0 Conversations

I come from one of those families that move around a lot. I never bothered making real close friends. We would just leave again, and I knew I couldn’t stay in touch. I got used to adjusting to new schools and new places and new haircuts. The hard part was the new names. My momma named me Carol Felicity Cobbler, but that was our secret. At one place, I was Melody Hope Schumacher, at another Harmony Joy Webster. There was also Harper Bliss, Lark Prudence, Piper Faith, Lyra Grace - more than I can remember now. Still, even that wasn’t so bad. You got used to them after a month or two, like writing the new year in dates.

This thing that happened happened in Michigan, and my name there was Cadence Charity Cordwainer, CCC. That was an easy one. I was in the 6th grade there, even though I’d been through the 6th grade in Nebraska already. School was easy, so I just read and minded my business a lot. The trouble with 6th grade and with Michigan was George.

George wasn’t in my homeroom, but we sat close in science. George was tall and skinny. He had curly blonde hair that he wore long around his ears. His eyes were pale, pale green. He read a lot, like me, and nobody paid him much attention, like me. I guess he was into weird stuff, like robots and math and Star Wars. I didn’t talk to him either, of course, but I never could keep my mind on what I was reading with him sitting next to me in class. When I went home at night, the songs on the radio all seemed to be about him.

I figured I could deal with it, maybe read more or something, but then Mrs. Amistad told the class about the big project for that year. We were supposed to get together every week and collect samples of seeds, leaves, flowers, and roots for our plants unit, so by the end of the year, we’d have a huge collection that had samples from every season in it. We even had to figure out what the names of the plants were and learn all kinds of facts about them. She put us in pairs. I’d done pair projects before, but never ones that lasted so long, and never ones where I was paired with George.

“How was school today?” Momma asked. She sat at the kitchen table, surrounded by paperwork.

I stuffed some bagel in my mouth and slung my backpack onto the table. “Ih vav pfime.” Momma looked up and raised an eyebrow. I swallowed. “Sorry, Momma. It was fine. We got a new project for science.”

“Oh? Tell me about it.”

“Well,” I started fishing in my backpack for that night’s homework, “we got a partner, and we’re supposed to get together and collect evidence, uh, specimens of plants and stuff.”

“How long does that go for?” Popi asked. “Who’d you partner with?”

“Um-” My face was all hot and I didn’t want them to see. I dropped my pencil on the floor, and ducked down to get it. “All year. And it’s a boy named George.”

“Oooohh, Georgie, eh?” Popi teased.

“Oh my God, Popi,” I squealed, and covered my bright red ears with my hands.

“What’s that teacher’s name again?” Momma asked, “Maybe we can get an exception for you, so you can do the project alone.”

“Mrs. Amistad,” I answered, staring at my feet and kicking the chair leg. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Momma and Popi waving their hands in a silent argument that stopped the second I looked up.

“It’s not that we don’t want you to get along with your classmates,” Momma sighed, “but even if you never say anything, even if no one asks any questions, you know we’re just going to have to move again. I don’t want you to get your heart broken.”

“He’s NOT my boyfriend, Momma. It’s just plants and stuff.”

“I know, but I worry about you getting too attached to anyone here. We’re a family, and you’ll always have us, but you can’t count on other people. I know you’re careful, but it’s just too dangerous. I’m sorry, sweetie, but it’s not gonna work out.” I looked to Popi, but he nodded.

“No, your mom’s right. Sorry.”

I kicked my chair a few more times in helpless frustration. “Can I at least ask Mrs. Amistad about the exception? I don’t want you always coming in about me.”

Momma laughed. “Alright, I won’t embarrass you. I won’t talk to her unless I have to, ok? Now, Cadence you have an hour to work on homework, then you have to wash your hands and set the table for supper.”

“I got my name down now, Momma.”

“I know you do, Carol honey.” Momma kissed me on the head and went to cook supper.

I never asked Mrs. Amistad about the exception, but I told Momma that she said it was ok. Momma was surprised, but Popi’d been trying to get her to let me handle my own problems, so she let it go and didn’t ask me any more questions.

George and I met at the library every week. I went through two or three books a week anyway, so Momma and Popi didn’t suspect. We would leave to go look for samples, but that didn’t take so long, and then we’d go back to the library to try and figure out what we got. That could take forever. As the year went on, though, we got good at looking up the facts, and our walks lasted longer and longer. We got to know the area around the town really well. We talked a lot, mostly about normal stuff, sometimes about serious stuff. It was nice to have someone to talk to. Not just Momma and Popi, but someone who really understood stuff.

I guess I knew we would get caught eventually. We had to. Sometimes, when I got home, Popi would say, “Did you talk to Geeeooorgie-boy today?” I would get nervous, but I could squeal, “Pop-i! Shut up!” and he would laugh and that would be it.

Momma and Popi were working on the local hospital as usual. They were finally ready in the spring. They were really distracted that whole month, and I would hear snatches of their conversation before I walked into the room. “Reverse pedicle screws, adjustable t-connectors, and dual outer diameter polyaxial screws with quick release ratchets and holding sleeve assembly...” “Eighty-five pieces...” “$540,000...” They always shushed up as soon as I walked in. I knew what they were doing, but they figured the less I knew of the details, the better.

As the day got closer, Momma and Popi spent most of their time going over papers and talking in angry whispers. They’d done this a million times but Momma never really got used to it. Popi had to calm her down and talk her through the plans over and over. It wasn’t the police Momma was worried about. They only got real upset over drugs. It was some guy named Phelps. I didn’t know who he was, just that if I ever told anyone about the stuff my Momma and Popi did, he would take them away. I didn’t like to see Momma upset. I felt bad for her, but there was nothing I could do, and it was impossible to live when she was like this. Any little thing could set her off.

I took advantage of their distraction to see George more often. It wasn’t hard. After I broke a cup putting up the dishes and Momma freaked out, Popi figured I should get out of the house a little more. Momma and Popi would drop me off at the library and pick me up around closing time. I wasn’t sure how long it would last, but I knew it’d be over soon.

That day, Momma and Popi drove me to the library as usual. When they had driven away, George and I set out on a long walk. We stopped at the park to go on the swings. We threw stones into the river. We followed the river out of town into the woods.

George saw the van before I did, and by then it was too late. Momma looked up at the sound of our approach, and the look on her face was like nothing I’ve ever seen.

“Barney!” she called, and Popi came around the van in a hurry. His face fell when he saw us. I was frozen to the spot.

“Hi!” George said.

Momma ignored him. “Carol, what are you doing here.” She talked slow, like it was hard to get the words out.

“I just went for a walk. I didn’t know you’d be here. Momma, we just went for a walk. You never said it was today.”

Momma’s face burned as she climbed out of the hole they’d dug in the woods. Her eyes were turning green, which was always the worst sign. Momma’s eyes always turned green right before she started crying, and I did not want to be the one who made her cry. “Baby, you were supposed to be at the library.”

“Cadence, is that your mom? We came out to work on our project. What’s wrong?” George looked back and forth between Momma and me.

Momma’s lips got thin, and her face turned even redder. She was shaking. “Project? You didn’t get that exception, did you? You lied to me. You have been lying all year.”

Popi came up behind her. “Mae-”

Momma whirled, “She’s been lying to us, Barney. All year. God knows what she told him.”

“Are you in trouble?” George whispered. I could only nod.

Momma started for the van, Popi following, “Mae!”

“No, Barney. Do you not understand what’s happening here? We have no way of knowing what she’s told him, what he’s seen. If he so much as squeaks a word, the cops won’t have time to find us before Phelps does. You’re the one who wanted to let her handle her own problems, well, she’ll sure as hell have to when we’re at the bottom of the lake.”

George had been frozen at my side, but when he saw the gun Momma got from the van, he turned and ran. Popi caught him before he got far. He tied George’s hands with zip ties.

“Momma, please!” I shouted, “He won’t tell anyone! George, tell her you won’t tell anyone! I never said anything to him, he doesn’t know! Momma! Popi, he doesn’t know!”

George nodded in frantic agreement, sputtering along with me that he didn’t know anything, that he wouldn’t tell anyone about the stuff he didn’t know. Tears streamed down his face as he tried to get free. Momma shoved the gun into my hands. I stared at her stupidly. “Momma?”

“Carol, you lied to us. You lied. You let a stranger find out about us. You put everyone in danger. Popi is right. You do have to start handling your own problems. Starting with this one. Put him over there, Barney.”

“Mae-” Popi started, but Momma looked at him, and he just put George up against a tree without saying anything else. Then he came and gave me a hug. “It’s alright, Carol. Your Momma’s right, this is bad. It’s serious, ok? If you don’t do this, someone will come and take your Momma and me away, and we won’t be a family anymore. We won’t be able to look after you. Now, I showed you how to shoot, remember? You take your time, and breath slow, and you can do it. Ok? You can do it.” He went to stand behind me, and I raised the gun the way Popi had showed me so many times.

“I’m sorry, George,” I said, “I didn’t know they were out here. I didn’t know. I just wanted to be friends. I’m sorry.”

George didn’t respond. He sat with his knees to his chest, leaning against the tree trunk. He had his eyes squeezed shut, and he probably couldn’t even hear me over his own sobs. I wiped my own tears on my shoulder, and took a few deep breaths. My hands were shaking. I aimed the gun and fired, but the first shot missed. George screamed.

“It’s ok, honey. You can do it. Just take a few more breaths. Relax your body. It’ll all be ok. You can do it.” Popi’s words helped calm me. I looked over at Momma, but she was standing a little away with her back to us, one hand pressed to her face. I focused on George again and fired. He slumped over, silent and still. Momma heard and walked over to the van. She grabbed the shovel, and gave it to Popi.

“Go take care of him,” she said, “I’ll finish up here. Carol, you can wait in the van. I’m still very upset with you, but you did a good job, ok?” She took her handkerchief out and started to clean up her face.

Popi picked George up, and the shovel, and walked away into the woods.

Bookmark on your Personal Space

Conversations About This Entry

There are no Conversations for this Entry



Infinite Improbability Drive

Infinite Improbability Drive

Read a random Edited Entry

Written and Edited by


h2g2 is created by h2g2's users, who are members of the public. The views expressed are theirs and unless specifically stated are not those of the Not Panicking Ltd. Unlike Edited Entries, Entries have not been checked by an Editor. If you consider any Entry to be in breach of the site's House Rules, please register a complaint. For any other comments, please visit the Feedback page.

Write an Entry

"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a wholly remarkable book. It has been compiled and recompiled many times and under many different editorships. It contains contributions from countless numbers of travellers and researchers."

Write an entry
Read more