The Lemon Orchard by Luanne Rice Read Online (FREE)
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This is how I picture it: Eleven o’clock that cold and sunny morning, she is behind the wheel, hands in the two-and-ten position because she’s a good girl and that’s the way her father, sitting beside her holding the large black coffee he’d bought at Kendall’s, likes her to drive, and she’s taking care because she doesn’t want him to spill it and scald himself. The station wagon is twelve years old, and it smells of dog, and if she looked in the rearview mirror, she could see where we used to buckle her car seat.
Bonnie Blue, our seven-year-old and the latest in a long line of blue-merle border collies, rides with me because she’s still rambunctious and likes to nuzzle the driver’s ear from the back seat, and Peter and I worry she might distract Jenny. Bonnie and I are two miles behind, with one last stop to make, to pick up the chocolate cake at Hoffman’s Bakery, where Viola and Norma have decorated it with goalposts and a fifty-yard line and know to spread raspberry preserves between the layers because that is Jenny’s favorite.
My daughter: Jenny Hughes. She is wearing the bulky Nordic sweater, endearingly lopsided, she knit for Timmy from yarn that still contained bits of burrs and brambles from the sheep’s wool, and it’s so Jenny to be wearing it, just two days after he gave it back to her as part of the breakup, along with her telescope and dog-eared copy of H. A. Rey’s The Stars.
The February day is frigid but bright, and although there’s plenty of snow left from last week’s storm, the roads are clear of ice. Jenny is thinking of the party. She and I don’t care about watching sports but Peter played football at Brown, and every year we go all out for the Super Bowl. Jenny loves to cook, and together we’ll make chili, Buffalo wings, and guacamole. Last year Timmy came over, and the two of them huddled on the couch whispering and laughing, surrounded by Peter and our friends; I don’t think I watched a full minute of the game, I was so taken by the sight of my daughter in love.
Jenny was sixteen in November, her license is new, and she brings her sense of responsibility to driving the way she does everything else. Straight As last semester, a talent for the violin, a blue ribbon in last summer’s horse show, caring for our animals, such good-heartedness, and a head-down pure-hearted determination to go to Brown University like her parents, and I wonder if her choice is a way of trying to hold us together, to remind Peter and me of where we met, and I know she feels bad for leaving the house angry this morning, calling me a hypocrite for inviting people over and entertaining relatives just when Peter is planning to move out. My aunt and uncle from California are staying with us; they are in Connecticut because he’s a professor, guest lecturing at Yale, where I am an adjunct professor of cultural anthropology. Jenny is afraid that they have picked up on the tension and are judging Peter.