The air inside the house felt hotter than usual. Stickier. The windows in the front room were open, but there was no breeze. Not that it would have mattered anyway. By all white folks accounts, Merry’s small shack of a home wasn’t really a house. It was more like an old hot box, a wooden makeshift three room shelter, in danger of tumbling over from the next high wind, with a leaky tin roof and rotting floor. Not fit enough for a white man’s beloved family hound to live in.
But to Merry, it was home. All she knew. All she had. But here lately for reasons she wasn’t consciously aware of, didn’t understand, nor could explain, she had been yearning for more.
Dora and the pretty woman sat in two chairs by the radio, sipping on lemonade. Johnson panted at the woman’s feet, gazing up at her like a lovesick puppy dog. Merry quietly entered, hoping no one would notice her. The screen door creaked. All eyes turned on her.
“Merry! Gurl, you alright?”
Dora rose and walked over to Merry, who stood frozen. Dora was what Colored folks called red bone. Two years shy of 50, but not looking a day over 40, Dora was the color of Georgia clay, her weary face randomly spotted with freckles.
She was willowy, tall, and always wore her wavy black hair plaited into two long ponytails.
Dora felt Merry’s forehead and pushed her hand into her daughter’s soaked shirt, touching her flat chest and back. Her touch was rough. Like her love.
Merry knew her momma loved her. No doubt about it. But Momma Blankface – that’s what folks called Dora, because her face so called showed no emotion and was hard to read – didn’t love like other folks with flowery words and hugs and kisses. Instead she showed what was in her heart to Merry, Johnson and those around her through her hands.
Merry wiggled from her momma’s touch. It tickled.
“Well, you hot, but you ain’t got a fever. I swear, if you had been gone five mo’ minutes, I was gone come afta you mysef.”
Merry peeked around Dora to read Johnson’s face to see how she should answer, but he was still starring up at the pretty stranger. The woman, nervous and just as surprised to see Merry, looked at her with knowing eyes and smiled hello. Again.
“Momma, I’m sorry.”
“Sorry ’bout whut?”
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