We sat under Henry’s huge lilac bush next to his house, the four of us: May and Henry, Evie and I. In a month or two, the smell of lilacs would fill the air.
“So, what do you think?” I asked.
No one said, “What do you think about what?” Everyone knew what I meant.
“I like her,” said Evie. “Even if she sends her pathetic kids to camp all summer long.”
“I think I love her,” said Henry. “She tells the truth.”
“Or maybe not. Maybe she lies,” I pointed out.
“Right,” said Hen, smiling. “Real and unreal are the same thing. So she says.”
“What do you suppose that means?” asked May.
No one answered.
“Do you think she is happily married?” asked Evie thoughtfully. “She might be very good for my father.”
“Evie, you can’t just pick out some woman for your father,” I said.
“Why not?” said Evie. She turned and looked at me, her face fierce. “Why not?”
Then her face crumpled and she began to cry.
I put my arms around her.
Henry’s mother, Junie, put her iced tea glass on the windowsill and leaned out.
“Is everything all right out here?” she asked.
“Fine,” said Henry.
Junie, who knew better but didn’t say so, backed away through the window. Junie was the only mother we called by her first name because Henry did. And he called his father Max. Max worked at home because he loved Junie, and spent his time working on the computer and looking at Junie.
“They are like kids,” said Hen once. “Sometimes I am the grown-up. I don’t mind.”
The steam from a pie on the table rose out the window. I watched a drop of water slip down the glass of iced tea as Evie cried on my shoulder.
After a while Evie stopped crying and leaned back. I could feel the sudden wet coolness the tears had left on the shoulder of my T-shirt.
“I’m a big, fat crybaby,” said Evie loudly. “Big, fat crybaby.”
“No,” I said at the same time May did.
“You’re not fat,” said Henry.
Evie began to laugh then; and we all laughed, leaning back under the lilac bush, getting leaves and bits of dirt in our hair.
“Not fat at all,” repeated Hen, making us laugh harder. I could almost see the laughter as it rose up and wound around the branches of the lilac bush, touching the blooms before lifting up to the sky. I took out my notebook.
A breath you take in
But can’t let out
As hard as you try.