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avoiding scandal

Prudence has brought the posters, Kathy the markers. The four girls are having a snack in the dining room when Mr. and Mrs. Fairweather come downstairs, all dressed up, already in their coats. They are as tall as their daughter and, like her, carry themselves like African royalty. Mrs. Fairweather wears an ornate headdress which seems to almost touch the ceiling. “That whole family makes me feel inferior,” Prudence admitted once, and she was not alone.

“I see you are well organized,” Mr. Fairweather says, smiling at the girls and then straightening his tie in the mirror, then looking down to check his shoes.

“Organization is everything,” N’Stange’s mother says, buttoning her coat. Like their daughter, the Fairweathers have a vaguely British accent, though more pronounced.

Gichinga scampers downstairs, half-buttoned coat flying behind him.

“Gich, you can’t wear sneakers in the snow!” N’Stange says. She gets the boots that were standing next to the door and marches the boy over to the couch. As she sits on the floor and vigorously laces him up, her breasts sway to and fro. This position emphasizes the narrowness of her waist, the concavity of her tummy. To balance herself she puts one foot up on the ottoman. Her feet are broad and tough like nature made them, with widely spread toes. Her toenails are painted white, which is striking. Soon the Fairweathers are off with their youngest to Parent-Teacher Night.

The girls clean up after the snack. Sharon says, “I wonder where Ronda is?” They decide to start without her. It turns out the table is not big enough so they work on the floor, using the slogan they had thought up: “The Big Change!” Sharon Rizzo for Student Council President, Sonia Przezelewski for Vice President, Kathy Hayakawa for Secretary, Ronda Billingsgate for Treasurer. An all-girl ticket. Making 20 posters is a big job. Careful not to make a mistake, they don’t distract themselves with conversation. N’Stange is the only one left-handed. The other girls sit cross-legged but she is on her tummy, breasts squashed out to each side, her big bare feet dancing in the air, toes wiggling as if helping her fingers write.

A knock on the door. N’Stange stands up to get it. It is Ronda, in tears. The other girls rush up to her. “I can’t be Treasurer,” she says. “I - got arrested for shoplifting!”

“Where?”

“At Blazer’s.” A department store in town.

“They watch black girls extra close,” N’Stange points out.

“It wasn’t just me. They got Debra and Naomi too.” Sniffles. “I’ve never been so embarrassed. What do I tell Momma?” Ronda’s mother was widowed a few years ago and works as a waitress, supporting Ronda and her sister.

N’Stange hugs her. Ronda, also, is shorter than N’Stange -- practically everyone is. N’Stange likes to hug. She puts Ronda’s head between her breasts and as she wraps her long arms around her the distressed girl finds her face pressed in on both sides by warm, soft, nurturing breastflesh. It is N’Stange’s technique. Everyone likes getting hugged by N’Stange, boys especially.

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