We Are Okay(9)

By: Nina Lacour

“Sister,” Gramps said, his voice a growl again, as if he hadn’t heard anything we’d been saying. “I’m sure that painful things have happened to you. Even marrying Jesus can’t entirely shield you from the realities of life. I ask you now to take a moment to remember those terrible things. I remind you, now, to remember them. There. Don’t you feel healed? Maybe you should tell us about them. Don’t you feel, don’t you feel . . . so much better? Do they fill you with fondness? Do you find yourself joyful?”

“Mr. Delaney, please.”

“Would you care to dazzle us with a tale of redemption?”

“All right, I can see—”

“Would you like to sing a song of joy for us now?”

“I apologize for upsetting you, but this is—”

Gramps stood, puffed out his chest.

“Yes,” he said. “This is entirely inappropriate of me. Almost as inappropriate as a nun offering counsel regarding the deaths of a spouse and a child. Marin is getting excellent grades. Marin is an excellent student.” The counselor leaned back in her office chair, stoic. “And Marin,” Gramps said, triumphant, “is coming with me!”

He turned and swung open the door.

“Bye,” I said, as apologetically as I could.

He stormed out. I followed him.

The car ride home was a one-man comedy act comprised of every nun joke Gramps could remember. I laughed at the punch lines until he didn’t really need me anymore. It was a monologue. When it was over I asked him if he’d heard from Birdie today, and he smiled.

“You write two letters, you get two letters,” he said.

And then I thought of the tears in Sister Josephine’s eyes when I was reading my story to the class. How she thanked me for being so brave. And okay, maybe it wasn’t entirely imagined. Maybe the sirens gave the girl shells that filled her underwater room. Maybe the story came from some part of me that wished I knew more, or at least had actual memories instead of feelings that may have only been inventions.

chapter four

MABEL IS LEARNING as much about Hannah as our room can tell her. The pile of papers on her desk, her immaculate bed-making. The signed posters from Broadway shows and her bright, plush comforter.

“Where’s she from?”


“This is the prettiest blue,” Mabel says, admiring the Persian rug between our beds, worn enough to show its age but still soft underfoot.

She stands in front of the bulletin board, asking me about the people in the photographs. Megan, from down the hall. Davis, her ex-boyfriend who is still her friend. Some girls, also from home, whose names I don’t remember.

“She likes quotes,” Mabel says.

I nod. “She reads a lot.”

“This Emerson quote is everywhere. I saw it on a magnet.”

“Which one?”

“‘Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can.’”

“I can see why. Who doesn’t need to be reminded of that?”

“Yeah, I guess so,” Mabel says.

“Hannah’s really like that,” I say. “Things don’t seem to get to her. She’s kind of . . . straightforward, I guess. But in the best way. In a way that’s really smart and kind.”

“So you like her.”

“Yeah. I like her a lot.”

“Great,” she says, but I can’t tell if she means it. “Okay, let’s move on to you. What kind of plant is this?”

“A peperomia. I got it at a plant sale on campus and I’ve kept it alive for three months. Impressive, right?”

“Good job.”

“I know.”

We smile at each other. It feels almost natural between us.

“These are nice bowls,” she says, taking one off my windowsill.

Besides the photograph of my mother that lives in a folder in my closet, the bowls are the best things I own. They’re a perfect shade of yellow, not too bright, and I know where they came from and who made them. I like how substantial they are, how you can feel the weight of the clay.

“One of the first lectures my history professor gave us was about this guy William Morris. He said that everything you own should be either useful or beautiful. It’s a lot to aspire to, but I figured why not try? I saw these in a potter’s studio a couple days afterward and I bought them.”

“They’re so pretty.”

“They make everything feel kind of special. Even cereal and ramen,” I say. “Which are both major components of my diet.”

“Pillars of nutrition.”

“What do you eat at school?”