Pastel Orphans - Gemma Liviero

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

Text 2013 Gemma Liviero

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.

Published by Lake Union Publishing, Seattle

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str2-13: 9781477830147

str2-10: 1477830146

Cover design by Patrick Barry

Library of Congress Control Number: 2014922225

To the many who were lost, and the many who were left to continue without them.

CONTENTS

PART ONE

CHAPTER 1

CHAPTER 2

CHAPTER 3

CHAPTER 4

CHAPTER 5

CHAPTER 6

CHAPTER 7

CHAPTER 8

CHAPTER 9

CHAPTER 10

CHAPTER 11

CHAPTER 12

CHAPTER 13

CHAPTER 14

CHAPTER 15

CHAPTER 16

CHAPTER 17

CHAPTER 18

CHAPTER 19

CHAPTER 20

CHAPTER 21

CHAPTER 22

PART TWO

CHAPTER 23

CHAPTER 24

CHAPTER 25

CHAPTER 26

CHAPTER 27

CHAPTER 28

CHAPTER 29

CHAPTER 30

CHAPTER 31

CHAPTER 32

CHAPTER 33

PART THREE

CHAPTER 34

EPILOGUE

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

PART ONE

HENRIK

CHAPTER 1

Mama tells me that Opa has died. I am not sure if I should cry, because death has never been discussed before, and Mama has to explain that Opa is now in the earth. The discovery of death is shocking, and I picture my grandfather lying alone in the ground, his ears full of soil. Death is too close—as close as the thinking chair for bad behavior. I can’t see it from where I’m standing, but it waits for me quietly in the next room. It knows I will come eventually.

I don’t know Opa. I don’t remember meeting him, though Mama says I did. Mama never talks about him, only to tell me that he is on top of the piano. In the photo he has a mustache and baggy trousers. I do not like looking at the photo before today because the face with the angry mouth and one long eyebrow tells me that I am not welcome to look at him.

But death has made him kind. I cry immediately when I see that Mama’s eyes are filled with tears and when she tells me that I will not meet him again until I am in heaven.

Today I am still crying so my mother tells me a secret. She says that when you die, all the angels make two straight lines on either side of the stairs of gold that lead to the gates of heaven. Such perfect creatures, with bow lips and costumes of white, stroke your shoulders with hands as smooth as petals. Trumpets sound majestically as you approach the top step, and the tall gates open magically to reveal a lace-covered table topped high with cakes filled with chocolate, apple, and cream. To receive your reward, it is important to say three Hail Marys just before entering, in honor of all those you have left behind.

I stop crying because suddenly I have a picture of death in my head and it is not as bad as I thought, not like the one of Opa lying in soil.

Emmett, my father, is so tall that I have to tilt my head right back to get a good look at him. He is leaning against the sink in the kitchen in our first-floor apartment. He has dark blue eyes that shine black at night.

“Karolin,” he says softly, shaking his head, “enough of that.” He tells Mama that she is filling my head with nonsense, though he does not sound annoyed, and his eyes have wrinkled as he watches us over his round glasses.

When I go to bed that night, I think about the stairs and trumpets and golden gates, but I have added to Mama’s secret: I walk through the door and eat all the creamy desserts. My stomach aches with emptiness until I fall asleep.

It is Christmas morning and I have woken early to go sit by the tree. Mama was up late in the kitchen with Frieda, our housekeeper. Frieda has the day off because she has her own family to celebrate with. I have never met her family. They are not our friends, says Mama, they are people we know.

Mama has put onto the shelves little painted statues of the baby Jesus and Joseph and Mary and lambs and a cow, and gold stars hang from the ceiling. Under the tree there are lots of presents wrapped in red-and-silver paper. I pick one up to shake because it has my name on it.

Mama and Papa come out of their room. Papa has his arm around Mama. Mama picks me up and says,