Boondock Ramblings

When a friend of mine read part of my novel, A Story to Tell she asked me “What happened to the real Blanche? Please tell me her life got better.”

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My grandfather and great-grandmother.

The real Blanche is my great-grandmother  (as I wrote about before I even considered writing the novel) and the truth is, for the most part, I don’t know if the real Blanche had a happier life after she left my great-grandfather (whose real name was Howard, not Hank) and returned home with my grandfather, who was a year old at the time. On the surface, looking at cursory information on Ancestry.com, I would think so, but I didn’t know her. She died in 1954, long before I was born. I wrote the book based on my own idea of what someone who lived through what she did (or might have lived through) might think, act like and do.

My father says he doesn’t remember as much about his paternal grandmother (Blanche) as he does his maternal one and that in some ways she was a tough lady, but she was also kind. Her mother was also a tough lady and the rumor is that she’s the one who refused to let my grandfather have his biological father’s last name. I think Blanche’s dad is actually the one who chased Howard off with a shotgun, but who knows if that family folklore is true.

If you have read A Story to Tell, you know my story takes place in the mid-1950s, while the real story happened in the early 1900s. I wrote the novel as a piece of fiction, changing the dates because I really did not want to write about the early 1900s, to be honest. This week, I realized I probably should have changed the names of the characters too, but I didn’t write the novel expecting a lot of people to read it (and not a lot have) and I definitely wasn’t worried that the people involved would read it because they all passed away long ago. 

I also didn’t use the real names completely, but they are close enough that if anyone knew the history they would know who they are “supposed to be”, even though I made up almost all of the details, adding characters and circumstances I am sure never happened. I didn’t have the characters move where the real-life couple did after they were married either. And I did not give my grandfather’s name to Blanche’s little boy in the book.

The sequel to A Story to Tell. A New Beginning has nothing to do with the true story of Blanche and is completely made up from my own imagination. The only similarity is that one of the characters in A New Beginning has the same name as the real Blanche’s second husband. The character is nothing like the real person, though. I just stole his name.

None of the other characters are real. In real life, Blanche had three sisters and two brothers. In my book, Blanche only has one sister. In real life, Howard, had four sisters and four brothers, though two of the brothers died in infancy. In my book, Hank only has one brother.

In my book, Hank is abusive and joins the KKK. In real life, I have no idea what Howard was like, but he did join the local KKK at some point, according to family members. I have no idea if he held on to these beliefs as he became older and I have no idea if he ever redeemed himself from his past mistakes. It remains to be seen if the fictional character based on him will find some sort of redemption and learn from his mistakes. 

I actually know very little about the real “Hank” other than the fact he had a wallpapering and painting business, played the fiddle, and once had his ribs broken when a horse kicked him. I have never even seen a photograph of him, that I know of. Someone shared a photograph from a reunion of Howard’s family on Facebook recently, but my dad says he doubts Howard was in the photo since he wasn’t exactly well liked back then. I, however, zoomed right in on a man in the back because he looked almost exactly as I had pictured Hank in my mind when I created his character.

In real life, Blanche was pregnant within a month of being married at the age of 17 and gave birth to my grandfather at the age of 18. In my book, she got married at 17 and then pregnant about six months later.

The real Blanche did get remarried at about the age of 28.  She had another son from that second marriage and he passed away in his mid-20s from Lymphoma. She also had two daughters from the second marriage, who lived well into their 80s. This past week a search on Ancestry.com and a comment from another member, when I asked her what she knew about my great-grandfather’s second wife, led me to dig deeper and discover that while the family knows Blanche left Howard within a year after my grandfather was born, records show that the divorce actually didn’t go through until 1919.

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Blanche with her second husband, Judston. (this is not necessarily a spoiler for A New Beginning.)

Blanche remarried in January of 1920 and Howard remarried in September of that year, but here is what is interesting about Howard’s second marriage. He ran off with and married his nephew’s wife. Apparently, his nephew and he were the same age since his older brother was a lot older. Howard appears to have been the “oops” baby in the family.

The second wife’s niece told me that not only did her aunt run off with Howard, she also abandoned her 2-year old daughter and husband to do it. Her name was not allowed to be spoken in her ex-husband’s household after that. To make it all even more awkward, Howard and his second wife moved to the same small town as the jilted husband and daughter. It is the same town where I live now. Howard’s second wife didn’t have contact with her daughter until her ex-husband died sixty-some years later.

Needless to say, Blanche looks a lot better in it all than Howard. However, it is interesting to note that Howard remained with his second wife until his death in 1974 and Blanche also remained with her second husband until her death in 1954.

I wish my grandfather had been alive when I was older and that I could have asked him more questions about how hard it was growing up under all of that, but I have a feeling he wouldn’t have talked about it anyhow. Why would he want to? Stuff like that happens a lot these days, but it was much more scandalous and embarrassing back then. I wish I had asked his wife, my grandmother, more questions about her life too, but when you’re young, you don’t think about such things — the past of the older people around you; their stories.

You also don’t think about how those older people most likely don’t want to talk about those parts of either their lives or the lives of their family members. To us the memories are history, but to them, they are dark parts of their past. We all have dark areas in our past we don’t care to remember.

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Blanche with her second husband later in life. See that little smile? I think she must have been nice. 

Family members of mine who are alive now may not have even been alive when whatever happened between Howard and Blanche happened, but maybe it is a little uncomfortable to think about the pain their ancestors faced, whether self-inflicted or not. I never met any of these ancestors, but I have to admit that even I feel bad for them and am a bit over finding out more sad aspects of their lives (which is why I’m taking a little break from Ancestry.com this week).

The fun thing about being a fiction writer is that I have the power to write a different ending for any ancestors, or family members, who I feel were hurt in life and deserved a better ending. I can’t change the real-life endings their stories had, but in my stories, I can create characters based on them and those characters can have the happy endings the real people should have had.

 

 

 

 

Need to catch up on Blanche’s story? Find the link to the previous chapters Here, or at the link at the top of the page. Following Blanche’s story? Let me know in the comments.



 

“He wanted to explain how people were never quite what you thought they were.” 
― William Golding, Lord of the Flies

At dinner one night I tried to talk to Daddy about the book I was reading.

“It’s called Lord of the Flies and it’s about some boys who are shipwrecked on an island,” I said.

“Mmmhmmm,” Daddy said, finishing the food on his plate.

“The boys in the book are trying to figure out who they are and what it means to be an adult or in society,” I said. “It’s sort of sad but makes me think.”

Daddy continued to eat, took a drink of his iced tea, and looked at the picture on the wall behind me.

Edith was at one of her beauty classes and Mama was beginning to clear the table. I felt tears welling up, wishing Daddy would treat me like his little girl again.

“Aren’t you ever going to talk to me again, Daddy?” I asked tears in my eyes.

Daddy tossed his napkin aggressively onto his plate.

“Maybe you should be reading your Bible instead of a book about boys on an island,” he snapped. He sat, elbows propped up on the table, looking at me with an angry expression, fingers together, under his chin.

“And why would I talk to you when you didn’t talk to me,” he continued. “I never expected this from you, Blanche. I thought you had a good head on your shoulders. Now I’ve got two daughters to try to keep from destroying their lives by running around with worthless boys. I can’t even imagine what you were thinking and I don’t know where to even start with you. I don’t know if I even want to start trying to figure all this out with you.”

“I’m sorry, Daddy, I never meant to upset you –“

“Never meant to upset me? You never even thought of me,” Daddy snarled. “You never thought of me or your mother. You never thought of anyone but yourself. You didn’t think of how people would talk or judge your parents if it got out you were seeing someone like – like – that man.”

“But no one knows – “

“And they’re not going to because you’re not going to see that fool again. Do you understand me?”

I nodded and looked at my hands clutched together on my lap.

“That’s all I’m going to say about all of this.”

Mama had stepped into the dining room from the kitchen, ready to be the peacemaker she always was.

“Alan…”

“No. Not tonight, Janie. I’m still too angry.”

Daddy pushed his chair back from the table, stood quickly and stomped from the dining room while I sat at the table, Mama’s hand on my shoulder as I cried.

At that moment I felt like Daddy would never love me again.

 

***

When Emmy slipped the letter into my hand I knew it was from Hank.

“He saw me at the market and asked me to give it to you,” she whispered as we stood by the bookshelf I was stacking. I shoved the letter in my skirt pocket to read later, looking back over my shoulder at Mrs. Hall, the librarian.

“Is your daddy still mad as a hornet?” She asked.

“He barely talks to me,” I said.

Emmy leaned back against a book shelf, huffing a book to her chest.

“Tell me, Blanche, what’s it like to be kissed by a man?” She asked, a wistful expression on her face. “Is it wonderful?”

I immediately felt embarrassed that I was the one Emmy was asking. These were questions we usually asked Edith.

“It’s definitely better than I thought it would be,” I admitted, unable to keep my smile contained.

“Does he smell as good as he looks?”

“Yes. Absolutely.”

I leaned against the opposite bookshelf and closed my eyes.

“And his hands – they are so manly and . . . I don’t know. . . sexy,” I said remembering how his touch had felt last time we had been together. “I just love when he touches me.”

I opened my eyes and watched Emmy’s eyes widen.

“How does he touch you?” She asked, sounding slightly alarmed.

“Oh, Emmy, nothing like that,” I said, rolling my eyes. “I mean, I know he wants to do more and the other day he tried to reach up my shirt, but I don’t let him. I’m not that kind of girl. You know that.”

“Do I?” Emmy’s eyes were still wide.

“Emmy! Yes. You do.”

“I didn’t even know you were seeing Hank.”

“No one knew I was seeing Hank,” I said. “I didn’t even know what I was doing with Hank. I just liked talking to him and I liked that he liked me.”

Emmy smiled and patted the pocket where the letter was.

“I don’t know why you keep talking in the past tense. It’s clear he doesn’t think of it that way,” she said. “Open it – what’s it say?”

“Emmy, we really need to get you a boyfriend,” I teased.

I pulled the letter from my pocket and opened it, looking over the books to see if Mrs. Hall, the librarian, was still at her desk. She was looking down at a book opened in front of her on the desk.

Blanche:

I’m no good at writing letters but I didn’t know how else to tell you I want to meet you again soon. It’s too risky to try to meet at your house. I don’t feel like pulling bullets out of my back. Meet me under the bridge tomorrow at noon if you can get away. I need to hold you in my arms again.

Love,

Hank

Emmy whispered a squeal which I didn’t think was possible.

“Love Hank? Oh my gosh. He loves you! It’s so exciting! Are you going to meet him?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I’m supposed to be working here but I do get a lunch break about that time. Maybe he can meet me somewhere here in town.”

“You think you’re going to marry Hank?”

“Good grief, Emmy,” I said rolling my eyes. “I haven’t even decided if I’m going to meet him tomorrow, let alone marry him. I’m only in high school.”

I didn’t tell her he’d already asked me to marry him.

I quickly wrote a note back for Emmy to take to him on her walk home and handed it to her.

“I’ve got to get back to work, but I’ll talk to you later,” I told her.

I thought about Hank as I slid books back into their spots on the shelves.

“I don’t know, maybe I could do something with my music,” he told me one night before Daddy caught us. “Music takes me away from everything. I feel alive when I sing, especially one of my own songs. It would be a lot of hard work if I ever wanted to make a go of it and I definitely can’t live around here if I want to do something like that.”

He sighed and leaned back against the fence along the field, under the maple tree.

“Maybe I’m just being crazy, but it’s good to have dreams, right?”

I smiled at him and laid my hand against his face, suddenly overcome with tenderness for the boy I saw in the growing man.

“It is very good to have dreams,” I told him.

He laughed and took my hand in his, kissing my palm and then pressing it against his chest.

“You’re too sweet for me, Blanche,” he said, kissing my cheek.

He shook his head and let go of my hand, turning from me, his hands on the fence, looking at the moonlit field.

“I’m just sick of this town, you know?” he said, tightening his grip on the wood. “I’m sick of the people. I’m sick of the smell of cow poop and I am sick of being told I’ll never be anything because my old man tells everyone I’m worthless. I’m getting out of this place, Blanche.”

He turned and took my hands in his. “Come with me and we’ll make a life of our own,” he said, his eyes bright, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. “We’ll go find a new life and I’ll play music and you can read books and eat ice cream; get fat for all I care. There won’t be anyone to tell us who or what we’re going to be.”

“I can’t do that,” I looked down at the tip of my shoe and bent my ankle back and forth.

“Why not?” he touched my chin with his fingertips, and I looked up into his deep green eyes and my knees felt like bread that had been kneaded too long.

“My daddy would be so mad. He doesn’t like you.”

“Your daddy doesn’t like me ‘cause he knows you’re better than this little garbage farm town and I can take you away from it.”

I looked away. I didn’t know if Hank was right about how Daddy felt about him that night, but now, stacking the books in the quiet library, I knew how Daddy felt and I knew he’d be even more furious if he knew Hank wanted me to run away with him.

I met Hank behind the drugstore on my lunch break the next day, looking over my shoulder, anxious and wringing my hands, afraid someone would see us.

“I’m serious about leaving, Blanche,” Hank said. “I’m going to do it and soon. I want you to come with me.”

He stepped closer, touched me under my chin and kissed me gently. “Don’t you want to find something more exciting than this old town? These old people who want to tell us what to do?”

I closed my eyes, breathed in the smell of his cologne, let the feel of his hands against my skin fill my mind and lifted my face toward his. When his mouth covered mine I thought about Mama’s words to me about the difference between lust and love. What I felt for Hank was love, I was sure of it. I wanted to be in his world and experience life with him. I wanted to let him touch me and kiss me, teach me what love was all about.

I nodded slowly, my eyes still closed.

“I’m going to save up some money and then I’ll send a letter to you through Emmy,” he said, taking my hands in his, pressing his forehead against mine. “We’ll find a day to leave this town and never look back. We’re going to start our own life together.”

Two months later, a week before my senior year was supposed to start, I was holding a letter in my hand. It was one of many that Hank had been mailing to his cousin Jerry who had slid them on to Emmy, but somehow I knew this letter was different. My fingers trembled as I opened it, Emmy watching me, alternating between biting her lower lip and her fingernails.

Blanche:

It’s time to take our leap of faith. Old man Porter fired me yesterday and I’m getting out of this place. I’ve already found a job in Syracuse. The manager of a factory promised me a job on the manufacturing floor if I get up there next week. I’m going up to find a place for us to live and I’ll be back to pick you up in two weeks. If you want to come with me and start a life together meet me under our bridge May 22.

Love,

Hank

“What’s it say?” Emmy asked anxiously, trying to peek at it.

I folded it, looked at her, my best friend since seventh grade, and lied.

“He just says he loves me and wants to see me again sometime behind the drugstore.”

Emmy smiled but then her expression shifted to worry.

“I don’t know, Blanche,” she said. “Maybe you shouldn’t be sneaking around with him, you know? I mean, I know you really like him, but your parents would be really upset. They really love you – they probably think they’re protecting you.”

I hugged her and stood back, my hands on her shoulders.

“You don’t have to worry, Emmy,” I said. “They don’t have to protect me from anything. Hank loves me. Things will settle down eventually and they’ll accept Hank. It’s all going to be fine.”

I knew I was only telling Emmy what she wanted to hear. I didn’t believe my parents would ever accept Hank and I wasn’t sure if my parents were trying to protect me or control me. All I knew was I was sure Hank loved me and I was catching the fire he had to start a new life somewhere else together.

***

I could hear birds outside the window and Edith snoring softly in her bed. The Worley’s cows were mooing in their fields down the road and I could smell the bacon Mama was cooking.

It was the Saturday I was supposed to meet Hank. I’d barely slept the night before, my mind swirling around and around as I tried to decide what to do. I wanted to be with Hank, but I still had a year left of school and it was about to start. I knew if I left Mama and Daddy would never speak to me again.

I closed my eyes and pictured Hank, handsome and smiling, his promises of a better life still fresh in my mind. I thought about his kisses and the way my heart seemed to skip when he said my name. I thought about how I wished I could heal the wounds his father had inflicted on him. I thought about how Mama already had my life planned out for me. I thought how Daddy wouldn’t even talk to me and maybe he never would again, whether I left with Hank or not.

I remembered what Mama had said that night daddy caught us. “Sometimes we have to move past our feelings and do what we know is right.”

Then I remembered that record of Elvis skipping.

So lonely I could die…so lonely I could die…so lonely…

Holding the crumpled letter, I knew what was right. I knew I didn’t want to be so lonely one day that I could die.

When I reached Hank’s truck, parked by the bridge, I was breathing hard. I felt like I had escaped into one of my books. Edith was at the movies with Billy Tanner. Daddy was at the office finishing paperwork for the Bishop Oil account. I’d told Mama I was taking muffins to Mrs. Grant up the hill and I had thrown them into a basket and skipped out the door before she could ask why.

I had dropped my pillowcase filled with some clothes, my journal, my Bible and a copy of The Three Musketeers into the bushes under my bedroom window.

Hank was smiling as I climbed into the cab. He slid his arm around my middle, pulling me across the seat against him. I giggled as he kissed me and then whooped like he was at a rodeo.

“I knew you’d come,” he said. “This is going to be a new life for both of us. I have so much to tell you. You’re going to love the apartment I found. I booked a couple gigs. I’ve got a job at the factory and I found a judge who’s going to marry us. . . ”

I took a deep breath when I heard about the judge and getting married. Was I really doing this? Was I really leaving my family, throwing away my senior year and running away with a man to a city four hours from home?

As Hank pulled the truck out onto the road, I knew I really was doing all those things. I was writing my own story, not letting it be written for me. I was finding my own story to tell.

 

Hey, everyone! I’ll be posting Chapter 10 of Blanche’s story on Friday, but I wanted to post this rewrite of Chapter 8, which very well could be rewritten again in the future because I haven’t even begun full rewrites or editing of the book. Thanks to Kat at The Lily Cafe for the suggestions for part of this rewrite.

At some point, if I get brave enough to send this story to a publisher, I’ll probably stop sharing chapters on here and send anyone following the story to an Amazon page to buy the book. *wink* But I’m nowhere near that at this point, so until then, enjoy the story, ya’ll (she added ya’ll to pretend she had an interesting Southern personality, which she actually didn’t possess at all.). And, as always, if you’re reading along, let me know in the comments! You can find a link to the previous chapters here: 


 

Chapter 8

“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 calmer 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 to parties. But then later I got drunk and 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.

I nodded.

“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.

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.


A Story To Tell (1)

“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.

I nodded.

“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.


Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7