We Are Okay(6)

By: Nina Lacour

His song trailed off as I opened my door to his wide-knuckled, age-spotted hand, holding out coffee in the yellow mug. “You’ll need a ride today. And from the looks of you, you’ll need this coffee.” Yellow morning light, beating through the curtains. Blond hair in my eyes until I pushed it away.

A few minutes later we were in the car. The news was all about a prisoner of war who had been brought back, and Gramps kept saying, “What a shame. Such a young boy,” and I was glad he had something to engage himself because I was thinking about last night.

About Mabel and all of our other friends, cross-legged in the sand, part shadowed, part lit in the bonfire glow. It was May already. We’d all be leaving one another, going to other places in the fall; and now that the season was changing, rushing toward graduation, everything we did felt like a long good-bye or a premature reunion  . We were nostalgic for a time that wasn’t yet over.

“So young,” Gramps was saying. “To endure a thing like that. And people can be so heartless.”

He set his blinker on as we approached the drop-off zone at Convent. I held my coffee cup out so it wouldn’t slosh as he turned.

“Look at that,” he said, pointing at the dashboard clock. “Two minutes to spare.”

“You’re my hero,” I told him.

“You be good,” he said. “And careful—don’t let the sisters know we’re heathens.”

He grinned. I took my last sips.

“I won’t.”

“Take an extra helping of the blood of Christ for me, will you?”

I rolled my eyes, set my empty mug on the seat.

I shut the door and leaned down to wave at him, still delighted by his own jokes, through the rolled-up window. He made his face fake-somber and crossed himself before laughing and driving away.

In English, we were talking about ghosts. About whether they were there at all, and if they were, whether they were as evil as the governess in The Turn of the Screw thought.

“Here are two statements,” Sister Josephine said. “One: The governess is hallucinating. Two: The ghosts are real.” She turned and wrote both on the board. “Find evidence in the novel for both of these. Tomorrow, we’ll discuss as a class.”

My hand shot up. “I have a third idea.”


“The staff is conspiring against her. An elaborate trick.”

Sister Josephine smiled. “Intriguing theory.”

Mabel said, “It’s complicated enough with two,” and a few other people agreed with her.

“It’s better if it’s complicated,” I said.

Mabel turned in her desk to face me. “Wait. Excuse me? It’s better if it’s complicated?”

“Of course it is! It’s the point of the novel. We can search for the truth, we can convince ourselves of whatever we want to believe, but we’ll never actually know. I guarantee that we can find evidence to argue that the staff is playing a trick on the governess.”

Sister Josephine said, “I’ll add it to the list.”

After school, Mabel and I split up our science assignment on the 31, hopped off around the corner from Trouble Coffee, and went in to celebrate our excellent time management with two cappuccinos.

“I keep thinking about ghosts,” I said as we walked alongside the pastel houses with flat facades and square windows. “They show up in all my favorite books.”

“Final essay topic?”

I nodded. “But I have to figure out a thesis.”

“The only thing I like about The Turn of the Screw is the governess’s first sentence.” Mabel paused to tug on her sandal strap.

I closed my eyes and felt the sun on my face. I said, “‘I remember the whole beginning as a succession of flights and drops, a little seesaw of the right throbs and the wrong.’”

“Of course you would know it by heart.”

“Well, it’s amazing.”

“I thought the whole thing would be that way, but it’s just confusing and pointless. The ghosts—if there are ghosts—don’t even do anything. They just show up and stand around.”

I opened our iron gate and we climbed the stairs to the landing. Gramps was calling hello before we’d even closed the door behind us. We set down our coffees, shrugged off our backpacks, and went straight to the kitchen. His hands were covered in flour; Wednesdays were his favorite because there were two of us to bake for.

“Smells delicious,” Mabel said.

“Say it in Spanish,” Gramps said.

“Huele delicioso. What is it?” Mabel said.

“Chocolate Bundt cake. Now say, ‘The chocolate Bundt cake smells delicious.’”