Friday, June 02, 2006

Evangeline (Part Fourteen)

Speaking of love, from the moment she saw him, Prissy Montgomery was “in love” with Tucker Shaw, much to her father’s chagrin.

Prissy never intended to annoy her father, but for some reason, she seemed to find ever more creative ways to displease and exasperate him. Tucker was 21 years old and Prissy was sixteen. The age difference was unacceptable to Garrison Montgomery and he forbade Prissy to have anything to do with Tucker Shaw. But of course, that only made Tucker much more mysterious and interesting to Prissy. So she ignored her father’s instructions and continued to rendezvous secretly with Tucker.

It was about the same time as Prissy’s infatuation with Tucker began, that very bad things started to happen around here. There were robberies. Lots of guns were stolen. Drugs began to show up in the high school – something that had never been a problem before. There was vandalism. Windows were broken. Mailboxes were crushed. Empty beer bottles littered the road sides. Yes, something dark was happening in Sommerville.

Evangeline (Part Thirteen)

I believe true love comes along once in a lifetime, if you’re lucky. I had such a love a long, long time ago. There is no way to explain that kind of love. I could write for the next 20 years about him, but never come close to understanding or illuminating the profound depth of our connection. They say true love is the heart’s recognition of its counterpart in another. To this day, my heart beats faster at the very thought of his name.

Branden was a soldier. His duty was to his country. So when his country called him to Korea, he went. Six months later he was reported Missing in Action. His body has never been recovered. Sometimes duty requires us to do the opposite of what our heart wants us to do.

When I sit on the porch late in the afternoon, I like to imagine him walking down the street, coming home to me, arms open wide. Branden always looked so handsome in his uniform. I saved all of his letters to me, every one. It is all I have left of him.

When the person you love the most in the world is gone, there is nothing that can fill that space in your heart. And neither time, nor distance, nor other love can lessen the pain of losing it. It is an abyss, an immeasurable void in my life. The older I get, the deeper it becomes.

I eventually married a good man and moved on with my life. But the love I have for Branden was, and is, the only absolute I’ve ever known.

Evangeline (Part Twelve)

Grandma Shaw was indeed surprised by Tucker’s sudden appearance in her driveway. But Tucker was her only grandchild, so she did what any grandmother would do, she took him in. He seemed to her to be a little lost and down-in-the-dumps, so Grandma Shaw was exceptionally patient. Yet after three months of sitting on the sofa watching television all day while eating her out of house and home, Tucker’s grace period ran out.

Grandma Shaw inquired around town about work and discovered that Garrison Montgomery (Prissy’s father) was looking for a handy man/gardener/errand boy. She went straight over to the bank and struck a deal with Garrison. Tucker would work five days a week from 9:00 am until 3:00 pm and would basically do whatever it was that Garrison Montgomery needed done. Tucker would earn $10 an hour. His lunch would be provided. A pretty good deal for a recently-released ex-convict (although Grandma Shaw forgot to mention that minor detail to Mr. Montgomery).

Tucker was not happy when Grandma Shaw told him the news, but the more he argued, the deeper she dug in her heals, and eventually she wore him down. After all, he had learned a few skills in prison such as painting, basic carpentry, and ceramics, although that last one might not be very helpful.

So began Tucker’s first real job on the first Monday of summer vacation. Prissy slept in until noon that day then lazily made her way down to the kitchen for something to eat. Through the big windows of the kitchen that looked out onto the back lawn, Prissy saw him. He was on a ladder with a bucket of paint in one hand and a paint brush in the other. He had taken his shirt off and was precariously perched as he strained to reach the top of one of the round columns on the back veranda. The muscles in his chest and arms caught her attention, but it was the tattoo that gave her a sudden rush of excitement and danger and adventure. It was a dragon. The tail formed a circle around his belly button, and the dragon’s body rippled vertically up the middle of Tucker’s chest, the flames from its mouth forming a circle around a small black heart.

Prissy Montgomery smiled. This was not going to be another boring summer.