Sophie's Secret

One

You can’t IMAGINE what it was like!” the tour guide said in a voice that echoed over the James River like a cranky old aunt.

Huh, thought Sophie. Maybe YOU can’t imagine it, Mister Mouth—but I can!

Sophie LaCroix pulled her black wool cape around her—the one Mama had made for her just for this sightseeing trip—and tried to bunch her long, not-quite-blonde-not-quite-brown hair into the hood to muffle Mr. Mouth’s voice. How was she supposed to concentrate on the delicious realness of Jamestown Island with this guy barging into the quiet, telling her that she, Sophie LaCroix, “couldn’t imagine”.

Imagining is my specialty, she wanted to inform him. Have YOU ever imagined YOURself back in the eighteenth century, acted it out, and made a film of it? Sophie sniffed. Probably NOT.

She edged away from the guide and gazed across the river. In the film they’d just watched in the Visitors’ Center—well, SHE and Mama had actually watched it while her thirteen-year-old sister Lacie and Aunt Bailey had made fun of the narrator talking like he had a chip bag clip on his nose—the narrator’s voice had described the river as “a salty brine at high tide and a blend of slime and filth at low.” Sophie wanted to repeat this to her best friend, Fiona, back at school, and maybe they could start saying that about the Poquoson River in THEIR town. It would sound so cool. So would “the drear, dark sky”—which did stretch over the river on that day after Thanksgiving and slowly soak them with drizzle. Mama had wanted her to put on a plastic poncho, but that would totally ruin the effect of the cape.

Besides, Sophie thought, I’m sure Captain John Smith didn’t have a plastic raincoat back in 1607. No, this experience had to be as real as she could make it—so she and Fiona and Kitty could develop their next movie around it.

Because, of course, that’s what they—the Corn Flakes—would have to do as soon as Thanksgiving vacation was over. A “cheerless sky” and the possibility of cruel diseases “such as swellings, fluxes, and burning fevers” like the film had described: that stuff was too good to waste. Sophie stretched out her hands to the river.

Antoinette called silently to God to help her know the secrets that lay at the slimy, filthy river bottom. Antoinette’s heart began to pound as she found herself at the brink of some new mission— some fascinating adventure—some brilliant endeavor that would make Papa see once and for all that she was worthy of his honor and respect —

“Soph—what are you doing?”

Sophie felt a heavy hand on her shoulder, and she had to scurry back from Antoinette’s world to focus up at her father. He was towering over her, and nobody could tower like way-tall Daddy with his broad, I-used-to-be-a-football-star shoulders and his sharp blue eyes, so unlike Sophie’s soft brown ones. In fact, Sophie always thought that if somebody lined up a dozen fathers and asked a stranger to pick out which one was hers, they’d never get the right one.

“We’re all headed up to the fort,” Daddy said.

“Can’t I just stay and look at the river for a couple more minutes?” Sophie said.

Daddy shook his big dark head. “No, because next thing I know you’ll be in it. We’re working as a team today.”

Sophie muttered an “okay” and tried to wriggle her shoulder out of his hand, but he had the Daddy Grip on it.

“No way, Soph,” he said. “I don’t want a repeat of that Williamsburg thing.”

Sophie didn’t remind him that she had grown WAY up since THAT happened