By Karen Brode
Winnie grabbed her purse and her Bible as she took one last look in the mirror. There was so little she could do with her hair. No style seemed suitable for her hair type. Sometimes she wished her hair was stick straight and maybe she would have looked a little better.
She had the olive complexion from her mother. That added to her unattractiveness, at least in her own mind. She thought of the popular girls when she was in high school, and it did seem to her that they all had milky white skin, but she was certain that they had never spent their summers bent over a hoe in the cotton field like her.
This was the first Sunday after her mother’s funeral. She was anxious to get it over and let people see that their lives would go unchanged by her mother’s death. She would still go to church every Sunday and she would still teach the young people’s class. Routines were important at times like this.
All through the house, there were echoes of the baby crying, echoes of her mother calling to her from the bedroom, echoes of days gone by. But now there was only intense silence. Travis and Jane had loaded up their car and left very early that morning. They refused breakfast even though Winnie had already started the bacon frying. They had to be on their way. She had cried for a long time after they left.
She saw the plume of exhaust from the car as her father, John Hawk, waited for her in the driveway outside the car-shed. He wanted to have the car warmed up so she wouldn’t be cold. She brushed through her bristly, Brillo-pad hair one more time, but it was no use. Her hair still went in all directions and she shook her head in resignation as she walked out the front door.
The car was already getting warm, and she thought how lucky she was to have such a good, thoughtful father. But, he, too had been diminished by what had happened. He did a good job of seeming to stay upbeat, but Winnie knew he was making special efforts to get their lives back to normal as soon as possible. Nothing like hard work to get your mind off sadness he had told Winnie several times.
As a result, every piece of furniture in their house had been polished to a gleam with lemon juice. Winnie had even gotten her mother’s china out of the buffet and carefully washed it all by hand. Then she had polished all of her grandmother’s silver until she could see herself in it. They never used any of the good silver or china, but it seemed like the thing to do.
Winnie didn’t like the picture she and her father made riding together by themselves to church–an old man and his spinster daughter. Winnie’s father, John Hawk, turned to Winnie and said, “Pete has asked me several times if he could call on you. I don’t know how you feel about him, but he’s very interested in knowing you better.”
Winnie looked down at her Bible knowing what was in there: God’s word, and the picture of Gene. She had heard that Gene had several children. She tried not to mention him in conversation, but any hint she could find out about him set her heart on edge. She wondered what he looked like now. She wondered if he was happy. Oh, of course, he was happy. She was the one who wasn’t happy.
Winnie looked at her father and said, “Do you like Pete?”
“Well now Winnie, it don’t matter how I feel about Pete. What matters is whether you like him or not.”
Winnie stayed silent for the rest of the way to church.
When John Hawk and his daughter, Winnie, drove into the gravelled parking space around the church, Winnie saw Pete standing on the church porch with his hat in his hands. He looked so expectant, and there was something puppyish about him while he waited for Winnie to get out of the car.
Winnie picked up her Bible and her purse and got out of the car and started walking slowly to the church porch where Pete waited in optimistic anticipation.
Karen Brode grew up in Denison, TX and graduated from Denison High School in 1972. She took courses at Southeastern Oklahoma State University and worked in a church office for 25 years. She and her husband, Gary, have been married 39 years and they have one son, Brandon. Karen’s hobbies are writing, sewing, and gardening.