Title: TO MEAN SOMETHING TO SOMEONE
Genre: Adult literary fiction
Word Count: 81,000
Fifteen years after her childhood best friend, Romaine Enson-Morton and her family disappeared, Emma Johnson searches for clues as to why on a weekend trip home. Prompted by the recent engagement of a friend and friction in her own relationship, she feels the need to come to terms with the fact that they left her without so much as a “goodbye." The Enson-Mortons—enigmatic and paradoxical nomads who named their children after varieties of lettuce—had appeared two years earlier as suddenly as they disappeared, welcoming a seven-year-old Emma into their home, where games of hide and seek could go on for days, teatime became the most cherished ritual, and bad manners had no place. In her search, Emma elucidates the murky events of her childhood and realizes that the past is not always as idyllic as remembered.
Romaine was named for the lettuce. Her parents were vegans, but they didn’t like beans or rice or whatever else vegans are supposed to nourish themselves with, so they ate lettuce and named their first daughter in its honor.
We met in second grade when I bit her on the swing because she wouldn’t get off. We were sent to the principal’s office where Mr. Nickols sat us down on two roly chairs, our size one feet dangling a foot off the ground, and told us to “use our words” while he went out back to smoke a cigarette.
In the two hours he left us there, doing what else I’d rather not imagine, we missed reading, science, and became friends over games of hide-and-seek and I-Spy. We ruffled through the papers on his desk and opened his cabinets, spilling books with titles like Excuse Me, but Your Life Is Waiting. In retrospect, the man probably had the biggest self-help collection in the Hudson Valley, if not in all of New York State.
Mr. Nickols came back at one o’clock, carrying a large thermos of strongly aromatic coffee and a ring of keys. Surprised to find two second graders sitting on the floor of his office (we were sorting paper clips by size and color), he sent us back to class. With sagging shoulders and clasped hands, we trekked back; our teacher never asked where we had been for a full two hours or whether we had “worked it out,” as she was supervising an eight-year-old finger painting session without tablecloths or smocks.