Outside, the milk truck rattled along Midwood Street, the horse clopping, the bottles vibrating in their cases. Mariel heard it in her dream, just on the edge of waking.
The dream began again: green lace curtains with the sun shining through, a fine morning; a soft voice reciting a nursery rhyme: When the wind blows, the cradle will rock. The voice stops. The rippling in Mariel's legs starts, her toes jerk.
It was only a dream, Mariel told herself, only a curtain and a nursery rhyme. It would hang over her all day, though, make her wish for her mother, wonder where her mother was, what had happened to her.
A quick picture flashed in Mariel's mind: a red sweater thrown over her mother's shoulders, her charm bracelet clinking, her cool hand on Mariel's forehead.
If only she could see her mother's face.
"Mariel?" a voice called from outside.
Squinting, she opened her eyes and looked out at the yard. The apple tree spread itself halfway to the bare board fence, almost hiding the row of houses in back. She loved that apple tree. Loretta, her almost mother, had put a small white fence around it so they'd stay out of its way when the two of them played baseball.
And Loretta was out there now, her hair tied up in a red kerchief. "Hey," she called. "Are you ever going to get up? Want to go to a game today? The Dodgers might just win the pennant this year."
Mariel thought of Geraldine Ginty, her enemy who lived across the street. Geraldine would say Loretta was razy cray, that the Dodgers hadn't won the pennant during her whole life. Bums, she called them.
Mariel could almost see the green diamond in Ebbets Field where someone would be mowing for today's Dodgers game. How lucky they were to live only a few blocks away. She slid her legs out from under the soft summer blanket and sat up, still remembering the dream.
Somehow it reminded her of Windy Hill and Good Samaritan Hospital, far away upstate, with the fountain outside and the rows of iron lungs inside.
She closed her eyes. Sirens screaming, sick to her stomach, legs rippling, jerking. Chest heavy. Someone saying: "Hold on, kiddo, another minute, almost there now. Breathe for me, will you? In and out, that's the way. Here we are. Never so glad to see those doors."
And someone else reaching out to pick up her doll for her.
"Don't touch it," the first voice said. "All her things will have to be burned, full of germs. Shame, such a little thing, can't be more than four years old. Polio."
Mariel stood up, her fingers fluttering. When the wind blows . . .
What did that nursery rhyme have to do with her mother?
Someday she was going back to Windy Hill.
Someday she was going to find out.
She leaned out the window. "Hold your horses," she called down to Loretta. "I'm on my way."From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from All the Way Home byPatricia Reilly Giff
Copyright © 2001 by Patricia Reilly Giff. Excerpted by permission of Yearling,
a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt
may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.