Rushing home to share her news, the door bangs shut with a loud crash. “Mother, mother!” she hollers out a bit breathless in her excitement.
“Mother, mother!” she continued her search, barely able to contain herself a minute longer. Swinging open the back patio screen, she pokes her head out the door, checking to see if her mother was in the garden.
“Mom, are you out here?” Catlike her mother steps from around the corner of the house. “I’ve got great news!” Amy’s excitement bubbles over.
“Amy Rene, calm yourself right now,” her tone was polished like her nails and coiffured like her hair, but it was only a smoke screen like the one she effortlessly dispels with a single drag of her cigarette. “Can’t you see I have guests? And frankly, you sound as if you are out of breath. Dear girl, please calm down. Really, Amy Rene, you’re attitude is practically spoiling the afternoon for me and the small pleasure I get having friends for High Tea,” she hid her contention for her daughter with a demurring tilt of her head and a pretentious smile. The fat hens behind her sipped their Earl Grey, clucked and stared.
For anyone else, it meant friends over for coffee, but not for Amy’s mother, for her "regal highness" it was High Tea. It must have seemed a good way to worm her way into Stratford society; where no one knew what High Tea was- for God’s sake. “Excuse me mother, I didn’t realize you were entertaining this afternoon.” She curtsied, as her mother’s etiquette demanded. Only a slight curtsy; barely noticeable to anyone else, but enough to pass her mother’s critical eye. Undaunted, she continued, “It’s only that I have news to share.” The smile on her face easily telescoped her newly found delight in life. Just the type of news her mother loathed, as she despised seeing her daughter glow in the smallest bit of sunshine.
“Amy Rene, please go back into the house and calm yourself first. Whatever the news is, it’s not so important that it can’t wait until after I’ve had my Tea. You know I don’t like to see you excited. Once you’ve changed your attire and regained your composure from sounding like some squealing swine being chased by a butcher, you are then welcome to join us.” She turns to the other fat hens; continued to chirp and peck, then rolls her eyes in jest, insisting that her daughter wasn’t raised in a barn. They cluck in unison.
Like sugar ants on the counter, Amy’s mother crushes her dreams quite effortlessly. There was no challenge to it; she didn’t know why she enjoyed it. Amy felt the heat creep up her face from her embarrassment, then suddenly was unable to catch her breath or talk. Without responding, Amy slowly swallowed and turned to leave, thinking that it was God’s way of keeping her tongue in check, so she would have less crow to eat and less regrets. You’d think she’d be used to her mother’s condescending nature and the way she stomps the love of life out of her, but with childlike hope Amy always believed that somehow, some day she could please her and that she’d change.
Perhaps she was right, I shouldn’t have charged in like a bull, Amy thought to herself. But did she have to treat me like some poor dumb farm animal? Amy retreated, defeated again. Her news about Rodney would have to wait, would she even care or worse yet would her mother sabotage her date with Rodney? That hadn’t occurred to Amy before just now. Her mind was reeling; slowly she walked back to her room where she would carefully plan out the next encounter with her mother. I couldn’t have her spoiling my chances with Rodney, she thought. Suddenly she was confused, but knew clearly what she needed to do.
Amy plopped down on her bed not caring that the duvet wrinkled. She didn’t want to join her mother’s gaggle of fat friends clucking about, staring; asking mundane questions, where her answers would only be used as fodder for their next gathering. She felt alone at home.
Then a smile crept back across her face, as her thoughts turned to Rodney. Rodney Houseman, how exciting to be asked out to the movies with Rodney. Why me? Why now? Who cares? Not me, she thought to herself. She washed the day from her face, the soap and recent skirmish with her mother was down the drain. Amy decided that she wouldn’t join her for Tea; instead she would treat herself with a daydream about Rodney. Perfect Rodney; tall, muscular, red-headed Rodney. She loved his pinkish hair. He was freckled and quietly bold, just the way I like my men, she fancied to herself. Amy closed her eyes and pictured what she would say, then repeated it over and over in her head until she peacefully dozed off into Rodney Dreamland.
From the town center, Stratford looked on fire as the bending rays of the sun set down on it. It was a beautiful Indian summer night, so romantic Amy thought to herself. She had lied to her mother about where she was going after supper. She was surprised how easy it was, but felt no remorse, only release. She was free until 9 pm when the library closed.
Floating on a cloud got Amy to the cinema earlier then anticipated. It gave her time to rehearse the script playing over in her mind about what she would say to Rodney. Amy’s shy nature seemed to evaporate like the sun as it hid behind the First Baptist Church on 3rd. Street. For the first time in her life she didn’t want to be the wall flower, she wanted to be the sunflower.
Suddenly, Rodney appeared. Amy waved him down as he drove by. He slowed up, “Hey beautiful, hop in,” he said with a smile as big as Dallas. He leaned across the seat opening the passenger door. “Get in and let’s get a quick bite first.”
“We might miss the show,” Amy said with all the honest, plainness of innocence.
“Nah, it’ll be fine, don’t worry.” And off they sped, away from the cool retreat of downtown hiding in the breeze of a summer night.
Amy was still floating on a cloud. Rodney pulled her in close, it didn’t take much coaxing; she was totally enamored and felt truly loved for the first time. She scooted in, then used his shoulder as a pillow. He moved, adjusted, cupping his right arm lovingly around her; like a puppy she nuzzled in. She was a perfect fit.
He drove and Amy dreamed. Never saying a word. The sun now blanketed the cotton fields, soon it would be dark. She didn’t care.
“We’re here,” Rodney declared with authority.
The car stopped, she unraveled herself from under his arm. “Where’s here?” She asked. It was past dusk and only unfamiliar shadows of cotton danced in the distance.
“We’re at the Old Mill off 287.” He sounded exasperated that Amy should ask. She’d never been out this far, this late, she thought, but before responding, he smiled, “Let’s get to know each other.” He gently moved towards her and affectionately kissed Amy on the cheek, reaching for her hands, cupping them ever so tenderly.
It was the most gentle another human being had ever been with her. She knew at last she was home. She no longer felt alone. She was loved. She was wanted. Like a trained pigeon, her mouth found his lips and kissed him back with all the women-ness a 15 year old girl could have. She hid her inexperience; like the burning sun hiding from the cotton fields. She kissed him again and again. She was filling up inside, barely able to catch her breath. “Rodney wait,” she choked out the words.
“We’ve waited long enough,” he insisted as he pulled her closer.
She pushed away, still unable to catch her breath. The excitement had caught up with Amy. “Really. Stop, really, I can barely breathe,” she said with eyes beginning to tear. It took all her power just to say those words.
Like the calm before a tornado, he turned on her,” You bitch. You tease!” His voice poisoned the air, lashing against her delicate ego. He pushed her against the passenger door, yelling “Get out bitch, just get out!”
In distress, barely able to breathe, Amy was paralyzed and sat there as the onslaught of fear took over.
Rodney reached for her; she was too weak to fight him without breath left in her. He reached across and pushed open the door. Amy tumbled out, falling hard in the dust. Like a madman, he was still hollering, “You bitch; you can’t treat me like that. You can just walk home.”
While in the dirt trying to find her dignity the engine started, followed by tires spinning against the dusty road, Rodney was gone. She was relieved, but he had her purse. Her purse was still in his car. Her puffer was in her purse. Her mind was exploding. Amy knew she had to remain calm; that was always the key, stay calm, stay focused. She knew she had to repeat this over and over in her head until she could find her way home. It was dark, she was frightened, she was lost, she was breathless.
Amy repeated to herself, “I want to be home. I want to be loved. I don’t want to be alone.”
Again she repeated, “I want to be home. I want to be loved. I don’t want to be alone.”
Within the hour, still alone, on the margin of a cotton field, with her last breath, as she closed her eyes, Amy Rene was brought home, found love and knew she would never again be alone.