I’ve been having trouble posting a vignette every week as intended, so today I offer something a little more fulfilling. This is a short story I wrote several years ago inspired by my childhood growing up on a farm. I hope you enjoy it.
Dark. Cold. Leaking through the cracked window. She shivers and smiles. She reaches for the lamp next to her, warm, yellow, bright. But not enough to drown out the night. Winds surge. Leaves whoosh. Wood creaks. She could be a pirate on a ship sitting out a storm. Storm’s coming no doubt.
“Wish I could enjoy this as much as you.” Mom closes the window. She sounds stern, but her cheeks are rosy. Eyes twinkling. “But I’ve a farm to look after.”
“Cows’ll be fine,” replies Ferry.
“It’s not the cows I’m worried about.” Mom walks around the room pulling out plugs. “Get the TV?”
Ferry’s sad to leave the window, the portal to the storm. But Mom asked, and Mom knows best. Her fingers follow the wire into the shadows. Pop goes the plug. “Then what scares you?”
Mom looks at her, sighs. Ferry knows what she must be thinking: she’s too young. That’s what she said when Dad left a year ago. You’re too young. But she’s not too young. She was eleven then, now she’s twelve. She didn’t understand why Dad left, but neither did Mom, and Mom’s thirty. She stares Mom in the eyes.
Mom breaks. “The goats. I didn’t tell you this last year but … one of our goats froze to death.”
“It ain’t that cold,” says Ferry. She looks around for more plugs to pull. The thought of a frozen goat scares her, but she can keep working, see?
“You’re right, it’s not. Not yet. Got a book?”
Ferry nods. On a shelf of dusty books, her book’s clean. Spine broken. Well loved. It’s a mystery book. Ferry got it almost a year ago, after Dad disappeared. She knew his disappearance was a mystery, and thought she might be able to figure it out. Read it once, couldn’t figure out anything new at all. So she picked it up to read again. Maybe she’ll find more clues.
They sit at the table. Mom puts the lamp back in the middle and sits with her own book. Ferry watches her. Beautiful. Pale sweaty skin, even though it’s cold outside. Mom works so hard. A bandana over her rich black hair, spilling a little onto her face and sticking. Twinkly black eyes, happy one minute, sad the next. They’re not moving. She’s not reading.
“Mom,” says Ferry. “What’s your book about?”
“Mm.” Mom looks at the cover, as if to remember. “It’s a … silly romance.”
Ferry nods. “You miss Dad.”
The twinkle goes out of Mom’s eyes. Eyebrows furrow. “Not everything’s about your Dad. He’s gone. Best forget about him.”
Mom doesn’t want to believe what other people said about Dad: that he was a thief and a criminal. They told Mom she was better off without him, and made her watch the news showing his “Wanted” picture, connecting him to a jewelry store robbery. Mom said to turn it off, and she wouldn’t talk about it. Ferry wanted to know what Mom knew, but Mom wouldn’t say anything. It’s hard to solve a mystery without any clues. Once Ferry even tried to go through Mom’s papers, but there was so much junk, she couldn’t find anything useful.
It seemed true, though–that Mom was better off without Dad. After he disappeared, Mom seemed to have a lot more spending money. She wasn’t a big shopper, but she didn’t hesitate to buy some things she did before, like nice wines and breads.
Mom’s still looking at Ferry. Mom sighs. “Honey, there’s something I’ve been meaning to say. I can’t stay on this farm forever.”
“… What do you mean?”
“I mean, I’ve been looking into other places. I found a very nice house, closer to town. I think you’d love it.”
Ferry can’t believe what she’s hearing. “But … what about the animals?”
Mom shakes her head. “Just … think about it. I wouldn’t do it until next fall, anyway–”
“We don’t have the money for that!” Ferry remembers hearing Mom and Dad argue about money all the time. She knows what she’s saying.
Mom looks away from her. “I have the money, sweetie.” Her voice is quiet, quieter than the wind outside. “I have plenty.”
The outdoors roar–the wind and the trees and everything living. Mom straightens up, nervous. This is their first winter without Dad’s help. Dad helped run the farm, but Ferry remembers that he complained a lot, too. He cursed the animals and called them dumb. Sometimes Mom got tired of his complaints. Ferry remembers, and she thinks Mom does too, even though she pretends not to. She pretends Dad always liked it here.
The first echo of raindrops, metallic, bounce off the barn’s tin roof. Pouring, flooding closer. Ferry huddles in on herself, represses a smile. Waits for the wave to break. Whoosh comes the rain, over the field and onto the tiled roof of the house.
They read. They pretend, anyway. Mom’s probably thinking about Dad, worrying about what might go wrong. Or maybe she’s thinking about a house near the city. Ferry’s listening to the rain, and how it sends a different echo from each part of the farm.
Mom sees her smiling. Frowns. “If it floods, then the chicken coop …” Her eyes widen, filling with fear. “I should check on them. I should stack more sandbags.”
“I’ll do it!” Ferry slips off her chair.
“Don’t be silly!”
Dog starts barking, probably Masters. Ferry hates that the dogs have to stay outside, even when it rains. They need burros, or llamas. Otherwise dogs are the farm’s only protection, and that’s not much when it comes to coyotes. Sometimes the dogs ignore the coyotes altogether.
Mom listens, considers. “I guess you could check on Masters.” By now, more dogs have joined Masters. They sing a storm chorus.
“Can I bring him inside?”
“Only if something’s wrong.”
Rain jacket, rain boots, and a very big grin. She’s ready to go.
The ground pulls at her feet. Mud grabs her heels like hands. So much rain. She can’t see much, but Masters keeps barking, so she follows the sound. Out here, she could disappear like Dad did. There are a hundred ways to disappear. Probably more. She could run off right now and Mom would never find her. But she won’t.
Masters stands on the other side of the field, up against the fence. The other dogs stand further back, sometimes adding a supportive bark. Masters always barks first. He’s a waterside terrier, big, tough.
“Masters!” calls Ferry. Usually he comes to her when she calls. More barks, same place. He’s not coming. “Masters!”
“Bark bark bark bark bark!”
Only thing to do is keep going. She wants back inside already. Wants her mystery novel. A stove. Some hot chocolate. “Masters!”
He stops barking. Roar roar roar goes the rain, drowning everything else away. At least she’s close now, she can see him, not far from the lamppost. His fur looks like the mud, brown and slimy. He stands so still, rigid. Rain drops down her back. She shivers. “Masters?”
Masters barks once more, and then Ferry sees it. The sea monster he tried to warn her about, loping closer, out of the dark woods and into the lamplight.
She screams and runs back to the house.
The corner’s safe. Nothing can crawl out of the wood to surprise her. Warm, bright, tiny corner.
“FERRY!” Mom rushes inside, the wind howling after her. The mist of the rain travels all the way across the room and tickles Ferry’s skin.
“Don’t let him in!” cries Ferry.
The door slams shut. Warmth and light recollects. Relative silence and peace.
“Let who in?” Mom’s voice trembles. “What happened to you?”
“A m-m- …” No, she’s too old to believe in monsters. Right?
Cold wet raincoat against her skin, but that’s okay, Mom’s only trying to hug her. Ferry reaches under the coat to hug her Mom’s sweater, dark but warm.
“Sweetie, what’s gotten into you?”
Clack clack clack. A bony human fist, pounding against the door of the house. Mom’s nails dig into Ferry’s skin, but that’s okay, Mom’s like a shield, fastening tighter.
“That must be him …” says Ferry. She stares Mom in the eyes. She told her so.
Mom takes a deep breath, pulls away. Eyes dart around, land on a cabinet next to the bookshelf. A key in her hand–Ferry doesn’t know where it came from–twisting to open the cabinet. Inside is a rifle. Mom pulls it down, loads it.
Ferry gets behind Mom. Mom holds the rifle pointed down towards the floor, against her leg. She slowly approaches the door. “Who’s there?”
“Don’t mean no harm.” The voice groans through the wood, barely audible over the storm.
“Then what do you want?”
“Shelter. Just shelter.”
Mom looks at Ferry. Ferry shakes her head: don’t trust this man yet. Mom cracks the door open, keeping the rifle just out of the monster’s sight.
Ferry can’t see him yet. Just hear him. “Hey ma’am. Name’s Zack.”
Puzzlement on Mom’s face. “What are you doing out here on a night like this?”
“Looking for something I lost. Then I got lost me self. Just need a place to stay.”
There’s something new in Mom’s eyes. Interest. Intrigue. Ferry knows the feeling but she hasn’t seen it on Mom in a long time. Ferry finally peeks at him. Handsome, comes to mind. Long, dark brown hair. Strong chin. Crisp amber eyes. A leather jacket over his overalls, and nice boots. Where did he come from?
“You just wait a minute.” Mom closes the door. Puts away the rifle, face solemn.
“Go get Masters,” says Mom.
“I–I don’t want to–”
“You want him in here with us, don’t you? He’s protection.” She looks at me, sighs sadly. “I can’t just turn this man away. Get Masters, please. Go out the back door. And take a flashlight.”
She grumbles, but she goes. Mom’s right. Masters will protect them. But he already warned them about the monster and they didn’t listen.
Masters follows her back to the house, like he knows. No one’s at the front door. The monster–the man—must be inside.
Ferry stands on the front steps a few minutes, letting the rain slap her. She doesn’t want to go back in and see the man. She’s afraid. Afraid of what? If this man is bad then she’ll find him out. She can solve mysteries.
She reaches for the slippery knob, turns it. Walks inside.
They sit at the kitchen table. Two mugs between them, steaming. Everything shining, eyes, raindrops, dazzling under the lamplight. They lean towards each other, smiles on their faces.
“Bark bark bark!” says Masters. Ferry reaches for him, wrapping her fingers in his thick fur. Supportive.
“Ferry,” says Mom. “Meet Zack.” Rosy cheeks, warm voice. “He’ll be staying in the shed tonight.”
Zack offers Ferry a hand. She ignores it. He smiles, but it only goes up one side of his face. “It’s polite to shake an adult’s hand, little lady.”
“Hi.” That’s all the politeness Ferry can muster.
“Honey,” says Mom. “Maybe you should get ready for bed.”
“It’s not time!”
Masters barks again. Good dog.
Mom gets serious. “Tonight it is. We’ll have a lot of work to do in the morning and you need to be ready. Go on.”
Ferry can’t believe it. She sees the grin on Zack’s face and wishes she could smack it off of him. She may be young but she’s not that young. Mom missed having a man around, and then one showed up at her doorstep. But something isn’t right, and Masters knows it, too. He barks again.
“Hey boy,” says Zack. “How’s about a treat?” He reaches into his jacket, scrummages. Paper. A tool of some sort … there’s a lot more in that jacket than just the granola bar he pulls out. He rips open the sticky plastic, tears off a chunk of bar. Masters wags his tail and then–he eats it! The traitor!
A flash of silver. The reflection of glass. The watch peeking out of Zack’s jacket cuff is familiar to Ferry. “Dad used to have that watch,” she says.
The smile, the triumph of winning the dog, fades from Zack’s face. “You ever been to a city, little lady?” asks Zack.
“Out there in the big world, there’s tons of these, and they’re all exactly the same. They come from factories.” He says it likes it’s an alien word. He’s mocking her!
“Dad’s watch had a compass on it!”
“Well look at that.” Zack taps the face of it. “So does mine.”
Even Mom frowns at his tone. “So,” she says to Zack, “you traveled a lot?”
He turns back to her and starts bragging. Yes he has, to all sorts of big cities all over the country. Mom has him beat. She went to Australia once. But for some reason, she doesn’t mention it.
Ferry gets tired of listening to Zack speak. She’ll get ready for bed, but not because Mom wanted her to. “Come on, Masters.”
Masters lies down next to Zack’s feet, panting happily. Ferry can’t believe it. “Masters!”
Zack reaches down and pats Masters head. Masters looks up at him, tail wagging.
The betrayal is so complete, so base, Ferry can’t stand it. Heat in her stomach, tingling in her wrists. She wants to hit something. Instead she turns and stomps out of the room.
She can’t sleep. She listens to the rain, splattering over the valley, filling up the creeks and springs. She stares up at the splotched ceiling, lit by the lines of light above and below her door. She thinks of the animals outside without a warm bed to lie in, wonders whether they mind so much, whether they enjoy the adventure that is their lives. She listens to the outdoors as hard as she can, because otherwise she hears Mom’s laughter echoing out of the kitchen. Usually she likes to hear Mom laugh. But not tonight. Not like this.
The rain stops and a calm drifts through the wooden walls. Now she can hear Mom and Zack even better. She hears his voice, low and nonsensical like a groaning cow. That must not be what it sounds like to Mom, though, because she keeps laughing. Ferry tries covering her ears, but that only makes the rain softer and him louder. She growls, but no one notices.
Finally, darkness. Silence all around. A thud or two, more murmurs. Then silence again. Footsteps. Muttering. Mom says something about a flashlight. The door opens and shuts. He’s on his way to the shed at last.
Her heart beats a little faster in her chest. Her hands clench and unclench the blankets. She can’t stop thinking about the jacket. She knows she saw something in there, something that probably doesn’t belong. And could the watch be connected? How will she ever know? She could sneak to the shed, search it while he’s asleep. So risky. If he caught her, what would she say?
The rain returns, pounding the valley like thousands of tiny fists. Then a flash of light, in the corner of her eye. Not lightning. What could it possibly be?
She gropes her way up to the window and leans against the cold glass. Her breath steams the window, so she puts her hand over her mouth.
Darkness, darkness. But then the little glow returns. It’s a beam of light. The flashlight. Zack!
Adrenaline burns in Ferry’s stomach, making her skin numb, her vision splotchy. The shed isn’t hard to find. He can’t be lost. So what is he doing?
The beam of the flashlight dips low, directly below her. She has to stand on the bed, and stretch onto her toes, to keep watching. The flashlight goes as low as it can, all the way onto the ground, where blades of wet glass distort the beam. She sees Zack walk in front of the flashlight, looking at something bright in his hands, muttering some more. He’s cursing. Finally he puts the bright thing back in his jacket, and takes the jacket off. The shadow of his body dips lower, and lower, then disappears.
She doesn’t understand what she just saw. She pulls away from the window, going through the clues in her head.
Then she hears a small thump below her.
Normally she would think it a small animal, escaping from the storm. If she hadn’t seen him disappear, she never would have guessed. But Zack went under the house. She saw it.
Her mind leaps ahead of her heart again, telling her what to do. She has to seize this chance. She has to know what’s in his jacket, while he’s crawling around in the dark. So she shoves her blankets aside.
She wonders if the raindrops pouring over her cheeks are tears. She’s so scared, she shakes in and out. Never mind the cold, leaking through her jacket with the rain. She has to keep going, boots slurping through the mud, fumbling across black earth.
She finds the glow of the flashlight, brighter now that there is no glass between them. She sees the discarded jacket, draping the ground like melted tar. She swallows her fear and walks towards it.
Thump–clunk. The noise makes Ferry’s heart leap, but it tells her he’s still down there, searching for something. What does he expect to find?
She approaches the jacket. She moves behind the light so she doesn’t make a shadow. Then she glimpses his silhouette, hunched between two beams, pummeling at the earth like a demon. Bumps crawl up her arms. She thrusts her hands into the jacket before she has a chance to reconsider.
The tool she glimpsed earlier, a glint of metal, is gone. He must have it. But what about the bright object?
Paper, crinkling at her touch, complaining about the intrusion. She snatches it–the crinkling becomes a roar. Her heartbeat bellows in her eardrums, so loud she can’t hear the rain anymore. She can’t hear anything, but she thinks she does. She thinks she hears the splash of mud, the splintering of wood, as Zack rips himself from the bottom of the house. Lightning flashes and she screams.
During the flash she sees Zack, but he isn’t looking at her. He is too absorbed in his task. He probably hears her scream, but what can he do? She turn and runs, the sloshing of her small feet lost in the rumble of the rain. She hurries inside.
She doesn’t go to her bedroom–he might notice the light from outside. She goes to the bathroom, tucked in the back of the hallway.
The paper’s soft like cloth, old and yellow. Her fingers brush the edges smooth with slow reverence. Lines reach across the page like veins, blue and black. Others form lumps, upside-down smiles, in between. She stares at the nonsense until it begins to form a picture, crystal clear. It’s a map. The blue lines are streams and creeks. She thinks some of them are the same creeks in her own hills. The black are the nearest roads.
More importantly, why does the handwriting seem familiar? There aren’t many words: a couple labeled roads and some other notes that don’t make any sense to her. The words directions, but they’re as vague as the map itself. Around the bearded tree. Past the blue fork. Through the branches of the dogwood. Watching the sunset. She doesn’t understand the drawings, nor the instructions. But she recognizes the handwriting.
She wishes she could race outside now, put Zack’s flashlight in her teeth and climb up the hill. She could probably find the bearded tree, or the dogwood. But it’s still so dark, and slippery, and cold, and … Ferry hates to admit it, but she’s too frightened. She’ll have to wait until morning. She’ll leave as soon as she can. She knows these hills better than Zack anyway–even if he tried he wouldn’t be able to catch up to her.
The paper shakes in her hands. After waiting a year, she finally has a clue to the greatest mystery of her life.
Ferry has trouble falling asleep. She dreams of a treasure chest at the X with a variety of rewards inside: gold. Another map, leading her to her father. A new puppy (she doesn’t know why she dreams that one). In the last dream it’s her father himself, who steps out of the box and cries, “Thank you for rescuing me!”
She smells bacon. Hears murmuring voices. She wakes up. The sun blinds her eyes through the window. She overslept!
She rips off the blankets, but her foot catches as she slides down. She lands with a thump on the floor. The voices in the kitchen stop.
Her throat thumps, like her heart’s stuck in it. She gets back up and dresses with rubbery fingers. She’d sneak out the window, but her boots are inside the front door. She’ll have to walk past them. She buttons her jeans. She swallows the lump in her throat. She fumbles through the door.
Masters runs up to her, wagging his tail. She heads straight for the door, the aroma of bacon thick in her nostrils. She sticks her feet in her boots.
“Ferry?” calls Mom. “Breakfast.”
“Got chores,” says Ferry.
“It’s okay, you can eat first. You have my permission.”
Ferry finally turns to look at them. Mom’s smiling at Zack, as if they share a secret together. Ferry’s belly feels hot, any appetite gone. Zack turns to look at her and she clenches her fists. He narrows his eyes, his sockets dark, like he didn’t sleep. His jacket’s draped over the chair. Does he know?
“I feel like it, Mom.”
“Well … I guess …”
Ferry’s already gone.
Her boots slip across the mud. The hill’s so steep. She clutches the dead arms of bush honeysuckle plants to pull herself upwards. She slips anyway, her hands falling into the wet earth, fingers curling and clutching until she’s steady again.
A large oak tree looms ahead of her, dark limbs tickling the sky. She knows on the other side of it is the path on the map. She has walked it many times. Why did she have to take the shortcut?
She continues to flub her body upwards, grabbing stones and vines and grasses–blades strong from the storm–to pull herself. Soon her jeans and rain jacket are completely covered in mud. She feels the loosened earth splash onto her face. At last she grabs the roots of the oak tree, warm and solid in her grasp. She lifts her foot onto one, propelling her up like a ladder. She scrambles onto the path.
She checks her map. She hurries onward.
The sky darkens, threatening another rain. Ferry pauses to watch the change in the sky, the shift of shadows on the forest floor. The branches of the fall-stripped trees reach into the weak glow of sunlight, fingers linked as if in prayer. She sends a prayer with them.
She walks the path, bobbing over the stones, winding through the weeds, ripping through the cobwebs. She checks the maps, the lumps and symbols drawn by her father’s hand.
But the morning cold gnaws at her fingers, and muddy earth drains the strength from her legs. She stands at the top of the hill, and she doesn’t know where to go next.
She turns in circles, her eyes scanning the trees for clues. The trees …
Dad mentioned a dogwood. Ferry remembers dogwoods blooming at the top of this hill in the summer. But which trees are the dogwoods now? She squeezes her eyes shut and tries to remember exactly how the farm looked in June. She remembers the white flowers blossomed next to the cedar trees, beside which she stands now.
She runs, runs to the trees that aren’t cedars. She recognizes some of them as oak. Others she doesn’t know. But the smaller trees, with perky little branches and drooping leaves, seem like dogwoods to her. Little red berries grow on them. She runs to the biggest one and climbs. A splinter wedges in her palm but she ignores it. She scratches her arm on a branch and blood wells up. She doesn’t slow down.
She reaches the widest fork of branches. Through the branches. But which way? By habit, she looks down into the valley.
Through the branches of the dogwood is her own house, its back warmed by the rising sun.
Ferry realizes something else. Watching the sunset. Her own house has its back to the sun in the morning, and watches the sunset in the evening.
She solved the map! A wave of joy rushes through her body. But when it breaks, regret and embarrassment fills her instead. Of course the map marked her own house. Zack himself already figured that out. Why else did he ask to stay there? Why else did she find him crawling underneath the house in the middle of the night?
Hot tears prick her eyes, but she refuses to let them seep through. She slips and slides back down the tree. She doesn’t think Zack has found the treasure yet. So there’s still a chance she can find it first.
Mom’s in the goat pen, pouring the grains. She sees Ferry rushing past.
“Honey? Where do you think you’re going? Ferry!”
Keep running. No time for this. Master’s barking.
“Ferry Anne Smith!”
Where’s Zack? Where’s Zack? Where’s Zack? Is he gone? Did he find it?
Her breath stings. Throat’s dry. Legs hurt. Maybe she twisted her ankle. Doesn’t matter. Keep running. Almost to the house … rounding the corner …
She skids to a stop, landing on her rump in the mud. She made it, made it to the back of the house where Zack dug last night. What now?
Ferry scrambles to turn around. She freezes at the sight of Zack, looming over her, brandishing a small spade in his hand. That must have been the tool in his jacket.
“Clever little lady,” he sneers. “Where is it?”
“You know what.”
He raises the spade as if to strike her. Her hands plunge into her jacket and pull out the map, trembling. “I haven’t found the X yet,” she admits.
“I don’t care about a goddamn map!” He raises his boot, drops it onto the paper, crushing it into the mud. The tears finally spill out of Ferry’s eyes, blurring the sight of her only clue sinking away. “I came for them diamonds, and I aim to get ‘em.”
A blur on the edge of Ferry’s vision, a white flash of teeth, a snarl from the depths of Masters’s throat. Zack and Ferry notice him at the same time, but too late to react. The curls of Masters’s tawny coat glow like fire as he sweeps through the air and lands against Zack’s ribs. Air spurts from Zack’s mouth, which opens in a big “O” as he falls to the ground. Zack writhes and flails but Masters’s teeth and claws are a constant onslaught, driving Zack into the mud. Zack slows his right arm as he tightens his grip on the spade.
“No!” Ferry screams.
A crack splits the air, and Ferry feels as if her head splits in two. Birds scream and flurry into the sky to escape the sound. Even when the sound fades a fog stays in her ears, like two cotton balls. She turns to see Mom, holding a smoking rifle.
Masters hops off Zack’s mud-ridden body and trots to Mom’s side. For all the show Masters put on, Zack is relatively unhurt. The bullet from Mom’s gun must have split a tree somewhere.
“I didn’t shoot you,” says Mom, “because I want you to get up and walk out of here.”
Zack peels himself from the earth, limb by limb. His eyes glow through the mud on his face, narrow slits. “I reckon you’d like a diamond necklace,” he says. “David hid them diamonds here, and if you help me find them–”
“Why can’t you ask David where they are?” Ferry hasn’t heard Mom say Dad’s name since he disappeared. She’s never heard this much anger in Mom’s voice, either. “Did he hide them from you? Did you kill him, Zack?” Passion makes her voice tremble. She lifts the rifle higher, her fingers tightening on the trigger.
Zack raises his hands. “Hey now. I didn’t say nothing about killing nobody.”
“Then where is he? Where is he?”
Zack’s shoulders bob with a shrug. He offers a little laugh. Sneering.
“You won’t find diamonds here, you can bet your ass on that.” She lifts the rifles to her sights, lowering the aim of the barrel. “If you still got one, in five seconds. Five.”
Zack takes a step back.
He turns, stuffing his fists in his pockets, and strides away.
“Faster.” Crack! Mom sends a bullet into the earth near his feet, splattering mud onto his jeans. He picks up his feet and runs.
Mom watches him until he’s the size of a dog, then a cat, then a squirrel. The rifle shakes in her hands and finally her arms fall, unable to hold it anymore. Sobs wrack her shrinking frame. She falls onto her knees, setting the rifle down. Ferry runs up and throws her arms around Mom’s neck.
Mom sees the map in the mud. She reaches behind Ferry to pick it up. “What the hell is this?”
“It’s okay, Mom. I figured it out.” Ferry kisses Mom’s wet cheek.
“You figured it out? It’s gibberish.”
“That’s because it’s not a map to diamonds.” Mom doesn’t think she understands. Ferry knows Mom had the diamonds. That’s why she started spending more. That’s why she started looking into a new house. But Ferry understands something Mom doesn’t.
“Ferry …” Mom leans back, looks her daughter in the eyes. “There’s a lot … I’ve been meaning … to …”
“Mom, it’s a treasure map and the house is the X, see? That’s because Dad figured out home was his greatest treasure.”
Mom’s lips clamp together, her chin wrinkles up. She squeezes Ferry to her with such force Ferry can hardly breathe, but that’s okay. Mom’s like a shield, the closer the better.
“Sure,” says Mom, amidst new sobs. “I’m sure that’s what he meant.”