Tauno whistles in the summer evenings while he sweeps the coffee house patio.
Tantalized by the whistling, Naomi steps in the coffee shop to buy a cookie.
Their worlds change.
Meet the secondary characters that fill Naomi's world, influencing her for good and maybe not so good.
The series on Naomi's life contain many dimensions of
exploration, aggravation and tickling connections.
Click to learn more.
OVERTURE, May 22, 1985
A hum whirred out of me as I sat down to a celebration dinner. I sliced the thick swordfish Mama cooked, one of my top foods, for completing my freshman year at Manhattan School of Music. Soy sauce and lemon juice toyed with my taste buds, right before Papa made the succulent bite tasteless.
“Naomi, we have to stay near DC this summer. We're leaving Saturday.”
Shock shut down my processing. Then I remembered I was eighteen and could be on my own, though I hadn't slept a night away from my parents my entire life. When my friends wanted slumber parties, they wanted them at my house. “I can stay here, right?” I asked open-eyed, with a nod.
Papa's body contracted to fight back a laugh that would have propelled food out of his mouth. He swallowed quickly and wiped his mouth with the napkin he hung off his button. “You? The very reason you ask is the reason you can't. We'll go as a family.”
“No!” I whisper-shouted. “I can't go. What about all the plans I've made for this summer? Rehearsals for NYC Opera start in ten days and I finally have an appointment with the special voice teacher. I've been on his waiting list for eight months!”
“I'm sorry, Naomi. Maybe you can be part of a production at the National Opera in DC?” Papa kept enjoying his meal.
Panic clamped my stomach, tighter and tighter. “Rosemary and I auditioned for the chorus months ago and we probably only got in because of her voice teacher. You know this is really important.” My voice began to rise in pitch. Disbelief fought with history. My parents always accommodated their lives around my roles. The possibility that this time, when I had such a major opportunity, they wouldn't - left me without a thought. I've never felt this way, a sort of hazy vision cloaking my comprehension. I felt my eyes wandering apart, making me see Papa's head separate into two overlapping ones. I squeezed my eyes and asked with just as pressed a voice, “Why can't I stay here? I won't do anything bad.”
“Of course you wouldn't, never intentionally, but you alone here is an invitation for all sorts of things and disreputable stories. We have to be even more vigilant with my new position. I don't think you fully understand.”
I looked to Mama for help, but she was pushing seaweed salad on her plate. This increased my disbelief. The word “understand” echoed in my skull. “But, Papa, you understand the experiences that I need to build the best resume takes weeks of planning. What am I going to do in a new place? Where no one knows what I put into a show? Plus, there is nowhere as good as New York.”
Papa turned a stern look straight at me. “I only found out today, myself. I'm replacing someone who ̶ ” His left thumb jerked. “You aren't staying here. I won't say it again.”
The funniest taste broke into my mouth, the taste of being caught doing something bad. Papa's never sounded this way to me. I didn't like being scolded for any reason and worked hard to avoid it. Yet, the flash of something scared me, an inkling of defiance, as foreign to me as … as a boyfriend. Neither suited me. I'd never had a reason for them.
Feeling queasy from the thought of being disobedient, I excused myself from the table to wrap my dinner and put it in the fridge. In twelve days I must find my way back to New York. How could I reason with my parents? My footsteps led me to my baby grand piano. Beethoven. Yes, Beethoven, help me think. I could take the train back and stay with Francesca, though I hated train rides since I threw up in one in Japan. Francesca had moved out of her parents' house a couple of months ago. A different distaste curled my mouth. Francesca slept with too many guys and I didn't want to be near that. Her current flame worked at a recording studio and she planned to record our trio this summer. Maybe Rosemary could stay with me here? My parents like her. They'll relax in a week and I'll ask then.
My fingers began a sweet Debussy arabesque, equalizing with the calm that set on me with the lowering sun. Papa sure shook me up, but everything will work out as planned. I flicked off the last note and smiled.
Mama said to pack for three months and to include outfits to perform for Papa's political parties. I felt happy again to follow instructions. We loaded our stuff into the car-top carrier that made Papa's BMW look ridiculous. An hour into the long drive, leaning on the stack of blankets and pillows in the back seat, Papa said, “Oh, Naomi, you have a summer job. I asked around and the lobbyist I'm working with found you a position at a Maryland library. Real employment will make your resume better. You'll start on Tuesday.”
CHAPTER 1 - BETHESDA, MARYLAND
I turned my face into the pillow to hide the flush my skin felt and to smother the retort that wanted to blast out. I didn't want to act like a brat when Papa wanted to do something nice for me, but I didn't want the job. How could I get out of it? If I didn't take the job, I would embarrass Papa and I wouldn't do that. Could I arrange a schedule where I worked on the days I didn't have rehearsals? The thought of the train every few days brought back the feelings I had right before I vomited. I began to feel as though my body hovered in the car, unsure of my options. I didn't have enough information. Patience. I must wait to make plans until I have more details.
Papa's horrible news talk radio streamed unwanted babble into my ears.
...Navy officer caught in passing security documents for over fifteen years to Soviets is being held in jail in Baltimore … Engineer who attempted to pass Stealth plans to Soviets given life sentence … A quarter of all Soviet workers at U.N. suspected of being spies … Charles J. Hynes is announced as special prosecutor for cases involving corruption in New York judicial system ̶
“I talked to him last week. Attorney General Abrams has wanted Hynes in there for a while,” Papa said to Mama.
My parents' discussion about politics put me in a welcome state of oblivion, conditioned from years of their droning. The distracted state couldn't overpower the sense of doom for my summer so I dug my Walkman out of my bag and listened to the Chorus Line soundtrack. I smiled secretly when the song Papa hated came on, the T and A song. Why did I smile? I shouldn't be feeling vindictive or sneaky, yet something nagged me. The idea that I needed space from my parents unsettled me as much as going to open-mic night at the comedy club with Francesca. I didn't understand the appeal of laughing at people if they weren't trying to be funny. I lost my smile and pushed fast-forward.
Outside, the early summer scenery blurred by, as seen through my black curls.