“I just don’t know, all three of my children, one off to New York without even a goodbye or a note or anything, one off in Raleigh making money and no marriage prospects; and then there’s you Sweetie. You always were a strange girl. Even as a child, I just don’t know.” Mamma’s diatribe troubled Sweetie and she stood, not knowing how to react.
“Not that it matters, mind,” Mamma continued, apparently not noticing her daughter’s unhappiness. “As long as Aaron is going to propose, and from what Rita hears that’s what’ll happen. He’s a good man, and his Daddy owns practically all of Savannah. You’ll have so many nice things; much nicer than Gabrielle. Did you hear about that one? Well not that I’m a gossip mind, but she just up and went, fell in love with some mechanic and now they’re living in that trailer park with all those dirty babies running around. Not that any baby isn’t a gift from the Lord, and far be it for me to pass judgment I’m sure, but those two have nothing but ‘love’ and what does love get you? Nothing that’s what.”
Sweetie was facing away from her mother but tears were rolling down her face and her tiny hands were balled in rage and pain.
Mamma sat back, pleased to have passed her gossip on, and moved on to her son, “And Snookie running off to read that letter, as if there was anything important in there, just a mess of finances that I don’t understand. I would’ve asked him to read it, but then he took off like a bullet, and anyway, it’s my letter in the first place.”
“I’m sure he just wants to help Mamma”, Sweetie’s rage was seeping out into her words.
“I’m sure. He always was a helpful child. He got my Buttercup out of that tree when he was only a lad, Buttercup was so scared and I was so worried, but Snookie just opened up a can of tuna, calm as you like and Buttercup came down out of that tree. Whoo, the mosquitoes are biting tonight I think I’ll go on in, they see me and think it’s an all you can eat buffet.” She chuckled at her joke as she hoisted her large frame out of the lawn chair. “Now don’t you stay out here too long, Rita and I need your help in the kitchen.”
She waddled up the path to the house, mumbling gossip to herself.
Sweetie stood stock still in the garden until her brother came back to rejoin her.
“Mamma’s in a great mood,” he commented, “That must mean she’s got to you again, why do you let her do that? You always rise to her bait.”
Sweetie nodded not tearing her eyes away from Virgo her favorite summer constellation.
“So the letter,” Snookie began as he lounged into a lawn chair. “Daddy says he’s found her living in some shit heap in New York. Halter-top, barefoot, and here’s an exciting twist for your listening pleasure, pregnant. That’s right, little miss Daisy, perfect little southern Belle, got herself knocked up and off to New York with that grease stain. Daddy says he’ll give her enough money to live on for a while, but she’s a mule, won’t take it.” Snookie chuckled with pity and disbelief. “You know, I might pay to see her like that myself.” He paused to light a cigar. “He won’t tell Mamma of course, he coded it in that letter, big words so she wouldn’t understand. That letter was for me, make no mistake about that. I wonder what would happen if we let it slip to Mamma or the neighbors what Daisy’s really doing in New York. Can you just imagine?! Of course I wouldn’t do that to you. She’d lose her mind, what she has left anyway. It’d all fall on you, and I don’t want that for the world.”
Sweetie’s body was shaking with sobs and she finally brought her hands up to cover her face.
“This has become quite a trend, all the girls around here running off with trash like that. Quite the party story about that time they went slumming. I just hope you don’t take up the fad. You’re not strong enough to deal with all that. Daisy’s living on the fifth floor, no elevator of course. Daddy says there’s all manner of trash living around there, asking him for money on the street. Can you imagine Daisy living like that? And all in the name of ‘love.’”.
Sweetie spun around so quickly that Snookie was momentarily caught off guard.
“What do you know about love?! All you love is money! You run off to Raliegh and sneer down at us. Daisy finds someone to love and everyone acts like she’s on her way to hell! My God! None of you know what love is! None of you!” Sweetie collapsed into her tears, and grasped the honeysuckle vine for support.
Snookie let the moment pass before saying, “Sweetie, she is in hell. You wouldn’t be able to imagine it, but I’ve seen places like that. Babies crying, people screaming, and New York city?! That place seeps into people’s souls. It takes them and turns them into something else. The people who end up there are not our kind of people, and not the people that I want to see you hanging around with.”
“You wouldn’t know anyway, you’re never here anymore,” Sweetie said weakly, “It’s just me and Mamma and Rita, and Daddy rattling around the house and unless Aaron comes that day there’s no one around to talk to.”
Snookie stood and guided his sister into the chair, “Sit Sweetie,” he said, “You’re not feeling well.” He stated this as if he knew, but she didn’t fight him.
They sat in silence for a moment, neither one ready or willing to speak. Snookie broke the stale mate with, “Sweetie, what’s really going on? What’s wrong with you lately?” Some modicum of concern had bled into his normally aloof tone.
Sweetie shook her head to indicate that she didn’t know, and if she did, she was unwilling to share the information.
“C’mon, it’s me.” Snookie’s voice dropped to a frequency that found its way into Sweetie’s subconscious.
“I miss Aaron,” she said, “I never see him anymore, he’s so busy with work. I keep having dreams about him, I really need him. It’s so lonely to sleep alone; I toss and turn because he’s not there. It hurts not being with him. In my dreams he’s there and we lay there together, and then I wake up and he’s not…” her voice trailed off.
Snookie patted her awkwardly on the shoulder, trying to let her know that he understood, but not really having any experiences to draw upon.
“C’mon Sweetie,” he said gently, “Lets go in. It’s getting dark out.”
They stood and ambled towards the bulk of the house as the heavy summer night fell into place around them.