Frienemies: Chapter Twenty-Three

Nana and Fawn had an early breakfast of bacon, eggs, and grits. As soon as breakfast was finished Nana bustled about, as well as she could with her cane, going through her wardrobe. There had to be something that wasn’t threadbare. Her bed was littered with discarded dresses that were deemed not fit to wear for a first meeting with what she considered fancy people.

Fawn finished washing the dishes, drying and putting them away. She sang as she worked, a strong alto voice. She liked the mountain songs she often heard being played on dulcimers and banjos. Sometimes the sound would drift through the valley as folks played their instruments while sitting on their porches. Occasionally, as she passed by her neighbors when they played, someone could be seen playing a fiddle.

But those had been happy times, before her mom got killed, before the horrible war that took the lives of so many men and decimated so many homes and towns.

No, she scolded herself. This is a lovely, sunny day. I will see Joel soon and Nana and I will get to visit the Wileys. This is going to be a great day. Pushing away the melancholy, she hurried upstairs to get ready for the trip. Her temporary sadness was soon replaced with another song, at least in her heart.

Joel arrived at the Jackson home early enough not to have to rush the ladies to be ready for the trip to the Wileys. He wasn’t alone.

Nana had finally decided what to wear and was ready when the knock came at the door. She was quite surprised when she opened it. Joel was accompanied by another visitor: Angel Browning. Nana’s expression held no hint of her feelings. She graciously invited them in and offered coffee or lemonade. “Fawn will be down shortly,” she said.

The offers of coffee were politely accepted and Nana hobbled to the kitchen to get it. She kept an aluminum coffee pot on the wood stove and let the fire burn down until it just kept things warm.

Angel followed Nana. “Let me help, Mrs. Jackson,” she said brightly.

She even sounds sincere, Nana thought. “Thank you, Angel. How’s yer mama? She still sick in her room?”

“Yes, ma’am. The doctor does not expect her to ever recover.”

“That’s too bad. How many years has it been now?” Nana drank her coffee black.

Angel stirred sugar and cream into the cups for herself and Joel. “Too many. My brother died when he fell down the steps. Mama took to her bed and never recovered from the grief.” She kept the bitterness out of her voice.

“Grief can be a terrible thing,” Nana said. “Has a minister or anybody tried to help her get over it?” They were back in the living room now.

Angel placed two cups of coffee on the coffee table, and watched as Nana, with oft practiced deliberation, set her own cup down and then sat herself.

“Yes, but it has had little effect. There are days when she seems to rally a little,but she sits on her bed, propped against pillows, and looks at all of his little drawings he made as a toddler, the notes Papa and I helped him write to tell Mama how much he loved her.” Angel swallowed hard. It isn’t fair, she thought. I’m alive. I’m breathing. And she wants nothing to do with me. I need to be loved too. But she kept her thoughts to herself and willed away the burning sensation of unshed tears.

Fawn descended the stairs and Joel immediately fixed his eyes on her.

He looks as if he is seeing me for the first time, Fawn thought. She blushed. He was impeccably dressed in a gray summer suit and a string tie. His shoes were polished to a shine. She couldn’t help but smile.

She reached the bottom of the steps and greeted her friends warmly. “Angel, it is so good to see you.” She gave her a sisterly hug. “It is getting to be like old times, you coming nearly every day.” Then she turned to Joel and gave him the proper lady-like greeting with her head bowed slightly and eyes lowered. It wasn’t formal, yet not overly familiar.

“Ahem. Well,” Joel said. “Ladies, are we ready to go?”

They were ready. Nana sent Fawn to the kitchen to make sure the fire in the wood stove was nearly out. Then the foursome walked out to the carriage, Fawn shutting the door behind them.