Laura launched into a detailed description of her genealogy : American mother, Swiss father, an Italian grandmother on one side, a German one on the other... Suji lapped up the details like an eager little puppy. She went home and announced, wide-eyed, to Amma "My new friend Laura has family from a dozen different countries!"
"Is that so?", Amma sounded highly amused, but mercifully kept the sceptical tone out of her voice. Suji would have been really angry had she detected any ounce of amusement in Amma's voice.
Laura was in a different homeroom, but Suji at last had a regular playmate who shared her lunch breaks and recess with whom she could play and share secrets with. Laura had straight short chestnut hair and bangs that kept falling into her sparkly blue eyes, which she kept tossing away every so often, as she laughed her way through the day.
Laura had invited Suji to her birthday party, and she was all excited about picking out a gift and going down to Laura's home. From what Laura had told her, Laura's mother was divorced and had a boyfriend, whatever that meant. Suji didn't quite understand the reference to 'divorce' and had to look it up in the dictionary- something about ending marriages. 'How could a marriage be ended?" puzzled Suji, as she tried to imagine what it would be like.
The much-anticipated day arrived. Appa took Suji down to Laura's home, driving his snazzy new Citroen hatchback. It was an apartment in a nameless block in another Parisian suburb, surrounded by trees and concrete walkways snaking around a few patches of lawn. Appa escorted Suji to the door, promising to get back an hour or so later when the party ended to pick her up.
Balloons, party games, party hats, birthday cake with candles, opening the presents, mini-tour of the house- Suji had a lot of fun by the time Appa came to collect her. That night, back in her cosy bed though, she still mulled over the mystery of the divorced father, who occasionally had Laura over for a visit, and the fact that Laura had shown her mother's bedroom and mentioned casually that the boyfriend shared it with the mother. What could all this mean? Suji fell asleep before she could figure it out.