Cilia knew they were in for it when they found the mother on the good couch in the living room, sipping wine, looking at old photos in her college yearbook. “Look at that waist,” she said. “I was something.”
The older daughters, Margaret and Theresa, looked over the mother’s shoulders at the photos: skirt below the knees, freshly ironed shirt buttoned to the neck, relaxed hair curled under. “Were you really that dorky?” they asked at the same time. They looked at each other and laughed, proud of themselves, as if they had planned it.
“I was something,” the mother repeated, not as strong. Her words slipped and slid into one another, like a train wreck.
Margaret and Theresa laughed again. They were “almost seventeen” and “almost sixteen,” as they liked to remind everyone. They spent most of their time on the phone, giggling, a sheet over their heads for privacy, which made them look like giggling ghosts.
Anne and Cilia sat on either side of the mother. They had seen the photos before, but each time the pictures startled and confused Cilia. The mother had gone to a segregated school in New Orleans. Even though she had been segregated, the mother looked young and happy. She had a nickname typed next to her photo: “Bootsy.” It was full of promise, like a pair of new, black, patent leather shoes. Cilia didn’t understand who this “Bootsy” woman was. “That’s you? That’s really you?” she asked. Cilia turned to Anne. “Can you believe it?”