Chapter One

        Jay lived with her father in a Victorian duplex with a slanting wood porch, its slats cracked and rotting at the edges.  She loved its quirks.  The windows hung loosely in the casing and had to be jostled open on disintegrating ropes.  But no amount of force could turn off the bathroom spigots, and the dripping created rust spots on the porcelain.  Sharp edges of glass had slipped loose from the lead casing of the stained-glass windows by the fireplace.  In winter they taped plastic over them.
        From her room in the basement, she could hear the clanging of the pipes and the wheezes and sighs of the old furnace that circulated heat through the house.  A newcomer might have heard in these sounds the comings and goings of ghosts, but to her they were comforting.
        One day in late November, she came home from school and found her father in the living room with the television on and the shades pulled.  He was curled up in the yard-sale couch, shaped like the top part of a question mark.
        Her father hated the dark.  He hated television.  So when she found him like that, she knew something was wrong.
        “How'd the market close?" she asked.  The East Coast market closed at two, mountain time, and he was usually home when she got back from school.
        “Up twenty," he said, and picked at the couch fabric, shredded by a former owner's cats.
        Good news for most, but not her father.  "I guess I don't need to ask how your day went."  She threw her books on the industrial spool they used as a coffee table.
        “I looked for a job," she said cheerfully, though she knew, when he was in his moods, how grating good cheer could be.
        He sat up.  He was a large man with a strong jaw and a prominent nose.  Many people thought he was handsome, though he was not among them.  "You don't need a job."
        “I could use some extra money," she said.
        “All I need is one big hit, and we'll have all the money we need.  I'm so close.  I know what I did wrong today," he said, regaining his energy.  "The market was looking toppy, so I went in and shorted it and the sucker took off like a rocket.  I never should have paid that much attention to the trade figures."
        She was more interested in the household figures.  She paid the bills.  She talked to the collectors.  But if there was one thing her father insisted on, it was this:  they were not poor.  They were without money, and the difference was enormous:  the difference was hope.  As far as she was concerned, hope was overrated.
        “I'm on the verge of making this thing work," her father said.  "Just wait until the summer."
        “I want a job now."
        “Are you worried I won't provide for you?  Here."  He took out his wallet and handed her a twenty.  "Go buy yourself an outfit."
        If he only knew what twenty dollars would buy, she thought.
        “This has nothing to do with you," she said, returning the money.  "I just want a job, okay?"
        “You won't have enough time for your homework."
        “I'm bored to death at school.  Stores are hiring Christmas help now."
        “Jaybird, you don't need to work.  I'm going to make more money than you ever dreamed of.  You'll be able to have anything you want.  A Jaguar.  Would you like that?  Jay's Jag.  Has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?"
        “Fine.  But in the meantime, I want to earn money for myself."  
        He slumped back on the couch, the green light from the television washing over his face.  "I haven't done well by you.  You know there's nothing in the world I want more than to buy you anything you want."
        “Dad, you're blowing this whole thing out of proportion.  All I want is a simple job."
        “I just want you to have a carefree childhood."
        “Nobody has a carefree childhood, Dad.  You know better than that."
        “You're really your dad's girl, aren't you?" he said, smiling, but the smile did not make it to his eyes.  He reached for her hand and held it.  "I want so much for you to be proud of me.  That's why I work so hard on this system."
        There it was again.  The fog.  That's what she called his spells.  The fog descends, the fog settles, the fog lifts—weather bulletins on his moods.
        One summer when she was seven, she was walking alone at the ocean's edge near a beach house they rented in North Carolina.  A fog blew in and she lost her bearings.  The horizon, the coastline, and the martin birdhouse beside the wooden walkway to the house were all hidden by the mist.  Everything familiar was gone.  Panicked, she at down in the shallow surf.  The ocean swirled around her and withdrew, leaving hollows in the sand where her body touched the beach.
        Just when she was sure no one would ever find her, she saw a smear of light through the fog—a blurry arc, colorless but luminescent, and as full of transitory surprise as a rainbow.  And she knew she would be all right.  That's what she looked for when her father was in the fog.
        Today, she saw no sign.
        “Forget it," she said.  "I won't look for a job."
        “If you want to…"
        “No.  It was just an idea I had."
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