Niki managed to keep herself out of trouble over the next few weeks. After a couple of days, Melissa reappeared at the breakfast table. Nobody said a world about her absence and Mrs. White continued to guide them all through the unvarying routine of their days.
Niki started to think the house wasn’t so bad after all. As long as everyone did what they were supposed to do, nobody had to go to the Pit. Everyone was fed and clothed and slept in warm, comfortable beds. Niki sat in the living room one evening after all the chores and homework were finished. All around the room the other children sat, reading quietly. A fire crackled in the fireplace and Mrs. White hummed to herself as she knit.
Remembering the cold and the chaos of the apartment she’d lived in with her mother, Niki felt particularly grateful. It might have gone on this way indefinitely, if not for the imminent arrival of March 13th, the anniversary of her grandmother’s death. When her grandmother had passed, Niki had made a promise to herself—to always visit her at least once a year on this day. Her grandmother’s grave stood in a quiet corner of the cemetery behind the church where she’d gone to Mass regularly. Niki hadn’t particularly believed in God, but her grandmother had and Niki believed in her grandmother.
So early in March, Niki asked Mrs. White if she could drive her to the cemetery on the day of the anniversary.
“I’m sorry, sweetheart, but I don’t drive,” Mrs. White told her. “I’m afraid you’ll have to remember your grandmother from here.”
“It’s okay, Niki,” she added when she saw the tears in her eyes. “God can hear you and see you wherever you are.”
“But it’s not God I want to visit,” Niki retorted, loudly. “It’s my grandma, and she doesn’t know how to find me here. And she wouldn’t even recognize me in the ugly dress!” She ran up to her room and sobbed into her pillows until the house was quiet and all the rest had gone to bed. The next day, Rex and Todd were both absent from the table at meal times and Ada, Melissa, and Everett refused to look at her.