What are you doing still in bed?” Mrs. Duval cried in that sharp but overly dramatic attempt at anger, with her hands on her waist and her shoulders stiffly back in the posture of a drill sergeant. She always kept her dark brown hair in a tight bun, with what Mrs. Caro said was “nary a strand free to wander on its own.” Both of them were live-in servants. Mrs. Duval and her husband, Alberto, lived in a four-room apartment over the garage that housed six cars, one of them being mine now. Mrs. Caro had a bedroom at the rear of the mansion. Other part-time maids came and went, mostly because they didn’t live up to Mrs. Duval’s standards.
She pressed the button that drew apart the curtains on my windows, and a tide of bright Southern California morning sun rushed in and over the room. When I was four, my mother told me the sun was made of rich, luscious butter. I used to dream of capturing a ray and smearing it over a slice of toast.
When I told my mother the dream, she laughed and said, “If anyone could do that, Sasha, you can, but you’ll burn your tongue on it.”
All of those sweeter moments, delicious and bright, hung like stars in the dark sky of my past life. I could pluck them as someone would pluck fruit and savor the wonderful memory. My greatest fear was that with time, they would fade and eventually disappear, leaving me in total darkness.
“Well? Why are you still sleeping, Sasha?” Mrs. Duval asked with as much of a scowl as she could muster. “Did you stay up too late again talking on that phone?”
My foster parents’ head housekeeper long ago had dropped what little formality had existed between us since the day I came to live with the Marches. I doubted she had expected I would last so long in this home, but as the years went by and the reality of it settled in, she softened and became more like one of the grandmothers I had never known.
I had suspected she liked me from the start, anyway. She knew what had brought me here. From time to time, she risked asking me about my mother in little ways but never ventured so far as to ask me about the night of the horrible accident. Like everyone else—except Kiera, who caused it, of course—it was something unspoken but something that never seemed to go away. It loomed like a stubborn, bruised cloud in the sky, no matter how bright the day. The three years that had passed hadn’t diminished it. They had hardened it, had made it muscular and angry, until it resembled a tightly closed fist, always ready to come crashing down on any moment of happiness I dared enjoy. “I didn’t stay up that late, but I forgot to set my alarm,” I said, still clutching the soft, lavender-scented comforter about me. Only my face was uncovered.
“I thought so,” she said. “Mrs. Caro looked at the eggs she was about to break, looked at me and then up at the ceiling, and said, ‘That girl hasn’t stirred…
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