How are you?
I’m here with chapter four of Leona!
If you’d like to catch up on the story or simply find out what Leona is, click here.
It was spring of 1930. I walked home from school with Rachel. “I’m getting a new dress in the fall,“ she told me. Rachel and I had already turned fourteen. I smiled. “That’s good,” I told her. “What color is your favorite?” she asked. “Blue,” I replied, glancing up at the sky. “Mine, too,” Rachel said.
The house came into view. Bud was already sitting on the steps.
“Mama’s not home,” he told me. “She and Dad went into Beaver.”
“Why?” I asked him.
“I dunno,” he shrugged.
“They must be doing something important,” I persisted. My curiosity was piqued.
“Guess so,” Bud said, “Wanna go in the loft?”
I nodded. “Wanna come?” I asked Rachel.
“Okay,” she answered. We set our books on the steps and scurried to the barn. I took a deep breath. The barn smelled musty and sweet. Up in the loft, Bud and I had made a fort under the hay bales. It was tight, but someone could crawl in, and have enough room to breath inside. We took turns crawling in to hollow out more. Bud crawled out, hay sticking to him. “Your turn,” he said.
I got on hands and knees and ducked under the opening. Inside, it was dark, and thick with the smell of hay. I scooped the hay away with my hands and dug deeper and deeper. Rachel’s muffled voice startled me. “You done yet?” she asked. “You’ve been in there ten minutes.” I crawled out. “Your turn,” I said. She crawled in and I heard the crackle of hay as she dug.
“We got a lot done,” she exclaimed, crawling out. I stuck my head in and agreed.
“You think Mama and Dad are home yet?” I asked Bud.
“Let’s go see,” he answered.
They weren’t, so we sat on the steps to wait for them. “I should get on home,” Rachel said.
“Okay. See ya,” I said. She picked up her school books and walked home. Bud and I watched her in silence.
Mama and Dad pulled in a few minutes later. They got out of the automobile and slammed the doors. I hopped up and began to question them. Dad brushed me off, an unreadable expression on his face. He went past us and inside.
Mama waited until he was gone, a look of disgust on her face. “Sulky baby,” she muttered.
I had been pounding her with questions, but when she said that, I stopped.
Turning to hide my shock, I loped into the kitchen and sat down.
Dad had settled himself in the living room. I could hear him turning the pages of the newspaper icily.
Mama came in, gave a careless glance in Dad’s direction, and sat down at the table. Bud sensed that something was afoot, and took his place.
Mama cleared her throat. “You both will be ready for high school next year,” she began.
Bud and I exchanged glances.
“I want you to get a good education,” she continued. She paused, and Dad cleared his throat forcefully in the living room.
“We’re moving to Beaver for you to go to high school,” she finished.
We were shocked. Bud jerked back in his chair, causing it to skid across the floor and leave marks.
We didn’t say a word. It was too horrible.
“I’ve already got a house picked out,” she added. “You’d like it a lot.”
I swallowed. My heart was pounding. I wanted to cry, but a tiny part of my was curious.
“What about our ranch?” Bud burst out. “What’s gonna happen to it?” His jaw was set, which meant he was mad.
Mama pushed onward. “Nothing’s gonna happen to it, Bud. You stop your hollering. Your father’s staying here.” Mama told us.
“Dad’s not coming?” I asked. The world shattered.
“We need some way to earn a living,” Mom remarked. Her tone was cutting. I could hear Dad holding very still in the other room.
“Why?” I managed to ask.
“You’re education, Sis,” Mama said again, but I could tell it was just an excuse.
“We’ll visit him on weekends,” Mama added indifferently.
Bud let out a bitter snort, but Mama fired him such a look that it seemed to choke him.
He coughed and left the room.
I sat there for what seemed like hours.
“What does the house look like?” I ventured finally. It was a last effort.
“It’s a blue one story, with three bedrooms. It already has beds and furniture,” Mama said.
“It has indoor plumbing,” she added, eyes shining.
No more walking to the outhouse to go.
My thoughts raced.
Why wasn’t Dad coming? It was true, that if we stayed here, the nearest high school was quite a few miles away. I realized that we didn’t have many options.
“When are we leaving?” I asked. I could hear Bud storming around upstairs, still stunned.
“As soon as school’s out. That way we’ll have time to settle in before school starts in the fall.”
I stood up. Mama looked at me questioningly, so I gave a weak smile and scrambled to leave. I went upstairs to my room and sat down on the bed.
A tear coursed down my cheek.
Bud came in and gruffly sat down next to me. I roughly wiped the tear away with the back of my hand, suddenly severe.
“I don’t want to,” Bud said finally.
I nodded and wiped my nose. “She said we’ll come home on weekends,” I offered.
He shook his head. “She’s just using us as an excuse,” he said again.
“I don’t mind that so bad, if she had a different excuse than high school,” I said. It was a timid attempt at a joke.
He was contemptuous. “We’re leaving, Sis. It’s never going to be the same again.”
His words hung in the air.
“No, Bud,” I said firmly. “Things will never be the same. But they wouldn’t have been the same anyway. Things haven’t been the same in a long, long time.”
He understood the meaning in my words and stood up, unwilling to accept it.
“Maybe it’s time we accept the change,” I said. “We can’t do much about it.”
I thought about the house we were moving to; we hadn’t even seen it. I thought about Mama and Dad fighting, and the automobile that used so much gasoline. I thought about Rachel, and how she would live just as well without me.
Bud sighed. “Guess so,” he said.
“We’ll have indoor plumbing,” I told him, “And you could get a job in town.”
He nodded slowly. After a minute, he stood up.
“Bye,” he said, and he left.
I broke the news to Rachel the next morning walking to school. “What’s wrong?” she had asked, as soon as she walked into our yard.
“We’re moving to Beaver next month,” I burst out.
She took the news staunchly.
“Why?” she asked.
“Mama says it’s so Bud and me can go to highschool,” I sobbed, “But she and Dad just fight a lot, and she wants a way out.”
Rachel wrapped me in a hug. “It’s okay,” she said, “Everything’s okay.”
I pulled away to wipe my nose. “We’ll come home on the weekends,” I told her.
“Promise?” she asked, smiling at me sympathetically.
I nodded solemnly.
“Well, we can still see each other,” she said. “Think of all the neat things in town! You’ll be near the movies, and the soda shop, and everything!” She was saying that for me.
“Maybe I’ll come visit, and we can go to the movies together,” she said cheerfully.
I felt better. “The house has indoor plumbing,” I said. She grinned.
“I’ll come visit you for sure,” she laughed.
We walked to school planning all the things I could do in town. “And you know when you’re older there’s dances and things,” Rachel told me. I nodded.
“We’ll be there ‘till I’m seventeen,” I said.
For a second, Rachel darkened. She looked like she was trying not to cry.
She perked up almost immediately. “That’s only a few years,” she said forcing a smile. For my sake. I knew it was an act. She was sad, but would never let on. She would miss me, and I would miss her. But she acted happy. She didn’t want me upset over something I couldn’t change.
I suddenly flung my arms around her and gave her a hug. “Thanks for being my friend,” I whispered. When she pulled away, her eyes looked watery. But she wouldn’t let those tears come out.
School was disconsolate that day. “This is my last year here in this school,” I thought. When we came back – if we came back – I would be done with school.
That seemed like such a long time. I sniffed. Rachel patted my knee under the desk. I got to thinking harder. “What if we don’t come back?” I thought. “What if Mama stays there forever?” My throat felt dry. Surely, Mama wouldn’t do that.
We would just be there while Bud and me were in high school. I squeezed my eyes shut to stop thinking. I still had a month. I would enjoy it.
When school was dismissed, Rachel and I raced home. Half the way there, we stopped, cramped and out of breath. Rachel giggled. “We’re like a pack of old racehorses,” she groaned. I laughed. We walked the rest of the way home. “Let’s go to the creek,” I suggested.
Rachel looked tempted. “I’ll run home and ask,” she said finally. She came back half an hour later, wearing an old dress. “I can. Just had to finish my chore,” she panted. I had on an old pair of Bud’s overalls. We ran barefoot and yelling to the creek.
The water was much warmer than the last time we had come, only two weeks ago. I splashed in and dropped to my knees to dunk my head under. Rachel stood on the bank and pretended to dive in. “Some swimming hole we’ve got here,” she laughed. The water didn’t come up to our knees anymore. “I guess our dam is falling apart,” I giggled. “Or we’re getting taller,” Rachel grinned. I knew she was right.
When Rachel went home, I ran dripping into the house. Bud was sitting nonchalantly at the table. “Mom’s in Beaver buyin’ stuff for the house,” he informed me.
“Oh,” I said. I bit my lip and went upstairs to change.
In my head, I counted the days ‘till we moved. Today was the sixth of May. We would probably leave in the middle of June. That gave us more than a month. I sighed in relief and pulled on some dry clothes.
That night at dinner, Mama listed everything she had bought for the new house. “I got some pretty yellow curtains, and new coverlets for the beds, and a big rug for the living room.” I looked at her, “When can we see the house?” I asked. “I’ll bring you there tomorrow,” she said.
Mama kept her word, and drove us into Beaver to see the place we would spend the next four years. I found it funny that she didn’t mind using the automobile instead of walking, but I didn’t say anything.
She had taught herself to drive the automobile when we were little. She was like that. Independent and stubborn.
We pulled up to a little blueish gray house with a grassy little yard. To most people in town, it would have been a pretty large yard, but to two kids used to 120 acres all to themselves, it seemed small. Mama let us in with a key she fished out of her pocketbook.
“This is our new home,” she said cheerfully. We walked into a little screened in porch. To the right was Mama’s bedroom. The large bed sat there bare, as if she wanted a cover and an owner. The big wooden bureau was empty. Next, we walked into a little living room.
It was airy, and I liked it. Right off the living room was a small dining room. A round wooden table sat sullenly in the middle. The kitchen was behind that. It had a white little stove and brown neglected plants in the windows. A little mudroom next to the kitchen led out to the backyard, where a garden called out for attention. To the right of the kitchen was a nice sized bedroom.
“That’ll be your’s, Sis,” Mama said. I was right next to the bathroom. I smiled.
The small bed and window, and the wooden dresser pleased me. The bathroom had running water. I flushed the toilet and turned the knobs on the sink. The claw foot bathtub had running water, too. I decided this house was all right. Bud’s room was on the other side of the bathroom, near Mama’s room. It had a little bed and a little dresser. He didn’t seem to hate it.
Mama led us out to the tiny backyard again. “Well, that’s the house,” Mama told us. “Once there’s curtains up and everything’s clean, and there’s blankets and rugs, it should be presentable.”
So this was were we were going to live for the rest of our childhood. I looked around, trying to imagine myself growing up here.
It was going to take some getting used to.
I’d love to hear your thoughts!