You are on page 1of 30

Macaire 1

Jennifer Macaire

Impossible Women 9,900 words

Juny always thought about Ann, every day, almost all the time. It was like breathing, she did

it without thinking, naturally. And she couldn’t help thinking about Ann, with all the birds on the

island. From the tiny yellow banana bird to the great, soaring frigate, black as a Chinese cutout sailing

across the sky, they all made her think of Ann. Especially the seagulls with white wings. Huge white

wings that lifted Ann above the earth and carried her soaring across the ocean.

Juny had been on the cliffs that day. She’d skipped school and hitchhiked across the island to

the Bordeaux cliffs to say good-bye to her friend.

Ann had felt guilty for about fifteen seconds asking Juny to come and see her off. She’d

always been very serious when she’d lectured Juny about getting a good education. Juny had listened,

just as seriously, and promised to study hard when she did go to school.

Juny had bought Ann a going-away present. It was light, because Ann couldn’t carry very

much. It was a white linen handkerchief. Juny had embroidered a little yellow banana bird on one

corner, and the name « Ann » in green in the middle. The banana bird had been done in beautiful

detail, but the name, in chain stitch, had a slanting, sad look about it. Ann loved it anyway and put it

in her special backpack.

« I know you have allergies, » said Juny.

Ann couldn’t speak for a minute, then she asked, « you’re not mad at me, are you? »

Juny shook her head. « You have to go. » She was surprised at how firm her voice sounded.

1
Macaire 2

Ann took a deep breath and spread her wings. They were immensely huge and silvery white

with flashes of pearl pink when the light hit them. The lightest of breezes lifted her easily up, up, up

into the great blue bowl of the sky and Juny was soon a tiny speck on a black cliff, next to the

foaming sea.

Ann waved and then flew towards the sun so that, to Juny, it looked as if she’d disappeared in

a flash of light.

Juny had taught herself not to expect anything from anyone, so Ann’s first post card was a

lovely surprise. However, Ann wrote whenever she could, and soon Juny came to look forward to

finding an exotic or comic picture post-card in her mailbox. And then one day Ann wrote to say her

wings had gone, as mysteriously as they’d grown, and that she was going to live the rest of her life in

Germany, somewhere near the North sea. Her house was on an island called Sylte. Juny ran to her

Atlas and located the tiny dot where Ann had come to earth. Someday she would visit, cross the

stormy Atlantic herself, and leave her island home.

Juny dreamed of cold beaches that night. Of freezing green water battering endless dunes. The

sky was gunmetal gray, and the houses had thatched roofs. Snow whirled across the horizon, it was

December. However, when she woke up the sunlight was hot on her face and she knew she was still

in the Caribbean. All day long, she wondered about her dream, and when school let out, she went to

see Blue.

Blue was beautiful. She had long silvery hair and a strange, elfin face. The sun didn’t tan her

and the wind didn’t crease her skin. She worked as a waitress on one of the cruise ships that made its

lumbering way around the islands.

On Saturdays, the cruise ships were docked in the harbor. Blue walked down the plank and

strolled along the waterfront. She told fortunes, carried a pack of tarot cards from France, and sold

drugs to anyone who needed them. She also sold herself. She attached as much interest to her own

2
Macaire 3

body as she did to the cards she carried, perhaps less. There was something appealing in the way she

never laughed, rarely smiled. She attracted weak men who fell in love with her for a few days, or

hours. They told themselves they’d save her, then they convinced themselves she was too good for

them and they would leave. Blue spent exorbitant amounts of money on clothes. She looked good in

anything, but she had a fondness for silks and silver jewelry.

She had an airy apartment overlooking the bay. She furnished it with antiques and oriental rugs.

Plants twined themselves through the rooms. The curtains were white muslin, and blew in and out

with the breeze.

Juny found the door open and walked in. Music was floating like soft bubbles in the air.

Bubbles were floating in the air. Blue was lying on the couch with a bottle of liquid soap and a red

plastic wand. She’d purse her mouth and slowly exhale, forming a bright stream of iridescent spheres.

The smell of incense almost hid the slight odor of pot. Juny walked in, waving her arms in the

bubbles. Blue gave her one of her rare smiles and got up gracefully from the couch.

Juny liked Blue. She’d met her one day when she was sitting alone on the waterfront staring at

the horizon wishing she were anywhere else but on the island. Blue had sat down beside her and had

taken out her pack of cards. She’d told Juny’s fortune, joking about it, telling her not to believe in

pieces of cardboard. Juny had believed, though. She’d listened to every word, as if Blue had been the

oracle of Delphi herself. Blue had foretold such wonderful things. All her dreams would come true.

She would leave the island, and never return. So it was normal that when Juny had a strange dreams

she’d go see Blue. Blue listened with concentration to Juny’s story, and then told her that it was

probably true, that Ann was in a place of cold winters and that the snow was just snow. Juny had

never seen snow, even in her dreams, and it amazed her how cold and light it had been.

« At first I thought it was bits of paper, floating around. » She said, with her wistful, soft

voice. « But then it was so cold. And the snow melted on my hands. I woke up and I was freezing. »

3
Macaire 4

Blue nodded. She’d come from Wisconsin a long time ago, and she’d seen snow. She’d frozen

during the endless winters, and she’d decided to spend the rest of her life in the tropical sun. « You

must miss Ann, » she said.

Juny nodded. It was like a missing limb. She would never get used to losing people, she

thought. Ann had been so nice. She had rented the efficiency apartment below Juny’s house.

Her mother had wanted to rent it out for the longest time, but it was small and dark, and they

had no swimming pool. They weren’t even near the beaches. Their house overlooked the airport, with

jet planes taking off all day long right overhead.

When Ann had offered to rent it, they thought she was eccentric. She was a divorcee, she’d told

them. Her husband had gotten custody of their two children. Actually, she explained, they weren’t her

children. They were his, but she’d married him when they were just babies, and she’d raised them.

She called them her little angels. She wrote to them often. Juny knew because she looked in the

mailbox every day. They wrote back, but not often. Ann took to mothering Juny, who needed it.

Juny’s mother was a workaholic. She was the first to admit it. She’d had Juny when she felt her

biological clock ticking down, but she didn’t need a husband. Juny was a love child, her mother told

her often, as if this would compensate for any lack of attention on her part. « I chose your father for

his good looks and his intelligence, » she said.

Once Juny was born, she went back to work. Her biology had been satisfied. Her genes were

being continued. Being an independent, busy woman, she automatically assumed Juny would learn to

take care of herself. She’d hated the way her mother had smothered her all her life. However, Juny

wasn’t like her. Unguided, she drifted aimlessly through life, a lonely child, and a lonely teenager.

Ann changed that. Ann imposed a schedule. She took her places. She talked to her with out

talking down at her. She cooked dinner for Juny, and packed her school lunches. She scolded her

when she skipped school, and worried about her when she hitchhiked across the island. She was the

4
Macaire 5

mother Juny had always wanted. She started to look forward to coming home from school. The

house was no longer empty.

Ann had grown wings. At first, it seemed that the bumps on her shoulder blades would go

away. The doctor didn’t even see them. He diagnosed muscle fatigue and prescribed aspirin.

Then one morning Ann had woken up with wings. Great, shining, soft wings. She’d hidden

them from everyone but Juny. Together they’d sneak out at night and Ann would fly. However, Ann

knew she couldn’t hide forever. Someone would catch her, maybe they’d sell her to the zoo, or to the

Pentagon, and they’d experiment on her, and probably kill her.

Or else, the church would get wind of it, she’d be declared an angel, a Saint, or a miracle, and

Ann didn’t want to be the cause of another holy war. Therefore, she flew away. Juny knew it was for

the best, but it still hurt her. It was still losing someone.

All that evening Juny sat with Blue and watched, the lights come on in the boats in the harbor.

Blue only got up now and then to change the record on the turntable. Juny sat in the wicker chair

Blue had hung from the ceiling and swung herself in lazy circles. When the evening hushed the loud

colors and the sound of the waves crashing on the waterfront, Juny left.

Blue wanted her to eat some of the brownies she had in the refrigerator, but Juny thought they

might be spiked with dope, so she refused. She liked Blue, but she didn’t trust her.

Just as soon as she got home, her mother asked her where she’d been. Juny told her the truth,

she always did. Her mother was proud of the fact that Juny and she had no secrets from each other.

« My daughter is my friend, » she would declare.

Juny would wince. She had friends, what she needed was a mother.

« I was with Blue. »

This elicited a slight frown. « I don’t think Blue is a very good person, » her mother said. « I’ve

heard she was a prostitute. » This was said in a low voice, nearly a whisper.

5
Macaire 6

« I know, » said Juny.

« You do? » Her mother, who insisted Juny call her by her first name, Angela, raised her

eyebrows. They were lovely eyebrows, perfectly plucked and very neat. She also had lovely eyes.

They were gray and slanted slightly down at the corners, giving her a very serious stare. Her hair was

dark blond, and very shiny. She wore it in a strict bob; it was perfectly straight and swished around

her chin when she nodded.

« What shall we make for dinner? » asked Juny, as she set the table.

Angela pursed her lips. « I thought we could have chicken salad. I think there’s some left. I

bought some lettuce, and the tomatoes are finally ripe. She was referring to the tomatoes sitting on

the windowsill. In St. Thomas, fresh vegetables were hard to come by. There were no farms to speak

of, and tomatoes were bought hard, small, and green, then left to ripen on windowsills.

« By the way, » she continued, stirring some mustard into the salad dressing, « I’ve rented the

efficiency again. A young man wrote and asked about it this time. I hope he works out. I need the

money. »

Juny made no reply to this. Her mother always needed money. She made a lot, her job was well

paid. However, she spent it as fast as she made it. New clothes were an obsession, and so was

jewelry. She took a trip each year, with Juny of course, and so far, they’d visited Egypt, France,

England, Brazil, Arizona, Canada, India, Spain, Denmark, and California. Before that, Juny didn’t

remember very well. Her mother claimed she’d taken Juny to Tibet when she was only a year old, and

that she’d ridden a yak across the mountains. Juny wished that she had waited until she’d been older.

She would have liked to remember that, at least.

California had fascinated her. Spain had depressed her. She confused England, France and

Denmark in her memories, and she had to look at the photos of Brazil to remember her visit. Part of

the problem was the pace of the visits. Angela went through the country like a whirlwind. She

6
Macaire 7

traveled at light-speed, galloping past monuments, pausing to glance at museums, travelling every

day to a new place, or several new places. She didn’t want to miss anything, and the result was that

she missed everything. Most of Juny’s memories were blurred, as if her mind couldn’t process the

speed and sheer content of the journey.

Juny had one crystal-clear, distinct memory of a dawn in India. The sun was rising over a river.

There were steps leading down to swirling, pale brown water. The steps were carved in golden

sandstone. In the morning light, they glowed a deep orange. Down the stairs walked a woman in

scarlet robes. The sun sparkled off the gold embroidery and made the red and pink silk shimmer like

the petals of an Oriental poppy. The woman had black hair down to her heels, and she carried a small,

white bundle.

Juny couldn’t remember where she’d been in this scene. Had she been in the boat that had taken

them upriver towards the mountains? Or had she been leaning out the window of the hotel by the

riverside, elbows resting on rough wood? Had she been sitting on the smooth steps herself? She

couldn’t recall. However, she could still see the woman walking slowly down the steps, gold

bracelets clinking on her slender arms and ankles, her black hair sweeping the soft, stone steps behind

her with every step down her bare feet took.

Juny could still see the tears on the woman’s cheeks, and she could still feel the thrill of shock

that shot through her body when she realized that the woman held the body of a newborn baby and

that the baby was dead. The woman knelt by the river and said a prayer, then she reached into her sari

and took out a green, plastic lighter, and she set the bundle on fire.

Juny saw the little baby burning as it floated slowly down the river.

The baby was born dead, so he didn’t feel anything. Her mother had explained patiently, to dry

Juny’s tears. But to Juny it was if her own childhood had ended with those flames, extinguished by

the muddy waters of a sluggish Indian river.

7
Macaire 8

That had been three years ago. Juny had been eleven. She had been so proud to turn eleven.

The two digit number, each digit the same, had seemed a great omen. That year Ann had come to rent

the apartment. Now Ann was gone, and a young man would take her place. Juny made a vow to hate

the new tenant, then she sat down and ate her chicken salad and sliced tomatoes. Then she did her

homework while her mother washed up, and afterwards they watched television for a bit.

Ann had started them watching TV, before Ann came they hadn’t owned one. However, Ann

had given them her set before she left. Now it had become a ritual. First the dishes had to be done,

and the homework finished. Then Angela would take the jar of hand cream down from its place by

the sink, and she would get out her manicure case, and she would sit and do her nails while Juny

turned on the set and chose a channel. They didn’t have much choice. Some evenings they would sit

through a horror film on the Puerto Rican channel, and Juny would laugh until she cried at the shrill

Spanish. Other days they would get stations from the States, and they would watch sit-com comedies

about « normal families », which Juny would watch with almost religious fervor. The families

fascinated her. How could there be so many people in one place? A father, a mother, brothers and

sisters! All together in a riotous, noisy cacophony of canned laughter and awkward gags. Utterly

amazing. Juny was horribly embarrassed by some of the people’s predicaments. Angela would just

yawn and buff her fingernails.

Juny had spent evenings with friends who had families. Sometimes it was nice, other times the

tensions in the room would make Juny’s teeth ache. She could feel animosity as if it were a physical

thing. Emotions were currents of electricity that Juny captured on her own internal radio. It would

have been nice if she could tune them out, but she was helpless to do so, and the result made her

nervous and pale. Her mother said she was « high-strung » and her teachers said she was too

sensitive.

8
Macaire 9

Juny preferred to stay away from the emotions of others. Luckily, her own mother was quite

above that sort of thing. Her own home life was very calm. There were no arguments at all.

The new tenant was a woman after all. The name fooled them. She’d written a letter signed

« Mark ». Mark turned out to be a she.

Juny’s mother couldn’t care less if it was a man, a woman, or a chimpanzee, as long as the rent

was paid on time. Mark wrote out three checks and carried her bags downstairs.

Juny had cleaned the place up, not that it was messy, and put fresh flowers in a vase near the

window. Mark let her watch as she unpacked. She was very interesting to look at.

For one thing, she was very short. Moreover, her skin, her eyes and her hair were all the same

color: caramel. She wore her hair in a short Afro, and she had a gold stud in her nose. All the black

people in St. Thomas were a beautiful, dark, chocolate brown, so Juny waited to see Mark turn dark

in the tropical sun. However, she didn’t, she just got a little more toasty colored, which set off her

magnificent golden eyes.

« My mother’s Hawaiian, and my father’s only half Negro, » explained Mark. « My real name is

Makimark, but everyone calls me Mark. »

« Do you mind? » Juny asked.

« No, I don’t. Is Juny your real name? »

« Yes. I’m born in June. Angela didn’t have any ideas, and she was tired, so she just wrote Juny

down on the birth certificate. »

« That’s interesting. » Mark shook out her dresses and hung them up in the narrow closet. She

folded her tee shirts and placed them in the dresser, and then she sat down on the wicker chair in

front of the window and lit a cigarette. « This weather tires you out, » she said. « I’m not used to the

heat yet. I suppose I’ll adapt. »

9
Macaire 10

Juny nodded. « Don’t worry. It feels strange at first, as if you’re in an oven, and you feel all

dopey and slow, but after a while you start to feel the breezes. What do you do? Why did you come

here? » She asked.

« I’m a teacher. I teach math, and I wanted to leave the States. I guess you could say I’m

running away from a bad experience, and I want to start over. »

« A love affair? »

Mark grinned. « Exactly. I broke up with my boyfriend, and I wanted to get away. This was as

far as I could go and still be in America. »

Juny nodded. The islands were full of people who ran away from things. They would stay a

year, maybe two, then the things they ran away from would catch up to them, or more often history

would repeat itself, and off they’d go again. « Good luck, » she said.

Mark didn’t grow wings like Ann, and she didn’t turn dark brown. Her golden eyes stayed sad

though. Her boyfriend wrote, called, and begged her to come home. Then she started to have dreams.

She started dreaming of babies. Little golden babies with beautiful golden eyes. That’s when she

discovered she was pregnant and she decided to go back home and « give love a chance. »

She had only been with them for nine weeks when she packed her suitcase and took a taxi to

the airport. Juny waved as she drove away. Mark had been nice, but she had been melancholy, and

she hoped the next tenant would be more fun.

Mark was just a little « blip » in Juny’s life, but she had been the first person to believe in true

love.

Ann had been furious with her ex-husband, who’d left her for a much younger woman. She’d

been the third wife. His first wife, the mother of the children, had died. Ann made the mistake of

falling in love with the children. She told Juny all about the divorce in detail. She was just talking to

10
Macaire 11

exorcise her pain, but Juny had listened, and learned. Ann had been married to someone much older

than she was, and she’d been too bruised by the divorce to remember ever being in love.

Juny had been Mark’s confident during the time she’d stayed with them. She’d spoken often

about her boyfriend; telling Juny about when they’d met, and how they’d braved the disapproval of

both their families to live together. Then Mark had discovered her boyfriend having an affair with her

best friend. She’d been devastated, and had left him that very evening. However, the love was still

there. It underlined each word she spoke, it emanated from her like a soft glow, and Juny could feel it

like a living thing, so she knew that Mark would end up going back to him.

Him. Juny wondered if the same love illuminated his soul. She hoped so for Mark, and for the

little golden baby.

Angela believed in genes, and had chosen Juny’s father accordingly.

The year grew old and when Christmas came, Juny and Angela celebrated by going to dinner at

Villa Olga. They ate on the terrace overlooking the harbor. Juny had grouper and Angela had lobster.

They toasted each other with champagne, and Juny got tipsy after two glasses, as she always did on

Christmas Eve. Then they went to mass in the Catholic Church, although Juny’s mother wasn’t

Catholic. Some years they even went to the temple and celebrated Hanukkah. It all depended on how

Angela was feeling. This year she was feeling Jesus-y, so off they went to midnight mass.

Juny sang in a high, clear voice. She could sing almost anything. Once a man had come and

asked her mother to take Juny to a recording studio, but her mother had gotten upset and told him to

go away. He’d given her a card, and said he was a legitimate agent, but Angela had torn up the card

right in front of him and had tossed it on the floor.

11
Macaire 12

Juny remembered this incident with regret. She would have liked to become a rock-star, but her

mother said that it was sheer nonsense, and the man was just trying to get into bed with her (Angela)

and that she (Juny) would have to learn the « truth about men », which would be explained Later.

Juny was fourteen and slightly drunk on Christmas eve when her mother’s car went out of

control and hit a cement wall. Afterward she couldn’t remember anything about that night except a

strange blue light, which may or may not have been the light from the ambulance.

Juny’s father lived in Boston. He had come to St. Thomas on his spring break when he was in

his first year in Harvard. He’d been drunk the evening when Angela seduced him. Not that he’d been

impervious to her charms, but he never would have agreed to her plan to have a child if he were

completely sober.

They had made love twice, the same night. Then he’d gone back to Massachusetts and he’d

forgotten about Angela. He forgot the paper she’d made him sign that evening, and so it was a great

shock when a letter came to him in the mail.

« Dear Sir, » it began innocently enough.

« You have a daughter named Juny Larkins. She is fourteen years old, and lives in St. Thomas.

Tragically, her mother was killed in an automobile accident. Your name is on the child’s birth

certificate, along with a paper signed by you accepting her paternity. Would you like to come and get

the girl yourself? Or shall we send her to you? Please contact us immediately, Theo D. Crat Est. Esq.

MMD, LLR. Lawyers since 1881.

Juny’s father, whose name was David Faller, was amazed. He’d been to law school and he’d

never seen initials like that on a letter. His mind was boggled by everything. The letter, the initials, the

fact he had a daughter. Luckily, he was unmarried and so he wouldn’t have to explain anything to a

wife. That was his third thought; the only one comforted him.

12
Macaire 13

He made reservations to fly to St. Thomas to collect his daughter. He wondered what she

looked like; the letter included no picture. He had no recollection at all of Angela. She would have

been furious.

Blue had taken care of Juny. She had signed all the papers, contacted a lawyer, packed up

Angela’s things and kept Juny at her apartment after she got out of the hospital so she wouldn’t have

to go to her empty home. For once, she acted in a responsible, adult manner. Juny was grateful. Her

whole world had been shattered in a single moment and Blue had been wonderful. She wished that

Ann were there though. When Blue left to work Juny called Ann long distance. It was so nice to hear

her voice. Ann cried when Juny told her what had happened, and said that she would come and visit

her in Boston. Juny gave Ann her father’s address. She said she wanted Ann to come right away. Ann

said she had to wait until the sea thawed. The ice and snow kept the island isolated all winter, but she

would be there in the spring, she promised.

Juny looked out over the turquoise sea, where the palm trees nodded in the heat and where

flocks of parakeets flew by like sparkling emeralds thrown into the hot air. She tried to imagine a

world frozen solid, white, gray, and black with cold, where the sea was dark and opaque and she

shivered.

When Blue returned from work that night she spread her tarot cards on the table and she told

Juny’s fortune for real this time.

« When you touch the cards think of the future as a huge map in front of you. Try to picture the

future as something you can actually touch, and see. A myriad of canyons fanning out in front of you,

with many, many trails. »

Blue’s voice was heavy, and slightly slurred. She always smoked a joint before she told

someone’s fortune. She could see the future, and sometimes it scared her.

Juny shuffled the cards and lay them on the table.

13
Macaire 14

« Now cut them with your left hand, » said Blue.

Juny did, and then watched as Blue turned them over one by one.

There was a silence that lasted many minutes. Then Blue took a deep breath and began. « The

first card in the middle here is you. It’s the fool, but that doesn’t mean you’re foolish. It means, in this

case, that you’re innocent. Guileless, or naive maybe. In this drawing it looks like you’re about to

step off a cliff. I suppose it’s as good an analogy as any of your life right now. » She pursed her lips.

« The second card here is a man. The magician. I don’t know who he is, but he is benevolent in that

position. I hope that it represents your father, though I won’t know for sure until I see him.

“Now this card here is your future. » She turned it over. It was a yellow card with a picture of a

large wheel on it. « It’s the circle of life, » explained Blue. « It means you’ll have your ups and

downs, but that everything should work out in the end. »

Juny propped her chin on her hands and sighed. « The key word being « should », I suppose. »

They both stared at the three central cards for a moment then Blue swept them up and put them

back in their box.

Juny’s father stepped off the plane and into the Caribbean sunshine. He stood still, blinking at

the glare and the heat. His hands were sweaty and he wiped them on his jeans. The air was as hot and

heavy as the air in a sauna. The whistling scream of a jet-plane taking off made him jump. He looked

over the shimmering blacktop towards the one-story, tin-roofed airport terminal and, with a slight

shrug, walked towards it. A bevy of brightly-colored tourists preceded him. He was the only one

dressed in black. Juny recognized him right away. She hadn’t looked like her mother. She looked just

like her father. The same narrow face, the same thin nose and bright, hazel eyes. The same high cheek

bones and the same straight, ash blond hair.

14
Macaire 15

Juny’s father had short hair. Her hair fell in a shining sheet of silvery brown to her waist. Her

skin was tan from a life in the sun, while his was pale and slightly freckled.

They stood in front of each other, just staring. He’d walked right up to her, as if she had been a

magnet. His first thought was, « My God, she’s so tall. » Then he noticed how closely she resembled

him, and his heart seemed to slow down and thump harder. The years they had spent apart all crashed

down upon him. He wished for a second that Angela were still living, so that he could yell at her.

How could she have kept a daughter away from him, and never, ever plan to tell him about her?

He cleared his throat, not trusting his voice. « Hello Juny. »

She smiled. His voice was a light tenor, pleasing and with no horrible accent. Juny had, for

some reason, an aversion to accents. One of her fears was to hear her father speak to her in a strange

drawl. « Hi. » She ducked her head shyly, letting her hair swing in front of her face, hiding her blush.

« I’m sorry about your mother. »

« Me too. » She stared at him, fascinated.

« Um, where can I pick up my luggage? »

Juny pointed to the far side of the building. « Over there. I hope they didn’t lose it. Luggage

always seems to get lost here. It’s part of the Bermuda triangle you know. »

He didn’t know. They took a taxi to Blue’s apartment after he’d filled out the missing baggage

claim.

« I had a present for you in the suitcase, » he said.

« That’s all right, they usually turn up in a day or so. How long are you staying? »

He paid the taxi and they stood for a minute just looking out over the harbor. « It’s beautiful

here, » he said. « I forgot how beautiful it was. » He turned and looked at his daughter. He had been

careful not to stare at her, although he wanted to. She was so new, so incredibly new and, and there.

« I don’t know, a few days. I have open tickets for the return. When will you be ready to go? »

15
Macaire 16

« Are you sure you don’t mind if I live with you? »

« No, of course not. I assure you. » He spoke awkwardly; he was not at ease yet. They didn’t

dare touch, even the slightest bit.

Juny pointed to Blue’s door. « It’s here. »

Blue was at her most charming. She was a wonderful cook and she’d gone to the market to get

fresh fish. She made her own bread, and she grew tomatoes on her balcony. Juny had never had such

succulent tomatoes.

For once, Blue didn’t light up a joint after dinner, and she was dressed almost conservatively in

beige chinos and a white linen sleeveless shirt. Her hair was neatly braided and she had replaced her

dangly earrings for pearl studs. She served dinner on the balcony and they ate while looking over the

water, watching the moon rise over the mountaintop, and the twinkling lights on the boats bobbing in

the harbor.

David Faller was exactly eighteen years older than his daughter was. He had graduated from

Harvard with honors and had gone into business with his father in his firm in Boston. It was a small

but profitable company. He worked long hours, but he liked his job. The clients were folk who’d

known him all his life. He helped businesses in his neighborhood, the baker, the butcher, and even the

local school. His smile wavered and he ran his hand through his hair, ruffling it up. He hadn’t really

thought about how his father would react about Juny. He hadn’t had the courage too tell him before

he left.

« You didn’t tell him? » Blue was astounded. She’d sat through his monologue about his life

without a peep. Juny had started it, asking her father what exactly he did in Boston.

« I have a grandfather? » Juny was staggered. She and Blue looked at each other, mouths open.

David flushed. « I came here as soon as I could. I got the letter three days ago. I didn’t really

have time to think. »

16
Macaire 17

« Do you have a wife? Do I have brothers and sisters? » asked Juny.

« No, I’m not married. » David’s blush deepened.

« Do I have a grandmother? » Juny went on.

« Yes, of course. And aunts and uncles. »

« And none of them know about me? »

« Did your mother ever talk about me? » David asked.

Juny looked abashed. « No. I asked her, when I was little I used to ask all the time. She never

told me. She just said she’d chosen my father for his looks and his intel... » She broke off and tears

started running down her cheeks. « She chose you for your, your... »

« Hush, it’s all right. » He reached across the table and covered her hands with his. His heart

was breaking. How could he give her back the years she’d missed? « It doesn’t matter now. I’m

here. We have all the time in the world to get to know each other. »

« We just don’t have much time to figure out how to tell your family. » Juny had a wry sort of

humor. She’d gotten it from Angela.

They stared at each other. David’s hands were warm and Juny noticed that they were very wiry.

His nails were carefully trimmed and she could see his knuckles were large, and that his tendons were

sharply visible. « Do you play the piano? » she asked.

« No. I have the hands for it, my mother often tells me I should take it up. Do you? »

Juny said no, and asked him why he wasn’t married.

He laughed. « Because I never fell in love with the right woman, I suppose. »

« Are you gay? »

He drew back, startled. « Why do you ask that? »

« Because Angela always said that if a good-looking man wasn’t married it was because he was

gay. »

17
Macaire 18

David frowned. « That’s a strange thing to tell your daughter. I’m not gay, but if I were, I don’t

think that would concern you. »

Juny looked over at Blue, who said, « You’ll have to excuse Juny, she was brought up by a

whole slew of dysfunctional adults. »

« What do you mean by that? » Juny was indignant.

« Your mother left you to your own devices, Ann was a nervous wreck, and I’m not much

better. What other adult has had any influence on your life? »

Juny thought a minute. « Father Djusky. »

« The defrocked priest. Your mother let him baby-sit for you. Go on. » Blue pinched her lips.

« Cherie. »

« Your maid. She has a husband who beats her, but she won’t leave him. She tells you all about

her sex life. Great.» Blue shook her head. « Now, go brush your teeth and go to bed. It’s late. »

Juny started to protest, but she was tired. Since the accident, her head hurt nearly all the time

and she had begun to look forward to taking the pills the doctor had prescribed to help her sleep. It

made the pain go away.

When she’d gone Blue cleaned the dishes while David sat on the balcony and tried to collect his

thoughts.

« What can you tell me about Juny? » He asked Blue, when she came and sat down next to

him.

« I’ve known her since she was nine. I met her when she was sitting all by herself on the

waterfront. Her mother left her completely alone. »

« Alone? » David was amazed. « And who is the defrocked priest? »

« Father Djusky. He’s pretty harmless. He was a friend of Angela’s. She had her good points, I

suppose. Father Djusky was living in the street. She let him stay in their efficiency apartment and he

18
Macaire 19

babysat for Juny when she was a baby. The only problem was he thought he had to save the world.

He was a missionary from Trinidad. He saw sin everywhere. Sin and damnation. He took Juny with

him in her stroller and walked around the island, preaching. »

« He was defrocked? »

Blue grinned. « He had an affair with the governor’s wife. She had two children by him before

her husband caught on. »

David was staggered. « You’re kidding? »

« No. He was thrown out of the church, and out of the school where he’d been teaching

religion. He tried to get a job, but no one wanted to hire him. He was sleeping in the park when

Angela found him. He took good care of Juny, but he sank deeper and deeper into his own folly. He

started believing he was an emissary from the angels. He claimed he saw them. »

« He saw angels? »

« He said he could see them. He would start talking to thin air. He was talking to angels. They

told him to go to the poor and preach. He went all over the island, with Juny. It made quite a picture.

A tall, ragged black man in priest’s robes pushing a little white girl in her stroller. »

« Angela let him do that? »

« He was a nice man. A bit batty, but nice. He adored Juny. »

« Where is he now? »

« He’s an out patient at the psycho-ward. However, he stays mostly in now. Juny goes to see

him occasionally. Angela talked him into committing himself, after he started seeing angels in the

middle of the road. He nearly killed himself one day. Luckily he didn’t have Juny with him. »

David rubbed his face nervously. « And the maid? »

« A simple story. She’s a sweet, uneducated native woman married to a man who beats her

regularly. Then they make up. Cherie is the proud mother of seven children. Her sex life consists of

19
Macaire 20

being beaten up and then making up. She comes to work with a swollen lip or a black eye and she

tells Juny all about the beating and the love-making that follows. »

« But, why? »

« Because Juny asks, I suppose. »

« And Angela doesn’t mind? »

Blue gave him a sideways look. « I keep forgetting that you never knew Angela. »

« Did you know her well? »

Blue shrugged. « She didn’t approve of me. »

« Oh. » He looked askance at her. « She approved of a defrocked priest but not you? »

« I guess she didn’t think I should sell my body. She thought sex should be free. »

« Oh. » David cleared his throat. « And Ann? »

« Ann was O.K., she tried to make Juny go to school. She’s so bright she skipped two grades,

but she hates school, so she almost never goes. Ann was worried about her. She sort of adopted her.

She told her all about right and wrong, and everything Angela thought she was smart enough to

know instinctively. Angela was like Athena I think; she sprang out of her father’s head fully grown. I

don’t think Angela was ever a child. »

« Where is Ann now? »

Blue shrugged. « Who knows? Juny says she flew away, and she told me some crazy story

about Ann growing wings. The girl has a wonderful imagination. »

David pinched the bridge of his nose. « I’m beginning to think I won’t be able to raise Juny.

How can I? She must be a total basket case. »

« She’s not. She’s a sweet girl who needs attention. If she can’t get it one way she’ll get it

another. Don’t let her become promiscuous. That’s what happened to me. » She smiled and David

realized it was the first time he’d seen Blue smile.

20
Macaire 21

« What’s you’re real name? » he asked her.

« Blue. My mother named me for the sky the day I was born. She was a hippie; I grew up in a

commune in Wisconsin. The only commune in Wisconsin I have to add. What a childhood. I

sometimes think that Juny has it easy. But that’s why I have to insist. Don’t let her get away from

you. Give her your attention. Give her rules and regulations, she’s an easy child, she’ll obey if she

thinks that « le jeu vaut le chandelle ». If it’s worth the trouble. »

« I speak French. »

« Do you want me to tell you your fortune? »

« No. I’m one of those dreary, feet-on-the-ground types who don’t read their horoscopes in the

daily paper. »

« Dreary indeed. » Blue smiled again.

« I think I’ll go to my hotel. One thing Angela did very well. She taught me all about the risks

of a one-night stand. » His voice had grown steadily chillier, and Blue blushed.

« You regret hearing what I told you, » she said.

« I have to think about it. »

« You’re thinking about taking the first flight out tomorrow, and leaving Juny here. »

David stood up so suddenly the table tipped. Blue caught it. « I’ll see you tomorrow morning, »

he said coldly.

« No you won’t. I work on he Princess line. I leave tomorrow morning for a week. I won’t see

you ever again David Faller. »

He shook his head. « It’s all too much for me. A normal family raised me. I don’t know if I can

cope. »

21
Macaire 22

« Juny’s fondest wish is to become normal, » Blue said sadly. « It’s the wish of all of the

children raised the way we were. In perfect freedom. I think she’s lucky. Just be yourself. Be honest.

She only needs that much from you. »

« Well, goodbye Blue. It was nice meeting you. »

« Goodbye David. I hope everything works out the way you want it to. Just one more thing

though... »

« Yes? »

« I really can tell the future. »

He smiled at her. « I believe you. That’s why I don’t want you to tell mine. »

« A wise man. » She walked him to the taxi stand through the night that was as thick and hot as

warm honey. Before he got into the cab, she kissed him lightly on the lips. « I can see angels too, »

she added. « And there’s one right in front of me. Take care of Juny, she deserves everything you can

give her. »

David wondered how he should take that last remark until he finally fell asleep, worn out by the

flight and the oppressive heat.

In the morning, the sun on his face woke him up. It wasn’t a civilized sun like the one that rose

in Boston every morning. This one was hot and brassy, and it burnt like a firebrand where it touched

his face. He groaned and staggered into the shower. The cool water revived him somewhat, and it

cleared his head enough to think about Juny.

He toweled off quickly. He was in a hurry to go see her. He was afraid suddenly, after what

he’d heard last night from Blue. Somehow, it made him even more nervous than before about Juny.

He had received a letter about a child, and he’d had three days to have the child grow up from a baby

to a teenager. It was not enough. He needed time.

22
Macaire 23

Blue had thought of that, and when he reached her apartment the first thing he saw was a pile

of photo albums that Blue had taken out of a cardboard box. She’d put the stack on the table, along

with a pot of coffee and a short note, wishing him a long, happy life. The note also said that he would

marry and angel and have five children. He grinned wryly and shook his head. Then he picked up the

first album and opened it.

A chubby, golden-haired baby stared out at him. It was Juny. Angela had catalogued her life in

fifteen photo albums, one for each year of her life.

The last album only had a few pages in it. David put it down and leaned back into the sofa. The

coffeepot was empty, but his head was full of images. Pictures of Juny in all the countries Angela had

taken her. On a camel’s back in Egypt, in a boat on a jade-green river in India, on a double-decker

bus in London. Juny growing up before his eyes, from chubby baby to lean adolescent. Her hair

growing longer and longer, her face and body changing. In his mind she morphed, stretched, pupated.

Her eyes got to him. They always seemed to be begging for something. They were the eyes of a

hungry puppy.

The last photo showed Juny a few days before Christmas. She was sitting on a green couch, a

bowl of popcorn by her side. She was obviously watching the TV She wasn’t looking at the camera,

and her face was a study in puzzlement. He wondered what she’d been watching.

She took him to St. John for a day. They rode the ferry over and she told him about Angela’s

funeral.

« There were hundreds of people, » she said. Even Father Djusky came. He even gave a

speech, but it had nothing to do with Angela. All her friends came from work. My friends came too.

So did my teachers. And some school friends. » Juny watched the waves with a frown. « It was a

23
Macaire 24

beautiful day. Angela was cremated, did you know that? Afterwards I sprinkled her ashes in the

water. Captain Jimmy took me out to sea in his fishing boat. »

« He was a friend of your mother’s? »

« No, he was my friend. He took me fishing a few times. I helped him out on the boat. »

David nodded. « I suppose you’re going to miss all this when you leave. » He motioned with

his arm at the sea and the islands in general.

« No. » It was vehement. « And I’m not ever coming back here. »

« But it’s so beautiful! »

« You can’t understand. » Juny looked at him with haunted eyes.

« Try me. »

« I imagine a fly thinks a Venus fly trap is beautiful the first time it sees one. » Her hands

clenched on her lap. « I hate it here. I can’t stand being surrounded by all this empty ocean. I hate

watching the storms sweeping across the sea, and feeling trapped on this God-forsaken rock. »

She took three suitcases with her to Boston. The photo albums were packed in a box that was

sent by mail. The house was sold, the mortgage paid off. The rest of the money was in a bank in

Boston already, held in trust until Juny was eighteen. Angela’s affairs had been given to charity. Her

jewelry was in Juny’s purse. Her life fit neatly into the three small suitcases: clothes, a few books,

some knick-knacks, and a folk guitar. Angela, who hated fuss and bother, would have been proud.

The cold stunned Juny at first. She loved the city though. David lived in the Italian part of the

city, near the Old North Church. He took Juny on a tour the day after they settled in.

David’s apartment was large. He converted the guestroom into Juny’s room. She had her own

bathroom. The kitchen overlooked the courtyard. They were on the fourth floor with no elevator. The

first night Juny couldn’t sleep because of the traffic noises. David found her siting in the kitchen at

24
Macaire 25

seven a.m., trying to coax the pigeons onto the windowsill with bits of toast. The pale sunlight lit up

her face. She wore a white tee shirt and the new, brown corduroy pants she’d bought on the island. A

red cashmere sweater was wrapped around her neck. It had been David’s welcome present.

She turned and saw him. Her face was split in a huge grin. « It’s so pretty here, » she said. « I

love it so much! »

They went shopping. He bought her a new coat and boots. Three new sweaters, and two more

pairs of long pants. Many warm socks, long underwear, a scarf and a hat. Mittens made her laugh.

She hung onto his arm; she treated him as if she’d known him for years. She ate everything, she liked

everything.

He began to see something rare and beautiful about her. She startled people by smiling at them.

She talked to anyone; the policeman on the corner, the lady sitting on her stoop, the man selling

newspapers, the bum on the street. She said hello, she asked them questions. David murmured to her,

« maybe you better not talk to strangers, didn’t your mother tell you that? »

Juny’s smile slipped. « If I didn’t talk to strangers I would talk to nobody. Everyone’s a

stranger at first. Are you mad at me? »

« No, but be careful. Some people may want to hurt you. »

She tossed her head. « I’m not a baby. »

She met David’s parents. There was no way she could ever think of them as her grandparents.

They were shocked about Juny. Stiffly they shook her hand and asked her about growing up on

a tropical island. She tried to amuse them with stories about tarantulas crawling into her shower at

night to drink but her grandmother had a spider phobia and made her hush. Then she tried to talk

about the islands themselves, describing them, but her descriptions were met with polite disbelief. No

one wants to think a tropical island is so dry and dusty, so hot and populated with angry blacks. Her

25
Macaire 26

school met with more success. A Catholic school? Asked her grandmother. That’s good. So, you

were brought up a Catholic.

Angela had done something right, it seemed.

Juny sat on the chair near the window and looked out onto the street. She could see a glimpse

of the harbor and the masts of sailboats sometimes. The fact that Boston was on the ocean helped

her. She didn’t feel so homesick when she could see boats and endless water. She was always cold

though. She huddled under blankets at night and shivered to sleep. Her face grew pale and she had a

sore throat almost constantly.

David worried and took her to doctors. They prescribed antibiotics and rest, but Juny couldn’t

seem to get her hands warm. She missed too much school and failed eleventh grade. She lay on her

bed, under a mountain of covers, and wondered when summer would come. Spring seemed just as

cold as winter, the tiny buds on the trees seemed ridiculous to her.

Then one day the sun warmed the air and summer arrived. Boston sighed and cast off its

woolens, stretched, and shook flocks of seagulls into the air. The park came alive with roller skaters,

strollers, concerts, and people in tank tops. Juny tentatively took her down jacket off and went

outside. She breathed in the warm air and a smile bloomed on her peaked face. She went to the

harbor to watch the boats, a bag of breadcrumbs in her pocket for the birds.

David found her sitting on the wooden dock, her legs hanging over the edge, a flock of pigeons

cooing nearby.

“I’ve decided to love Boston,” said Juny. She had been crying and tears dried in silver trails on

her cheeks. “I’m going to try and forget the islands and work had in school.”

“Why are you so upset?” asked David. His heart ached every time he saw his daughter. He

wanted so much for her. He had started eating lunch with her, and now he held out the sandwich he’d

bought for her. “Here’s yours.”

26
Macaire 27

“Thanks. I don’t know. I was looking at the water and I started thinking about Ann. I miss her

so much. She’s still in Europe, the ice melted, but she hasn’t come yet. I wrote her and told her to

visit, but I don’t know when she’ll arrive.”

“She can’t just drop everything. It’s expensive to travel.”

“When she arrives, can she stay with us? Please?”

“We already talked about that. There’s not enough room. She can stay in the hotel, it’s within

walking distance.”

“I’ll sleep on the couch. If she pays for her plane ticket, she won’t have enough money.

Please?” Juny rarely begged, so David gave in and when Ann arrived, he even picked her up at the

airport.

He didn’t know what to expect, someone like Blue, perhaps. However, Ann was different. She

was wearing sunglasses so he couldn’t tell what color her eyes were, but her skin was as brown and

rich as milk chocolate. Her hair was a mass of tight, black curls, and she wore bright lipstick on her

beautiful mouth. She was thin and moved slowly, thoughtfully, putting her purse down in the backseat

before sliding into the car and closing the door.

“Did you have a nice flight?” he asked. Then unthinkingly, “when are you going back to

Germany?” He was shocked at himself for sounding so rude. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean to

say that.”

“That’s all right. It will become our joke. You can ask me that every day now, first thing in the

morning, all right? So you’re Juny’s father.” Ann smiled at him. Her mouth was made for smiles. She

was rarely without one. She sang when she cooked, and she hummed as she moved around the

apartment, admiring David’s pictures and the furniture. She insisted on cooking for them. David was

an indifferent cook, and Juny was hopeless.

27
Macaire 28

Summer turned into fall and still Ann cooked and sang. The apartment stayed warm and

scented with spiced apples even when the wind blew and tried to frost the air. Even the icy looks

David’s parents gave didn’t chill her anymore. Juny laughed at the cold now. Her cheeks were pink

and her hands were no longer blue. She scorned the winter storms and studied hard in school. Ann

was a patient tutor. David grew accustomed to Ann and didn’t ask when she was going to leave

anymore. He began to look forward to the days when they would all drive up to the mountains of

Vermont together. In the spring, they went for a trip to Maine, going all the way up the coast and

staying in quaint, cozy, bed and breakfasts.

When Ann discovered she was pregnant, David defied his parents and asked her to marry him.

The twins, a boy and a girl, were born in Boston. Ann and David were thrilled. They had decided to

have a big family. They all moved to an old stone house near the coast and David and Ann had three

more children, three boys. Juny went to New York City to study art.

She would sometimes get letters from Blue, telling her all the news from the islands. It was

from Blue she learned that Father Djusky was killed by a drunk driver one day when he crossed the

street. For once, he’d heeded the lights. Blue never married, and she never left the islands. She wrote

that she would love to come to Boston, but she never did, the cold made her shiver.

Juny never went back to St. Thomas. She had shut that door behind her.

Ann’s wings never came back. After a few hesitant years, David’s family ended up loving Ann,

as did everyone. “Your wife is an angel,” they would tell him.

He would just smile, and shake his head. “She’s impossible, really,” he would say fondly.

“Utterly impossible.”

28
Macaire 29

29
Macaire 30

30

Related Interests