Victor looked up from his arithmetic briefly as Viola entered the room. Viola sighed and slumped on her bed where her notebook lay unopened. She sat on her bed and glanced around the room. She huffed.
“I love math,” Victor said putting down his pencil.
Viola rolled her eyes and opened her notebook. She had a series of multiplication and division problems to complete. They stared at her. She glanced back up and saw something much more interesting. She shut her notebook and took a book from the shelf.
“Viola, you should be studying,” Victor warned.
“Mrs. Browning said we should read every day.”
“But what about your sums? If you don’t do them for tomorrow she’ll make you write them out ten times. Don’t you get tired of that?”
“I don’t know why I can’t just study music like Daddy did in school.”
“He focused on music in college not in the fifth grade. And, he had to study every subject to get to college, anyhow.”
There was a pause before Victor spoke again, “I like to study everything. It can be fun.” His mouth widened into a straight line across his face—his smile.
“You’re just saying that because Mother says it,” Viola smiled back.
“Maybe it’s not always fun. But it’s worth it. I know it’ll get me somewhere someday.”
“Someday,” Viola echoed.
Their conversation was interrupted when they heard their parents bickering. Every time their father and mother had a disagreement they took it to their bedroom unaware that Viola and Victor heard everything through the vent.
“Why do you encourage her to indulge in these silly fantasies? She’ll never understand the importance of hard work!”
“She’s going to have to work twice as hard to earn respect because she’s so beautiful. She’ll only experience heartache if she’s allowed to live in this dreamland you two cook up!”
“How do you think that makes Victor feel? I bet he feels so left out. You two are always together and you just leave—to your fairy world, leaving everyone else behind.”
Viola and Victor took their usual spots by the vent to listen. At their mother’s comment Viola glanced at Victor who shrugged his shoulders and shook his head. He was her twin but Viola always saw Victor as an older brother. He was calm, mature, and always said the right thing to adults.
“Don’t you have work to be doing, too? Men get the chance to do anything and here you are tinkering on the piano. I don’t know why we ever got it,” Estelle continued.
“Estelle, you know I get all my landscape work done early so that I get to come home and look after the kids for a while. And, we got the piano after my parents died. At one point you liked my tinkering.”
“Don’t change the subject.”
“And stop laughing!” Estelle added.
“I’m sorry,” Jim tried to smother a chuckle. “I guess I’m not sure what the problem is.”
“Viola is going to grow up into an absent-minded little fool if you encourage her to day-dream.”
“There needs to be time for imagination.”
“Where did imagination get you? Nowhere.”
“I couldn’t very well pursue my music career with a family, especially during the rough years. But landscaping requires plenty of imagination.” There was a pause before Jim spoke again. “Are you sure there’s not something else on your mind?”
“Yes, there is. One of those returning GIs took my job today.”