The girl stands on the front porch of a fashionably ramshackle house in Riverside. She is ten years old. She looks younger from her stature, much older if you look in her face.
It’s early enough in the day that she can see the woman of the house through the kitchen window sipping on her morning coffee with her slippered feet up on the opposite chair.
She knows this woman. She knows of this woman. She wants to know the woman so she can learn to be a writer. So she knocks on the door.
The woman comes to the door. Through the keyhole she can see it is a child in a bright red rain slicker, though it isn’t raining. She is still too tired, to dazed by the process of waking up another day and suddenly too aware of the little bits of sleep scratching at the corners of her eyes to look much closer at the girl before opening the door.
She is staring at her daughter. But it is not her daughter. Her daughter is upstairs sleeping exhausted by all the efforts she pours in to being an angst-ridden seventeen year old. This is her daughter’s sister, her ex-husband’s child. The one whose unexpected arrival led to the hasty dissolution of what had, up to that point, been a pretty satisfying marriage.
She is an unexpected Sunday morning guest. The woman suddenly feels very much older than her 45 years. Her had grabs the door and she is instinctively about to slam it shut when she remembers herself to be the kind of woman who doesn’t slam the door in faces of children dressed in red rain slickers.
The girl looks at her inquisitively for a few moments then abruptly sticks out her hand almost shouting. “I am Abigail Wilks. How do you do? You have a lovely home. May I come in?”
The woman smiles in spite of herself. Thinks on it a moment, just long enough to drain what’s left in her rapidly cooling coffee cup then replies. “And I am Cynthia Burrows. I know who you are. Are you here to see Lucy? She’s still asleep. She didn’t mention you were stopping by.”
The girl shakes her head and describes her intention. She wants to be a writer. She thinks she’d be really good at it. But she didn’t inherit any talent for it. Not a lick from either of her parents. But Lucy, and Matthew and Ben all got some. And it came from Cynthia, so they keep saying she can’t claim any of it. And she doesn’t think that’s fair. So if she can’t inherit it, she’s come to learn it. And she is hoping Cynthia will be able to teach her.
Cynthia looks at the child carefully to see the hints of mockery or lunacy around the edges of this plea but can’t find any. Then she looks up and down the street and realized she can’t see of these talentless parents of Abigail’s either.
“How did you get here?” She asks.
“I took a cab.” Abigail answers.
“Your parents put you in a cab to my house?” Cynthia can’t believe it. Then she thinks a little bit on Thomas, something she almost never does anymore, and doesn’t completely rule it out of the realm of possibility.
“Oh no. They don’t know I’m here. I “googled” your address and came myself. My mom wouldn’t let me come here. She says that you think you are soooo much better than everybody else. No offence.”
Cynthia smiles again at this really weird little kid. “So you snuck out of your house to come here to ask me to teach you how to become a writer even though you think your mother will disapprove?”
“Yes. I know that people need to suffer for their art.”
“Writing made Dorothy Parker suicidal.”
“I love Dorothy Parker.”
“So… will you teach me?”
Cynthia steps out of the doorway back into the house. “Come on in.”