This the eighth part of my fiction story A Story To Tell. The story isn’t really broken into chapters, but bite-size sections for the blog. When I start to rewrite and tighten the story I’ll figure out chapters. To catch up with the story find the links at the end of this section of the story.
“How old are you anyhow?” I asked Hank, laying back in the grass, looking up at the star filled sky.
He leaned up on his elbow and grinned.
“How old do you think I am?” he asked.
“My friend Emmy says you’re like 24,” I said.
“I don’t know if it’s a good thing I look older or not.” He laughed and pushed his hand back through his hair.
“I’m 21,” he said, then laid back on the grass, his arms behind him. “But I feel like I’ve lived enough life to fill two lifetimes since the old man kicked me out.”
“Is it scary living alone?” I asked.
“Maybe at first, but not now,” he said. “I’m used to it. I like coming and going when I please, no one to tell me ‘no’ or ‘you shouldn’t do that.”
“Isn’t it lonely?”
He shrugged. “Sometimes.”
He leaned up on his elbow again and grinned at me.
“It’s not so bad lately, now that I have you,” he said.
I smiled, hands folded across my stomach as I looked at the stars.
“You know, Blanche, you’re the only one who really seems to care about what I think and wants to know about me,” he said.
I looked at him, smiling.
“I feel the same way about you,” I said.
“I don’t think I’ve ever felt more calm than I do when I’m with you,” he said softly. He twirled a strand of my hair around his finger as he spoke. “You know, when I first took off on my own, I did miss Mama and my little brother. Judson – he’s my little brother – he always looked up to me. I felt bad when I came home drunk one night and he saw me. He looked so sad because I wasn’t acting like the Hank he used to know. I tried not to drink as much after that when I went in to parties. But then I wrecked the old man’s car and I guess that was the last straw for him. He hit me so hard that night my head vibrated. But at least he was hitting me that night and not mama.”
His voice was full of sadness. I rolled to my side, leaning my head on my arm, laying my other hand against his face.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered.
“For what?” he asked.
“That your daddy treated you and your mama so awful.”
His eyes searched mine for a few moments before he leaned over me and covered my mouth with his, sinking his fingers in my hair.
“You’re a sweet, girl, Blanche,” he said as he pulled his mouth away. “I definitely don’t deserve you.”
“No, sir, you don’t,” I said, smiling as I sank my fingers into his hair and pulled his head toward me, kissing him hard.
“What the hell are you doing out here?”
My daddy’s voice, booming, cut through the silence of the night. Hank jumped back from me and I felt my heart pounding so hard I thought I was going to faint. My knees felt weak as I stood and I had to grab on to the fence to stay standing. My ears were roaring and for a moment I thought I had gone deaf from the shock. Hank stood and calmly brushed the dirt and grass from his clothes.
“Well, hey there, Mr. Robins,” Hank tried to look confident as Daddy stomped toward us in the dark.
“Hey there?! Hey there?!”
I’d never seen Daddy’s face look the way it did that night. Rage flashed in his eyes and his mouth was twisted in a grimace. He reminded me of a picture I’d seen of the devil in my grandma’s Bible one time.
“You little… ,”
Daddy’s voice was practically a growl and the curse word he uttered was sharp and sent a cold chill rushing through me. I’d never heard Daddy swear before.
His fist hit Hank’s face and Hank hit the ground. Blood was trickling from Hank’s mouth when he lifted himself to his feet and I could hear daddy breathing hard.
“Don’t you ever touch my daughter again!” his finger was pointed at Hank and it was shaking.
“I wasn’t doing anything wrong.” Hank spat blood on the ground.
“Get off my property!” Daddy shouted.
“I’m not going anywhere unless Blanche wants me to. This was a private meeting,” Hank snarled back.
“You don’t have a ‘private meeting’ with a little girl!”
“She isn’t a little girl! She’s practically a grown woman!” Hank yelled back. “This isn’t the 30s, old man. Girls her age are getting married and having babies by now.”
“You son of a – “Daddy grabbed Hank by the front of his shirt and then swung at him again. Hank moved and daddy almost fell onto the ground but righted himself and started to lunge toward Hank again.
Suddenly I was angry. I was angry at Daddy for always treating me like a child. I was angry at him for punching Hank. I was angry at Mama for deciding my life for me. I was angry at Edith for always getting the attention. I was angry at the boys at school. I was angry at Hank for yelling at Daddy. I was angry at life. I didn’t want to be stuck in this town my whole life and I was sick of people acting like I was going to.
“I’m out here because I wanna be!” I shouted over Daddy and Hank, as startled as them at the angry tone of my voice.
Daddy’s face was red as he stepped away from Hank and turned to face me.
“What did you say?!” he said, half snarling, half screaming, like a rabid dog.
I’d never seen him so angry but I kept yelling anyway, my fury overriding my common sense.
“I like talking to Hank and I’m tired of being told what to do! Hank’s the only one who treats me like a real person and not a baby!”
Daddy wrapped his big hand around my upper arm and dragged me across the field toward the house.
“You were doing a lot more than talking when I came out here!” Daddy was speaking through gritted teeth. “And don’t you ever speak to me the way you did just now. Not ever!”
He whipped me around like a rag doll, looking at Hank, his voice shaking.
“Hank Hakes, you get off my property before I get my gun and show you I know how to use it!”
Hank was smirking.
“Yes, sir, Mr. Robbins. I’ll do whatever you say,” he chuckled sarcastically, turned, but then paused and turned back toward Daddy and me.
“I’ll see you another day, Blanche!” he called, only making Daddy angrier.
Daddy’s footsteps were long and brisk and I couldn’t keep up. I fell when we were almost to the house, stones cutting into my legs as Daddy continued to drag me.
“Get up!” He yelled as tears spilled hot down my cheeks.
Mama was standing in the doorway when we reached the front porch, her expression revealing shock and horror.
“My God, Alan! What is going on?” She cried reaching out for me.
“Your little girl has been sneaking around with that Hank Hakes and I’ll have none of it! I won’t have two little whores in my house!”
He tossed me at mama’s feet and walked toward his truck.
“Jessie, I am too angry to think. I’m going for a drive.”
The truck sped away, out the drive and down the dirt road by our house, kicking stones and dirt up from the tires. Hank’s truck had already disappeared down the road in a cloud of dust.
I saw Edith through my tears, standing at the bottom of the stairs. I knew she’d heard what Daddy had said about having two whores in the house. Her face was scrunched up, tears staining her face.
Mama knelt next to me and for a moment I thought she might start yelling as well. Instead she took the edge of her gown in her hand, wiping the tears off my face.
“Come on, get up,” she said. “I’ll make us some cocoa and we’ll have a talk. Edith, you come down too.”
I slumped into a chair at the kitchen table and looked at my shin, covered in dirt and blood. My hair was in my face, full of dirt.
Edith sat across from me with her arms folded across her chest. She had wiped her tears away and a small smile was playing across her mouth.
I didn’t want to be the brunt of her mocking jokes today.
“Well, at least it’s you who is in trouble this time,” she said with a sneer. “I sure as heck didn’t see that coming.”
“Shut up,” I hissed at her.
Mama handed me a wet towel then poured milk into a pan on the stove.
“Clean yourself off,” she told me sharply and sat down. “And both of you shut up.”
I saw the creases in the corners of her eyes, creases I hadn’t noticed before. Her hair had fallen out of her rollers in a couple of places and she looked tired, more tired than I had seen her look in a long time.
“So, what’s going on with you?” She said softly. “What happened out there?”
I wiped the blood from my leg and didn’t look at her. I shrugged. I didn’t want to talk about it. I was embarrassed, but more than that, I was still angry.
“Were you with Hank?” she asked bluntly.
I winced as I wiped the dirt on my leg away to reveal a small gash. Blood trickled down my shin.
I nodded as she stood to find bandages and peroxide. The medicine cabinet door slammed in the kitchen.
“What do you see in him?” she asked a few moments later, kneeling in front of me, cleaning the gash.
I grimaced as fresh tears sprung to my eyes from the pain.
“He listens to me. He doesn’t think I’m a stupid little girl and he doesn’t call me a nerd,” I told her.
“You like the attention he gives you, don’t you?” Mama asked.
I nodded, wiping tears off my face with the back of my hand.
“That attention is all well and good right now, but with someone like Hank I’m afraid it wouldn’t last,” Mama said. “He’s a lot of talk. He’s a lot of ‘right now’ but not a lot of ‘what will be.’ Do you understand what I mean?”
I didn’t. I shook my head and looked at her through the hair that was still in my face.
She pushed the strands away from my eyes and hooked them behind my ears.
“Blanche, he likes what he sees but I’m afraid he likes a lot of what he sees. I know your daddy is angry right now, but it’s because we’ve seen men like Hank before. He doesn’t come from a good background and those type of men don’t stay in one place, or with one person, for very long.”
I looked away and felt my lower lip quivering.
“I love him,” I said quietly. I hadn’t even admitted it to myself yet, but it was true.
Edith laughed ruefully.
“I knew you’d be the one to fall for the bad boy,” she said. “It’s always the quiet ones.”
“Be quiet, Edith,” Mama instructed. She turned to look at me. “You’re too young to know what love is. What you have right now is lust.”
She stood and went to the stove, poured the milk in mugs and mixed the cocoa in.
When she sat again, she leaned across the table and took my chin in her hand, made me look her in the eye.
“Blanche, you need to be honest with me right now – has Hank ever told you he loves you?”
“No,” I said softly.
“Has he – has he – talked you into doing things that only married people are supposed to do?”
Mama looked worried.
Edith looked expectant as she watched me closely over the rim of her mug, eyes wide.
I looked back at Mama.
“No, ma’m,” I said firmly. “He’s kissed me and that’s all.”
Mama studied my eyes for a few moments and let my chin go. Out of the corner of my eye I couldn’t tell if Edith was relieved or disappointed in my answer.
“Okay,” she said. “I believe you. I know you feel like you’re in love, but I agree with your daddy. You need to stay away from Hank. It might be hard, but you have to understand that sometimes we have to move past our feelings and do what we know is right. Are you listening?”
I didn’t agree with her, but I was listening.
“Now, you girls finish your cocoa and get back to bed. You’ve both got church in the morning and I don’t plan to let you miss it. You need it more than ever right now.”
When Edith and I started up the stairs Mama called to Edith.
“Edith, I hope you heard all that I said to Blanche tonight,” she said, firmly. “It applies to you as well.”
Edith rolled her eyes and flounced up the stairs.
“Yeah, I heard you, but Blanche is getting more action these days than me, so it’s not like you have anything to worry about,” she grumbled as she stomped into our room.