BLESSING AMANDA
by
Daniel John


I wasn't too young for the man I was sitting next to on the flight from St. Louis to Boston, I just wasn't interested. He looked around 50, balding, a little pot belly, and fat cheeks. There was something adorable about him, and he looked well-off in a gauche kind of way-he had those new $200 Levi's on, a tailor-made white shirt with a leather vest, and a black leather duster in the bin above the seat. He discreetly glanced my way every now and then, and I knew why. At 44, I still looked available, but I also looked old enough to know better. The combination was unbeatable for a lot of men. Not only that, I had attractive hot flashes. Whenever they came on, I peeled off my top layer, either a long sweater or a long-sleeved, button-up shirt. Then I slowly removed my next layer, a thin blouse, to reveal a little black spaghetti-strap thing with no bra. But my seatmate hadn't followed up on his shy glances, because Lolita on the other side of the aisle was monopolizing him.

The three of us had been next to each other in the same order and in the same seats on the flight from Albuquerque to St. Louis. We'd circled around each other at the St. Louis airport for half an hour, and now here we were sitting in the same three seats on the flight to Boston. It felt like family, in a weird sort of way.

On the way back from the washroom, I checked out Miss Carrot Top. She'd been confiding in him for over an hour, not caring who heard her talk. He'd already commented twice on her frizzy red hair, once to claim his hair had been exactly as curly as hers when he was 20. The gold buttons on her silky, blue-polyester cowboy shirt were one buttonhole off, leaving one side of her shirt a few inches higher than the other, showing a fair bit of tummy on his side of the aisle. But she couldn't have planned that; it just made her look like she'd gotten dressed in the dark. Her tiny, low-slung jean shorts, with store-made torn edges and covered with spangles, generated a lot of sparkling activity whenever she crossed and uncrossed her legs. Which she did every few minutes in harmony with peaks of self-pity or anxiety in her voice. Her Hello Kitty suitcase was so overstuffed a stewardess had to help her close the luggage bin. Her knapsack was partly ripped and its contents were leaking into the aisle.

No, I decided. She wasn't trying to seduce him. She really was a mess. She needed taking care of . . . on the other hand, what's more seductive to an older man? She'd already told him her life story, all the way up to age 22. All I had to compete with-were I competing, which I wasn't-was my newly published short story collection and my attractive hot flashes. Well, my hair usually got attention. It was a foot-and-a-half long, wavy, and a brown so deep it was almost black. Since I was only five foot two and 110 pounds, when I wore it down my hair could look like a separate person. That's what all three of my husbands had said about me, sooner or later: that I seemed to be more than one person: seductive and unattainable, alluring and disappointing, oversexed and frigid. I was glad to be done with husbands. I had washed my hands of husbands.

Although I was still in the habit of wearing a miniskirt over black or patterned woolen dance leggings. All my husbands had raved about that outfit. Today both my mini and leggings were black. That was my traveling outfit. Being so short, I had to dress severely in order to be taken seriously.

I was still standing in the aisle, and she was still talking to Mr. Sugar Daddy. “I'm pretty sure I'm pregnant,” she said, leaning right in front of me to talk to him as if I was invisible. Her voice was shaky and her eyes and cleavage were brimming over. “Excuse me,” I said in a neutral voice and squeezed past his knees. She kept on talking. I felt his yearning to take care of her. By the time we landed he'd be ready to help pay for the abortion.

After another hour of talking, devoted mostly to the failures of her family members, she fell asleep. I was so happy not to have to listen to that voice anymore. Then I had a hot flash. I quickly unbuttoned my long sleeved shirt and shrugged it off. He took off his vest at the same time. “Sure is warm in here,” he said, and smiled at me. I took off my blouse. He took off his shirt. “I don't know why they keep it so hot,” he said, sitting there in a “wife-beater” singlet. He was taking care of me; this was disconcerting.

As the hot flash faded, I slowly became aware that my black tank top that came three inches above the waistline of my miniskirt was sitting next to his plain white t-shirt like a sartorial possibility. It was sexy, but in an unclear way, as if our shirts were getting it on with each other. He looked at the diamond in my navel, then glanced at my nipples. I became intensely aware of them and they stiffened in response. Heat marched up into my cheeks. It wasn't a hot flash. I was blushing. As soon as I realized that, the blush got worse.

“I'm George,” he said, smiling at me.

“Amanda,” I said, trying to be cool. l blushed even deeper for no reason at all. It might have been another hot flash. Sweat beaded on my upper lip and I wondered if I'd worn enough deodorant.

He glanced at the book in my lap. “Did you buy that book because the author has the same name as you? ”

“It's my name,” I said, discreetly dabbing my upper lip. It was definitely another hot flash.

“I noticed.”

“No, I mean it's my name. I mean, I wrote the book.”

“Really? Wow!” His eyes went wide like a little boy's. I felt a burst of childish pleasure, and the blush bloomed on top of the hot flash like a rose in a furnace vent. “Haven't you ever met an author before?” I asked, trying to sound arch. I only sounded stupid.

“Not on an airplane. May I see it?” he asked, grinning.

I didn't mean to throw it at him, but I was getting rattled. He caught it right before it flew out of my hand. He hefted the book like a sculpture of rare wood.

“Great title,” he said, half-whispering in awe. “Soft Deceits, by Amanda S. D. Ploughman.” I was possessed by childish pride, another burst of heat enveloped me, and I wanted to throttle him.

“May I?” he asked, opening the front cover.

“Be my guest,” I said brightly.

He read the whole first story, start to finish. “Wow!” he said, shutting the book. “Great writing. Can I make a comment?” His voice was furry with admiration. A tingle ran down the front of my body. Suddenly, I was freezing. I grabbed my blouse and put it on in a hurry.

“Sure. Fire away. Everyone's a critic.”

“Oh, I don't want to criticize. I love your main character, that's all. You've drawn her so well I feel I know her personally. She's so successfully lonely, and the man such a sweet bumbler. They'll never get married.” He slipped on his shirt.

“Oh?” I was annoyed at how annoyed I was. They were my characters, not his.

“She calls him her sweet foolish man, but what she means is, he's not engaging her. This is more important to her than being cuddled. She's going to destroy him. She doesn't need to be loved so much as she needs to know the limits of her power.”

“Uh . . . ” My writing felt transparent, and so did I. I snatched the book back before he read the next story. “How's your young friend over there?” I said, changing the subject.

“Patricia? She's asleep.”

“I noticed,” I said sarcastically. He looked at me, puzzled. I rolled my eyes. He didn't know sarcasm from angel food cake. “I mean,” I said, shifting gears, “is she going to be okay? She looks like an unmade bed.”

He laughed. “You're right, she does. She's guileless.” He said it with respect, as though she'd earned a medal in naiveté.

“Do you play Scrabble?” he asked.

I grew cold, and swiftly put on my flannel shirt. I played at least one game of Scrabble every day, solitaire, my left hand against my right hand. I kept score, too, so I could measure my strategies. This man was practically related to me and I'd barely met him. None of my husbands had ever played Scrabble.

“No,” I said. “I mean, yes. I mean, hardly ever. Well, sometimes.”

He laughed, and his baby blues twinkled like Santa Claus. I didn't know anybody could make their eyes twinkle like that. “Boy, that's a whole lot of answers. Do you want to play now? I have a Travel Scrabble with me.” He reached into his backpack. I became paranoid he'd see my Travel Scrabble sticking out of my bag, and I'd be forced into a closeness I did not want.

“No! I mean, not now. Maybe later.” I discreetly kicked my bag farther under the seat in front of me.

“Okay,” he said amiably. “I play solitaire all the time, my left hand against my right hand. People ask me why I'm keeping score. I tell them, 'So I know who's winning.' Some even ask, 'Well, who's winning?' I say, 'I am.' They never laugh. They just look at me like I'm stupid and walk away. Don't you think that's funny?”

I felt seduced, and that made me furious.

“. . . You know,” I said levelly, “I need a nap.”

“Okay,” he said, taking out the Scrabble board and setting it up on the little table.

I turned to the window. Heat flashed my skin. This time even the backs of my knees broke into sweat. I took off all my shirts again, looking out the window but keeping a corner of an eye on him. He never looked. He knew I didn't want to be looked at, so he wasn't. He was taking care of me again, I could feel it. I hated that. I didn't want to be taken care of ever again. The greatest joy of all three of my husbands had been to take care of me, and their greatest frustration was to fail. I was done with needing to be taken care of. I was finally my own woman, and I liked it that way. I avoided speaking to him for the rest of the flight.

At the baggage claim, I stood at the opposite end of the cavernous room and watched him help Little Miss Pregnant find her luggage. I had a hot flash, and swiftly removed my shirt and blouse, knotting them around my waist like a teenager in an Abercrombie and Fitch catalogue. I looked up to see him handing her his business card. He looked right at me and yelled, “Hi, Amanda.” I was so startled to be caught looking, I waved back.

“Hi, Amanda,” Patricia yelled, happy I was waving at her. I ignored her.

George sprinted over, grinning, as if we hadn't seen each other for months. He handed me a card and said, “Call me for a game of Scrabble sometime,” then trotted out the door for a taxi.

I read the card: “Heaven Moved/ George Baldwin Smith Nasser.” He probably thought that was funny. I looked up. He was gone. Patricia was looking at me, his card in her hand. I stared at her while I let mine fall to the floor, then turned and walked out. I had a book reading to get to and an apartment to find. I was moving to Boston from Santa Fe.

Two hours later I was at Brookline Booksmith, reading out loud from one of the stories in my book, when I looked up and saw the two of them walk in. I had a hot flash, but I was already in my tube top so I was fine. I dabbed my upper lip with the tissue I was holding, and kept on reading. I started to feel strange. Soon my words felt empty, as if they had gotten sick and died before coming out of my mouth. I got so tired I could feel the bags growing under my eyes. I slumped into the chair to begin signing books. George and Patricia walked up to the table, each with a copy for me to sign. They were smiling happily, as if this was a reunion. I didn't meet their eyes.

A month or so later I was in Bread and Circus, the natural foods store in Brookline. I was giving up on finding an apartment I could afford. I needed to leave Santa Fe, that was clear. That's where two of my marriages had taken place, and where husband number three still ran a restaurant. And I wanted to move to Brookline, that was equally clear. It was full of authors and close to all the goodies of a big city in Boston-yet wasn't inside them. It seemed a thousand other people had come to the same conclusion. I couldn't find anything cheap enough so I could live in Brookline without a roommate. I had been staying with friends, and it was really time for me to move on. Before I gave up and went back to Santa Fe, I decided to fill my hosts' larder, as a way of saying thank you. I was reading labels on the imported cheeses when someone's cart ran into mine with a great crash.

“Amanda!” Patricia squealed. “I'm so happy to see you!”

“Patricia? From the airplane?” I said, even though that electrocution of red hair was unmistakable.

“Yes! It's me!” she gushed, as though I had been dying to see her. “I'm a grad student in creative writing at Boston University! I'm not even pregnant! I'm not even dating. I haven't seen George since the airplane, though we've talked on the phone. He was so helpful to me. I loved your book! It was so well-written! Gosh, I wish I could write that well. How's it selling?”

I slowly grazed the cheeses, then selected a brie and a stilton. “It's selling fine.” I had a stray thought. “Oh, by the way, you haven't heard about any apartments in Brookline opening up, have you?”

She turned red and started bouncing in little jumps that cleared the floor by two or three inches. “Oh, my God! Oh my God, I've been like looking for an apartment ever since we stepped off the airplane, and I haven't found anything for less than like a million dollars. My trust fund is, like, not that big!” She laughed at her own joke, then whipped out a pen and scribbled on piece of paper. “Listen, here's my number. Give me yours. We'd get along great! I know we would!”

What the heck, I thought, giving her my number. I was desperate, and I could always move out when something better came along. It would be hell to live with her, but it was better than the purgatory I was in now. I started to back my cart away from hers, saying, “Well, let's call each other if anything comes up. It was nice smashing into you, Patricia.”

Apparently, that was the funniest joke she'd ever heard. She doubled over, hanging off the handle of her cart and nearly choking with laughter. Just then a fully loaded cart zoomed out of an aisle and smashed into our carts like a torpedo aimed for the exact point where they touched. “Madam, you must control your child,” a voice said loudly, and then George appeared, running after the cart. He practically screeched to a stop. I was so stunned my internal dialog shut down, leaving me in an unknown inner silence.

“George!” Patricia yelled so loudly other people in the store turned to stare. She gave him a big, sloppy hug and a meaty kiss on the lips. I noticed her knapsack was stuck together with frayed duct tape.

When Patricia finally let go of him, he turned to me and said, “Is this about Scrabble?” I was too flummoxed to talk. “Hello to you both,” he said. “Do either of you believe in coincidences?”

“I do! I do! I mean, I don't! I don't!” Patricia shouted, clapping and making little leaps of joy.

“Well, in that case, will whoever called this meeting call it to order? Was it you . . . Amanda?” He said my name like taking a bite out of a Bartlett pear, firm and full of juice. I had a hot flash and my knees went weak. I whipped off both shirts, one after the other, and tied them around my waist. I felt guilty, as though I really had called this meeting. On top of that, I blushed. If it hadn't been for my shopping cart to lean on, I would have been sitting on the floor radiating heat.

“Well, since you're both here,” he went on, “do either of you know where I can find some roommates? I just rented a huge apartment with a living room and four bedrooms. It called to me like a long-lost wife-not that I need another one-but I can't afford it by myself.”

Patricia actually squeaked. It hurt my ears to hear a rodent that large. “Really? Really? George, you're not going to believe this, you absolutely are not going to believe this, but we are, both of us, I mean me and Amanda, we just decided to be roomies! Just now! We want to be your roommates, don't we, Amanda? Isn't this just freaky?” Then she squeaked again.

It was like the turning point in a sexual encounter, when a woman can either kiss more deeply, or look at her watch. I could have stopped everything right there . . . and I decided not to. It felt delicious in an indefinable way, but I was still together enough to make the decision. I still had a sense things were moving too fast, like when a woman would be half-undressed and still not know the man's last name. Trying to slow things down, I asked George, “What do you do, anyway?”

“I edit a small literary magazine called Heaven Moved, but freelance medical and scientific translation pays the bills. I speak technical German and Spanish.”

I felt like my mother, but I asked, “Patricia, what's your last name?”

“Patricia Francesca Eleanora McGillicuddy. Why, what's yours?”

“Amanda Susan Deborah Ploughman.”

“We both have four names. Wait, George?”

“George Baldwin Smith Nasser.”

“See?” Patricia said. “We all have four names. We're fated to be together. And he's an Arab, too.”

“Egyptian,” he corrected, “on my grandfather's side.”

“Jewish,” I said, “from my mother.”

“Scots-Irish,” Patricia said happily, as though we'd just completed a rhyming game, “from Northern Ireland, though I've never been there. I know some ballads, though.”

I rolled my eyes, but it was more out of habit than anything else. I was still in shock. The three of us stood holding the handles of our shopping carts and staring at each other. Patricia was giddy, and George glowed.

“Well, why don't you both come look at it?” he finally said. “It can't hurt. My car's right outside, and I'll bring you right back here. Half an hour, tops.”

That was easy. I didn't have to decide anything yet. The three of us proceeded to the checkout and stood at the end of a long line, united by our common destination.

We climbed two flights of stairs in silence, me first, then Patricia, then George. We separated to walk around the apartment. It was the third floor of a Victorian house so huge it could have been a train station in some small New England town. The third floor had grand windows, 10-foot ceilings, a large kitchen with glass cupboards, four bedrooms, three bathrooms, a widow's walk three-quarters of the way around the house, a large attic, and an opulent, hexagonal living room in the center with discreet fleur-de-lis wallpaper. No, I realized when I looked closer, it was antique fabric wall covering, well worn. It must have been a century old, at least. I could hear George and Patricia wandering around as I made my inspection.

Much to my dismay, I couldn't find a single thing wrong with the place. It was a five-minute walk from the trolley and it came with two parking spaces plus a guest space-gold in Brookline, which banned overnight parking. Worse than that, it felt like home. From one bedroom in particular I could see the bright lights of Boston. That was perfect for the way I did my writing, with a lot of looking up and out. I felt so welcomed it was spooky. The only problem was my roommates, especially Patricia. How could I even share a fridge with that girl? I could see living with George, as long as he stayed out of my way, but Patricia made me grit my teeth.

Then the oddest thing happened. We all met up in the living room at the same time, entering it from each of the three separate doors. I felt like we'd all just walked on stage. There was a fireplace on one side, a great leather couch, two overstuffed chairs, old-fashioned floor lamps, and a worn but classic square bridge table with a green felt top.

“It comes furnished,” George said.

“George, how much is this?” I asked, shaking my head.

“Fifteen hundred dollars each.”

My upper limit was $1400, but I was in awe, and awe was temptation. We stood around the bridge table and looked at each other. George vociferously denies this, but I'm positive he reached out his hands to me and Patricia. He says he was just following Patricia's lead, and Patricia swears I was the first one to lift my hands-which is ludicrous. I would never have done anything so cute. Anyway, for some reason I joined in his silly New Age ritual, and we all held hands, Patricia on my left and George on my right. It seemed harmless enough.

Then a bolt of lightning fell out of the ceiling and streaked round our little circle from hand to heart to hand to heart, blessing the three of us and binding us together. I felt a sharp joy I'd never felt before, a joy of belonging to something larger than me. It was over as soon as it happened. I freaked out and tried to let go, but my hands were slow and gluey. I tried harder, but just before I succeeded, another bolt of lightning flashed round our tiny circle, at the level of our lower bellies. I “saw” our belly buttons flashing like three diamonds in a ring of light. Since I really did have a diamond there, mine flashed particularly bright. I can never tell anyone this, I thought, it's just too stupid: we have navel gazing, and now we have navel lightning.

Then I was finally able to let go of their hands. I had a hot flash, and thought I was going to throw up. I stripped off a few layers and lay down on the couch. Its brown leather was old and cracking. George started a fire; there was plenty of wood.

Patricia started bouncing around, singing a rap song that went, “It's so hot in here, take off all your clothes.” Normally I would have wanted to toss that little nit off the roof. But not anymore. She was goofy in a way I had never been when I was young, but what's the matter with that? And George didn't bother me near as much as he had on the plane, even though he couldn't stop grinning like a little boy. My head was swimming. It was a good 15 minutes before I felt stable enough to walk down the stairs. George held my arm the whole way down. I felt completely taken care of-and that was okay with me, for the first time in years. Patricia hugged me goodbye and smacked me on the lips, which surprised me, but didn't disgust me. Even her mango-flavored lip gloss wasn't a problem.

I decided I'd had a lobotomy, and that made me feel better.

Yet when George called the next day to see if I wanted to share the apartment, I was baffled when I heard myself say yes. Not because I'd said yes, but that he had to ask. The three of us living there together had become one of the things that had already happened, as in a dream. I seemed to have misplaced my irony, which made me feel incompetent. Irony was my primary method of understanding the world: stand aloof and comment on things in a snide way, as if your comment is a joke-only really it's a put-down. The funny thing is, I wasn't disturbed by its loss, which was even more disturbing. I was just plain happy. And I liked it. For weeks, I would catch myself holding my breath. I had to tell myself over and over, if it ended, then it ended, and I would deal with that when it happened.

Yesterday was our three-year anniversary of the handholding-we referred to it as the blessing-and the six of us went out for a stroll. The neighbors could never get enough of looking, but at least their mouths didn't drop open anymore. George was carrying Amanda Junior-we called her Junior-in a baby Snugli pack on his front, and Patricia had the twins, Amandaman and Georgia, in a double wide stroller. She thought Amandaman was a nice Hindu name for a boy, although she hadn't actually asked any Hindus if that was true. The twins have only red fuzz for hair, even though they're two years old today, as is Junior. She has a mass of black curls that makes every adult go goo-gah. Everybody says all three babies looked just like George. He says all babies looked like him because he's bald and has a round, fat face.

My doctor had been as surprised as I was. I'd finally gone to him with my unexplainable weight gain, impervious to exercise and dieting; my mood swings; increase in bust size; and my hot flashes replaced by a constant red-cheeked heat. I thought I needed hormone replacement therapy, but he said, “Something doesn't fit. Let's try a pregnancy test. It can't hurt.”

“You're nuts,” I said. “My last period was several months ago . . . Uh-oh.”

“Uh-oh?”

“My mother was forty-five when I was born. She used to call me her little miracle.”

“And you're how old?”

“I turned forty-five today.”

He read the results, then looked at me and said, “Happy Birthday, Little Miracle.”

The ultrasound said I was three-and-a-half months along. I felt tricked, but I didn't know by whom. I couldn't blame George. I was the one who came on to him, after that late-night Scrabble game.

The first word I got was “orgasm” for 24 points. Then he added an “i” and a “c” to make “orgasmic.” I replied with “peignoir” which was a bingo, meaning I'd used all 7 letters for 50 extra points, and on a triple word score, too. Just then I burst into a heat so tropical I had to go to my bedroom and take everything off my top. Just for fun, I put on my peignoir with nothing under it, although I carried a quilted jacket for when I got chilled. Then he played “clitoris-” a bingo for 74 points-which I thought was kind of direct. But I giggled at what I pulled out of the word bag next: “penises” for 30 points since it was on a triple word score. Then he played “hump,” and even though he didn't get a high score for it, we were both squirming. I played “mind” next, which was what I was thinking. “Amanda, mind you don't get carried away!” But then he played “tautened,” which turned “humps” into “thumps” and was a bingo for 97 points since it landed on two double word scores. I looked at the tautening in his jeans and he saw me looking and blushed, for God's sake. I haven't seen a man blush in ages. Then I played “handle” and he looked at me and smoldered, like he really wanted to. Instead he played “duet” and that just melted me. On the next turn, like a daredevil, I played “cox,” even though I was throwing away points to use my “x” on only a double letter score. I looked at his tautening; he blushed again. Then he played “rain” and I just lost control. It was only worth five points. He'd basically thrown his turn away, and he couldn't afford to do that since I was 20 points ahead. But I knew what he meant: the rain of him and the rain of me. I climbed over the sturdy little table and kissed him hugely, scattering tiles all over the floor.

“I've had all my tests,” he announced as he picked me up to carry me over the threshold of his bedroom. He set me down on the bed.

I announced triumphantly, “I've had all my tests, too! Plus, my ovaries are empty!” We gentled off each other's clothes. It rained for hours.

In the months that followed, I felt no competition with Patricia. She and George made no secret-well, Patricia was incapable of keeping a secret-that their friendship included sex now and then, although it wasn't jealous-passionate-lover-style, it was like friends who get it on sometimes; no big deal. Whereas George and I were exploring the canyons of the moon in the deepest sexual relationship either of us had ever had. There was no comparison between me and Patricia, and therefore no conflict. Or at least that's the only theory I could come up with to explain my total and abnormal lack of jealousy.

Only a few years earlier, in a like situation, I would have murdered everybody. To see me be nice to Patricia, any one of my three husbands would swear I'd been killed and replaced by a New Age robot. Instead, I was as happy for Patricia and George as I was for myself and George. It was never kinky. We never did a three-way or anything like that. What the three of us had felt exactly like monogamy, only with more people than usual.

Patricia and I got along so well soon we were doing a big-sister, little-sister thing, curling up on my bed and telling each other everything. Well, she told me everything. I am old enough to know discretion. Anyway, when my little redheaded sister (she wasn't little- she was six inches taller than me and at least 50 pounds heavier) became mysteriously pregnant with twins-they swore they'd used two kinds of birth control-I was as excited as she was. All three of us thought of the twins as belonging to all three of us.

When I came home with the news that I was pregnant, Patricia was so overjoyed she bounced that belly-full-of-twins all over the apartment, singing that same ridiculous pop song, “It's getting hot in here, so take off all your clothes.” That was the only line she knew-and apparently the only song as well-so she sang it over and over and over again until I finally joined in. Soon we were both on the floor, out of breath and laughing.

That's when George walked in carrying four bags of groceries and puffing hard.

“Guess what, George?” I said, and Patricia clapped her hands over her mouth and squealed like a pig for joy. “You're going to have three babies from two women.”

He put down the grocery bags on the counter, carefully, one at a time, like large brown delicate eggs. Then he sat down, with a face so white I thought he was going to faint.

It took me and Patricia days to convince him that everything would work out. He kept saying he was too old; we kept reassuring him that the first few years are the most significant in a child's life, and that what mattered was him being alive now, even if he did die before the children graduated from university.

The hospital people were angels. We heard not one word of criticism or even comment when George walked in with one of us on each arm, puffing and blowing. The babies were born within a few hours of each other, so he got to catch them all. Everything felt perfectly normal, and so were the babies.

Everything still feels normal. Ever since it began, I had always expected our unorthodox situation to end with a great wrenching crash. When I thought about it, I realized I'd always felt catastrophe was looming, ever since I was a small child. A lot of my needing to be taken care of, that endless need that consumed my first three marriages, was about that fear of being destroyed by something unknown. That waiting-for-disaster attitude occupied less and less of my awareness after the Blessing, but it was still there, lurking in the closet like a childhood monster.

Then Amanda Junior came out of me, and everything changed. I'm not waiting for disaster anymore. What I was waiting for has arrived, and her name is mine.

THE END
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Pending publication by Oasis Literary Magazine