" and she flicked a few drops at her father. He laughed and pretended to scoop up a handful of the icy water to retaliate, and she ran out of range.
"Those Sundays are the only good memories I have of Edgehill, Dad, and even those Sundays weren't great."
"Why not?" he asked, genuinely puzzled.
"I guess because I spent the whole day waiting for the visit ... breakfast ... church in the morning ... dry turkey dinner ... candy cupboard ... then it was finally 2:00 and we'd drive somewhere and I'd feel carsick, and we'd stop and do something ... a snack at a restaurant ...pick apples from the orchards along the way ... maybe go for a hike ... and then we'd have to be back by 4:00. I remember so many times driving up the hill through those gates and crying, 'Ooh, Daddy, I'm going to be sick,' and then vomiting. You were probably really glad to be rid of me by then, puke all over the car and everything, but I always felt as if I'd hardly had any time with you at all, and I'd have to wait another whole week to see you again. I used to spend the rest of the day crying." Kate could feel the familiar ache in her throat as she recalled those two years of Sundays.
"Miss Briggs used to tell me that it probably would have been better if I hadn't come on Sundays; that you'd probably have settled in faster, " her father said. "Maybe she was right."
"I needed to live with you, Daddy," Kate said.
"Well, you're doing that now," said her father and gave her a hug.
They found another path on the other side of the brook and followed it for a mile or so. It led toward the ocean, and in another half hour, they had reached the large anchor. Kate had been right. It wasn't the one belonging to the Mont Blanc. An older couple sitting on a step to the platform on which the anchor stood were dwarfed by it. If they had been standing, the anchor would have been at least twice as tall as they were. Mr. Hennigan asked if they knew where the Mont Blanc's anchor was. "It's over on the other side of the Arm," said the man. "Just about across from the boat clubs. You can get to it by going out the Purcell's Cove Road. Ask someone who lives out there."
They thanked him, and Kate looked at her father beseechingly. "Please, Dad?"
"Okay," said her father. You won't give me any rest till you've seen it, I guess."
The drive was a short one and after a few queries they found the spot. Kate looked at it in disappointment. It was almost invisible in the long grass. The city had placed it on a piece of rock that looked like a gravestone lying flat on the ground. An inscription identified it as being part of the Mont Blanc's anchor. "But it's just an old hunk of metal," Kate said.
"What did you expect?" her father asked as they walked back to the car.
"I'm not sure," Kate said. "But it was such a terrible event, I guess I thought there'd be a bigger monument to it. Two thousand people died in that explosion, and thousands more were injured and blinded. You'd think the city would have done something more than this. And you'd think everyone would have known where to find it."
"Sometimes things are so painful people just want to forget them, Kate. Maybe that's the case here." Her father turned to her for a moment and then looked away.
Kate wondered what he was seeing so far away, and tried to pull him back. "But you can't just wash away the past and pretend it never existed," she said. She tried to explain but found herself at a loss for words. Why did people need to have their pain recognized? Did it help if other people understood what they had suffered? She'd have to ask that question somehow next Saturday when she went to Camp Hill.
On the drive home, her father asked a question that he seemed to be having trouble with. "What should I be expecting tomorrow at this interview with your principal, Kate?" He paused, and then went on, " What is Mr. Harris like?"
"He's pretty nice. Fair. You know, Dad. He's a principal."
"Is he very angry about what happened, Kate?"
"He was," Kate said after a moment's thought. "But he doesn't just think about the teacher; he thinks about the kids too, I think."
"Why are you having trouble with this teacher, Kate?" He turned to face her.
"I guess because she doesn't like me. I don't think she likes kids. I don't know why she's a teacher. But when I was rude, it wasn't anything she did. I guess I just wanted to go riding and I didn't want to scrub a floor." There was a perceptible pause before she added the words, "Mr. Harris says maybe it's because she's ugly."
"Surely you wouldn't dislike her because of that," her father asked.
Kate's voice became smaller, "Her face bothers me."
Her father's voice became quite stern and he launched into his lecture mode. "I've always taught you to respect people who are different from us. You know better than to base your opinions on people's looks and religions and things like that."
"You don't always follow that advice, Daddy. You only like pretty women."
"That's different, Kate. You'll understand when you are older."
"Maybe," said Kate with a sigh. She didn't want to spoil what had been a good day. They lapsed into a companionable silence that lasted until they reached the apartment.


When the recess bell released Kate and Miriam from science class, and they made their way through the noisy jostling throng to their lockers, Kate compared her cooking bag to Miriam's and realized she'd have to wash it this weekend. If only they didn't need them on Monday, she could send it out with the laundry. Oh well. If wishes were horses then beggars would ride, as Mom Hall used to say.
They found a quiet corner and sat down to eat the apples they had brought from home. "Did you go riding yesterday?" Miriam asked when they had propped themselves up against a cement wall with their skirts tucked in around them.
"No, I ended up going on a picnic with Dad." Kate told her about Rick's call, and said, "I hope he wasn't too disappointed. I don't want to lose him."
"He's not going to break up because you couldn't see him one day," Miriam reassured her.
"I hope not."
"What did you do? Kate asked.
"Went down to Pier 21 with Daddy. A ship was coming in with a load of immigrants. Then we went over to Citadel Hill for the 11:00 ceremony. How was your picnic?"
"Good, but as soon as we started to talk about anything important one of us would change the subject. Maybe kids can't talk to parents."
"Maybe," Miriam agreed. "I sure don't talk about anything important with mine most of the time. We better get going; it's almost 11:00."
"Oh cripes," Kate said, her mouth suddenly dry. "That means my father's probably sitting in Mr. Harris' office right now. I wish I could be a fly on the wall in there."
"No point in worrying about it. You can't do anything now," Miriam said philosophically.
"You'd worry too if you thought your parents might send you away," Kate snapped.
Miriam was relieved that they had reached Miss Johnson's doorway. She didn't know how to respond to the fears that loomed so large in Kate's life.
"Today," Miss Johnson said, "we are going to make a stew using a pressure cooker method. You will see from the notes on the board that the first step is to cut the meat and shake it with seasoned flour. Then you will brown it in a little oil. The third step is to prepare the vegetables and add them with the water, the Oxo cube and the other seasonings. Copy the note and then I will demonstrate the techniques you will need."
"Do you have a pressure cooker at home, Mim?" Kate whispered.
"Yes, but Mom's always home so she doesn't use it much."
"What difference would that make?" Kate was interested.
"It's for cooking things quickly. A stew takes all day the ordinary way. It can be made really fast in a pressure cooker," Miriam explained.
"Station number three. I have to speak to you girls about your chatter far too often. Any more nonsense and I will have to separate you."
Miriam said immediately, "Sorry Miss Johnson. I was just explaining that the pressure cooker is used when you don't have much time."
"Quite unnecessarily I am sure. Anyone would know that," said Miss Johnson brusquely. Her head had been bothering her all morning, and she wished this class were over so that she could have her lunch in peace.
She allowed the girls a few more moments to copy the note and then had them gather around her work surface as she demonstrated the meat and vegetable preparation techniques. Kate hoped she'd remember everything and paid close attention to the demonstration. "Because this is a large recipe, the different stations will be assigned different parts of the preparation," Miss Johnson intoned.
Kate and Miriam had ended up with the turnip, and Shona and her partner had been the lucky ones who got to cut the meat and flour it. "Hope they don't double the salt this time," Miriam whispered.
"Or spray flour all over the classroom," added Kate with a grin.
Afterwards Miss Johnson showed them how to brown the floured meat cubes and then left the two girls to complete that part of the operation. While they were working she showed the rest of the class the magazine in which she had found the recipe. It looked delicious: the carrots a bright orange, the meat a deep golden caramel. Kate was looking forward to eating it.
While the stew was cooking, Miss Johnson talked to them about the nutritive value of cooking a stew, and stressed the health benefits and economy of using the leaner, tougher cuts of beef. Kate found it interesting and informative. She wasn't too concerned about the economy but, like most of the girls, she didn't want to gain weight unnecessarily. She subsisted on an almost steady diet of meals made from hamburger with the occasional steak on special occasions. She decided she'd start ordering a little differently at the restaurant from now on.
The timer dinged to announce that the stew was cooked, and Miss Johnson told the girls how to open the pressure cooker. "It's very important to reduce the heat before you unlock it. Just run it under the cold water tap until the pot is comfortable to the hand." Kate thought about how she tested Bobby's bottle by shaking a few drops onto the inside of her wrist, and wondered how many tests performed by women were dependent on their own bodies' perceptions. Mim had told her once that her mother never used a thermometer; she just kissed them on the forehead and pronounced them feverish or well enough to go out and play.
Shona and Pam were told to take the pressure cooker carefully to the sink and, after running it under the tap, to open the locking device. Kate looked at Miriam. "Shona's gotten all of the good jobs this class." The girls talked quietly among themselves and for once Miss Johnson did not intervene with a command for silence.
Suddenly there was a loud pop which abruptly terminated the chatter. Then, it seemed almost as if Kate were watching a slow motion film. A grey brown mess exploded from the cooker coating every surface with a splattering of stew. The ceiling was covered in tiny gravy- coloured specks. On the counter tops pieces of dun carrot mingled with unidentifiable bits before settling into a gooey mess. The dark tiled floor for several feet around the sink had been turned into a slippery beige surface. It had even shot into the cupboards above the sink splattering the dishes inside. An anonymous voice said, "I'm glad we didn't have to eat it. It looks yucky."
Only Miss Johnson, her hands clasped to her face, remained silent when the girls began to laugh and joke about the mess.
Kate pointed to a piece of turnip in Shona's hair and began to giggle. "It's like the Halifax Explosion on a small scale. We should call this recipe Mont Blanc stew." The girls laughed.
And then the second explosion occurred. Miss Johnson turned a malevolent face toward Kate and screamed, "You are the most insensitive little piece of baggage I've ever had the misfortune to teach. Do you have any idea how many lives were lost or ruined in that explosion?"
"Yes," Kate said, "I'm studying it right now."
Miss Johnson's tone was scathing, " As if you could understand anything by just reading about it."
Shona was relieved to hear that Miss Johnson was not angry with her, but Kate was furious. How could she think that she didn't care about the people hurt in the Explosion? God, she was a miserable old bitch who had no sense of humour. " Jeez, can't you take a joke?" she asked, her voice revealing her complete disdain for the woman.
"Your tone is not acceptable, Hennigar. Apologize immediately."
"I won't apologize. I'm not sorry. You yelled at me for no reason at all, and it's true. You have no sense of humour. Everyone else in this room can see that it was funny."
"Get down to the office, Hennigar. Tell Mr. Harris that I will fill out a discipline form at noon."
Kate shrugged her shoulders and silently left. When she reached the door, she heard Shona's voice saying, "Kate really does care about the Explosion victims, Miss Johnson. She's doing a project on it." Miss Johnson response was inaudible.
She was at the gym doors when she remembered that her father would still be there when she arrived.. "For cripes sake, could it be any worse?" she said out loud. A passing student asked what she'd said. "Nothing," replied Kate and continued on her way to Mr. Harris' office wondering what she should do. She was tempted to go straight home or to wait it out in the washroom, but dismissed these temporary solutions as unworkable. No matter what, news of this latest row with Miss Johnson was bound to reach her father's ears sooner or later.
"Miss Johnson sent me," she said to the secretary.
"What happened this time?"
"I made a joke and she went nuts and kicked me out."
"Mr. Harris has a parent with him just now so you'll have sit down and wait," the woman began, and then she looked more closely at Kate. "Aren't you the Hennigan girl?"
"Yes, I'm Kate, and yes, it's my father who's in there with Mr. Harris."
The secretary picked up a phone and Kate could hear her, "Kate Hennigan is here, Sir.... Yes, she's come from cooking class.... Yes, Sir. I'll send her right in." She turned to Kate and indicated that she should go into the office. "Good luck," she said quietly, and Kate knew she was really in trouble.
"Come and sit down, Kate. Your father and I have been having a very interesting discussion."
Mr. Harris looked perfectly at ease in his large swivel chair. Her father, seated on the opposite side of the big oak desk, did not. "What have you done now, Kate?" Walter Hennigan asked, his tone belligerent.
"There was an explosion in the cooking lab and everyone started to laugh and joke about the mess and I said it was like a miniature version of the Halifax Explosion, and then Miss Johnson just blew up and shouted nasty things about me. I told her she had no sense of humour and she got even madder and threw me out."
"Why in the name of God can't you stay out of trouble, Kate?" Walter Hennigan asked. "Mr. Harris is going to think you've had no upbringing at all."
"What kind of "nasty things" did she say, Kate?" interjected Mr. Harris calmly.
"She said I didn't care about the people who'd been hurt in the Explosion, and that's not true, is it, Dad?"
Mr. Harris didn't give her father a chance to answer but asked quietly, "Kate, how did the Halifax Explosion come into this?"
"There was turnip in Shona's hair and I thought of the anchor flying two miles, and I said we should call the stew after the ship that blew up. The other kids started to laugh and then she just erupted. I don't just think she has no sense of humour. I think she's nuts."
Walter Hennigan looked at Mr. Harris. "I'm beginning to think so too, and I'm more than a little concerned about the quality of teachers hired by the Halifax Board of Education if this woman is an example of your hiring policy."
Mr. Harris turned an impassive face toward his visitor. "Don't try to justify sending Kate to a private school in this way, Mr. Hennigan. Halifax teachers have an excellent reputation, and all of them are well educated and highly qualified. They sometimes make mistakes. We all do. But Kate is not going to get a better education at Edgehill than she is getting here. I think you should be honest about your motives in making such an important decision concerning your daughter."
Kate looked from one man to the other in consternation. "Is that what you've been talking about, Daddy? Sending me back to Edgehill?"
"We'll discuss this when we get home, Kate."
"I want to talk about it now." Kate's voice had taken on an edge, and she sounded as if she might either rage or cry.
Mr. Harris said to Walter Hennigan, "It might be a good idea to discuss this rationally in a neutral environment like my office rather than at home, Mr. Hennigan. I'm an impersonal third party here and you might want to use me as a kind of mediator."
"You are hardly unbiased, Mr. Harris. It's been clear since I arrived in your office that your sympathies have been with Kate."
Mr. Harris had been on her side, Kate realized with a start. Here she'd been so worried about what he would say to her father, and now he was turning out to be her ally. "Maybe you're right, Mr. Hennigan. I guess my first concern is always the student. That doesn't mean they never get themselves into trouble, but even when they are being severely disciplined it is with the hope that it will help them become better men and women when they grow up. In Kate's case, I expected her to wash the floor because she was rude to Miss Johnson for no reason, but most of the run-ins with Miss Johnson have not been as serious. Today, Miss Johnson seems to have over reacted in a way that a fourteen year old student probably couldn't have predicted. I won't be punishing Kate for today's incident."
He turned to say something to Kate, but Walter Hennigan cut him off before he could complete his sentence. "Surely a grown woman, a teacher, should be expected to operate on a rational level at all times within the classroom."
Mr. Harris said quietly to Kate, "I'll explain another time, Kate."
"I thought I had made it clear that I was considering sending Kate back to private school because she can't get into trouble there. I'm afraid that the problems that are showing up here at school may just be the beginning."
"Yes and you are concerned because you aren't able to oversee Kate as closely as you would like to," continued Mr. Harris. " But I'm concerned about your sending Kate back to Edgehill for a few reasons. She is doing very well academically in a less structured school. She has begun to make friends here in Halifax. She is learning a great deal at that riding club about responsibility."
"Yes, Daddy, and at Edgehill I felt as if I didn't belong anywhere. Please don't put me somewhere where I can't ride or be part of a gang or have a best friend."
"Don't interrupt, Kate," Walter Hennigan frowned.
Mr. Harris went on, " At Edgehill she will learn to behave because she doesn't want to be punished, but from what I have gathered from talking with both of you, Kate is an intelligent and sensitive young woman who needs a judicious mix of freedom and authority. Edgehill is known for its rigidity, Mr. Hennigan. I think it will either break her spirit or turn her into someone who rebels for the sake of rebellion, and I suspect it will be the latter. You should reflect carefully whether you want to turn Kate into a renegade."
Kate looked at her father, "Edgehill's a jail, Daddy."
"Edgehill is the finest school in the province, perhaps in the country," her father snapped. "Thank you for your time, Mr. Harris." He rose from his chair and strode out the door. "Come along, Kate."


Alice was trembling so hard that she had to use both hands to lift the teacup to her lips. She couldn't remember making the tea or dismissing the girls. Just that terrible popping sound as if a giant vacuum seal had been broken. The same sound she'd heard all those years ago. She touched her face, half expecting her hands to come away wet. But no, her face was still dry and bumpy as it had been for nearly thirty-seven years.
Her mother had called up to her from the kitchen, "Alice, are you up? There's a ship in the harbour that's burning. Myrtle says another one rammed it awhile ago," and Alice had stopped getting dressed to look out the window.
Myrtle must have stopped in on her way to the textile mill where she worked a spinning machine. She'd been Alice's best friend till this year when she'd had to drop out of school to help the family. Alice had been a little envious of her sudden maturity, the high heels and makeup, while she was still a school girl wearing tunic and bloomers. They were still friends but no longer as close as they had been.
Jock was downstairs eating his breakfast of porridge. She'd better get a move on herself or she'd be in trouble for arriving after the bell. Just as she was about to turn away from the window, it had popped. Funny that it was just that popping sound and not something more impressive. As the glass exploded into her face in a shower of needle-like shards, she cried out and instinctively raised her hands to protect her eyes. The pain was terrible and she could see nothing. Blood streamed down her face and over her outstretched fingers.
Then she felt herself falling. She blacked out. When she came to, she was trapped under the bureau which had tilted up against the wall. Part of the roof had fallen in on top of the furniture and she could see sky through the hole. She wasn't blind after all.
She lay there trying to get her bearings and suddenly realized that the wallpaper was a deep rose. She and Mama had spent a weekend last summer stripping off the old yellowing paper in her bedroom, replacing it with fresh white paper scattered with pale pink rose sprigs. It took her a moment to realize that she was in the parlour. The floor must have collapsed. She tried moving her legs and arms to see how badly hurt she was. She couldn't feel one of her legs. It felt as if it had gone to sleep, but her arms were fine.
She could smell smoke, and then she saw the flames licking at the wooden bureau. She would have to get out of here or be burned to death. With a Herculean effort she pulled her body and her useless leg out into the room. Inch by inch, she dragged herself along the hot wooden floor boards. The door had been blown off and she could see where she must go.
She tried to look into the kitchen but the wood stove must have set it on fire and nothing was visible through the wall of black smoke. "Mama," she called. "Jock." No one responded. Then she heard a whimpering sound. She crawled toward it. Jock lay half in and half out of the burning kitchen. His clothing had been burned off him, his legs were broken and twisted, and his skin was black. She reached her hand out to him, but couldn't bring herself to touch his broken burned little body. The only part of him that still looked like her little brother was his eyes, and they were glazed with pain. She sat beside him, coughing as the choking smoke entered her lungs, and watched as the light in Jock's eyes went out.
The heat began to blister her hands and face, and she resumed her efforts to reach the door. She was almost there when she felt her strength give out. "I can't do it," she moaned.
Then she heard a male voice saying, "There's a girl in here, lads. I'll get her." She looked up and saw a bearded face. He picked her up as easily as if she were a child and carried her out into the street where he laid her on a wagon with three other people. All three had bloodied faces. One man looked as if he had been scalped. His eye sockets were empty and his right eyeball hung down and bumped against his cheek when he moved. She turned away from him feeling ill, and then wondered what her own face looked like. She looked down at herself for the first time and realized she was wearing only her underwear. It was December and she hadn't felt the cold.
Some more people were placed on the wagon and then it began to move through the broken streets. Alice didn't recognize her neighbourhood at all. Nothing looked the same. Houses had collapsed and the street looked as if a giant hand had ripped it up.
The hospital was crowded with people needing treatment. Doctors were operating in the corridors without anaesthetic. Alice saw a doctor approach one young woman and say, "You're well enough to help for awhile. Come with me." He led her over to a gurney. "We have to operate on his eyes and we've nothing to give him. You'll have to lie across his chest so that he can't move his arms. Can you do it?" he asked her.
"I'll try," she said quietly, and threw herself across the man. Kate held her hands over her ears but she couldn't close out the man's screams. She wondered how the young woman stood it.
When it was Alice's turn, she had sat there stoically as the doctor pulled out one sliver after another. "I've done my best to get them all," he said, "but I'm afraid you'll be living with a good many of them for some time. Some of them will work their way to the surface and need to be removed later, but others will just stay there and your body will build tissue around them."
"Am I ugly?" Alice asked him.
"Well your skin won't ever be as soft as it once was, I'm sure. But ugly? No. You'll only be ugly if you let yourself be. That will come from the inside. Right now you look like a girl who's been hurt and needs time to heal." He smiled at her and said, "Now I want to stitch up the cut on your eye."
Alice closed her eyes so that she would not see the needle and thread, but she jumped each time the needle pricked through the delicate skin. He seemed to take a very long time. "How big is the cut?" she asked.
"Only about an inch or so long but it takes a lot of stitches. You know that a good seamstress takes a lot of little stitches instead of a few big sloppy ones, don't you?" Kate tried to return his smile, but was just too weary.
Her leg was broken but she had to wait until the next day to have it set. By then she had become almost impervious to the horrors she saw all around her, and was numb even to her own pain. She kept asking if anyone had seen Martha or James Johnson, but no one had news for her. When she asked about neighbours, people would shake their heads and say, "Sorry. I just took him to the morgue that's been set up at Chebucto Road School," or "She's over at the Common but she's the only one left." Someone came and told her that Myrtle had been killed immediately as had many of the other girls working at the mill. Finally someone who worked with her dad down near the docks saw her lying there and came over. "Aren't you James Johnson's young lass?"
She nodded wordlessly and implored him with her eyes to tell her he was alive somewhere. He shook his head. "Sorry, Lass. James lived a few hours but he was just too broken to get better."
"My mother?"
"Almost everyone on Campbell Road and the streets leadin' up to it were killed, Lass. If she's found alive it'll be a miracle."
Alice bowed her head and cried. She felt the man's hand awkwardly patting her on the shoulder but didn't raise her head. After a while she looked up and realized she was alone.
Each time she remembered those few days in early December, the memory became less intense. At first, the pain and terror and heartbreak had been almost as vivid as when she'd first felt them. Now, all these years later, the memories flashed before her almost as if they were part of a news reel and she merely a bystander, not someone intimately involved. Like the pieces of glass still imbedded in her face, the memories had also been buried and encased by layers of protection. They were still there, but without the razor sharp edges.
There was a knock at the door and Mr. Harris walked into the room. "Are you all right, Miss Johnson?" he asked.
"I'm fine, Sir. I guess you heard about the pressure cooker from one of the girls."
"Yes. From Kate Hennigan when she came to the office. She said she made a joke and you became very upset."
"A joke?" Alice tried to remember. "I don't remember any joke."
"Something about the pressure cooker mishap being a miniature version of the Halifax Explosion?"
It began to come back to Alice. "Yes, I became very angry. I thought she was being insensitive; that she wanted to hurt me."
"How could she know, Miss Johnson?" Mr. Harris' voice was calm. "It probably never occurred to her."
"But my face. Surely she'd know." Alice's voice trailed off.
She recalled the words of the older teacher all those years ago. Her scars would fade in time. And they had. She remembered with absolute clarity the first time she looked at her face in the hospital mirror. It had been red and swollen. They'd had to cut away most of her hair because of the blistering, and her face and head were covered in suppurating scabs. And her eye. He'd said she wasn't ugly, but there was a jagged cut that pulled her eye down at the outer edge and dozens of black threads hung from the stitching. She had wept for what seemed like hours for the loss of her face.
She looked at Mr. Harris. "I've probably done that girl a disservice. I don't remember exactly what I said or did after the cooker blew up. It sounded exactly like the glass exploding into my face, and it was almost as if I were back there again. I've thought about it over the years, but that's the first time I've felt as if I were there."
He patted her awkwardly on the shoulder and said, "I'll speak to her and we'll just forget the matter, shall we?" Alice wondered why men were so clumsy when giving sympathy. She thought of the man who had told her about her father, and about Kjell's awkwardness with her. And then she sat straighter and resolutely put thoughts of Kjell from her. Those scars were still fresh and painful today.
She nodded, and said, "Thank you. I'd appreciate that."
He turned his attention to the mess in the kitchen, and said, "I'm going to cancel your classes this afternoon. I'll send the janitor in. You can tell him what to do and then why don't you go home and take it easy this afternoon?"
She looked at the principal gratefully. "I think I will. Thank you, Mr. Harris."


On the way to Camp Hill, Adele explained a bit about the men she'd be meeting. "Two of them are real veterans, Kate," she began. "Michael Wilson lost both legs in Normandy, and Samuel Witham suffered severe shell shock in the Second World War. The other two are men who were treated at the hospital after the Explosion, and they come around quite often to visit with the veterans."
"Were Mr. Wilson and Mr. Witham here during the Explosion?" Kate asked.
"Yes, but they were young and healthy enough afterwards to join up in 1940. Allan Crane was blinded in the Explosion, and Bill Grant was too old whenWorld War II began."
"I almost didn't come today," Kate blurted out.
"Don't be nervous. I'll introduce you to them and then I'll bring in tea and cookies to make it a little more friendly," Adele smiled. "You'll see; it'll be fine."
Kate explained that her reluctance had not been caused by nervousness, but by her father's decision to send her back to boarding school. Adele did her best to make Kate feel better, pointing out that Walter didn't always do what he threatened, and this would all likely blow over, and by the time they reached the hospital, Kate was feeling better than she had been since Friday.
After the introductions, Kate explained why and how she would be conducting the interview. She found herself stammering, and the three younger men all smiled at her in a kindly way. Samuel Witham, a small slight man with quite long grey hair and a wispy moustache, said in a gentle voice, "It's very nice of you to come and visit us. It's not often we see young people."
The youngest of the men, Michael Wilson, sat in a wheelchair, and Kate had to force her eyes away from the stumps that stuck straight out like two neatly wrapped packages. She tried to focus her attention on his face. He had grizzled red hair and masses of reddish freckles. I'll bet he looked a lot like Bobby Bairstow when he was a kid, Kate thought. His plaid shirt stretched across a heavy chest and the rolled up sleeves revealed muscular arms. "Hello, young lady," he grinned, "I'm Tank Wilson. The guys on my football team gave me the name when I was in high school."
Kate was grateful for his attempt to put her at ease, but it was still easier to look at Allan Crane who sat in a large chair, a white stick beside him, his eyes hidden behind dark glasses. He was tall and slim, almost elegant, but it was his hands which Kate found fascinating. They were long and shapely and the fingers were almost as delicate as those of a woman. He was about fifty, Kate guessed, and she did some quick arithmetic. He had lost his sight when he had been about her age. He gave her a warm smile and told her he hoped they would be able to help her with this project.
The fourth man, Bill Grant, was very old, and he said nothing. His skin was weathered looking and his eyes looked as if he had spent a lot of time squinting into the sun. His neck reminded Kate of a turkey's with its hanging folds. His face and hands were covered in those big brown liver spots, and he seemed to be weighing and judging her. Kate hoped she would pass his examination.
Kate asked her first question, 'What happened to you and what kind of injuries did you sustain when the Mont Blanc exploded?' and then waited as the four men sorted out their memories and began to speak. Samuel Witham was the first. "I was just heading off to work ... I was a teacher ... Our school started at 9:00, and when the children filed into the classroom it was very difficult to get them to sit down. They were all anxious to watch the burning ship." When he looked down, Kate's attention was drawn to his pale hands with their veins drawn as if in blue ink. They looked like they belonged to a man who seldom ventured outdoors.
Allan Crane interjected, "Most of the people in the North End were gawking out their windows."
Samuel Witham continued, "I let them look. Figured it would do no harm for them to start their lessons a few minutes later than usual." He covered his eyes with his right hand, and the pulse in his temple was visible. "What a terrible mistake. When the Explosion occurred, the windows crashed in on the children. I was at my desk. I wasn't hurt then, and even later when the floor collapsed, all I had was a broken arm." His voice was almost inaudible when he resumed. "Several of the children lost their sight, and all of them were badly cut around the face." His narrow shoulders began to heave under the cardigan he was wearing, and Kate found herself looking down at his neatly polished shoes. She had never seen a man cry before.
Allan Crane said matter of factly, "I was standing at a window watching the show too. I worked at the Shipyard as a hand. I was just a lad, seventeen. I'd been working at the Yard for three years, ever since I'd left school. When she blew, my eyes were shot full of glass fragments. Most of my mates were just blinded temporarily, but the doctors weren't able to save my sight."
Adele came in with a tray and set out the mugs and passed around the chocolate chip cookies. "How are you all getting along?" she asked genially.
"Just fine, Adele," Kate smiled. "Thanks."
The man in the wheelchair took a cookie and said between bites, "I wasn't hurt at all. I was eleven and riding my bike to school when the two ships collided. I stayed to watch for awhile ... seemed like more fun than going to school. The school bell rang and I considered making a dash for it, but decided I might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb, and waited to see what would happen. When she blew up there seemed to be two explosions a few seconds or minutes apart. Then weird things happened in the harbour and it was like a giant storm. Things were flying everywhere. I ducked down under a tree and just hung on."
"I was one of those things you saw flying everywhere." Bill Grant commented in a gravelly voice. I was working on one of the small craft in the harbour. My boat was blown right out of the water and landed a few hundred yards inland."
"My goodness," Kate said. "You must have been badly hurt."
"A few broken bones and a concussion," the old man said laconically. Kate wasn't sure whether he said so little because he didn't like her or whether he was always as curt, and she felt better when she saw his eyes crease into a smile. She realized with a start that he was the oldest person she had ever really talked to since she was a small girl living with the Hall's, and sharing Claire's grandparents. Perhaps that was why she felt less comfortable with him than with the others.
Kate explained about the journal assignment for English and how she wanted to explore their feelings right after the Explosion and then how those feelings had changed as time went on..
Allan Crane leaned forward, placing one long hand on the white cane, and said, "That's an easy one. It was absolutely terrifying not being able to see. I thought my life was over. I was seventeen. It's not easy to imagine things getting back to normal when you are a blind seventeen year old. I stayed pretty depressed for at least a year. My sister had been killed at the mill. My parents were both dead and the young ones too. A girl I'd been dating tried to cheer me up, but even she got fed up with me being down at the mouth all the time."
"I guess I was luckier than you," Bill Grant's old gravelly voice rumbled. "For the first few days I was unconscious and then when I came out of it I was all bandaged up and my legs were in traction, my arms in casts. But everyone else around me was in the same boat, and some were a lot worse off than me. I went from being unconscious to being on the mend, and I missed the really terrible fear and pain some people went through."
"Mr. Witham?" Kate asked after a few minutes of silence. "Can you tell me what it was like for you?" She wished she didn't feel as if she were intruding on the frail former teacher.
His voice was bleak. "I felt absolutely overwhelmed. It was like a great weight of sadness that didn't seem to lift. My wife and I had just gotten married and were expecting our first child. I couldn't even get excited about that."
"Did it get better?" Kate asked him.
He gave her a small cheerless smile. "I began to enjoy things again. But very slowly. And I still have terrible dreams. It saddens me to think about the waste of all those lives."
Tank Wilson remarked in a jocular tone, "Well, it's over now, Sam. No point in crying over spilt milk."
Kate was somewhat relieved when the legless man went on to talk about the immediate reactions of an eleven year old who wasn't damaged. "For me," he started, "it was all very exciting. No school. Halifax had never been as interesting." Naturally as the days went on I began to hear of people who were badly injured or killed. The excitement wore off and reality set in, but I don't think I was touched very deeply. Maybe I was too young ... and too lucky."
"Could you explain how you survived?" Kate swallowed and took the plunge. "Mr. Wilson, you weren't hurt when the ship exploded, but you lost your legs in the war. You must have been awfully unhappy. How did you get over it?"
"Yes, well losing my legs to a grenade was tough. I guess when that happened I did what the Explosion survivors had to do."
"What was that, Mr. Wilson?" Kate leaned towards him. "You seem really happy."
Tank Wilson thought for a moment or two and then said, "I had to say to myself 'What can a legless man do with his life?' 'What is gone forever?' 'What do I have left?'"
Allan Crane turned to Kate and said, "And he found there were lots of things a he could do, didn't you Tank?"
"Yes I did. I live here at the hospital, but I earn money writing for The Chronicle-Herald. So one thing a man doesn't need legs for is writing. The legs were gone forever, and with them the long walks and the games on the Common. And women aren't too interested in a man without legs, so that's gone too. But what was left was my brain and my hands and all the things I can do with them. I write about my memories and the folks around here enjoy the jokes I tell. When you can't be running around being busy you find your brain becomes the strongest muscle in your body." Kate looked up from her notes and nodded.
Bill Grant said thoughtfully, "I guess I said 'That's the worst thing that can happen to you, and you lived to tell the tale, so get on with it now."
Sam Witham spoke hesitantly. "I don't think I ever got over it. I just kept trying to be a better person, someone who would make sure those in his care were safe. That's why I signed up in 1940."
The commonsense voice of Allan Crane broke in, "When you hit rock bottom there's only one way to go and that's up. Else you die. I decided to make the best of things. I decided to learn to do things blind people can do better than other people."
"What kind of things, Mr. Crane?"
"When you can't see, your hearing becomes much more acute. I liked music so I decided to get training as a piano tuner. I'm the best in the business now."
"And you should hear him play!" said Michael Wilson. "He comes over here every weekend and entertains us."
"None of you decided to run away, did you?" Kate asked them. "I think I might have been tempted to do that."
Allan Crane said firmly, "No sense in that. My sister's best friend lost her whole family and her boyfriend, and she figured her life was over. And she lost her looks. She'd been a real pretty lass with black curly hair and big brown eyes before the Explosion." Like Miriam, thought Kate.
"What did she do?"
"She went ahead and got herself a living. Became a cooking teacher. But she lost the joy. I tried to get her to do things. Still do. Even tried to get her to come here with me to sing. No luck. It's as if she put herself into a prison. Solitary confinement."
Kate's eyes narrowed. "What was her name, Mr. Crane?"
"Alice. Alice Johnson."
Kate suppressed a gasp and looked at Adele rocking quietly in her chair, just beyond the perimeter of the group.
Bill Grant said quietly, "Sometimes you have to close things off. Sometimes the only way to deal with the loss of the ones you love is to seal up that part of your heart. My wife and children were killed instantly. I decided to get on with the rest of my life and forget about them. It doesn't hurt none if you never think about it. His voice trailed off. "But maybe I could do that because I'd already had a full life. Maybe if I'd been a youngster who'd never experienced marriage and a family, I'd have felt I'd missed out on something."
"I don't think I've sealed anything off. I feel as if I'm perfectly satisfied with the life I've got, and it feels pretty full to me," laughed Allan Crane.
"I just have a couple more questions," said Kate. "The first one is 'Is there anything you'd like me to understand about what happened that day?'" She paused and then in a slightly louder voice, asked, "Mr. Crane?"
"It was just one event in our lives, and some people were destroyed by it, but others were strengthened," said the slim blind man thoughtfully.
Tank Wilson swivelled his wheelchair around so that he was facing her. Kate turned to him, "Sir?"
"I think people need to know that bad things happen, and only some of them can be avoided. You take the hand you're dealt and you play it the best way you can."
Kate looked at the school teacher. "Mr. Witham?"
"I think young people, well people generally, need to realize that people can be damaged in many ways by the terrible things in life. Physical damage is only one kind of harm."
Bill Grant said firmly, " I'd like you to think about the fact that it was the poor of Halifax who were hardest hit by this disaster. They were the ones who had to live near the harbour. The rich folks living in the South End were protected by Citadel Hill."
"There's something else," continued Samuel Witham. "Most people were curious and that was their undoing. Some people acted with great courage. Others were cowardly. The Explosion brought out our essential natures."
"What's your last question, Lass?" asked Tank Wilson. "I'm getting hungry for lunch and Adele's cookies aren't enough to stave off the hunger pangs."
Kate laughed. "It's a quick one, Mr. Wilson. What's the one thing you miss most?"
Michael Wilson released the brake on his chair, and said firmly, "My legs. No matter how successfully you build your life, you'll always miss the thing that's missing. But it doesn't have to be a war or an explosion that takes it away from you. And now, if you'll excuse me, I'll be off to get my lunch."
"Thank you for your time, Mr. Wilson. I appreciate it."
"He's right. Very few people will have perfectly happy lives with no losses. You might not lose your legs or your eyesight or your face, but you'll lose something you value. The trick is to face up to the loss and not to try to pretend that it hasn't happened or that there is no life afterwards." Mr. Crane smiled then, and said, "I'll always miss being able to see. I'd like to see whether your face is as pretty as your voice. And I'd really like to watch television. I'll die without seeing that new fangled invention everyone says is magic."
Sam Witham said, "I miss my job as a teacher. After the Explosion I couldn't go back to it because I felt I'd failed my children. And then after the war I wasn't fit for any job. I know I haven't been very cheerful. I'd like to have been as strong as the others, but maybe that's something you have to understand, Kate. Not everyone is strong enough to survive intact. Good luck with your project, my dear. And if you have some time, I hope you'll come back and show me some of your assignments."
"I will, Mr. Witham. And thank you for being so honest with me." There were tears in Kate's eyes when she turned to Mr. Grant. "Is there one thing you'll always miss, Sir?"
"My wife and my two kids, Kate. No matter how tightly we seal away the memories, they don't die. Maybe Allan is right. Maybe we should open things up and let the air get at them. You've done that for me today. I thank you." He put out a gnarled hand to her, and she took it and said, "Thank you, Sir. I won't forget today."


Kate did not wake up on Sunday morning until her father called her. She'd tossed and turned all night but couldn't remember the monsters that had torn her bed apart. She wandered into the kitchen looking sleepy and said, when she saw the clock, "But it's only 8:00. How come you woke me up, Dad?"
"I'm going out in an hour or so, and I wanted to have breakfast with you before I left. " He motioned to her to sit down. Kate took a sip of the orange juice sitting in front of her and reached into a blue bowl to get one of the boiled eggs. "We need to talk about some things," he went on.
Kate felt her stomach slide down and its contents push upwards. The juice burned her throat. "What things?"
"I got home at midnight and you were still out. Where were you?"
"At Jane's party. I told you about it, Daddy."
"What time did you leave the party?"
"About midnight. That's usually when things break up. I go to house parties every weekend, and you've never said anything before. What's going on?"
"Nothing is going on, young lady. But nothing better be going on with you either." He smeared marmalade on a slice of rye bread. "I want you to start coming home as soon as the party lets out. It doesn't take half an hour to get home from anywhere in this city."
"Jeez, Dad. Anyone with a car ends up driving a bunch of people home after a party. It takes a while to get a carload home."
"You can start being the one they drop off first."
"I can't do that if my boyfriend's driving. Everyone would think we were having a fight." Kate could hear her own whiney tone and determined to sound more adult.
"I don't care what they think. You are to get home immediately after these parties or you won't go to any more parties. Period."
"That's not fair." Kate's throat was tight and the words squeaked out.
"It is perfectly fair. The second thing is your room. From now on I want it spotless when you leave for school and spotless when you climb into bed. It's time you learned how easy it is to maintain a neat room if you never get it into a mess in the first place."
"Everybody's room gets messy, Daddy. You should see my friends' rooms."
"I don't care about anyone else's room. Your room will be neat from now on. No arguments."
Kate felt like saying, "What else? Is my whole life supposed to become regimented? And what will you do if I don't get home at 12:05? Or if I don't keep my room perfect? What then, Daddy? Is Edgehill the next stop?" But she didn't say a word.
"One last thing, Kate. I don't want to hear one word about you from anyone ... not Mr. Zwicker ... not Mrs. Stockwell ... not Joanie ... and especially not Mr. Harris."
"You make it sound like everyone hates me," Kate was close to tears. "I don't get into trouble with people."
"You seem to have been in trouble at school several times in the last two weeks, Kate. It will stop, now."
"But Daddy, Miss Johnson got upset the other day because she remembered the Explosion, and she must have thought I was mocking her, but I just found out that she was hurt then."
"You are not making a great deal of sense. How do you know she was in the Explosion?"
"One of Adele's veterans told me on Saturday."
"I thought you were riding on Saturday. Where were you?"
"Adele took me over to Camp Hill in the morning and I interviewed the men, and then we had lunch at her place."
" I told you not to see Adele again. What do I have to do, Kate? Beat you?" Walter Hennigan's voice was hard.
"Adele's my friend, Daddy. You broke up with her, but I didn't."
"You will not see her again. Is that clear?"
Kate nodded her head silently. "I'm going out to Pam's. We're doing our homework together. I'll come in with her in the morning. Is that okay?"
"Leave her number on the kitchen table."
Kate got up from the table. Her father asked, "Aren't you going to finish your breakfast?"
"I'm not very hungry," Kate said, and left the room. Within half an hour her room had been straightened and she had packed school clothes and a tooth brush, and was on her way out the door.
"Aren't you going to say good bye?" her father asked.
"Good bye, Daddy," Kate mumbled.
Kate yook her seat on the bus. Prince's Lodge, where Pam lived, was too small to be called a village. It was just woods, a few houses and the remnants of the estate the Prince of Wales had built for his love. On Friday, she had asked Pam if she could come out to her place to give her brain some breathing room so she could get started on the creative assignments, and Pam had suggested hiking together and taking their notebooks along. Kate had slept over at Pam's several times since grade seven, and each time she'd felt completely removed from the city and everything going on at home. She was glad she had arranged this trip. She hated fighting with her father, and even when he didn't make the threat about Edgehill, she knew it was still there, hanging over her head. It would be good to get completely away from the problem. She gave a wry grin. When in doubt, run away. Boy those old guys would sure give her a hard time about that if they knew.
She didn't know how she was going to handle her father's edict not to see Adele. Maybe Joanie could help. He listened to her. It seemed that the people she liked best were all female. She spent more time with girls than anyone else. And not just her friends, but their moms and her dad's girlfriends, too.
Kate thought about that. Pam was the school chum she found easiest to work with. The two girls seemed to spark one another's creativity. Mim was her very best friend. She could say anything to Miriam and she was most comfortable with her, but she and Miriam were very different from one another. Jill was a good buddy and they partied, rode together and went to the Waegwoltic Club in the summer. Shona was easy to have as a partner and pleasant but they seldom talked about anything important.
And Rick? Well Rick was a boy. He wasn't really interested in the things she did at Cornwallis, and she couldn't be as open with him as she was with her girl friends. She'd tried to tell him about this project and why it was becoming so important to her, but either she wasn't very good at explaining or he wasn't very good at listening.
Last night at Jane's party, she'd started to tell him about the interview. He'd said, "God, Kate. You're dancing with me, and all you can think about are old men with white canes and stumps. Forget those useless old guys." And he had pulled her closer and placed her arms around his neck, his hands moving up her sides as they danced in the darkened room. Kate felt uncomfortable but said nothing. Later when they'd been parked, Kate had made the mistake of bringing up something about Miss Johnson being damaged in the Explosion and losing everything, and Rick had said, "Do you want to neck or do you want to spend the whole night talking about school?" Kate had stopped talking, but wasn't really sure she wanted to. That was the trouble with boys. They were really only interested in one thing ... themselves. And maybe, Kate thought, I do get too involved. This was one school assignment that she was finding increasingly difficult to turn off.
She and Adele had talked about it all during lunch. Kate had been fascinated by what the four men had to say. She guessed there was nothing really new about the idea of accepting your fate and making the best of it or of focussing on your strengths rather than your weaknesses, the things that seemed to work for the two happiest men. And there was also nothing earth shattering about the idea that some people are too weak to survive emotionally, or that some people protect themselves by sealing off memories or closing themselves off from the world. But it was the first time Kate had thought about these things.
The bus had left the city and was travelling along the Bedford Highway. Bedford Basin was on their right, and on Kate's side, the road was edged by woods. She glanced over at the grey expanse of water and then at the bare branches silhouetted against the sombre sky and shivered.
Someone had said you didn't need a catastrophe to lose things that matter, and Kate was beginning to realize that the thoughts these men had shared with her were as pertinent to her own life as they were to lives lived during the two wars.
What had she lost forever? What remained? What strengths could she develop? What hand had she been dealt, and how could she make the best of it? Was she inherently a survivor or was she someone who would not find the necessary resources within herself?
When she began to open up her own life and examine it in these terms, she found herself doing what Mr. Grant did. It was much easier to seal off the part of her that longed for a mother. He was right. What you don't remember can't hurt you. Maybe one day she'd be able to open that up for scrutiny, but not today.
She thought about Miss Johnson and all the others who'd been injured by the glass, and decided to play with the idea of glass for her poems. By the time the bus driver called out her stop, she'd found some interesting parallels between glass and ice, and between Miss Johnson and ice ... and then her mind had begun to look for contrasts and she'd come up with fire and ice ... and how the two had been connected during the Explosion.
They passed the round music house that the Prince of Wales had built, and Kate made her way to the front of the bus. When the bus stopped, she jumped down and waved to the driver. Her pack on her back, she trudged up the hill to Pam's house, and knocked on the door. Pam's mom was dressed in jeans and was making sandwiches in the bright airy kitchen. "Hi Kate. How are you? We haven't seen you since Sammy chased you with the garter snake. We figured you'd been scared away forever."
Kate smiled at Mrs. Robinson and said, "It's good to be back out here. I'd almost forgotten what really clean air smelled like."
"What are you two working on today?"
Just as Kate was about to answer, Pam came shuffling into the kitchen wiping sleep out of her eyes. Her short blonde curly hair was dishevelled and her cheeks had that little kid flushed quality that Kate associated with Rick's nephew and niece when they awakened from a nap. "We're going to gather images for poems, Mom," she said in a sleepy voice, zipping up her jeans and yawning.
"I hope the fresh air wakes you up," laughed Kate, "or the poetic images will be pretty lazy ones."
"Have you been making us a lunch, Mom?" asked Pam. "You're a sweetie."
"Don't forget to eat something before you head out, Pam." said her mother tousling her already unkempt hair. "Or at least take an apple with you." She got two from the fridge and handed them to Kate, and put the lunch into Pam's pack.
"There. You're ready to go." She gave Pam a hug as the two girls headed out the door.
"You've got a nice mom," Kate said.
"Yeah. I kinda like her too," Pam agreed.
"What kind of ideas have you come up with so far?" Kate asked as they strode through the woods kicking up dry brown leaves and eating their apples.
"Well, I'm probably in the wrong place for it," Pam said, " but I think I'm going to try and come up with images connected with water and drowning, and somehow work them in with what people must have felt when the Titanic sank ... you know, fear, anger, sorrow ..." She turned to Kate. "What about you?"
"A lot of people were hurt by glass, and I think of pain as hot. But ice is like glass except that it's cold ... and people use ice to stop pain. I don't know. It's all kind of tossing around in my head, and mixed up in all of it is something one of the men I interviewed said."
"I didn't know you'd interviewed anyone. How did that go?"
"It was great. They told me a lot, and they were really open with me." Kate smiled thinking about it. "Anyway, one of them talked about how people seal off memories. If you wanted to take away pain and seal off a memory, maybe you'd kind of become an ice woman." She broke off and laughed. "This probably sounds crazy, eh?"
Pam was thoughtful, and then she said, "No, it sounds fine, and you've given me an idea. I think I might be able to do something with. The idea of an iceberg and so much of it being hidden. People are like that too. You only see the tips of their icebergs."
"Well we've both got ice on our minds, and today is sure nippy, so maybe we'll get those images we want," Kate laughed. "Why don't we try free associating starting with the ice?"
"Think of a different letter," Pam said. "Lifeless."
"Loveless, glistening."
"Glittering, glaring," continued Pam.
At the top of a steep rise, they sat down on a fallen log to eat their sandwiches. Kate loved the unkempt nature of Hemlock Ravine Park. Except for the heart-shaped pond that the Prince of Wales had built, it felt almost like untamed wilderness. The paths were rocky and often steep, making sturdy boots a necessity. Pens clasped in numb fingers, they jotted down their ice words and shared their lists. "The glass did terrible things to people," said Kate. "Did you know that Miss Johnson was one of the Explosion victims?"
"No wonder she's so miserable," said Pam, her mouth full.
"I'm going to try to take the list of words and mix in the idea of glass and what those people must have felt. What are you going to do next with your list, Pam?"
"I'm not sure yet. But let's get moving before we freeze to this log."
They hiked for another half hour in a circular route that took them back to Pam's house via the pond. "All the rocks here are mossy, not at all like Point Pleasant Park," Kate mused. And then the pond came into view. "Look, there are still ducks on it."
Pam rummaged around in her pockets and withdrew the bag containing the crusts from her sandwich. "I always feed them something when I come by."
"I wish I'd saved something for them," Kate said. "Gosh you're lucky to live out here. I'd give anything to have a horse and live in the country."
"It's a pain when you want to do something with your friends," Pam reminded her. "My parents can't always take me places, and not too many kids feel like coming out here by bus very often. There are times when I'd give anything to live in the city."
Kate didn't voice the thought that life was seldom perfect for anyone. Instead she said, "I'm starved again. Is it nearly supper time?"
Pam laughed. "Yeah, I think Mom's making baked beans and she's got some great hot apple cider."
That evening both girls worked till bedtime on their poems, and Kate completed three pieces. The first was called "Ice" and was just the images pushed around until they were in some kind of order. She'd had fun placing them on the page. The last two lines:
Glass --- searing pain
Ice --- cool relief
gave her an idea for the second poem which she called "Cool Relief". In this one she tried to imagine what it must have been like for Miss Johnson to lose her looks and to seal herself off in ice. In the third one, fire and ice were contrasted as she showed the Explosion's effect on people.
When she read them, Pam's reaction was, "I like them. You should call them 'An Explosion of Fire and Ice.'"
"Oh I like that," said Kate. "Thanks, and thanks for the whole day, Pam. It's been great."
Mrs. Robinson's voice gently curled its way up the open staircase. "Time for you two poets to turn out the lights now. 6:00 comes early and you'll find it hard enough to get up before the wood stove's had a chance to heat up this place."
The two called down their good nights and snuggled in under the duvets Pam's parents had brought from England. I really wish I had one of these, Kate thought as she drifted off.

Before Kate knew it, the week had slipped away and it was already Saturday afternoon. She turned on the water, sprinkled in some bath salts, and then stripped off her riding clothes. She took the smelly jodphurs and boots out to the balcony off the kitchen, and hoped that they wouldn't be drizzled or snowed on. The sky was an ominous grey, and she shivered in her blue chenille housecoat.
When she opened the bathroom door, she was immediately enveloped in a cloud of fragrant steam. As she sank gratefully into the warm water, her mind drifted from the morning at the stables to the party at Glenn's tonight to how she'd spend the afternoon.
Suddenly she sat upright. She hadn't heard from Rick since last Saturday. She thought back over the past couple of weeks. Everything had been fine the weekend of Jill's party except that she'd been grounded on the Saturday. He'd sounded kind of faraway on Remembrance Day when he'd called and she'd told him she was going hiking with her dad. What had happened last weekend? Friday they'd gone to the Paramount and she'd had to shoo him off because she wanted to watch the movie. She'd laughed and said he was getting to be one of those international guys ... Russian hands and Roman fingers. He hadn't thought it was funny and had dropped her off right after the show. Saturday they'd gone to Jane's party and he'd been ticked off because she was talking about the Explosion. Sunday she'd been at Pam's. Was he mad because she'd been busy? Why hadn't they seen each other last night? Oh yeah, last night the guys had been planning a real game in Truro. He played hockey with the guys and she hardly ever saw him during the week because of school and tutoring. Was it because she was always available when he called before? How come she hadn't noticed till now?
Girls were a lot easier to understand than boys. She and Mim never wondered if they were still best friends. Pam and Shona never got jealous when she spent time with other people. And it was the same with the girls in the gang. She wondered how she was going to sort this one out. The water was getting cool and Kate pulled the plug. Aware of her father's new rules, she left the bathroom tidy and went into her room to get dressed in a pair of jeans and a navy fisherman's sweater. Then she did her hair and contemplated calling Rick. She felt a sick lump in her stomach at the prospect, but decided that the old guys would say she should face up to the worst rather than pretending there was no problem. Yeah, she thought, but easier said than done.
She put off the phone call until she'd taken her dry cleaning to the shop. Then she procrastinated a little longer while she pulled out clothes for the party. Finally, at four o'clock, she picked up the receiver and dialled Rick's number. His mother answered, and said, "Gee, Kate, he's not here. Bev might know where he is. Why don't you give her a call, dear?"
Kate thanked her and called Bev who said, "He's not here, Kate. I haven't seen him since last night. Has something happened with you two?"
"I don't really know. Why?"
"Because he came over to babysit last night with some other people."
"Who?" Kate asked, not wanting to hear the answer Bev might give.
"Buddy and his girl friend and a friend of hers. I can't remember her name. There was a long pause, and then Bev asked gently, "Are you okay, Kate? Do you want to come over here to talk?"
Kate waited until she could keep her voice steady and then said, "No, I'm okay, but thanks. She wasn't sure she could handle anyone being kind just now. She hung up and called Jill. "Do you know what's going on with Rick?" she asked as soon as she heard her friend's voice.
"Just rumours," Jill said. "Some girl in grade ten ... Mary Something ... Not anyone I know. I think Buddy introduced them. She's got a bit of a reputation."
"What kind of reputation?"
"She's supposed to be easy, you know, necks and pets with just about anyone," Jill explained.
"Is he taking her to your party tonight, do you know?"
"I can find out if you like. I'll call Bud."
"Would you, Jill?"
"Sure. I'll call you right back."
Ten minutes later Kate had her answer. Rick was planning to take Kate to the party and Bud figured they'd either get back together or they'd split up tonight. "Thanks, Jill. I guess I'll see you tonight, then. She hung up the phone slowly.
Well, was she going to be Miss Sweetness and Light and show Rick why he shouldn't break up with her or was she going to be honest with him and tell him she had important things in her life too? What would the old guys say? They'd say get it all out in the open so that you can see what you've lost and what you still have left. Then they'd tell her to make the best of things, to be strong. She wasn't sure she was ready to run the risk of losing him. She liked having a boyfriend.
She took another look at the clothes she'd laid out for the party, and evaluated them on the basis of sex appeal. That girl in grade ten probably had bigger breasts than she had. Nearly everybody did. And she went to the same school as Rick. They could go to school dances and they'd know everyone. Another little voice reassured her, "But she doesn't ride.. Yeah, but how often did Rick ride now anyway? The phone rang, interrupting her aimless speculation.
Rick's voice sounded different, but maybe it was just her imagination. "Hi, Kate. I just called to see if you wanted me to pick you up tonight."
"Sure, what time?" She could barely breathe, and her heart sounded louder than her words.
"Seven," he responded and said he'd see her then, hanging up before she had a chance to say anything else.
She pulled on a jacket and ran over to Miriam's house, hoping to talk to her before they started their dinner. Mrs. Stockwell answered her knock at the kitchen door, and said, "We're just about to eat, dear. Would you like to join us? It's not a very fancy supper. Wallace's away this evening, but there's enough if you'd like to stay." Kate contemplated the offer and then refused it saying she would have to leave as soon as she ate. "Well you have to eat somewhere. Why not here?"
"Okay, thanks, Mrs. Stockwell," Kate responded.
Miriam came into the kitchen at that moment and said, "What are you doing here? I thought you were going to a party tonight."
"I am, but I wanted to talk to you before I went."
"Is it okay if we eat quickly and then I walk Kate home, Mom?" Miriam asked.
"All right. But I want you home by seven, Miriam."
Dinner was a boisterous affair. Wayne ate at least twice as much as any of the girls, and Mrs. Stockwell commented that the girls spent so much time chattering that Wayne was getting all the food. "It has nothing to do with our talking, Mom. Wayne has a tape worm," Donna said. "He certainly seems to be unfillable since he started high school," Mrs. Stockwell agreed.
Mrs. Stockwell nodded to Miriam's silent question and the two girls tucked warm tea biscuits into their pockets and slipped out before the others had finished. "It's cold," shivered Miriam, and they ran the block and a half to Kate's house to keep warm.
While Kate was getting dressed, Miriam listened to her story. "What would you do, Mim?" Kate asked.
"I guess I'd ask him straight out why he had another girl at Bev's," said Miriam matter of factly. "I wouldn't want to be going steady with someone who was cheating on me."
"And what if he says he doesn't want to go steady any more?"
"Well then, you find someone else."
"It's not that easy. You don't just pick boys off the street, you know."
"There are lots of boys at Cornwallis who'd like to date you, but you haven't even looked at the boys at school since you started dating Rick."
"They're just kids, Mim."
"So are we."
"I really like him, Mim."
"I know, but you also like going out with someone who goes to QEH and who's old enough to drive."
"Maybe I should just be nice tonight and not get him mad, and then go necking at the park, and not talk about school."
"Are you always going to jump when he calls and says he wants to see you even if you've planned something with me or Pam or Adele? "
"Well, no," Kate said.
"Are you going to just talk about what interests him from now on?" Miriam continued relentlessly. "And how are you going to go necking now that your father says you have to come straight home?"
Kate put her hands to her ears. "Enough, enough. I'll try to do what you and the old guys want."
"What old guys?" asked Miriam.
"Adele's vets. They say the best way to deal with things is to face up to them even if it means facing up to losing something important."
"They're right," Miriam said flatly. "And now I've got to go. Good luck. Call me tomorrow and tell me what happened. Or better still, come to church tomorrow. You haven't been for the past three weeks."
Kate said she'd try and closed the door behind her.

When Rick pulled up, Kate was waiting at the curb. She felt more uncomfortable tonight than she had the first time they'd gone out. Rick was unusually quiet. Probably thinking about last night ... necking with Mary ... and wishing he were with her, Kate decided. She tried a few times to break the silence, but each time found herself weighing each word, and swallowing it unuttered. This is going to be a great evening, she thought.
She asked how the game had gone the night before. Rick looked uncomfortable and answered her in as few words as possible. "I didn't play. Bev needed me to babysit." Kate couldn't bring herself to ask the obvious question: 'Why didn't you call me?' and she spent a few minutes musing about why it was so easy to say whatever was on your mind when everything was going fine, and so damned hard when you really needed to know what was going wrong.
Then she noticed a hair clip she'd never seen before lying on the floor mat, and
considered asking about it, but couldn't think how to bring it up without either sounding like a suspicious wife or forcing Rick to lie. 'Whose hair clip is this?' she tried mentally. What would she say if he said it belonged to Selwyn's girl friend? End of scenario. She tried again. 'I see you've had another girl in the car. Did she lose her hair clip when you were necking?' He'd blow his stack and deny it. The only way seemed to be Miriam's way, but she was saved from having to ask that direct question by their arrival at Kaye Street.
She did ask,"Are we going to ignore each other all night?"
Rick looked at her and said uncertainly, "I hope not," and took her mittened hand in his. By the time they had said their hellos and gotten rid of their coats, Kate was feeling more at ease. The first person she saw when she walked into the rec room was Jill, and she slipped away from Rick to sit with her. "Well, have you found out anything?" Jill asked.
"Nothing you hadn't already told me," Kate said. My friend Miriam says I should ask him about her. What do you think?"
"I'd see how things went before I made any waves," Jill said, "but you do what you want."
"I just want the whole problem to go away," Kate said with a rueful laugh. "But the old men won't let me take the easy route out."
"What in God's name are you talking about?" asked Jill. Some of the other girls had joined them and Kate told them about her old men.
"Have you seen the photograph that hangs over our piano?" asked Jill.
"I don't think so," Kate replied.
"What photograph?" asked Janet.
"Come and see," she said, and led the girls upstairs. Taking them over to a framed sepia photograph, she explained that all of Kaye Street from the harbour to Gottingen had been destroyed during the Explosion. The house in the photograph had withstood the blast but had burned to the ground immediately afterwards. "Tell them about Uncle Jack's house, Mom. Kate's studying the Explosion."
Mrs. Daley pointed to the gracious old frame home and said, "That's the Rankin House. I was born in that house. We used to travel everywhere in that black buggy."
"Who are all the people on the front porch?" asked Kate.
"My parents and me, and Auntie Hilda who lived with us."
"You look so cute in the frilly white dress," Janet said.
"When was the picture taken?" asked Kate.
Mrs. Daley looked closely at the small figure in the photograph and said, "It must have been about 1908."
"So, you must have been a teenager when the Explosion occurred," Kate said. "What was it like?"
Mrs. Daley described the morning's events, and then said, "We were lucky. We went to family in Massachusetts and didn't have to live through the aftermath. Most people were not as fortunate."
"Didn't Grandpa stay here?" asked Jill.
"Yes," her mother responded." He was a doctor and worked day and night, helping the wounded. It was a terrible time."
When they returned to the party the girls were still asking Kate questions. "I wish our teachers would give us stuff like that," said Janet. "History is memorizing dates and writing old exam essays to practise for the provincial exams. Enjoy it this year. As soon as you go up to QEH, the fun will be over."
"What fun?" asked Rick when he came to stand behind Kate.
"History assignments you enjoy. Kate's doing something on the Explosion that sounds like a whole lot more fun than explaining the causes of the Seven Years War," Jill said.
"Don't tell me you're boring people with that stuff again, Kate."
"And what were you boring the guys with, Rick?" Kate asked tartly.
The tips of Rick's ears reddened and he said, "Let's dance." Kate followed him out onto the dance floor that had been created in the centre of the room. Along the walls were couches and chairs that had seen better days and were now relegated to the basement, and several couples were cuddled up together on them. The overhead light had been turned off but some of the table lamps were still lit. Rick moved his hand around to place it on her chest and Kate pushed him away. "What's wrong with you?" he demanded.
"I don't want to get a reputation for being easy," said Kate. "Not like Mary What's-her- name."
"So that's it." Rick led her over to a quiet corner where a bowl of chips and a container of dip sat on an arborite table.
"Why did you go out with her?" Kate asked. Her face felt rigid and the words seemed to push themselves out in spite of her. She wanted to scream at him, but she held herself in check.
"Because you were always busy. If you weren't with your dad, you were working on that damned project. And even when we were together you weren't really there."
"You play hockey and have tutoring. And I don't go out with someone else behind your back."
"You don't even want me touching you any more," Rick said in a low voice.
"Oh come on, Rick. Just in public places."
"The park wasn't a public place. All you wanted to do was talk about that old witch cooking teacher. How would you like it if I did that? He was looking more hurt than angry as the words tumbled out.
Kate's face clouded, and she made an attempt to explain. "Look, I've got a lot on my mind. Dad's coming down really hard on me. I might even end up back at Edgehill. She paused. "And this project you're so mad about is helping me sort things out." She looked up at him, her forehead furrowed, as she tried to make him understand. "We never had to be together all the time. I thought you liked it that way too."
"Yeah, well those other things are starting to take up the weekends too, " Rick replied just as Jean came over and said, "What are you two being so serious about. We're going to have a game to get everyone up and dancing."
Rick gave Kate a hug and said, "Let's get the game going. The sooner everybody's up and dancing, the sooner we can dance together ourselves."
Around 11:00 Kate whispered in Rick's ear, "Can we leave a little early?"
Rick pulled away from her so that he could see her face. "Why?"
"I have to get home right after midnight from now on."
Rick scowled. "Oh, great. What's next, Kate? No more babysitting. No parking ever again?"
"Is that the only reason you go out with me, Rick?" Kate burst out. "You don't care about any of the things I care about. You don't even ride much any more."
"Maybe two years is too big a difference, Kate," Rick said as if from a great distance. "Maybe we better end it now."
"Fine," Kate managed before her voice betrayed her. "If that's what you want," and she removed the ring with the adhesive tape wrapped around it, placed it in his hand, and fled.
Jill found her in the bathroom a few minutes later. "Are you okay?"
"Well, you were right," Kate said, her lip quivering. "He wants someone who's easy."
"Do you want me to drive you home or do you want to stay?" Jill asked.
"I want to go home," Kate said in a tight voice.
The two girls drove home in silence, the radio playing "Let Me Go Lover" until Kate said, "Do you mind if I turn her off?"
Jill said gently, "Call me tomorrow. Rick may wake up wondering what he's done."
It was 11:30 when Kate let herself into the apartment. Her father and Joanie jumped up from the living room couch, and Kate noted before she went into her own room that Joanie was hurriedly tugging her sweater down.
"Are you all right, Kate?" Joanie called to her through the bedroom door.
Kate's reply was a muffled affirmative, and Joanie hesitantly opened the door. "Are you sure?"
"No, but there's nothing you can do to help," Kate told her. "Thanks anyway."
"Boy trouble?" Joanie asked.
"Want to talk about it?"
"Uh uh, not right now. Thanks," Kate mumbled.
Joanie gave her a hug, and left, closing the door quietly behind her, and Kate was quite alone in her neat room with the collection of porcelain horses. She snuggled under her covers, the questions, 'What's gone?' ' What do I still have?' tumbling around in her head like flies buzzing and bumping up against a window with no way out. Kate went to sleep, wishing she felt stronger.


The first week after their break-up was a tough one. Kate went to church with Miriam the first Sunday, but Reverend Stockwell's words went unheard, and her prayers were pleas to get Rick back. She made bargains with God as she had as a little girl when she'd wanted her parents to reconcile. She'd go to church every Sunday if He'd just make Rick phone. She'd put her whole allowance on the collection plate if she got him back. She'd even join the choir if they'd have her. After church she re-lived the party with Miriam. When she got home, Jill called, and they talked for an hour until even Kate was sick of the subject. And all week, the weather was as dismal as her mood. For every tear Kate shed, the heavens dropped buckets on Halifax. Pathetic fallacy, Miss Cole called it, and Kate contemplated the origins of the term. She was sure a pathetic case, and the weather was certainly miserable too, but fallacy? She guessed Miss Cole was right, it was a mistake to think that the gods, any of them, cared enough about piddly little human problems to make the weather mirror their moods and concerns. At any rate, Kate's prayers were not answered, and she saw nothing of Rick all week. The rain kept her away from the stable except on lesson days when Miss Winter taught them about stable management and equine physiology. She missed riding almost as much as she missed Rick.
On the plus side, she discovered that after the first few days she was able to forget Rick by working on her creative writing assignments. She began to realize that she might have lost Rick but she had gained time, productive time. If a catastrophe really did bring out the essential nature of people as Mr. Witham had said, then Kate's essential nature was strong and creative, and that was a pretty nice thing to realize about yourself, she decided.
But she also learned first hand the truth in Mr. Crane's assertion that you never stop missing things that are important. Although she could remove herself for hours at a time, a song on the radio, a glimpse of a beige DeSoto on the street, or the ringing of the phone could make her heart race, only to fall leadenly a moment later.
She wrote a story about a girl who lost her looks and then her boyfriend, and shed more of her own tears every time she re-read it. Right now she was working on a poem for each of the old guys. Mr. Crane was tough and gutsy, but, because of his blindness she had decided to try a sonnet for him. Miss Cole had told them about a blind poet who'd composed sonnets and his daughters had written them down for him. They were never allowed to leave home to lead their own lives. The sonnet form had turned out to be a bigger challenge than Kate had expected. Mr. Wilson's was a light hearted poem about a mischievous boy who was almost untouched by events. The one for Mr. Witham was the easiest to write because she could so easily sympathize with his unhappiness, whereas she had considerable trouble with Bill Grant's because he hid so many of his feelings. She had finally ended up with a free verse poem in which she explored sorrow that is hidden away.
When she took her writing up to Miss Cole near the end of Friday's class, her teacher looked at her intently. "You're looking tired, Kate. Are you getting enough sleep?"
"I'm fine, Miss Cole," Kate responded. "I've just been spending a lot of time indoors these days, writing, instead of riding every day."
Miss Cole looked down at the poems before her, and smiled. "You've done a wonderful job. Do you mind if I read this one to the class?"
Kate shook her head, and then looked at the floor as Miss Cole read "Cool Relief" aloud.
Glass ... searing pain
Ice ... cool relief

Glass shatters into eyes

Terrible pain
Relieved by gentle care

And then the mirror's clear image
Of a distorted face

Tears of pain
And shame

Dashing the betraying glass to the floor
Angry denial
A lifetime of bad luck

Tears too warm to give relief
Crave cool to take the pain away

Slowly abandon the warmth of hopeful youth
Wrap myself in a cloak of ice

Become chilly
Ice relieves pain.

There was silence for a moment when she finished reading, and then the students began to clap. "Have you written any others?" Bobby Bairstow asked.
"A few," Kate said.
"Will you read them, Miss Cole?" asked Bobby.
"Not today," smiled Miss Cole, but maybe there will be time for one on Monday."
There was a party at Bud's Friday night, but Kate couldn't face the thought of watching Rick dancing with Mary What's-her-name all evening, so she and Miriam went to see The Country Girl at the Capitol, and then went over to the Jubilee for chips and a coke. Some of the kids from school were there, and, to her surprise, Kate found she was able to laugh and enjoy a Friday night without Rick.
The girls had fallen in love with Grace Kelly and were discussing how best to become patrician blondes overnight. After Roman Holiday, a great many cap cuts with elfin bangs had shown up in Halifax classrooms, and those same Audrey Hepburn look-alikes were now regretting their rash decisions to cut their hair to lengths of two to four inches. Grace Kelly's shoulder length hair was an impossible dream and who would be the next Hollywood beauty to come to town once Grace Kelly faded into obscurity?
Bobby came over and asked Kate about the poems she'd written. "How did you find all those words?" he asked.
Kate laughed and told him about the thesaurus she had used after she and Pam had done their ice lists. "I'll bring it to school on Monday so you can see how it works," she promised. "What topic did you choose?" she asked him.
"A Newfoundland fishing disaster," he replied, and began to tell Kate the details.
"We have to leave," Miriam said quietly at 10:00. "I have to get home."
"Gee, is it already ten?" Kate asked. "I thought we just got here. She pulled on her grey jacket over her sweater, and said good bye to Bobby and the others. "See you on Monday."
"Well," she said when she and Miriam were out on the street, "there is life after Rick after all."
Miriam smiled. "Do you like Bobby?" she asked.
"He's nicer than I thought," Kate said. "If the only place you ever saw him was French class, you'd think he was a complete idiot."
"I kinda like him," Miriam said.
Kate looked at her. "You've never said anything about him. How come?"
"Well you've had more important things to worry about lately, so I just haven't, I guess." Miriam hesitated and then said, "You're not interested in him, are you?"
Kate squeezed Miriam's arm. "Of course not. I just think he's nice. I still want Rick back."
She rode on Saturday and, after assuring herself that Rick was not going to turn up with Mary, attended a riding club gang party on Saturday. Again she had a good time, even if dancing with all and sundry did not cause any heart palpitations.
Sunday it was sleeting again and she devoted her day to writing. As she packed up her books that night, remembering at the last minute the thesaurus for Bobby, she realized she had gotten through the first week, and was able to say to herself, as Bill Grant had, "Well, if this is as bad as it gets, and I've lived through it, I can get on with my life."


Week Two without Rick passed quickly. Kate stayed at Miriam's house while her dad was in Toronto, and she planned her visits to the riding club on days when she'd be likely to avoid any possible contact with Rick. The highlight of the week was a new love affair ... Miriam's, in which Kate played a key role. It had started on Monday when Kate brought in the thesaurus.
She'd taken it over to Bobby's desk to show him how to use it, and had asked, "What kind of poem do you want to write?"
"I don't know." Bobby scratched his head. "What kind of poems are there?"
"Some of them rhyme and have a beat. Some of them, like the sonnet, have all kinds of rules to follow so it's harder to say what you mean. Others are free verse. You just put down the ideas in a way that makes sense and explains an idea without using tons of words," Kate explained vaguely.
"I want it to be a real poem. It has to rhyme," Bobby said firmly.
"What do you want it to say?"
"You promise you won't laugh?"
"Of course not," Kate replied, a little puzzled by the question.
"It's a prayer," Bobby whispered, looking around to make sure nobody had heard.
"Who's praying? And what are they praying for?"
"It's one of the sailors. He's asking God to keep them safe during the storm, but if they do drown he wants things to be okay for his family."
"Maybe start with a real prayer and use it as a model," Kate suggested. "Do you know any?"
After a pause, Bobby said, "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep." By the end of the period, Bobby had, with Kate's guidance and liberal use of the thesaurus, managed to produce a poem, and was delighted with himself.

The Sailor's Prayer

Dear Lord and Keeper of the Sea,
I honour Thee on bended knee.
Please keep us safe this awful night.
Let dawn the morning with its light.
Let land be reached before next eve.
Let not my wife and children grieve
If sea claims both my ship and me
As now I send this prayer to Thee.

A few minutes before the end of the double class, Shona had put up her hand and asked Mr. Stevens to read another one of Kate's poems. He'd chosen one of the ones for the old guys, "For Michael Wilson whose luck ran out in 1943", telling the class that it reminded him of the folk poetry written by ordinary people after the Explosion and other disasters.
I always rode my bike to school
A boring trip each way.
Till one December morning
The Mont Blanc blazed away.

The school bell rang to call me in
But I stayed to watch the show.
The flames shot up and lit the sky
And then that ship did blow.

Two blasts boomed forth and then the world
Began to fly around.
I dropped my bike and hung on tight
My arms a tree around.

When everything came back to earth
I looked about in glee.
I'd never seen a sight so strange
As a boat stuck up a tree.

The streets were wrecked, the schools punched down.
I was free as any jay.
No books, no bells, no teachers fierce.
Life was a holiday.

And then I saw my friend was blind.
It wasn't as much fun.
My grandpa died in bed that night.
And we cried, every one.

But my mom and dad and sister Sue
Were all as right as rain.
So the tears I shed for Halifax
Were not my own real pain.

The Explosion was an exciting time
For one so young and lucky.
I didn't have to learn, you see,
To hurt and still be plucky.

It took another war for me
To learn that lesson harsh.
In France my legs were blown away
And buried in a marsh

Of blood and guts and stinking mud
Our home away from home.
By then I'd lost my youth and luck
And no more would I roam.

I wished I'd spent more time at school
And not given it the wink,
For when you lose your legs, my friend,
You'd better learn to think.

Kate would have liked to have been able to tell Mr. Stevens about Bobby's poem. He was turning out to be a boy who was full of surprises. Instead, she said, "Shona's going to have some good folk songs to sing to us pretty soon, Sir."
"I'm looking forward to that, Shona. Will you tape them or will you submit just the music and the lyrics?"
"I didn't know I could make a tape. I think I'll do that," Shona said as the bell rang.
Mr. Stevens called Kate to one side and said, "You are doing some very good work, Kate. Good for you."
"I'm having fun with it, Sir, and so is everyone else. You should see what Pam and Shona and Bobby are doing."
Mr. Stevens raised his eyebrows and then said to Bobby who was waiting to give Kate her book, "You mean to say you're enjoying class, Bobby?"
The red headed boy flushed. "What did you tell him?" he asked once they were out in the hall.
"Just that you guys were doing good stuff," Kate laughed. "I don't know why you're so afraid of liking school. It must be a guy thing. Maybe you'll even start liking French some day."
"Never," vowed Bobby as he turned toward his own locker.
Miriam, who had been watching Kate's approach, asked what they'd been talking about. "Just about him starting to like school. He wrote a good poem, and if you promise not to say anything to anybody, I'll tell you something about him that you'll find interesting," Kate said, her eyes teasing Mim.
"C'mon, Kate, just tell me."
"I think he might be religious."
"Bobby. Don't be silly."
"He wrote a prayer for the assignment," Kate announced. "That must mean something."
Tuesday dawned clear for the first time in what seemed like weeks, and Kate yawned and thought, 'Great, we get decent weather in time for a lead line day.' Her father was just finishing his breakfast when she went into the kitchen. "Don't forget that you're going to the Stockwell's tomorrow, Kate. Make sure you get everything packed up. I don't want you to have to come back here for anything until I get home from Toronto on Saturday."
Kate's mind began to click. Mrs. Stockwell wouldn't mind if Kate had Bobby over to do school work, and that would give Miriam the perfect opportunity to spend some time talking to him when he wasn't playing the cool dude at school. She'd ask him over on Wednesday. She didn't want to run the risk of seeing Rick who sometimes rode on Wednesdays. After all this rain, there was a good chance he'd be there to exercise Beauty.
Wednesday was remarkably uneventful. Even French class passed without incident, Mademoiselle Brown looked more relaxed than Kate had ever seen her. She was really quite pretty when she wasn't frowning, screaming or crying, Kate decided. After class, Kate asked Bobby if he wanted to do some work on the project at Miriam's. He looked surprised, but agreed to come over on his way home from school.
"You did what?" Miriam asked.
"I asked Bobby to come over after school."
"Why?" The question hung in the air.
"Because it's the only way I can get the two of you together, silly," Kate said.
"But you two are the ones who will be talking. What am I supposed to do?"
"We'll all work together."
"But I'm not in your English class," Miriam objected.
"All the better. You can be a completely fresh audience for our stuff. It's perfect." Kate took her friend firmly by the arm and wheeled her around just as Bobby turned the corner. "Hi Bobby. Ready?"
The three left the school silently and said little until they arrived at the Stockwell's, when Bobby said,"You live right next door to a church."
"My dad's the minister," Miriam said. "Didn't you know?"
"I guess I never really thought about it before," Bobby said.
The three of them spread out their books on the diningroom table and worked until nearly five, when Mrs. Stockwell said, "I'm afraid you'll have to go now, Bobby. The girls have to set the table and help me in the kitchen. But come back again some time. It's nice to see you youngsters taking an interest in school work."
That night in bed, Mim whispered, "I can't tell whether he likes you or me, Kate."
Kate murmured sleepily, "I can't imagine any guy not falling head over heels for you, Mim. You're nice and pretty. I'm just someone Bobby can get to help him with this assignment, and half the time I nag at him like a mother. I've even got him behaving in French class. Besides, I can't stop thinking about Rick."
On Thursday night after supper, Miriam pulled Kate up to the room they shared with Diane, and said excitedly, "He came home with me even though you were riding. Maybe you're right. Maybe he does like me."
Kate smiled and said, "What did you do together?"
"He wanted to talk about coming to church on Sunday. His family doesn't go to church and he wants to find out about religion."
"See? He does come because of you. Now we better get downstairs and help with dishes or we'll end up doing them alone tomorrow night."
Except for Miriam's remark about her apron, school was uneventful on Friday. "I thought you said you washed your apron on Monday night," she said when they went into cooking class.
"I did. What's wrong with it?" Kate asked, and then she'd compared her grey wrinkled apron with Miriam's freshly washed and ironed white one. "Yikes, it does look pretty awful, doesn't it. I hope Miss Johnson doesn't notice." She didn't, and the class proceeded without incident.
After supper they went to a movie and then to the Jubilee with other kids from school. Bobby and Miriam sat together in the corner of one of the booths, almost oblivious to the chatter around them, so engrossed were they in their own conversation. It had been Kate who tapped Miriam on the shoulder at five to ten to remind her it was time to leave.
Walter Hennigan arrived home on Saturday and Mrs. Stockwell invited him for supper. Afterwards he passed out the presents he'd brought for everyone. Most of them were gifts of food from the St. Laurence Market, and Kate knew that when she got home there would be wonderful German sausages hanging from the ceiling in the kitchen. Only Miriam and Kate received inedible souvenirs of Toronto, matching silver friendship rings with a clever design in which their initials were interwoven. "They're Celtic," he'd said. "I thought you'd like them."
"Oh, we do," said Miriam, and gave him a shy hug. "Thank you."
Kate thanked her father, and on the way home, said, "That was a really nice thing to do, Dad. Miriam doesn't get very many pretty things."
Although she liked staying with the Stockwell's, it was always nice to get home to her own room and to have access to all her belongings and clothing once more. She unpacked her suitcase and began to put things away. Mrs. Stockwell had washed and ironed all her clothes and they looked better than they ever did when they came back from the laundry, stiff and deeply creased. And Kate hardly recognized her cooking apron and bag. They were snowy white. Until she examined the stitches she thought Mrs. Stockwell had made a mistake and packed Mim's apron. But no, those were her big clumsy stitches. It was hers all right.
On her way to church on Sunday she met Bobby, all neatly washed and combed. "Are you going to church?" she asked.
"Yeah. Do you sit with Miriam or does she have to sit up at the front or something?" Kate assured him that he'd be able to sit with Mim and answered his questions about kneeling ... no ... singing ... yes ... prayer books ... no .... hymn books ... yes. "You must think I'm awfully dumb," Bobby said, "but we never go to church."
"My dad doesn't either," Kate said. "The only reason I know anything about church is that my foster parents took me every Sunday, and then I went to a Church of England boarding school for two years, and now I'm Mim's best friend."
Kate didn't have a chance to answer his questions about foster homes and boarding schools, because they had arrived at the church door and Miriam slipped between them, ushering them to a pew. Kate looked at her two friends sharing the hymn book, Miriam's black curls touching Bobby's slick dark auburn hair, and wished she and Rick were back together, but when she prayed this Sunday, it was for a heart that didn't ache, not for Rick's return.
She left the church with a new resolution for the third week without Rick. She was going to start going to parties whether he was there or not. She wasn't going to avoid the riding club on Wednesdays and the weekends. Those were her places and her friends just as much as they were his, and why should she be chased away from them? She felt stronger than she had in quite a while.

Alice sat on the living room sofa, two clothbound journals open in her lap, a newspaper spread out beside her. Every year the newspapers reminded her. Every December they dug through their files and reprinted the details of the Explosion, and every year they found someone to interview, someone who could say something that would tug at hearts or whet readers' appetites for gore. Why couldn't they just leave it be?
And every year she re-lived it too. She was just as stupid as the papers ... probably worse ... she knew how much it hurt to remember. But every year she re-read that first diary.
She'd had a headache all day. One of those sick ones when your whole body is involved. She knew she should go lie down in her bedroom with the drapes closed. The worst thing she could do was read and write ... and here she was doing both.
She considered writing about the headache. Maybe if she wrote a poem for it, the damned thing would be flattered and go away, she thought with grim humour. No, not today. Today she'd remember the Explosion and Kjell, and maybe write about how she was feeling now, nearly forty years afterwards.
But first she would re-read that first diary. She'd started keeping it after everything was gone. She didn't have her mom or Myrtle or Kjell to talk to, and so she'd begun to pour out her pain in words that spilled like blood across the page. One day she'd started experimenting with poetry, and so there were a few poems scattered throughout the pages too. She filled book after book with her thoughts and feelings -- little books that she kept in boxes under her bed. She wondered why she'd never tried to find another friend. Kjell would not have been as easy to replace, and no one could have taken her mother's place, but why hadn't she made at least one friend, one person to share things with?
She realized with a start that it was past seven and she hadn't even thought about eating. She put aside her journals and prepared a simple supper of soup and a sandwich. Then she took her tea into the living room and re-read that first diary, the one she'd started in January, 1918.

Tuesday, January 1, 1918

It is a new year, and this is a brand new diary. Mrs. Carruthers gave each of us one for Christmas. She tries to be more than just a landlady to the four of us, but, oh, I miss Mama so much.

Christmas was particularly bad, our first one without our families. Corinne couldn't eat the chicken dinner, her stomach was so tense. And Ruth and the rest of us sat glumly by the big plant in the parlour window opening our presents from Mrs. C. None of us had thought to make or buy anything for her. It's as though all our feelings have died.

I look at the others and think it's like looking in a mirror. Their faces are criss crossed with scars like mine. There's a kind of veil across Ruth's sightless eye and her other one glares out at the world like a fierce blue flame. I don't think Grace has washed her hair or her clothes since it happened. She just sits like a grey lump. None of us feels very much of anything any more, except Ruth, and she just feels anger at everyone and everything. Maybe once we start back to school things will get better.

Monday, January 7, 1918

Today was the first day back at school. Most of us were hurt in some way so I don't feel as out of place as I thought I would. The four of us all had decent clothes to wear. On the weekend, a lady from one of the south end churches dropped off two big boxes of skirts and sweaters and underwear, and some shoes.

The teachers have stopped expecting us to stand to answer questions. It's just too dangerous. So many of us are hobbling about on crutches that we trip one another up all the time.

Most of the kids who lost their parents have moved in with relatives. Some, like us, had no one left and were placed in foster care. From what I hear we're lucky to have Mrs. C. Some of the foster parents sound like they're just doing it for the money they're being paid.

Wednesday, January 9, 1918

I think Kjell's ship's coming into port tomorrow. I don't know whether I'm happy or terrified, but at least I don't feel dead any more. Will he be able to find me or will I have to go to the ship? I don't think I could do that. It's not just my leg. It's my face. Here people have grown used to seeing the damage done by the glass, but the boys on the Sentinel will be seeing it all for the first time.

Friday, January 11, 1918

Well, Kjell found me. He went to the hospital and they sent him to some government office where they had a list of the survivors and where they were living.

When I heard his voice in the front hall, I hid in the kitchen, but he wasn't about to leave without seeing me so I limped into the dark hallway. Ruth left us alone, and he put his arms around me and held me close. It felt so good to be held again.

And then he stood back to take a good look at me. I wanted to flinch away but there wasn't any point in that so I looked up at him. Tears welled up in his eyes and he said, "Poor girl. What has happened to you? It must hurt terribly."

I told him it was better than it had been and we went into the parlour and talked about Mama and Daddy and Jock. Kjell cried again when I told him how Jock had died beside me.

He touched my hair when he was leaving and I told him it would grow back in. He patted me on the shoulder and said, "Sure it will." When I asked if I'd see him again soon, he promised to come tomorrow.

Oh, I hope he can get used to what I'm like now. I don't like being patted like a pet dog.

Tuesday, January 15, 1918

Kjell is only going to be in Halifax for another two days. I don't know how I feel about him going. Things are not like they used to be. We haven't gone dancing. Kjell says it's because of my leg. But we haven't gone anywhere. We've just stayed here and talked in the parlour. There's no privacy at all, but it hasn't really mattered because all we've talked about is how to say things in our two languages. The girls and Mrs. C. wander in to get things all the time, and if they didn't, I'd feel bad hogging it all to myself anyway. None of us has a room of our own, so you have to feel you can go to other rooms in the house whenever you want to.

I'm going to make him another cake. This time I'll write Safe Journey in both English and Norsk. Maybe I'd be better off to write Safe Return. Oh my, I wish things were like they were before all this happened.

I lie in bed at night, looking out the window, and wish on stars for Kjell to touch me the way he used to. And my prayers have become awfully self-centred. Please make me wake up one morning with a smooth face and an eye that doesn't droop. Mama would scold me if she heard me asking for things like that. I've even started to promise to be as good and kind as Mama was if He'll just give me one more chance to marry Kjell. And that's a bargain I know I can't keep!

Friday, January 18,1918

Last night was the happiest night we've had together this trip. Ruth and I baked the desserts, and Corinne made really pretty open-faced sandwiches like they have in Norway. Even Grace managed to get cleaned up and smiled a few times. Kjell really liked the cake with Sikker Tilbakekomst written on it in chocolate drizzle icing. He asked how I'd figured it out, and I told him how I'd asked the right questions over a few nights until I had it right. Afterwards the others left us alone for awhile and I told him I wished I'd let him touch me after our last going away party. He patted me on the shoulder again and said not to worry about that, just to get well.

Then I said, "Sikker Tilbakekomst til meg," and he laughed out loud and asked how I'd managed to learn so much Norsk in so little time. I said, "I want to be ready when we go to Norway after the war."

He hugged me and patted me again and said he'd be back again in a couple of months. I said my leg would be well enough to go dancing when he got back, and he just nodded.

Last night I prayed that he wouldn't find another, prettier girl in England before he came back to me.

Alice skipped over several entries until she found the one she was looking for.

March 31, 1918

Kjell has been back for a week. We've seen one another twice but we haven't gone out dancing or to a show or even for a walk. I asked him why not, and he said something about it being cold and damp and miserable.

He hasn't kissed me once since he got here. Last night I turned out some of the lights in the parlour and pulled his face towards me the way I used to. Only this time he pulled away and wouldn't come close. "I'm getting a cold," he said. I told him I didn't care. But he moved right away to a chair.

What can I do? I can't make him want me.

April 4, 1918

Kjell left yesterday. I tried to have another going away celebration for him but he said some of the guys on the ship were going out for one last night in port and wanted him to go with them. I thought about what Mama had said about sailors with girls in every port and about the girls who ask for money. I'd been so sure before that he loved me too much to look at another girl, but now ...?

Mrs. C. is pretty easy as far as rules go, but she's really strict about curfew. Nine o'clock during the week and ten on the weekends. The four of us have talked about it and figure if we break curfew she might kick us out.

I decided I was going to have to take my chances. I had to say good bye to Kjell, so at 11:00 I crept out of bed, dressed, and sneaked past the closed bedroom doors, hardly breathing as I made my way along the dark corridor. A board creaked underfoot and I stopped dead, my heart hammering against my ribs, until I was sure everyone was still asleep. Behind the last door, I could hear Mrs. C. snoring and felt a little easier as I made my way down the stairs in my stocking feet. At the front door I put on my boots and coat and took the house key off its hook and slipped it into my glove.

The only light I had to guide me on my way to the pier was the moonlight reflecting off the dirty snow banks that still lined the road, and I slipped a few times on the ice.

As I got closer to the harbour, I saw I wasn't the only one out and about. A couple
huddled in a doorway, invisible until he lit a cigarette. I thought of Kjell and me last winter, snuggled up inside his great coat. I moved a little faster, wanting to give them the privacy we had sought.

A sentry was on duty when I got there. I asked him if the crew from the Sentinel had all come back yet. He shook his head. "If you like, you can sit over there by that shed and wait. It's out of the wind, and there's a couple of barrels and boxes for you to sit on," he said, his hand cupped around the glowing cigarette held between his lips. I thanked him and sat down in the shadow of the building. The sailors returned to their ships in ones and pairs and small groups.

One of the solitary ones sang as he gambolled along, a bottle held in his hand. Some of the pairs turned out to be couples who stood a long time kissing before they separated, and I felt my own throat tighten when one of the girls cried. The groups of young men seemed to be the most light hearted, their arms around each other's shoulders, laughing and joking.

Alice looked up from the page, and remembered what came next. At last she'd seen Kjell's dark head amidst a group of lighter ones. Their voices were loud, and it was clear they'd had a bit to drink. One of them, she thought it might have been Kjell's voice she heard, said to the sentry in accented English, "You're lucky to be stationed here. The girls are sure pretty, and good dancers, too."
"And some of them do a lot more than dance," she'd heard another sailor say, and then he's said something else, his voice too low for her to make out the words, and laughed and punched Kjell on the shoulder. Kjell had laughed and they'd all gone up the gang plank together.
Alice had slipped away into the night and home to her darkened house, her tears freezing to her lashes. She hadn't slept all night.
Alice looked down at the little book before her and said aloud, "I don't know why I torture myself this way year after year," but she flipped through until she found the poem.

Ice Woman

Layer by transparent layer,
Then layer by opalescent layer,
I build protection against him

The first day, a single layer,
After eight days, eight layers of protection

He rubs my back
And a single layer is melted

A warm voice
Speaking loving words
Might have melted more

A sudden passionate act
Might have shattered the whole shell

But neither happened
And so,
I am still encased
In a prison of ice.

She'd written it the night she'd asked him why he didn't want her any more; the night she'd said, "It's because I'm ugly, isn't it?"
He'd denied it of course, but he couldn't do what she needed him to do. He couldn't ever want her as desperately as he had before the Explosion. Now she was an object of pity. He would never lust after her again. He'd always simply feel sorry for her. He came back a few times, but it became harder and harder to see him, until one day she'd asked him not to return.
Every year on this day she re-read that poem, and every year wondered whether she'd been a fool to close herself off forever. Would there ever have been other men? Allan Crane, Myrtle's brother, had tried to get her to sing to the vets at Camp Hill. Maybe there would have been other chances for happiness. She put the thought from her mind. Perhaps a blind man, but never another Kjell. She closed the diary and trudged into the bedroom to replace it in its box.
No, she was an ugly old woman who slept with thirty-seven years of memories and dreams under her bed, warmed only by a hot water bottle and the literary loves of Victorian heroines. She plumped up her pillow and opened Tess of the D'Urbervilles, and wished, as she had each year at this time, that Kjell had wanted her no matter what.


Alice hated it when the sixth fell on a school day. She tried to control the memories so that they wouldn't interfere with her teaching, but every anniversary of the Explosion they flooded in, and were as uncontrollable as they had been the day the pressure cooker exploded. Today's lesson was one the girls generally liked. They were baking cakes and decorating them. She was of two minds about going ahead with the lesson since it happened to coincide with December 6. On the one hand, the girls would stay happily occupied and not get into mischief; but on the other hand, there were all the memories of Kjell associated with cake baking and decorating. She considered her alternatives: not many since she didn't stock groceries before the weekend; and decided they would bake the cakes.
The girls copied their notes and Alice demonstrated the various procedures. It was a good thing she'd taught this particular lesson so many times, because today the right words emerged from her mouth despite the fact that her brain was back in her mother's kitchen in 1917, and in that of Mrs. Carruthers in 1918. She thought about that last party when even grey little Grace had brightened up. She wondered what the other three were doing now. Had they managed their lives better than she had?
Kate and Miriam pulled their cake from the oven and tested it with the toothpick. Kate was about to loosen it from the pan when Alice stopped her with a shake of the head. "Not yet. Let it cool a bit first."
Miriam got busy making the icing and Kate touched the cake to test its temperature. It had cooled down and Kate leaned forward to breathe in its chocolaty aroma. She closed her eyes and her long brown hair brushed the top of the cake. Miss Johnson's voice interrupted her daydreaming, causing her to jump. "For pity sakes, girl. Other people have to eat that cake too. They won't want your hands or nose or hair in it. Hasn't your mother taught you anything?"
Alice was startled by the tears which suddenly welled up in Kate's blue eyes. What in heaven's name was going on with her today? Trouble with a boyfriend? Her period? At fourteen, everything was of earth-shaking consequence. To smooth things over, Alice said, "Never mind getting upset about it. Just don't do it again." Then she looked at Kate's apron, and without thinking, said, "Who washed your apron? It's clean for a change."
"Mrs. Stockwell," Kate said quietly and then, "Could I..." Her voice trailed off and she rushed toward the door. Miriam stood beside the cake, staring at Alice, and then, without asking permission, ran after Kate. The other girls looked at Alice accusingly. Alice wished she had not set off this minor mutiny. She knew how teenagers band together if they think one of their number has been treated unfairly, but she had no idea what it was that had precipitated the crisis.
In the washroom, Kate wailed, "How could she say that?"
"I don't know. Maybe she didn't know about your mother."
"Then she's stupid as well as mean." Kate's tears flowed unchecked and she sniffed noisily.
Miriam stood there looking as if she wanted to hug her friend, but was not quite comfortable enough to reach out to her.
Kate blew her nose. "If I did have a mother, she said shitty things. She didn't teach me about cooking. She did a lousy job of washing my apron. She's an old bitch."
"Well one thing's sure; she wasn't thinking about you and she should have been," Miriam said.
Kate looked at her, and said, "Oh my God, today's the anniversary of the Explosion. She's probably been thinking about that all day. But, Jeez, Mim, why doesn't she let up? I've been trying to stay out of trouble with her, but she keeps on picking on me. Maybe I should try to get transferred out of her class."
Miriam said, "Maybe you can get some grown-up to talk to her."
"Like who?"
"It's too bad she doesn't go to our church. I could get my dad to talk to her."
"Well she doesn't, so forget that."
"Maybe Mr. Harris or Miss Cole?"
"If I go to one of them it would be like snitching."
They re-entered the classroom, not quite sure of their reception. Alice, who had decided the best possible way to handle this incident was to ignore it, said nothing.
All week long, Miriam and Kate continued the conversation which had begun during Monday's cooking class. Suddenly, on Friday, on their way home from school, Kate grabbed Miriam by the arm and shouted, "I've got it! I know who could talk to her. Adele. They both studied cooking. They're both older ladies and they're both alone. And besides, Adele knows how to make people feel good."
"But your dad doesn't want you to see Adele again," Miriam reminded her.
"That's dumb. If he sent me back to Edgehill because of that, I'd run away. He can't stop me from having a friend, especially Adele."
"I hope you're right," Miriam said, her head tilted to one side an unaccustomed frown lines creasing her forehead. "What are you doing tonight?"
"Jill's having the gang over. What about you?"
"We're all going to see Creature from the Black Lagoon. It's supposed to be really creepy."
"Is Bobby going?"
"Yes, and he's coming to church again on Sunday."
"Has your dad met him?"
"Uh huh, and they don't seem to mind me seeing him as long as I'm home early," Miriam smiled. "Everything's going great."
Kate gave Mim a hug. "I'll try to get to church on Sunday. I've got to run. Mr. Zwicker's taking our class today."
"When are you going to see Adele?" asked Miriam.
"Either today after riding, or tomorrow morning. I should go back and see my old guys and show them the poems. I'll call you this weekend. Have fun tonight. A scary movie's a good place to get that first kiss!"
Miriam gave her a shove, and blushed. "Don't be so silly. He hasn't shown the slightest interest in anything like that."
"Give him a chance," Kate laughed, and headed off at a run, her long dark hair flying out behind her, to get changed for riding.
During class she thought about her decision to involve Adele. She liked it. And not just because it might keep her out of trouble. She wasn't sure whether Miss Johnson could warm up to anybody, but Adele would be the one to work the miracle if anyone could. She knew that without Mim and Jill she'd have been a lot more lonely since the break-up with Rick. Maybe these two single women could provide the same kind of support for one another.
Mr. Zwicker's voice brought her back to the lesson. "Hennigar, pay attention. I've told you to change leads twice and you've ignored me both times."
"Sorry, Sir. I was thinking about something else."
"Do your thinking after class," he said shortly. Kate suppressed a smile, and paid attention for the remaining twenty minutes.
After class she hurried getting Happy dried and blanketed and said to Jill, "I may be a bit late tonight. I want to organize something with Adele for the weekend, and Friday nights are a good time to catch her in."
"That's okay. Oh, by the way, Rick said he wouldn't be coming tonight. He's going to see some horror movie."
Great, thought Kate, lots of chances for that little bitch to hold on tight to him. Then, as quickly as she had thought it, she told herself not to be a fool. They didn't need a darkened theatre and a horror movie to get cozy. They'd been necking since their first date. Mary What's- her-face was not a Miriam Stockwell. She said aloud, "Probably The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Some of the kids from school are going tonight," and congratulated herself on having refrained from saying something nasty about Mary Whoever.
On her way to Adele's, she ran past the deserted Common. Funny how darkness was just an absence of light when people were around, but when you weren't sure who was out there, it became sinister.
Adele welcomed her warmly as she always did, and pressed Kate to share her supper of home made squash soup and freshly baked bread. "I'll just rustle up a salad to go with it and we'll have lots," she insisted. Unable to resist, Kate accepted the invitation.
As they ate, Kate gave Adele a brief history of her run-ins with Miss Johnson. "Do you think you could talk to her, Adele. Maybe tell her I have been trying to stay out of trouble in her class, and I really can't help it if my apron doesn't get as clean as Mrs. Stockwell can get it in her washing machine. I don't want to get into any more trouble. You know Dad's threatening to send me back to Edgehill if I give him any more grief."
Adele's face crumpled, and she said softly, "That would be a terrible thing to do to you, Kate. I'm sure he couldn't have been serious."
"He sure sounded as if he meant it," Kate said. "If you could help me with Miss Johnson, I can handle the rest myself."
"Give me a bit of time to reflect on it. I don't want to make matters worse. This might take a little thought. Adele's face creased into a smile. Kate liked the laugh lines around her eyes and mouth. Plump faces always seemed to look kinder and more friendly than thin ones.
Adele's face became grave as though she were trying hard to figure something out. "The problem is to find a way to introduce myself to her so that I can talk to her. I can't just call the school and make an appointment. Only parents or guardians can do that." They were both silent for a few moments, and then Adele said as though she were talking to herself, "I wonder if there's some way I could make a connection through the Home Economics Association. She must belong to it. Maybe I could suggest some kind of meeting with junior high school girls who might be interested in taking Home Ec. after high school." She looked at Kate, and said, "Well, I'm sure I'll think of something. Do you want any dessert? There's ice cream and some leftover chocolate cake."
"I don't think I have time or room for any more," Kate said, "but the other thing I wanted to ask you about was the Camp Hill vets. I've written a poem for each of them. Do you think I could go over some time to read them to them?"
"Why not tomorrow afternoon?" Adele suggested. "Allan Crane always comes over on Saturdays to play for them so you'll catch him as well as Samuel Witham and Tank Wilson."
"Maybe that's who you should talk to," Kate cried. "Mr. Crane was Miss Johnson's best friend's brother. He said he'd tried to get her to sing at Camp Hill."
"Good thinking, Kate. Allan and I will figure out something between us."
They arranged to meet at the hospital in the afternoon, and Adele said, "Don't worry about the dishes, Kate. I know you have a party to go to and you have to bathe and change."
"Gee, Adele. I didn't even think about it. Do I smell like a stable?"
"I've stopped noticing it," Adele laughed, "but anyone dancing with you for the first time tonight would likely detect a slight whiff of eau d'écurie."
Kate laughed and tried out the expression, and then said, "You're lucky to be completely bilingual. Do you dream in English or French?"
"It depends on the dream," Adele said. "Now off you go or you'll be late tonight. How are you getting to Jill's?"
"By bus."
"Here's money for a taxi." She handed Kate a bill, and shook her head vehemently when Kate attempted to refuse it. "No, I don't like the idea of you waiting for a bus that close to the dock area on a Friday night."
"I'll be fine, Adele. It will be early in the evening," Kate protested.
"It will be dark," Adele said firmly, "and you're no match for a sailor who has been at sea for weeks, especially one with a few drinks in him."
Kate slipped it into her jacket pocket and gave Adele a kiss on the cheek. "Thanks, Adele. See you tomorrow."
The party was fun, only no one made her heart race or even hiccup. The boys were all just too familiar, too much like brothers. But at least she didn't have to spend the evening half expecting Rick to show up with Mary What's-her-name clinging to him.
Saturday dawned clear and cold, and Kate wore her brown leather bomber jacket and her baggiest jodphurs so she could fit long johns underneath. By the time she left the house at 8:30, she looked a bit like a brown snowman wearing earmuffs. She sure hoped Rick didn't show up at the stable today.
Kate looked into Beauty's stall as she passed. The beautiful bay mare looked different. She needed a good grooming and she'd lost that wonderful regal quality she used to have when she held up her head and perked up her ears. She looked as if she'd been abandoned.
Kate unlatched her stall door. "We're a great pair, aren't we, Beauty?" she said as she rooted about in her jacket pocket for a treat. She broke the apple in half and stroked the mare's neck as she fed her the pieces. "I'll give you a good brushing as soon as I've taken Happy out," she said as she slipped out of the stall.
By noon she had ridden Happy and groomed both horses. "It's too bad Rick ignores her," Jill said. "Someone should be exercising her."
"Miss Winter and Mr. Zwicker take her out as often as they can," Kate said. "It just isn't as often as she needs. I'm surprised Rick hasn't sold her by now. He hasn't been riding her enough for a long time."
"Wonder who'd buy her," Jill said.
"I dunno," responded Kate, half wishing she could afford to. It would feel like a little bit of Rick was still hers. Then she grinned. Beauty was a good horse for someone six feet tall, but she'd look like a peanut on her back. Aloud she said, "I would, but I'm too short."
Jill laughed, "Feel like doing anything this afternoon?"
"Can't. I'm going up to Camp Hill to see my veterans. What about tomorrow?"
"Sure. Let's go to the park if the weather's half decent."
"I'll call you tonight," Kate said and headed home to clean up for her date with her old guys.


Kate had carefully copied out the poems and now she put them inside a notebook to keep them flat. She hoped they'd like them. Some were better than others, but that couldn't be helped. She'd worked a long time trying to perfect them, but realized that she'd probably never be a real poet, and she certainly wasn't one at fourteen. She just hoped the men would see that she'd learned a great deal from each of them.
It was three o'clock when Kate entered the hospital and followed the music into a lounge just off the main corridor. She navigated her way around a number of wheel chairs and a few walkers, looking for Adele. Nurses in starched white uniforms and caps lined the walls, and several men sat on folding metal chairs like the ones used at school concerts. Samuel Witham called out to her, "Well, hello, my dear. Adele said you'd be joining us this afternoon. Come and meet my friends." Kate said hello and talked with the group for awhile. She felt like a princess, they were all so welcoming. After answering their questions about how she had come to know Samuel Witham, what she thought about the concert, and whether she would be a regular visitor from now on, Kate asked if anyone knew where Adele was. They suggested the kitchen, and Kate made her way toward the swinging doors at the back of the room.
On her way, she passed Tank Wilson's wheel chair, and stopped for a moment to talk to him. "Hi Mr. Wilson," she said with a smile, relieved that she could avoid using his nickname. As a teenaged athlete, his upper body had likely looked as solid as a tank, but now the name was almost a cruel joke. If she had been him she would have dropped the nickname, fearing it would draw unwanted attention, but he seemed perfectly comfortable with who he was. They talked for a few minutes about school, and then Kate left to find Adele.
"Can I help with anything?" Kate asked as she pushed open the heavy doors leading into a huge institutional kitchen, with its gleaming steel surfaces and enormous cauldrons.
"You're just in time to put cookies out on plates. I'll get the tea and coffee ready", Adele said with a smile. "Allan will be announcing intermission in a few minutes and then we'll serve the refreshments and see about talking to the men. Did you see them on your way in?"
"Everyone but Mr. Grant."
"He doesn't get here every weekend," Adele said. "It's hard for him to get out once the weather turns miserable. He's afraid of slipping on the ice. Old bones are brittle."
"I hope he makes it, but his poem was really hard to write. It's not easy to write about unhappiness that people keep hidden. I'm not sure he'd have liked his anyway."
"I'd like to see it," Adele said. "And I'm sure he'll be delighted that you wrote a poem for him even if you don't think it's perfect."
The music stopped and Kate pushed the big steel trolley with its load of mugs and great jugs of tea and coffee through the doors Adele held open. "We'll just put the plates of cookies on tables around the room and leave the trolley here in the corner for people to get their own drinks," Adele said.
Samuel Witham turned up at Kate's elbow as she made her deliveries and said, "Michael and I are over there by the piano with Allan. We'd like you and Adele to join us."
Kate looked over to where he was pointing, and noted to herself that he too avoided calling Mr. Wilson "Tank", and nodded. "I'll tell Adele."
A few minutes later she found herself in an oasis of relative quiet sitting on an uncomfortable steel chair near a plate of cookies. On her right was Samuel Witham, his small polished shoes tucked beneath a second folding chair, and on her left, Michael Wilson's wheel chair. There were two green arm chairs across from them. The blind musician sat in one, his lanky frame reminding Kate of a long-legged bird. "Has everyone got tea?" Adele asked, and when she received affirmative nods, settled herself into the other chair. "Kate's been writing poems for you," she announced.
They leaned forward. "Have you now?" said Tank Wilson. "What a treat, eh boys?"
Kate handed them their poems, and said to Allan Crane, "I tried to write a sonnet for you. I thought maybe a musician would like a poem that had a set rhythm and rhyme scheme. It's supposed to be pleasing to the ear, but I'm not sure I succeeded. Would you like me to read it to you?"
"I certainly would," he said, and everyone listened as Kate read the sonnet.

A Sonnet for Allan Crane, blinded at 17 in the Halifax Explosion
At seventeen, he was a man and working.
His family was his main concern and care.
When foulest fate, around a corner lurking,
Delivered him a cross too hard to bear.

Alone and blind, his family dead, he cried,
"My youth is past; I might as well be dead."
A small voice spoke, "You're blind; you have not died.
Stand up and be a man; and use your head."

Today, still blind, his sight is gone forever
But in its place, new hope from strength and daring.
TV shows and pretty girls are not for him, not ever,
But in their place are strength and great reserves of caring.

Tragedy tests all men, both strong and meek.
The strong gain strength, but crippled are the weak.

"That's wonderful," said Allan Crane. "Next time you come, I'll have made it into a song for you."
"Would you? I'd really like that," Kate smiled.
Michael Wilson said, "You've done an admirable job on mine too, Kate." He read the rollicking poem she'd written for him, and the others applauded.
"I'd like to read the poem Kate wrote for me," said Samuel Witham in his mild voice. "You really did understand what I was trying to tell you the other day. You can be proud of yourself, my dear." He read "A Gentle Man", the vein in his forehead pulsing, but his voice remaining steady until the final stanza.

A gentle man does not fare well
In survival of the fittest games:

His tenderness makes him vulnerable.
He's delicate when he must be tough,
Quiet when noise is needed,
Calm when it's best to be violent,
Mild and temperate when a storm would clear the air.

To play the game, a man must be rough ... and tough,
Vicious even.

The civilized are often not quite strong enough to survive intact.

They are the ones who dream terrible dreams,
Who carry great weights of depression
When they fail themselves.
They are the ones whose lives are bleak
After a disaster or a war.

And yet, I love these gentle men
More than the others.
These sometimes frail, gentle men
Who live their lives
As if the world were as it should be ...

A kind, peaceful, humane place
Where gentle men fare well.

There was silence for a moment and then Allan Crane said, "Now that's another fine poem, Kate. You've got us all down pat. I'll bet your teacher's pleased."
"I hope she likes them as much as you have. I've had a wonderful time writing them," Kate said shyly. "Thank you, all of you, for helping me the way you have."
Just before the intermission ended, Adele spoke quietly to Allan Crane. "I'd like to meet Alice Johnson, Allan. She's Kate's teacher and Kate's been having some problems in her class. I believe you know her. Can you think of a way I can get to talk to her?"
Allan rubbed his chin thoughtfully, and said, " I've been trying to convince Alice to come here to sing to the boys for years, but she always says no. It's too bad. She has a nice voice and the boys would enjoy having a woman singing instead of just me. But the really sad thing is that Alice needs to get out and do things with people, and she refuses to." He turned toward Kate. "I'd certainly like to help that little girl, and Alice too. Why don't I give it one more shot. You have a car, don't you, Adele?" She nodded. "Well then, why don't you drive me home and we'll stop by Alice's apartment? I'll ask her to sing on Christmas Eve for the lads, and I'll introduce you to her. What you do afterwards is up to you."
Adele squeezed his hand and said, "Thanks, dear. I'll pick you up right after the show."
She returned to Kate who was still talking with Tank Wilson and Samuel Witham. As soon as they moved off to join some of their friends, she gave Kate a wink and said, "We've got a plan. I'll call you this afternoon and tell you how it went. Are you going to stay much longer?"
"Just a few more minutes. I want to stop at Miriam's on the way, and Dad's actually going to be home for supper tonight."
"Why don't you call me when it's easy for you?" Adele suggested.
"Okay," said Kate and turned her attention to Allan Crane. "He's really good, isn't he?"
"He sure is, and they all really appreciated the poems, Kate."
"Can I leave Mr. Grant's with you? You'll see him long before I do."
"Certainly, dear. Now you just slip out whenever you want to." Adele gave her a warm hug that smelled of talcum powder. "Talk to you soon."
The next day, Kate called when her father and Joanie went out to visit friends. "How did it go?" she asked anxiously.
"Just fine. She was a little taken aback when I said I'd like to talk to her about a few things. I guess she thought I was just the chauffeur. But she agreed to a meeting on Wednesday afternoon after school."
"Did she seem okay about talking about me?"
"I didn't say anything about you. I told her I wanted to discuss business connected with the Home Economics Association. I thought it best to start from there and work our way into your problem. Okay?"
"Sure," said Kate.
"What are you doing this afternoon. The weather's lovely. You should get out in the fresh air."
"I will. I'm going riding with Jill."
"All right then, dear. I'll call you after I've talked to Miss Johnson."
As Kate replaced the receiver, a tiny furrow appeared between her brows. She'd never told the older woman that Walter Hennigan had refused permission to see her. She hoped he wouldn't find out about any of this. Nah, he'd never know. He only came home to sleep. How would he find out?


Kate leaned her head against Beauty's arched neck and ran her fingers through the long uncropped mane she'd just finished combing. Since the weekend she'd made it a practice to visit Beauty first and to groom her each day. It seemed important to let her know that someone cared about her; that someone wanted to touch her in a loving way. Kate thought about how much she missed being touched, and a tear slid down her cheek. "I guess we both need him, don't we, girl?" she murmured to the mare.
"Why don't you take her out and exercise her, Kate?" Kate looked up to see Miss Winter watching her through the opening in the stall door, and she wiped her eyes on the sleeve of her sweater.
"But she's not my horse," Kate started to say.
Miss Winter frowned and her tone sharpened. "Well, I don't have time to exercise her as often as she needs it. And from the looks of things, she's not anybody's horse. Richard has been neglecting her for months, and the past few weeks he's ignored her completely. You are the only person who's taken the time to give her any attention at all."
"Is there anything I should know? I've never ridden her before."
"Just take it slow at first. You might want to start with the lunge line but she probably won't act frisky anyway. She's out of shape. She has a really soft mouth. I think you'll like riding her."
Kate lifted down the saddle and settled it on Beauty's back. The horse was almost tall enough for Kate to walk under her to get the girth, and she smiled at how much easier she was to deal with than Happy. She didn't even blow out her belly. The bridle presented more of a challenge as Kate had trouble reaching her head, but Beauty seemed to sense her difficulty and lowered her head. "You really are a Beauty, aren't you, girl?" Kate whispered in her ear as she did up the throat strap.
She led her out into the corridor just as Jill entered the stable. "I was wondering when you'd finally get around to asking if you could take her out," Jill said with a grin.
"I didn't ask. Miss Winter told me to exercise her. Hurry up and get ready so we can ride together," Kate said as she mounted, and adjusted the stirrups. She felt a little like a novice sitting on the tall horse for the first time.
Kate and Jill had been riding for about half an hour when Kate noticed Rick's car parked by the curb. "Oh my god, he's here. What am I going to do?" She reined Beauty in and slid down from her back. "Here," she said, "take her and lead her around for awhile."
"Don't be ridiculous, Kate. What could he say? Miss Winter said to ride her."
"Just do it, for god's sake. Here." Kate thrust the reins into Jill's unwilling hand. "Tell him you were giving her a bit of exercise while you were riding," she shouted, already fleeing to the dimly lit stable to seek a hiding place. She went immediately to Gay Girl's empty box stall in the back wing of the stable. Jill was riding Gay so Kate knew she was safe from detection here.
From the other corridor she could hear Miss Winter's voice raised in annoyance. "Someone had to exercise that horse, Richard. She'll get sick if she isn't treated better than you've been treating her. You really don't deserve to own a horse."
"Well, where is she?" Kate could hear the embarrassment in Rick's voice, and knew that the tips of his ears were burning.
"Out in the ring, with someone who cares a great deal more about her than you do, young man," was the sharp response.
For the next ten minutes Kate crouched in an agony of suspense. She'd have given anything to go out to the paddock to see what was happening. Instead she huddled in a corner in a nest of straw. Someone had mucked out the stall and laid a bed of fresh dry straw and she was comforted by the clean smell of dusty bedding and freshly dubbined tack. This area was lit only by a low wattage bulb hanging from the ceiling, and Kate felt protected by the semi-darkness inside the stall. Around her she could hear the horses pulling down hay from their mangers, the occasional gush of water followed by slurping when one of them pushed on its water bowl, and the continual movement of hooves muffled by straw.
Her heart finally stopped pounding and she began to see how ridiculous her situation was. What in the name of god was she doing hiding here? She had done nothing wrong. In fact she'd done everything right. Her old guys' voices began to drown out the stable noises. Even Mr. Witham was urging her to hold up her head and face Rick.
Just as she was about to heed their advice, the creak of a rusted hinge announced the unlatching of the stall door. Funny she hadn't heard the sound of a shod horse on the cobblestone floor first. Had Jill come back without Gay? She stood and turned to face, not Jill, but Rick who was entering the stall obviously looking for someone. Oh for Pete's sake, did she look dumb or what?
"There you are," he said, peering into the gloom. "I guess I should thank you."
"What for?"
"For exercising Beauty."
"Miss Winter did all the exercising, and Jill took her out with Gay today."
"I know you've been grooming her, and Jill told me what happened today."
"I told her not to say anything," Kate said angrily.
"Come on, Kate. Don't be mad at Jill. I knew as soon as I saw the saddle that someone had been riding her, and the stirrups were up around her withers so it had to be someone tiny. It had to be you. Rick had moved nearer as he was talking, and he was now close enough for Kate to feel the warmth of his breath.
"I've missed you," he said.
Kate backed away. "What happened? Did she dump you for someone new?"
"I only saw her a few times. I haven't been seeing anyone for two weeks."
"Why not?" Kate looked at him curiously. "And why didn't you call me?" she asked.
"I knew I'd been a jerk."
'That's for sure."
"I didn't know how to tell you I was sorry."
"Okay, you've said it. Now let me out. I've got to exercise Happy."
"Wait." Rick pleaded. "I figured there wouldn't be any chance of us getting back together, so why bother?" Kate stood rigid, her feet planted a foot apart, her hands on her hips, not making it any easier for him. He continued, "I guess it's obvious I was right and Bev was wrong."
"What did she say?" Kate asked.
"To at least give it a try. She said if you really cared, you wouldn't give up on me yet."
Kate didn't say anything. One part of her wanted to take the single step necessary to move into his embrace and back into their familiar patterns, but she hesitated. It wasn't going to be enough to go back to the way things had been.
Rick broke the silence. "Have you been going out with anyone else?" he asked.
"I've been doing things with kids from school and with the gang."
"Anyone special?" Kate knew the question was of greater importance than the offhand tone suggested.
"What's it to you?" she snapped.
"Have you missed me?" Rick sounded hurt.
"A little," she said almost inaudibly. She really wanted to get some things straightened out, and she hadn't had a lot of practice being forthright with boys or men.
"I can't hear you," Rick said softly, and reached toward her to pull her closer.
Kate stiffened, and said clearly, "I did miss you, but you really hurt me when you started dating her while we were still going steady." There was a pause, and then she continued, her voice quite steady, "I thought we were friends. Friends don't lie, and they don't make each other feel like dirt. I'm not just someone to crawl into the back seat of a car with."
"I'm really sorry about a bunch of things."
"Like what?"
"Like making you think I just wanted to neck." He stopped and swallowed, his Adam's apple moving visibly. "I really missed you."
"I missed you, too," Kate said, and this time the muscles in her jaw eased, and, as she took a deep breath, her shoulders slid down, and her body relaxed for the first time since she'd seen his car parked in front of the stable.
Rick leaned toward her as if to kiss her, but Kate turned her head so that his lips brushed her cheek. He plucked a piece of straw from her hair. As it floated to the stall floor, he said, "Do you want to go steady again?"
"I'm not sure."
"Will you go out with me Friday night?"
"I'll think about it."
Jill and Gay Girl came clattering along the corridor, and Kate opened the stall door to let them in. Jill looked at Kate quizzically, and then said simply, "Beauty's in her stall. Somebody'd better look after her."
As they walked to Beauty's stall, Kate told Rick about how unhappy his horse had been without any attention. "That's one of the things I wanted to talk to you about," Rick said. "I can't ride as often as I used to. I'm really busting my ass to get the marks I need for university, and I'm going to have to sell her unless I can find somebody to treat her like their own this year. Would you ride her at least until this summer?"
"Aren't you ever going to want to ride?" Kate asked.
"I can borrow one of the other horses if I want to go to the park or something."
Kate thought about Happy. Then she remembered Jennifer. With a bit of coaching Jenn could handle him. "Is this only if we're going steady? Is it a bribe?"
"Hey, come on, Kate. You know I wouldn't do that."
"If I were sure I wouldn't have asked, would I?"
"Well, it's not. Now will you do it?"
Kate thought for a moment, and then said, "Okay, as long as you know this has nothing to do with us getting back together." She stuck out her hand. "It's a deal." Rick looked a little confused by the offer of a handshake, but after a second's hesitation, he took her outstretched hand and shook it. Kate smiled and said, "Call me tomorrow about Friday night."


The next morning as Kate spread jam on her toast, poured herself a glass of milk, and made her way to the table, she was still puzzling over yesterday's encounter with Rick. Beauty for the next six months ... maybe getting back together on a different footing ... and she'd actually said what was on her mind and hadn't just clammed up and snuggled in. She felt great. The old guys would be proud of her. She had almost finished her breakfast when she noticed the note propped up against the sugar bowl.

Kate -
Adele called ... said to call back.

She glanced at her watch -- too late to call now. When she got back from riding, she'd phone. Although she was somewhat curious about the meeting between Adele and Miss Johnson, she was too preoccupied with thoughts of Beauty and questions about Rick to dwell on it. And she certainly didn't think twice about her father's note.
"Guess what!" was her greeting to Mim.
"Something good, I'll bet," said Mim with a smile. "Did Adele solve the problem with Miss Johnson?"
"No. I mean I don't know. I have to call her this afternoon. Guess who came to the riding club yesterday."
"How did you guess?"
"It wasn't hard. What happened?"
Kate recounted the entire afternoon, and said, "What would you do?"
Miriam thought for a few minutes and then said, "I guess I'd let him prove he really meant what he said, and then I'd start wearing his ring again.. She held out her left hand shyly. "See what Bobby gave me?"
Kate looked at the simple gold signet ring with RJB engraved on it. Adhesive tape had been wound around it to make it fit Miriam's slender finger. "Wow! That's great, Mim. I told you all it would take was a horror movie!.
"We talk a lot more than we neck," laughed Miriam.
"I wish we had. Maybe this time."
At the riding club that afternoon, Kate asked Miss Winter if she could work with Jennifer even though she was officially off the lead line now. She explained about wanting to acquaint her with Happy and his idiosyncrasies. "Go ahead, Kate. Jenn's one of the naturals. I'd like to see her working with a challenging pony," the instructor said with a smile. Beauty was as gentle and well behaved as she had been the day before and, as a result, Happy was calmer. Jenn was a little scared, a little proud, and completely delighted to be given the opportunity to ride Happy, and she listened carefully as Kate put the horse and her through their paces. "When you think you're ready," she said, "I'll teach you how to jump him. He loves jumping and he's really strong."
At five, the lights had been turned on in the ring, and it was getting colder. "Fifteen more minutes with no lead line and then we'd better go in," Kate said to the younger girl.
"Right," said Jennifer, and the two rode companionably for the next few minutes. When they crossed the road back to the stable, Kate saw that Rick had arrived. She hoped he wasn't having second thoughts about his deal with her. If it fell through now, Jenn would be as disappointed as Kate.
The two girls put away their horses, and Rick joined Kate in Beauty's stall. "Still want to ride Beauty?" he asked.
"Why? Have you changed your mind?" Kate's tone was bristly.
"Of course not. Have you decided about Friday night?"
Kate nodded her head.
"You going to go out with me?"
"I guess so."
"Where do you want to go?" Rick asked.
"Jane's party," Kate said, "but I have to be home around twelve."
"Okay. I'll pick you up at seven." Rick patted Beauty and took off her bridle. "How are you managing being so small?"
"She leans down and helps," Kate said with a grin, "and I'm getting over the feeling of being a peanut on the back of a giraffe. She's a great horse and I love her already."
"Love my horse, love me?" he said with a smile.
Kate smiled up at him, but said nothing. Rick drove her home and she made her call to Adele before going out for supper.
"I quite liked your teacher," Adele began her description of the interview.
"That's because you like everybody," Kate said. "How did you get her talking about our fights?"
Adele laughed, and continued, "I just told her I knew one of her students, and it kind of all came about quite naturally after that."
"Did she tell you what a little bitch I was at the beginning of term?"
"Not quite in those words," said Adele, "but she did say she liked you better than she had when she first met you."
"Cripes," observed Kate, "She has a funny way of showing it."
Adele ignored the comment and said, "I told her that you had been upset when she had asked what your mother had taught you about handling food. She said it was just an expression, and I told her you hadn't seen your mother since you were five. She hadn't realized, and said that a lot of things now made sense. She was really sorry."
"But that wasn't all," Kate interjected. "She said my apron was never clean and she thought I did have a mother washing it so she was being nasty about the mother she thought I did have." The words tumbled out in a rush, and Kate was forced to take a big gulp of air.
Adele took advantage of the pause, and made no comment about the convoluted reasoning, saying simply, "I decided to leave that part out and just deal with things that would get the problem solved. What we really want is for the two of you to get along and not have any more confrontations, right?"
"Yeah, I guess so," Kate said. "Did you talk about anything else?"
"I told her that you had been doing research on the Explosion and that you were really sorry you had said cruel things at the beginning of the term; that you were beginning to understand just how terrible it must have been for the people who were hurt during it."
"Did she ask how I knew she was one of the victims?"
"Yes, and I told her about your interview with the men at Camp Hill ... how Allan had told you a bit about her losses."
"She really didn't react. Oh, I also told her about the poems you'd written."
"Do you think she will go a little easier on me from now on?"
"I think so. I explained about your father's threat to send you to Edgehill, and described the six years of your life when you were quite isolated from your father and mother, first in the foster home and then at Edgehill. It was clear that she felt real sympathy. She knows what it is to lose family and to be wrenched out of a familiar life and place."
"You said you liked her. Because she felt sorry for me?"
"Partly, I guess, but also because she and I have a great deal in common. She asked what my interest in you was, and I told her I had hoped at one time to become your mother, but that your father and I had broken up. She said she knew what that felt like, and asked how I dealt with loneliness. And we talked about that for awhile."
"Do you think she'll be your friend now?"
"I hope so," said Adele gently. "I need as many of those as I can get. We all do."
"I'm glad you're my friend."
"Me too, Sweetie. Now you'd better go and get some food. I can almost hear your stomach grumbling from here." Kate laughed and said she'd talk to her soon.


It was Saturday morning and the apartment was absolutely still. The double-paned windows closed out the cold, and any street noises that might have made their way in were muffled by the big puffy flakes floating past the windows onto the street below. Kate emerged slowly from the warmth and peace of sleep, wishing her bladder were not forcing her to get up just yet. She looked over at the clock and was startled to see how late it was. She hadn't slept in till nine for a long while. Stretching like a sinuous cat and yawning widely, she shoved her bare feet into fluffy slippers, pulled her housecoat around her and made her way into the bathroom.
Last night had been wonderful. Rick had been fun to be with and they'd talked about what they'd been doing in the weeks they'd been apart. He'd said he wanted to see the poems Kate had written for the old guys. "You do?" she'd asked, her eyes wide in disbelief. And he'd made sure he had her home shortly after twelve, walking her right to the apartment door and tentatively kissing her good night with just the right mix of hesitation and passion.
She went back into the bedroom to get dressed, and looked in dismay at the clutter that had once again accumulated despite some effort on her part to keep things under control. A glance out the window told her that there wouldn't be much point in riding today. They wouldn't have the paddocks cleared completely until after the weekend, and she didn't know Beauty well enough to know how she would behave in belly-deep snow. Some horses just loved to roll, and heaven help the rider who wasn't agile enough to jump free if she felt those legs starting to buckle. Kate sure wouldn't be happy if Beauty rolled on her. She knew she'd have no trouble filling the next two days: her room needed cleaning; her Explosion project was due on Monday; and Jimmy Holland was having a party tonight.
The first thing she noticed when she went to get some breakfast was another note from her father.
I won't be home until very late tonight, but I want to talk to you before you go anywhere on Sunday.

Wonder what that's all about, Kate mused, the scrap of paper in her hand trembling slightly. My room? It's nowhere near as bad as it used to be, and the bathroom's always tidy now. After considering all the likely and unlikely reasons for him to be angry, she began to think of more pleasant possibilities. Maybe he and Joanie had decided to get married after all. She smiled as she began to imagine life in a real family.
As she tidied her room, she speculated about where they might live ... out in the country where she could have a horse? ... in a house in town where she would have the space for parties? She wondered if Joanie would continue to work or whether she'd be a full time mom. Would they have a baby together? She'd like a baby sister or brother. By the time she finished, Walter Hennigan and Joanie Terrio were as good as married.
The next morning, Kate awoke to the sound of her father's voice impatiently informing her that it was time for breakfast. She still looked a little sleep tossed and tousled when she entered the kitchen and slid into her chair.
"When are you and Joanie getting married?" she startled her father by asking as soon as he joined her at the table.
"What in god's name are you talking about?" Walter Hennigan asked, and Kate started to examine his eyes and the tone of his voice for clues.
"I just thought maybe that was why you wanted to talk to me," Kate mumbled around a piece of toast.
"Don't talk with your mouth full, Kate. And sit up straight. Your table manners have become atrocious."
"What did you want to talk about?" Kate asked distinctly.
"Adele," said her father flatly. "I told you, not once, but several times, that you were not to see her again." He paused, fixing her with eyes whose coldness made Kate shiver. "I also made it perfectly clear that unless you did as you were told, you were going back to Edgehill. I called Miss Briggs on Friday. They are prepared to take you after Christmas."
Kate gasped, and the blood drained from her face. Her stomach heaved and she thought she might be sick. And then the anger flooded in. "I'm not going back. You can't make me," Kate stormed.
"I certainly can. You are fourteen years old."
"So. You don't own me," Kate stood up. Her hands had become fists that rested on her hip bones, her eyes had narrowed, and her chin was thrust out.
"Don't use that tone with me, young lady. I'm your father."
"Try acting like one, then."
"You watch your tongue, Miss."
Angry tears sprang into Kate's eyes. "You don't want a real kid. You want some kind of trophy you can brag about. It's a whole lot easier when I'm at Edgehill, isn't it? "
"Do you have any idea how much it cost to send you to Edgehill?" His voice hardened.
Kate shrugged her shoulders as if his logic defeated her. "You don't get it, do you? You think you can pay for everything."
"I haven't noticed you turning down your allowance, or the riding lessons or the clothes my money buys for you."
"No," Kate said slowly. "And I didn't turn down the money you gave me so I would leave you and your girlfriends alone when I was a kid."
Her father flushed, and Kate continued. "And you still think you can get rid of me by putting out a few bucks. Well I'm not going back there, Daddy."
"You don't have a choice in the matter," he said with finality.
Kate's breakfast, sitting like a solid lump on tensed muscles, shifted. She swallowed with difficulty, suddenly aware how powerless a fourteen year old really is. "I hate you," she shouted. "You don't give a sweet shit about anybody but yourself."
Suddenly her father was on his feet and his hand lashed out and struck her on the side of the face, shocking them both. He was the first to speak. "I never thought I'd be forced to hit you, Kate, but as long as you are my daughter, you will respect me."
Kate looked at him with eyes that seethed. Her left cheek bore the red imprint of his hand. She spat out the words, "Well I won't be your daughter for long," and then the tears gushed, and she ran from the room, her hand to her cheek.
Her father shouted at her fleeing back, "Running away isn't going to solve anything."
"What do you think you do? Only you don't always run away. You throw me away instead." The accusatory words shot out like shrapnel as Kate's anger, dammed for so many years, exploded. The whole apartment seemed to shudder when she slammed the bedroom door shut behind her.
Once in her own room, she raged impotently her hands icy, her body wracked by shuddering sobs. She wrapped her arms around her shoulders and rocked herself, taking deep breaths. Finally the spasms stopped and she regained control. She looked at her tear-stained blotchy face in the mirror. "Rotten creep," she stewed. "Big bloody bully. Easy enough to hit a girl. Wonder how you'd handle somebody your own size." Her chin jutted out as she said the words aloud.
Nearly half an hour elapsed. Finally, her tears exhausted, she got up and peered again at her face in the mirror. I'll probably have a bruise, she thought melodramatically, and then her attention was drawn from the mirror to a small framed photograph she kept on a corner of her bureau. A vulnerable seven year old had been caught in a pensive pose by a school photographer. Kate picked it up and looked at it thoughtfully. The child in the picture was a plump faced little thing with braids. She was wearing a tunic over a long sleeved dark sweater. Her head was tilted to one side and she looked a little bemused by life. A hint of a smile pulled the corner of her mouth up on one side, but the smile was not mirrored in the clear still eyes. Kate became even more angry. How could anyone have abandoned her?
Kate opened her bedroom door and came out fighting. She strode into the livingroom where her father was sitting in the armchair smoking. His brow was furrowed and his chin rested in his left hand.
"Why do you keep doing this to me, Daddy?"
"I've told you before, Kate. You do these things to yourself. Nobody does them to you." Walter Hennigan's voice was cold and reasonable. He took a drag of the cigarette and then stubbed it out.
Kate walked over to him and handed him the small framed picture. "Look at her, Daddy. Look at her eyes. I didn't put that sadness there; you did."
"You're seeing things that don't exist," he said, glancing at the photograph and handing it back to her.
Kate snatched the photograph from his hands and screamed at him, "Are you blind? Can't you see what you did to me? She flung the photograph against the wall with all her might. There was the sound of glass smashing, and then the framed image fell to the floor. The glass had been cracked into three jagged shards, and the frame hung askew.
"Get hold of yourself, Kate. You're behaving hysterically." Walter Hennigan covered his shock with thinly veiled contempt. "That was a nice silver frame you just destroyed."
"Is a picture frame more important than a real kid, Daddy?" Kate hurled the words at her father before turning on her heel and fleeing back to the safety of her room.
She lay down on her bed clutching the stuffed Rudolph to her chest, and cried as if her heart would break. With each new sob, her small frame shook. Finally, her tears spent, she began to focus her hurt anger on what was really important. The slap was nothing, really. He'd feel awful about that. She wanted him to see that he had been hurting her in far more important ways ever since she had been a small child. She had to make him understand or he'd keep right on doing it. Her breathing slowed and the last of the hiccuping sobs abated. She couldn't let him send her away from Halifax where people cared about her. A few weeks ago she would have put Rick right up there at the top of the list of people she didn't want to leave. Now she realized that Adele and Joanie, and Miriam, Jill and Pam had become, for her, the family she didn't have.
Kate thought about the old guys. After they'd lost their sight, or their legs or their courage; after they'd lost their families and homes and friends, they'd had to learn how to survive. The ones who came through okay learned to look at what they had and to build on that. The ones who caved in ran away and didn't fight for what mattered. This was her fight for survival. She could burst into tears, run into her bedroom, slam the door and lose, as she usually did, or she could fight with everything she had. Her own words came back to her. "The strong gain strength, but crippled are the weak." She began to assess her own strengths: intelligence, the ability to use words, and a suddenly clear comprehension of what her father had been doing to her all her life.
Her mind became a camera eye, and other images began to flash onto her retina: the chubby three year old sent to a summer camp where she wet the bed nightly; the five year old with braids and a dimple in her chin saying good bye forever to a weeping mother; all the times her father left and initiated another pattern of sleepless nights in which Mom Hall held her and told her things would one day be all right; the night after the phone call from Halifax when she was told she was going to boarding school in Windsor, Nova Scotia; that two year jail sentence at Edgehill broken only by vacations with the Hall's and those Sunday visits with their attendant car sickness.
And then the final image, of a fourteen year old set once more adrift, and living a regimented life of tunics, school ties, morning prayers, and afternoon walks in double file, surrounded by grey women who lived a kind of half life themselves. She couldn't let him do it to her again.
Kate walked purposefully into the living room. Her father had picked up the photograph and was looking at the little girl behind the shattered glass.
Kate took a deep breath and said evenly, "Ever since I was just a baby you have been sending me away from the people I love and trust."
Walter Hennigan stood up. He placed his hands on his hips, and Kate flinched. She knew he was squaring off. "Everything I've ever done has been for your own good, Kate, and this is too."
"I'm going to try to explain to you why it isn't good for me, Daddy, but you have to sit down because this isn't easy for me. Please sit down."
There was a moment's hesitation and then Walter Hennigan said, "All right," and he resumed his seat. "Go ahead."
"When I was little, all I had was you and Mommy. You sent me off to that camp when I was three. I was terrified. I don't know how long it was, but I thought I'd never see either of you again. You might as well have sent me to live with monsters I was so scared."
Walter Hennigan opened his mouth as if to speak, but Kate continued before he could say anything. "Then when I was five you took me away from Mommy." Her voice broke, and she said, "Nobody takes a kid away from her mother."
Walter Hennigan said in a low voice, "I was afraid your mother would ruin you, Kate. All she cared about was herself and running around with men."
Kate looked at her father in amazement. He really didn't understand anything about himself. If anyone was selfish; if anyone was a playboy, it was him. She breathed deeply, realizing it would do no good to follow that line of thinking, and said quietly, "Reverend Stockwell would never take Mim away from her mother. Neither would Dr. Carleton ... or Mr. Daley ... or Pam's father. Mom and Daddy Hall would never have done that to Claire"
"Those mothers are all quite different from your mother."
"But she was my mother. I loved her." Kate was quiet for a moment and then she said, "And it sure wasn't as if you wanted me. You took off for Halifax and left me behind."
"I was transferred. I had no say in that. And I put you in a good home. The Hall's loved you like their own."
"Mom Hall did love me. But you didn't let me stay with her either. As soon as I started feeling like I had a home and family again, you yanked me out of there and sent me to Edgehill."
She picked the photograph up from the table beside her father's chair. "Look at it, Daddy. She thrust the photograph at him. "I was in grade two. I look like a baby still with those chubby cheeks. Seven year olds are supposed to be happy. I cried myself to sleep every single night when I was seven." Her eyes filled, but she continued, "It was only a year and a half later when you sent me away from my second mother. But this time it was to a high priced jail with guards instead of parents."
"Edgehill is an excellent school," Walter Hennigan said firmly. "Everyone says so."
"Not for a nine year old. Why do you think there were only three boarders under twelve? People don't send little kids to a boarding school, Daddy."
"Well you're not nine now," he said with a smile that announced a point scored.
"No, I'm not. And I'm never going back there. You tore me away from my mother and then from Mom Hall. I'm not leaving Mim, or Pam, or Adele or Joanie or any of the people I love." She looked down at the child in the photograph. "It's a miracle she survived being pulled up by the roots time after time. I'm not going to give you the chance to finish her off..
Walter Hennigan looked uncomfortable, but he hadn't given up yet. "How about if I tell you we'll give it one more chance, but you are not to bother Adele again. That's finished and I want it to stay that way."
"No," Kate was adamant. "Adele is part of my life. I need her. It's doesn't matter
whether you want her in your life or not. I need her, just like I needed my mother and Mom Hall."
"Sometimes we just have to close doors and move on. One day you'll understand that, Kate."
"Like you did when you left Germany, you mean? He was always telling people how he had become Canadian just as fast as he possibly could.
"Yes," said Walter Hennigan. "Like that."
"You were twenty-one. You lived in one village all your life. When you were a kid you had relatives all around. I'm fourteen. The longest I've ever lived anywhere is four years. I don't have a single relative. I don't even have a father most of the time." Kate was trembling when she finished, and her throat ached from straining to keep her voice under control.
"You're not being fair," Walter Hennigan protested. "I went to Edgehill every single Sunday I was in Halifax. And I even flew to Toronto when you had your tonsils out."
Kate willed herself to speak calmly. "If I didn't have other people, Daddy, I'd be on my own most of the time. I eat dinner alone in a restaurant nearly every night. Sometimes I don't see you for days. If Adele and the Stockwells didn't invite me over some nights, I'd never have company at mealtimes."
Walter Hennigan's face reddened, and with the rippling movement of a snake under a lake surface, his face registered a sudden awareness. How did people regard him? As a failure as a father? He thought about the meals she ate night after night in local restaurants. How many people knew about that?
Kate went on relentlessly. "Every time I won a prize, there was nobody in the audience for me. When I needed help with school work it was never you who helped me."
"You've never asked for help. And why would you need it, anyway? You're getting good marks, aren't you?"
"I've never asked because you're never around. This term I needed someone to help me arrange interviews and Adele was the one who set things up. And it was Adele who helped me sort out a problem with Miss Johnson."
"The cooking teacher?" Kate could hear the sneer in his voice. "Why didn't you get the principal to help you?"
"Miss Johnson was damaged in the Explosion and I didn't want to get her into trouble; I just wanted to stop the fights between us."
"What did Adele do?"
"Just talked to her and explained that I didn't have a mom. I think she understood because her mom was killed in the Explosion."
"I've tried to give you everything you needed, Kate ... riding, the Waegwoltic club, nice clothes, presents from all over the world, a decent education at one of the best girls' schools in the country. What more can I do?"
"You can be my dad," Kate said simply. "What I really need is you, Daddy, and if you can't give me that, at least let me stay here where people love me. Don't keep sending me away every time I begin to feel safe."
"All right, Kate. I'll think about this. No promises. I don't want you running wild and growing up without any guidance at all. And I'm too busy to be here every night, so we're going to have to come up with some kind of solution.
Kate looked at him and grinned. "You could marry Joanie," she said.
Her father laughed. "You'll have to see if you can convince Joanie of that. I've tried." Walter Hennigan came around to his daughter and put his arms around her. He touched her cheek gently. "I'm really sorry about this," he said and kissed the reddened area.
"I know," said Kate.
"You've made a very convincing argument with me this morning." He looked at her appreciatively. "That's something new. I'm pleased to see you standing up for what you believe in."
"I'm going to have to thank the old guys," Kate smiled.
"I'm sure you'll explain that one some day," Walter Hennigan said, and ruffled her hair. "My god it's almost noon and I promised to pick Joanie up at 12:30. Do you want to come with us to Yarmouth?"
"I can't, Dad. I have a big project to pull together this afternoon. Try to be home for supper?" Her eyes made it a question.
"I'll do my very best," he promised, and Kate believed him.


Kate leapt up at the first summons from her alarm clock. Today was the last day of term with all assignments due. The teachers had said they would mark them over the holiday. Some vacation, Kate had thought. But at least the kids were completely free for the next two weeks. Free to stay up late every night. Free to ride in Point Pleasant Park every day. Free to sleep in every morning. Kate smiled. And then she remembered. Nothing was settled about Edgehill. Her father and Joanie had called at six last night and apologized for not being able to make it home for supper. The roads had turned icy so they'd decided to eat at a restaurant and drive home slowly. Kate had waited for them but when they hadn't shown up by ten, she'd gone to bed.
She checked her binder to make sure she had everything ready for the day before going into the kitchen for breakfast. Propped up against a vase containing a single pink rose bud was another note from her father.
Good morning,
I thought you'd like to know right away ...You won't be going to Edgehill after Christmas. Have a happy last day of school. See you tonight around 10. Sorry about last night's supper. I'll make it up to you after the Christmas rush. Love, Dad

Kate could not contain herself. She whooped in glee and wrapped her arms around herself. Running to the phone, she had Mim's number half dialled before realizing they'd be seeing each other in fifteen minutes. She replaced the receiver and sighed rapturously, "I did it. I really did it."
Miriam was almost as happy as Kate when she heard the news. They chattered non-stop till they were almost at the school's front door. "Have you got everything you need for today?" she asked looking at the binder in Kate's arms.
"Sure. All my assignments are in here," Kate replied.
"What about your apron?"
"Oh no! Should I go back?" Kate looked stricken.
"You'll be late if you do. We're making the mints today. I don't think there's any cooking. Maybe she'll let you work without an apron," Miriam said hopefully.
"Fat chance," Kate replied. "Oh well, she won't kill me, and even if she's mad, I don't have to worry about being sent back to Edgehill."
It was a relaxed morning. In both math and science classes, they handed in their work and then played games and did puzzles. At recess Mr. Harris patrolled the halls looking uncharacteristically jolly. He was wearing a white beard and a red suit and carried a large bag of candy canes.
By the time they entered Miss Johnson's room Kate had forgotten about not having her apron. Miss Johnson, however, was quick to note its absence. "You can't cook without an apron, Hennigar. You know the rules."
"I'm sorry, Miss Johnson. Would you let me, just this once?"
"No," said the teacher, "but it would be a shame if you had to be excluded from the Christmas mints lesson. See if there's an extra apron hanging in the closet."
Kate found an apron meant for someone much taller than she was and tied it around herself. "You look pretty funny," Miriam whispered with a grin when Kate returned to their station, the apron dragging on the floor.
Each pair of girls mixed icing sugar with liquid essence of mint, and food colouring and produced three blobs of dough-like consistency. They rolled them into cylinders and then cut off slices the size of quarters. Dipping a fork into extra icing sugar they flattened each mint and placed it on a baking sheet. Miss Johnson assured them that the mints would dry and be a delicious confectionary to serve guests over the holiday. "They'd have to be starving to choose these over ribbon candy or chocolates," Shona said in a stage whisper.
"What did you say?" asked Miss Johnson.
Shona blushed and said, "They look good, Miss Johnson." The teacher smiled, and Kate thought she should do that more often. Her scars were hardly noticeable now.
At the end of class, Kate took the apron up to the teacher. "I can send it to the laundry over the holidays, if you like."
"Thank you, Hennigar. That would be nice. By the way, Miss Lepage said you'd written some poems about the Explosion."
Kate nodded..
"Would you show them to me some time? I'd like to see them."
"I have them here," Kate replied. "I have to hand them in to Miss Cole after lunch, but if you'd like to read them at noon, I could pick them up before class."
"Thank you, Hennigar."
When Kate had returned after lunch, Miss Johnson was wearing reading glasses and copying out the poems. "I hope you don't mind," the teacher had said. "I'd like to be able to read them again some time. They are very good."
Kate coloured. "I don't mind."
"I like the one you've written about grief that is kept inside," she said. "I think many of us made that mistake, not just Mr. Grant." She read aloud from the sheet before handing Kate's assignment back to her.


Mute, voiceless,
Tongue-tied, taciturn, inarticulate,
Hidden, sealed-off, festering,

Sealed-off Sorrow

Like magma.
Its path blocked,
Sorrow hides silently,
But one day erupts


"I'm surprised at how well you understand something you haven't experienced," Miss Johnson said.
"The old guy..., I mean the gentlemen at Camp Hill helped me understand a lot of things," Kate said.
"It's still surprising that you were able to learn so well from them," Miss Johnson said thoughtfully.
Both Alice and Kate understood that real empathy comes only if you can make connections with experience, but neither carried the conversation any further. They simply wished one another a Merry Christmas and parted.


Kate loved Christmas Eve. It was the one night that she was given glimpses of her German heritage. She and her father always decorated the tree, ate stollen, drank eggnog, and opened their gifts at midnight. This year the city was blanketed by a clean white covering, and the lighted houses had turned Halifax into a fairyland as she and Rick headed out immediately after supper to deliver gifts.
"Where to first?" asked Rick.
"Camp Hill," said Kate. "I have something for my old guys."
"Sort of a combination thank you and Christmas gift," Kate replied. "I made them copies of my whole project, and put in thank you notes for each of them to tell them how they'd helped me."
"These guys seem pretty important. More important than just some old men who gave you information for a school project. How come?" Rick said seriously, and then laughed, "If they weren't so old I'd be jealous."
Kate described how the four men had helped her see her own life more clearly, and explained that if anyone had been supplanted, it had been her father. "But I think maybe they've helped me get my dad back," she concluded with a grin as they arrived at Camp Hill. "Do you want to come in?" she asked, as she opened her car door.
"Sure," Rick responded, and turned off the ignition. They asked the receptionist where they might find the men, and were told to follow the Christmas decorations along the hallway to the lounge.
"I know where that is," Kate said and tugged Rick along. Just as they got to the door they heard a woman's clear soprano voice singing "Silent Night". "Listen," Kate said. "It's a woman. What a beautiful voice. I wonder if Mr. Crane is here tonight." They opened the door a crack and peeped in. Allan Crane sat in semi-darkness at the piano, and beside him stood a woman in a long dress singing. In the dim lighting she looked like an angel, her voice soaring out to the men in the audience. "She looks beautiful when she's happy," Kate whispered to Rick.
"Who is she?" Rick asked.
"Miss Johnson," Kate said in an awed tone.
She scanned the room looking for the men, and then spied Bill Grant. "Oh good, he made it," said Kate, and led Rick over to meet the old man. "This is my boyfriend, Rick Carleton, Mr. Grant," she said smiling from one to the other.
"How do you do, Sir?" Rick said.
"Just fine, young man. So you're Kate's boyfriend, eh? Well you make sure you treat her right. She has four granddads in this room who think she's pretty special."
Tank Wilson's wheelchair suddenly appeared beside them. Samuel Witham stopped pushing it forward and said, "Merry Christmas, Kate. We're glad you've come." He gave her a kindly hug. Returning his hug, Kate thought he felt more like a fragile doll than a sixty year old man.
She introduced Rick to the other two and said they couldn't stay long as they had errands to run before going home to help with the tree. "Christmas Eve is a special time for my dad and me," she explained, "but I'll come back to visit over the holidays." She gave the men their packages, and asked Samuel Witham to make sure than Allan Crane got his. Rick said little as Kate gave her old guys a good bye hug, but an observer would have noticed a new respect in the look he gave her.
He didn't say anything until they were back in the car. "They really like you, don't they?"
"I guess so. I really like them too."
"It's like they see you're someone special."
"Aw shucks!" Kate tried to lighten the mood.
"No, really," Rick said. "You are pretty special."
Kate leaned over and gave him a soft kiss. "Let's get going. We have to stop at Mim's."
"What about Jill and your friend in Prince's Lodge?
"I gave Jill hers yesterday."
"Exactly where do we have to go tonight?. Rick asked.
"Prince's Lodge, Mim's, and three friends of Dad's here in the city."
"Let's start with Prince's Lodge and then do the Halifax ones," Rick suggested.
"Good idea," said Kate and leaned back to enjoy the ride out to the country. The car radio was playing Christmas songs. "I'm glad Miss Johnson was singing for them. Maybe she's going to find some friends and be happier."
"Uh huh," Rick mumbled, and then he turned to her. "Did you mean what you said to Mr. Grant?"
"About me being your boyfriend."
Kate nodded in the darkness. "Um hmm. I think I really like you now."
"Just like?"
"You're starting to feel like a friend."
"Just a friend?"
"All the other stuff too. But we haven't always been friends."
They had reached Prince's Lodge and Kate directed Rick to Pam's house. When they pulled into the driveway, Rick said, "I'm glad we're back together, Kate," and he leaned over to kiss her.
"Me too," Kate responded and reached into the bag in the back seat to pull out Pam's gift. It was a small flat package, and Rick asked what record she'd bought. "Eddie Fisher," Kate replied. "'I Need You Now'."
Pam opened the door to their knock, and insisted they come in for hot apple cider, drawing the two of them into the living room where her brother and parents were sitting near the wood stove. A huge Christmas tree stood in the corner of the wood panelled room. Kate went over to it. "Look, Rick, teddy bears. The whole tree is decorated with just red lights and teddy bears. I love it."
"We've bought a new bear for everyone in the family every year since we've been married," said Mrs. Robinson, looking fondly up at her husband.
"What a nice thing to do," said Kate a little wistfully, thinking how wonderful it must be to feel so much a part of a family.
Pam dug around in the piles of presents under the tree. "Yours is here somewhere. Mom, have you seen Kate's present?"
Mrs. Robinson turned from a conversation she was having with Rick, and said, "It over there on the left, Pam." Kate thought Pam looked a little odd as she handed her the gift, but she didn't say anything.
"I wish we could stay longer," Rick was saying to Pam's father, "But we have some more gifts to deliver in Halifax, and Kate's real Christmas starts at nine when she and her dad decorate their tree."
"I guess you'll be up bright and early, eh, Kate?" said Mr. Robinson.
"No, we open our gifts at midnight, like my dad always did in Germany."
"I wish we did that," said Pam's brother.
"You can wait till morning," his mother laughed, giving him a light tap on the bottom.
Back in the car, Rick said, "They're nice. How come I haven't met any of your friends before?"
Kate shrugged her shoulders. "I never thought you'd want to do things like that. I'm glad tonight isn't just one big pain."
"Miriam's next?"
"Yes. Maybe Bobby will be there."
"Who's Bobby?"
"Mim's boyfriend. They just started going steady."
"What's he like?"
"A nice brat who's being reformed by Mim," Kate laughed. As they drove, she told Rick about the French classes and Bobby's poem.
Reverend Stockwell invited them in, and shook Rick's hand when Kate introduced him. "I'm glad to meet you, Rick. Kate has become our fourth daughter over the past few years. About time we got to meet you."
Bobby and Mim jumped up from a mountain of paper and ribbons to greet them. Miriam pulled Kate to one side, "He's even cuter than his picture." she whispered. "Are you guys back together?" When Kate nodded, Miriam grabbed her hand. "Hasn't he given you back his ring?"
"No," Kate responded, "but it doesn't matter." Before Kate and Rick left to complete their deliveries, the two girls exchanged their gifts and Reverend Stockwell extracted a promise from Kate to attend church the next day.
The war years had made such things as decorating with outdoor lighting impossible, but the fifties had brought safety and prosperity to Halifax, and with them had come annual Christmas decorating competitions. Rick made sure that they managed to see all the winners and runners-up as they made their last three calls. At the Coburg House, Kate said, "Did you know that the people who owned this house in 1846 were the first people in Canada to decorate a Christmas tree?"
"That's an odd bit of information to have stored away," Rick grinned.
"Mrs. Pryor was German, and she wanted to keep her old country traditions alive. Their first house was called the Pryor House. It's at the bottom of Jubilee Road, near the boat club." Kate gave herself a hug. "I love Christmas. Everything's so clean and white and the lights turn the city into a fairy land." She turned to face Rick. "Thank you for a wonderful Christmas Eve, Rick."
"Do you want to stay and help decorate the tree, Richard?" asked Walter Hennigan when they returned.
"Not this time, Sir. I promised my sister I'd babysit for awhile this evening. I'll be over tomorrow." Rick handed Kate a small package when she saw him to the door.
"I thought we were going to open our presents for each other tomorrow," Kate stammered, and turned to go and get Rick's gift.
"This isn't a Christmas present," Rick said.
"Do you want me to open it now?"
He nodded.
Kate ripped off the brightly coloured paper and opened the box inside. It was Rick's ring. She slipped it on her finger. "But, it fits me," she said in confusion.
"I had it sized for you," Rick said. "It's your ring, now."
Kate kissed him gently on the lips. "Thank you. That was a sweet thing to do. I love the ring."
"I'll call you tomorrow before I come over," he said and ran down the steps.

When she walked into the living room, her father was just putting a tall pile of boxes on the couch. "He's a nice boy," he said.
"I know," said Kate. "What do you want me to do?"
"Maybe get us some eggnog while I string the lights," said her father, as he plugged in one strand of lights after another. Kate brought back a tray on which were shortbread cookies and eggnog, and a plate of Christmas stollen from the Swiss Pastry on Quinpool Road. She began to open the boxes of decorations, and as she handled each special ornament, she recalled the Christmas they'd added it to their collection. Some of the ornaments were wooden ones Oma had sent over from Germany; others had come from different buying trips in North America or Europe. Kate pulled out the donkey from the colourfully painted and shellacked papier maché crêche set her father had brought home from Italy last year. "It won't be long till you go away again to Europe," she said thoughtfully.
"The middle of January," Walter Hennigan agreed.
"Is Joanie coming to stay with me?"
"She's not sure whether she can, but if not I'll ask the Stockwell's."
"It's always pretty crowded there, Dad. Diane and Miriam share a room, you know."
"Any ideas?"
"No, but I hope Joanie will do it." Kate would wait until Joanie had given her decision before suggesting staying in Adele's guest room for the two months.
By ten thirty the livingroom had been transformed. Walter Hennigan had put on a stack of 45's from Bing Crosby's Christmas album, and had turned off most of the lights in the room. He sat in his big leather arm chair, a glass of eggnog in one hand and a cigarette in the other. The tree glistened in the corner, every foil icicle perfectly hung and reflecting the winking coloured lights. Under the spruce was the Italian manger scene surrounded by gifts. The door bell rang and Kate ran to answer it. Joanie gave her a hug and said, "I need some help bringing up presents."
"I'll get everything, Walter Hennigan said, butting his cigarette in the large crystal ashtray, "You take off your coat and come in and relax. You haven't got much time."
"Aren't you going to stay, Joanie?" Kate asked.
"I promised my mother I'd go to midnight mass with the family. I'll be here all day tomorrow."
"I hope you can stay with me while Dad's in Europe."
"I hope so too. It all depends on what's happening at work. If I can't, maybe Adele would let you stay there."
"Maybe," Kate said as her father came into the room with four large boxes in his arms.
"It seems a little odd to be opening presents without you tonight," Walter Hennigan said. "Maybe we should hold off till tomorrow."
"No, no," said Joanie. "I want you to do things the German way. Kate needs to know as much as possible about where she comes from." She pushed a lock of hair out of her eyes and turned to Walter Hennigan. "Have you told her, Walter?"
"Told me what?" Kate asked, looking from one to the other.
"Not yet," her father said. "I thought I'd wait until after we'd opened the presents."
Kate looked fearful, and Joanie put her hand on her arm. "It's something wonderful, Kate. You'll love it."
After Joanie left, Kate and her father sat in the darkened living room looking at the tree. The only words spoken were the occasional comment about what a good job they'd done on the decorating this year -- words that had been repeated every Christmas Eve since Kate could remember. She got up from the couch and sat by the tree, looking at the different presents and their cards. "Remember the time I was four and we were living on Louisa Street in Mimico and I got up before everybody else and opened all the presents under the tree?" Kate asked. "I couldn't read so I just opened them all and tossed aside the ones that were boring."
"Yes" laughed her father. "That was why I decided we'd better start opening the presents at midnight the way we'd done it when I was a boy."
A church bell began to peal and then another and another, and Kate said, "It's midnight. Merry Christmas, Daddy."
"Merry Christmas, Honey. Do you want to open them all again this year?"
"All except the special ones for you," she laughed, and pulled out one that was for her father from the girls in one of his departments. "Do you want to open this one?" she asked.
"No, you go ahead."
It was a gold pen and pencil set with his name engraved on it. The pile of paper grew and Walter Hennigan refilled their glasses. "Look what I got from Pam." Kate showed him the Eddie Fisher record, a duplicate of the one she'd given her friend, and then held up the tiny teddy bear wearing a hand-knit red sweater and toque. "So that's why Pam looked funny," Kate said. "Her mom added this and put the two presents in a bigger box." She stood up and hung the little bear on the tree, explaining that this meant she was now an official member of Pam's family.
Adele's gift was a large hand-painted red tin. A long-bearded Father Christmas surrounded by forest animals sat under an evergreen. Inside were Christmas cookies from all over the world: Scottish shortbread; German peppernüsse; Italian biscotti, Irish oatmeal cookies, dark English fruitcake; and one Walter Hennigan couldn't identify. They were delicate stars dusted with icing sugar. "There's a note," Kate said, and read it aloud.

Merry Christmas, Kate,
I thought you'd like samples of cookies from a number of countries. All of them are served at Christmas. Your dad will recognize those from Europe, and probably the three from the British Isles, but I doubt if either of you have eaten the Norwegian ones. You make a batter and then dip an iron in the batter and then into deep fat. Once they float to the surface, they are drained and sugared. Alice Johnson taught me to make them, and she asked that I include some in this little gift. They are from both of us. We hope you enjoy them. Love, Adele

"I wonder where she got that recipe," Kate mused. "She told us about another Norwegian recipe, risengrynsgrøt, sort of like our griesse but made with rice."
"That's what we should have for breakfast tomorrow morning, griesse," said Walter Hennigan.
Kate agreed, and said, "I'm going to call Adele."
"You can't call her now," her father said.
"Why not?" There was an edge to Kate's voice. "I want to thank her."
"I just thought it might be too late to call anyone, Kate. That's all."
Kate relaxed and said, "It will be okay. She was going to the concert at Camp Hill and then later to midnight mass. Afterwards she was having some people over for a French Canadian réveillon with tourtière and salads and Christmas baking and stuff. She'll be up."
"Okay then. Go ahead, and tell her I said Merry Christmas."
Kate went into the kitchen and dialled Adele's number. She could hear music in the background when Adele answered the phone with a cheery 'Merry Christmas'. "Sounds like a good party," Kate said. "I called to thank you for the box of cookies. They're great and I love the tin."
Adele asked how Kate had spent Christmas Eve, and, after closing a door on the party noise, told her about her own evening. She'd seen Kate at the concert, but figured she'd be in a rush so hadn't spoken to her. "What did you do afterwards?" Kate asked.
"I took Alice Johnson over to the graveyard where her family is buried. We placed a Christmas wreath and candles in the snow. It was really quite lovely. They do that in Norway."
"Is she Norwegian?"
"No, she once loved a young Norwegian boy. They were hoping to get married, but the Explosion destroyed that too."
"I saw her at the concert. She looked happy."
"Yes. I was so pleased that Allan convinced her to come. It was probably a hard decision for her. She met her Norwegian love at Camp Hill when she was singing for the young men in hospital. I'm sure it brought back a lot of memories, both happy and painful."
"She looked beautiful. I never imagined anyone could change that much. It was as if her singing transformed her. She looked a little bit like Miriam does when she sings. Isn't that weird?"
"Maybe real beauty always comes from within," said Adele. " She came to midnight mass with me, but she said she was too tired to come here afterwards."
"Will you see her again to thank her for the cookies?"
"I'm sure I will. She just isn't used to large groups of people, and I think she was a little shy about coming to a party. It must be hard to visit the graves and know you'll never spend Christmas with your family again, and I'm sure she was remembering her young Norwegian boy. She just needed some time to be by herself. But we'll see one another again soon."
"I hope she'll be your friend."
"She already is. And if it hadn't been for you I'd never have met her."
"Dad says Merry Christmas too."
"Good night, Sweetie. I hope you both have a wonderful Christmas. I'll see you soon."
Kate replaced the receiver quietly, and returned to the living room. There were only a few presents left. All of them had tags with Kate's name on them. "Open that one last," commanded her father, pointing to a small box wrapped in gold foil.
Kate opened a huge package containing a sheepskin jacket and immediately tried it on. "Oh, I love it. Feel how soft the lining is." Then she turned to the other large boxes in which she found various items of clothing. She looked at her father. "These are all wonderful, Daddy. I love them."
He smiled and said, "I'm glad you're happy. Now open the last one." Kate opened the tiny jeweller's box. Inside was a gold identification bracelet. Engraved on the tag was Katherine Patricia Hennigan.
"It's beautiful," she said. "Thank you, Daddy."
"Turn it over," he said. She did as she was directed and discovered on the back a family tree that went back to her grandparents on both sides. "I've been remiss," Walter Hennigan said. "I should have been making sure you always knew who you were. I didn't realize until last week how important it was to you. This is my way of saying I wish I'd handled things differently." He went on after a moment. "I can't undo what I've done, Kate, but I can stop uprooting you every time you get settled."
Kate came over and sat on his knee. "Thank you Daddy." A tear slid down her cheek.
"There's something else," her father said. "I thought I'd try to bring you something very special from Europe this trip."
"A duvet!" Kate exclaimed.
"I hadn't thought of that."
"What then?" Her voice was tinged with disappointment.
"Oma." The single word hung in the air, and then he continued, " Well, I'll start the paper work to bring your grandmother over. No guarantees. She's in East Germany. But if we're lucky, next Christmas she should be here with us. What do you think about that?"
Kate bounced off his knee. "I'll have to learn German. And we'll need more room. Could we get a place in the country? Maybe a house?"
Walter Hennigan looked at his daughter and laughed. "Good grief! Is there anything else you want?"
Kate smiled a contented smile. "Well," she said, "You could marry Joanie."
Her father looked at her and said, "I don't think that's ever going to happen, Kate, but we'll be a real family. Even if it's just the two of us, we will be a family from now on."
Kate put her arms around his waist. "I love you, Daddy, and thank you for the best Christmas ever."