Every year, at least once a year, I made the trip back to Florida. Mother and Dad understood but told no one; Dad did have one more brief talk with Lady Hippolyta. Everyone assumed it was to visit Disney World, maybe with a brief stop to visit my grandparents. To my social friends I played up an enormous interest in Disney World, professing it to be my “dirty little secret, so don’t tell a soul!” I was emerging as a world-class cellist (thanks to my status as von Braun’s pupil) and as a sophisticate, I was supposed to be above such childish affairs. I didn’t need to wear mouse ears or ride magic elephants! Walt Disney World was for little kids, for the easily and foolishly pleased, thank you kindly, and so I encouraged the deliberate misperception to flourish. Disney’s sojourn was for all to see; the swamp was mine alone for a while longer.
The other, deeper thing I just kept buried, less for family’s sake than for my own sanity’s. James did know there’d been a tragedy in my past; he did not know the truth nor did he want to. Letters still came from Star of the Sea at irregular times, letters James never saw. Not that there was anything secret about them, an announcement of this, a connection for that. Aside from the fact they bore his signature I regarded them as so much foolscrap. Her name never came up, but Sophia was in them. Yet she might as well have been some ancient maiden aunt, or a Victorian portrait, or a plot of land up in northern Minnesota for all it mattered, for all they barely touched on her existence in terms I alone understood. No real details regarding where or with who, no intimate news of her, nothing. At the time I read them and forgot them.
And yet, I had to make myself stop scrutinizing every dark-haired little girl I saw.
“So, what do you think?”
“Well, it’s not bad.” Sylvia looked at John wearily. “But do you really think you’ll be respected as a writer if you keep using that random story generator?”
Opening: Panda Rosa.....Continuation: Nicolette