Ruth is anxious to meet baby sister. Yet a chance encounter with a strange magician and his rabbit render the future anything but predictable.

Carolyn_old man walking his pet rabbit

The sky that had been pink outside her window this morning now shone a pale blue as Ruth leaned her head back to squint at the clouds. Was that a sign? Would her new little sister be a little brother instead?

Maman pulled on her hand to bring her back down to the earth, the firm swell of her belly revealing no secrets. Two weeks was a long time to wait, Ruth thought, sitting down on the park bench and swinging her legs back and forth like the grand old clock in the parlor. Maman said it was an heirloom, like her gold necklace with the six-pointed star.

Across from them on the lawn an old man stood alone, holding the leash of an all-white rabbit. Ruth imagined he was a magician walking his favorite performer, temporarily freed from a top hat. Maybe if she asked nicely, they would do tricks with the man’s grey beret.

The man looked down at her as she approached, but said nothing. Politely, she asked to pet the rabbit, and he nodded once. The creature’s nose was cold against her palm, and its ears were as soft as a feather rubbed the right direction.

Elle s’appelle Cecile, the man answered, before she had thought to ask. Moi, je m’appelle Ruth, Ruth replied, focusing on the delicate crown of Cecile’s tiny head. Oh, the magician said. It was a sound so full of contempt that she looked up, confused, to find the blue sky reflected in his narrowed eyes. He jerked Cecile’s leash away, spat on the neat grass, and marched off.

She blinked at the dark clouds floating overhead, one shaped almost like un lapin. Maman pulled her home as the sky turned dreadfully grey, and two weeks later her baby sister was born asleep.

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