"I would sort of like to go," Anastasia said, "because I've never been on an airplane in my life and I would sort of like to take a plane trip."
"So shall I make three reservations? Have you decided?" Her mother was sitting beside the telephone and she had the yellow pages open to airlines. With her ball-point pen she drew a circle around a number and reached over to dial.
"Weeeellll," Anastasia said indecisively, "I think I might be scared of flying. Maybe I ought to start my flying career with a real short flight, just to Nantucket or something, instead of all the way to California."
Mrs. Krupnik sighed. "All right then. If that's how you feel, maybe you're correct. I'll make two reservations, for Dad and me."
Anastasia began to chew on a strand of hair. "On the other hand—" she said, with hair in her mouth.
"On the other hand what?"
"I've never been to California in my life. This may be my only chance. And since I've decided to become a journalist, I should be open to new experiences."
"I guarantee you will have other opportunities to go to California. However, if you want to go tomorrow, you have to say so right now, Anastasia."
"I have an English test tomorrow, on Johnny Tremain. So I should stay here."
"Look at me," her mother announced. "Watch my finger closely. I'm dialing the phone. Make up your mind." She pressed several of the buttons on the telephone.
"But I hated Johnny Tremain," Anastasia went on. "I'll probably flunk the test. So maybe I should go."
"It's ringing," her mother announced. "Decide."
"But of course it's not going to be a fun trip or anything. No time to go to Disneyland. You did say that, didn't you, Mom, no Disneyland, no movie stars' houses or anything?"
Her mother nodded. She was listening intently to the voice on the telephone. Finally she looked up in disgust. "Rats," she said. "I'm on hold. A recording told me that all their personnel are busy at the moment. Do you believe that? I don't. I think they're all drinking coffee."
She held the receiver out, and Anastasia listened for a moment to the music playing. "Yeah," she said. "They're probably all hanging out together, drinking coffee. But it does give me another minute to decide. If I go, all my friends will be jealous, which would be nice. But probably I should stay, to help take care of Sam."
"Sam will be fine. It's only two days, and Mrs. Stein loves taking care of him."
"Realistically, Mom, what do you think the chances are of a movie scout noticing me during two days in Los Angeles?"
Anastasia scowled. "You could have said something more supportive, Mom," she said.
"I'm being honest, and honesty is supportive. Here are the facts, Anastasia: it will be an exhausting trip, out to Los Angeles and back for only two days. It will not be fun, no Disneyland or tours of movie studios. On the other hand, Dad and I would be happy to have you come with us, and your Uncle George would appreciate it, I know, and—Yes? Hello?" She turned back to the telephone. Someone had finally answered.
Anastasia shook her head hard. "No," she said. "I don't want to go."
"One moment, please," her mother said into the phone. She covered the receiver with one hand and turned to Anastasia. "You're sure? You don't want to come?"
"Positive. I'll stay here."
Mrs. Krupnik spoke again into the telephone. "I'd like two reservations, please, from Boston to Los Angeles tomorrow morning, returning on Thursday. Myron and Katherine Krupnik."
Anastasia got up from her chair and wandered over to the refrigerator. She took out a piece of leftover chicken, two pickles, some grapes, and a chunk of cheese; carefully she piled it all on a plate and took it to the kitchen table. She began to eat, even though it would be dinnertime in an hour. She was starving. Decision-making was so hunger-producing when you were thirteen.
Later in the evening, after Sam was in bed, Anastasia wandered into her parents' bedroom to watch them pack for the trip.
"Would you guys like to know the real reason I decided not to go with you?" she asked.
Her father was polishing a pair of shoes that he planned to pack. Her mother was putting some jewelry into a small traveling case. They both looked over to where Anastasia was standing in the doorway, eating an apple.
"Sure," her father said.
"I was scared," Anastasia confessed.
"Of flying?" her mother asked. "You mentioned that. I was surprised. You're not usually scared of new experiences."
"No," Anastasia said, "not of flying. I'd really like to go someplace in an airplane. The new experience I'm scared of is—yuck, I even hate the word—funerals."
"But Anastasia," her mother said, "you went to your grandmother's funeral when you were only ten years old. I remember that you behaved beautifully and that afterward you said you had liked being there, that it was a nice chance to hear people talk about your grandmother and their memories of her."
Anastasia bit into her apple again. "True," she said, chewing. "But you can see what the difference is. The age thing, for one."
"Well, you were ten then, and you're thirteen now. You're more mature—that should make it even easier," her mother said.
"I mean the age of the, ah, the deceased person," Anastasia pointed out.
Dr. Krupnik nodded. "I can understand that. Your grandmother was in her nineties, and your Aunt Rose—well, let me see. Katherine, how old was Rose?"
Mrs. Krupnik wrinkled her forehead, thinking. "Fifty-five, maybe?" she said, finally.
"See?" said Anastasia. "That's old, but still, it's not like ninety-two. And also, there's the other thing."
Her parents looked at her.
"Other thing?" her mother asked.
Anastasia cringed. "I don't quite know how to say it. Cause of Death."
Her parents both nodded. They looked very sad.
"Grandmother just died in her sleep, remember? And that seemed okay, because she was so old and tired, anyway. But Aunt Rose—well, I...