ADELYN AND GARNETT
Adelyn heard her mother’s voice with the same old annoying message.
“Don’t be offering just any ruffian a ride down to Savannah.” To which Adelyn smiled back, “Oh, Mama, just nice ruffians with a million in a pillow, or a female ruffian listed in the Savannah Social Registry?”
Her mother swung her damp handkerchief this way and that at pesky flies, real or imagined, and became even more flustered. “Now, missy, you mind yourself. Don’t be making fun of my worries. Why do you refuse to take someone with you? Cousin James over the other side of Tulip Junction offered to drive down with you.”
Adelyn embraced her soggy mother and straightened the lace collar of her tea dress. “You know I love you, Mama. Don’t fret on me, ’cause everything will turn out just fine. Haven’t I always been capable of taking care of myself?” She brushed aside the mention of James. How would she stay over in Savannah with James making an awkward third wheel?
Her mother muttered something sweet, saying she knew Adelyn could take care of herself. “But no matter, be careful, these are dangerous times.”
Adelyn agreed as much on the surface as in her heart. More bands of rough-looking people congregated along the railroad tracks, more every time she drove down that way, but who wouldn’t look rough, living alongside the road? How long would my hair or clothes look appealing living in a tent beside a creek and railroad track?
Adelyn hugged Tyler, who skipped away, his new mode of getting around, but Trey stood near her with a pout and a furrowed brow.
“Come to me, sweetheart,” she beckoned. “I know you miss your daddy. We’ll be back as quick as you can think of bees in the honey.” Trey hugged her tighter than usual; so strong, though lanky like his father. Her smile changed to a sad beat in her heart. Garnett’s absence made her careless and sad, with her incessant wandering and riding. She’d become a phantom mother with that dead feeling inside ever present these last three months. But not since Innis.
She looked everywhere for Innis the whole way to Savannah. At first fearful that her wish to see him yet again would be granted but when he didn’t show, not even a whisper on the wind of him, or a flicker of a smile in the mirror, she grew forlorn, then annoyed. If he were watching, she realized, he would be amused. She fervently hoped his fading away visually meant she could keep him out of her thoughts.
The quiet road held no strangers, though a few farm workers she knew exchanged waves with her. Sometimes she’d call out the name of the man, woman, or child if she knew it, in the country way. She felt the power of the big automobile as it thrust itself down the road, shortening the space between her husband and herself. Her heart quickened. Adelyn thought of the little bag tucked inside the boot and then of Momma’s little séance when Momma sat upright, eye closed tight, and said, “You love one, you love both.”
Adelyn remembered the worried and embarrassed look on Delia’s face. “I never thought of that.”
Adelyn averted her eyes, pretending not to notice, but yes, both Delia and Momma knew what she and Innis shared. Driving along the dusty road now, she wondered whether Garnett would know.
The ride, without mishap, gave Adelyn time to straighten her hair and dress in the railroad station comfort room. The mirror image looking back showed a young woman, no lines to her beautiful face, her large brown eyes bright with yellow flecks in them, so deep that, as Garnett said more than once, he could drown in their depth. She traced her finger over her lips and felt a tingle of wanting for him that made her blush. Adelyn looked quickly both ways to see if anyone noticed.
A tired old woman sat in a deep chair, waiting on someone, maybe a granddaughter, crocheting a lace collar. Every once in a while, Adelyn heard her call out softly, in a high-pitched and barely audible voice, “Lucianne, have you done fall in?” A girl finally appeared, a thin wisp of a sixteen-year-old at best, wearing her newest dress. Adelyn peered at them through the mirror and the grandmother reached to straighten the girl’s hem. “Just look at this dress, all my ironing for nothing, looks like.”
The girl seemed to float toward the wash basin and dwelled longer, looking deep into Adelyn’s own eyes until she caught Adelyn’s gaze in the mirror alongside her.
I’m really not here; my granny just thinks so hard that I am. You were me, once, you know.
Startled at reading the girl’s thoughts so easily, Adelyn looked closer; but in the thick haze of the darkened room, she realized she stood alone before the mirror. The old woman, who never raised her head, remained still hunched down, and still crocheting. Did I imagine this? She needed to know.
“Excuse me, ma’am, are you waiting for someone?” At first, the woman did not look up; and Adelyn thought she might be hard of hearing. She cleared her voice and opened her mouth to speak again; but the woman raised her eye and looked at her with a weary smile.
“I haven’t been waiting on anyone for a very long time, child. Just the train. I’m expecting to ride up this evening to Elizabethtown in North Carolina.”
Adelyn collected herself. “I am sorry, didn’t mean to intrude.” She looked into the mirror again and finished with a strand of hair. A flicker of shadow passed quickly out of her sight; she swore she saw the girl’s white day dress.
The woman removed her eyeglasses and settled her shoulders as though she eased a muscle held too long in one position. “Nothing to fuss with. My granddaughter used to ride up with me, guess my thoughts were with her. Dear heart, my Lucianne, been gone since the Spanish flu took her from me. So young.”
As the old woman spoke, Adelyn recalled the girl. Her dress with an old-timey look to it, one that she would have worn at the same age. Could she believe what the girl said? A long silence settled between them as the woman, no doubt, thought back to the day she straightened the girl’s dress. Adelyn knew that all happened, just in a different time, was all.
“I’m so sorry for your loss.” Adelyn’s voice came muted.
“It’s been a long time, but the sorrow has its own memory.” The grandmother looked toward the heavy wooden blinds. “No relief from that heat, is there?”
“Guess it will stay with us till sundown, but tomorrow will bring rain,” Adelyn said, then, “have a safe journey, ma’am.
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