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What I feared, however, was not that he wouldn’t believe me.

I feared that he would.

And that he would be happy about it.

Politics

LUCILLE COMPLAINED TO Daddy about her skin cream as soon as he returned that afternoon. After he had spoken to both Mrs. Dobson and Doris, he came to my room to speak to me. He was upset and paced because he thought one of them was lying. I couldn’t let him think that.

“This is all simply a silly mistake, Daddy. I know it is.”

“What do you mean? How can you be so sure?”

“After Lucille and you had left and I had my breakfast, I did a little tour of the house. I wanted to see if any real changes had been made since Lucille had come to live here. I didn’t mean to spy on you or anything, but I went into your bedroom. I was thinking about the changes Cassie had made, and I was thinking about Mother.”

He stared at me a moment and then took a step toward me. “Did you knock that jar off her vanity table? Is that what you’re telling me?” he asked.

“No,” I said, shaking my head vehemently. “I didn’t touch a thing on her table.”

“Then what are you saying, Semantha? Why did you say this is silly and you’re so sure?”

“I didn’t see any broken jar on the floor, and Mrs. Dobson and Doris had already been in there to do whatever had to be done, just as they do every morning. When I was up there, they were already busy with the downstairs.”

He thought a moment and then shook his head. “I saw the jar. It was broken. I don’t understand what you’re saying, Semantha. Speak directly. Exactly what are you saying?”

“I think Lucille must have knocked it off herself when she returned and not realized it.”

At first, when he opened and closed his mouth, I thought he was simply going to get even angrier at me, but he surprised me by smiling.

“Lucille knocked it over herself? You don’t know how ridiculous that sounds, Semantha. First, if she knocked off a jar like that, she would surely hear it shatter on the floor, and second, if there is one thing we’ll never accuse Lucille of being, it’s flighty and absentminded. It’s just not possible for her to have done something like that and not realize it, not her. I’ve never met anyone who pays attention to detail as much as she does.”

“I’m just telling you that I didn’t see anything broken, Daddy, and—”

“Obviously, Doris or Mrs. Dobson returned to the room when you didn’t notice and one of them had the accident. Maybe Doris refilled the tissue box or replaced something.”

“Neither of them would hide something like that, Daddy. They would have admitted it immediately.”

“There’s no other possible explanation, Semantha. I’ve already put them both on notice. They know I’m very upset. I want honesty in this house. To me, this house is a temple, and no deceit or dishonesty is going to be tolerated within it.”

Where were you when Cassie was alive? I wanted to say, but didn’t dare.

“For now, we’ll put it aside, but if anything else like this occurs, I will depend on you to step forward and let me know. I want you to think of the three of us as one now. What happens to any of us happens to all of us, understand? Do you?” he asked, punching his words at me sharply.

“Yes, Daddy.”

“Okay. I’ve already ordered her a new jar. It should be shipped overnight and be here tomorrow. I don’t want to hear another word about it.”

“Good,” I said. He nodded and started out. “Daddy.”

“What?”

“With all of this excitement, I forgot. Congratulations on being chosen Kentucky Citizen of the Year. Lucille told me.”

“Oh, she did, did she? Well, thank you, Semantha. It will be a wonderful occasion for us all.” He smiled. “I think Lucille was more excited about it than I was.” He lowered his chin and raised his eyes and whispered, “I think she and her father had a little to do with it. Whatever. It makes for a nice wedding present. We’ll talk more about it at dinner, I’m sure.”

As soon as he left, Cassie appeared in the doorway. She watched him walk away and then turned to look in at me.

“He’s such a man fool now. If she had anything to do with his getting the honor, it wasn’t for him; it was for herself. She’ll do anything to climb the social ladder, even stand on his back. And you don’t have the courage to tell him so. He’s acting more like a worshiping servant than a fiancé. You—”

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