The Wrong Side of the River
Some shall be pardon’d, and some punished
After the play, we all jumped and danced our way backstage, whooping and hollering at our success.
“We did it! That was the best ever,” Julian said, beaming all over his face. He looked so nice when he smiled, especially when he wasn’t trying to cover his braces with his lips.
“You did it, Julian. It was all you,” I said.
Mrs. Kempf pulled Julian into a hug so suffocating, I wondered if he could come out of it alive. “Romy is absolutely correct. You made this play. You were this play. My darling boy, you have a place in the cast of any play I produce from now on. Guaranteed. And the doggy, oh bless him. Where did you find such a talented pup?”
Julian knelt beside Solo and gave him a hug. “I’ve been training him for a long time. Best dog ever.”
“I absolutely agree,” Mrs. Kempf said, giving Solo a scratch behind the ear. “Now, let’s have our own little cast and crew party, shall we?”
Despite there being so few of us, the fold out table was full of yummy treats. Cupcakes, sandwiches, red cups filled with soda. Hungrier than I had been in all my life, I filled my paper plate to the brim. I knew that when the party was over and it was time to go home, I would be in trouble in so many ways it would not be funny. But until then, I wanted to celebrate.
Maybe we didn’t win the war of the park, but we did prove that North and South could work together and make something really great happen.
“Is your mom gonna be mad?” Julian asked me as he broke off a piece of cupcake and gave to the real, furry, star of the show.
“Yeah. Fuming. But it was worth it.”
“We really showed them, didn’t we?” he said, taking a long swig on his cup of soda.
“Yeah. We really did.”
Mom didn’t say much in the car on the way home. She concentrated on the snowy road and answered Sage’s endless questions with yes or no answers. At least Sage was excited and proud. Dad too, except he had to go off to meet Mayor Griffin right after the end of the play.
We were all so quiet, I heard every crunch our boots made as we headed inside. The warmth felt so good on my cheeks as I hung up my coat and curled up on the sofa in the living room. Mom got Sage ready for bed, but I could tell she had someting on her mind because she barely answered Sage at all.
I waited and waited, my stomach and nerves getting all tangled up together. There was a lecture coming, for sure. Something like, “I don’t think I made myself clear enough about that Griffin boy,” or “How could you let yourself be involved in such a farce of a play?” Something like that.
At last Sage was hustled up to bed, and Mom disappeared into the kitchen.
Any minute now.
I clenched my fists tight in my lap and practiced what I would say. Something like: “I think the whole park thing is ridiculous. I don’t want anything to do with it, and I will be friends with Julian no matter what happens.”
But I thought I would probably end up saying something more like: “I’m sorry, Mom. Whatever you want.”
When she finally came into the living room, she held two mugs of hot chocolate in her hands. Mine had a couple of fat marshmallows floating in it. She handed me mine, and then took a seat near me on the sofa.
“Romy, we have to talk.”
I sighed and gathered all my courage together. “I know what you want to say. And I want to do what you say, Mom. I really do, but Julian is a good friend. He’s the only one who has stayed my friend even when everyone else hated me because I didn’t want to fight over the park.”
Mom frowned, something she didn’t do very often because it made the straight line wrinkle between her eyes get deeper. “People hated you for that?”
“Yeah. You know, Mom. You have to know. Every kid in school has to choose a side, and if you don’t, everyone notices and no one likes it. It sucks.”
For a second, I thought I made a difference. Her eyes softened a bit and her shoulders dropped. She looked like maybe I had gotten through to her.
“The last thing I want is for this whole fight to make your life more difficult,” Mom said. “And I’m just so proud of you for pulling off a performance like that under such difficult circumstances. That shows real class.”
“Then stop all this. Let’s enjoy the park as it is and get back to being a normal town again.”
The softness disappeared then. “You know I can’t do that. You know what’s at stake here. Romy, the drains need to be put in that empty plot of land so it can be sold, and so the water stops flooding the yards is Sequoia Avenue. It’s more important than just the park. You know that.”
I nodded. “I know. I just hoped, I guess.”
She reached out and laid a hand on my shoulder. “I can say this though. That Griffin boy impressed me tonight with his talent. Getting that play together out of nothing and actually managing to entertain that whole auditorium of people was very impressive, to say the least. His father might be a crazed megalomaniac, but he seems like a talented, sweet boy.”
Smiling, I sat up straight and squeezed my mug tight. “So we can be friends again then? It’s okay with you?”
Mom shook her head slowly. “I’m sorry, sweetie. That wasn’t quite where I was headed with that. I would rather you waited. But it won’t be for long.”
“Yes it will. This thing will drag on and on and on.” I fought the tears down and stared hard at the marshmallows floating in my cup.
“Truly. The big vote is tomorrow. I am positive I have all I need to finally stop this park in its tracks. You’ll see. It’s going to be so worth it.”
I doubted that.

Keep Reading

Chapter 31

I must be gone and live, or stay and die Julian

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