She saw Garnett standing three cars down. She knew he’d seen her first, his unmistakable reddish blond hair pushed away from his face. With her eyes made keen by magic from Innis and Momma Sorrow, she saw the dampness settle on his temples. His smile beamed for her alone, and she began to give in to her instinct to run to him. Before she could move, he took long and eager strides to her. All their hurtful words before he last left vanished. When they embraced, they felt an exchanged tremble between them.
“Adelyn, Sugar. Your telegram at the last minute surprised me. So glad you came. And in all this heat?”
Her distrust reared its head again as Adelyn gauged whether he looked for any other female who might be lingering—some other woman hoping that Adelyn was a sister or former school friend on her way to town. She spied a woman hanging back near the car where Garnett stepped down, a tall woman with a heaviness to her hips. She wore a flowered light Alice blue dress, turning her head but not before Adelyn saw her hard smile. Immediately, she searched Garnett’s face. The new and heightened powers made it so she could reach into his soul to see her own image.
Discreetly, she pulled away to let some sunshine between them in this public place. She found it mostly curious that the woman’s presence did not bother her as much now that she took the time to read into her.
“We missed you. The boys, Mama, all of us.”
Garnett’s smile grew almost to a laugh. “The boys? Miss me, yet not here?” He pulled her closer to himself again. “How about you, darlin’?” His kiss, light and secret, conformed almost to propriety, always the gentleman. “You know you can always travel with me.”
“Well, Garnett, then I wouldn’t have the pleasure of surprising you, and that makes all the time apart almost worthwhile.”
A porter brought up Garnett’s large valise and Garnett tipped him. “Much thanks, Deacon. Let me know after you take that boy of yours to Dr. Parker, 'cause he’ll be waiting on you.”
Her expression asked a question he answered.
“Deacon has a sixteen-year-old son who hurt his leg playing baseball with his friend. Sprained it and it’s not healing properly. I learned about it in Baltimore, and when we stopped there, I rang up Dr. Parker. He’ll see the boy.” He kept his arm still around her waist. “Now what do you have in mind for us?”
Adelyn thought of the Crawford family, how they were known for quiet acts of kindness for those in need. This simple gesture mollified some of her forced coquetry. With no pretense, she looked one last time for the tall woman; a porter lifted her bags back on the train. So, traveling a bit farther down the line.
Smoothly she said, “We can have some light dinner at the Forsythe Hotel then go find us a speakeasy. 'Cause you know I love to dance.”
“I have a little surprise of my own. Now, I know you’re not fixing to fill me up on watercress sandwiches. When I knew you would come for me, I booked us the night at the hotel. Let’s go over, you can buy some lacy thing at the shop next door, to wear just for me.” He nuzzled her cheek; she felt his warm breath. “Don’t want to be full up with food, like Uncle Tyree. I know he’s not getting any loving, these days.” Adelyn caught the seasoned edge to his voice, along with an urgency.
Adelyn didn’t blush. Instead they both laughed. “I’m thinking something like a gin drink and a long afternoon in one of those rooms full of fans and shadows.” His arm surrounded her waist.
She watched him watching her as they left the station in the car with Garnett driving for the short ride to the Forsythe Hotel. He rounded a corner; they paused in the shade of low-hanging moss and he kissed her hand. Stopping, he kissed her cheek. “Something is different, very different.” He murmured in her ear.
Adelyn felt the shadows follow them through the lobby, some specters ─ the wisp of the young girl in white—and others real. Jack Riley, a tall man with broad shoulders and dark hair, walked up to her and tipped his hat. A successful attorney and businessman, prominent in Tulip Junction, and down in Savannah, he knew everyone’s business. His eyes just glowed in Adelyn’s direction.
“Why, Adelyn, didn’t see you at the Church supper two weeks ago. You feeling okay? I almost inquired at the house when I visited with your daddy. How is Captain Jackson?” He tipped his hat at Garnett as an afterthought. Garnett’s eyes narrowed, and he had no smile on his face.
“Daddy’s fine. We all are. Just didn’t have the time to get to the dinner. It did seem promising though. A good turn-out, they told me.”
“Well yes, but would have been better with you there.” And as an aside, “Of course, we missed your boys.” Then he skipped a beat and said, “Hi there; I would guess you’re Garnett. I know your daddy and knew your brother. Fine man, Innis.”
The men exchanged false sounding pleasantries that fooled no one. Least of all me, Adelyn said to herself. She made short work of their dueling. “My, you two are wrapped up in your ole’ businesses, aren’t you?” She tugged lightly on Garnett’s sleeve. “Let’s not keep Jack.” Then turning to the other man, “Jack, I’ll see you next Sunday in church, promise.”
The ride up in the elevator remained tense but quiet enough, but the storm bore down on them once they stepped into the room. Garnett tipped the bellboy whose wide-eyed wonder betrayed his generosity. “Get us some ice and Tanqueray.” Even with the bottle of gin, she knew Garnett tipped him handsomely.
“Feeling generous?” She removed her wide-brimmed hat and shucked off her shoes, sat on the bed and bent toward her thigh as she pulled up and rolled her stocking, first one long leg and then the other. She found herself suddenly on her feet as he pulled her abruptly to him.
“What game is this? Huh?” He tightened his hold on her arm and let go when he saw her wince. “Forgive me.” His breathing sounded rough and his voice parched. “You’re different.”
Adelyn straightened her hair as she loosened the pins that held it, and it fell down on her shoulders, all golden brown and red. “You said that before. How am I different?”
“The moment I stepped off that damn train, there too, not just now with that, that…” He gestured with his hand toward the door as if Jack Riley were lying in wait on the other side. “Jack Riley.” She finished the sentence for him. He gently embraced her. “What has happened to you?”
“Garnett Foster Crawford, you mind telling me what you mean so I understand?” But all the while she knew. She knew Innis had breathed his own brand of love into her, making her feel whole again in some way she didn’t understand.
“You do love me, still?” He sat down with her on the bed and buried his face into her hair, picked it up and caressed it to his cheek. “Because, I swear, I feel like you’ve been with someone.”
Adelyn touched his face while her mind conjured a vision of the woman in the Alice blue dress. “Did you know her? The woman at the far end of the train?” The words belied the caress, and she regretted the words as she spoke them. She tugged on his shirt to keep him near, as he attempted to move away.
She needed him to stay put, not to give in to his temper or, she thought, his guilt about the woman, if he had any. Her tug became a signal that went beyond whatever transgressions they each held close to their respective chests, wanting to covet the memory of unspoken and illicit assignations, and still hold on to one another. Garnett proved all that with the fierce way he grabbed the back of her neck to pull her face and lips to his. His kiss, hard and bruising, forced out of mind the Jack Rileys of the world who might intrude on Garnett’s ‘home sweet home’ sense of Adelyn. Yet secretly he grabbed at her wantonness and celebrated it because it excited him in every way, and she knew this.
In answer to his question of whether she’d been with someone, she asked her own question. “How could you know something like that?” She said this softly, and it became part of the lovemaking song instead of a confrontation.
Clothes came off, her shimmy, his shirt, and trousers; they tore at one another’s clothes until their bodies could only feel one another’s skin, the sweat, and the sweet smell of it all. And for the time it all took, they both erased thoughts of each other’s real or imagined adversaries.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish