Here I Am, Here You Are: One.

2017-08-05 05.22.22 pm

ONE

Even in modern day, the deep south Alabama is stuck, as if in a vortex of time, in its traditions and way of life. Sleepy summers spent out on the lawn, basking in the pure golden sun, sipping a tall cold glass of sweet tea. Parents watch their children play in swimming pools as day turns to evening and the sound of cicadas fills the air like a choreographed symphony, each finely tuned stringed instrument buzzing in crescendos. And down there, yes, right there on North Tenth Street, in the historic district of Willow, Alabama, practically dead center in the buckle of the Bible Belt, sits an old victorian home as proud as the day it was built, except with crumbling concrete at every turn, peeling layers of paint, and more kudzu than the eye can see.

An elderly couple slowly creeps up to the four way stop and even through their weak ears they hear the quarrels of young love. She yells, he yells louder, she cries, he yells louder followed by a stomp, a slam, and the sound of broken glass. And, as if their love had meant nothing those four years of what she thought was bliss, her young ginger-haired husband, dressed only in dark blue jeans and a crisp white undershirt barrels out the front door leaving it wide open. He gazes around, waves at the elderly couple, and lights a menthol cigarette before getting in his rusted pick up truck and leaving in a plume of exhaust emissions.

A few seconds later, Harper steps out the front door and trots down the grey concrete steps in her bare feet and pretty yellow sundress. Her strawberry blonde mane bounces and waves in the gentle breeze. She looks up the street and down but Sandy is gone. He had breezed so effortlessly out of her life just as easily as he had entered it. Harper was alone on that corner, save for the sounds of her neighbor’s giggling children and that one cricket that took up residence on her front lawn. Even the elderly couple had passed her and were now out of sight.

Her mind raced here and there with thoughts of how and why. Realizing she was standing bare foot on the sidewalk in the middle of the day, gazing in awe at the death of her marriage, Harper did the only thing she could make her body do. She turned to sit on the crumbling concrete stairs that led to her front porch. A few tears escaped against her will and she scolded them about not giving Sandy the benefit of knowing just how broken her heart was. But really, how could her tender and wounded heart not cry? So, there she sat, her arms folded, her feet warm from the hot concrete, a little sweat building around her hairline, and a few tears released out of sheer exhaustion. Everything in her wanted to stand to her feet, look to the gorgeous blue sky and scream so loud in anger that the puffy white clouds would part and Sandy, wherever he was, would hear her cry and feel the cold shiver of a woman scorned.

Instead, she sat quietly on her steps, holding it all in, ever the southern bell. When night came and Sandy was nowhere in sight, Harper picked up her weakened limbs and shuffled into her large and lonesome house. She closed the door behind herself and paused a moment wondering if she should lock the door or not. But it was clear, Sandy really was just… gone. Something in the air had changed that day and Harper knew it, although she was terrified to admit it, she knew his love for her would only become a distant memory and that the romance of their love story was just that, a story. Harper turned the old lock on the door and the deadbolt clicked. Sandy would never return to that home again. In the stillness, feeling the pulsing beat of her own blood pumping through her veins, and frightened by the sudden chill in the once warm air, Harper had longed for the only person in her world she knew could talk her off the ledge of despair, her big sister, personal life coach, her one woman cheerleader, and life-long friend. She ran to the phone with tears streaming down her face. All embarrassment evaporated the second she heard her sister’s calming voice say one simple word: “Hello?”

“Hi, it’s me.” Harper said.

“What happened?” Her sister said. She knew by the quiver in the Harper’s voice that it was bad, dreadfully bad. “Do you need me to come get you?”

“He left…” Harper said.

Her sister sighed. Harper could tell her sister had a couple of rogue tears rolling down her cheeks. “My poor little sister.”

Those words broke Harper. The severity of the situation cut deeper in that moment between the sisters, and Harper’s bottled up roller-coaster of emotions spilled over. Her sister listened not trying to fix things or trying give Harper an ‘I told you so’ speech. She did what any good and kind sister would do, she simply let Harper talk it out.

Advertisements

Here I Am, Here You Are: Eleven.

2017-08-05 05.22.22 pm

Eleven

 

By the time Harper, Bret, and Kit reached Mr. Cardone’s farm, Dean had woken up. It was as if a supernatural force had shaken his soul and spirit awake from a bad dream. He gasped, loud and guttural, his eyes sprung open, wild, terrified. In his raspy voice he cried for his mommy and lunged into Bret’s arms.

“Dean it’s okay, Daddy’s here. Just hang on to me. It’s gonna be okay, baby boy. We gotta help mommy right now.”

Bret went into full on panic as the shock of the afternoon’s events wore off for the shortest of  moments and the wind was ripped from his lungs, violent, quick. He held both his wife and his young son. His throat clenched in a futile attempt to hold back a gush of tears.

“We’re here!” Kit said. His voice at this point remained in a loud drill sergeant baritone. Harper looked at Mr. Cardone’s and realized how her parents had escaped sheer devastation.

“Oh my god. It’s gone. It’s all gone.” Harper said. She looked to Kit for an answer.

“The hospital’s too far from here. What about Lee?” Bret said. He could feel his wife’s pulse weakening.

“The storm cellar!” Kit shouted. “Y’all wait here.” Kit took off.

Harper watched him with intensity. Her heart feeling a bit of calm knowing that Kit was with them and if anyone could save her family, it was him.

From darkness of the storm shelter Mr. Cardone, his wife of 53 years, their two dogs and one cat heard the rustling of Kit as he moved tree limbs from the cellar door. Finally the way was clear and Kit opened the cellar door. The light of the afternoon sun shone through the darkness and Mr. Cardone nudged his wife ahead of himself. Kit helped her up as her trio of animals sheepishly followed.

“Mr. Cardone, we need your help! Mr. Charles’ daughter and grandson took a big ole branch to the head.”
Without even a bit of hesitation Mr. Cardone and his wife sprinted to the injured young wife and child.
“Young man, run back to the cellar and grab the first aid kit. Also bring a couple gallons of water.” Mr. Cardone jumped into action. He had Bret lay Lee on the ground and he lifted her eye lids. He did the usual checks a seasoned doctor would do. He then motioned for Mrs. Cardone to give a triage check to Dean.

“Hi sweetie. Aren’t you a cutie. Can you sit here for me and show me what a big boy you are?” Mrs. Cardone, a retired nurse and long time Sunday school teacher examined Dean with tenderness and care.

Kit returned with the first aid kit and Mr. Cardone broke a packet of smelling salts to jolt Lee from her unconscious state. She woke up gasping. Instantly she vomited. They rolled her on her side. Mr. Cardone cleaned the blood and head wound with peroxide and his shirt. He bandaged her up. She tried to speak but the words came out jumbled, incoherent.

“We need a working phone!” She needs to see a neurologist immediately. “This is turning out to be more than just a concussion.”

“Is she gonna be okay?” Bret asked. Harper reached out to hold him.
“If we don’t move soon and find out what’s going on inside her.…” Mr. Cardone said.

Mrs. Cardone finished up with Dean and said: “The boy is fine. No visible signs of injury and he’s as coherent and smart as any five year old.”
“My plane!” Mr. Cardone said. He looked at Kit and pointed toward the crumbled remnants of a barn. “There’s a CB radio in my plane. Go!”
Kit ran off to make a call for help. Mr. Cardone remained with Lee. He gave her hand to Bret and whispered: “Hold on to your gal’s hand. You don’t let go.” He then took a gallon of water and chugged it before pouring it on his head. He nearly collapsed.

“I’m fine. I’m fine. Just need to sit is all.” He said. Harper walked over to him. Her voice shaking still. She reached out and hugged Mr. Cardone.

“You hang in there, honey. It’s gonna be okay. We all made this far.” Mr. Cardone sat in the golf cart. He observed his farm land. It was flattened. Once thriving with the old charm of owners that had spent a life time there. It was disheveled and dirty and gone. Mrs. Cardone sat down with her husband and held his hand.

“We’ll build again.” Mrs. Cardone said.

“I got them! There’s an ambulance on the way.” Kit said. His voice was booming.

It was at that single moment Bret lost it. He fell down in the grass next to his love. He cried and cried. “You stay with me, Lee, okay? You stay with me cause help is coming. You don’t leave me. You stay with me and Dean and the twins. You stay with us!” His growing from a desperate cry to an angry demand.

The ambulance arrived in a rather short amount of time considering the circumstances. Harper stood silent while the EMTs worked on Lee giving her an IV, strapping her to a board, and wrapping her head so her neck wouldn’t move in transportation. The whole ordeal was a well orchestrated series of moves that happened so fast it was only after the ambulance took off that Harper realized she didn’t tell Lee just how much she loved her. Harper tried to keep her active imagination from wandering but she couldn’t help but think of the worst. Her sister nearly died and she didn’t even get to tell her how much she loved her. Harper knew those thoughts needed to be pushed aside as they would do nothing to help anyone. And then she looked down and realized Dean was in her arms. His sweet face, muddied, tired, scared. She held him tight as the ambulance sped away, lights flashing, sirens blaring.

Everyone was silent for a few minutes each lost in their own thoughts. Mr. Cardone and Harper’s daddy were life-long homesteaders. They lived off the fruit of their lands and were quite content to do so. Many times they would swap food and even bring a portion of the abundance to the  homeless shelter in town. They were friends though both could go hours without talking, just being, just enjoying each other’s company.

“Mr. and Mrs. Cardone?” Harper said. She looked into the eyes of the weary seniors and felt as if she were looking at her own parents. “It passed our house.”

“Well, thank the Lord for some good news.” Mrs. Cardone said.
“There’s plenty of room. Why don’t you come and stay with us?” Harper asked.
Mr. Cardone look at his wife and she smiled at him. “For a few days until we can get up to our daughter in Birmingham.” Mr. Cardone said.
“As long as you want or need. Mama and Daddy will be glad to know you’re safe.”
Kit hoped in the drivers seat of the golf cart and they took off. The Cordones sat in the back of the golf cart facing the other direction and it was then they got a look at just how much they lost. Mrs. Cardone, usually an optimist, put her head on her husband’s shoulder. Mrs. Cardone cried. He patted her cheek and kissed the top of her head. Harper looked back at them. Love. She had forgotten what it was like to be truly loved by another person. How her heart ached that she was alone. Her eyes filled to the rim with tears and then the salty drops of water rolled down her pale cheeks. Kit looked at her. He loved her for her years but never had the courage to approach her with a request of courtship. Without a thought he reached out to her and took her hand in his. At first Harper flinched, she was startled, but then she allowed herself to soak in the pleasure of physical touch. A tingle ran from the crown of her head to the littlest toes on her feet.

Could it be that in the midst of a ruined life love is presenting itself? Harper wondered about this. She found her mind wandering over and over again to the attraction she felt toward Kit but then as quickly reminded herself they had just lived through a natural disaster. How childish for her to be thinking about love and romance and a crush on a handsome boy when all around her there was such pain and the debris of devastated lives. But whether she wanted it or not she had stumbled smack dab in the middle of a romantic lightning storm and there were sparks flying everywhere.

Here I Am, Here You Are: Ten.

2017-08-05 05.22.22 pm

Ten

Harper’s daddy was farmer. It was a lifestyle he was born into, passed down from the five previous generations which, through clever investments, real estate sales, and ingenuity had left him a man quite well off. He was financially secure and able to retire young. For several months he and his bride traveled the country but melancholy got in the way and both just wanted to be back home and near their girls. It was at that time Harper’s daddy expanded their childhood home, built the flower gardens, added crops of his favorite veggies and fruits, and brought in some traditional farm animals.

The family called it his miniature farm as it was just quaint enough, just right sized to be a farm but not so big it felt like work to keep it up. Harper and Lee would often refer to it as ‘cute.’ Their daddy didn’t much appreciate the word cute being associated with his estate but when the girls weren’t looking he’d smile at the thought of it. After a year of keeping up the farm on his own he realized it was just a touch too much work for him and that’s when he hired Kit to be his farm manager. Kit was a farmer through and through, had it in his blood. A strong young man that had that rare gift of being good at anything he set his hands to do.

Harper played jump rope with her six year old fraternal twin nieces. Audrey, older by three minutes and marked by her shyness and raven hair. She’s got Bret’s chocolate brown eyes. Grace, a fiery red head with green eyes and freckles just like Lee has a large personality for a little girl. Dean, a clever and inquisitive five year old with the cutest dimples and curly brown locks played in the grass looking for caterpillars.

Harper looked over at him, she smiled. “Dean, you sure you don’t want to try to jump rope with us?”
Grace chimed in: “Boys don’t play jump rope, Aunt Harper.”
“Boys can play jump rope too, Grace.” Audrey said. Her voice calm, matter of fact. “I’m digging …” Dean said. His cute raspy voice trailing off.

Lee stepped out of the front door and observed her children. Her heart beat an extra beat, a sense of overwhelming love for each of them rushed through her body. “I got the basket all packed!” Lee said.

Everyone cheered. Lee joined the group and they started walking through the garden and past evergreens. They stopped to pick roses, snap photos of the kids, and look at a carving on a tree trunk that Lee and Harper had made some twenty years earlier. And finally, they were at the sprawling body of water that could only be considered a small lake albeit some would call it a large pond.

Harper dragged a row boat to the edge of the water and Lee helped the three children in. They took off, paddling slowly, discussing nature, basking in the sun. Harper rowed one ore and Lee rowed the other. The kids were filled with questions about nature and what creatures lurked below the water. They stopped in the middle of the pond and Harper pulled out a baggie of tiny crumbs and fish food. The kids threw the crumbs on the surface of the water and in seconds tiny mouths were popping up and down snagging the bits of food.

Their serenity and fun was interrupted by an enormous crack of thunder that came from so far away but it rested right above them. It startled everyone in the row boat which caused the boat to rock back and forth.

“It’s okay, guys, it’s just a little thunder.” Lee said. She reached out for Dean who wanted to nestle in her arms.
Harper took over the rowing and the boat moved gently across the water. As she rowed she noticed it had become silent out there in the country of her dad’s farm. The water was still. And then a massive flock of birds burst from the trees on the other side of the pond. The flock flew in unison away from the water. What happened next happened as quickly as a camera flash… the clouds grew dark, the town siren went off, a tornado had been spotted. It started raining. Heavy drops fell upon the tiny boat. The children cried out for Lee and clung to her.

“We’re too far from the other side to get to the cellar!” Harper said. Her voice trembling.

“Oh my god.” Lee said. She looked up to the powerful sky and moving clouds. “It’s green. Harper, it’s green out here!”

“I know! Row with me!” Harper shouted.

Lee took the other row and paddled with all of her strength saying over and again to her babies that it was going to be okay. As if they had targets on their backs, it hit. The wind whipped around them, the barreling sound of a freight train, and the enormous funnel cloud. It was there. For a brief moment Harper stared at it. It came toward them with all the force nature could muster. Far enough that it couldn’t touch them but close enough that they could see bales of hay, animals, trucks, and debris being tossed like toys in the air.

“Row! Row!” Harper said. Her voice pounding and loud but no match for the twister.

Finally, they made it to the other side. Lee grabbed her children as Harper steadied the boat. But there was nowhere to go. The other side of the lake was an orchard, trees, grass, no shelter. The cyclone moved closer, it’s roar deafening, the enormity of its power incomparable. The children clung to Lee. She ran toward the orchard.

“Stop! Where are you going?” Harper said.
“We have to run!”
“Not there. Not by the trees!” The sisters locked eyes.

“My babies, Harper!” Lee shouted.

Neither was familiar enough with the property to know where to go for safety. The children cried in terror. Lee and Harper held hands, tears rolling down their faces. From the distance they heard a voice. They didn’t recognize it but when they found it, they saw Kit.

“Come on! Hurry! It’s almost on us!” Kit said.

Kit ran toward Lee, Harper, and the Children. He swooped up the little girls and charged toward a place of refuge hidden in the ground. Harper and Lee ran after Kit. The magnificent whirlwind inching closer and closer.

Kit practically threw the little girls in the root cellar. He waited with open arms for Harper, Lee, and little Dean. Harper reached the root cellar before Lee and as she turned around she saw her sister and nephew thrown to the ground by a renegade tree branch. Harper screamed the loudest scream to ever come from her body. A scream of terror, of horror, of fear. And then Kit ran out for Lee and Dean. The tornado was a mere thirty feet away. In a miraculous sort of maneuver Kit grabbed Lee and Dean, both unconscious, and made it to the root cellar just in time for the twister to pass over them.

In the darkness the cellar felt damp. The shrieking of the winds howled above them. Tears mixed with adrenaline and the uncontrollable sobs of the little girls. Harper held her sister. Lee’s lifeless body slumped in Harper’s arms. Dean rested in Kit’s. They all stood silent, afraid to move even a millimeter. What couldn’t have been more than twenty seconds dragged on with all the frustration of a humid summer day in the deep south when the air conditioner goes out. And then it was silent.
Kit broke the tension: “It’s gone. I don’t hear nothing anymore. It’s over.”

Harper stared into his eyes at that moment and knew the horror had only just begun. Kit passed off Dean to Harper. She nestled him in her arms while Kit attempted to open the root cellar door. He pushed with all his might but it didn’t budge.

Audrey said plainly: “Are we trapped?” Grace reached out to hold on tight to her sister’s hand.

“We’re stuck but we ain’t trapped.” Kit said. His voice as powerful as ever calmed each of the ladies.

Kit pushed on the door. He threw his shoulder into it. He kicked it with all his might and then it opened a little. A sharp beam of light cut through the darkness of the cellar and fall on Lee and Harper. It was then Harper noticed the puddle of blood that leaked from her sister’s body. She screamed. It was frightening to see Lee lifeless, drenched in blood and dirt. Her nieces cried out in fear when they saw their mama in that condition.

“Get us out of here! She needs help! Please!” Harper said, her voice a guttural howl.

A sound only produced in the those moments when fear mixes with horror and a dose of adrenaline. She placed Lee on the ground next to Dean, told the little girls to hold each others hands, and then joined Kit in pushing open the cellar door. It was a massive dead cow that partially blocked the door. It too was lifeless, literally dead weight, its head smashed in, its face crushed, its legs broken. They nudged the thousand pound carcass just enough to get through the door and escape to seek medical help. No words were spoken among the group of survivors. Instinct took over and Kit swept Lee in his arms. Harper followed suit with little Dean and the twins held hands.

They followed Kit’s lead as he ran through the wet grass. The farm was littered with the remnants of life that had gone from ordinary to disaster. Animals, photos, vehicles, trees, debris of all kinds strewn everywhere created an obstacle course for the group. They ran and ran and ran until finally they arrived at the childhood home of Lee and Harper. It stood like a beacon of light shining in the darkness of nature’s fury. It was tarnished, a bit broken, surrounded by the fragments of a once glorious homestead. But it was there.

From the storm shelter Bret and his in-laws emerged. Each had the same look of confusion. Harper shouted out to her family. They charged at each other. And then Bret saw his lifeless wife and young son. He nearly collapsed but his dad-in-law grabbed him, mustering enough strength for them both.

“A tree branch. Lee’s bleeding.” Harper said.

Kit dove in: “They’re breathing but they’re out cold. Probably a concussion. Old Mr. Cardone just a couple miles over is a retired doc. He’s our best bet.”

“We don’t have no vehicle.” Harper’s daddy said.
“The golf cart!” Kit exclaimed.
Ginny took her granddaughters hands and led them to the front porch of the house where she wrapped her arms around each of them and assured them everything would be okay. Kit and Harper follow Harper’s daddy to the car port where they found the golf cart safe and sound.

“I’ll drive.” Kit said. “Harper sit in the back with the boy.”

“I’ll take my wife.” Bret said. His voice shook.

It was that awkward mix of adrenaline and panic. They hopped in the golf cart and Kit hauled ass out of there bobbing and weaving through the debris. The patriarch of the family stood helpless as his family drove off into the unknown. For all they knew Mr. Cardone was dead and gone, swept away in the twister. He clasped his hands and mouthed a simple prayer to the Lord he so believed in:

“My baby girl and my sweet little grandson are in your hands… always. Make a way. Make a way.”

He wiped the tears he felt flowing down his face, hot, salty, stinging. After a moment of silence he looked around and for as far as his eyes could see he saw destruction and devastation. He realized how small he was up against nature and her power. Ginny saw him coming toward her and the two made eye contact. He nodded and Ginny sighed. They had each other and they held their granddaughters tight. The hardest part was waiting, not knowing, feeling like the high wire of life and death was narrower than ever before.

Here I Am, Here You Are: Nine.

2017-08-05 05.22.22 pm

Nine

 

Harper’s eyes popped open in the dark bedroom. She inhaled long and deep. Her eyes fell on the bright blue alarm clock; 4:13 am. She sat up in bed. She stretched. She hadn’t felt so refreshed in days. Harper wasn’t a midnight eater or a sleep walker but feeling so wide awake she had one thing on her mind; food. As Harper strolled down the stairs she wondered what goodies her mama had baked and left on the kitchen counter. When she arrived at the kitchen doorway she saw her sweet mama bathed in the warm glow of a kitchen nightlight, eating her glorious pecan pie.

“Hi, Mama.” Harper said.
“Hi, darling.”
Harper sat on the stool next to her mama. She wrapped her arms in her mama’s and rested her head on her mama’s strong shoulders.
“I wish I could take away your pain.” Ginny said.
Harper sighed. “I love you, Mama.” Harper said softly. “How’s the pie?”

Her mama nudged the pie over to Harper and handed her the fork. “Heavenly.” Her mama said. Harper dug in. With the first bite of the gooey, sweet, and buttery crunch of the pie Harper felt a rush of endorphins shower down on her. The buttery and perfectly flaky crust had that extra special homemade touch and melded perfectly with the fresh local pecans and the caramel sweetness of the filling that held the whole masterpiece together.

“I baked it while you slept. I had a feeling you might need something sweet.”

“Mama, how do you do it? And why haven’t you opened a bakery or something. This isn’t just pie, it’s gourmet pie!” Harper replied.

Her mama smiled at her. “I know you make fun of my cliches but they’re cliches for a reason.”
Harper giggled. She had no idea where her mama was going with this but she listened as she ate more pie.
“Are you laughing at me?”

“No. Yes. Continue, Mama.”

“Anyway, I was going to say I bake with love. There, I said it. Add that to my list of southern mama cliches.”

Harper and her mama locked eyes. They laughed. Harper opened her arms and gave her mama a big warm hug. After a moment Harper went back to her pie and her mama warmed some milk on the stove.

“Hey, Mama? How come you and Daddy didn’t tell me Kit was working for Daddy?”

“When did you see Kit?”
“Today. I mean, yesterday. When I was out taking pictures.”

Her mama poured the warm milk in two mugs. She brought one to Harper. They shared more pie. “Oh. I thought you knew. Why do you ask?”
“I don’t know. Just wondering.”
“I think we better drink this milk and get back to bed. Lee said she’d be here with the kids by eight.”
“It’s about time she gets here.” Harper said. “Why didn’t she call me and tell me she was coming?”
“You know your sister. She means well but gets so wrapped up in this and that and the

other thing… She’s a fantastic mom, though.”

“Mama, did she say if Bret is coming with her?” Harper asked.
“I would assume so, darling, he is her husband.”
“It’s embarrassing, Mama.” Harper said. She hung her head feeling a familiar sting of shame.

Though Harper fully understood it was Sandy who chose to end their marriage she still wanted to hide under a very heavy rock and not face Bret. Harper had never told a living soul that just days before her wedding Bret took her aside for an awkward conversation where he went on to thoroughly warn Harper about Sandy. Who was Bret kidding in expressing his worry about Sandy and Harper marrying? Harper was madly in love with Sandy and if God himself had visited Harper and given her a warning that Sandy isn’t the right match for her she would have literally questioned the creator of heaven and earth. Still though, the last thing Harper wanted to do was see Bret knowing just how right his warning was.

“Harper, we’re family and we love you. Life is full of good times and bad times but in the end things always work out for the best.” Her mama was right and Harper knew it. She breathed in the comfort of her mother’s words, she rested in the peaceful place of home.

The next morning Harper woke up to the sweet singing voice of her angelic and good natured sister. Lee sat in bed next to Harper while Harper slept soundly. She sang softly to wake Harper from her slumber. Harper smiled and opened one eye. Her big sister had always been a force in her life, an anchor, a bright star. She was funny, brave, and tough in ways Harper felt she could never be herself.

“Wake up, sleepy head.” Lee whispered. She held up a plate of Harper’s favorite mini breakfast quiche. “Can you smell it? They’re fresh from Mary-Jo’s. Cause I love you so much, sister, I had Bret drive a whole twenty-two minutes out of the way to bring you these yummy country ham and cheddar with caramelized onion breakfast quiche.”

“And…” Harper said. She reached for a quiche.
Lee jumped in taking a long breath before she said: “And an ice cold Coca-Cola! Hello, I know how to eat girl and ain’t nothing better than a buttery, flaky, cheesy, salty, hammy, breakfast pie with a near freezing Coke!”

The sisters chuckled. They ate the warm breakfast pies and followed each bite a fizzy, refreshing, and perfectly sweet sip of their favorite cola. They talked and talked the way sisters often do, hearts exposed, their words taking on a rhythm of give and take, a dance. Their conversation was almost lyrical, two hearts intertwined, bonded for life, giving and receiving emotions as only sisters could. And after a solid two hours of conversation a hush fell on them.

“I love you, Lee.” Harper said. Her voice was soft, fragile.

“I love you too, baby sister.” Lee replied. Harper rested her head on Lee’s shoulder. “I wish I could take this pain away from you. I feel helpless. All our lives I looked out for you and kicked butt for you and protected you… and now…”

“I’m so glad you’re here.” Harper said. She sat up and fiddled with her strawberry blond locks pulling her hair down the side of her right shoulder and into a pony tail. “Since I got here the strangest things have been happening. I feel like the most awful person too for it but it’s not something I wanted or was looking for.”

“Sister, what are you talking about?”
“I don’t know. Nothing. Just some really odd dreams.”
“Well, you always did have a wild imagination. Add a traumatic event and I’m sure your subconscious is just trying to sort it all out.”

“Hey, let’s me and you and the kids go to the pond and take out a row boat.”

Lee jumped in: “And have a picnic!”
“Yeah, it’ll be fun. Just like old times.” Harper hopped out of bed and headed for the bathroom. “I’ll be ready in a half hour.”
“Good.” Lee said. “I’ve been so tired lately. I want to take a little cat nap before we go.”

Harper hurried down the stairs with an extra bit of pep in her step that caused her to forget all about the awful thing Sandy had done to her. Lee was there and where Lee was everything was going to be all right. Harper’s foot hit the bottom step and in a flash she was face to face with her brother-in- law.

“Harper.”

“Bret! Good morning. How was the drive?” Harper asked. She reached out to hug him. He hugged her back.

“Yes. Morning. Not bad. The kids fell asleep as soon as we got here so I was able to get an hour nap while you and your sister had your girl talk.”

“Good. The kids are still sleeping?”
“Yes, out like lights.”
The word “so” fell from both their mouths making the awkward tension as thick as a down blanket.
Bret broke the tension as his heart was very much moved with compassion for Harper. He said in a deep soft voice: “No one deserves what Sandy did to you. But we’re here for you always, okay? Your sister and I are worried about you. If you need anything you know you just have to call.”

Bret brought Harper to the verge of tears with a lump clogged in her throat. She opened her arms and they hugged again. The tension melted away and Harper knew that once and for all she had no reason to feel embarrassed or ashamed. She allowed herself to feel happy again and went about preparing for the picnic and boat ride. It was a good day. Harper could see a glimmer of hope that good days would exist again

Here I Am, Here You Are: Eight.

2017-08-05 05.22.22 pm

Eight

 

The morning Lee crossed the line she felt was far beneath her character was like any other morning. She awoke to find Bret was already in the shower, always the early bird. She used the bathroom while he washed and they talked about the responsibilities of the day. The comfort of a familiarity that comes with a long standing relationship was evident in how they flowed, their movements like a dance, harmonious, rhythmic.

“What do you think about going out to daddy’s farm this weekend? Getting away with the kids?” Lee said. She flushed the toilet, washed her hands, and went on to brush her teeth.

“This weekend? I was thinking bout going to Bobby’s for the LSU game? He’s having some of the crew over for a barbecue.” Bret said.

“Oh. Never mind.” Lee said.

She stopped brushing. She looked at herself in the large vanity mirror. Her creamy white skin was supple, glowing, she was barely mid-thirties after all and as a teen she even won a few beauty pageants. She felt confident in that moment. She felt beautiful and sexy. She flung her strawberry locks around and teased her hair a bit with her hands. She took off her t-shirt and looked at her breasts, they were plump, not very big but proportioned to her frame and matched her ivory complexion. As she looked at her body and admired herself, she smirked. A confidence rose up in her and even though she felt a bit nervous about what Bret would say when he would stepped out of the shower to find her standing there topless, she remained there, seductive, alluring. As Bret wrapped himself in a towel Lee took it a step further and took off her pajama pants and panties. She was completely nude, just her and the toothbrush. She watched Bret in the mirror expecting him to notice her and ravage her.

Bret walked by barely noticing Lee as he hurried to the bedroom to dry off and get dressed for the day. Lee was mortified. She slammed the bathroom door closed and ran to the shower to wash off the humiliation. How could their once passionate, fiery love have turned into this pathetic excuse of a marriage where he walks by her naked body without even so much as a second look. In the midst of her tear filled shower Lee got angry and determined that she would go back to Aaron’s bakery and have that coffee with him. She reasoned that coffee and talking was simply coffee and talking, not an affair. And what did it matter, it wasn’t as if Bret wanted her anyway.

By the time she was packing lunches for the kids and making sure they were eating breakfast she had almost completely talked herself out of the idea of seeing Aaron. She looked over at Bret, his curly brown hair still a bit damp was parted and neat, he was wearing a great suit, tailored for his frame, it was gray. The suit jacket was rested on one of the kitchen chairs so Lee got to admire how utterly sexy Bret looked from behind in his gray suit, light blue dress shirt, and gray vest. To her, there was nothing sexier than her guy in a suit until Dean, their youngest, spilled his juice and some splashed on Bret.

“Oh shit. Dean, come on, buddy. You gotta be more careful. Daddy has to go to work and I can’t be all sticky and shit. Fuck.” Bret said. His voice was guttural, deep.

“Hey! He’s five years old.” Lee said.
“Sorry, daddy.”
Lee swooped in to clean the mess. She handed Bret a wet towel to wipe off the tiny splash of juice from his fancy suit pants. As Lee cleaned she glared at Bret, the glare of a mother bear pissed and protective over her cubs.

Bret gave Dean’s hair a tussle before kissing him on the lips. “I know, bubs. Daddy’s sorry for yelling. It was just an accident.” Bret then kissed each of his daughters good-bye and when he looked at Lee she looked away.

“I’ll see y’all for dinner.” Bret said. He left the kitchen, his foot steps getting farther away.

Lee threw the wet, juice soaked towel into the sink and paused for a moment of contemplation. Why was she so frustrated, so anxious, so willing to risk everything she had worked so hard for? She broke herself from her frozen state and snapped into mommy mode.

“Come on, we have to go. Grab your lunches and your back packs.” Lee said.

With the kids safely in school and Bret at his other home Lee was free to sit in her minivan in the parking lot outside Aaron’s bakery and ponder many times over exactly how she would walk in, what she would say, how she would act… basically she had time to bring herself through a series of possible scenarios that each ended in disaster and subject herself to an ongoing mental torture. But alas this thing between Lee and the scruffy blonde baker seemed to be something other worldly because amidst her daydreaming there was yet another knock on her driver’s side window which yet again startled her. It was Aaron, all smiles, God his teeth were perfect Lee noticed. Her heart leaped a bit, a feeling that had become so foreign to her she nearly forgot it even existed in the world.

She rolled down her window slowly, cautiously. She was panicked, not knowing what to say. How did he even see her, recognize her van?

“So, are you going to come inside and say hello or…?” Aaron said.

It’s truly wondrous how quickly the human mind can process information and in that moment, standing before her, so handsome, his offer of spending time with her, Lee had so many thoughts flying in all directions telling her to do a thousand different things. But she looked at Aaron in that fleeting, no turning back split second, and said:

“Yes. Um. Hey. Hi. So. Um.” Lee was a barrage of one syllable filler words. She had to stop so she crossed the line before she could talk herself out of it and she said: “I could really go for a cup of coffee.”

The words were as shocking to her as they were exciting to him. His face lit up like a light bulb and he opened her car door like a gentleman. He then extended his hand and Lee instinctively placed her hand in his. She noticed his hand was strong, a bit calloused, and when she looked at it she thought to herself that it was one of the most attractive hands she’d ever seen.

“I just received this shipment of coffee from Ethiopia that, well, I was saving for you.”

Lee didn’t know what to say and at the risk of sounding corny she blurted out the first thing that came to mind: “Well, that was sweet of you.”

Once inside the bakery, all the way in the back there was an old red leather booth and table, rescued and restored from a restaurant that went out of business several years earlier. It sat in a corner, the center piece amongst exposed brick walls, reclaimed wood beams, and a couple of rusted and weathered metal business signs like Dr. Pepper and King Arthur Flour. It was charming, whimsical, inviting.

“I know, I know what you’re thinking, ‘Aaron, who did this amazing decorating? Please get me their business card.’ Well, it was me. I did it.”

Lee laughed. She covered her mouth like a geisha girl, delicate, feminine.

“You did a great job. It’s really lovely.”
“Go ahead and sit, make yourself comfortable. I’ll make the coffee.”
Aaron had a makeshift coffee bar set up with everything one would need for a delightful afternoon date. It was a wet bar he used for coffee and baked goods and it looked especially neat and put together as if he planned on having a special guest.

“So this coffee is from Ethiopia, Western Ethiopia, Biftu Gudina to be exact…”

“Biftu Gudina?” Lee asked.
“Yes, exactly. And it’s known for its floral notes of magnolia with citric acidity, plum sweetness and a spicy finish.”

“That sounds so… exotic.” Lee said.

“I guess we’ll see in a couple of minutes. By the way, you look ravishing today.”

And Lee did look ravishing. After she dropped the kids off at school she went home and tore through her closet for the perfect outfit to meet Aaron. It had to be something that would show him that she was a sophisticated woman, a real woman that she had curves, and breasts, and a body that craved the touch of a man and his admiration. But she wanted to feel pretty as well. After looking through dress after dress Lee saw a flirty little flowered sundress, the tag still on it and remembered she bought it a year earlier but never felt confident enough to wear it because it sat a bit higher above the knees than she was used to and revealed a bit more of her breasts than she was comfortable with.

It was an adorable dress, cream with pink and red wild flowers, a swoop cup that framed her cleavage just right, straps that accentuated her delicate neck and shoulders, and a flow that made her legs look elegant and long. She paired with ballet flats and wore her hair in soft wavy curls with just one bobby pin on the left side of her hair. Her makeup was light and delicate, just enough to show off her sweet, kissable lips and bright doe eyes.

Lee blushed at Aaron’s compliment. “Thank you,” Lee said, “You’re too kind. You look very handsome as usual.”

What did she just say? Lee couldn’t believe that flirtatious reply had come flying out of her mouth without even a second to process and think. But he was so handsome. He was wearing cowboy boots, a pair of perfect fitting jeans that hugged his thighs and plump butt, and a soft cotton henley, sky blue, the perfect amount of buttons undone. The blue brought out his electric blue eyes, the lightweight cotton fell on the curves of his musculature revealing the masculine build that lay beneath. And Lee took in every detail of him as if her mind was taking snapshots and storing them in file folders. She didn’t want to forget anything about those moments with Aaron.

“How do you take your coffee?” Aaron asked.
“I guess the usual. To be honest, Aaron, I’ve never really been a coffee drinker…”
Aaron stopped dead in his tracks. He turned around to look at Lee. A look on his face that could either be read horror or wonder. “My lady, you are in for a treat. I can tell you have a sweet tooth, don’t ask me how I know, just trust me, I know, so I’m gonna make your coffee like mine, cream and a couple of sugars. Light and sweet… and hot.”

Aaron served the coffee in large ceramic mugs that had celtic designs etched into them. They were kelly green and matched the look and feel of the artisan corner of the world Lee had found herself.

“And to go along with our delicious Ethiopian coffee are these buttery browned butter Madeleine cookies. I made them myself. A pastry snob will tell you that they’re not Madeleines if they’re not made in the Madeleine shape with the Madeleine recipe but whatever… I like to brown the butter for an extra nutty depth of flavor.”

Aaron held up one of those golden brown, soft and outrageous looking cookies to Lee’s mouth and nodded for her to take a bite. Lee leaned in and took a generous bite of the cookie, it was soft, not too sweet, the edges were a crispy texture and a ever so chewy. The browned butter mixed with the pure vanilla in a harmony of flavors that was almost orgasmic for Lee.

“Now take a sip of the coffee.” Aaron said. He held up Lee’s mug and she took a sip which hit her mouth like a rush of hot, glorious goodness, and all of those notes he described were accurate, bursting in her mouth, the magnolia, citrus, plum sweetness, and spicy finish… it was all there. Lee closed her eyes and reached over to take Aaron’s hand in hers for the single most intimate moment she ever shared with any man, ever. When that moment was over, Lee opened her eyes, looked at Aaron, his gorgeous blue eyes staring back at hers, and she realized she had just cheated on her husband and there was truly no going back now. She wanted Aaron and nothing was going to stop her.

Here I Am, Here You Are: Seven.

2017-08-05 05.22.22 pm

Seven

When Harper got back to the house she saw a note by the kitchen phone: “Sandy called.” Those two simple words sent Harper’s mind into a frenzy. What frightened her was the immediate thought of Kit and how this would affect him. She quickly talked herself down from this madness and thought that a long hot shower would clear her head. She needed time to think and prepare every detail of what she would say to Sandy and how she would add layers of imaginary armor to her heart after hearing what Sandy had to say to her.

After a long hot show, a flow of tears, and a million scenarios, Harper sat on her childhood bed, dressed in a pair of Sandy’s old boxers and one of his white undershirts. She put the clothes on after finding them in the dresser in her room. She remembered that during a visit a few months earlier she and Sandy had forgotten a small bag of undergarments and decided to just leave them at her parent’s house for future visits. Oddly enough, the clothes still had a faint scent of Sandy’s favorite cologne: a mix of musk and cedar with notes of tobacco and citrus.

Harper dialed the phone. It rang several times and just as she was about to hang up she heard Sandy’s voice. It was calm, almost soothing: “Harper? Hi.” Sandy said.

“Mama left a note about you calling.” Harper got right to the point. She tried to hide her nervous breathing.

“I had all these things I was going to say but—”
“You broke my heart.” Harper snapped. “It’s me, Sandy. It’s me.”
“I love you, Harper, I do. I love you… but, I’m not in love with you anymore.”

“Are you kidding me?”

“I’m tired of hiding and lying to you. I want to be honest.” Sandy said. “I don’t want to hurt you.”

“Too late, Sandy.”
“I met someone. It came out of nowhere and it was a shock to me. I’m in love.”
“You’re married! How do you do this just a few years after pledging your heart and your life to me?”
“Take everything. I’ll stop by the house tomorrow and pick up my clothes. You can have everything else.”
“Just like that?” Harper asked. “You’re calling it quits, walking out, moving on?”

Her voice grew louder. Tears fell from her eyes. Her face got flushed red.
“I’m sorry.” Harper could hear Sandy’s voice cracking. It made her mad to know he was crying as well.

“I don’t know why or how this happened but I really do care about you.”
“I have to go.” Harper said. “You do what you gotta do. Just get your stuff out of my house.”
“Harper, wait.”

“What? What more do you want from me?”
“Don’t hate me—“
“Good-bye, Sandy. I… You know what? Good-bye!”

Harper hung up the phone. She never knew the human heart could feel emotional pain so badly it actually turned into physical. The ache in her heart took the wind from her chest. She cried into her childhood pillow. She wrapped herself in a soft fleece throw. The comfort of her bed helped her drift off to sleep. Sleep had become a place of solace, a place where her emotional pain took a breather, a place where she could smile again.

Harper had always been the kind of person to dream. She also remembered her dreams and would tell her friends and family about her night time adventures. To Harper her dreams were part of her, a way for her subconscious to live life with no boundaries. She would often jot down the details of her dreams in a moleskine notebook. She was on her fifth moleskine when the dreams of Kit started.

As Harper slept her tear filled eyes dried, her heart ache drifted away, the golden summer sun turned to a cool blue dusk. She was back on the beach. This time the mystery man had a name, it was Kit. He was sitting next to her and smiling. She took notice to his teeth and saw that one was missing. Normally this would deter her attraction to a man but in the dream she thought it was cute. A sign he had gotten into a fight and his masculinity won. She was wearing a summer sun dress, blue checkerboard patterned, and sandals. She looked at Kit from his head to his feet. He was a like a 1930s day laborer: a news boy cap, white button down henley shirt, brown suspenders, brown slacks, and brown leather shoes. She smiled at how adorable and sexy he looked. A few buttons undone on his shirt revealed a thick chest and layer of the perfect length of hair for a mans torso.

Suddenly the sun was setting and they were in swimsuits diving into the cold foamy water. She splashed water in his face and he threw himself in her arms. She clung to his cold, taught skin. How she missed the feel of a stocky, muscular man in her arms. And then he kissed her. A glorious shiver of sensation from her brain shot through her body bringing to life every fiber of her being.

“I’ve always loved you, Harper.” Kit said to her. Their eyes were locked on one another. She melted at the sound of his husky southern voice.

“Will you still have me?” Harper asked. She then threw herself in his big arms. She could feel his strength wrap her up. “Will you still have me?” She asked again.

He took her face in his rough hands and gently placed his kiss on her lips. Harper’s heart pounded from adrenaline and oxytocin and hormones racing through her veins.

The sound of a summer thunderstorm woke her from her beach dream. Harper’s eyes popped open. She looked at the window and saw bolts of lightning flashing across the farm. And then pouring rain fell. Heavy drops and lots of them. It was a bad storm and Harper knew it. She sat up in her bed and watched the storm rage on. She thought about the dream and relived the exciting parts. Each crack of lightning and roaring thunder got worse. She knew this storm wasn’t just a thunder storm. She felt it in her gut. Something was brewing and whatever it was, Harper knew things would never be the same.

Here I Am, Here You Are: Six.

2017-08-05 05.22.22 pm

Six

That night, Harper drifted off into a peaceful slumber in the comfort of her childhood bedroom. She was lulled to sleep by the sounds of her parents muffled pillow talk and the hum of a ceiling fan. It was a surprise to her that instead of collapsing in her dreams with red, swollen, tear-filled eyes she peacefully, almost too comfortably, snuggled in her bed and within minutes she was dreaming land.
It was a beach she dreamed of. White sand, waves crashing, the sky so clear, so blue. And a man was there. It wasn’t Sandy, to her shock. This was a man she’d never seen before, too handsome for her, she thought. He wasn’t very tall and he had the stocky build of leftover muscles from days of college wrestling. The man was walking toward her, a big grin on his face, his hand reaching for hers. Harper jumped out of her rem sleep, her heart pounding.
The next thing Harper knew she heard the ungodly sound of a rooster shouting his morning wake up call. It was a sound Harper hand’t heard in quite some time. Even before she married Sandy she lived downtown in a tiny two bedroom apartment with her best girlfriend Marie for just over a year.
Harper gathered her thoughts, caught her breath, and decided it was good a time as any to get up for the day. The peculiar beach dream lingered in her mind as she brushed her teeth, took a shower, and dressed. Who was that handsome man and why did he make her heart feel warm and cozy? It was then Harper realized she was dressing as if she was going to meet the mystery man. She looked at herself in the mirror and wondered if she had gone off the deep end.

With that, Harper changed her clothes for a more casual look. Still adorable in her jeans and fitted Dr. Pepper t-shirt, her hair in a simple pony tail, and her favorite red flip-flops, Harper bounded for the kitchen where she knew her momma was making a big breakfast. She entered the kitchen and saw a piece of Americana, her momma frying bacon, flipping pancakes, scrambling eggs, all at the same time and her daddy reading the newspaper, drinking his coffee, and eating a buttered slice of toast.
“There’s my girl,” her daddy said affectionately. “You sleep okay, darling?”

“Morning, daddy.” Harper gave her dad a kiss on the cheek and a hug. “I slept… really good actually.”
“I made sure to put the temp down so you weren’t too hot.” Her momma said as she placed the platters of food on the table.

“Oh, honey, be sure to try this maple syrup, this is the good stuff. I bought it from a little shop in Vermont. They ship it out to us.”
Her daddy poured a mug of coffee for her. “You still take some coffee with your cream and sugar?” He asked.
“Momma, daddy, y’all don’t have to make such a fuss over me like this.” Harper gave the obligatory speech when inside she loved the attention and comfort her doting parents were giving her.

Over breakfast, they chatted about every day things, then momma cleaned up, while dad and daughter chatted some more. The family fell effortlessly into their routine without skipping a beat with daddy going off to work and momma off to her volunteer work at church followed by crafts at home.
With her parents gone, Harper looked around, realizing she had nothing to do. She stared out the kitchen window, the sun light was a glorious lemon yellow, the sky was as blue as in her dream, and the clouds were perfect billows of white puffed corn. She grabbed her camera and took off on foot.

Normally she wasn’t a nature photographer but within minutes she had seen the most elegant humming bird at the feeder. She snapped photo after photo of the tiny fluttering creature. And then she saw a butterfly. She chased it and chased it until it landed on a large sunflower. She snapped the photo in a flash and hoped for the best when she developed them.
Harper’s daddy had a gorgeous little plot of land that he maintained like an English countryside garden. It was so stunning that people from all over the state would come visit it just to walk around and bask in it’s serene beauty. Her daddy was even featured in a couple of gardening magazines. All of this rolled around Harper’s mind like a marble on an uneven floor. It astounded her that she had forgotten just how breathtaking his simple three acres were. She took photo after photo and the light was perfect until a single gray cloud moved in over head.
Harper looked up and a drop of rain fell on her face. As Alabama rain does, it came down heavy and quick. Harper was soaked in mere seconds. She ran under the nearest tree looking for cover.
In the distance she heard: “Hey, girl! You crazy goin’ under a tree in a thunderstorm!”

Harper looked around for the man’s voice until her eyes landed on him. He was standing in a barn door, jeans, cowboy boots, Hanes t-shirt, and a ten gallon on his head. Not very tall, a stocky build of left over college wrestling muscles, a clean, handsome face, and ice blue eyes. She almost passed out. Was this some sort of supernatural event? Was he some sort of dream ghost?
“Don’t just stand there! Come on! You don’t see that lightning?!”

Harper couldn’t move. She was both frightened, embarrassed, and so attracted to him. And then he ran toward her. As he got closer her reached out his rough, hard labored hand and took her soft, cold hand in his. The mystery man led her to the barn where he wrapped her in his John Deer coat.
“Who are you?” Harper asked. She didn’t mean to sound blunt but at this point she was pretty creeped out.
“You don’t remember me?” He said with a laugh. “Geez Louise, Harper, it ain’t been that long.”
“You’re working for my daddy?”
“Yeah, for about a year now.” He said. The awkward pause hit them both. He looked at her. She looked away. And then, ever the gentleman, he pulled up a wooden crate for her to sit on. Harper hesitated but he motioned for her to sit and she politely obliged.
He smiled at her. A smile of warmth, a touch of youthful shyness.

“You don’t remember, do you?” He said.
Harper snapped back: “I do. I do.”

“What’s my name?”

Harper remained still. She raised an eyebrow, not one for fun and games.

“Kit,” He said, “Kit Evans.”

Harper lit up like a Christmas tree. “Kit kat!?” She shouted. “My goodness. You’re all grown up.”

“As are you I see.” He said. “You’re still every bit as pretty as I remember.”

Harper blushed. What was this guy doing being all handsome and flirty and rescuing her from the dangers of cloud to ground lightning?

“Kit, I’m married.” Harper said. Her heart sunk as the awful words spilled from her mouth. In an instant she felt like a dirty rotten adulterer. She had to have a mighty quick pep-talk with herself and remind herself that it was Sandy who had committed the sin and Sandy who had walked out.
“Oh, gosh, Harper.” Kit struggled. “I didn’t mean to imply nothing. I work for your daddy and I was just… “ Kit’s voice trailed off.

Harper yearned for him to continue on with his kind words about her but she knew it was wrong.
“I think I should be going.” Harper said.
Kit smiled at her. It was awkward, bashful. “Yeah, the rain is letting up. I better get back to work.”
The sun peeked through the clouds and shone on their young faces. Harper smiled at Kit and he smiled back. She walked out of the barn and he watched her.
“Harper!” Kit shouted.
Harper snapped back around to look at him. Was he really the man from the beach in her dream?
“I’m glad you’re still taking pictures. You were always good at it.” Kit said.
“Thank you.” Harper said. She nervously bit her bottom lip and brushed a lock of her wet hair behind her ear. Kit watched her walk away, a tiny flutter in his chest.

Here I Am, Here You Are: Five.

2017-08-05 05.22.22 pm

Five

Upon reaching her momma & daddy’s house, Harper was greeted by Pudge, the family blood hound in all his droopy-eared glory as he shuffled over to her, his tail wagging slowly, his nose soaking in her unique scent. Right behind Pudge was Ginny with her camera snapping photos as if her camera were a new toy. Harper frowned, not wanting to be the black and white subject of her Momma’s daily photo journal. Ginny lowered her camera to look at her sweet daughter’s face without the lens getting in the way.

As serious as a Momma can be when she feels her child’s pain, Ginny looked at Harper and said softly: “What happened, baby girl?”

It was then, like the sudden flood of a thunderstorm, that the emotions of what took place between Harper and Sandy came breaking through and Harper felt a rush of salty, bitter tears pour down her pale skin.

“He left me, Momma.” Harper said.

She fell sideways onto her car and threw her face in her hands. Ginny ran to her and caught her. There’s no safer place to be in this world than our mother’s embrace. Harper cried like she had never cried before. The harsh sting of love ripped apart by infidelity, the loss of her best friend, the bitter taste of betrayal… It was all much more than the young 25 year old could handle. She cried and spoke in unintelligible sentences and Ginny calmed her down as best she could with the only thing that came to mind: “Momma’s here. It’s gonna be okay, baby. Momma and Daddy are here. You’re gonna be okay, baby girl.”

By evening Harper had cried all the tears her body could produce in one day and she and Ginny had gone through a pitcher of sweet tea and a whole key lime pie. There was nothing as delicious in those summer months as Ginny’s famous key lime pie that had been passed down from her great grandmother. She may not have been the best cook in town and could only bake a couple of things well but her key lime pie, that was her specialty. Never being one to let coincidences continue on as just coincidences Ginny told Harper she had a feeling after prayer the other day that she should make a key lime pie. Was it God moving on Ginny’s heart, knowing her daughter would need the comfort? Harper didn’t really know but she was thankful either way.

“I must be the stupidest girl in the world, Momma, how could I have not seen it or noticed it?” Ginny took Harper’s hand in hers and gave it a reassuring squeeze. “Baby, how could you have known?”

“I can see it now. I’m just so stupid.”

“Of course you see it now, that’s just life. Things always become clear when they’re over and done with but when you’re in it you only see what’s in front of you. And what was in front of you was a man that you loved and a man that made it clear he loved you too.”

“I just don’t know what to do, Momma. I just don’t know how to do it. We’ll be the talk of the town… And what about church, Sandy’s job…”

“It ain’t for anyone else to decide what’s right for you cause ain’t anyone else walkin’ your shoes but you.” Ginny said. He down-home southern roots making an appearance.

“Momma, he said he loved me like a best friend but he’s not in love with me anymore.” Those words pierced Ginny’s ears. Not just as Harper’s mother but as a woman that knows the deep devotion that goes into a romantic life with the person one feels is her soulmate. How painful it must have been for her baby girl to hear those words spoken from the man she wed just two years and eight months earlier. ‘Poor Harper,’ Ginny thought, ‘barely coming out of her newlywed years and broken by the man of her dreams.’

Ginny sighed and asked: “What did you do?”

“I threw at him the first thing I could see. Nanna’s crystal vase. It was so heavy but I had all this strength and I threw it, he ducked, and it shattered on the wall…”
The ladies thought on that scene for a moment and then Harper spoke softly, her blue tone and mix of throat clenching tears made her barely audible: “He said he’s divorcing me.”
Ginny didn’t mean to, but she gasped. While trying to be a modern woman she was still a southern belle and divorce was still very much a taboo subject. But there it was, staring Ginny in the face along with the barrage of questions about what “they” are going to say. In that diminutive moment Ginny put it all aside and stuck to her previous statement: “It for ain’t for anyone else to judge you cause there ain’t anyone else that’s gonna walk in your shoes but you.”

“I love him, Momma.” Harper said.
Ginny’s heart broke and her arms opened wide to wrap up her sweet baby girl. “I know you do, honey, I know you do.”

Harper cried a mix of sobs that left water stains on Ginny’s clothes. Ginny just squeezed her daughter and held her tight. When her world collapsed around her, Harper did the only thing she knew to do, she went home to her momma’s loving arms. And there she felt solace, even if only a few moments.