How was your Labor Day weekend?
I’m here with the sixth chapter of Leona.
If you’d like to find out what Leona is, or catch up on the previous chapters, click here.
I hope you like it!
It had been two weeks.
Two weeks in a new place, and two weeks without Dad.
Of course, I liked the new house. What was not to like about indoor plumbing?
But everything was so strange and unfamiliar, like we were living somebody else’s life.
Rachel came over on a Saturday in late June. I showed her around the house.
We paused in the bathroom, as Rachel examined every aspect.
“You don’t have to lug water to the tub,” she had said excitedly.
“Wanna try it?” I had offered, adding, “Later tonight?”
Now it was time to go. I brushed through my hair one more time, smoothed my new yellow dress, and borrowed some of Mama’s rouge. Rachel smoothed the the folds of her dress. “Bye, Mama,” I called, and we stepped out the door.
We went to the soda fountain at the drugstore and got something to drink. We sat at the counter and sipped the fizzy drink as we talked. After that, we lingered in front of stores, window shopping. I showed her the high school building. “Oh, it’s bigger than I thought,” she said. It was a two story, and much bigger. We were used to our little one story whitewashed school house. “Yes,” I agreed. We strode home as it began to be dusk.
“Thanks for inviting me,” Rachel said. “And for the soda,” she added. I shrugged. “It’s nothing. I miss you.” We had macaroni and cheese for supper, and got ready to take our baths.
We took turns letting the cold faucet water fill the tub, and then poured boiling water in it to warm it up. I got out a special soap Mama had given me, and we both ended up very clean.
That night, we crawled into bed. Light flooded in from my window. “Is it always this bright?” Rachel asked me.
“Yes. It’s from the other people’s houses.”
She nodded, and asked drowsily, “Do you like it here?”
I hesitated. “I miss you,” I admitted, “But it’s new and exciting here.”
She closed her eyes.
“Mmm,” she said.
I listened to her soft breathing, and slowly drifted off.
It was August first, and someone was knocking on the door. I opened it, and was surprised to see a friendly girl my age at the door. “Hello,” she said. “Are you Leona Burns? I heard you moved in last month.” I nodded, trying not to stare. She was a pretty girl, with blonde hair and blue eyes.
“That’s right. Who’re you?”
She smiled, “I’m Maggie.”
“People call me Sis. Do you live around here?” I asked.
She pointed down the street, “Yep. A few houses down. Sis is a nice name. I came over to see if there really was a girl my age.”
“Well, how old are you?” I asked.
“Fifteen. How ‘bout you?” she replied matter-of-factly.
“I’m fourteen,” I said.
She nodded. “You’ll be comin’ to the high school?” she assumed.
“Yes, that’s why we moved here. Dad’s staying at our ranch.” She nodded.
“A cattle ranch?” she asked.
I nodded, “Yes.”
“Well, it’s nice to meet you. I’ll see you at the high school some.”
I smiled. “Nice meetin’ you. See ya,” I called, as she strode down the walk. She waved.
Mama walked out of the kitchen. “Who was that?” she asked. “A girl named Maggie. She’s fifteen.”
“Well, it’s nice to start gettin’ to know someone,” Mama said.
I scrutinized myself in the mirror one more time. “Are you sure I look okay?” I asked Mama, coming into the kitchen. She handed me my lunchbox. “Of course,” she said, waving her hand.
“You’ve never not looked pretty,” she replied.
I flushed and waved goodbye.
Bud was standing grumpily by the door. “Ready yet?” he asked.
“Yep,” I said, trying to appear calm and collected.
He opened the door, and we stepped out. I took a deep breath as we walked down the road. My navy dress came down to my shins, and the fabric brushed my legs as we walked.
The high school building was swarming with the most kids I’d seen in all my life. There must’ve been forty of ‘em. Bud and I exchanged nervous glances before we were assimilated into the crowd.
Now the hassle began. I looked on the bulletin board to find my classes and scurried to get there in time. Mama had bought our books ahead of time, and I had them tucked under my arm. I bustled into my first class. After the pledge of allegiance, all eleven students sat down. Every stared at the floor. This was our first year in high school. We began with pre-algebra. I had barely done that at the old school.
Thankfully, I didn’t seem to be the only one slightly confused. After that class, there was English.
That was something I understood. I sat down, smoothing my long navy dress. The teacher introduced herself, and we began with a review of everything we had ever learned, it seemed.
I squirmed in the chair.
The hard wood was making my end sore.
“Of course, double negatives aren’t allowed. Don’t put more than one negative word, such as not, no, and none, in the same independent clause…” Miss Ann continued.
My mind wandered, and I found myself continually trying to pull it back.
“What if no one likes me? Or I find a friend? Or…” my mind raced.
“Does someone have an example of a double negative sentence?” Miss Ann asked.
I raised my hand, along with everyone else. Surprisingly, she picked me. “Leona,” she said. My mind raced.
“We had not never done nothing,” slipped out.
She smiled. “Good example. That’s a triple negative,” she said. She continued the lecture.
Finally, it was time for lunch. I followed the others to the main floor, where a large room was the designated lunch room. I went to a corner table, and sat down and began to unwrap the sandwich Mama had made me. I heard someone calling my name and looked up. Maggie was tripping toward me. “How is your first day going?” she asked as she arrived at the table, breathless.
“It’s fine,” I said.
She nodded and plopped down. “My words exactly,” she agreed.
Bud walked over and sat down, eyeing Maggie warily. “Hey, Sis,” he muttered. I smiled.
“This is Bud,” I told her. He nodded her way.
Maggie waved goodbye as she walked away. “Keep up the good work,” she called. I smiled. Too soon, lunch was over.
School continued methodically. After a few weeks in, I started remembering classmate’s names, but still hadn’t made many friends. I was put in a higher English class, but kept in the same pre-algebra. At lunch one day, I sat down in my usual spot to observe people.
At a crowded table in the middle, I watched Kenneth, Walter, and Billy laughing and eating loudly. I was annoyed at the inanity of the boys in my class. A few tables over, two of the most popular girls in my English class, Dolores and Janet, were whispering.
My eyes scanned the crowded room.
I saw Maggie, talking and laughing with other girls her age. I envied her. Bud had finally made a friend named David, and they sat a table over. The other girls, Arlene and Lillian, were slightly more friendly. They said hello when I passed, and were amiable, much to my relief. Arlene walked over, with Lillian behind. “Can we sit with you?” she asked. I nodded and scooted over. They slid beside me.
“How old is your brother over there?” Arlene questioned. “Same as me,” I answered. She nodded, satisfied.
“I think you look pretty in that blue dress,” she told me. I thanked her, and returned the compliment.
“Lillian and I have known each other since first grade,” she went on. “If you want, we could all be friends.” I nodded slowly, thinking of Rachel.
“Sure,” I said. From then on, Arlene and Lillian sat at the table with me. I enjoyed the company, even though I resented their shallow chatter every now and then.
I was coming to grips with the fact that I was possibly the only person in my grade who didn’t care about who liked who.
Winter came on slowly but surely. I got tired of wearing a coat before I started. I knew that summer would come, and I would moan and groan for the cooler weather of winter, but right now I hated it. School was always cold, and sometimes we even had to wear our coats inside.
“We’re almost there,” I said happily. This was the first time we had come back to the ranch in weeks.
Mama pulled in the drive. Since we had taken the automobile, Dad got his supplies in town on the weekends, when we came back. I hopped out of the automobile and shivered.
Scurrying inside, and I hugged Dad, and rushed upstairs. I always ran upstairs first thing, to make sure my room was still the same, and Dad hadn’t started puttin’ cattle in it.
If I imagined hard enough, I could pretend we still lived here, and Rachel still walked with me to school, and I was still young and happy. It sounds silly, because I was still young and happy. I just didn’t feel so happy and free in town as I did out here in the country air.
My room was the same. My faded curtains hung limply, and my bed was still wrinkled from last time I made it. I smiled. We were home again.
Rachel bounded up the stairs two by two. “Sis?” she called. “Here!” I ran to give her a hug. She smiled big, and I noticed how long her hair had gotten.
“School good?” she asked.
“It’s OK,” I assured her. “But the boys are silly, and the girls are love-stricken,” I complained.
She giggled. “You’re love-stricken?” she asked.
“I’m the only girl who’s not,” I replied. She sobered.
“If you don’t like it, are you coming back?” she asked tentatively. I shook my head.
“Mama says we’re going to get a high school education, and you know Mama. There’s no talking her out of it.”
Rachel nodded. “That’s what I was afraid of.”
Rachel left to do chores, and I busied myself with making supper, something I rarely did. I remembered why I barely did it that night at supper. The biscuits were burnt, and the gravy was as thick as paste. “Sorry,” I apologized. We ate in dutiful silence.
Mama put my bag in the automobile and looked at us apologetically. “It’s time to go,” she called. I nodded and said bye to Dad. As we got in the car, he leaned against the wooden post, arms against his chest. He looked like he always did when we left – sad. I wished we could all be together. I knew he did, too. I waved hesitantly. He waved back slowly. I sighed as we drove away.
What do you think?