Previously: Sarah Jane and Jesse talk and she realizes that they took different paths in life for a reason.
THE BANDBOX HAT
I slept better that night than I would have thought possible. It’s like once I told Jesse that I loved my life and my family and my students, I realized how true it was. Even if Mom hadn’t gotten sick, I would have stayed in Rosedale. It wasn’t just a pretty town in the central San Joaquin Valley. It was my home and it embraced me and gave me all I needed.
The next day I kept returning to the part of the conversation Jesse and I hadn’t finished: How could I reach Rachael? I needed to see and talk to my sister. Ten years was too long to let her stay away. She’d missed Mom’s final months, the funeral service. Her own son’s childhood would be gone all too soon. We couldn’t let any more time pass.
After school I pulled my cell phone from my purse and stared at it. I had never entered Jesse’s parent’s home number, but it didn’t matter. My fingers pressed the keys in the familiar pattern and in just a few seconds I heard it ringing.
“Hi, Mrs. Hofer. It’s—”
“Sarah Jane. How are you, dear?” Her voice, warm as hot cider on a November evening, ignited memories and old longings.
I cleared my throat. “Good. I’m good. Uhh … and you?”
“We’re fine, but I’m afraid Jesse left this morning.”
My heart plummeted, but not the only sense of loss had to do with Rachael, not Jesse. “I’m sorry to hear that. I hoped he could give me Rachael’s phone number.”
“I’m sure he could. How about if I give you his number and you can ask him?”
“Sure. That would be fine.”
She rattled off the digits and I scribbled them on the back of Roseanna Lopez’s book report on The Violet Flash.
We said good-bye and I started to press the keypad again. Just as I finished the area code, the phone vibrated with an incoming call from a blocked number. I tapped the Answer button.
“Sarah Jane. It’s Anna. We need you.”
“Why? What’s going on? I have papers to grade and—”
“Honestly, Sarah Jane, could you just forget about yourself for once? Please come home.” She hung up before I could ask again what was so urgent.
I stared at the phone for a moment, then turned it off and picked up my red pen. Roseanna’s book report still needed to be read. The last time I dropped everything when Anna called with an “emergency” I had rushed home to find that we were out of raisins for her apple cinnamon muffins. Well, fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice and me and my money will soon be parted. Or something like that.
v v v
Two hours later, I turned into the lane leading to the house. “Oh, dear God.” I said the words out loud. A sheriff’s car waited at the steps to the front door.