Lily McMillian sat down carefully onto the blue quilted coverlet on the bed, almost afraid to touch anything. A handful of fragrant crocus, freshly picked by her new friend and co-worker, Fiona, wafted a welcoming scent through the crisp new bedroom from their vase on the little writing desk. A whippoorwill called from somewhere near the river, it’s voice sweet on the night air outside the window.
So this was to be her room. This was to be her new life. It made her a little sad that her brother Jesse had to be off on a mail run the evening of her arrival, but at least he would be able to maybe find out about the deed while he was gone. Knowing he was coming back, and that his things were just outside in the bunkhouse, had made the huge weight she had borne for months lift itself from her narrow shoulders.
She sighed, and walked over to the window, looking out over the neat yard from her view on the second floor, and gazed down the worn, dusty road she expected her brother to return by, and hopefully soon.
She sat down at the writing desk and pulled the lamp over closer as she turned the worn paper over in her work-callused fingers. She’d been carrying this old, dog-eared thing with her for years. A deed to a piece of land I’ve never even seen, that someone I never met gave to Uncle Chet to pay off a poker debt.
He’d said the land wasn’t worth much. Just some played-out, used up stake. But someday, he’d said, maybe she could build a little house on it if she wanted. So three years ago, he’d given it to her for her 16th birthday, apologizing because he didn’t have anything better to give her.
When she thought of Uncle Chet, the year-old loss of him hit her like a pang. He was her strength and her salvation after her father’s death, and they had been friends as well as family. Her world had seemed to stop in it’s tracks when her father died, and then it had seemed to shatter when he died many years later, succumbing to a lifetime of drink, cards, and hell-raising. The experience of coming home to find him dead amidst a ransacked house was something she’d carry to her grave. She’d had enough. She’d hoped for years Jesse and she could get a fresh start, away from that lifestyle. If Jesse were to get caught up in that, she doubted she’d survive the inevitable blow. He was all she had left. All that mattered, anyway.
She moved to put the lamp out, stopped, and then instead placed it carefully near the window. Ride safe, Jesse.
© 2008 Regina Shelley