Note: Maude and Miss Chardin are named from a character in the movie Harold and Maude.
Note: As far as I know, we don't know Parker's first name but the story really required one. I gave her a flowery girl's name, something I thought didn't suit her, to explain why she goes by Parker. I picked Cassandra because Parker says things people don't want to hear and Gabrielle because in "The Miracle Job" the little girl thinks she's an angel.
When she was nine, Parker's foster father told her she was too old for trick or treating, which was untrue, kids much older than her went out, and blatantly unfair. So, on the night before Halloween, what the other kids called Devil's night although they didn't really do anything bad, with pillowcase in hand, she snuck out of her bedroom window. Mrs. Martin, called Aunt Mary by the neighborhood kids, was beloved for giving out full sized candy bars each year. Parker started there, dumping all the candy she could find into her pillowcase before moving onto the next house.
She wasn't caught until the seventh house.
"Maude? Is it really you?" Parker didn't move but just stared solemnly up at the old lady. The other kids said she was a witch, not that they'd told Parker, whom they also thought of as odd, that but she was good at listening in when others didn't want her to hear. Miss Chardin certainly talked funny but maybe that was a witch thing. Aunt Mary said it was because Miss Chardin was from Germany but that didn't make any sense to Parker. Why should being German mean she talked funny?
"Oh my Maude, my darling sister," Miss Chardin said, holding her hands to her heart. Parker, not sure the woman wasn't a witch, nodded cautiously in response. Apparently that was enough because Miss Chardin replied with a spate of words Parker didn't understand. They didn't seem to be curses, her skin wasn't turning green or anything, but Parker started backing away slowly just in case.
"No! Wait," Miss Chardin cried as she reached one hand out towards Parker. She looked... sad somehow so Parker stopped and waited. Wiping tears from her face with her hands, Miss Chardin said, "You're right. I live in America now and so should speak English." Parker just started at her, still waiting to see what she would do. "Would you like some marzipan? I get it each year because it was always your favorite."
You never could tell for sure with adults but Parker didn't think Miss Chardin would hurt her and so, while she didn't know what marzipan was, Parker nodded in response.
"It's in the kitchen. If you go and sit in the living room, I'll bring it right out."
Parker shook her head. No.
"Oh," Miss Chardin replied. She sort of curled up over herself and put her hands over her mouth before she stood up straighter, letting her hands fall to her side, and said, "Would you come into the kitchen then?"
Five minutes later they were sitting at the kitchen table, each with a glass of milk to one side, and a tray of brightly colored fantastical figures before them. Parker didn't know what they were there for until Miss Chardin took one, shaped like a little man complete with a funny mustache, and bit right into it. Keeping her gaze on Miss Chardin, Parker reached out and took one for herself, a frog holding a golden ball, and gave it a sniff. It didn't smell like anything. A tiny lick didn't give her any more information so she bit into it.
Marzipan was candy. Candy that looked like toys.
Parker visited nearly every day after that. She knew that Miss Chardin knew she wasn't Maude, who had died a long time ago in a place called Chelmno, but they didn't talk about that. Miss Chardin brought it up only a few times and, even then, only indirectly.
"I have something important to tell you," Miss Chardin said as they sat on the stuffed red couch in the living room. Usually Parker preferred to trace the patterns carved into the wooden legs but she'd been playing at being a proper guest that day although she didn't understand why her foster mother thought sitting still was better behavior. She nodded to show that she was listening. "Not everyone has you best interests at heart," Miss Chardin whispered even though the house was empty except for the two of them. Since the words didn't quite make sense, Parker scrunched her face a bit and looked up at her.
Grabbing Parker by the wrist with one cold hand, Miss Chardin said intensely, "People won't always do what's best for you."
"You can't trust them," Parker replied, having already learned that lesson.
"Cassandra Gabrielle Parker," Miss Chardin hissed. Knowing that Parker didn't like her first and middle names, Miss Chardin almost never used them, which meant she was about to say something very important indeed. Parker listened intently. "That is not what I am saying, at least not about all people. When I was a girl, people helped us. They could have gotten into real trouble over it but they did it anyway; they hid us and they tried to help us escape because they were good."
"Not everybody is good."
"No," Miss Chardin agreed. "Not everyone is good but some people are and I think I'm getting off of my topic. Ah, darling," she said, rubbing her hand across the top of Parker's head, "To think you've already learned such a harsh lesson. Now listen. People who are nice when things are flowing smoothly, you can't be sure of them; people who help out when things are bad, even if it could cost them, those are your friends."
"You're my friend," Parker said, meaning my only friend.
Miss Chardin dropped her hand back to the couch and gave Parker a smile. "You just... take care of yourself, all right?"
"I promise," Parker replied.
Two and a half years later, when Miss Chardin died, Parker ran away but she always ate marzipan, each and every Halloween, for the rest of her life.