Poppy always requested Carla when her parents planned an evening out. It perplexed her mother because Carla wasn’t particularly entertaining. Other sitters came armed with activities that kept her occupied, but Poppy knew that if Carla came over, she’d happily let Poppy use her fountain pen while she watched television.
“Will you help me with my homework?”
“Sure, what is it?”
“I need to write a thank you letter. But I am not very good at spelling. Would you write it out? Just to help me with the words?”
Carla hesitated, as though she thought she might be aiding some cheating plot. Poppy could hear the opening notes of her favorite television show’s theme song. Carla shrugged, took out her pen and began to write while Poppy dictated.
Poppy watched as Carla’s thin, pale hand danced lightly across the page. The ink seemed to flow like the tiniest faucet, gracefully appearing on the paper. It glistened there for a moment before drying. The letters looked like art work.
When Carla was settled into Poppy’s father’s recliner, Poppy uncapped the fountain pen and began to duplicate the letter. She examined each character in Carla’s neat script and did her best to mimic it. The letters seemed to lift toward the top of the page, as though there were an imaginary string that pulled them northward. They canted slightly to the right, speeding toward the edge, and her G’s and Y’s looped effortlessly. Poppy spent the hours before her bed time writing the words over and over, trying to make her hand form the letters just like Carla’s did.
When Carla came into her room to turn out the light she stopped for a moment.
“Why do you try so hard to write like me?”
Poppy thought a moment. Carla’s long, straight blonde hair hung over one shoulder like a curtain. Poppy fingered her own coarse hair. When she was in first grade her mother explained that no matter what she did, her hair would never look like Carla’s or any of the other girls in school with straight, light colored locks. Poppy had resigned herself that her own reflection would never resemble girls like Carla.
“Your handwriting is pretty.”
“Huh. Thanks. Well, good night then.”
Poppy pulled the thank you notes, folded into dozens of tiny squares so it would fit into the palm of her hand, out from beneath her pillow. She could examine them in the square of blue light coming into the window from the street. It was close, but she could still tell the difference. Her A’s were too round and it was evident by the weight of her script that her writing was more deliberate than Carla’s.
It was ok. She would keep practicing.