"Forget and forgive. This is not difficult, when properly understood. It means you are to forget inconvenient duties, and forgive yourself for forgetting. In time, by rigid practice and stern determination, it comes easy.” – Mark Twain
It took a couple of days for my brain to start running on all cylinders again. Both Uncle Jerry and Reverend Jacob were relieved – each for different reasons. Uncle Jerry was relieved I was able to speak my mind and tell how things were and that he wouldn’t have a “Scarlet Woman” for a niece … though “Aunt Cici” seemed to be disappointed she wouldn’t be able to get rid of her stigma by pointing mine out. And Reverend Jacob was happy to be able to mend the trouble his sister had started between his congregation and the well-thought of Thompson family.
Of course everyone claimed to have known the truth but had been unable to convince anyone else of it no matter how hard they tried. Yeah right. People always write history so it shows them in the best light regardless of what had really happened. And it sure got people talking about how “Sister Cici” had been and it brought up talk that was just beginning to die down.
“Uncle Jerry, no offense but could you tell those folks to knock it off. I’m sure they mean well but it is all water under the bridge and needs to be let go the same way the flood waters are drying up. I don’t reckon any of us want to be carrying that stuff around forever and a day.”
Uncle Jerry didn’t have much to say to me directly but what he did say made it appear that he was relieved that I was not asking for a pound of flesh or whatever that old saying is. I didn’t have much to do with “Aunt Cici” regardless of the forgiveness factor but then again no one really expected it. Frankly I was relieved when people stopped bringing it up. To me it was old news that I didn’t want to relive.
By the time a week had come and gone I was getting stir crazy. Lee’s mother and grandmother treated me with the same fierce kinda protectiveness they treated the rest of Lee’s family and it was something I wasn’t used to at all. Lee finally talked them around to letting me out of the house.
“Lee, just rig me up a crutch. I fell like an idiot with you pushing me around in this chair.”
With a look that had pure refusal written all over it he said, “Just you hush. You’re lucky you’re getting any further than the porch.”
I reminded him by saying, “Even your mom and grandmother said it was fine.”
All I heard was grumbling when kids passed us giggling and carrying on and making smooching noises. “There’s no privacy around this place.”
Finally having a place to start trying to talk Lee around again I said, “Then help me figure out a way to get back to the cave.”
Lee sighed. “Bella you know I would in a heart beat if it was possible but we’ve talked about this. Until they catch the terrorists that set those bombs off that broke the lake dams and until the engineers can get things more stable so the water can be released gradually they’ve got enough military and militia swarming the area that it looks like an ant mound. There is no sneaking back and they aren’t giving out any passes, not even to property owners. Look, just let me show you around. Please?”
I wasn’t as against living with his family as he kept crediting me with being. It just felt strange. I kept getting these looks like I was an odd duck and they weren’t sure where I fit in with the flock or even if I would fit. Lee’s grandmother was fine and his mother was as nice as she’d ever been, even Mr. Thompson was giving me grace despite the problems my uncle had given them because of me. But the rest of them, that was different.
Lee said, “You’re quiet.”
“Are you angry?”
“C’mon Bella,” he said stopping at the bottom of a steep incline to rest before we went up. “That I left you for so long.”
I sighed. “Lee, let it go already. It looks like we both made mistakes and we’ll both just need to … find something that … I don’t know.”
“Get’s us comfortable with each other again?”
A little caught off guard by his statement I said, “Uh … well I … I meant working in the same direction … a goal or something like that. Are … are you uncomfortable with me?”
“Let’s put it this way,” he growled. “All I want is to find a quiet corner so I can show you how much I missed you but every corner around this place is already taken up with someone else already using it. I swear I’m about to bust with wanting you and needing you … I gotta show you …”
I wasn’t feeling quite the same way but I patted his hand. Lee seemed to be a bit more dramatic in his love than I was, not to mention I still wasn’t feeling up to being chased around all over the place. Lee suddenly bent down and scooped me up. I yelped, “What are you doing? And don’t you dare tell me the woods ‘cause it’s cold and we already tried this last fall and wound up with chiggers.”
He groaned. “Don’t give me ideas Bella. It’s hard enough to treat you careful when all I really wanna do is be a pig … and the chiggers were worth it. I seem to recall the oatmeal baths were fun too and that’s just more memories that are making it awful uncomfortable to walk right now.”
He said it with such disgust in his tone I had to hide a smile. I didn’t really mind Lee’s drama … so long as he reserved it for private times and used commonsense all the rest of the hours of the day.
At the top of the hill he stopped and complained, “You’re scrawny again.”
Since that isn’t exactly what a girl wants to hear I asked, “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means we’re gonna have to sew rocks into your pockets to keep you from blowing away until I can get you to put some meat back on your bones.”
“You’re being silly again. I thought I warned you against that.”
“Humph. I ain’t being that silly. The cast on your leg is about the only thing of any substance on you right now.”
“My leg is fractured not my brain, stop treating me like I’m helpless. I don’t care for it at all.”
He just ignored me, went back down to fetch the chair and when he came back I snapped, “Where are we going anyway?”
“Gettin’ tired?” he asked concerned.
“Tired of being pushed around like I don’t have any sense.”
He kissed the top of my head but just kept pushing the wheelchair after he’d help me get sit in it once again. “I know it’s ticking you off and I reckon I’d feel the same way … did feel the same way with every female in the family pecking at me like I didn’t have enough sense to know how to sneeze. I wish I could make you feel better and want to and hope to with this little trip. Hang on about twenty more minutes and we’ll be there.”
“But where is there?”