1TactileWriter

Lucy and Lithe Chapter 2

Chapter 2
Goodbye, Lucy

“You’re going where?” Kim asked at recess.
Lucy took in great gulps of the sunny, candy-dripping air. Apple blossom, her favorite herald of warm weather, poured its

sugar-like perfume into the thick air. Bees sipped out of flowers, then buzzed away. Cicadas buzzed too. Colorful birds

made crystal music, while fluffy clouds sailed by. Someone had recently mown the grass. It even smelled green. Lucy opened

her mind and all her senses to it. She mustn’t blur her last sights of summer by crying, she kept telling herself.
“Luce?”She fixed in her memory the feel of the wooden swing and the sound of its squeaking as she moved as high as she

could, the sound of her and Kim’s and Stevie’s voices going back and forth. She kicked at the dirt as she sat on the swing,

sometimes moving, sometimes stopping to stare miserably at the ground.
“Someplace called Andorpha. They don’t even have any picnics there.”
“Why not?” Stevie, seated on the swing to her left, asked.
“Because it’s a freakin’ Russian gulag, that’s why. Mom and Dad think they’re saving our butts from the war. Bet you we

freeze to death.” Lucy thought but didn’t say every bad word she’d ever heard.
Kim stopped the swing on which she was seated to Lucy’s right and looked meaningfully at her. “When?” The word weighed a

ton.
“My favorite freakin’ month. June. Early June. Just when people start barbecuing burgers and just when the freezies come

out, and just when every day starts being sunny. That’s when I leave, to go and freeze to death.”
“well,” Kim sighed, “we’ll just have to enjoy May. I know it’s not as nice as June. We’ll play outside every recess. Won’t

we, Steve?”
He banged the bar on which their swings hung so hard he cursed under his breath in pain.
“Stevie! Where are you going?” Kim and Lucy called.
The boy didn’t answer. He just kept running desperately across the playground and indoors, his head hidden in his spring

sweater so no one could see.
“He likes you,” Kim said. “Alot.”
“Likes me, likes me?”
“Likes you, likes you.” A few awkward silent minutes hung between them till the bell rang and they trudged back to class.
Lucy did only three things while May flew by. She did her homework, spent as much time outdoors with Kim and Stevie as

parents and teachers would allow, and she watched the news. Every night, she scanned President Dorothy Fitzgerald’s face

for signs that a working peace treaty was about to be announced.
She went into her room, savoring its pinkness, its little-girlness. The toybox, the dolls, and the little writing table.

Daddy had always said that wood was beautiful, that it was living, which is why he’d spent good money to get her a wooden

writing desk. Books were made out of wood too, he’d said. Really thin wood called paper. She loved to read in the quiet

pink of her room.
But tonight, she wrote:
“Dear Lady President.”
No, that wasn’t right. She sharpened the end of her pencil with her teeth while she tried to think what to write.
“Dear Mrs. President Fitzgerald:
“My name is Lucinda Sue Smith. I am writing to ask you to please make everyone stop fighting.
“My parents and I have to go to Andorpha and leave everything we love and all our friends because of the war. Daddy says we

have to go, so we have to go. Please, can you make them stop fighting? You should send them all to bed without supper or

something, I think. Please do not let bad people win the war.
“PS: I voted for you in the last … when you were a Senator.” She couldn’t think how to spell “election”. “I voted for you

in my heart which means more than the poles, because I’m 8 years old and too young to vote yet.
Your friend,
Lucy.”
She mailed it on the way to school, and prayed. Hard.
Then Dad showed her mom and her the tickets. Lucy could feel the scowl form on her face.
Dad chucked her under the chin. “Remember what your mom said about trying to have a good attitude?”
“Yeah,” Lucy sighed. “Okay, fine. What do you want, some cute little-kid lie about how much I like–”
“You know we don’t want lies, Lucy,” her mother said.
“Princess, how can we sweeten this for you? What do you want Daddy to do for you?”
“You really want to know? For real?”
“For real.”
“Well, the second you hear there’s a peace treaty that’s working, I want us to thank the people we’re staying with and get

the heck off the planet. I want to come home the second you know something good’s going on here.”
“Deal. The second I hear anything about a peace treaty, I’ll check it out. The second it’s safe to come back, we’re outta

there.”
Lucy sighed. “Thank goodness.”
“Some conditions apply, kiddo. Meet people. Be nice to people, just like you are on Earth. I’ll see about that peace

treaty.”
“What are you gonna do, Mom?”
“Me? I’ll be doing like you, honey. Be grateful to God that we can escape this war, that some warm-hearted people are

anxious and happy to take us in. You know, if it were me, I’m not sure I’d want to take in a strange family, much less a

strange species. Yet this Andorphian family are taking us in, no questions asked.”
“What’s the family like?”
“Catch.” Dad lobbed the letter, which Lucy caught.

It seemed like half the school was there. Classes had been as usual that morning.
Someone had smeared glue on the teacher’s chair.. Lucy had cleaned it up the best she could while the guilty parties and

their friends snickered about how funny it would be when “the blind battle-axe” sat her butt in it.
Lucy had given them a piece of her mind, admittedly peppered with a few bad words.
“All right, Lucy,” Mrs. Talbott, guided by Nipper, said behind her. “That’ll do, dear.”
“Sorry, Mrs. T. I just lost it. I have no use for people taking a’vantage.”
“Ad-vantage, dear.”
“I can’t get this off the chair. It’s too sticky.”
“Let me get some help. And Lucy? Whatever you do, don’t touch it.”
Mrs. Talbott named the three who’d done the deed, told them to follow “the blind battle-axe” to the principal’s office, and

they did. They had little choice, with Lucy shepherding them, making sure no one took advantage of Mrs. T.’s blindness.
Lucy got to be Mrs. T.’s assistant that day: writing for her on the blackboard.
“How did she know who did that?” Lucy, Kimmy, and Stevie swung back and forth, Lucy admiring June’s blossoming. She

breathed in every candied scent, each perfume. Her ears remained open to each bird call. She said goodbye to each fluffy

summer cloud, and tried to fix in her memory beach balls, sand, little rain freshets, swimming in cool lakes, swinging in

the sun, grills, barbecues.
“Lucy? Have you left us already?” Kim looked sadly at her.
“I’m sorry, Kimmy. What did you say? I was just trying to imagine everything I love about summer. I think my favorite thing

is my birthday–beach party and bbq.”
“August 4th won’t be any fun ever again, I guess,” Kim said. “Anyhow, I asked How Mrs. T. knew who tried to trick her.”
“Three guesses, first two don’t count. Hey. Anyone smell meat cooking, like burgers and stuff?” Lucy sniffed hard as if she

could hold summer in her nose. “Yup, someone’s cooking outdoors. But who?”
Kimmy and Stevie smiled at each other while Lucy’s eye followed flapping wings.
“Can’t imagine,” Stevie said.
At lunchtime, Kim and Stevie were unusually quiet.
“What’s up, you guys?”
I’m gonna miss you, Luce,” Kim said. “Even worse than I missed Hannah. She was in grade five, remember? She was like a big

sister.
“I wonder where Lydia is, and how she’s doing.”
Steve cleared his throat. “Ah, ladies? Remember me? The guy?”
“Oh yeah, the guy among us. Who you missing, Stevie?”
“You got five hours? For one thing, half the ball team’s gone. Why do you think I’m playing with the girls?” He made a

face. The girls laughed.
They returned to a classroom festooned with streamers and balloons. Lucy’s books had been replaced by cards and photo

albums.
“Cats! Kittens!” Lucy squealed.
“I did that one,” Kim said. “I went to the pound and took all those pictures. You really like ’em, Luce?”
“Like ’em? I worship them.”
“Too bad you’re not moving to Egypt,” Stevie joked. “They worship cats there. Hi, Mrs. T. Can I pet Nipper, please?”
She undid the harness. “He’s yours to pet, Stevie. Actually, they no longer worship cats in Egypt, but you’re right to a

point. They used to.”
“Fat Albert’s in there, too,” Stevie said. “I know how much you liked my cat. Your dad going to get you one?”
“We’ll see.”
“Hmm. Sounds like Parent for ‘no’.”
“Speak Parent, do you, old son?”
“Daddy!” Lucy squealed.
Both her parents hugged her.
“Hey, Mr. Smith. I also speak a fluent Grandpa. ‘We’ll see’ means ‘heck, yes, you can have it’.”
“Really?”
“So how about that cat, Da–Grandpa?”
“We’ll see.” He grinned.
“Hurray!”
Dad shook his head. “What if the Andorphean climate is too brutal for cats, honey?”
“Anyplace cats can’t live, I can’t live.”
“Unh unh. Remember that good attitude thing.”
“Daddy, you just soured the pot.”
“Sorry. Maybe they’ll have a Dairy Queen out there.”
“Who wants that twenty below zero?” Kim asked.
“Come on, guys,” Lucy’s mom said, pleadingly. “Give us a break. There must be something good about Andorpha.
“Yeah,” Kim chimed in. “Hot chocolate with every meal.”
“Fireplaces! Real wood!” Stevie cried.
“Parents that never …” Kim whispered, “I mean parents that love their children.”
“I already have those,” Lucy said, not noticing the pall that had come over Kim.
Mrs. Talbott entered the room and called for quiet. She got it, sort of.
“We’re all here today to wishMiss Lucinda Smith bon voyage and safe journey. There have been several such journeys by

students and teachers now living on new worlds, far away from the turmoil of our own. Lucy, would you like to come up and

tell the class about your new home?”
Good attitude, Lucy reminded herself. “Sure, Mrs. Talbott.” At the front of the class, she continued. “I’m going to live on

a planet called Andorpha. Little is known about this world, at least by our family.”
Laughter. Lucy blushed, her mind gone blank.
“Go on, princess,” her dad whispered.
She shook her head as if to rid herself of cobwebs. “Right, Dad. A month ago, Daddy and Mommy got this letter from the

government. The really odd thing is that we were welcomed by the government, as if we were best friends.” She handed her

dad the welcome letter, and he showed it to the children on a screen. “I think the Andorphians must be very caring people,

to take us onto their world when they know nothing about humans, and they don’t know us.
“The other neat thing I noticed was the names of the people who are taking us into their home. Their names are Romance and

Hero Dearheart.”
One of the boys snickered.
“I think Thomas would like to join you in telling us about this neat world,” Mrs. Talbott said.
“Yeah. Come on up, Tommy.” Lucy’s voice dripped with challenge.
Mrs. Talbott patted Lucy’s hand. Lucy’s anger calmed.
“Never mind. Anyway, Andorpha is really cold all year round. The brochure we got shows snow everywhere all the time. It

must be really cold, because everyone in the brochure was wearing fur coats.”
The brochure was also shown.
“Wow,” Kim said. “They must all be rich, Luce. How do they make enough money to buy all that fur?”
“I don’t know, but–”
“They’re killing innocent animals for their coats!” one student cried. Other kids chimed in with their protests. Still

others defended the aliens because their planet was so cold.
“Who the crap cares?” Stevie shouted. “You’re worried about some stupid animals and we’re all going to be blown to hell.”
“Stevie, please.”
“But it’s true, Mrs. T. Sorry about the cussing, but it’s true. I mean, I’m scared. I wish I was going someplace.”
“Children, this is Lucy’s party. I promise you we’ll talk about this stuff later. Just hold on for a bit. Deal?”
A murmured assent and Mrs. Talbott’s request to go ahead caused Lucy’s dad to move to the next picture, mountains of snow

people skiing,a chalet where people drank a dark, hot liquid.
“There’s your hot cocoa, Kim,” Lucy said. “Here’s a letter we got just last night. I’d like to read it to you. It’s from

the family we’re going to live with.”
“Do you mean you and your parents won’t be living in a house or apartment of your own?”
“That’s right, Mrs. Talbott. I don’t know if it’s because we don’t have the money. Maybe Kim’s right. They might all be

very rich. Anyway, we are being invited by a family to stay with them.”
“A family you don’t know, and they don’t know you.”
“Yes, ma’am. The letter, after the address, says this:
“Dear Mr. and Mrs. Smith:
My name is Romance Dearheart. I welcome you to our home, and love you before knowing you.”
“How can you love someone before knowing them?” Stevie asked, sulkily.
“I don’t know, Steve.” Lucy spoke to her friend kindly. “Maybe that’s their way. The letter goes on to say:
“My husband and I have a little girl just Lucinda’s age, and a baby boy. His name is Woo.
“Woo is two, and we all adore him so. Our little girl’s name is –l-i-t-h-e.”
“Lithe,” said Mrs. Talbott. “It means graceful, limber. Gymnasts, dancers and cats are all considered lithe.”
“Oh. Okay. Then the letter says, “We understand your little girl likes warm weather. This we do not have to offer, but we

offer Lucinda Sue all our hearts to wear around her neck.”
“Oh, my,” Mrs. Talbott breathed. “Oh, Lucinda, they sound like a very loving family.”
Lucy read on, hoping to disguise the lump in her throat. “My daughter, Lithe, would like to add her own words.
“Dear Lucinda, please hurry home to us. I cannot sleep at night because I am so excited to meet you. Do you have a brother,

too? I am sorry we have not exchanged pictures. Our machines don’t always work.
“But you will love my–I mean, our room, and our toys. I love you. Lithe. I am eight years old. That’s how old you are,

Mommy says. Hurry home to us.”
Kim’s tears flowed freely. “I’d happily give up summer and wear a fur coat, even be blind, to live there. I’m sorry, Mrs.

T., I guess I shouldn’t have–”
“That’s quite all right, dear. I wouldn’t mind going there myself.”
“See, princess? Alot of kids wish they were going.”
“Yeah. I’d like to see Lithe’s room.”
Lucy found herself surrounded as kids left their seats to touch her, look at the letter.
“What kind of weird name is Lithe?” Steve asked.
“My sister’s named Blithe. What’s so weird about that?” another chimed in.
“I think,” said the teacher, “it’s time to cut the cake and open the chips and dip.”
The class cheered.
“Are you taking your princess bedspread with you, Luce?”
“Daddy?”
“It’s all packed, princess.”
“When do you leave, Mr. Smith?”
“End of the weekend.”
“Daddy, could Kim stay with us for the weekend?”
“Only if you can get hold of your parents.”
Kim rushed out the door to call them, a fool’s errand.
“They don’t want me around,” she sulked, “but they won’t let me out of the house. They hate it when I have any fun.”
“You look like you could use a piece of cake,” Lucy’s mom handed Kim a plate.
“That, and a space ship ticket.”
“We wish we could just take you, Kim, but then we’d be charged with kidnapping. The ship would never get off the ground,

and you’d be worse off,” Mr. Smith said. “Honestly, I wish I could save everyone. I really do.”
“They went all out,” Lucy’s mom said, looking at the small maps of Andorpha on the wall.
“We were sent these, too, and a little book about Andorpha,” Lucy said, pleased to hold court like the princess Daddy

always called her. “There are ten continents, lots of countries, none of them tropical.”
Everyone laughed, including Lucy.
“Which means I can hit Daddy here up for a chinchilla coat.”
“You can try.” He smiled.
“Do they have a president?”
“They have a constitutional monarchy.”
“What’s that?”
“It’s like in England. They have a king and queen, but they also have a government people vote for.”
“I vote we spend the rest of the party outside,” Mrs. Talbott said. They all filed outdoors, where Lucy and her class

played for the rest of that luscious afternoon.

Charcoal burned on the grill as burgers and hot dogs sizzled. “I knew it!” Lucy squealed.

“So did we,” Kim and Stevie said, “but we weren’t allowed to tell you.”

“On pain of death,” Kim said, dramatically.

Lucy didn’t see her parents’ glum faces as they watched their daughter

revel in June’s perfumes, her warmth, her colors for the last time.

Lucy and her mother shopped for layers and layers of winter clothing. Lucy tried not to sulk, but the knowledge that she’d

be living in snow forever made her glum.
“Bet they have indoor picnics,” Mom said.
“That’s not a picnic, Mom, that’s a party. Picnics are outdoors, in warm weather.”
“Okay, I’m just trying to cheer you up. How old is the Dearhearts’ little girl?”
“Eight.”
“What’s her name?”
Lucy sighed. “Lithe. Mom, do we have to talk about this?”
“Bet they have some really wild toys on Andorpha, things we earthlings couldn’t imagine.”
Lucy tried to hide the tears as they went through the clothes. She let them fall in the changing cubicle. She wiped at her

eyes before coming out. She knew she wasn’t fooling anyone.
Lithe, shmithe. She wanted to stay home, even if they did blow themselves to …
“Hey, don’t you look the perfect snow queen.”
She looked at her dad, disbelieving.
“Give it up, Will, I’ve already tried.”
At home, Lucy went quietly into her room. She’d agreed to take a time out if she felt miserable, so as not to make others

miserable.
“Now, for the coup de grace,” her father said outside her door, and knocked.
“Not yet, Dad.”
He opened the door. “so,” her dad drew out the word, “I guess that means you’re not interested in … a fur coat.”
“A what?”
“It’s okay, I’ll just take it back.” Dad sighed. “Too bad. It’s as soft as kittens, and there’s gloves all the way up to

your arms, thick, warm boots. I’ll just take them back–“He began to close the door too slowly.
“Dad …” Lucy came out of her room. She manhandled the box. “Tada!” He pulled out the coat.
“Chinchilla, as requested. Along with thick chinchilla gloves, scarf, hat, And boots. Thick and furry inside, great

traction outside.
“Wow!”
“Go on with you. Try it on.”
Mom started to giggle and couldn’t stop.
“Oh my God, you look like a walking cat! Can I pet your fur?”
“Mm, maybe. I’m kinda skittish.”
“Holy Moses, that’s soft.”
Lucy giggled. “I like being petted.”
“Great. Now it’s my turn,” Mom said. Instead of petting Lucy, she looked at her husband. “Where’s mine?”
“Right here, Mrs. Smith.” He pulled another box out of the closet. “Here, take it. It’s heavy.”
“Oh wow,” Lucy said. “She’s going total fur.”
“We’re all going total fur,” Dad said opening a third box. “And if either of you girls laugh, I swear …”
Lucy laughed when he got the coat, gloves, scarf and boots on. “Daddy, you look like a … lady-man.”
“Do you want that coat or not, missy?”
She snickered. “I can’t help it. You look so weird.”
“I don’t know,” Mom said. “I think he looks sort of handsome.”
They had to make her take the ensemble off.”Be reasonable, Lucy. You’re not sleeping in that.”
“I’m a kid, Mom, I’m not supposed to be reasonable.”
“Well then, let Daddy be reasonable for you. Arms out, kid. That’s coming off.”
“Aw, Dad. I’m a cat. Pet me.”
“Good night, kitty. You get your fur back when we hit Andorpha.”

“Donna?” Will held up a beer.
“Yeah.”
“Might as well finish the case.Thank God I finally found something to sweeten the pot for Lucy. Thank God for clearance sales. What with people running offworld as fast as possible, or resigning themselves to their

fate, everything’s being sold for a song.”
“We’re celebrating, then.”
“Celebrating? I suppose. We tell Lucy to have a good attitude, and all I can see is what I’m leaving behind. My job, my

friends, my world. I’m Mourning for why we have to leave when I tell her to be grateful there’s someplace to go, even if

it’s as alien as all-get-out.”
“It’s just starting to feel real to me, honey. We leave tomorrow. It didn’t seem real when we applied to all those planets, or when we got the letter. You know, even during Lucy’s party, I kept hoping somebody would run in and tell us to get to the nearest TV to hear President Fitzgerald’s ‘peace comes to Earth’ speech.”
“Or at least we’re not all going to hell in a nuke,” said Will.
She nodded. He opened her beer. It foamed all over both of them. They laughed till  it hurt.
Donna’s uncontrollable laughter became uncontrollable tears. “Hey,” Will put his arms around her. “Hey, what’s with this?”
“I don’t know, it just started. Will, what if Lucy Can’t have a good attitude? I mean, what if she hates the place for

life, can’t get used to it, can’t fit in with the other kids?”
He held her close till she cried it out. He crooned endearments, telling her he felt the same, till she quieted.
Donna gulped her beer. Will grinned at her. “Hey, you’re not going to take up drinking, are you?”
“I am so.”
He picked up his own beer. “Here’s to Andorphian beer.”
“And fur coats!” Lucy called from her room.

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