If you want to catch the beginning of Blanche’s story, you can read it on Kindle and Kindle Unlimted. However, you don’t have to read the first part to be able to enjoy A New Beginning.
If you want to read A New Beginning’s chapters that have been posted so far, you can find themhere (or at the top of the page).
As always, this is the first draft of a story. There will be typos and in the future, there will be changes made, some small, some large and as before I plan to publish the complete story later as an ebook. Also, sorry about the lack of indentations at the beginning of paragraphs. I can’t seem to figure out how to make that happen in WordPress.
Daddy and Jackson were standing in the doorway with wet, muddy boots dripping water on the rug in the front room.
“Did you catch anything?” Mama asked.
“Not much,” Jackson said, feigning sadness, his hands behind his back.
“Oh well, at least you had fun,” Mama said with a knowing smile.
Jackson slid his arm from behind his back, holding up a stack of fish hanging on a long section of fishing wire and grinned.
“Well, we did catch these,” he said with a proud smile.
“You little trickster,” I said, taking the fishing line from his hand and kissing his cheek. “Now I suppose you expect Grandma and I to clean these for dinner.”
He laughed. “Well, of course, Mama. I don’t want to see no fish guts.”
Daddy grinned, rubbing his hand across Jackson’s hair.
“Take your boots off kid and we’ll tell the lady folk about our excursion.”
Jackson was my Daddy’s shadow. They fished together, worked on the car, mowed the lawn, cut down trees, and fixed any appliance that needed to be fixed. Wherever Daddy was, Jackson wasn’t far behind him and I could tell Daddy loved it, especially since he’d never had a son of his own to talk to about mechanics and so-called “manly things.”
As I reached over to shut the door, I caught sight of a blue truck pulling into the driveway and sighed.
“What in the world is he doing here?” I asked as Judson stepped out of the truck and waved.
It had four months since I’d been reintroduced to Judson and it seemed like I was seeing him everywhere lately – at Emmy’s, at church, at the diner when Emmy and I went for lunch during the week, and now at my own home since Daddy kept inviting him over to borrow tools or help with odd jobs. It also didn’t help he had moved into Mr. Worley’s old tenant house, less than a mile from our house.
Mama looked over my shoulder and smiled, waving back at Judson.
“I think I know what he’s doing here,” she said.
I rolled my eyes.
“Well, I’m just saying. He’s single. You’re single…”
“Knock it off you two,” Daddy said, pulling his boots off. “I know what he’s doing here. He’s bringing my pruning saw back. I loaned it to him to cut back some of the branches at his place. Stop reading into it.”
Judson lifted the saw out of the back of the truck and walked toward the porch, still smiling.
“He does have a lovely smile,” Mama whispered behind me.
“Mama, stop it,” I hissed.
Daddy pushed past us. “Good grief, Janie. Why don’t you just get a lasso and brand him already?”
Mama chuckled and grinned at me.
“Hey, that might work.”
I pressed my hand against my forehead. “Lord, Jesus, give me strength,” I said, copying Mama’s gesture when she was stressed.
Daddy stepped onto the porch and held his hand out.
“Judson! Hello! How did the saw work for you?”
“Great, Mr. Robbins and I managed not to lose any limbs in the process.” Judson laughed as he walked up onto the porch. He took Daddy’s outstretched hand and shook it.
“Jud, I’ve told you before – call me Alan,” Daddy said, holding the screen door open. “Why don’t you stay for dinner? I’m sure a bachelor like yourself would like a good, home-cooked meal for once. Blanche and Janie are going to fry up some fish for dinner. Jackson and I just caught them down at the pond.”
“I wouldn’t want to intrude …..”
“Oh, you wouldn’t be intruding,” Mama said. “Get on in here. We have plenty of food and plenty of room at the table.”
I smirked as I walked to the kitchen with the fish, my back to the front door, recognizing my Mama’s familiar ploy. For the last couple of years, she had composed a rotating list of potential suitors for me and Judson seemed to be on the top of that list since she’d met him at Emmy’s.
I listened to Judson and my parents chatting in the living room for a few moments and then Daddy excused himself to clean up from his fishing trip and Mama took Jackson upstairs to change out of his muddy clothes.
I smiled over my shoulder, cutting into the fish on the counter.
“Hey, yourself. How’s it going?”
“Can’t complain. The rain finally stopped so it looks like we’ll be able to pour the concrete at the new pharmacy location in Tannersville. I’ll be glad to finally get that job done.”
He stepped behind me and looked over my shoulder. I could smell his cologne and couldn’t deny he smelled better than I expected for a man who had just been cutting branches outside his home.
“Where did you learn how to debone fish like that?”
“Mama and Daddy. I don’t enjoy it, but it’s a handy skill to have when you have a dad who likes to take his grandson fishing.”
Jackson skipped into the kitchen and looked up at Judson.
“I caught all those fish, Judson,” he said proudly. “Grandpa helped me, but I did most of it. I even took the hook out of that big one over there. He ate half the worm!”
“Way to go, buddy,” Judson said. “I don’t know a thing about fishing so I know I wouldn’t have been able to do that.”
“Sure, you could. You can go fishing with me and Grandpa next time we go.”
Judson smiled and leaned back against the counter across from me. “I may just take you up on that. If you agree to put the worms on the hook for me. I could never do that.”
Jackson shrugged. “Nothing to it. Just don’t think about their guts squirting out on your hand when you shove the hook through.”
Judson grimaced and then laughed. “Gee, thanks, kid. I never actually thought of it that way before.”
I smiled at Judson, tossing a row of bones on top of the pile I’d already started. “My kid is nothing if not graphic in his descriptions.”
“I’m going to go dig a hole!” Jackson said skipping past us and out the back door.
Judson watched the door close and grinned. “Man, to be young again and find excitement in merely digging a hole.”
I reached for the flour in the turntable next to Judson, set it on the counter and opened the cupboard, reaching up for the bowl. I silently grumbled about my short stature as my fingertips grazed the edge of the bowl. I raised myself on my tiptoes but still couldn’t fully grasp the edge to lift it down.
“Let me help you with that.”
Judson’s hand grazed my arm as he reached over me for the bowl. He looked down at me as he handed it to me, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.
“Good thing I was here, or you would have been climbing on a chair and falling off or something.”
He was standing too close. I had to move away before I noticed the color of his eyes, or the masculine shape of his jaw, or anything about him at all.
“I have to get dinner done,” I said softly. “Maybe we can talk after dinner.”
“Sure thing. Can’t wait to taste the fish.”
I noticed a tremble in my hand as I pulled the eggs from the refrigerator. I cracked the eggs in a bowl and dipped the first piece of fish. My heart was pounding and a flush of heat filled my chest and rushed into my face. I hated the way my body reacted when Judson was close to me.
The first time I had experienced it we had been at church. At church of all places.
He had sat in our row and during the singing there weren’t enough hymnals so I stepped closer to let him look at mine. The strong timbre of his voice startled me, and I looked up to see if it was truly coming from his mouth. It was. His eyes were focused forward and I became fascinated with the way the muscles moved in his jaw as he sang. I pulled my gaze back to the hymnal moments later but then my eyes were drifting over his hands, noticing the shape of them and from there, my eyes drifted up to a tanned forearm and bicep. I wished to myself it wasn’t such a warm day and he wasn’t wearing a short-sleeved shirt. I closed my eyes and tried to control my thoughts. Church was nowhere to be noticing the shape of a man’s arms, the timber of his voice, his jaw, the blue of his eyes, the smell of his cologne…
“Lord, Jesus,” I had prayed to myself. “Keep my mind focused on you and not on a man. That’s how I got in trouble before. I don’t want to go down that road again.”
As soon as the singing was finished, I stepped quickly away from Judson and gently ushered Jackson to sit between us so there would be no chance of me noticing anything remotely attractive about Judson T. Waignwright.
I’d been making similar attempts to distance myself ever since. If I saw him in the supermarket I chose a different aisle. If he was across the street and saw me, I waved and then ducked into a store, as if I had meant to go there in the first place. If he was having dinner at Emmy and Sam’s I quickly made an excuse not to stay. I didn’t need him anywhere near me, clouding my mind and sending my heart racing, making me forget that I had built walls around my life and heart for a reason.
Mama helped me finish dinner and we set the table, adding an extra place for Judson. I made sure to sit him at the end of the table, across from Daddy and between Mama and Jackson, a good place for me to avoid accidentally grazing a hand against his or for him to try to start a conversation with me.
As I placed the last for next to a plate, I caught sight of Judson standing in the living room, looking at the photo of my uncle Jason hanging on the wall over the couch. Jason was wearing his Marine uniform in the photo, his broad smile identical to Daddy’s.
Daddy stepped behind Judson. “That’s my brother, Jason. He was killed in Korea. 1952.”
Judson turned to face Daddy, his expression somber. “I’m so sorry to hear that, Mr. Robbins. What a huge sacrifice your family made for our country.”
Daddy nodded, swallowing hard, and then gestured toward the set table. “It was hard for us, yes, but he died doing what he loved – serving his country.”
“You can sit here,” I told Judson, pulling the chair at the end of the table out.
“Did you ever serve, sir?” Judson asked Daddy after Mama said the prayer.
Daddy handed Judson the plate of fish. “I was drafted during World War II but it was at the end of the war. I never saw combat. The war ended before I was ever shipped out. Jason was my baby brother. The youngest of us four kids. He always wanted to be in the Army so he signed up right after high school. A year later he was in Korea and six months after that they shipped him home in a box.”
“That’s one reason I don’t like to talk about our country going to war again. I don’t want other families to have to go through what ours did.”
Daddy cleared his throat and I knew it was to try to keep tears at bay.
“I won’t make this a political discussion,” he said with a small laugh. “That isn’t appropriate dinner conversation.”
Judson nodded in agreement. “I don’t mind a little political banter but I understand what you mean about it not being great for dinner conversations. For what it’s worth, though, I agree with you and hope our country stays out of the situation in Vietnam. We have no business being there.”
Part of me was glad to see Daddy and Judson conversing about politics so easily but another part of me wanted to growl in frustration. It seemed the farther away I tried to get from Judson, the closer my family got to him. Keeping my distance certainly wasn’t going to be easy.
“You can’t keep living in a pause when your life deserves to move forward.”
I thought about what Pastor Frank had said from the pulpit a couple of weeks ago as I laid back on my bed on a warm Saturday afternoon. Sunlight reflected off the hand mirror I had laid on top of my dresser, casting rainbows across the ceiling.
“Your story isn’t over because something horrible happened to you. God is writing your story and He wants you to let Him walk with you through it to victory – to a well-deserved ending,” Pastor Frank had said. “Your story will end with God getting the glory out of every situation in your life. Maybe you were loved once and then that love ended, and you think you can’t be loved again. But you can be loved again, and you are already loved by your Father in Heaven.”
Laying on my back on the top of the bedspread I thought about how my life had been on pause for five years now. I wouldn’t let anyone too close to me or Jackson and I was still living with my parents when I could have easily rented a house or apartment. I spent most of my nights alone when I could have been involved in more activities in the community.
It was as if I was afraid to really live, afraid I would mess up again and the happy state I was now in would crumble around me. The ringing of the phone pulled me from my thoughts. Mama and Daddy were outside watching Jackson ride his bike so I knew I’d have to go down the stairs and pick up the phone.
“Hey, baby girl, how are you doing?” Miss Mazie’s voice on the other end of the phone was sweet and comforting.
Miss Mazie, the sweet woman with the skin dark like chocolate and the discerning spirit that could also see through all my lies. I’d met her after church one Sunday in Syracuse during a time when I was newly married, lonely, homesick and at the beginning of an unplanned pregnancy. She had been like a second mother to me when I was so far away from my own. Her thick Mississippi accent brought a smile to my face as I sat on the couch and leaned back to enjoy our conversation.
“I’m not doing too bad. How’s life been treating you, Miss Mazie?”
“Well, it’s been treating me real good. Real good.”
“Jackson and I are still talking about our last trip up to see you.”
Miss Mazie’s hearty laugh filtered through the receiver.
“That was a good visit. I couldn’t believe how much that boy had grown!”
“And I couldn’t believe how much Hannah’s kids had grown,” I said. “And Buffy’s, especially the new baby, who isn’t even a baby anymore.”
“Nope, she’s three already. Kind of hard to believe – she’s such a miracle baby and livin’ right up to that designation.”
Buffy’s youngest daughter, Patty, wasn’t even supposed to be born after Buffy had suffered a series of miscarriages over the years. About a year after I left God had blessed Buffy and her husband, the pastor of the church I’d attended, with another baby and she’d come despite a number of complications that left Buffy on bedrest for the last month of her pregnancy.
“And how is your daughter doing?” I asked Miss Mazie Any more babies on the horizon for her?”
“Oh, glory! Didn’t I tell you? She’s got twins on the way, Blanche! Can you believe it?”
I thought about Isabell, the tender way she’d bandaged my head and wrapped my ribs after I stumbled into her mother’s house, a bloody mess that night. It was our first meeting. What a way to meet a person, blooding dripping down the back of my neck and my lip swollen three times its’ size.
“I can’t imagine how she’ll continue working as a nurse with twins and two others at home,” I said. “But she’s an amazing lady and I know she can do it.”
“Well, she’s planning to take a break from nursing after the twins are born,” Miss Mazie said. “She’s finally realized she doesn’t have to be super mom to be walking in the place God called her to be in. It’s an answer to my prayers. It was hard watching her try to do so much and never take time for herself to rest. Of course, she won’t have much time to rest with all those youngin’s but at least she won’t be caring for them and working at the same time.”
I sighed and bit my lower lip, trying to decide if I’d bring the topic of Hank up with Miss Mazie or not.
“Miss Mazie…remember when you asked me about Hank when we were up there? If I’d forgiven him for what he’d done?”
“Oh yes, honey. I was probably a bit too bold there, but you know I know how hard that forgiveness is to come by for us. Forgiveness is so important because of the prison it puts us in.”
“I know,” I said. “And I wanted to tell you I’ve thought about it a lot lately and I think I can start trying to forgive him now. I can’t say I’m all the way there, but I’ve been able to at least pray for him. His father abused him. He never felt like he was good enough. We got pregnant with Jackson so young – I think it was all just too much for him, not that I want to make excuses for how treated me.”
“That’s a good step, honey,” Miss Mazie said. “A very important one. Every time you feel you can’t forgive him you ask God to help you to do it. Only with God can we do what we feel we never can. Now, okay, honey, so you’re working on forgiving Hank. But what about yourself? Have you forgiven yourself?”
I didn’t answer her. I couldn’t because I knew I hadn’t. I coiled the phone cord around my finger, crossed one leg over the other and bounced my foot.
“Forgiving ourselves is the hardest thing to do, I know, but God doesn’t want you living like you don’t deserve happiness. Do you understand?”
“There is a bright future out there for you, honey. Don’t dim it by living in self-loathing.”
“Okay, now. Lecture over. Fill me in on how everyone else is. How are Edith and Jimmy and Emmy and that sweet husband of hers? How are your mama and daddy? And is Jackson riding his bike yet? Tell me it all. I don’t have much of a life, so I have to live it through all of you.”
I laughed and then I filled Miss Mazie in on all she had asked me to, conveniently leaving out any mention of Judson “J.T.” Waignwright.