Who will she be?

He carried over a tray of marigolds and set them in the grass, not leaving room for argument.

“I’m not going to use them, I don’t want to plant them,” he told me, eyeing the pile of weeds I was pulling out of the front garden.

I stood up, a chance to stretch the growing ache in my back. I need flowers, really; and I had been wondering all afternoon what to put in now that the weeds were gone. But after overgrown saplings turned out to be 20-foot trees, and after I’d planted roses and transplanted hydrangeas and pulled and pulled and pulled at the jungle of weeds in the back, I was sore and hot and tired and didn’t want to add planting marigolds to my day’s list.

And these needed planted yesterday.

He was leaving them either way, though. And as he stood there in our yard he talked about windows, how he had the same as ours and when he replaced them it cut his heating bill in half. But we have a good house, he told us – he’s been saying that since we moved in.

And now that he has custody of his daughter, he’s going to buy his house, the one he’s renting now.

“She’ll need place when she goes to IUP,” he explained. He wants to start an account at the college, too – pay her tuition in advance at today’s rate.

Today her days are filled with sunshine and friends and elementary school drama and pranks to play on neighbors. She loves on our ferrets and walks her dogs and carries the baby bird she found bleeding in the grass everywhere she goes.

They’re trying to feed it mashed up worms; the bird sits, perched on her finger, and oddly doesn’t act afraid.

I hear giggles through my bedroom window, and if I’m fast I can catch her and her friends, but they’ll be back. The lure of forbidden territory is too much.

She’s very much a 10-year-old little girl.

But he is buying a house and paying her tuition. I’ve heard him cough and watched how cigarettes are never far and we haven’t said it but I know he knows that he may not see her far into adulthood.

I wonder who she will be, this freckle-faced child still swimming in a wading pool. Will she want to go to college? Will she be content with IUP? Will she want to live here, in the home of her childhood?

He walks back to his own yard, and I start planting marigolds. She passes me on the way to her friends house: the baby bird made it through the night.


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