Ivy Jean Pritchard considered the fate of the world while sunning like a lizard on her favorite rock. The wide, smooth plank of stone had plopped down nicely, half in and half out of her creek, and despite a recent growth spurt, she could still fit her tall, thin body across it.
Lying on her stomach, she watched as a school of minnows darted and swarmed in an eddy below her, and wondered if they could feel worry. The way they skittered around made it seem like they did. Her shiny, dark hair was loose from its usual ponytail and made a canopy of shadow for them.
She caught her reflection in the water and scowled. Every since a boy from school had called her “Daddy Longlegs,” she’d fought a less flattering idea of herself. He’d meant a spider that is all legs. For her entire life she’d wanted to be a petite brunette, the way she’d heard her mother described.
Too bad, her older brother Wade had taunted just last month. She had their mother’s shiny, dark hair but their dad’s long legs and narrow hips.
‘Daddy’s long legs’ ain’t even funny.
Ivy Jean was twelve years old and felt all out of proportion. In fact, the whole world seemed to be that way these days. Her father Vincent ate up newspapers and TV broadcasts like they were barbequed ribs, but Ivy just thought the news made people nervous for no reason. She sighed and looked around her at the woods, hoping her friend Julie would show up like they’d planned.
The creek near her house in Prosperity had served as Ivy’s playground for as far back as her memory went. Requiring strict obedience, her father warned daily, referring to his rules for hanging out there. True, in a wet summer the water levels might reach the bottom of Ivy’s cutoffs if she stood in the middle, but most of the time, the creek was a shallow stream, five strides across at its widest. It flowed with a lazy trickling sound through a wooded swath that divided crop fields at the edge of town. Now thick with oaks and cedar elm trees—and all the underbrush that comes with them—generations of junior explorers had worn a labyrinth of paths and crafted dozens of hideaways in their midst. Whether the woods were labeled magical kingdom, alien planet, or war-torn village, the trees were picked to serve as friend or foe. If Ivy got to name the game, they’d shelter knights and princesses battling for their queen. Camelot!
Before leaving the house every day, Ivy Jean crossed her heart and promised her father she wouldn’t even put a toe in the creek unless other kids were there.
“A person can drown in a teaspoon of water,” he’d remind her like clockwork. Even if she could swim well since age four, Vincent said the solemn promise was a rule of play.
Her brother always called their father “Vincent,” but only between the two of them, never to their father’s face or in public. Wade cautioned that Vincent was “our elder, a war veteran, and generally deserving of respectful address by his children.” She’d told him he sounded like Jem speaking of his daddy, Atticus Finch, in her favorite movie, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Wade had given her an all-business frown.
Wade William was Ivy Jean’s only sibling. When she was three and he was eight, their mother suddenly died, so when it came to things that mattered only to them, the impersonal reference to Vincent not only seemed natural, but necessary. Discussions between her and Wade were private, after all. They were a team. Obedience to the Vincent Code proved it.
But since her brother up and joined the army, Vincent had gotten pure-D weird. It had been a drizzly morning in March when they’d watched Wade climb on the Greyhound bus that’d take him to Fort Bliss, Alabama. A place called Bliss filled with tanks and guns, she’d laughed. Wade had called it irony.
From that day on, it seemed their tenderhearted if stern and absent-minded father had transformed into some mean old Scrooge. He constantly snapped like a wounded dog she couldn’t predict anymore. He muttered to his newspapers and carped about what they said. And he argued with her about stupid stuff, like girls flipping out for The Beatles and Elvis.
She chewed the sweet end of a wild oat, concluding that Julie wasn’t going to show and pondering feelings of lonesomeness. Her brother might be friendless in the Army camp, just like her there in Prosperity, and that made her sad. She hoped her letters were enough to help because for some reason, Vincent didn’t write his own letters to Wade. Instead he’d just scribble a note at the end of hers. Sometimes Ivy Jean wished for more family.
Sitting up, she put her sneakers back on. They were the dry-goods store’s version of Keds, but Vincent promised that her next pair would be the real things. Not that it would matter. She’d still feel awkward and tall, and big-footed. Vincent told her Jacqueline Kennedy wore a size ten shoe and that had helped some. If Mrs. Kennedy could carry off size ten with grace so could Ivy Jean Pritchard.
Julie must be opting for Photoplay magazine and phone calls with boys, she thought. Ivy liked celebrity gossip okay, but thoughts about what boys were thinking or saying about her caused distressing pressure on her chest. And no sooner had Wade left that she had gotten her period. Vincent nearly blew a gasket at that news, and she had to agree: it’s an icky, life-changing process. And now she was supposed to get boobs, too. She looked down at the front of her cotton blouse and frowned.
What does Vincent know about that?
Ivy Jean was a product of the Atomic Age. That meant being plugged into troublesome adult matters almost constantly, and it was why she liked playing at the creek so much. Bomb shelters and red phones and real people gunned down on television were everyday things. Everything could change in the blink of an eye. Like the president getting shot in Dallas last fall.
My own mother got shot in Dallas!
The stories weren’t related, but the subject matter made her long for excitement of a friendlier nature. Get her mind off exploding bombs and invasions in Florida.
She stood and decided to go home for lunch. As she crossed through a sorghum field, the sweet summer air around her went still, like they say happens when storms are brewing a twister. Ivy Jean looked up to find one dark little cloud parked between her and the sun.
Excerpted from "No One Can Know" by Adrienne LaCava. Copyright © 0 by Adrienne LaCava. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.