From the corner of her eye

Ruby checked her from the corner of her eye. Checked her daughter bending over her book, but not seeing a goddamn thing that was marked on the page. Ruby could smell trouble from afar, it having acquainted itself with her so intimately for so long. She looked at her daughter. And knew. Watched her. And waited. She herself would do nothing. Was Gertrude waiting for her to charge in and accuse her? She would not. Gertrude would have to come to her. Her thoughts turned to her eldest son. My son, she thought, I did you wrong. I did you wrong…

A gospel broke from her lips, pushing its way up from the back of her throat. Curling and twirling like smoke around a spotlight. Gertrude turned an ear. And knew. The melody swirled over to her and told her what it knew. Told her of pain and shame. Of faith and broken pride. Told her of visions and promises. Of endurance. Ruby closed her eyes, bulbous tears flowing on the inside to the bitter-sweet tune outside. She hummed the melody which spoke to her daughter as a secret mother tongue. The last time she had sung like that was when her man had taken it into his head that life would be better without them. He went. Ruby had sung the whole evening. She never sang when there were men in the house. She sang now, and Gertrude drank her pain and shame. Stroked her faith. Her broken pride. Saw her visions. Heard the promises. Witnessed the endurance. And she felt dirty. Too dirty to be in the company of this woman with gospel curling from her mouth. Ruby closed her eyes and sang. And when she sang, the music unbuttoned her pain with its gentle fingers and stood aside to watch it chiffon to the floor. And when she stopped, the air was full of her presence, and she knew that she was now sitting there alone.

 

from Long Time Walk on Water, available at:
Amazon US   Amazon UK   Amazon France   Amazon Germany   Barnes & Noble   Smashwords and Waterstones

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