All the while Adelyn’s senses of hearing and smell expanded, heightened. She missed not one iota of the route they took nor of the house when they came to it, and all the crops and animals in between. It all looked more, more intense, more magical, yet more real somehow, than the everyday and familiar.
“Now tell me, 'cause I know I’m supposed to remember her. Is she your neighbor?”
Adelyn said it to be polite and maybe somewhat teasing. She knew the Howard family property and farms had no neighbors living within it.
“Don’t be foolish. You know Momma and her little store out back where she processes her herbs.” Delia swung open the wrought-iron gate and they passed through.
Adelyn swore the gate swung shut of itself. Magic permeated the day and everything in it. She remembered Momma now: though a young girl at the time, Adelyn recalled her mother taking her to Momma for some potion to ease her menstrual cramps. Momma also fixed a tincture of something for her mother, which her mother called her ‘headache powder.’ Now a woman of twenty-eight, Adelyn knew the potion had eased her mother’s hot flashes, and whatever else it could do for her remained unthought-of and unsaid.
Delia’s knuckles beat a sharp tap-tap on the door, which looked freshly painted. Adelyn surveyed the front yard of just-cut grass and the tang of it brought back memories of boys and girls, Garnett and her, too, running in summer along the railroad tracks or climbing trees and being shouted at by scolding neighbors for doing so. Garnett and me as children, I’d forgotten. She heard some movement inside, light steps, and the door opened. A woman of medium brown skin greeted them. Adelyn reckoned her to be at least sixty or even more, though her skin looked lustrous and young. Momma Sorrow raised one brow high up surveying Adelyn because, of course, she already knew she, not Delia, came to see her, the one with a need to know.
Adelyn stood perfectly still as Momma lightly touched her shoulder to guide her into the cool and darkened room. A single small lamp lit the round table on which it sat and Momma conducted the two young women to the table. Delia finally interrupted the silence.
“Momma, this is Adelyn Jackson from over Tulip Junction.” In her haste to move things along, Delia had forgotten to add the Crawford name that stuck to Adelyn like so much honey stuck to her fingers and only hot water and soap washed it off.
“Crawford. My married name is Crawford.” Adelyn looked around the room and up close at some of the portraits lining the walls and fireplace, photos next to much older paintings. Even these looked like a camera had caught the solemn or the sad look in the eyes of the man or woman or child. All young people, most in their twenties and a few maybe mid-thirties. Adelyn knew right away they had lived well but had all died. They were white and black and some looked like Chinese, and a few Indians, mostly sleek, black-haired Seminole.
“That may be.” Momma said, reading Adelyn’s thoughts. She settled her cool fingers on Adelyn’s pulse. She smiled sweetly, a knowing in her eyes not easily ignored. Adelyn observed this woman surmised more about her than Adelyn supposed about herself. “You have been visited and love came of it.”
Adelyn blushed. “How could you know?” To her own surprise, she began to cry. “I wish it to be more than a dream.”
“Now, chère, don’t be wasting wishes on what you already have.” Momma Sorrow gently rubbed Adelyn’s back, which had gone, all stiff and rigid from nerves. “Sit down now and let me do the telling, not all, mind you, just what you need to know.” Momma fussed with a pitcher of sweetened tea and poured three glasses onto ice. The cubes floated up against the sides of the glass.
Adelyn sensed everything in this house carried with it a message of a soothing nature. Smells of fresh bread just baked, cooling in the kitchen, mingled with lavender on pillowcases in, she guessed, an upstairs bedroom. Then she smelled something different but not unknown.
“That is his favorite scent, French cologne, blended with your powder.” Momma Sorrow referred to the light lilac-scented dusting powder Adelyn had used after the hasty bath she took after Innis made love to her on the hammock.
“No, he is not here.” She answered Adelyn’s question before it had fully formed in her own mind. “For now.”
“Let’s begin.” Momma Sorrow sipped her sweet tea with the two young women. She held them with her eyes, and then closed them; her lips began to murmur a soft prayer. “We first acknowledge Him who stands over all, and ask for guidance.”
A fan softly whirring in front of a block of ice cooled the otherwise quiet room.
“We ask for one to come forward, or if not in a presence, that he come in spirit and fill me with his thoughts. You have shown yourself to this loved one. Once more, tell us what you want. Tell us how we can help you.”
A deeper quiet descended on them. Adelyn could see the white flouncy curtains rustle with the fanning breeze, and then a shadow came across her vision, passing the window, now inside the house and the room. Try as she might, Momma’s sultry voice no longer relaxed her. Adelyn felt almost a dread. Something white approached and floated in front of her, not physically, it floated mentally. She could never explain to herself or anyone. Only when she recognized Innis again did her fear leave her.
“Tell us.” Momma incanted again.
Words flew into Adelyn’s mind, words like images, and they conjured strong emotions. She felt deep sadness, and then she laughed—then smiled. She felt a flirtation; she saw a silly dance in a circle—heard voices in song. In the middle of it she sensed Innis, from as far back as she could remember him. It all went on for so long, like a lifetime, surprising her when she saw Momma and Delia looking intently at her.
Delia took her hand and gently squeezed it.
“Are you all right, Sugar? You had us worried, or maybe just me; Momma’s used to having people here with spells on them. Isn’t that so, Momma?”
“I went there, went back.” Adelyn sipped some of her tea, the ice still solid in the glass. All this happened in a moment. “I thought it all took hours. We went back in time. Innis tugging my curls, teasing me at Christmastime when I was sixteen, then whispering to me, what he always did from that time till now.”
Delia fanned herself with her open hand. “What did he whisper,
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