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Esther and Linus, although they have never met, have known of each other through their mothers for years, and suddenly find themselves meeting under the most unusual circumstances
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Marika Cobbold is the author of Guppies for Tea, The Purveyor of Enchantment, and A Rival Creation. She lives in England.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
My mother wanted me to be a child prodigy. I wanted to be a psychiatrist. Not that I knew much about what that entailed, I was only nine after all, but I had heard it said that a psychiatrist was someone who looked into people's minds, and I really liked the idea of that. I already liked looking at people's outsides-"It's rude to stare, Esther, how many times do I have to tell you?"-so to be able to see right inside their heads as well sounded very interesting, almost as interesting as talking to the animals, like Dr. Dolittle. And I enjoyed the reaction from grown-ups when they asked me, the way they always do when they can't think of anything else to say, what I wanted to be when I grew up. Then, as often as not, they would answer themselves, "An air hostess, I wouldn't mind guessing, or maybe a nurse?"
"A psychiatrist," I'd say. That usually shut them up.
Right now, Audrey, my mother, was speaking to me as she drifted through my bedroom, messing it up. "Have you practiced your flute, darling?"
I didn't answer her straightaway. I was busy practicing on her, staring at her head, trying to see through her high forehead and into her mind. I was concentrating hard, and just for a moment I thought I had succeeded, as I glimpsed something green, a Harrods bag probably, and something swirling, dancing. Then everything got covered in a pink mist.
"Esther, what are you doing? You look quite demented."
I frowned at her; it wasn't my mind that was covered in a pink mist.
"I asked you if you had practiced your flute today?" She picked up my teddy bear on her way through the room and, of course, put him down in the wrong place. I took him from the small wicker chair and put him back on my pillow where he belonged, dead center.
"Life is Art, Esther, Art is Life. I don't expect you to understand, not yet, but trust me, it's the only truth I know."
"I know lots of true things" I said proudly. Audrey was annoying, but she was my mother and I yearned for her approval.
"Oh, childhood, childhood, enjoy its rosy innocence while it lasts." Audrey sighed and absentmindedly picked up my doll's teapot from the top shelf of the small blue dresser, wandering off to the window, the pot in her hand. "So pretty," she mumbled. I couldn't tell if she meant the teapot or the Kensington street below-the cherry trees were in blossom-but I did know that she was going to put the teapot back in the wrong place.
My mother turned away from the window and fixed me with her soft blue gaze. "Now get on with your practice, an hour at least. That little Japanese girl, Miko ... Misho ... you know the one I mean?-divine-she practices five hours a day, apparently, which is why she is well on her way to becoming a world-class performer."
"I don't like the flute, I like the trumpet.' In my mind I saw the glinting brass and heard its triumphant noisiness.
"Don't be silly, Esther, the trumpet is a hideous solo instrument, hideous. Anyway, your music "Leacher tells me you have it in you to be a very good flautist indeed."
"I have it in me to be a very good psychiatrist who plays the trumpet," I insisted.
My mother ignored me, the way she ignored most problems. "And when you've finished, Janet will give you your tea; then you must come and say hello to Olivia.' Audrey had reached the door before she remembered the teapot in her hand. With a vague glance around my room, she put it down on my bedside table, rather than back in its place on the dresser. I was pleased; I liked it best when things happened the way I expected.
"And do a drawing for Olivia, will you? I know she'd like that." My mother blew me a kiss and disappeared out onto the landing, leaving behind her instructions and the sweet slent of gardenia.
I put the teapot back on the top shelf of the dresser (I had to draw my chair up to reach), giving my flute in its velvet-lined case a nasty look as I passed. Then I returned to my game of the French Revolution. I had managed to construct a guillotine from an old Rice Krispies packet and some elastic bands, but Barbie's and Ken's heads remained resolutely fixed to their rubbery necks. "Problems, problems, problems," I muttered as the crowd-two anatomically correct dolls (one boy, one girl), an inflatable crocodile, a Beatles doll (Ringo), and a cuddly rabbit, normally called Rupert but known now as jean for the purpose of the game-grew restless.
Janet was clearing away the tea. I didn't want to leave the table. I liked the large basement kitchen best of all the rooms in the house and I liked Janet, our housekeeper. Janet was sensible. She wore shoes you could walk-in and it didn't seem to bother her if her hair got wet from the rain. She spoke in short, clear sentences and her mood hardly ever changed from its customary brisk friendliness. You knew where you were with Janet.
"Come on, Esther, off you go. Your mother and her friend are waiting for you."
"She's very tall, Olivia," I said, staying where I was.
"You say that about everyone." Janet gave my chair a little shove as she passed on her way to the fridge. "You're short, have you ever thought about that?"
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Book Description HarperCollins, 1999. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0060194499
Book Description HarperCollins, 1999. Hardcover. Condition: New. Seller Inventory # DADAX0060194499