Once She Dreamed: Part One, Page 2Abbi Glines
“No guy in this town can get me away. I want to see the world. I don’t want to set up house in Moulton and spit out babies till I’m old.”
Bessy rolled her eyes. “Ain’t nothing wrong with that. Your looks got you all high falutin’. You think you deserve more than me and it ain’t fair you know. If I’d been born with your blonde hair, big boobs and dancer’s legs, I’d have me a man already with a house all to myself.”
I wanted Bessy to dream bigger than that, but like Milly that wasn’t possible.
“I don’t just want a man. I want an epic romance.”
Bessy laughed and tossed an empty shell into the trash with disgust. “You’ve been reading too many books.”
“That’s enough,” momma said. “I’m tired of hearing this.” She handed me a gallon sized bucket of peas already shelled. “Go on inside with these. Vilma lent me her fancy pressure canner. Said it’s safer to use than the old one. Go figure it out. Get it going. She left directions beside it.”
This was momma’s way to get rid of me. She wanted quiet on the subject of marriage. Not once had she ever corrected me for wanting out of here. She seemed to agree with me. And I think she believed I’d achieve it. I would. Yes, I would.
“Me ont to go too,” Henry said, running toward me and smiling.
“That’s fine. Stay away from the canning. You could get hurt,” momma told him.
I returned little Henry’s grin. “I’ll let you help me fill the jars with peas.”
He clapped like that was exciting and I guess to him it was. Funny thing was I hated peas. Every jar we canned meant I’d have to eat them at some point along the way. I’d much rather be canning fruit. Or making strawberry preserves. Then I could appreciate the hard work.
When I stepped inside the phone was ringing. I sat the pot of peas on the table and hurried to pick it up.
“Hey, Sam, Jamie said you couldn’t go tonight. Thought I’d call and see if I could change your mind. I got that ticket for you. Hate to give it to someone else.”
Ben was the sweetest guy I knew. He had moved to Moulton to live with his dad when he was in the fourth grade. Jamie and I had been best friends since kindergarten. We saw the shy little boy with glasses and I pulled him into our pack. The three of us had been close ever since.
Except sometimes I felt like Ben might want more than that. At least lately I felt that way. He treated me different than Jamie. She had brought it up a few times and I had tried to change the subject. But she wasn’t the only one picking that up. Ben was definitely acting interested. Like he had a spotlight on me.
“Momma has us canning peas tonight. You know how much I love that.” I added sarcasm to my voice so he would understand that I had really wanted to go with them.
“That sucks. You don’t think I could talk her into letting you go?” he asked with hope in his tone.
If I tried to get momma in here to chat she might put me in the pressure canner. “Uh, no. She already has me inside starting the canning process. Milly May is on a date and that’s the only child momma can spare tonight. She needs me here. I really wanted to go. Thank you for the invite.”
Maybe it was best that I wasn’t going. I didn’t want Ben to get the wrong idea. He’d always just be my friend. One of my best friends ever and there’s something to say for that.
“Yeah, okay. I understand. Jerry’s wanting to go so he can have your ticket. I’ll miss you though, I will.”
Not a “we will miss you,” but an “I will miss you.” Yikes…I had to get us back to the way we were. Maybe I could fix Ben up with a girl in town or something like that?
“That’s a good idea. Jerry will love it. Y’all have fun,” I told him.
“Bye, Sam.” His voice held a touch of sadness. Me not going was that sadness in his voice. That frightened and scared me I tell you.
“Bye,” I replied, then quickly hung up. I had to talk to Jamie about this. We needed to fix Ben up with someone else and fast. I didn’t want to lose a friendship because Ben might think there was more to us in the future. He was my buddy. He needed to remember that. Ben was Moulton. He’d never leave. I had dreams. And they weren’t in this town.
I hadn’t expected to see Ben and Jamie walking in the door of the bakery the next morning. Although it was almost lunchtime it was still early for them. I was sure their night had been a late one. I wanted to hear what had happened, but not with momma around.
“Hey y’all,” I said, happy to see them.
Jamie immediately chimed in about the smell: “God it smells like heaven in here. I’d weigh two hundred pounds if I worked here. I struggle enough as it is. How you work in this bakery and don’t get fat is unfair you precious thing.” Jamie always fussed about her weight. She wasn’t fat, Jamie was curvy. She always battled to shed fifteen pounds but I thought she was fine like she was.
“If you had my momma you’d not gain weight,” I whispered, cupping my hand over my mouth.
Ben frowned and looked at the lemon cupcakes alongside the blueberry muffins. Beside them were the apple tarts. “Shame she won’t let you eat that.”
“No it’s not. It’s a gift from God. She’d be fat if she could,” Jamie argued, slapping his arm in a way that seemed less friendly, more “look at me,” which was interesting and intriguing I admit.
“Sam doesn’t eat enough to get fat. And she hardly ever sits still.” Ben argued as if he were defending my weight. Then his eyes shot across me really fast. Like a shadow or a beam from the sun, as if to see if I’d really heard him.
Jamie rolled her eyes, but she seemed a little hurt, annoyed you might say. Maybe I was reading too much into this though there was something in her gestures. Something Ben was missing… and I had also missed it apparently.
“One day I’ll bake my own cupcakes. Eat ‘em until I’m so fat I waddle and then tump over.” I teased, wanting to lighten the mood, because I had to change the tenseness.
Jamie laughed: “sure you will. You’ll marry some guy from another state and run off to see the world. You have the looks, just need Mr. Wonderful to discover you hereabouts.” She sighed and looked around the bakery. “Not sure he’ll find you here.”
“Why would she move to another state?” Ben asked and seemed annoyed.
“Because she’s been talking about it since she was five years old. She doesn’t want to live in a two-story house in the middle of Moulton, Alabama, with five kids and a farmer for a husband. She wants an adventure. Listen to her!” Jamie knew me well. We had stretched ourselves on the steep grassy hill behind my house on many summer days discussing our dreams and wants. We were girls wanting to be women, forgetting that the now was simpler, when later it wouldn’t be. Jamie’s dream was exactly what she’d just said she didn’t want for me. I wondered if Ben knew that.
“Nothing wrong with Alabama or Moulton,” Ben replied, sounding defensive.
“Ben, it’s not what I want for me. But for others it’s perfectly fine. Now, as much as I’d love the play by play of last night I can’t do that. Momma will come out from the kitchen and skin my hide if I chat.”
“Don’t you get a lunch break?” Ben asked.
Jamie, however, laughed at his question. “Seriously, I’d swear you’d never in your life met her momma if I didn’t know better. Marjaline Knox ain’t letting her off for lunch or to pee.”
Jamie was right. Momma would bring me a tuna salad sandwich, or something of that nature at noon. I’d have to eat it sitting right here. There were no other employees to take my place so I couldn’t step outside.
“Well, could you at least go out after work? Get an ice cream or something like that? Jerry said a bunch were swimming at the lake. We could go meet up with them.”
Since momma told me no last night there was a chance she’d let me go. “I’ll ask. I probably can. Y’all come by at four to check. Bring me a suit just in case?” I asked Jamie, more of a telling, becau
se I knew I had a suit at her house.
The door chimed and Jamie took Ben’s arm to move him away from the counter.
“Afternoon kids,” Mrs. Peabody said as she shuffled inside the bakery. Her white hair was neatly fashioned on top of her head. The yellow sunflower-dress her staple. What the lady was known to wear. I’d seen it enough to remember. “Marjaline made any of that blueberry cobbler? Elroy was a fan of that. Thought I might get him some. Not that neither of us needs it.”
“No ma’am, not today. We have apple tarts. But if momma has the ingredients she could probably make you one. You could pick it up later in the day.”
Enthusiastically she nodded her head. “That would be just perfect. Elroy’s been out working the fields and he needs him a tooth-rottin’ sweet treat. I’m making some homemade vanilla ice cream and that cobbler would do the trick.”
“Let me go ask her,” I said. With a smile I glanced at my friends who were waiting quietly at a distance. I wished they’d leave in case momma came out. She didn’t like me visiting with friends, not during my shift anyway. But I couldn’t tell them to leave without sounding rude or haughty. They had placed me in an uncomfortable spot.
I hurried back to the kitchen, which wasn’t really far, just as momma was retrieving several hot loaves of cinnamon raisin bread. I hoped she’d take home a loaf for us. Hazel loved that stuff.
“Momma, Mrs Peabody is here and she’s wanting a blueberry cobbler. Said Mr. Peabody loved the last one and she wanted to get him a sweet treat. Reckon you can make her one? She’ll come back later and get it.”
Momma put the loaves down and waited. She glanced around and then at me. “I got what I need, I think. Them blueberry’s need to be used. Tell her it’ll be ready at three.”
Momma liked making a sell. But more than that she liked people wanting her food. It made her feel special and needed. My momma could bake better than the best, countywide and everyone knew it. I wished she had a place of her own. She ran the bakery like it was. Why wouldn’t her own be successful?
“She’ll be tickled pink,” I said. I then turned to hurry back to the store front hoping momma wouldn’t follow.
“She said she’d have you one by three. Nice and fresh from the oven.”
Mrs. Peabody clapped her hands. Her smile covered her face. “She’s a good one, that Marjaline, the solidest God ever made!”
I agreed. I really did. She was strict but the woman was precious.
Mrs. Peabody nodded to Jamie and Ben then waved to me as she left. “I’ll be back through around three. Thank you sweetie,” she said.
When the door closed behind her Jamie giggled. “Never seen a woman so happy about a cobbler.”
I shrugged and then I informed her: “you ain’t had my momma’s cobbler.”
Ben pulled his old Ford truck onto the grassy hill by the lake. It had belonged to his grandfather for ten more years than Ben had been on the planet. Momma agreed to let me go as long as I was home by seven thirty to wash the supper dishes. That gave me three hours to swim and hang out with my friends.
The few that had been lucky enough to go off to college were all back for the summer. The rest of us were here working and a couple were actually getting married and starting their life in Moulton. Here, in hell, forever.
Jamie wanted that life. So I tried never to talk about how that was my biggest nightmare. It was her dream and I didn’t want to belittle that. Even if I couldn’t understand it, her dreams were hers to have.
We dropped our towels down on a clear spot and I scanned the crowd to see Marilyn Marcus tangled around Jack Harold. The ring on her hand was small, but the stone still caught the sunlight. She’d been in the bakery just last week announcing her engagement and wanting to talk to momma about making her cake. It had taken all my acting abilities to smile and pretend like what she was saying was wonderful news to me. Deep down all I could remember was that time in eighth grade when we were supposed to write down where we saw ourselves in ten years and only Marilyn and I had written down that we saw ourselves somewhere fabulous and away from Alabama. Now she was marrying a farmer’s son. Not that it was a bad thing. It was just that she wasn’t getting out. She wouldn’t walk the streets of Manhattan, or go to cocktail parties with her dream guy, her millionaire fiancé.
Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t holding on for a rich man to get me out of Moulton. I simply wanted an adventure. Let me see the world. Anything but what Marilyn was facing.
“Can you believe she’s engaged,” Jamie said, coming up beside me. She must have caught me looking their way. “I thought for sure she’d run off. Get out of town. Now that ain’t gonna happen.”
Me too. But I didn’t say that.
“Guess when you love someone, where they are is where you’ll be.” Ben spoke, causing us both to turn to look at him. His gaze was on mine and it felt like he was saying something I didn’t want to hear. I flashed a smile and shook my head. “Guess I better not fall in love unless he lives in Chicago or New York City, maybe Seattle or Boston.”
Jamie laughed. I grinned at her.
“I don’t imagine you ever in love. Sammy Jo Knox in love?” Jamie said it and I knew that she meant it. I had never had crushes on a boy. Because the boys here were just that, they were here where I didn’t want to be.
“Maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll conquer the world single and enjoy every minute of doing it.”
Jamie linked her arm with mine. “I hope you do Sam. I really do.”
I would. That was something I was sure of. I just wasn’t sure how at the moment.
“Heard Milly May and Richard were tight as ticks last night at the movies. Rumor has it they left early and went parking. Wonder if she’ll be wearing a ring. Reckon she will really soon.”
My stomach felt sick. I knew that’s what my sister wanted, but was afraid she wanted it so badly she’d settle for whoever would give it. This wasn’t nineteen fifty anymore. A woman didn’t have to get married by the age of twenty. Jesus, what was everyone’s problem?
“Your momma hoping she gets married soon?” Jamie asked. I told her the truth. Momma wanted to marry her off and then I’d be next in the raffle. If only we’d been a bunch of boys. She’d have less to worry about. No one rushed sons into marriage. They kept them around as long as they could to cherish their independence.
“Enough marriage talk. Let’s go swim,” Ben said, reaching for my arm. Not Jamie’s arm, but mine.
“I’ll let you swing on the rope first,” he said. I glanced back at Jamie as he pulled me away. The hurt look in her eyes told me more than she could or would ever attempt to say. Jamie wanted Ben and that was just another reason I needed out of this town.
As I ran behind Ben to keep from falling down several people called my name. I waved and they waved back. They all got together every day after work. I wasn’t as social as them. Momma wouldn’t allow it. She knew there wasn’t much in Moulton I wanted except my family and the time that I’d served, which was often like a prison sentence.
“You coming to the barn dance Friday?” Drake Red yelled at me. I had forgotten about the dance entirely. It came in mid June then on July the fourth was The Fourth, an even bigger event. I hadn’t given any thought to either. I rarely did. Didn’t really care.
“Don’t know,” I called back.
“Go with me,” he said with a grin I was sure he thought was sexy. Truth was Drake was handsome. He had the chiseled chest and arms of a worker. And thanks to swimming at the lake he was nice and tan and pretty. His blue eyes had always been a hit with the girls in Moulton, Alabama. Problem was he had no interest in leaving for more than a weekend. He didn’t even go to college. He just started working on his daddy’s cattle farm and that was where he’d die.
“She’s going with me,” Ben told him. With that I stopped running and pulled my arm free. Ben had just stepped over the line.
I forgot about Drake and anyone else who might be listening i
n. I focused on Ben who had stopped in his tracks and was looking at me intensely.
“Why would you say that?” I asked him, not trying to hide my frustration, which was bordering on outright anger.
“I figured if you went, you’d go with me. I was going to ask. I swear it.”
I stared without losing control. Did he seriously just say what I think he said as if it were understood? I had never given Ben encouragement. Finally I let out a sigh. “Ben, I don’t know what you’re thinking or why you’d say something like that. You’ve been my friend since we were ten. And that’s all you’ll ever be. I don’t want to go to a barn dance with any guy from Moulton or near it. My future isn’t here.”
I didn’t wait for him to say anything more. I turned and came face to face, with Jamie standing like a statue, she looking at me like she was ready to cry and throw herself in attack. This wasn’t easy on her. She wanted Ben. But she loved me all the same. She was worried and confused, who isn’t. Being young is figuring it out. And it’s hard to know what to do.
“Y’all go on and swim. I’m gonna walk home. I need the fresh air and some alone time.” I walked away leaving them there. I could feel their eyes on my back and it seemed as if the place had gone silent. I was their drama for the week I guess. Gave them something to talk about.
I should have just gone home after work.
For the next two days I didn’t hear from Jamie or Ben. I worked then went home and we finished the peas and planted the tomatoes as planned. My regular summer routine, repeated year after year, nothing special and still no hope in sight of escaping this town or state. Milly went on another date with Richard. I might be here forever.
Today was chocolate day. There were chocolate covered strawberries and raspberry cupcakes also stuffed with chocolate. Momma did a chocolate day every week and other than strawberry cupcakes this was my second favorite day. I loved the smell filling the bakery. Those strawberries weren’t cheap so I couldn’t sneak one, but I sure did swoon and let my mouth water thinking about the sweet tangy juice, the milk chocolate momma made from scratch. She said Marilyn had requested them on her own wedding cake. That would be the tastiest wedding cake on earth ever consumed. I looked forward to that wedding (can’t believe I just said that) because I could have my pick of the strawberries. Maybe stuff two or three in my purse.