Have you been following along with Blanche’s story? Let me know in the comments! To catch up to the story find the links to the other chapters at the end of this one.
The few weeks after Daddy caught me were what I would call overwhelmingly tense. He didn’t speak to me. He didn’t speak to Edith. He barely spoke to Mama.
He left for work early and came home late. Dinners were silent and then he went to his chair to read his paper. I went to my room to do my homework or disappear inside a book.
Edith was quiet as well. She barely looked up from her plate at dinner. I knew she was thinking a lot about what Daddy thought of her. I hadn’t seen her flirting with boys as much lately, even though they flirted with her.
I listened to Daddy at first. I didn’t see Hank and he didn’t try to see me. I went to school and came home, helped Mama with the chores, went to church and did my best to be the Blanche I’d been before Daddy had caught me. I even visited that Bible study Lillian had suggested I attend, and I tried my best to really listen to the stories the women shared.
“Ladies, did we all get a chance to read the chapter in Proverbs about a virtuous woman?” Fran Sampson asked opening her Bible.
All the women opened their Bibles and I opened mine. I read:
Proverbs 31:10-31 “Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies. The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life. She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands. She is like the merchants’ ships; she bringeth her food from afar. She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens. She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard. She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.”
I decided not to comment too much, unsure what it was all supposed to mean. It sounded like to be a real woman I needed to be perfect and make wool. I couldn’t even sow, let alone make wool. And what did it mean to “girdeth her loins?” What were loins? It all sounded fairly ridiculous to me.
The women around me, most of them much older, nodded and smiled in agreement. Apparently, it made sense to them, then why couldn’t I figure it out?
“What do we think about this verse?” Fran asked, looking around the room.
I looked around the room too, hoping someone would enlighten me.
“Well, of course, it is probably unrealistic to believe we can live up to all of this, but it’s a wonderful guideline,” April Spencer said encouragingly.
April always had a sweet smile, perfect white teeth, blond hair, milky-white skin. Her daddy had been a farmer and her husband was a farmer and she looked like she should be on an ad for dairy products.
“It’s more of a goal to strive toward, something to work toward, rather than a list of how we need to be, I believe,” Lillian said.
The women around the room nodded in agreement and I felt a little more relieved about the passage, even if I didn’t understand all the words.
I decided I would think about the beginning of the passage: “The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.”
I thought I could handle that much, at least, when I got married. I could “do no harm” and I could make sure a husband could always trust in me.
I was walking with a basket full of baked goods Mama had asked me to take to the neighbors the evening before the last day of school when Hank pulled up in his truck. I was about a half a mile from home, on the dirt road, and along the edge of the Worley’s hay field, the grass high.
“I’ve missed you,” he said as he drove along next to me.
“I can’t talk to you,” I said, keeping my eyes on my steps as I walked.
“Haven’t you missed me?” he asked.
I had, but I couldn’t tell him.
“Come on, Blanche. I haven’t seen you in weeks. Go for a drive with me.”
I kept walking, trying to ignore him.
“Your daddy won’t find out. We’ll drive down by the covered bridge.”
I shook my head.
I wanted to be the good girl again. It had been easier when I was the good girl. Daddy had loved me when I was the good girl.
“Not now, Hank.”
“Suit yourself, but I’m going to try again,” he said and sped up, driving past me, his truck disappearing down the dirt road in a cloud of dust.
He did try again, two weeks after school ended. I had taken a walk to try to decide if I should apply for a summer job at the library and to think about what I wanted to do after I graduated the next year.
This time when he pulled up, I looked up from the road and our eyes met. I felt a funny feeling in my stomach, a mix of fear and excitement.
He was as handsome as he’d ever been.
“Come on, Blanche,” he pleaded. “I have to see you. Just take a little drive with me. I miss our talks and want to see how you are..”
I hesitated. I thought about Bible study and how we’d talked about resisting temptation. I felt like God wasn’t helping very well with keeping temptation from me.
“I can’t talk long,” I said.
Hank’s grinned. “I’ll take any time with you I can get.”
When I climbed in the front seat Hank’s smile sent heat rushing through me. He leaned in and kissed me hard. I knew I shouldn’t lean into the kiss, but I did, reaching out and sinking my fingers into his soft, brown hair. It felt so good to hold him and to be held by him. My body reacted as he opened my mouth under his and clutched at my hair.
“Girl, I’ve missed that mouth,” he said breathlessly, kissing me again.
We spent an hour kissing and talking under the covered bridge, his hands gliding where they shouldn’t be, but me liking it and reveling in the feel of his mouth on my skin. I was starting to understand what Edith had meant that night when she said that one day I’d understand how nice it was to have a man who paid attention to me.
“We can’t ever be apart that long again,” he said, leaning back to look at me. “What have you been up to?”
He kissed my neck.
“Trying to decide what I want to do after high school,” I told him, closing my eyes.
“What do you mean what you want to do?”
His mouth moved to my earlobe.
“Like, what career will I have,” I said, distracted with his hand gliding up my leg. “Mama says maybe I will be a housewife like her, but I don’t know if that’s what I want to do. I want more – you know?”
“I do know, yes,” Hank said leaning back to look at me. “I want more too. I want to get out of this area. I want to be away from all the people who tell me who I should be and who I never will be.”
He sat up, laid his arm across his propped up knee.” Why don’t you come with me? If you’re going to be a housewife, you can be my housewife.”
I laughed a little as he grinned.
“You can cook me some good food and wash my clothes and I’ll make crazy love to you,” he said.
“Is that a proposal?” I asked with a roll of my eyes. “If it was, it wasn’t a very good one you know.”
“What if it was a proposal?” he asked, flipping a piece of my hair off my shoulder with his finger.
I shook my head and laughed.
“Hey, girl, I’m serious.”
I looked up at his face and I felt weak. His expression was serious, his eyes watching me intently.
“Oh, Hank – I’m too young to get married,” I said softly.
“You’re not too young. You heard what I told your daddy. A lot of girls your age are already having babies.”
“You wanna have babies with me some day?” he asked.
I swallowed hard. I’d never thought about having babies. I shook my head.
“Not really,” I said honestly. “Or at least not now.”
“If I ever have babies, I want it to be with you,” Hank said, lightly touching the buttons of my shirt then trailing his fingertips along my collarbones
I only knew a little about where babies came from, and I knew what Hank wanted to do might lead there. I wasn’t ready for babies. I didn’t even like holding someone else’s baby.
“I have to go,” I said abruptly and pushed his hands away.
“Come on, Blanche. Just a little longer,” he kissed my neck and slid his hand across my stomach under my shirt.
I pushed his hands away again and stood up abruptly.
“My parents are going to wonder where I am and I’m pretty sure my daddy was serious about that gun,” I said.
Looking down at him I felt a rush of warmth move from my chest into my cheeks. He was so handsome, and I still couldn’t figure out what he saw in me. I knew if he asked me to marry him again I would say yes, just so I could spend my life looking at him.
But I didn’t want him to ask me to marry him again. My head was spinning. I was as confused about my present as I was about what I wanted for my future.
I knew Hank didn’t want to, but he drove me back to the end of our road, kissing me hard before I jumped out of the truck, like he wanted me to know who I belonged to. I smoothed my hair down and pulled the bottom of my shirt over the top of my skirt as I walked back to the house, ready to be the good girl for Mama and Daddy again.