Lonely? Curious? Willing to listen to anything that transported me from the gloom in Gran’s big house? Who knows why? I bit.

“Was the prince with her?”

The girl nodded.

“What’s this Tracadie place like?” It came out “Track-a-day.”

The girl shrugged. “Un beau petit village. A small town.”

“I’m Temperance Brennan. You can call me Tempe.”

“Evangeline Landry.”

“I’m eight.”

“I’m ten.”

“Wanna see my presents?”

“I like your book.”

I settled back in my chair. Evangeline sat cross-legged in the sand beside me. For an hour we talked of Anne and that famous farm on Prince Edward Island.

Thus the friendship began.

The forty-eight hours following my birthday were stormy, the daytime sky alternating between pewter and sickly gray-green. Rain came in windblown bursts, streaming salty wash across the windows of Gran’s house.

Between downpours I begged to be allowed on the beach. Gran refused, fearing undertow in the swells breaking white on the sand. Frustrated, I watched from inside, but caught no sign of Evangeline Landry.

Finally, blue patches appeared and elbowed back the clouds. Shadows sharpened under the sea oats and the boardwalks traversing the dunes. Birds resumed discourse, temperatures rose, and the humidity announced that unlike the rain, it was not leaving.

Despite the sunshine, days passed with no sign of my friend.

I was biking when I spotted her walking along Myrtle Avenue, head tortoised forward, sucking a Popsicle. She wore flip-flops and a wash-faded Beach Boys T-shirt.

She stopped when I rolled up beside her.

“Hey,” I said, one sneaker dropping from pedal to pavement.

“Hi,” she said.

“Haven’t seen you around.”

“Had to work.” Wiping sticky red fingers on her shorts.

“You have a job?” I was awed that a kid be permitted such a grown-up pursuit.

“My uncle fishes out of Murrell’s Inlet. Sometimes I help out on the boat.”

“Neat.” Visions of Gilligan, Ginger, and the Skipper.

“Pfff.” She puffed air through her lips. “I scrape fish guts.”

We started walking, me pushing my bike.

“Sometimes I have to take care of my little sister,” I said, seeking to establish parity. “She’s five.”

Evangeline turned to me. “Do you have a brother?”

“No.” Face burning.

“Me neither. My sister, Obeline, is two.”

“So you have to clean a few fish. It’s still cool to spend the summer at the beach. Is it really different where you come from?”

Something glinted in Evangeline’s eyes, was gone before I could read it.

“My mama’s there. She got laid off at the hospital, so now she works two jobs. She wants Obeline and me to learn good English, so she brings us here. C’est bon. My aunt Euphemie and my uncle Fidele are nice.”

“Tell me about this forest primeval.” I steered from the topic of family.

Evangeline’s gaze drifted to a passing car, came back to me.

“L’Acadie is the most beautiful place on Earth.”

And so it seemed.

All that summer Evangeline spun tales of her New Brunswick home. I’d heard of Canada, of course, but my childish imaginings went little beyond Mounties and igloos. Or dogsleds mushing past caribou and polar bears, or seals perched on ice floes. Evangeline spoke of dense forests, coastal cliffs, and places with names like Miramichi, Kouchibouguac, and Bouctouche.

She also spoke of Acadian history, and the expulsion of her ancestors from their homeland. Again and again I listened, asked questions. Astonished. Outraged at the North American tragedy her people call le Grand Derangement. The French Acadians driven into exile by a British deportation order, stripped of their lands and rights.

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