She arrived in a whirlwind frenzy. Her cheeks were flushed and she was noticeably out of breath. Her dress was in a state of total disarray and her blonde hair was completely disheveled.
She tugged her dress until it rested mostly in place and patted down some of the wrinkles. She next moved on to smoothing out her wild hair.
“Oh!” she exclaims as she runs her small hands over the top of her head. “I’ve lost another ribbon. ”
She turns her large, cornflower blue eyes to mine. “Please don’t tell Momma,” she pleads, her eyes welling up with tears. I suspect that she can conjure them on demand. “Mary Cardelia will give me a fresh one from her sewing basket. She’s always got an extra one in there for me.”
Satisfied that she’s as put together as she’s going to be, she settles into the chair across from me.
“What do you wanna talk about?” she asks, her feet already starting to swing with the impatience of a child. I suspect I won’t keep her sitting long.
She is happy to tell me that she just had her ninth birthday last month. She excitedly told me about the cake her sister baked for her. The moist cake wrapped around the fat apple slices like a thick blanket. The apple slices were so juicy that they burst in her mouth when she bit down on one.
I asked her if she could tell me more about these delicious apples. They’re grown on her family’s farm. Lewis and Sanders had picked em fresh off the tree that very morning just for Mary Cardelia to make one of her delicious fruit cakes.
“My brothers grow the fattest, juiciest apples in the whole county!” she exclaimed with childlike certainty and a boastful kind of pride.
She talked about how the trees go on for miles and miles. On cool summer nights, she loves playing hide and go seek with her brothers and sister among the trees using only the moonlight and fireflies to light their way.
“Never go so far you can’t hear em callin you, though, cuz you might get lost out there in the dark,” she warns me.
When asked what other things she enjoys doing with her family, she chews her bottom lip thoughtfully.
A smile slowly spreads across her face and she tells me that every night Mary Cardelia reads a chapter or two to the whole family. They enjoy a wide variety of books, but Laura Bell’s favorite is the adventure stories.
“The ones that take you to far away places!”
Her look soured then. Her bottom lip slid out into a full pout. Her eyes shaded over, and she crossed her arms over her chest.
“Meridian’s going on an adventure. He’s goin to Nebraska with stupid Mary Ellen. She’s going to be with her family, why’s she gotta take my brother, too?”
Much like the day, the mood has darkened. Laura Bell is crabby and stubborn now. She doesn’t want to talk anymore. A brooding silence engulfs the room. We agree to meet again to talk more on an other day.
She makes her way out the door slowly. Her head hangs low and her shoulders are drooping. Her arms dangle loosely at her sides, and she shuffles more than she walks.