‘Not all of it’, I say, holding onto my flowers. ‘Then, how much? No, forget that. I guess the real question is what’s going to be left when we get home?’ he says. ‘I don’t know. The closer we get to district twelve, the more confused I get’ I say. He waits, for further explanation, but none’s forthcoming.
‘Well, let me know when you work it out.’ he says, and the pain in his voice is palpable.
“We were five. You had a plaid dress and your hair…it was in two braids instead of one. My father pointed you out while we were waiting to line up. He said, ‘See that little girl? I wanted to marry her mother, but she ran off with a coal miner.’ And I said, ‘A coal miner? Why did she want a coal miner if she could’ve had you?’ And he said, ‘Because when he sings…even the birds stop to listen.’ So that day, in music assembly, the teacher asked who knew the valley song. Your hand shot right up in the air. She put you up on a stool and had you sing it for us. And I swear, every bird outside the windows fell silent. And right when your song ended, I knew -just like your mother- I was a goner.”