“Where are the tarts?” she demanded. “Let’s hide them from Cal.” She sat down in the kitchen. “Oh, I’m so glad to be back.”
Lee started to speak and choked and then what he wanted to say seemed good to say— to say carefully. He hovered over her. “You know, I haven’t wished for many things in my life,” he began. “I learned very early not to wish for things. Wishing just brought earned disappointment.”
Abra said gaily, “But you wish for something now. What is it?”
He blurted out, “I wish you were my daughter—” He was shocked at himself. He went to the stove and turned out the gas under the teakettle, then lighted it again.
She said softly, “I wish you were my father.”
He glanced quickly at her and away. “You do?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Because I love you.”
Lee went quickly out of the kitchen. He sat in his room, gripping his hands tightly together until he stopped choking. He got up and took a small carved ebony box from the top of his bureau. A dragon climbed toward heaven on the box. He carried the box to the kitchen and laid it on the table between Abra’s hands. “This is for you,” he said, and his tone had no inflection.
She opened the box and looked down on a small, dark green jade button, and carved on its surface was a human right hand, a lovely hand, the fingers curved and in repose. Abra lifted the button out and looked at it, and then she moistened it with the tip of her tongue and moved it gently over her full lips, and pressed the cool stone against her cheek.
Lee said, “That was my mother’s only ornament.”
Abra got up and put her arms around him and kissed him on the cheek, and it was the only time such a thing had ever happened in his whole life.
Lee laughed. “My Oriental calm seems to have deserted me,” he said. “Let me make the tea, darling. I’ll get hold of myself that way.” From the stove he said, “I’ve never used that word—never once to anybody in the world.”
Abra said, “I woke up with joy this morning.”
“So did I,” said Lee. “I know what made me feel happy. You were coming.”
“I was glad about that too, but—”
“You are changed,” said Lee. “You aren’t any part a little girl any more. Can you tell me?”
“I burned all of Aron’s letters.”
“Did he do bad things to you?”
“No. I guess not. Lately I never felt good enough. I always wanted to explain to him that I was not good.”
“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good. Is that it?”
“I guess so. Maybe that’s it.”
“Do you know about the mother of the boys?”
“Yes. Do you know I haven’t tasted a single one of the tarts?” Abra said. “My mouth is dry.”
“Drink some tea, Abra. Do you like Cal?”
Lee said, “He’s crammed full to the top with every good thing and every bad thing. I’ve thought that one single person could almost with the weight of a finger—”