She closed her eyes and felt the cool breeze playing with her hair. The sun kissed her on its way back up to the sky. She was walking in a field of butterflies with her one true love. She smiled and inhaled deeply. He turned to face her and took her hand in his. “we’ll always be just like this,” he whispered it softly as if it were a secret meant only for her that not even the butterflies could share. She swirled in big circles making the butterflies dance around her and…..
“Anna! Anna, where are you?”
The sound of her mothers voice brought Anna back to the present. “I’m here momma! Right here!”
Her mother came out of the back door with a basket in her hand. Her hair, which was mostly still brown, was pulled back from her face. She might have pulled it tight in the morning but by now the strands were trying to get out of their confinement. She wore a dress that had very little color left in it. Her hands told the story of her hard life and the lines around her eyes and mouth gave away her years on the earth. She hardly complained in words but an occasional hand at the small of her back told those that knew her well of her pains.
“What are you still doing out here? I told you to hurry up with the clothes cuz I needed you in the kitchen this morning.” She spoke in a harsh tone but her eyes held a light that showed her deep love for her child. “Are you out here daydreaming again?”
“But momma, the breeze just carried me away. If you was me wouldn’t you want to be somewhere else?”
Her mother rolled her eyes and threw up her one free hand. “oh, child, how you do go on! If I were you?….” She shook her head and sighed deeply. A small smile threatened to tug at the corners of her lips. “If I were you I would have got my outside chores done real quick so I could help my momma inside. Oh, to be fourteen again…” She chuckled softly, remembering.
“Momma why can’t I go to school anymore, like the boys?”
“Your place for learning things is here. You need to not worry about boys until you can get the clothes without dreaming the morning away.” She held the basket out for Anna to take. “I need you and Nadine to take this over to Mrs. Holloway. Go on , I will finish up here.”
“Nadine!” Mother called for her sister.
“Coming!” Nadine came out a short minute later still drying her hands on her apron. “Yes momma?”
“why don’t you and Anna go ahead and take this leftover stew to Mrs. Holloway.”
“alright momma, will you be ok here?” At mother’s nod, Nadine hung her apron on the hook by the door .
“What happened to Mrs. Holloway?” Anna asked on the way to the neighbor’s house.
“The baby died yesterday morning. The doctor said she was to weak.” Nadine was older by two years and she seemed to know everything. She didn’t act like she knew everything, she just seemed so much older than her younger sister. “Things like that happen , you know? It isn’t fun, but it happens. Mrs. Holloway hasn’t said a word to anyone since then. Her husband says she won’t even eat. They have an older son that she needs to take care of and quit thinking so much of herself.”
“Nadine, why are you like that? Sometimes I wonder if we have the same father. Maybe momma had a secret lover and he is my father. Maybe…”
Nadine snorted in disgust. “Anna you live your life in your daydreams. Life ain’t really like that. It is all about dishes and cooking and laundry. You need to learn how to be a good wife cuz that is all we will ever be – wives.” her eyes stared to mist and she quickly wiped them away.
“Whats wrong Nadine?”
“Nothing, come on, we need to hurry so we can get back and help momma.”
Mrs. Holloway again refused to eat, she didn’t even thank the girls. The whole house just smelled like death, they could feel it in the air. Anna shivered more than once and Nadine stood awkwardly by the door. They left as quickly as they came.
On the way home, Nadine and Anna held hands, trying to recapture their childhood, even if it was only for a moment.
Anna had a hard time falling asleep that night, she couldn’t stop thinking about Mrs. Holloway. “Nadine?” She whispered.
“yeah?” A whispered reply.
“Are you still awake?”
“Yeah,” there was a great sadness in her voice.
“I can’t imagine how sad it would be to loose a baby, can you Nadine?”
“Don’t think about such things Anna” She came to sit on her sisters bed. “God will bless you with ten babies, so maybe you won’t notice if he takes one back” She smiled and patted her leg playfully.
“Of course I would notice. I would probably end up just like Mrs. Holloway.”
“You would not, I wouldn’t let you.” Nadine stared off in to the darkness. “I am getting married the day after tomorrow Anna.” She said it quietly, so quietly that Anna was not sure if she heard her right.
“Did you say married?” She sat up in the bed. “You’re not serious?”
“I am serious.” She smiled and her tears shone in the moonlight. “I am going to miss you my sister.” She looked down at her hands. “I know I
“Do you love him?”
“Love?” She sighed and wiped her face. “He has a farm, he needs a wife. It is not about love.”
“When I get married it will be all about love. We are gonna stare at each other across the table and just know.” She stared wistfully at her older sister, daring her to say differently.
“He would be crazy not to love you” she smiled. “Do you have someone in mind?”
Anna laughed. “No!”
Their laughter carried down the hall to the room their parents slept in. Mother lay awake, not wanting tomorrow to get there. Tomorrow would be the last tomorrow that Nadine would be only hers, for the tomorrow after that she would be married. She asked the darkness if it was too soon, sixteen was just so young. She herself had married at sixteen. She could almost hear the comforting words of her own mother, “life is about letting go”. Yes, she would have to let her go. Seven daughters. She sighed softly and turned to face the wall. Only the darkness saw her tears and saw her soft smile as she listened to the girls in the other room.
Anna would never forget the day she met the man she was going to marry. She was so intent on finding him that she almost missed it. She had actually known Alex Draven almost her whole life. His father’s farm was not far from the farm she grew up on.
Alex was always there, he never made much of an impression on her. He did all that he was supposed to do and helped his father on the farm. He was quiet, never one to get too excited. So it surprised Anna when one afternoon she heard her mother say he was moving to the city.
“He is moving to the city?” She asked, trying not to sound too excited. “What do you mean? Why?”
“Well, Rosemary’s brother owns a store in the city, some kind of furniture store. They make furniture and Alex wants to learn the trade. I guess he has decided that farming doesn’t suit him anymore.” She continued to knead the bread as she talked. “Kids these days, pretty soon there will be more people in the cities than running farms. Then how will everyone eat?” She shook her head and looked up to see the stars in her daughter’s eyes.
“Have you ever been to the city Momma?”
“Yes, I went to the city once.” She tried to leave it at that but of course Anna wouldn’t have that. At her prompting, momma continued her story. “My mother’s sister married a man from the city. My pa surprised my mother by putting her on the train to go visit her sister. I got to go with. We stayed for two weeks.”
Mother turned as if to say she were done talking about it. “Well, was it fun? What did you do? Did you even want to come back here?”
“I was sixteen. Your father had asked me to marry him. My mother wanted me to see another way of life before I decided.” She smiled at her memories and Anna wished she could see them as her mother did. “I didn’t need time to think. God made your pa for me and I think we both knew that as soon as we saw each other. I waited sixteen years for him to marry me, but I went with momma. I am glad I went but this is my place. Always has been. I have never wanted anything else.”
“You never wanted anything more than piles of work and crying babies?”
“You will find your place in this life Anna, and when you do all the work will be worth it.”always give you such a hard time about all your nonsense and daydreaming, but don’t change Anna. Keep dreaming, and keep the stars in your eyes.” She looked up and her tears began to escape the confines of her eyes.