I’m here with the fourteenth chapter of Leona.
If you’d like to see a list of the chapters, click here.
I hope you like it!
Bud walked silently out of the house and down the street. I watched him go, clutching the words he had said in my mind with despair. Didn’t he have any hope? A tear ran down my cheek. His figure disappeared. I sighed, trying to forget his words. “It still might rain!” I had insisted, following him to the door. “No. It won’t. Stop wishing, Sis. There is no hope.” With that, he had walked away tensely.
Surely there was hope somewhere! Surely there was some way out. “There is no hope,” echoed in my mind. I sobbed and threw myself onto my bed. Was there no hope? Would this never end? I cried softly to myself. This would end. It had to. I fell into a troubled sleep.
In my dreams, Bud became a mute, solitary figure, forever drawing himself into a corner. Was this what the dirt was doing to him? “NO!” I screamed. The Bud in the dream ignored me. “I’m not letting this happen!” I shrieked, and I threw myself onto him, as if I alone could change him. Cold eyes stared back at me shrewdly. Empty eyes that pierced me. Even my dreams were filled with longing and fear. I woke up with a start.
I sat pensively on the edge of my bed. I had to do something. The vividness of the dream was still upon me, still a reality. I wiped my sweaty forehead, and set to work to right my matted hair.
Bud didn’t appear for supper. Mama and I ate in silence, occasionally glancing at the clock on the wall. Bud walked in as we finished the dishes. Hanging his hat on the hook by the door, he offered a hesitant smile. “I worked late,” he answered, noting our questioning stares. Mama smiled. “I’ll heat up some supper for you,” she said. Bud sat at the table. I went and sat next to him.
“I’m sorry,” he said awkwardly. What? I hadn’t expected this. “For what?” I asked, surprise on my face. “For treating you like I did this afternoon. You were right. There’s got to be hope.” His face didn’t look very sure, but the apology was genuine. “It’s nothing,” I said hastily. He nodded, relieved. “How was work?” I asked him. “Good. Lot’s of people comin’ in. ‘Specially kids, since school’s out.” He ate the soup Mama set in front of him. I nodded. “I bet.”
I stood up to get ready for bed. It seemed I was always tired these days. “Bud?” I asked, turning to face him. “Hmm?” he asked absentmindedly. “I -“ I paused, “um, I wanted to say that I love you.” He raised his eyes to mine. His eyes seemed to say “You do?” I hadn’t said that in a long time. Too long, I realized. “I love you,” I said again.
He studied me for a minute, then a smile spread across his face. “Love you, too,” he said, sounding like the old Bud. It was just a minute, but it made me sleep well the whole night. I did love him, I realized. Just like I loved Mama, and Dad. I hadn’t formed the words in while, I thought guiltily. I would, I resolved. I would.
I stepped briskly through the office doors and sat down at the front desk. I had been working for Town Hall now for about a month. People came in with questions on taxes, to pay bills, and to get licenses. I had gotten pretty comfortable with the job, but was hoping I could get the other ladies warmed up to me.
“Hello, Leona,” one of the more unpleasant ladies said distastefully. Evidently, she had been here the longest, and treated newcomers with disdain. “Hello, Mrs. Harden,” I replied, as pleasantly as I could. Eva looked up, but didn’t say anything. Years later, I would realize that shyness, not spite, kept her from saying hello. Now, I told myself that someday, I would make friends of these people. I tried not to get angry when ignored or insulted, but trying is hard.
Sitting down, I arranged my straight skirt and tried to sit lady-like. I began the tedious work of filing bills. Though monotonous, I was thankful to have this job at Town Hall. First of all, it paid well. Second, it was respectable work.
I shook off my hand as another paper-cut assaulted me, and laughed to myself. This job was worse on my hands than any work on the ranch, I mused. Eloise walked up, and smacked some papers onto my desk. “Sorry to give you more work, but these are water bills, too,” she smiled apologetically. She tucked a strand of auburn hair behind her ear. I smiled back, grateful for her cheerful presence. She gave me hope that I would be victorious in my battle for friends.
“How was your Saturday?” I asked casually, hoping to strike up conversation. “Awful. How about yours?” she laughed. She plopped down on the edge of my desk. “It was alright. I took Mama to dinner and that was fun.” “Oh? And how is your brother?” Why did every girl I know inquire about him? “He’s fine.” “Still working at the general store, I gather. Saw him there yesterday.” I nodded, glancing at the papers on my desk.
“I’ll let you get back to work,” Eloise said, hopping up, “But maybe we could get together some Saturday soon.” She looked at me questioningly. I beamed. “Yes,” I assured her. She hurried off. “Thank You, God,” I thought, finally getting somewhere. I put my focus on the mound of papers in front of me. “Alright. I’m almost there,” I said out loud.
Eloise kept her word, and came back to my desk the next day. “So, do you still want to get together?” she asked hopefully. “Of course,” I answered, trying to file papers at the same time. “Well, maybe we could go to the movies on Saturday. Or shop a little. We could visit your brother on the job.” “All great ideas, except for that last one. He’s pretty focused when it comes to work,” I laughed. Eloise nodded. “Alright, how about three-thirty?” she asked. “Fine. I get out of work at noon.” “Alright. We can meet at the movies,” Eloise agreed. She smiled amiably and waved goodbye. “I’m looking forward to it!” she called.
Saturday turned up at a surprising rate, and, just like promised, work got out at twelve o’clock. I hurried home to get some lunch and change. Filling Mama in, I bustled to my room to pull on a crisp yellow dress. The dress had been a birthday present when I turned nineteen. The white collar and matching belt gave it a touch of elegance, and I felt cooler in the light-weight fabric.
Throwing two dollars and twenty-seven cents into my bag (the only pocket money I owned), I pulled a comb through my wavy hair and applied a few miraculous cosmetics.
Eloise was there waiting. “Hi, Sis!” she called, waving to catch my attention. I hurried over to her, and we got in a long line. The overhead sign broadcasted tickets to be “Only 24 cents!” I anxiously fished some coins from my bag. When I came up to the window and requested my ticket, I was told apologetically, “Sorry, Miss, we’re all sold out.” Eloise turned to me questioningly. “Let’s go on and shop,” I suggested lightly. Apparently, many people had thought a Saturday afternoon movie to be a good idea.
We window shopped until four. After that, we were thirsty and decided to stop in Griggs’s General Store to buy some soda. I smiled as I realized that we were visiting Bud at his work. Hadn’t I suggested it?
We sat down at the counter and waited for him to look our way. He did, and raised an eyebrow at me. “You would think you don’t see me at all with the way you come here so much,” he teased.
His gaze shifted to Eloise, and past her. He wasn’t much interested in girls.
“What’ll it be?” he asked us.
“I’ll take a cream soda,” I answered.
Eloise asked for grape, and we set our money on the counter. Eloise continued watching Bud the entire time we were there.
“Ready to go?” I asked, after finishing my soda.
“Sure,” she answered, and she waved to Bud. Bud waved indifferently and returned to work.
Eloise wasn’t ever going to get anywhere with him, I thought with amusement.
We said goodbye and parted our separate ways. I was relieved to have made a friend of a co-worker.
I went home, and told Mama I loved her.
What are your thoughts? How has October gone for you?