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The Conch Shell

Wanda stayed at Amy’s house for supper. When she came home, there was a strange silence in the house. Lydia was gone and her brothers were in the kitchen washing the dishes. Usually they fought over the chores, but tonight, they weren’t saying a word.

Later that night, when Wanda was in bed, she overheard her parents arguing. Her father’s voice was tense and hushed; her mama’s voice was raised, and, punctuated by measured breaths from the machine, sounded ugly.

She pulled the covers over her head and shut her eyes tight. That’s not my mama anyway, she told herself. Lydia’s my real mama.

The next morning, Wanda woke up to find her father sitting at the kitchen table with his head in his hands. He wasn’t dressed for the office and he hadn’t shaved.

“Where’s Lydia?” she asked.

“Lydia won’t be back. I let her go.”

For a long moment, Wanda stared at her father in silence, waiting for a further explanation that never came. She then reached into the gingham apron, took out the shell and went into the dining room to give it to her mama, but her mama was sleeping.

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