Fiction Friday: ‘A Story To Tell’ Chapter 19

This week’s Fiction Friday has a trigger warning for anyone who might be bothered by scenes of domestic violence. I think, however, this will satisfy the thirst for Hank’s blood that some of my followers have had throughout this story. (You know who you are.) This week also brings us closer to the end of this part of Blanche’s story, with a plan for a second part to start sometime in October or November. I’ll be publishing the complete first part of the story in ebook form on Sept. 19 and possibly paperback at a later date.

Need to catch up on the story? Find the rest of the chapters here or at the link at the top of the page.

Escape Blue View Instagram Post “I made you your favorite this morning,” I told Hank, setting a plate full of sausage and pancakes in front of him.

He dragged his hand through his hair, his eyes heavy with sleep.

“Where did you get the money for this?” he asked, his voice gruff.

“Mama and Daddy gave me some as a gift before I left,” I said, ignoring his tone as I poured him a cup of coffee. “And then I’ve been saving a little bit out of the grocery money each week.”

I was determined to show love to Hank, even when he wouldn’t show it to me. Lillian had encouraged me to pray for Hank and I had been, every day since Jackson and I had come back from Edith’s wedding two weeks before.

“What are you so happy for?” he snapped. “We’ve got no money. I’m getting less hours at work. I’m not getting any gigs and you just sit here smiling like an idiot every day.”

I took a deep breath.

“I just believe it is good for us to try to look at the positives in life instead of the negatives,” I said, even though I felt anger rising up inside me.

I stood from the table and started to clear my dishes from the table, placing them in the sink.

He gulped down his coffee and slammed his cup on the table. His hand was suddenly tight around my wrist and I winced as he stood and pulled me hard against him and roughly pressed his mouth against mine.

“I can see some positives today,” he said as he pulled his mouth away a few moments later, sliding his hands down my hips and pressing himself against me. “I can see my wife, looking good, feeling good, smiling at me and I can see there’s no baby hanging on her for once.”

I let him pull me roughly to the bedroom as Jackson napped on the couch. The image of Hank’s hands on the woman in the bar flashed in my mind, as he clutched at my dress, pulling at the buttons, and trailing his mouth across the bare skin he exposed. I remembered that Lillian had said sometimes we had to show love to our spouse even when we didn’t feel it. I wanted to try my best to show Hank I loved him, even though I didn’t feel it at the moment. I had hoped our marriage was redeemable, despite Hank’s betrayal.

If I showed Hank love maybe he’d love me again and we could go back to the way things used to be when we first met. I winced as we fell onto the bed and he covered my mouth with his again, still holding my wrists tight in his hands.

My body was sore when Hank left to go back to work, but I hoped I’d done what a wife should do for her husband. I hoped I’d done what God would have wanted me to do.


“There he is!” Hannah scooped one-year-old Jackson into her arms and put him on her hip. “The birthday boy!”

She kissed his chunky cheek and danced in a circle as he giggled, a beautiful sound to my ears. Lizzie skipped into the kitchen and looked at her mom holding another baby.

“Don’t get attached, mommy,” she said bluntly. “We don’t need another one of those.”

She skipped away and Miss Mazie and I burst into laughter at her precocious comment.

“Oh, my word, how do you keep from laughing at her?” I asked.

“I do my best not to because laughing only encourages her,” Hannah said, smiling.

She sat Jackson in a highchair she’d brought with her to Miss Mazie’s and slid lemonade and a cake out of the refrigerator, placing them on the table.

“Thank you for celebrating Jackson’s big day,” I said. “I know he won’t remember it, but I still think it should be celebrated.”

“Of course, it should!” Miss Mazie said. “Celebrating a baby’s birthday is as much for us as it is them.”

Jackson patted his hands onto the highchair tray and grinned as he watched Hannah and I pour lemonade and cut cake.

“Hank wasn’t really interested in a party because he said Jackson wouldn’t remember it.” I shrugged and chose not to add that Hank wasn’t even really interested in Jackson at all.

Hannah sighed.

“Men, I swear. Sometimes they are so clueless.”

I nodded and turned to see Miss Mazie watching me intently.

“What happened to your arm, Blanche?” She asked.

I pulled my gaze away quickly. That woman seemed to have some six sense as if she could read me with her eyes and I didn’t want her to read what was really happening at home. I looked at the fading burn and laughed slightly.

“Oh, just being a klutz as usual and burned myself on the stove,” I said, pouring more lemonade for Hannah’s children, refusing to look at Miss Mazie. “Complete accident but, boy, did it hurt.”

Miss Mazie cleared her throat.

“Mmmmhmm,” she hummed, then quietly, almost under her breath, “My mama had a lot of ‘accidents’ too over the years. I know how much they can hurt.”

I kept my eyes lowered, though I could feel her eyes boring into me, urging me to tell her the truth.

“I hope you don’t mind, but I invited Buffy and her girls over to help us celebrate,” Hannah said, as her children each took a glass of lemonade and ran into Miss Mazie’s dining room. I was grateful for the change of subject “She’s been having a rough time lately and I thought it would be good for her to get out a little bit.”

I struggled to imagine what Buffy would be struggling with. She was young, beautiful, even if her smile seemed plastered to her face somehow, and the wife of a well-loved pastor. I knew even the beautiful and well-polished struggled, though, and I mentally scolded myself for judging Buffy based on her appearance and, quite frankly, her name.

“Of course, she’s welcome,” Miss Mazie said. “Has she . . .lost another one?”

Hannah nodded solemnly.

“Her second,” Hannah said. “I know you’d been praying so I’m sure she won’t mind me sharing. She was about three months along this time.”

My heart sank at the words, realizing that Buffy must have suffered a miscarriage, something I’d once heard Mama talk about when it happened to a cousin of mine. I couldn’t imagine such a loss, the physical and emotional toll.

“How are you doing, sweetie?” Miss Mazie asked after Buffy had come in, poured lemonade for her children, and sat the table with a piece of cake and lemonade of her own.

“I’m doing okay,” Buffy said, with her familiar plastic smile. “I mean, it’s been tough, yes, but I’m grateful for the children I do have. And it’s important, I think, to put a good face on for the members of the church. No one wants to see a pastor’s wife crying all the time.”

Miss Mazie reached out and laid her hand over Buffy’s.

“Honey, even the pastor’s wife needs to be comforted sometimes,” she said softly.

Buffy smiled faintly, her lower lip quivering. She swiped at a tear that escaped the corner of her eye, smudging her mascara.

“You don’t know what it’s like,” she said abruptly, shaking her head. “To always have to be on. To always have to be – perfect. To look like you have it all together all the time, so no one suspects that sometimes you don’t even know if you believe what your husband is preaching up there.”

Tears suddenly rushed down Buffy’s cheeks, streaking her face with black mascara.

“Do you know what it’s like to hear that God never gives you more than you can handle and have those words echo over and over in your mind while you watch a nurse carry a small box out of the room that you know carries the baby you carried for three months? Isn’t this more than I can handle?”

Buffy cried harder and I stiffened, unsure how to handle her outburst.

“As if being brought up by a mother who told me that I was only worth something if I married well and raised beautiful children wasn’t already more than I could handle,” Buffy said, anger in her voice. “Sometimes being a Christian, believing it all, is simply too much. Where was God when my baby died? I’ve always done what I was supposed to do. I took care of the children while Jeffrey went to seminary. I cleaned the house and made the dinners and organized the church dinners. I read my Bible every morning and go to Bible study. I’ve done it all right, but still, I suffer.”

She shook her head again and rubbed her crumpled handkerchief roughly against her face.  Hannah, Miss Mazie and I watched her take a long, ragged breath in stunned silence. She looked around the table at each of us and her angry expression quickly faded into a look of horror.

“I can’t believe I just completely flipped out like that,” she said. “I’m so sorry. You poor ladies. We were supposed to be celebrating Jackson’s birthday and I just – I just completely fell apart.”

Hannah smiled. “What better place to fall apart than among friends?” she asked.

Buffy laughed softly as she tried to wipe the black from her face.

“Even the pastor’s wife deserves to flip out once in a while,” Miss Mazie said, clutching Buffy’s hand and squeezing it. “God’s not afraid of your anger Buffy. Let Him have it. Even when we feel He isn’t there, He is, and our emotions are from him, so your anger doesn’t surprise him one bit.”

Buffy nodded. “I must look awful,” she said.

I leaned forward and laid my hand over her other hand, suddenly overcome with compassion for the woman I’d thought had it all.

“You look beautiful,” I told her.

She smiled at me through the tears.

“Oh, thank you. I feel like I’m a mess – “

“I do believe it was your husband who once told us that beauty comes from ashes,” Hannah said.

Buffy nodded, letting the tears flow freely again as Miss Mazie and I held her hands.

“It’s not that I don’t believe,” she said after a few moments of crying, her voice breaking. “It’s just sometimes – life seems harder than I can handle. And sometimes . . . sometimes God just seems so far away.”

“It is in the moments he seems the farthest away, that He is the closest,” Miss Mazie said.

Buffy managed a smile.

“I will try to remember that, Miss Mazie,” she said. “You certainly are a blessing to me and our church.”

My heart ached for Buffy’s pain even as watching her mask being pulled away was eye-opening for me. I couldn’t imagine feeling as if I always had to look and act the part of the pastor’s perfect wife.

“Well, enough of this crying,” Buffy said, pulling her hands away from ours and wiping her eyes with her handkerchief again. “If I’m meant to have more children, then God will provide them. That’s how I have to think about it from now on.”

Hannah wet a dishcloth and started to wipe the mascara from Buffy’s face.

“I hope you brought your make up with you,” she teased. “You’ll definitely need to reapply.”

Buffy laughed freely, tipping her head back to let Hannah wipe under her eyes and along her cheeks. A few moments later, a ruddy-faced toddler rushed into the kitchen crying and fell into Buffy’s lap. She lifted the boy against her and kissed the top of his head.

“He fell into the table!” Lizzie yelled from the living room. “And it weren’t my fault!”

Hannah laid her hand against her forehead and sighed.

“Lord, give me strength,” she muttered.

Buffy hugged the little boy, burying her face in his red-blond curls and closed her eyes. When she opened them, she was smiling – a real, genuine, non-fake smile.

“I love you, sweet boy,” she said. She looked at us as we watched her. “If God only gives me this beautiful boy and his sister, then I will be blessed beyond measure.”

We all smiled at her, then each other, and I looked at Jackson in the high chair next to me, his face covered in cake, his smile wide and contagious. He giggled at me and spit chocolate down his chin. I laughed, feeling the happiest I had in a long time, knowing that he was my blessing, despite my mistakes.


 “Where were you all night?”

I looked up from the sink where I was washing dishes, confused. Hank was standing in the bedroom doorway, bleary-eyed. He staggered toward the table and sat, slumping in the chair, glowering at me.

“I came home for dinner and you weren’t here,” he snapped.

He had stumbled into the bedroom after work a few hours earlier, falling asleep with a bottle of bourbon in his hand. This was the first I’d seen him since then. I could have easily asked him where he’d been most of the previous night and many nights before, but I’d been up all night with Jackson and wasn’t in the mood for confrontation.

“I was at Hannah’s,” I said, drying my hands off on a dishtowel. “I told you I was going there to have cake and ice cream for Jackson’s birthday. I asked you if you wanted to go and, of course, you refused, just like you always do when I want you to spend time with Jackson.”

Hank slammed his hands on the table and stood, knocking the chair back and stepping toward me, towering over me.

“I told you not to hang around that nigger lady anymore!” he hissed, spit hitting my face.

“Hank, you’re drunk,” I said tightly, angry at how he spoke about Miss Mazie. “You just don’t remember that I told you I was going to Hannah’s. And don’t call Miss Mazie that na‑.”

The blow knocked me to the floor, leaving me desperately gasping for breath, searing pain coursing through my side and head. I hadn’t even seen it coming.

“Don’t you ever talk back to me!” Hank hissed, his hand still balled into a fist.

When I finally dragged air into my lungs, burning pain spread through my chest, I felt as if I was standing neck-deep in water with weights tied to my ankles. I reached up to feel warm, sticky fluid on my face, pouring from my nose. I pulled my hand away and stared in disbelief at the dark, red blood. My head was throbbing, my ears roaring, and I felt blood dripping down onto the back of my neck.

I felt like I was someone else, floating outside of my body, watching something horrible unfold, but unable to stop it. Hank hand’s clutched at the hair on the top of my head and he dragged me to my feet bring my face close to his.

“Why couldn’t you just do what you were told?” he asked, the smell of alcohol filling my nostrils.

I tightened my fists and spit blood and saliva in his face a second before the second blow came. Down on my hands and knees, I gasped for air again, the roar in my ears fading to high pierced ringing as Hank loomed over me, a shadowed, blurry figure in the corner of my eye.

Jackson abruptly screamed from our bedroom, drowning out the ringing and I looked toward the bedroom, through a veil of red, at the same time Hank’s head jerked toward the sound.

Hank drained the last of the alcohol and staggered through the bedroom doorway, into the darkness. I lurched forward, reaching out for his shirt, trying to stop him, but fell to the floor, the room spinning violently. I tasted metal and I spit blood onto the pea-green linoleum of the kitchen floor.

The sound of glass shattering against a wall splintered through the apartment, sending panic shooting through me. I struggled to my feet, the room still spinning.  I closed my eyes, praying for it to stop, knowing I needed to get to Jackson. I stumbled toward the bedroom, grasping the door frame, touching a stinging pain on the back of my head, squinting in confusion at blood on my hand, bright red, still trying to make sense of what was happening.

Hank was standing over the crib, his face close to Jackson who had pulled himself up to a standing position, holding on to the railing, his red face streaked with tears as he screamed. The whiskey bottle was shattered on the other side of the room.

“Hey there, little boy,” Hank slurred. “What you cryin’ about?”

I slammed against Hank, shoving him aside and swiftly lifted Jackson out of the crib, clutching him against me.

“Don’t you touch him!” I shouted, my hand against the back of Jackson’s head, pressing his face gently against my chest as I moved away from Hank and backed against the bedroom wall. “Don’t you dare touch him!”

I felt like something had snapped inside me. If Hank was going to hurt someone, let it be me, but I wasn’t going to let him touch our son.

Hank started laughing, staggering around the room, lit only by the streetlights outside. Jackson was still crying, terrified.

“Oh, looky here,” Hank said, leering at me. “Little ole’ Blanche finally got her voice.”

He laughed again, leaned close to my face and sneered.

“Whatcha’ going to do with it now you got it?”

He lurched away from me and staggered to one side, almost falling, still laughing. I started for the bedroom door, but he stepped in front of me, his face twisted in an ugly grimace.

“What do you think you’re going to do?” he asked. “You gonna try to leave me? You gonna try to take my son from me?”

Suddenly he was screaming, veins popping out on his neck, eyes wild, words unintelligible except for a few obscene curses.

“The hell you will!”  he screamed. “The hell you will!”

He was like a man possessed by the devil and in that moment, I wondered if he was the devil. The physical beauty I had once seen in him was distorted by his rage-filled screaming.

He lunged toward me, tripped on the edge of the carpet, falling forward on his face. I moved quickly around him, toward the bedroom doorway but his hand grabbed my ankle, pulling hard. I cried out in pain, lost my balance, and started to fall forward. I turned quickly and fell on my back with Jackson in my arms, against my chest, his screams piercing my ears. Hank struggled to stand, propped himself up on his hands and knees, still holding on to my ankle, his laughter maniacal until he was consumed with a coughing fit.

I took advantage of the moment and yanked my leg out of his hand, panic and rage rushing through me as I kicked him full in the face. Crazed screams came from him, like a pig being slaughtered. I started to sob, a mix of terror and anger, kicking harder, striking him repeatedly between the eyes with the heel of my shoe.

“Get your hands off of me!” I screamed then let loose a string of curse words I didn’t even know were in me.

My foot contacted his face over and over and blood sprayed up his face from his nose and then spilled onto the floor in a rush of red. He looked up at me with glazed, unseeing eyes, closing them seconds before his face hit the floor. I stood on trembling legs, my chest on fire as I struggled to breathe between sobs and screams.

Blood pooled under Hank’s head, staining his face and hair.  I could hear labored snorts being dragged through his broken nose. He was breathing but he wasn’t moving, and I knew I needed to move fast before he regained consciousness.

I quickly grabbed Jackson’s blanket, two journals, my Bible, and a few clothes, shoving it all into a canvas bag with one hand, Jackson on my hip. I checked Jackson for cuts and bruises as I rushed toward the front door, flinging it open and running down the stairs to the apartment building front door, looking over my shoulder at Hank’s prostrate form on the bedroom floor.

“What’s going on down there?!” a woman yelled down the stairwell from the second floor as I reached the front door and slammed it open.

I could feel warm blood on my face as I walked briskly into the crisp night air, walking briskly in the direction of Miss Mazie’s. I didn’t want to go to Hannah, to scare her young children with all the blood. Ten minutes into my walk Jackson began to quiet, falling asleep to the rhythm of my steps. I was breathing hard, seething inside, uttering angry epitaphs under my breath, wishing Hank could hear every one of them.

I had been walking for about ten minutes when a car pulled up next to me as I walked. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the lights on the roof and my chest tightened.

“Ma’m? Do you need a ride?” I could barely hear the officer’s voice over the pounding of my heart.

I kept walking, looking down, hiding my face in Jackson’s blanket. I shook my head. Someone from the apartment building must have called the police. I didn’t know whether to be angry or grateful.

“Ma’m, please. I can see you’re bleeding. Let me give you a ride to the station or anywhere else you need to go.”

“Thank you, but I’m fine,” I said, my voice hoarse.

I was shaking, clutching Jackson, terrified and in pain, head spinning, the sidewalk tilting.  The officer had lowered his head so he could look at me through the passenger side window. I glanced at him out of the corner of my eye. His expression was soft, concerned.

“Ma’m? Who did this to you? I can take you somewhere safe. Please. Let me help you.”

I stopped walking and the car stopped next to me. I looked back toward the apartment building, watching to make sure Hank wasn’t following me. The officer opened the passenger side door. I hesitated, looking back at the apartment building again. When I slid into the passenger seat and pulled the door shut, I winced as pain shot thorough my rib cage. I rubbed Jackson’s back as he cried in his sleep.

The officer handed me a handkerchief and I took it, pressing it against my nose to try to stop the bleeding.

“My name is Officer Judson,” he said. “I’d like to take you down to the station. We can file a report against whoever did this to you.”

I shook my head.

“No,” I said firmly. “I don’t want to do that.”

“I think we should get you checked out at the hospital at least,” he urged.

I shook my head again. “I’m okay. Please, just take me to my friend’s house.”

I gave him Miss Mazie’s address, barely able to speak as my top lip swelled.

“Did your husband do this to you?” he asked, pulling the car away from the curb and into the street.

I looked ahead, afraid to answer, trying not to cry.

“We can stop by the police station if you . . .”

“No,” I said firmly, shaking my head again. “I don’t want to do that. I just want to get my baby somewhere safe.”

I swallowed hard, the urge to cry suddenly gone, replaced again by anger.

“But thank you,” I said.

I realized my nose was stuffed and guessed blood was drying inside it. I touched it and felt a large bump in the center. I wondered if it was broken.

“Okay, I understand,” Officer Judson said, and we drove in silence the five minutes to Miss Mazie’s. “I might not agree, but I understand.”

As I reached for the handle, I felt the officer’s hand on my arm and turned to look at him.

“I’ll be praying for you,” he said, his blue eyes filled with compassion. “If you change your mind, about filing a report, stop by the station and ask for me. We will make sure whoever hurt you is punished.”

“Thank you,” I whispered.

A Story to Tell Chapter 10

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.


“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.


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.



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.


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.



“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.


A Story to Tell: Chapter 8 rewrite

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.