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"FRIDAYS"


Prologue
Friday, August 11

By Fridayauthor

                    Friday, August 11

            It’s strange standing here in this parlor, in the only house I've ever lived in, seeing it change before my eyes. They rolled up the old threadbare Oriental rug this morning, and the men are just now putting down the deep pile wall to wall carpeting my mother so fought against these many years. The floral paper has been scraped from the walls, in this room at least, and in its place a pale blue paint, matching the chairs and, hopefully, my sofa nook, when it's finished. I've kept some of the old furniture; my grandmother's china cabinet and a table and a chair or two, mostly because they're nice period pieces and hold no special memory, good or bad.
      
            I've redone the bath too, taking down that God-awful overhead tank and chain, and cleared out the claw-foot tub, replacing everything with modern fixtures. Some would call the old faucet and knobs quaint but I say, good riddance; I've stared at them for a lifetime and I'm ready for new. There's a lock on the bathroom door now so I no longer need worry about someone barging in on my privacy though there is rarely anyone else in the house. Renovation of the kitchen will follow, if I have enough money left from my mother’s insurance. If the kitchen has to wait, so be it; my limited cooking is used to the old range.
       
            Replacing the sofa is another matter. That's a must, in spite of it costing a fortune. The carpenters have finished blocking off the archway to the dining room and I've paid my deposit to the upholsterer who is to build my sitting-nook sofa. While he thinks I'm daft, his opinion concerns me not a mite if he performs as I've requested.
      
            The two bedrooms will be refinished piecemeal; I'm in no hurry and want them just so. I'm used to my room after thirty-seven years of nights spent there and my parent's room needs more thought and time before I'm up to tackling that project. Too many ghosts therein dwell. Besides, there is a long winter and there will be ample time for those tedious chores.
        
            I'm proud of what I've so far accomplished though I was as nervous as a cat on catnip to tackle the project. It may seem silly to some, but I don't do well explaining myself to strangers and I dreaded having to talk to so many different people to convey my wishes. Somehow, I bit my lip and pushed ahead, successfully. Now I can go back to being shy little Lucille Peabody, queen of her own private world, but now ensconced in the comfort of a palace of my personal design.
      
            Perhaps an explanation is in order as to why I am putting these words to paper in this newly opened blank notebook, why, at this stage of my life I am chronicling my daily doings in such minute and mundane detail. To be honest, the chore is a half-hearted response to Father Hammond at our church. The poor man is beside himself. He has dogged me to pen this litany of absurdity for several weeks. You see, I have sealed myself in a chrysalis of anonymity, so secure and comfortable the good father wrongly views me as a lamb of his flock in utter despair.
          
            My mother passed on after a long illness on the first day of June. The good father was very kind in his solicitations, but he apparently didn't feel I was responding appropriately to his pastoral efforts. He suggested, quite strongly, that I should attempt to communicate in writing the deep felt sorrow he was sure I was concealing, after what he perceived as the major traumatic event in my life. I also suspect he felt a sense of professional failure in his inability to draw me out to tears and fainting spells and now considers me a personal challenge to his priestly abilities. Although Father Hammond was dead wrong in his assessment, I felt compelled to accept the journal-book he benevolently presented me. I reluctantly agreed, in part because he makes me as nervous as a November turkey. I dreaded any prospect of lengthy conversations with the man. Unfortunately that was not the end of the matter. The book had lain on my night stand since the funeral ten weeks ago but the good father has made it a point to ask about my journalistic progress enough times to cause me to avoid him. Therefore, in an effort to answer honestly, I'm undertaking the project, in self-defense and on a limited basis. Any thoughts I record here shall never be shared with another human being.
       
            To me, a diary is a personal thing, unlike other prose, it is written for the writer as a sort of cleansing of thoughts and ideas. It struck my fancy that perhaps Father Hammond might be partially correct, not about my perceived mourning of my mother's passing, but that I might need further conversations with myself. After all, this is a turning point in my life. I’m free, once and for all, of reverse parental responsibilities. Therefore, on the spur of the moment, this memorable Friday, the eleventh day of August, I, Lucille Anne Peabody, am commencing a written conversation with myself. I shall record the happenings of my settled and boring life until these pages are filled, tie a ribbon about them, and, by then the chill of fall should have arrived. I'll build an autumn pyre of the paper and my backyard leaves and once and for all destroy the ghosts of my past! I'll then inform Father Hammond I'm cured, of whatever he feels ails me.
      
            Instead of heart-wrenching grief, of which I do not feel an iota, I'll document some of the details which fill my days of late. Presently, the design and construction of my prize sofa-nook consumes most of my thoughts and time. It is to be built-in and stretch across the seven foot space where the archway was removed between the living room and the dining room. It will be four feet deep and three feet high, facing the tall living room windows and my beloved view of the bay. Our house . . . my house now, is two miles from the ocean but I'm situated on a hill and the blue of the Atlantic water is clearly visible unless a fog has rolled in to wrap the scene from searching eyes. I've ripped away the heavy drapes that covered our large front window, replacing them with light curtains so the rising sun and night time stars will be my guests.
       
            The upholsterer blanched when I told him to chuck the old sofa, stiff Victorian monster that it was. He said it was worth its weight in gold so I answered, fine, keep it as a bonus. He shook his head too, at my choice of the stuffing for my new creation, saying it was so soft I'd sink from the world and no one would ever find me. I smiled; not so unpleasant a thought, I said to myself and firmly stuck with my choice.
      
            I have commenced sewing the twelve pillows I have in mind, each a different color, and each as puffy as a cloud. They will ring my sofa-world. Instead of stiff wood, old smells and nasty memories, I can lie back with a good book or this journal and sink down in newness and splendor. It makes me giddy to think about it!
      
            A Realtor tried to talk me into selling the house after mother died but I declined. I like the location; it's near the school where I teach, and all that is nearby is familiar and convenient. I would dread having to grow comfortable with a new neighborhood and anywhere else I lived I'd have to learn to drive a car. What would become of my beloved garden, the painstaking result of years of planning and evolutions? It would surely go to rot under a new owner who loved it any less than I.
      
            My sister Emily, who lives in New York State, disagrees. She sees our home town of Sea View infrequently now, only as a visitor, and is more aware than I of the town’s slow but steady decay from the city of our youth. Emily pleaded with me to sell the house and move somewhere to the suburbs, somewhere safer, she claims. She sent me a can of Mace as a stocking stuffer last Christmas!
      
             Sea View is an old New England enclave situated on the north shore, not far from Boston. The city looks better from afar, but like old clothes is comfortable to me. There was a time, long since past, when Sea View was fashionable, but I'm afraid I'll be dead and buried before it awakens from downward spiral. We boasted of one hundred thousand residences just after World War Two but nearly a third of those have since fled, replaced mostly by lower income and welfare families living in declining tenements owned by others.
      
            My neighborhood, while less than fashionable, is a holdout against changes slipping steadily down. Most of the homes on Hawthorne Street are single family dwellings, built before the war, and still owned by the inhabitants clinging to a life I'm afraid will never return. I shudder to guess the average age but I am still a child at thirty-seven to most of my neighbors.
      
            Though I detested much about my house over the years, now that I'm alone I have come to the conclusion that what I disliked was more what was within the walls than the walls themselves. While it's less than three months since my mother's death, I've had more than enough time to consider my options. The estate has just now cleared so at last I have some funds, not forcing a decision to be based on monetary limitations.
      
            While dear Father Hammond may think of me as a lonely, grieving daughter, I feel I am starting life anew! For the first time ever, I've no one to answer to. My world is mine alone! Some people would find living alone a tiresome existence, and I suppose others will say I've gone batty, but it's been many a moon since idle gossip bothered me. I am most comfortable with my own company and fully resigned to living my life in this situation, in newly renovated surroundings of my own design, and in my own image.
      
        Just me. And Amy.
      
 

Author Notes Once again, I'm writing in the first person, in a woman's voice! Lucille is my third woman character who finds herself on her own. Each handled the situation differently. Sarah, in my novel,"Enough to Miss Christmas," married and took on a life. Ellen, in my play, "A Life of Mondays," took desperate measures. I hope we'll see how Lucille handles the situation.


Prologue
FRIDAY, AUG 11 - Continued

By Fridayauthor

    Friday, August 11th - Continued

        I laugh at myself when explaining Amy and I am hesitant to do so for fear of appearing as loony as a drunk court jester, which I swear to you, I'm not. But if I'm to be true to these pages as I promised my priest I'll take time to explain her as best I can.
 
     Amy appeared in my mind when my sister Emily left home, when I was six years old. Amy became my playmate, my friend, my confidant. Nowadays, teaching second grade, I see many children with similar pretend-friends, and I chuckle to myself, wondering how many will keep their phantom playmates into adulthood! I say that with tongue in cheek, as at age thirty-seven, I fully realize the fallacy of a make believe friend. I still enjoy my spectral company, utilizing her on occasion to weigh issues of pro and con in my head. At times I find myself arguing with Amy. We shared much pleasure in my childhood and she grew along with me through the trials of puberty, to adulthood, giving me much comfort in those trying teen years. Though I've never introduced her to anyone, she remains with me. When I search my mind for comfort and advice she's sometimes hiding there, whispering the right answer or giving me a much needed hug.
 
     Both of my parents were past forty the year I was born, through some mistake never discussed. To people who saw us together, this grey haired pair were more like grandparents than mother and father. My upbringing too was a generation removed, in both freedom and discipline. Emily, my sister, whom I love dearly, is twelve years older, and was gone almost before I knew her. She married a fine fellow and has raised three wonderful children. My only regret is I've seen so little of her and her family since she freed herself from Hawthorne Street. 
 
     Ours was a strange household. My father was a fair provider while the shipyard remained in operation, and my mother was reasonably efficient in domestic chores. I was always sent to school clean, if not in style, whatever the style in those bygone days. The holidays arrived with obligatory celebration, candy at Easter, presents at Christmas and a November turkey with all the pies and fixings. It was years later, through observation of others, I realized the only ingredients missing in our household were demonstrations of love and understanding. I was never hugged, never kissed, never held close and told the world would be safe, and pain would go away. Perhaps that's why I've never been good at that sort of thing myself. I tried to hug and comfort my mother in the last stages of her slow journey toward the wrong side of the grass, but she just shrugged me away and kept saying, “God's will” until I despised the expression.
 
     No one ever talked on Hawthorne Street; the TV provided our sound from morning rising until bedtime, and conversation was a minimum of stern pronouncements.
 
     School, however, was a pleasure and I was good at my studies, though unbelievably shy around all but a few of the less popular classmates. My exposure to adults was limited to occasional visits with aunts and uncles who paid me little attention except to lecture how fortunate I was to have two such loving parents and a secure home. I assumed what they were saying was gospel. What else did I know? But as the years rolled slowly by I became increasingly uncomfortable around other people.
 
     My father died one Friday in a freak accident at work, one of those short stays of employment between strikes and layoffs. I remember coming home from college to find my mother amid seldom seen relatives, all looking anxiously at me. It was Father Hammond, not mother, who gently told me my father had died instantly, as if that was important. It was shocking, and I felt I should cry, but my tear ducts remained dry, even when I viewed his dead body.
 
     The wake was held in this very room. They laid him out in front of the windows, with those horrid purple drapes drawn behind him, while people we hardly knew came pawing and fawning as if they'd lost a saint. Everyone said how marvelous he looked, lying there with crossed hands, holding a rosary someone provided. To me, he was a frightening waxy figure. Mother kept the drapes closed from that day forward, never allowing sunlight into the room.
 
     When mother was finally bedridden four years ago, I drew open the heavy fabric one day and discovered the forgotten beauty of the scene down our hill, the magnificent blue of the ocean in the distance, the islands in the bay and the shore beyond. The scene was framed by two stalwart maples, in full fall color. But mother complained the resultant brightness in the back bedroom hurt her eyes so thenceforth I only opened the drapes at night, when she was sleeping and I was alone.
 
     My sister Emily tells me I'm being bitchy when I speak this way about my parents, as if I didn't love them, and I apologize for blabbering. It's not so that I didn't love them. I did. After all, you're supposed to, aren't you? Isn't there a rule posted somewhere that says so? But it doesn't say you have to like them or like everything they did. My God makes me forgive them but allows me the loophole of letting me speak ill of them once in a while, never in public, only sometimes to my sister Emily, and always to Amy. And now in the pages of this volume. Thankfully this tome is nonjudgmental.
 
     My sister Emily doesn't verbalize negative feelings about our parents as I do, and most often changes the subject when I mention them. They were a younger mother and father to her growing up and her naturally frivolous and outgoing personality probably enabled her to better accept them than the hound-dog passivity and constant acquiescence of her baby sister Lucille.
 
     I don't mean to be mean-spirited and bitter. That's not the point of writing this; nor is it a plea for sympathy, as if these white pages could bestow condolences. I am simply offering background so you might begin to understand my odd relationship with the world at large. The past is as dead as my mother and although it may have left a scar or two, the future is what's important to me. And my future is as bright as the roses in my garden!
 
      I am as happy as I've ever been in my entire life! Isn't that a crazy paradox? To keep my personal little world intact I put forth a face to society far more negative than the feelings I posses. My quietness is viewed as sullenness, my reluctance to join in conversation a disinterest in humanity, and my lack of involvement with others as my being inherently unfriendly. It's a high price to pay for retention of my privacy, but one I consciously created to insure the defense of the cocoon I’ve wound about myself.
 
     In spite of the usual confusion and natural tenseness accompanying my mother's death, I am having a glorious summer! Emily and her youngest daughter Billy stayed on for two weeks after the funeral. I took the last few days of my school term in bereavement time so we had a grand visit. We walked the beach, poked about town, and discussed everything under the sun. I can talk to Emily, though she sometimes is impatient with my reticence, and she too fears I'm less happy in life than I really am. But I love her till it hurts and I'm good pals with her and her children, even if mostly by mail.
 
     The summer is a special time to me because of my garden, a long standing passion of mine. Though my property is in the city and has limited space, the yard has been well utilized after years of planning and cultivation. New England soil is more noted for growing rocks than flowers, but my crop is always the talk of our neighborhood. I spend summertime hours amid my flora, tenderly caring for my prizes.
 
     In July, I shocked myself when I took a brief sabbatical from gardening and, for the first time in my life, travelled. To be truthful, I needed to escape from well-meaning acquaintances calling on me in droves, with well-intentioned condolences.
 
     I had left the state but once before in my life, a short but ill-fated stay at an out of state college, from which I came running home, dragging my tail behind me. That was twenty years ago and now I was ready to see more of the world than Hawthorne Street, Sea View, Massachusetts, and the stuffy few miles around our deteriorating city. And after mother's passing, I needed a chance to breathe.
 
     Building up my courage, I visited a travel agent. The result was a bus trip around New England, accompanied by retirees, all far senior to me. Nevertheless, I enjoyed myself immeasurably.
 
     I returned in early August, rejuvenated and ready to take on the redecorating project on my house. This summer is sultry but I've spent many a sunny day catching up on my gardening so I could concentrate on my indoor projects. In the evenings I often walk the two miles from my home to the beach, and a few more miles along the sand, engaging my mind by planning my alterations and changes. It is a small house, so the project is not extensive, but I undertake it with care and deliberation.
 
     The ocean is my favorite place to think, especially when you gaze out to sea, turning your back on the ever increasing number of boarded up buildings, spray-painted with obscenities and surrounded with dying debris, that line much of my walk to the water. But if you stroll further down the beach, away from the area that was once ocean front shops and restaurants, you have the privacy of nature, unaffected by delinquency. Though it's a long hike from my home, I go there often, in every season.
 
     August also brings the anticipation of the upcoming school term and the preparation for a cluster of new minds eagerly awaiting knowledge and challenge. I love them, every one, and believe they think kindly of me. I started out teaching higher grades when I first graduated from college but it didn't work out. The older children were wearing to me and I didn't relate to them well, but I'm in heaven with my little second graders! I've found my home with the grade for ten wonderful years!
 
     So you see Father Hammond, you've nothing to fear. Lucille Peabody is a happy being in her solid little world!
 

Author Notes I knew many "Lucilles" over the years. Few single women earned enough money to live independently so they resided at home. They became the obvious care giver to ailing parents, until they too were on their own in their later life.


Chapter 1
FRIDAY, AUG 18th

By Fridayauthor

Friday Number One, August 18th
    
     A week has passed since I've taken time to pen words in this journal, but the volume has stared at me from my night table until I feel compelled to make some entry. Besides, last Sunday Father Hammond asked if I was making progress in my writing and I answered affirmatively. So here I am, making an honest person of my lazy self.
 
     I don’t mean to say the past seven days floated by in a sea of idleness. The carpenters continue to rumble with hammer and saw, to the accompaniment of loud and undecipherable music from a paint-splattered boom-box that has a coat hanger for use as an antenna. But I don't mind the noise and confusion. They speak of progress toward the emergence of my new world! And there are no demands on me to do anything, but sit back and watch the progress, occasionally nodding in agreement. I've even authorized work in mother and father's room where newly erected bookcases now line the walls from floor to ceiling; walls previously decorated with pictures of ancient relatives and long departed saints. Two coats of oil based paint displace the smells of death and disinfectant. Much work remains before the room is to my liking, but it is vastly improved now that my parent’s ancient bed is stacked against the wall, ready for removal.
 
     I plan to place a table in the center of the room where I can correct my school papers in peace and good light. I visualize a soft corner chair for reading. I have no need for a spare bedroom and if, perchance, my sister Emily comes to town, one of us will use my new sofa. I will fill the book shelves at my leisure from the scores of volumes packed away throughout the house and garage. The one remaining chore is to cast away the last remnants of my parents by cleaning out the dresser drawers and closet, as soon as I build up my courage.
 
     This week was not absent problems. What some would call a mild annoyance, to me was a worrisome ordeal. Mr. Anderson called and asked me to dinner; not once but twice. Usually, when an infrequent invitation of this type occurs, a simple no is sufficient discouragement. The offer is seldom repeated. I socialize only when necessity dictates and I’ve successfully avoided any involvement that might be described as dating. Most people who know me realize this and my limited social involvement does not expose me to many strangers, especially of the male gender.
 
      The situation with Mr. Anderson is peculiar. He and I have attended the same church all of our lives and nodded at each other on a thousand Sunday mornings. I was surprised when he called me. We smile in recognition if we pass on the street, if neither manages to look away in time. However, I don't recall we've ever exchanged a single word.
 
     My first declination was simple; I was preparing a class schedule and couldn't spare the time. Mr. Anderson took my rejection cordially, but I was sure he would try again. Mr. Anderson is a nice man, from what I've heard tell over the years, and I had no desire to antagonize him or hurt his feelings. He is a handsome gentleman and I suppose most would consider him the catch of the town though I think he may be nearly as shy as I. Sure enough, my phone rang yesterday afternoon and I'm afraid I made a botch of it.
 
     “Miss Peabody?”
 
     “Yes?”
 
     “Philip Anderson here. How are you?”
 
     Butterflies broke loose. “Just fine, thank you, Mr. Anderson.”
 
     “I was wondering if you'd care for dinner on Friday next week. Nothing special; I thought we could try Delaneys.”
 
     I’m embarrassed to say my heart began to pound. Any reasonable woman would have cheerily said, “I'm sorry Mr. Anderson, but between my garden, my house renovations, and the upcoming start of the school year, I'm far too busy. I appreciate your thinking of me.” What did Lucille Peabody say?
 
     “I'm sorry, but I can't.” I sounded like a stammering child. My dead mind failed to construct a plausible excuse, reasonably conveyed. It's as easy as pie now, with pen and paper and time to think. I should pin a list of excuses next to the phone for just such occasions, so I sound less like a fool.
 
     His response was perfectly sensible. “Why?”
 
     His question shocked me. Why indeed? I might have dropped him a letter of explanation, though the weight of postage would break me, but to answer on the phone? Impossible, at least for me! My reason is far too complicated.
 
     “I don't know,” I mumbled like a dolt. The following silence became unbearable.
 
     Finally he thanked me and murmured something about seeing me in church that evening and terminated the call. I felt miserable and dreaded the evening ahead. It was the feast day of the saint for whom our parish church is named. There is always an evening getogether which us old timers religiously . . . pardon the pun . . . attend. I knew if I appeared I would have to face Mr. Anderson in person, at least across the room. I couldn’t bear to do it. Although I'd be eating the macaroni and cheese I'd cooked for the affair until Labor Day, I resolved to hide in the security of my home. It didn't work out that way.
 
     My doorbell rang shortly before six and there stood Mr. Anderson, in person, a nervous smile on his face.
 
     “I thought I'd stop by and drive you,” he said.
 
     Again, excuses eluded me. “It's only three blocks,” I answered.
 
     “Yes, but you always bring a dish.”
 
     When you're as shy as I am, conversation, as natural as brushing your teeth to everyone else, is a monumental burden to me. All common sense flees away like autumn leaves in a hurricane. I become very irritated with myself but nothing seems to help. Thus stymied, I saw no alternative and found myself in climbing into Mr. Anderson's old Oldsmobile. Mrs. Forsythe peeked out the blinds from across the street as we pulled away from the curb. It was the longest three blocks either of us ever rode.
 
     We had turned the corner of Hawthorne to Adams, riding in silence, when a pickup truck suddenly backed from a driveway, slamming into the side of a Buick two cars ahead of us. The vehicles spun around, blocking the entire street. The drivers jumped out of their vehicles, shouting and arguing vehemently. As we recovered from the shock, I found myself trapped in this stranger's company.
 
     Mr. Anderson finally broke the silence. “I owe you an apology for dropping in on you like that.”
 
     “No, it was . . . thoughtful.”
 
     “No it wasn't. It was rude. I just wanted an opportunity to state my case in person.” He smiled a kindly smile, amid the honking and shouting of the traffic snarl. He looked, not at me, but straight ahead as he spoke. It was almost as if he had rehearsed what he was about to say.
 
     “I think you should reconsider having dinner with me. I have no sinister agenda; I'd enjoy company once in a while; just friends. I've noticed you at church for years and admired the way you conduct yourself.”
 
     “Mr. Anderson, I really . . .” I didn't finish my sentence and he was quiet for a few moments before he spoke.
 
     “I'm not looking for a wife or a fun time or anything like that. I just think to be alone all the time . . . isn't healthy, for either of us.”
 
     Though I disagreed, I couldn't find the words to state my position so I sputtered. “I'm sure, it's just that. . . .” I could have kicked myself for speaking in idiotic half-sentences.
 
     “I'll remain Mr. Anderson and you'll be Miss Peabody. We shall respect each other's lives and wishes and jointly agree to anything we do together. We’ll have dinner and perhaps a movie. That isn't so bad, is it? Bargain?”
 
     I didn't answer. I couldn’t find the words.

     “We can even split the costs.” He smiled, making me feel like a child. How could I say no? I couldn't run away . . . put off the invitation until I'd had time to form a sensible response. We were trapped here together, by a rusty Buick and a pickup truck with no place for me to bury my head and think! And Amy, damn her, was whispering yes in my ear.
 
     I agreed, with little more than a nod. We'd dine, Dutch treat, on Friday evenings, and after, if it suited us, see a movie or a show, if the local community theater was in production. The schedule was established; not just a single Friday, as if Mr. Anderson thereby eliminated the need to duplicate the grueling process of asking me anew each week. Before the snarl of traffic was cleared, I became an unwilling partner to a weekly Friday social schedule. I dreaded making the pact as soon as the deal was sealed.
 
     My macaroni and cheese grew cold in the process.
 


Chapter 2
Friday, August 25th

By Fridayauthor

            Friday Number Two, August 25th
           
            It is Friday, just before midnight, and I'm sitting in my living room, and, in spite of the heat, trying to settle myself with a cup of hot chocolate before traipsing off to bed. Settling Lucille Peabody is no simple chore after the past week. I am a bundle of nerves. I have taken up this journal to give my fingers something to do before I pick my nails to the bloody quick. I suppose, as usual, I'm also writing out of a sense of guilt. It has been a full week since I've penned any jewels of wisdom to these pages and Father Hammond inquired again last Sunday of my literary progress. Before I chronicle the highlights, I’ll dismiss the mundane.
      
            Monday and Tuesday were spent unpacking and cataloging books, long boxed away in my crowded basement, and stacking them willy-nilly about the living room. They will go on the new shelves in my parent's room, as soon as I bring myself around to the postponed chore of cleaning out the quarters. As a teenager I worked in the city library and the habits of order have plagued me ever since. In my robot-mind I must sort to author, content, etc. before I'm satisfied with my small library. In between time I tended my garden and even managed a walk or two along the ocean. On Wednesday eve I followed my usual routine and attended the Ladies Alter Society meeting at our church.
      
            I call my fellow members of the society the hens. The hens are all much older than I, but I continue to attend their biweekly Wednesday night meetings though we have little in common and they consider me more their child than a peer. I've heard them refer to me as Mildred's daughter when they didn't realize my ears were perked to their comments. I sit in a corner, the quietest hen in the chicken coop. My membership is automatic as I’ve attended for years, first with my mother and then, when she fell ill, as her surrogate. My sole reason to be there may be a deep seeded need to periodically expose myself to conversation above the seven-year-old, second grade, level.
      
            I should be involved with women my age but those in other church groups are mostly concerned with the religious education of their children, and of course, I have none. Besides, the hens usually demand little by way of conversational participation on my part. An occasional smile or nod is sufficient. Little religious business is conducted other than assignment of mandatory functions such as preparation of the church linens and periodic altar and sacristy maintenance. My prime responsibility, aside from filling a seat on the scheduled Wednesday evenings, is supplying flowers in season, which I do with pleasure.
      
            The ladies are kind hearted souls and quite generous, although at times they are prone to cattiness. They have been particularly kind to me these past weeks, assuming I remain in deep mourning over the loss of my mother. I accept the hen’s solicitude in silence. It gives me a respite from their questions and their attempts to draw me into conversation.
      
            Their questions came in droves after my little bus vacation, as the hens were anxious to hear of shy Lucille’s venture into the outside world. I was tongue-tied to offer more than minimum responses.
      
            At first I thought it a coincidence that this week the hens began discussing Mr. Anderson shortly after I arrived. Then I remembered hen Agnes McNaught had seen me alight from his car at church last Friday evening. Still, I said nothing, allowing the ladies to believe I thought my secret safe. Although I felt pangs of guilt listening to their chatter, I learned much about the gentleman with whom I had reluctantly scheduled dinner.
      
            Mr. Anderson has been a widower for fifteen years, a fact I generally knew. His wife Ethel died of cancer, leaving him to raise two children, Philip, Jr. and Becky, both now living away from home. Becky was recently married and her brother will be finishing college in Michigan next June. There appears to be no recorded instance of Mr. Anderson seeking female companionship in any form since his wife's passing. This fact was put forth by Miss Emily Baker, with a quick side glance in my direction.
      
            Anderson's Sporting Goods is an institution in Sea View, started by Mr. Anderson's grandfather, and nearly ruined by his father who was prone to drink, as the ladies describe it. The present Mr. Anderson was both a scholar and fine athlete in high school but he failed to further his education at the college level. The hens gave him high marks for raising two children practically unassisted after his wife's passing. I should have felt proud he had chosen me as his coming-out companion, but I was far too nervous to feel anything but acute trepidation.
      
            I’ve experienced waves of nausea for most of the week, every time I thought of how I had subjected myself to Friday night dinners. My head ached from Amy screaming in my ear how silly I am to be concerned with something so trivial. I know she's right as usual but it didn't help to keep my meals on the proper digestive path.
      
            Social graces escape me; I am totally inept at which fork to use, how to make small talk and what is considered appropriate conversation. I quake at the thought of barging in a door before it is held for me or waiting for the holder who never moves. The few times I've dined with strangers at school functions, I've dreaded making a fool of myself, passed up soup for fear of slurping, salad for choice of dressing or desert for looking like a pig.
      
            My mind has been as cluttered as my house with questions of why this man chose me as a weekly companion. Did Father Hammond have a hand in it? I blanched at the idea my parish priest might think me so poor and lonely a waif as to force an embarrassed widower to waste his Friday nights in my company!
      
            Friday began with a trip to the drugstore for the ingredients to perm my hair. The chore took hours to complete. I never visit a beauty shop, even cutting my own hair, as my mother had done before me. The project took most of the day; that and trying to decide what to wear. I kept telling myself I wasn't Cinderella going to the ball; our destination was Delaneys, The Family Restaurant, and a simple platonic meal. There was no one to impress. In my heart didn't I hope Mr. Anderson wouldn't be impressed and cut off the whole business after one embarrassing session?
      
            I dress to please myself these days, although most of my wardrobe is purchased with my school position in mind. I don't suppose I'm in style, but then, I never have been. Growing up, no one showed me how and I pay scant attention observing what the rest of the world is wearing.
      
            My sister Emily telephoned on Friday afternoon. I chatted with my hair in rollers. I would love to have sought her advice on dress. However, I dared not tell her of my evening's activities for fear she'd hop in her car, drive all night to Sea View, and tie us both in bed until we produced a bevy of nieces and nephews! Emily's pet peeve in life is my failure to produce scores of tiny relatives for her pleasure.
      
            My sister has always looked like Vogue cover model without effort, while I dress like a refugee waif from a famine-starved country. She is taller with a model's figure and takes care to dress in style. If asked to describe myself, the only word that comes to mind is ordinary. But my Friday conversation with Emily was restricted to trivial things and my opportunity for fashion consultation quickly passed.
       
            As usual, I was ready nearly an hour ahead of time, thus having to endure more misery until my escort arrived, which he did, promptly at the prearranged time of six o'clock.
      
            The ten minute ride to Delaney's Restaurant produced the minimum of compliments on appearance and comments on the weather. It was obvious we were both quite uncomfortable. Mr. Anderson looked very nice; grey suit, maroon tie and polished shoes. He even wore a subtle scent of after shave. I continued to wonder why he was doing this; escorting shy Lucille Peabody. Surely if he wanted female companionship, there were far more attractive candidates than I. He must have suspected my capacity for casual conversation was as on a par with a Trappist monk. If the hens were correct, this was his first social venture in years. I found myself curious in spite of my discomfort.
       
            During the first twenty minutes of the meal, the waiter had more to say than either of us. Finally, between salad and the main course of meat loaf and mashed potatoes, Mr. Anderson broke the silence.
      
            “I don't mean to make you uncomfortable, but I'm sort of shy by nature. I figured you were a lot like me and together we could perhaps help each other out.” He looked down at his bread plate, like a young Lindbergh. I was stunned. Here was this handsome man, admitting his shortcomings to me, who had far less social grace than the dinner roll he began to butter. As usual, I didn't have a clue how to respond. He continued.
 
          “That's why I asked you out for more than just one Friday evening. I figured we'd have such a rotten time tonight you'd never agree to do it again.” He smiled and I couldn't help myself; I laughed out loud.
      
            His candid comment broke the ice. No, we didn't enter into a rattle of comfortable chatter, but we seemed to sense there was camaraderie between us and we needed each other's assistance to make the evening bearable. We talked, at least a little. He too liked books, mysteries, but more the detective-police genre than the British manor house tales I favor. He spoke briefly of his children and I could tell he missed them very much. I spoke of Emily, and a little of my school. After the meal, we both agreed to a movie, I believe we realized we wouldn't have to talk for the two hours.
      
            After the show we had coffee, something I never drink that late in the evening but I was too obliging to decline. We discussed the movie. He tended to look at the show purely as entertainment while I secretly analyzed it in detail, but we both enjoyed it in our own way. He held my arm while I climbed into his car but that was the extent of our physical contact. When he walked me to the door and said good night after reaffirming the following Friday engagement, I let out a sigh of relief. I had made it through the evening without blunder. It was almost fun.
 

Author Notes This is Lucille Peabody's story, from her point of view. While her life is unexciting, I feel she has something to say as we learn more about her as a person, and how she became what we see.


Chapter 3
Friday Number Three, Sept 1st

By Fridayauthor

     Friday Number Three, September 1st
    
     I find my life governed by habits of late, collections of remembered little functions performed with brainless automation; it's Monday, do a wash; Sunday, go to church; bedtime, brush your teeth. Perhaps these movements are dictated by the basic order of my existence; everything in its place. Routine; it’s like the Dewey decimal system of the library of my life. Habit is beginning to play a part in my recordings in this journal as well. While I commenced this chore to appease the solicitations of a well-meaning priest, I find myself adding words not so much as an annoying task as an automatic weekly function, filed on Friday nights.

     It is the Friday of Labor day weekend and Mr. Anderson and I have just finished our second Friday get together. While I approached the evening with far less trepidation than last week, I now sit in my sofa-nest feeling very melancholy. There is no reason for it; our evening was quite pleasant. Our outing mirrored last week, dinner and a movie and some casual conversation. In fact, my mood has nothing to do with Mr. Anderson, though my seeing him seems to have brought it to light. Old memories, few of them pleasant, are beginning to claw their way up from the cellars of my yesterdays.
 
     I suppose most people endure swings of mood and temperament, often unobserved except by those closest to them. Those of us who choose to live a solitary existence must abide them alone, like the tide on some desert island, as tumultuous as in a populated area, but witnessed by no one.
 
     Perhaps the fact that my classes begin on Tuesday has me on edge. I've spent half-days at Cyrus P. Whitcomb Elementary School all week preparing for opening day. But no, that's not what has me so moody. I'm afraid it's Amy. I wasn't entirely truthful to this journal concerning my make believe friend. At times, she plays a far more important part in my life than she should.
 
     One of those ancient Greeks, adept at insight said, “Know thyself.” I suppose I do, at least fairly well, especially if Amy is nothing more than the alter me through whom I gain wisdom and answers. Knowing Lucy Peabody helps me to take pretty good care of her, not place her in spots uncomfortable, painful or awkward. I pretty much give her what she wants. After all, she's a fairly good girl and we get along just fine, with Amy often pointing the way.
 
     I have a creeping feeling of impending danger in my secure little world and it frightens me like a dark cellar to a child. Amy continues to decry what she calls my obsession with my parents, more acute since my mother’s passing. I suppose it's brought about by my Friday evenings with Mr. Anderson. Seeing him only serves to highlight my gross social shortcomings, and cause me to conduct a personal search for the reasons I came to be as I am. Amy is forever trying to get me to dig a hole and bury the past like a bulb for a plant in my garden. My other self seems to dwell upon happenings of long ago, dragging them to light until they are as clear as today as a fresh bloom. Remembrances, scary dreams I haven't thought of in decades, crowd my mind, looking for reasons and analysis. Amy strives to turn me away from them but I, in turn, continue to resurrect visions I truly don't want to remember.
 
     I was on the pretty side of average growing up. I believe, if I had a modicum of personality, self-confidence or know-how, I'd have been reasonably popular. My knowledge of what girls of that age should know was zero. Mother had always been uninformative, and when, petrified, I first had my period, she responded to soiled under things with a box of napkins in my drawer. These were delivered absent either explanations or directions. That, together with the oft repeated statement “Good girls don't do it” was the sum of my at-home facts of life education. Nor did I have any close friends to whom I might whisper a cry for help.
 
     I wore tee shirts long after I needed support and when mother finally broke down and bought me my first bra, to her surprise, it was a size or two too small. While my flat-chested classmates padded and stuffed their way after the boys, little Lucille grew rather bountiful; no pin-up girl, but months ahead of my contemporaries in bosom growth. I was thrilled when I first caught boys actually looking at me and I became sufficiently bold to loosen a button, a time or two. One now-unremembered boy, actually asked me out! I ran home to mother who answered my excitement with a flat “no”. Neither an explanation nor any alternatives were offered. I assumed it was because my sixteenth birthday was a month away but when that date passed and another boy tried to date me, the answer remained the same.
 
     All during those years I was dressed in dowdy fashion, subject to the torments of my fellow classmates. Underwear became a particular obsession with me; why I don't know. At least that part of my attire was hidden from the jeering eyes of others but it mattered not; I knew what I was forced to wear. Cotton was the only practical fabric in our house and what I wore was usually stained and patched. In colder weather my privates were covered by a monstrosity that came part way down my thighs, a half-union suit, and a throwback to the nineteen-thirties! Unless I sat with skirt wrapped tightly and uncomfortably about my thighs, the damned things might be visible! How I longed to wear what the magazine pictures displayed; things totally alien to what covered my blossoming backside. I suppose I thought some handsome knight might someday carry me away and debauch my innocence, whatever that meant to this newly arrived and confused teenager. Debauching didn't happen to girls in cotton drawers.
 
     Cleverly squirreling away my coins, I finally accumulated enough money to purchase a pair of real panties! I secreted them home and feeling deliciously evil, covered my innocence with flowered nylon! For two days I washed them nightly, dried them beneath my bed while I slept, and wore them in public, alone, except for Amy, in my knowledge of the cool and sexy clothing beneath my frumpy dress. On the third day, in hopes of fooling the washer-lady mother, I wore my tacky old underwear, hiding my treasure beneath my out of season things in a bottom drawer. My treasure was summarily confiscated and I was heartbroken. I should have known better. Privacy was a dictionary word, not a right to which I held title, as my room was periodically ravaged for secrets. No word was ever said of the captured garment but I received a cold you're-a-bad-girl look. And it made me cry, as I am doing now, as I remember.
 
     Silly, aren't I? The incident happened years ago and as Amy says, let history rest in its loathsome grave. She insists I stoke the fire of a grudge against my parents for what I am. Instead, I should get on the stick and fix my own wagon, which is in dire need of repair. I keep telling her my wagon rolls along smoothly, but she shakes her head in disbelief. Sometimes, like now, I too have my doubts.
 
     I forgave my parents nearly everything, I only hold back on one demon nightmare I'm not ready to share, even with this rapidly filling volume. I forgive my father for the use of his belt and the hours and days of silence. I pardon them both for not explaining to a little girl how the world operates, what's right and wrong, accepted and unacceptable.
 
     I still reserve the right to question why neither of them showed me how to act in public, face danger, fight, talk to people, or be with boys. I never knew my own body, what it was for, what it could do, much less the workings of the opposite sex. Perhaps it was because my parent's lives were far worse and they carried the cross of their parent-demons who molded them into what they became. I even forgive my father for what he did to my mother and her for letting him, even within the earshot of a child.
 
     I'd lie awake at night, trying to block my ears to the sounds through the paper-thin walls of my mother's muffled cries as my father did lord knows what to her after a night on the town. I never saw him hit her and don't for sure know he ever did, though I seem to recall unexplained marks on her body and days in bed. I do know for sure he beat her mind to submission in a thousand brutal ways though she never said an ill word against him as long as she lived.
 
     While I was allotted no privacy, my parent's quarters were a private domain where I was only allowed to enter for servile chores, performed hastily, under a supervising eye, or to suffer the consequences of some perceived sin or omission. The room became a forbidden place, one I had no desire to enter or violate. I wanted no part of the room nor anything of what took place within its walls. This sanctity continued long after my father was a tenant at Holy Saints cemetery, even when mother was unable to care for herself and I was forced to spend long hours in that room caring for her. Even then, I trespassed only in those parts of her domain where absolutely necessary. Her privacy remained intact long past the time when she either knew or cared. Perhaps that is why I am now timid to violate the premises by condemning the last remains of her world to the trash heap.
 
     The upholsterer, Mr. Gold, to whom I had donated my unwanted sofa, hesitantly asked me if I had any other furniture I “wanted him to dump.” I pointed out my parents sagging double bed, where mother had breathed her last. He looked disappointed, no doubt having had designs on my grandmother's china closet and other obviously valuable antiques. I tossed in a scarred dresser and mirror as teasers and he agreed to cart them away. The box spring and mattress were useless to anyone and he started to balk at taking them but decided not to push his luck, lest he lose out on other future treasures. I tossed in an overstuffed chair and, as an afterthought, a table that always seemed to bear a scraggly geranium, living out the winter as if reluctant to go the way of its friends. Mr. Gold will pick up the whole collection tomorrow morning. With the room about to be vacated I have no further excuse not to begin sorting through the previously forbidden sanctum though I relish not the chore, as foolish as my reluctance may seem.
  
     Maybe this Lucille Peabody who sits here in tears has nothing to do with those people who spent much of their lifetime behind those walls; it's simply the me my God created. Perhaps some warped gene has made me into this reclusive fraidy cat who clings to her sofa-nest like a frightened child and cries after a happy evening, for no sane reason at all. Be it as it may, I still love that person, even if almost no others do. And I'll protect her with all my strength.
 

Author Notes This chapter is longer than I like to post but it didn't have a clear point to break. I appreciate all of you who have stuck with it. Lucille just had to get this stuff off her chest.


Chapter 4
Friday, Sept 8th (Part One)

By Fridayauthor

     Friday Number Four, September 8th  (Part One)
    
     Hurray for life! It is indeed sweet! It's difficult to explain that I'm two months behind in reading my National Geographic, my house is becoming overridden by ambitious spiders whose cobweb construction is unparalleled, and my garden cries for attention. Dust balls rumble beneath my bed while my mop lays idle. Nevertheless, I'm unconcerned. At least I'm taking time to pen these pages lest I leave this book with the opinion the writer is always as maudlin as last Friday. This is another week and I am another Lucille Peabody, giddy with joy!
 
     On Saturday I rose at dawn and went directly to my parents' room, beginning my dreaded task of cleaning it out without the fortification of either breakfast or coffee. I bit my lip and entered the forbidden territory, their hallowed quarters, as if it were as common as the kitchen.
 
     I tackled the dresser first. Perfume bottles, dried to a brown stain on their bottoms, sat upon a lace doily. The mirror was entwined at the top in a decade of dried palm fronds, remnants of pre-Easter Sundays long since passed, while small funeral remembrance cards were tucked in the edges like a halo. And the bell.
 
     In her last months, Mother would summon me with the tinkle of this small brass bell. I am looking at it now, this thing that kept me chained to a dying bed so long and so often. It stands about six inches tall and its handle is in the form of a rooster. Years have tarnished it to darkness but in no way diminished its obnoxious, demanding ring. I've failed to include it in either my pile of trash or my stack of donations. I can't answer why. I surely hate the damned thing and want it out of my new life. It stands as a reminder of the past and perhaps, if I become strong enough, my ability to put those days behind me.
 
     Amy has called upon me to fling the bell as far as I can. On one of my seaside walks, I carried it along, tinkling in my purse. But try as I might, I couldn't move myself to pitch it into the sea. I have stripped it of its small clapper, forever silencing its inpatient ring. Little Lucille is making progress, albeit sluggishly.
 
     I cautiously opened the dresser drawers. They smelled of Yardley's Old English Lavender and moth balls, but contained little. There was ancient underwear, slips and bras unused for ages, not to mention scores of carefully wrapped trinkets and glass figurines.
 
     Mother was a hoarder of knick-knacks. A lifetime of little glass pitchers and statues cluttered our house, with the excess packed away in every nook and cranny. They were the fallout of numerous Christmases, birthdays and Mother's Days. Their sole purpose appeared to be giving my mother something to do; dusting the mass of junk at least weekly, as long as she was able.
 
     “It’s Thursday, Lucille. Dust.” Though in my thirties, I’d dutifully drop what I was doing and comply.
 
      Now, with the turning of my new leaf, the collection is history. I packed all but the few of the items in boxes and donated the lot to Whitcomb School on Saturday afternoon. The soccer team is having a sale and my offering should make them Olympic contenders! Thus, more memories left Hawthorne Street, in the dust of a retreating Radio Flyer, towed away by the happy kickers.
 
     You might ask why I am so willingly divesting furniture and trinkets on a gratuitous basis when I am obviously not wealthy and the items would fetch at least a modicum of garage-sale dollars that might be put to good use. While I am not tight with charity, neither am I overly frivolous with my limited funds. These household items presented another problem. To sell them acknowledged their value, while my chief aim was to quickly bid them good riddance.
 
     My concerns about the room proved to be unfounded. Why the premises were so sacred for so many years seems silly now. Even the closet held no secrets beyond dusty coats, moth-eaten sweaters and more carefully wrapped glassware. Aside from the glass, nothing I’d even consider for charity.
 
     Mother had specified in her will that Emily and I should share her clothing, going so far as to specify some of the more prized items, valued in her mind only, and listing which of her daughters should have them. When I suggested to Emily after the funeral we should perhaps share the task of going through the clothing, she laughed out loud as if I were joking.
 
     “Only if you need help in pitching the junk in the trash,” she chortled.
 
     A dozen closet boxes contained old Christmas cards, decades of them. I wondered if some of my early crayon-drawn offerings were saved among them but I wouldn't look. I heaved the lot in the trash. Other containers were stuffed with stacks of papers, all of which seemed boringly mundane. Important documents of our household had always resided in a parlor desk and none of these papers looked important. I put three of the boxes with less identifiable contents aside for later study and chucked the rest, just before Mr. Gold, the scavenger arrived. I'm seeing a new room emerge, a place devoid of death and darkness, brighter now with open blinds and absent its furnishing. I’m looking forward to utilizing the space for my study.
 
     By Sunday I had recovered from my blue-funk-mood, ready to face school with my usual enthusiasm and, by gum, I did. I've spent the past week at Whitcomb Elementary, amid furniture scarred with eighty years of initials. Above me stared George Washington on one side and Abraham Lincoln on the other, while I played and cavorted with my new little charges, packing their eager brains with a wealth of knowledge! It was a fine week indeed! I barely gave a thought to the prospect of another Friday night.
    
 

Author Notes Lucille is age thirty-seven and a near-recluse. Her mother has recently died. Lucille is redoing her lifetime family home in an effort to be rid of the ghosts of the past. A friendly priest has strongly suggested she record her thoughts and feelings in a diary. She reluctantly accepted having Friday evening dinners with a church acquaintance, Mr. Anderson.


Chapter 5
Friday, Sept. 8th (Part Two)

By Fridayauthor

     Friday, September 8th  (Part Two.)
 
     Even Wednesday evening was interesting. The hens have relinquished all other topics of gossip to usurp poor Mr. Anderson to their pulpit agenda. They do not inquire directly about our relationship through some established code of decency. However, they are bursting with curiosity and I firmly believe, at least in their minds, they have published our banns of marriage since I first alighted from his car, cold casserole in hand.
 
     Why he chose Lucille Peabody remains as much a mystery to me as ever. I continue to wonder if Father Hammond played any part in the choice. I suppose the hens also wonder, unless they know more than I. However, as a result of their clandestine investigations, I am embarrassed to say I too have learned a great deal about my Friday evening escort. This knowledge results from nothing more than passive action on my part.
 
     Hen Myrtle Toomey seems the best informed of the flock. “My cousin Harriet knew him in high school. Did you know he starred in football, basketball and baseball and a slew of colleges were after him?”
 
     This the matronly woman reported after Catherine Winter introduced the subject after casually mentioning seeing my gentleman friend in the super market.
  
     “But he didn’t go, did he?” asked our stalwart leader, Bertha Ryan. Agnes McNaught, who had first seen us together, stole a quick glance at me before answering. I continued to knit, though my effort was designed only for a chore to keep me occupied.
 
     Agnes nodded her head knowingly. “It was because of Philip's father.”
 
     “Homer Anderson was as limp as a three-used tea bag,” piped Phoebe Shaw, the most outspoken hen. She added, “And a drunk, if there ever was one.”
 
     “Phoebe!” cautioned Bertha, but her smile belied her chastisement. “That sounds so harsh. We are in church.”
 
     Phoebe huffed. “You can call a pot a pan but it still boils water. They would have lost the entire sporting goods business if young Philip hadn’t stepped in. I remember buying a baseball glove for my grandson when senior stocked a wonderful store, before that drunk nearly ran it into the ground. Philip saved his bacon”
 
     Myrtle reentered the fray. “It cost the poor boy his education. That and Ethel.”
 
     As if to build the drama, the subject was dropped in favor of a modicum of church business, leaving the mysterious Ethel to imaginations. I worried naught. I knew these ladies couldn’t hold something this tasty meaty from the gossip grinder. Ten minutes later, Agnes resurrected the subject.
 
     “Poor Ethel Kuklinski, marrying so young.”
 
     Phoebe gave an as-if-she-had-a-choice harrumph and caught another finger shaking from our moderator. Other hens’ fingers seemed to be counting months. The hens did not come out and say so but they smiled as if to intimate the counted days until the birth of daughter Becky did not equal those necessary to satisfy their socially accepted standards.
 
     “Pretty healthy baby for a preemie, as I remember,” Agnes said in a lower voice we could all hear clearly.
 
     Talk segued to fast girls the hens had known back in the day, although they failed to so much as hint at painting Ethel Kuklinski with any red letters.
 
     “Then cancer got Ethel, just like your mother, Lucille,” Catherine said as she looked directly at me. It was a clear move to draw me into the conversation but I found a particularly intricate stitch in my knitting that demanded my concentration.
 
     “Give the young man credit, he did the right thing,” said Myrtle. “Raised those two children, all on his own.” She peeked over at me. “And he mourned poor Ethel all these years.” When no response was forthcoming, she continued. “I guess it’s about time he start looking around.”
 
     Catherine Winter stifled a giggle but failed to contribute. Bertha observed but didn’t comment either. Myrtle took the non response as a rebuke.
 
     “It’s true!” countered Myrtle, defending her assessment. “My cousin Harriet swears on her rosary Philip Anderson never stopped mourning Ethel, until . . . Well, she thinks he’s a one woman man . . .”

     “One at a time, I suspect,” Phoebe added with a smile.
      
     The hens' gossip continued to confirm no evidence existed that Mr. Anderson had been anything but as chaste as I since Ethel's passing, or, at the very least, successfully discreet. It was reaffirmed there is no recorded instance of his so much as dating, and if he'd not been previously married with two children, he'd have been thought “peculiar,” the hen’s acceptable term for you-know-what. Rumors must have been rampant in earlier years but now the consensus opines his love of wife Ethel was so overwhelming it broke his heart when she died so young, and thereby making her irreplaceable.
 
     Mr. Anderson never mentions Ethel, a fact that doesn't bother me a mote.  Whether or not he continues to harbor undying love I do not know. He's given no hint one way or another. Personal topics have not been on our agenda except to chronicle our closer relatives in the most general terms.
 
     I have come to number our Fridays, commencing with the night Mr. Anderson asked me to dine with him, so most recently we celebrated Friday evening number four. It was a most enjoyable encounter. We again dined at Delaneys and the waiters are beginning to recognize us and smile in acknowledgment. Conversation, though still not candid and easy, is far more pleasant than the first dinner when “Did you enjoy the meat loaf?” was the hight of our repartee.
 
     This past Friday neither of us was interested in the movie playing at Sea View's one remaining theater so we decide to walk along the beach. The cool weather is starting to slide us into fall but the ocean remains warm from the summer so it is most pleasant to walk the sand this time of year. We must have hiked nearly four miles but neither of us was tired when darkness finally chased us home. He held my hand as we walked and it felt quite natural.
 
     Lest you think this is the beginning of a blossoming romance, let me put your thoughts to rest. I'm no urchin with nose pressed to the toy store window, drooling after treasures outside my grasping reach. Instead, I remain steadfastly riveted to the secure compact life I have so carefully constructed. I have been shunned by intimacy like an Amish harlot. I am firm in my resolve to hold Mr. Anderson to his promise of a limited friendship. I want nothing further of our relationship than what we’ve developed.
 
     No, I didn’t ask Amy’s opinion.
 

Author Notes Lucille is age thirty-seven and a near-recluse. Her mother has recently died. Lucille is redoing her lifetime family home in an effort to be rid of the ghosts of the past. A friendly priest has strongly suggested she record her thoughts and feelings in a diary and she is doing so. She has reluctantly accepted having Friday evening dinners with a church acquaintance, Mr. Anderson and is learning more about this widowed man. Part of her, whom she calls Amy, is enjoying his company while her more conscious self is fighting any hint of intimacy.


Chapter 6
Friday, Sept. 8th, (Part Three.)

By Fridayauthor

     Friday Number Four, September 8th  (Part Three.) 
 
     I sometimes wonder about Mr. Anderson. He is a fine looking gentleman, standing tall and looking as if he fairly exudes self-confidence and yet in most ways he is nearly as bashful as I. I say that although he is far better able to deal with people on an impersonal basis than I, and, I assume, with the customers in his sporting goods store. 
 
     My school and his store have become staples for our conversational diet, with each of us lunching on tidbits about the other's profession. We laugh a little at one another's stories and intently listen to the problems of our respective life's work. Each of our vocations has many problems indeed. I am teaching in a district funded mostly by older people who have no stomach for increased taxes to meet the dire needs of our deteriorating system. The retail trade in this city is diminishing as rapidly as the rest of Sea View and the future shows no sign of promise.
 
     Mr. Anderson has ceased dealing in firearms, a previous mainstay to his business. Carrying them is a magnet for burglary. Additionally, he said he would feel terrible, if one of his guns were to be used in a crime, a distinct possibility according to the mayhem I read about in our local newspaper.
 
     Naiveté is an acknowledged weakness of mine. While I recognize the increasing danger in our society, I am trusting by nature and always feel trouble is something abstract, not about to happen to me. As an example, the night Mother died, I decided to take my usual walk, to clear my head. I’d informed Emily of our mother’s passing, and made the necessary arrangements with the undertaker, but it was some hours before my sister would arrive. A late afternoon rain shower had chased the bathers from the beach and by seven o'clock, the early summer sun allowed time for a twilight stroll. I was alone, I thought, until I noticed two teenagers following, hurrying their steps to overtake me. While I didn't change my pace, I recall wondering what they might want when I spied a ball that had washed up to the shore line. I retrieved it and tossed it back at them and they chased it down. I continued to walk and reached the parking lot ahead of them and there were a few occupied cars. When I looked back, the boys were gone. It was only later that I wondered if I might have been in danger. I foolishly related the incident to Emily when she arrived and she had a fit, chastising me for ever walking alone. But I shan't change my life out of fear, as foolish at that may seem.
 
     Mr. Anderson's store supplies athletic equipment for most of our area schools and without this business he is in fear of his store’s future. His location, unchanged in decades, has declined in convenience as most shoppers now tend toward the malls, shopping out from the city. His premises have been burglarized on three occasions in the past few years. He intimated Friday evening that he had considered moving to a newly opened shopping center, but felt locked in by time and tradition to his present location. His reluctance to change has a familiar ring to rigid Lucille.
 
     I wonder, but would never ask what forces in his early life carved and shaped such a withdrawn personality, and placed it in this tall athletic frame. I would like to have known him back then, but he was several years ahead of me in school, and I'm sure would not have noticed the shy girl in the corner. Did someone tell him about the world out there, positioning him to attack it with such vigor and apparent success? Or was he like me, always the one who didn't have a clue?
 
     As I’ve stated in these pages I was pushed into the world with the severe admonition that good girls didn't do it but absent explanation of what “it” entailed. Nor were classmates close enough for me in friendship to seek their counsel and learn the answers. I sought my education in my favorite place, the library, that seat of wisdom, where I hoped would lie hidden the answers to all those perplexing questions that rumbled about my teenage brain.
 
     I laugh about it now. Maybe humor is my only remaining emotion, all others blunted by my cloistered lifestyle. But, no, that's not so. I feel compassion, especially for my defenseless little charges and their never ending battle against the big people of their world. I have other feelings too, though I'm a champion klutz at conveying them to others, even in this journal.
 
     “It” isn't well cataloged in a library but I was smart enough to know the subject concerned boys and anatomy, and what men and women did together, in private, and it sometimes ended up producing babies. The only available pictures I could find were either in art books or sketchy drawings in an anatomy text. Neither source was particularly graphic. The part of the body in which I needed education was usually covered by a fig leaf. When it was visible, that little thing hanging between the legs of Michelangelo's sculpture of David did not seem at all threatening.
 
     I tried listening at my bedroom wall, but that didn't produce any answers, only confusion. Why did it make so much noise? Why, if it’s so great, does it sound so painful, and why is mother always reluctant and father forceful? If it's for making babies, why are my parents still doing it?
 
     I listened in the girls' bathroom too, hiding in a stall while others smoked and chatted.
 
     “Davey wants it but he's not getting it; not from me. Let him go out with Liz, she goes all the way. His friend Bob said so. And she's just a sophomore.”
 
     She goes all the way where? Perhaps I should follow Liz and find out where she goes.
 
     “I let him rub my boob, that's all. When he tries to go further, I kneed him, you know where.” I didn't know where, unless it was where the fig leaves go.
 
     “We're going steady. You know what that means!” No, I didn't know. I didn't have the foggiest idea.
 
     I despised the other girls when they told off-color jokes. They'd snicker and laugh while I'd stand around open-mouthed until they'd laugh more at my ignorance than the story they were telling. There was a halfhearted attempt at sex education in school but the embarrassed teacher was so obtuse in his description, I didn't even recognize the terms, much less what point he was clumsily attempting to make. 
 
     While I read incessantly, mother was always looking over my shoulder, making sure I didn't read filth, as she called anything remotely connected with real life. In my stories, the ending was usually “happily ever after”, but no one bothered to define even the meaning of that oft-repeated term.
 
     There was a lot of talk around school concerning breasts and the boys seemed inordinately enamored about them but I was unclear the part they played in the boy-girl proceedings. It seemed bigger was better. I realized mothers nursed their infants from breasts and babies came from women's bodies, but I was ignorant of how the babies got there in the first place.
 
     While it may seem impossible, I finished my senior year in high school with my knowledge limited to a slightly vague idea of the entire function, most of it guessed at, and certainly lacking in detail. I imagine I held title to being the only girl my of age in the entire United States so uninformed on the basics of life!
 
     My sole contact with a boy was my senior prom. A friend of my mother's arranged to coerce Ronald Daugherty, a lowly sophomore, to escort me. It was a disaster. Neither of us danced, wanted to be there, spoke to the other, nor ever set eyes on one another again. Lucille Peabody's coming out party.
 

Author Notes Lucille is age thirty-seven and a near-recluse. Her mother has recently died. Lucille is redoing her lifetime family home in an effort to be rid of the ghosts of the past. A friendly priest suggested she record her thoughts and feelings in a diary and she is doing so. She has reluctantly accepted having Friday evening dinners with a church acquaintance, Mr. Anderson and is learning more about this widowed man. Part of her, whom she calls Amy, is enjoying his company while her more conscious self is fighting any hint of intimacy as she recalls her past.


Chapter 7
Friday, Sept. 8th. (Part Four.)

By Fridayauthor

Warning: The author has noted that this contains strong sexual content.

           
            Friday, Sept. 8th.  (Part Four.)
      
            For most of my high school years, I worked in the city library, earning pennies, but amid my friends, the books. It was here, in the summer between high school and college, I met Paul Croucher. Paul had a car, a job, and had dropped out of school in a neighboring city. What he was doing visiting the library; I'll never know because books and Paul seemed to exhibit no more fit than a marshmallow in a martini. But Paul was a boy and the first one who ever spoke to me with even a modicum of civility. When I left my library post for home one July evening, Paul was outside, his car door open.
      
            “I'll drive you,” he mumbled. I was dumbfounded. I knew his name from his library card, but I had never so much as nodded to him. For some unknown reason, I obeyed his command and got in his car knowing full well the home penalties I was subject to should this blatant transgression be discovered. He drove me the few blocks to the corner of Hawthorne Street without a word and let me out.
      
            “See you Wednesday, Lucille,” he said before driving away. A boy knew where I lived! He knew my name! And I guess I had a date, sort of. Wednesday.
      
            Paul Croucher met me at the library, not only Wednesday, but the next four nights I worked. Each time he drove me the short distance to my corner. My reaction to this previously unheard-of interest in me was somewhere between awe, bewilderment, and a titillating fear my parents would find out. Then Paul asked me to meet him the next Friday night, an evening I didn't work! Until then I don't suppose I'd said five words to him, but I nodded in agreement, though I knew the “bad girl” flag was flapping close by, in the hot breeze of hormonal anticipation.
      
            I felt a tingle of excitement! I had been told for so long I was bad, and now I was proving it; sneaking out, with a man! I blocked my ears to the words said at church on Sunday, with guilt painting me with its wide brush for even thinking of doing something so sinister. But I was determined to clandestinely meet my paramour. Such as he was.
      
            Paul was skinny, had a moderate case of acne, and always wore stained jeans and the same black tee shirt. The love of his life was a noisy Chevrolet that played loud music and had an abundance of fuzzy carpeting throughout the interior. I knew nothing about him except he worked in a garage, was twenty years old and my parents would have killed me if they thought I'd speak to the likes of him. How did I know? I just knew, believe me.
      
            The library was more my home than Hawthorne Street in those teenage days, whether I was working or not, so I had no difficulty in “going to the library” Friday evening. I was petrified, but it didn't stop me. Paul was waiting and he drove directly to the beach, parking at the far end, where there were only darkened cars, “watching the submarine races,” was a girl’s room term I’d heard. He put his arm around me.
      
            “Look,” he said gruffly, “I want you to be my girl, okay?”
      
            I guess I nodded and then I was kissed, for the first time in my life. The second, third and fourth kisses followed in rapid succession.
      
            As I sit here and write this, I can't help wondering who was the first person to kiss Mr. Anderson? What a silly question to pop into my head! I doubt even he remembers, but I bet he was younger than just-turned -seventeen, and the preliminaries to the historic event were far more socially pleasant to him. Perhaps it was Ethel Kuklinski he kissed, on a darkened porch swing, just like in the movies.
      
            Poor Paul Croucher. I can't blame him. He probably learned his social etiquette in the school of do-it-yourself. And he was kind, in his own way; though we kissed with abandon, we only kissed. When he'd move his hand too close, I'd push it away, and he'd stop. Paul was rough around the edges, but a gentleman. And with him, Lucille Peabody felt the first strange quiver of a feeling in her body she'd never experienced before. 
      
            Saturday was the day for confession and I was thoroughly confused. Had I sinned? I hadn't technically disobeyed my parents; hadn't committed “adultery,” or done anything, but kissed. Still, guilt wrapped me like a shroud and I knew I must own up to something in the darkened confessional. After intense soul-searching I settled on having placed myself “in the near occasion of sin,” a term I had heard in my religious instruction class. It seemed generic enough to fill the bill. Thank goodness it was a crowded Saturday and I wasn't called upon to amplify my ill deed. I was grunted a penance no more severe than missing mass on a snowy day when my boots were stolen.
      
            Church has always played a large part in my life and remains so, though twenty years ago, I adhered more closely to the rules. It is my belief that far more good is done through organized religion than evil though I'm suspicious of some of its tenets and directions. Church has often helped me and given comfort, though I admit at other times it has failed me. No, that's unfair. The fault lay not with the church, but with some of its less sensitive employees. I've gained much more from religion now that my God and I have a more personal arrangement.
        
            I've come to a one-on-one agreement with God that seems to suit both us very well. I attend His church, believe He exists, and support much of what His employees say He stands for and requires of us, his followers. I do not now attend confession. My agreement with Him calls for personal conversation, and I don't want to burden the time of a middle man.
      
            Heaven exists with my God, although it's of my design, and I can only get in if I behave myself. We haven't fully defined all the parameters of what constitutes behaving myself, but my life offers little opportunity to test the concept so I feel I'm safe, at least for the present. Our relationship continues to evolve.
      
            Father Hammond has asked me, on a number of occasions, to teach religious instruction to the parish children, but I've always declined. It isn't that I don't want to donate the time; it's my beliefs. I'm not comfortable in teaching doctrine if there is a point on which I am undecided or on which I don't necessarily agree. It would be unfair of me to limit the religious education of the children to the confines of my limited vision.
      
            Mr. Anderson has taken to sitting next to me at Sunday mass, a move I might protest as a slight deviation from our previously agreed upon rules of engagement, but the truth be known, the fault rests with me. I entered church after him, on the Sunday following Friday number four, just as he turned around and smiled. As there was a place open next to him, I couldn't very well ignore it. Surely nothing untoward can occur in the house of God. During the greeting when one turns to their neighbor and shakes their hand in peace, Mr. Anderson took my hand and continued to hold it for the remainder of mass, though below the level of the pew and out of eyesight of the hens who collectively pay us intense attention.
       
            In reading over these pages I find I have digressed from finishing the passage relating to my experience with Paul Croucher. Though it is embarrassing, Amy feels the episode should be related. I suppose what happened has occurred a million other times in a million other places, to a million other girls, but not to the second grade teacher whom the upper class, six graders, incorrectly refer to as “Virgin Peabody.”
       
            Having been told all my life how bad I was and if good girls didn't do it, presumably bad girls, like me, did; either “it” or more than I was doing during my clandestine sessions in Paul Croucher's Chevrolet. But I didn't even know how. Somehow, I knew progress from our kissing level would surely take place before long.
       
            Several days following my first elicit meeting with Paul Croucher I was shocked to see Father Hammond standing in my living room when I returned from an afternoon errand! All I could think of was my recent “near occasion of sin” confession and he was here to elicit more details! But no, there had been a last minute cancellation at a church camp in nearby New Hampshire, a seminar for “young adults,” and he had come to ask my parents’ permission for me to attend. It would be my first night away from home in the seventeen years of my life!
       
            If the destination was anything other than a church camp and if the cost had not been already paid for, the request would have been summarily denied. My parents shockingly allowed me to go! I was to leave the very next day!
      
            That night, when Paul picked me up at the library, it was raining torrents.  There was no one else at our seaside parking spot, and behind the steamed windows, snug in our own fuzzy, cigarette-smelling world, I told him we would be parted for seven long days.
      
            We eased into kissing, somewhat more frantic than usual, and that strange and pleasant feeling began to return. I could tell Paul felt it too; his breath was short and his kissing intense. I blush to say I didn't stop him when he moved his hand near my breast. I admit it; it wasn't done solely in the heat of passion, I knew what I was doing. Did I plan it? I can't answer, but I accept responsibility. Biting my lip, I held my breath, assuming that to allow this next level up the mountain of passion would cause him to profess never-ending love to me and that would be it. I would have a week to wallow in the memory of his affections. After all, a little squeeze was no big deal, or so said the tittering girl's room conversation I'd overheard so often. After all, I was “protected.” I had on a bra, a blouse and a light sweater. I had actually tried a squeeze on myself in the semi-privacy of my bathroom; it hadn't hurt. It was like holding a hand; not even as erotic as kissing. Paul was leaning against me making strange sounds and all I could see over his shoulder was a swaying pink poodle hanging from his rear view mirror, slowly spinning around, and looking at me. I pinched shut my eyes as his hand closed over my right breast, sinking into that special feeling, a bad girl at last!
      
            Paul Croucher let out the deepest sigh I've ever heard as he squeezed me, but he didn't stop there. His other hand was quickly beneath my skirt and before I knew what was happening he was holding my undies aside, grappling and pushing, and a thing far greater than Michelangelo's David's was against me and then inside me! I felt a quick sear of pain and all sense of warmth and pleasure vanished in a second. Before the cry passed my lips, it was over, something sticky oozing down my leg and Paul Croucher zipping his pants. He muttered a thank you, followed by a peck-kiss and “I love you” before starting the car and driving me to the corner of my street in embarrassed silence.
      
            When I reached the sanctity of my room, my mind in a whirl and with tears streaming down my cheeks, I was shocked to see blood stains all over my clothing!  In a panic I scrubbed and scrubbed, but to no avail. Finally, after sneaking back outside and tossing my stained underpants in a neighbor's trash, I returned and did the only thing I could think of. With a pair of scissors, I cut my hand, as deep as I dared, to fortify the ruse I had quickly planned. In the morning, I humbly told my mother the half-truth that I'd cut myself. She never said a word and I left for church camp a tarnished and confused woman, my virginity left on the front seat of a rusty Chevrolet sedan; deflowered under the gloating eyes of a fuzzy pink poodle.
 

Author Notes Lucille is age thirty-seven and a near-recluse. Her mother has recently died. Lucille is redoing her lifetime family home in an effort to be rid of the ghosts of the past. A friendly priest suggested she record her thoughts and feelings in a diary and she is doing so. She has reluctantly accepted having Friday evening dinners with a church acquaintance, Mr. Anderson and is learning more about this widowed man. Part of her, whom she calls Amy, is enjoying his company while her more conscious self is fighting any hint of intimacy as she recalls her past.


Chapter 8
Friday, Sept.. 15th (Part One)

By Fridayauthor

     Friday Number Five, September 15th (Part One)
 

     If I am to be known as a certified diarist, I must attempt to conscientiously record the happenings of the past week. It is not as difficult a chore as earlier. I am becoming addicted to this journal; conversations with myself. In addition to Amy, I now have this collection of bound paper as a confidant. Perhaps I'm trying to discover more about this person Lucille, now that I have time to do so.
 
     Amy continues to accuse me of taking all of my phobias to ridiculous extremes. She wants us to discuss my fears, but I dismiss her from my mind and continue my sewing. I am me, Amy. Leave me alone.
 
     The topic of Mr. Anderson weighs on my mind of late. I am suddenly aware of others' opinions, more so than usual.
 
     On Tuesday I ventured to town after school and bought a new dress. While this would seem a ho-hum errand to most, it is an infrequent happening in the life of Lucille Peabody who gets her money's worth out of every item in her wardrobe. The color and style were unusual too; a bright maroon jersey jumper that I think quite stylish. Amy says I made the purchase to please Mr. Anderson but I was most vocal in insisting it was simply another step in creating my new life. I wore it Friday evening however. Mr. Anderson complimented most graciously.
 
      Mr. Anderson has continued his practice of sitting next to me in church.  This past Sunday I was in for a surprise. During the greeting, instead of shaking my hand, he bent and kissed me on the cheek! I was temporarily mortified at this sign of public affection until I caught the eye, and opened mouthed stare, of hen Edna Ridley. I had to chuckle. She's sure to have us secretly wed in her mind, as will the entire hen house! At least the ladies will tie me to the opposite sex. Better that than a mind-picture of Lucille Peabody, shaved to a butch haircut, passing out flyers for the gay liberation army!
 
     I consider myself a fair shower-singer though I'd never dare utter a note in public. Sometimes in church I belt away a hymn if the melody catches my fancy and the rest of the congregation is sufficiently loud as to drown me out. Last Sunday a particular raucous tune heralded our exit from church and I was blasting away when Mr. Anderson caught me in mid-note and smiled. There usually isn't someone so close to my side. Though I blushed, I smiled in return.
 
     I never eat before mass, a carry-over from my mother who grew up when fasting before communion was mandatory. Though the church dropped the requirement decades ago, mother never deviated and I followed suit from habit. Sometimes I feel a bit faint during particularly long-winded homilies, and I am ravenous after mass. Byrnes Coffee shop is my weekly stop. I considered asking Mr. Anderson to join me, but I decided against it. I do not want to display any interest in extending our relationship. He knows of my Sunday morning habit, but has refrained from stopping by the shop while I am there. This gives me confidence he is abiding by our agreement of Fridays only.
 
     We are well into September now and the chill in the air portends winter. My garden continues to struggle along. While no frost has killed its beauty as yet, I fear for my flower-friends each evening. This Saturday morning I harvested what will probably be my last bouquet for church.
 
     When I returned from my delivery, I began to scrape the wallpaper in my bedroom, clearing seven layers by actual count, only two of which I remember. It is the room where I have spent all but about a dozen or so nights of my entire life. First I shared the quarters with my sister Emily, now alone for the last thirty-one years. The room is small and while my sister was still here I was forced to sleep in a crib, to my severe embarrassment. She slept in the small bed that even now remains pushed against the wall, awaiting my slumber.
 
     In spite of gaining title to Emily's bed, I was heartbroken when she left. I remember a lot of yelling and screaming and her exodus was not pleasant. The details were never divulged. She remained away for the next eleven years, ostensibly because her husband moved frequently until he was established in his profession. Emily never forgot my birthday or Christmas and showered me with presents and postcards which I hoarded like a miser. When she was still living at home she was more my mother than my own and in spite of her absence, I never stopped loving her more than any other human being.
 
     If Emily was nearer to my age and we had grown up together, we'd probably not been as close as we are as adults. We'd have fought over limited toys, haggled about the division of chores, and poked jealousies at one another constantly. Instead she was my Fairy God-Sister, descending from another world with hugs and presents, a make believe mother who loved unquestioningly.
 
     When Emily returned for my father's funeral, it was as if she'd never left.  Though her relationship with my mother was strained, they were politely cordial. After father's death, I would see her and her beautiful children periodically, more so after mother was confined to bed, with a near non-functioning mind.
 
     Why do I remain in this bedroom? Amy keeps asking me this question.  My parent's room is larger and I could easily make my bedroom into my reading area. I claim to have fought off my queasiness about my parent's quarters so what's the answer? I tell Amy it is a moot point as I have already erected shelves in the larger room. However, I might as well be honest on these pages; I would be uneasy sleeping with the ghost that dwelt in their domain.
 
     Habit again prevails. My small bed remains tucked against the wall where I've spent so many thousand nights, many cowering from life or my imagination, both of which always seemed ready to assault me. I would hide there when my father returned from work, hours after the eleven o'clock shift ended. He'd stand in my doorway, silhouetted by the bathroom light. I could smell his breath across the room. I don't remember him ever entering the room, but I was petrified he would. I would wait and wait until I could finally hear sounds from the other bedroom. When I confessed my fear to my mother, she said I was lying, just like my sister Emily.
 
     Amy is once again accusing me of dwelling excessively on the past. It is due to my tearing the old homestead asunder and uncovering ghosts of long forgotten memories. I keep telling Amy it's having a cathartic effect, purging away once and for all, specters and demons still hiding in the closet of an unpleasant past. She says that’s rubbish and accuses me of wallowing in self-pity. I just laugh and tell her I'm as happy as a kid with a double-scoop strawberry, in spite of being elbow deep in wet wallpaper and half-dissolved paste.
 
     When I tired of gouging and scraping and sloshing and pulling at the ancient wall covering, part of me was ready to quit, but most of Saturday remained. I rested only briefly before attacking my books, descending into the darkened depths of my cellar and climbing to attic heights retrieving box after box of tomes long ago packed away and long forgotten. I thought there would be adequate shelf space in my new reading room but I never dreamed how many hundreds of volumes lay gathering dust above and below me. I didn't dare venture to the garage where more books lay, packed with lord knows what other remnants of three generations of Peabody relics.
 
     Rarely do I discard a book, though I'm now faced with either donating many to the library, or admitting they will spend their lives boxed away from the minds that deserve their wisdom. I say this while wondering if wisdom is readily available between their dusty covers. I certainly sought it there, the summer after my clumsy tryst with Paul Croucher.
 
      Amy says, pshaw to books; one must step into the world to find answers. I tell her that’s a place where I don’t care to venture.
 

Author Notes Lucille is age thirty-seven and a near-recluse. Her mother has recently died. Lucille is redoing her lifetime family home in an effort to be rid of the ghosts of the past. A friendly priest suggested she record her thoughts and feelings in a diary and she is doing so. She has reluctantly accepted having Friday evening dinners with a church acquaintance, Mr. Anderson and is becoming more comfortable with this widowed man. Part of her, whom she calls Amy, is enjoying his company while her more conscious self is fighting any hint of intimacy as she recalls her past.


Chapter 9
Friday, Sept. 15th. (Part Two.)

By Fridayauthor

    
     Friday Number Five, September 15th (Part Two.)
 
     When I left for church camp twenty-two years ago, the Saturday after my tryst with Paul Croucher, I badly needed wisdom. The camp, more of a retreat than vacation, was less than fifty miles from home, but a world away for the frightened and bewildered shell that remained of Lucille Peabody, newly made woman. The camp would have been a world of wonderment, a totally new adventure, if my troubled mind was not so engrossed with the front seat happenings of the night before my departure.
 
     We were sardined, twelve to a cabin, under the watchful eyes of a retired nun. I was the senior by several years as most of the girls were thirteen or fourteen. To my horror, Sister Martha promptly appointed me her assistant! I protested immediately, to no avail.
 
     “All you have to do is take roll and see that girls follow the rules.”
 
     I was petrified when she introduced me to my cabin mates! The only other white girl was named Genevieve, the youngest camper. She cried constantly.
 
     “Is Snowflake here the boss-chick ‘cause she ain’t black?” asked Glory B., a tall, beauty whom the other girls seemed to treat as their leader. “She don’t look like she could lead a dog to a bone.”
 
     Sister Martha said all the right things while I cringed in the background. As soon as she left the cabin, Glory B. grabbed me by my arm and pulled me out behind the cabin.
 
     “Listen, Snowflake. I’m the real boss-chick around here. You just make Sister a happy little nun. You write up one of us, we beat the shit out of you. We clear?”
  
       I was clear as a hand scrubbed glass and spent the week in abject fear. When Glory B. and three of her friends snuck out of the cabin after lights out, I buried my head and feigned sleep that never came until they returned, giggling and talking loud enough to wake up the others. It was hours later.
 
     A thin, pig-tailed girl, named Sue-Jo, kept to herself. By Wednesday, I hadn’t said a word to another camper, when she approached me. We were readying to swim as it was the first day it hadn’t rained. Black bodies, in various states of nakedness, were laughing and cavorting around the cabin.
 
     “I ain’t going,” Sue Jo said. “I’ll stay here with Weepy,” she added, nodding toward Genevieve who, as usual, was sniveling in her bunk. Sister Martha had given her a pass on nearly all activities, probably out of frustration. Everyone else was required to participate.
 
     “You have to,” I stammered.

     “Can’t,” she answered. “I’m knocked up.” She walked away, leaving me petrified what to say to Sister. Pregnant girls can’t swim? I never heard that! God, what I don’t know!
 
     “Sue Jo says she can’t go to swim,” I finally managed to tell Sister Martha.
 
     “Why?” When I simply shrugged, she grimaced and went to our cabin with me humbly trailing behind. After a conversation which didn’t include me, Sue Jo was hurried away, never to return. To my mind, Glory B. and the others glared at me with a deeper intensity after that.
 
     Most of my fellow campers were city teenagers from the poorer sections of Boston, there at the generosity of the more affluent parishes. They formed cliques of back-home friends, but my isolation was such a common condition I hardly noticed. We were given classes for part of the day, with topics on the behavior of good catholic girls, of which I was no longer a party. Afternoons were free time to swim, (which I couldn't) and walk the nearby woods. The educational aspect of the retreat assumed a level of sexual knowledge above mine, in spite of my recent hands-on experiences. I was promptly lost from what was said, when my troubled mind was able to concentrate.
 
     Sue Jo’s departure roiled my stomach until a trip to the camp infirmary calmed my body, if not my mind. Was I of a like condition? The answer came in a flow of blood on Friday morning. To my embarrassment, my stained pajamas told the story.
 
     Glory B. slapped me on the back. “Made it through another month, Snowflake!” She and the others laughed as if my chance of being pregnant was about the same as Sister Martha. Little did they know. There was a harlot among them. The relief I felt was short lived.
 
     I knew the campers had to go to confession at the end of the week and fear of hell would preclude me from failing to mention my front seat encounter with young Mr. Croucher. How was I going to describe what had transpired? While most of my seasoned fellow campers could have supplied any information I needed, shy Lucille didn’t dare ask.
 
     Looking back, I should have asked Glory B. Several years later, I was forced to attend a teacher’s convention in Boston. I heard a voice call from across the room.
 
     “Hey, Snowflake!” It was Glory B., as striking as ever. We had a brief conversation with her doing most of the talking. She was a school principal in Dorchester.
 
     “You haven’t changed a bit, Snowflake,” she said with a shake of her head as we parted.

     Back at camp, Lucille had to find answers on her own. I might have built up courage to ask Sue Jo the details of what she had done but she was long gone.

     The camp had a small library and I searched a dictionary in off hours for an appropriate word for my actions. Most of the terms I had heard to describe what I assumed had happened were not included on the pages of Noah Webster. Amy argued vociferously that my sole sin was allowing Paul to pat my breast.
 
     “Let him do the confessing,” she screamed the entire week, “he was the one who did it!”
 
     But I knew better. Hadn't “it” happened? “It” took two people; I knew that much. I was at minimum a participant, however unwillingly. I scoured the Webster for an appropriate description.
 
     I've always detested the word “sex.” It is so abrupt a term, so harsh. “Sex” is like all the other words associated with it, especially the street term used to describe “it.” Even the participating body parts are all harsh, abrupt words, a monosyllable everyone.
 
     “Sex” in the dictionary listed six definitions, most concerned with male-female distinctions. The fifth meaning simply said intercourse. I looked up intercourse.  Here it said, “Vaginal penetration by the penis; coitus.” I couldn't go into the confessional and say Paul Croucher penetrated my vagina with his penis! And I wasn't sure I could pronounce “coitus” correctly. What had happened in the Chevy was so fast I wasn't sure it actually met the dictionary criteria which sounded much more complicated. And yet, it hurt, and I bled, so I guess I did “it”.

      Finally I discovered the term “intimate,” though parts of the description seemed inapplicable to what had taken place. “Intimate” talked about “very close association, contact or familiarity, one's deepest nature; things of a very personal or private nature.” I liked it. It seemed to fit and it was a soft word. The book also mentioned long time association and warmth and privacy, terms that were outside my search criteria, but at least I was partially there. Assuming the priest heard a lot of this sort of stuff, he'd know what I was talking about.
 
     The long term association bothered me. I'd only known Paul Croucher a few weeks. Did that make what I'd done worse? I trembled the week away while others laughed and sang camp songs and snuck out most nights. I cowered in fear of Saturday and 'fessing up to my gross transgression.
 
     But I was in luck. The camp company I was keeping was apparently much more stricken with the bad-girl disease than me. Long lines at the confessional moved with turtle-like slowness as the naughty city kids told all. Even weeping Genevieve spent a lengthy time in the box. By the time I dropped to my knees and blessed myself, the poor priest was probably in shock. I'm not even sure he heard my mumbled voice but I nevertheless received a perfunctory five Hail Marys and five Our Fathers as a penance, and walked away forgiven.
 
     God, that was a long time ago.
 
 

Author Notes Lucille is age thirty-seven and a near-recluse. Her mother has recently died. Lucille is redoing her lifetime family home in an effort to be rid of the ghosts of the past. A friendly priest suggested she record her thoughts and feelings in a diary and she is doing so. She has reluctantly accepted having Friday evening dinners with a church acquaintance, Mr. Anderson and is becoming more comfortable with this widowed man. Part of her, whom she calls Amy, is enjoying his company while her more conscious self is fighting any hint of intimacy as she recalls her past.


Chapter 10
Friday, Sept 15th (Part Three.)

By Fridayauthor

    Friday Number Five, September 15th  (Part Three.)
 
     I huffed and puffed a dozen boxes to my newly evolving reading room, with the intention of sorting the volumes. However, I wasted precious time when I discovered a long forgotten treasure which I plopped down and read anew.
 
     “Get back to work!” Amy kept shouting from another part of me, but it was long after dark before I returned to my chore.
 
     Books have always so captured my mind, often to the total exclusion of everything around me.  Lately I lean toward fiction, although I keep away from the more earthy exploits of the make-believe. Not that I'm a prude, (though I suspect I am.)
 
     I must relate to reasonable happenings, and bed-hopping has a false and hollow ring. My plots and characters are required to follow a trail to a logical conclusion by way of common sense. I love history, the classics, and mysteries are fun diversions. However, my imagination is sometimes strained by the trail of bodies, buried behind hedgerows and in the gardens of English estates.
 
      I finally began sorting in earnest. I even tackled the remaining boxes from mother's room. There was little there worth keeping besides my parents' wedding certificate, dated four years before my sister Emily's birth. The date surprised me; I had assumed they were older when they wed.
 
     I know almost nothing of my parents' antecedents. Neither side of the family got along particularly well with the other. Contact was left to Christmas cards and an occasionally phone calls, usually after someone died. All four grandparents were deceased before I was born.
 
     At the bottom of the last box, I made a most curious discovery. Buried beneath some old check stubs, I found a large bundle of old letters, held together in seven sets, by faded pink ribbon. The letters appeared very old, long predating my mother. There were no envelopes, hence no post marks. The month and day were listed, not the year. They were all signed “Sarah” and written to “Anne”, with no last names. The letters spanned a period of about a decade and covered the author’s teen years.
 
     “Ez came to call again. Papa said he could.”
 
     Sarah’s letters were flat and factual, unlike the personal ramblings of this journal!
 
     I scanned the letters, looking for a family name or some connection to a known person, but found nothing to indicate how they found their way to my mother's dresser. The letters were far too old to have been written by either of my grandmothers and I have no knowledge of earlier generations. Where they came from or why my mother kept them is a mystery.
 
     I commenced reading them, but it was very late and my eyes begged for rest. before I put the letters aside, I guessed the time to be the middle of the eighteen hundreds and the location rural Massachusetts. I felt a mild pang of guilt, as if I were prying into someone's past.  However, I’m sure curiosity will win out and I will read them eventually.
 
     This Friday night at dinner I told Mr. Anderson about the power of a book pulling me from allotted chores. I had planned to tell him about the letters I’d found but our conversation drifted to other subjects. This was Friday number five and we are becoming more comfortable in each other's company, at least it so seems to me.
 
     We began discussing our early reading tastes. We’d both admired a series of children's stories when we first learned to read chapter books.
 
     “Who was your favorite author?” I asked over squash pie, a New England staple.
 
     Mr. Anderson smiled. “My father had a collection of adventure books, from when he was young. Rob White wrote about the sea and I devoured them, even though they were from a prior generation. Sail Away was my favorite.”
 
     “I’d love to read it,” I answered. “If I do, you have to read Elizabeth Enright. She wrote about the Melendey children and their adventures. I kept The Four Story Mistake out so long, I had to pay a fine!”
 
     On a whim, when the meal was finished, we decided to visit the library together and see if the book might be in stock.
 
     It had been several years since I had ventured into the Sea View Public Library where long ago I had spent so many hours. There were memories buried behind the stacks of dusty volumes. While the present staff members were only nodding acquaintance, the furniture, bookshelves and smells remained unchanged.
 
     While there were no additions of either of our favorite juvenile authors, other remembered books were still snug in their old places. It was as if waiting for us, like the toys of Little Boy Blue. We each brought a cherished volume to the reading section, smiling like two conspirators.
 
     Later, as we were leaving, Mr. Anderson noticed the reference area.
 
     “There’s something I want to look up,” he said. I took a seat at a table and waited. He soon returned, with a smile on his face, and held up my high school year book. Flipping it open, he found a picture of sober-faced Lucille Peabody.
 
     “Grade school reader, 1,2,3 and 4. History Club, 1,2,3 and 4. Track and Field Statistician, 2,3 and 4,” he read. I tried to hide my embarrassment as he continued.
 
      “Everyone can count on quiet Lucille. She’s sure to be a shoe-in for our Valedictorian.” He handed me the book, but I shook my head and looked away. 
 
     Everyone can count on Lucille. I could almost picture the student committee sitting around the table trying to come up with something nice to say about the silent little mouse. Lucille, who sat on the fringes of everything, peeking in and never opening her mouth, for four long years.
 
     “What is a, 'Grade School Reader?'” he asked.
 
     “I read stories to little kids two afternoons a week,” I answered, and smiled. “Good practice, huh? Only now I do it five days in a row.” I added, “The history club was an annual day trip to Concord or Lexington or some other historical site.”
 
     “Were you Valedictorian?” he asked, but I shook my head. I didn't want to explain.
 
     I had been first in my class for as long as I could remember, though it came to be expected at home and gained me no praise from my parents. The distinction was so automatic I ceased to give any thought to the honor of my class standing. Then one day Mrs. Windsor, the English teacher, came up to me after class.
 
     “You'd better get started on your speech, Lucille,” she said with a broad smile.
 
     “What speech?” I asked in a panic. The few occasions I had been unable to avoid when I was forced to give classroom speeches had resulted in days of nausea and knee-shaking presentations that were the joke of the class. Now, days from graduation, I was certain all such required public exposure was far behind me.
 
     “Your Valedictorian address,” Mrs. Windsor answered. I stumbled in a half-faint, and had to sit down. The valedictorian was required to address the entire assembly, graduates, friends, relatives and dignitaries. I couldn't do it. There was no way I could do it. The very thought of such a speech made me gag back my lunch as I stood before my favorite teacher. I would make a fool of myself, while behind their programs, the world would snicker and laugh.
 
     For three days I hardly slept, worrying about what I was facing. There was no one to whom I could talk. Finally, I came to a decision. I resolved to do everything in my power not to win the title. Amy put forth a frenzied protest, screaming how I deserved the honor and I was a coward to try and worm my way out of it. I knew she was right, but her pleas fell on deaf ears.
 
     I purposely nearly failed a history examination, my best subject, answering questions incorrectly that I knew in my sleep. I'm sure Miss Pendergast recognized what I did although she said nothing when she congratulated me as salutatorian, the second place honors. Roger Dunlop, my closest rival, a sniveling nerd who had reached his rank with mundane courses and no extra credit, beat me out by six one-hundredths of a point. Math was my second best subject; I had calculated well!
 
     I heaved a sigh and managed a smile for Mr. Anderson. “Turnabout is fair play,” I said as I went to the racks and retrieved his class year book.
 
     He looked equally embarrassed as I thumbed over page after page of his sports exploits until I found his picture and biography. It listed varsity letters in all sports categories, beneath an unsmiling picture of a clean cut youth.
 
     “Congratulations,” I said. “You were voted most likely to succeed.”
 
     “They certainly got that wrong,” he said as he walked over to hold the door for me.
 
     Mr. Anderson and I both seemed rather mellow after our foray into our past lives, as documented at the Sea View Library. When he walked me to my door, instead of the kiss on the cheek that had become a ritual, he put his arms about me and kissed me on the lips, and then held on a minute longer. It was an embrace more of comfort and affection than of romance. It felt all together pleasant, but it is causing me to spend many long hours and much hot cocoa before I can get to sleep.
 
 

Author Notes Lucille age thirty-seven, is a near-recluse. After her mother's death, she is redoing her lifetime family home in an effort to be rid of the ghosts of the past. A friendly priest suggested she record her thoughts and feelings in a diary and she is doing so. She has reluctantly accepted an invitation to have Friday evening dinners with a shy church acquaintance, Mr. Anderson and is becoming comfortable with this widowed man. Part of her, whom she calls Amy, is enjoying his company while her more conscious self is fighting any hint of intimacy.


Chapter 11
Friday, Sept. 22nd (Part One)

By Fridayauthor

            Friday Number Six, September 22nd  (Part One)
           
            The world continues; my simple, pleasant little world of church on Sunday, five days a week with my exhausting little dynamos, my biweekly Wednesday gatherings of the hens, and Friday evenings with Mr. Anderson. I’ve taken to following my social evening by scribbling on these pages. I take my seaside walks, though shortened by the chilling weather and early dusk. In between, I look after my garden, talk to my sister Emily on the phone, putter about my renovations, and tuck in some reading. Who says living alone is a boring, lonesome existence? My mind-twin Amy insists it is.
      
            Mrs. Forsythe continues to peer out from behind her shade at any goings or comings on our street, although I fear the poor lady couldn't tell a gentleman caller from the corner lamp post, her eye sight is so failing. She is one of many in our neighborhood who is experiencing the silver years. Our street is peopled with ancients; I'm far and away the youngest, though the others are rapidly falling by the way side.
       
            There was an ambulance on Hawthorne Street when I returned from school on Monday; old Mr. Schulman who lived alone on the corner had taken his own life. I remembered him giving me candy as a child. His wife was living then. He was a jolly old soul, always smiling, but that was years ago. I can't recall laying eyes on him in ages, although I imagine he must have attended my mother's funeral. I don't remember him in all the confusion. I went to his viewing on Thursday, early to avoid any crowd, but I was the only one there.
      
            A frost finally stole into my garden last night, slaying my beauties left and right. The weak little petunias and beautiful dahlias succumbed at once, while some of my more hearty friends, the marigolds and snapdragons, will stagger on for a few more weeks. It's time for me to think about my spring bulbs, or there shan't be any color when the snow finally melts.
        
            I was a snapdragon myself on Tuesday when I caught a sixth grader terrorizing my Bobbie Lopez to tears. I marched the offender by his collar, (wishing it were his ear,) down to Mr. Abelard's office, where I insisted the bully be treated harshly. I managed to scare the dickens out of the boy, and, I fear, our principal, as well. Mr. Abelard seldom sees my rage which is nearly always buried deep within me, but nobody messes with Miss Peabody's second grade angels, without being burned by the fire of her wrath.
      
            I am an anomaly at Whitcomb Elementary School. I say almost nothing at our frequent teacher's meetings, socialize not at all with my fellow instructors, and have no ambitions beyond my second grade classroom. In spite of this I suspect the other teachers dislike me as I do far more for my pupils than is required. I neither do this, nor mention it here, to shine a halo on my head; I do it because I love the tiny tykes and many of them have little in their home lives. Mrs. Bartlett, the third grade teacher, who has a large family of her own, possess the strongest dislike of me. She believes, which is her unquestioned right, that her job is from bell to bell, and her charge is to teach her pupils what is prescribed and nothing more. However, graduating second graders entering her room have received much more in my class and are disappointed when reaching hers. Unfortunately, this causes animosity. I have tried to come up with a solution that will work placidly with both philosophies, but have been unsuccessful. Mr. Abelard would like to say something to me but doesn't dare as most of the parents support me, and I believe he is afraid of the results, not knowing what my reaction might be.
       
            The enrollment at Whitcomb has changed appreciably since I began teaching. Fully one third of entering children either know no English or it’s their second language. Their parents, like most of our ancestors, are recently arrived immigrants, pioneers from frightful poverty. Now they arrive by plane or bus and not by steamer. Neither group had carfare to move further into the land of plenty so they settled in our coastal cities. It is a difficult life for a first generation. I feel it is important that their children learn quickly, enabling them to plant a firm and confident foothold in this wonderful country.
        
            This week is the anniversary of the death of my father and as is my custom, or perhaps habit, I boarded a bus to the outskirts of town to visit his grave. I dutifully said a prayer for his soul, and that of my mother, as long as I was in the area. She will get her own exclusive visit next spring, on her anniversary. I didn't tarry at the grave as long as sincere grief would dictate. I had little to say to father.
        
            Returning to the bus stop, I saw a marker near the gate that I hadn't noticed previously. It was the grave of Paul Croucher. It is strange how ghosts keep poking up their heads with frequency, after having been long ago buried, and not thought of in years.
      
            When I returned from church camp that summer so many years ago, I was still as bewildered as the Saturday one week before when I had left home, a tainted woman. I could hardly wait for Monday when I was sure Paul would meet me at our library rendezvous, and perhaps some sense would miraculously float forth and clear my mind, still troubled in spite of my soul-cleansing confession. But Monday came and went, followed by Tuesday and the rest of the week, all without a sign of Paul or his ever-present Chevrolet. Heart-sick and frightened, I couldn't make myself believe I’d been used and discarded. No, Paul was too kind a soul to do that. What happened was my fault for letting him touch me.
      
            I was a bad girl who had placed herself “in the near occasion of sin,” as church had so strenuously taught me. (I had overheard a school boy describe the term succinctly as going to a whore house with a hundred dollars in your pocket). But still Paul Croucher failed to contact me.
      
            It was nearly two weeks later when I heard quite by accident Paul was dead. It had happened while I was away at church camp. The event was of such local insignificance no one had mentioned it. In a moment of inattention he had run off the road, demolishing his beloved Chevy, crushing and ending his young life, against an unmoving maple. I had no shoulder to cry on, no one with whom I could mourn. Our time together had been limited to the two of us, without knowledge of another human being. I was again alone. I hid in my room and feigned sickness until I could bring myself to face the world without bursting into tears.
      
            Not only was I devastated, but to make matters worse, I was convinced I must be pregnant. While I’d suffered my period at church camp, I remained uninformed if that event assured me I wasn’t with child. This feeling was intensified when the time for my next period came and went. Finally, a thousand prayers and promises later, it arrived in a torrent, amid a sense of relief and sorrow; sorrow that what was passing through my body might be more than a natural flow; the last vesture of Paul Croucher's final grasp for immortality. I never told a soul. Whatever feeling I had for the first person who kissed me, was so tattered and confused, I forced the thoughts out of my mind, as if in so doing the entire episode could be relegated to having never happened.
 

Author Notes Lucille age thirty-seven, is a school teacher and a near-recluse. After her motherÛ??s death, she is redoing her lifetime family home in an effort to be rid of the ghosts of the past. A friendly priest suggested she record her thoughts and feelings in a diary and she is doing so. She has reluctantly accepted an invitation to have Friday evening dinners with a shy church acquaintance, Mr. Anderson. She is becoming comfortable with this widowed man. Part of her, whom she calls Amy, is enjoying his company while her more conscious self is fighting any hint of intimacy.


Chapter 12
Friday, Sept 22nd (Part Two.)

By Fridayauthor

            Friday Number Six, September 22nd (Part Two.)
           
            Mr. Anderson and I continue, even after five Friday evenings, to address each other as formally as the first outing; we are Mr. Anderson and Miss Peabody to one another, though we smile when saying it. The titles are symbolic of our agreed relationship. Our times together continue to be most enjoyable. Delaneys, with its noisy families and clatter of hurried dishes is not a romantic setting, but the food is good and we both feel comfortable dining there, and with each other’s company.
       
            We both take pleasure in simple things. Mr. Anderson remarked we might have better fitted into a different era of time.
       
            “Perhaps Miss Peabody would have been content as a nineteenth century school marm,” he said as we finished a pot roast dinner. “I can picture you in one of those long-dresses, standing in front of one room school house.”
      
            I had to laugh at his picture! “With a dozen little unsmiling charges of various ages and sizes,” I added.
      
            “What about me?” He asked.
       
            “You belong in Boston, running a shop next to Mr. Revere's silver business.”
      
            “Crafting mischief against the British?”
      
            “Perhaps you’d not be one of the more vocal rebels, dumping tea into the harbor and making trouble, but certainly you'd be a strong supporter of freedom.”
      
            This is an example of how our conversation is progressing!
        
            Our talk renewed my interest in Sarah and her letters I'd found in mother's bureau. As a result, I've decided to read them in detail, in spite of my feelings of invading her privacy. I mentioned the correspondence to Mr. Anderson and he is as intrigued as I.
      
             “I’ve done some research on my family,” he said. “If you’d like, I could try to trace down the authorship. With the Internet, it’s becoming easier to access old records.”
      
            “As soon as I’ve finished a stack of the letters, I’ll pass them along to you.” I was pleased we’d found another common interest.
      
            We have begun to vary what we do after dinner on Friday evenings, although few would find the variance exciting. This week we attended a high school football game! It was an important match for our old school and Mr. Anderson seemed reluctant to ask me. I suppose he thought I'd find the proceedings a bore. It was fun!
       
            I didn't attend the games when I was young; one didn't go alone, and I’d never push myself on someone. As I watched, I could imagine Mr. Anderson on the field, and what he must have felt with hundreds of fans cheering his every move. Our school won the game in an exciting finish, making the evening even more pleasurable.
      
            At church on Sunday, with Mr. Anderson sitting beside me, I found myself continuing my negotiations with my God. We were reciting The Apostles Creed which normally flows forth with voice but no thought, but this time I listened carefully to those statements that are the tenets of our faith. I was curious how my personal beliefs stacked up against them. All in all, I came out quite well.
       
            As Father Hammond droned on about fiscal matters, my mind wandered.  What about the commandments? Do I adhere to them? I hadn't even recited them in years and I'm embarrassed to report it took some memory searching to recall all ten.
      
            I don't kill, steal, lie; at least in serious matters, nor do I covet either my neighbor or her husband. I honor God in my own fashion, and don't take His name in vain. Neither are there false Gods in my small world. Adultery holds no appeal. I was feeling pretty good about myself until I remembered number four, Honor thy father and thy mother.
       
            Did I honor them? I certainly obeyed them to my everlasting detriment, and looked after them, especially my mother, until her dying day. Honored? I don't know. I don't believe I dishonored them, so perhaps I'm safe.
      
            Did Mr. Anderson honor his mother, and especially his father? It was his father who by drinking robbed his son of a college education, trapping him in a job far below his ability. Is holding a grudge against past actions dishonoring?
      
            Mr. Anderson and I discussed habit and religion and their cross effect last Friday night, Friday number six. You see, our conversations have expanded appreciably. No, still nothing of a true personal nature is ever discussed, but we've moved from the weather and the economic problems of our city, to more cerebral subjects. We both agreed religion does become a habit but Mr. Anderson was quick to point out that all habits were not bad. It was an interesting observation. Two other words for me to research, “habit” and “honor.”
      
            “Habit” was defined as a recurrent, often unconscious pattern of behavior that is acquired through frequent repetition. I guess religion is now a habit with me, although I'd like to believe it means more in my life, as I devote much of my time to my faith. When I spoke to my sister Emily on the phone, she said Mr. Anderson is becoming a habit with me. I disagree. While we have certainly reached a routine, the word “habit” suggests a blasé attitude that I do hope does not exist.
      
            I have told Emily little of Mr. Anderson, only that I've been having dinner with a gentleman on Friday evenings. I waved off any suggestion that it is more than just a simple meal and polite conversation. She seemed incredulous, but didn't press me further, perhaps secretly keeping her fingers crossed that it will evolve to something more. I wouldn't have told her at all, but she called when I was out and always has to know where I've gone. I wouldn't lie to Emily but there are bounds to our topics of conversation, and the depth of their content.
        
            The word “honor” remains unclear in my own mind. I was interested to see if I was abiding by God's rules. Later I went back to my friends the books and looked up the word. “Honor” had four inches of definitions, but in general, it described persons of superior esteem, and showing them merited respect. I was sorry to see words like “nobility” and “high respect” and “probity,” none of which seemed to fit my feelings for my parents.
       
            Amy says I'm nitpicking and to leave it alone, but my emotions of what I should feel for my parents are important. Those people ruled my world for most of my years. If my mother and father are not worthy of this level of high respect that denotes honor as the commandments and the dictionary so dictate, is it my fault? No answers, just another question. Life is one long conundrum.
           
            It is Tuesday evening, after Friday number six and I find myself, much to my dismay, counting days on my fingers until Friday number seven. As you can see, I've broken my pattern of only entering notes into this journal on Fridays. I think it is because my mind is unable to concentrate on more detailed projects.
      
            I am in what has become my beloved sofa-nest, having just finished sewing another pillow and gazing at my unobstructed view of the harbor. It is a clear night, one that is sure to produce record low temperatures and more destruction to my garden, but one can't stop the passing of the seasons.
        
            Lately Mr. Anderson has been occupying more of my mind than he ought to. Every humorous anecdote that occurs at school is put aside to convey to Mr. Anderson the following Friday. With each book I read I wonder if he'd enjoy it, each dress if it would be appropriate for our weekly meetings. And yet, my greatest fear is that he'll wish to advance our relationship beyond where it now so comfortably entrenched. I long for no mountain to climb, higher and higher peaks to scale, with more and more above me to conquer. Instead, I picture the mesas of the west, those beautiful flat plateaus where I comfortably reside with no scary challenges to fearfully face and attempt to scale. The view is satisfying and the danger limited.
      
            While I have come to cherish my Friday evenings, I have that sinking feeling I will one day be called upon to choose progress or abandonment in this strange relationship. I know from experience which one I'll surely, however sadly, select. And then all will once again return to where it's always been.
      
 

Author Notes Lucille age thirty-seven, is a school teacher and a near-recluse. After her mother├??├?┬¢??s death, she is redoing her lifetime family home in an effort to be rid of the ghosts of the past. At the suggesting of her priest, she is recording her thoughts and feelings in a diary. After reluctantly accepting an invitation to have weekly Friday evening dinners with a shy church acquaintance, Mr. Anderson, she is becoming comfortable with his company. Part of her, whom she calls Amy, is rejoicing while her more conscious self is fighting any hint of intimacy.


Chapter 13
Friday, Sept. 29th, (Part One.)

By Fridayauthor

     Friday Number Seven, September 29th   (Part One.)
    
     It is Tuesday evening and October has slipped in silently, with turning leaves and an evening chill. On nights like this I wish my home had a fireplace, a hearth to sit before and drink in the warmth of glowing logs, while I listen to the beautiful music that wraps me in its reverie.
 
     I have purchased a sound system, as the man at the store described it. My machine plays compact discs that sound as if I'm in a quiet club, with only the pianist and me, as he serenades me with beautiful music. I am mellow; I admit it. Amy and I dusted off a bottle of cream sherry from a Christmas long since passed. We are wallowing in our contentment, as the music of Frederic Chopin serenades us. No, I am not turning into a closet drunk, although I can't recall, in my prior life, an instance of drinking so much as a glass of wine alone. Does that surprise you? My prior life? Tonight I'm feeling that way. I'm not such a creature of unbending habit, am I? Here I am writing in this journal and it's not even Friday evening!
 
     Six short months ago, I would have come home to a soiled house with a dying old woman demanding my attention, with an annoying bell, followed by silence that offered no opportunity for discussion or compromise. I would have religiously preformed my tasks, flopped into bed exhausted, and after a few hours’ sleep I would begin the ritual anew.
 
     Now I enter my own domain, relax in my sofa-nest, and hear a world renowned composer play my every request while I slowly sip a sweet and pleasant concoction first brewed by monks eons ago. And, I look forward to my Friday evenings where I’ll meet someone with whom I can confide the trivialities of my simple life. A friend; that term sounds nice, don't you think? If only it could continue.
 
     “Just a friend?” Amy asks. “Do you truly believe these Fridays will just drift along?”
 
     “I won't worry about that,” I answer her. “Mr. Anderson isn't the first friend I have cared for and we survived after they were gone from our lives.” I am in too pleasant a mood to let dark thoughts creep into my world. I try to chase Amy from my mind, but she persists.
 
     “You won’t admit how much you care for the man!” she shouts. I change the subject to another time as I begin to read Sarah’s ancient letters.
  
     As I promised myself I’ve renewed my perusal of this young woman’s writings. I’m steadfastly peeking into her past, slowly getting to know this child of so long ago. The reading proceeds at a snail's pace as her penmanship takes much effort to decipher. While her spelling and grammar are impeccable, time has faded her words and careful study is necessary to discern the letters. I use a magnifying glass to decipher the small print, making sure I understand each word correctly. Sarah's style is terse with little excess verbiage so I am careful not to lose an important nuance.
 
     I admit I am rationing the chore, reading a year of her life every few days. At first I peeked ahead but quickly changed to a more thorough reading, savoring and digesting her life as I get to know her. Perhaps I'm not unlike my mother and her afternoon soap operas of my younger years. This real-life saga is far more interesting than anything Proctor and Gamble advertised.
 
     Sarah was a strange young lady, nested in a caring household that seemed to laugh at poverty amid hardships intolerable today, all the while embracing small joys and pleasures. Her writings to Anne are filled with details of those around her, but never of herself. All is written in the curt form of factual statements. Sentiments are gleaned only from her choice of topics.
 
     I have learned Anne, her confidante, is a cousin, older than Sarah, who lives only a few miles away. The cousins see each other frequently causing void spaces in their correspondence that leave this poor reader with many unanswered questions. Anne is married throughout the nearly ten year span of the writings and Sarah weds a year before the letters cease. I noted this when I first perused the letters, before I began a more orderly reading.
 
     I find myself propelled back in time to a simple life, amid people I’m getting to know. I am heart-sick when little Jeb, one of Anne's three children, is stricken with a fever. I’m happy for Aunt Martha when her long awaited baby is born healthy. These epistlers are fast becoming friends, yet even the infants have been assigned to the grave for decades. Their life is so different from anything I've ever known. Sarah summed it up after a visit to Anne.
 
      “I do so envy your happy chaos! Little ones are always about, sweet smells cooking, friends and neighbors so calling. Love is everywhere in your happy home.”
 
     I have just completed a description where Sarah has returned from hiking eleven miles, carrying needed blankets and food and staying overnight with an elderly woman she only knew slightly. She makes little of this trek, only apologizing for a delay in responding to a letter. Kindness is so every day it is taken for granted. Their numerous acts of giving are enhanced by the naturalness with which they take place.
 
     I am becoming more curious about my mother's, and by descent my, connection to this family. Might this caring young woman Sarah and her kin actually be a direct ancestor of mine? While I realize we are what we make of ourselves, I can't help but long for some positive influence in my past that I might point to in my search to find what clock-work of genes makes Lucille tick.
 
     While their world is small, to Sarah and those around her, religion is very important and church is not but a Sunday thing. Talk of God, salvation, and the demons of evil fill the correspondence as naturally as our discussions of the weather or our favorite movie. They write in detail about specific sermons and quote scripture freely and earnestly. And yet, in reading those passages, there seems nothing put-on or overly pious about their comments. There is a natural kindness about these people that is difficult to explain and their lives seem far less absorbed with the trivial matters that fill our days.
 
     Life to them is a clearly defined picture, the rules well established in advance, with few surprises lurking in the corners. The struggle is met head on and each player knows what is expected. Little is questioned. Responsibility, love, honor, pride in accomplishment and unselfish effort to make the future better for the next generation. These are the accepted tenets of their lives. Incredible hardships and heart-wrenching losses are borne with stoic acceptance, lack of complaint and no excuses. “God's will,” as my mother would say. But God's will as a part of their life required more action on the part of the participants, not just being a languid spectator while He does all the work. My mother was content to let her life happen, while Sarah and her family fought adversity with the tenacity of a she-wolf protecting her young. They cried inconsolably when they lost, but took comfort from those remaining around them, brushed back their tears, straightened their homespun clothes, and got back to work.
 
     I am most interested to see what Mr. Anderson thinks of these people after he has had a chance to peruse these letters. It pleases me that I now have a friend whose opinion I value. No, not the cadre of confidants and loved ones in the numbers that Sarah embraced, but at least one person, a man with whom I'm enjoying a strange, arms-length relationship, nearly a first for me. 
 

Author Notes Lucille age thirty-seven, is a school teacher and a near-recluse. After her mother├??├?┬¢??s death, she is redoing her lifetime family home in an effort to be rid of the ghosts of the past. At the suggesting of her priest, she is recording her thoughts and feelings in a diary. After reluctantly accepting an invitation to have weekly Friday evening dinners with a shy church acquaintance, Mr. Anderson, she is becoming comfortable with his company. Part of her, whom she calls Amy, is rejoicing while her more conscious self is fighting any hint of intimacy. She develops a strong interest in old letters discovered in her mother's dresser.


Chapter 14
Friday, Sept 29th (Part Two.)

By Fridayauthor

Friday Number Seven, September 29th  (Part Two.)
 

     There have been others I've allowed to peek into the life of Lucille Peabody, however tentatively. Little joy resulted. There was Bart Davidson. He was a new teacher who joined the faculty after I had been at Whitcomb School six years. He was most persistent in calling me and always by the door when I was leaving school. One couldn't help but like him. All the teachers did, and still do, for that matter. He remains at Whitcomb to this day, though we seldom more than nod, when confronting each other in school corridors.

     I can honestly admit I felt my resolve to not date him falter when he'd smile and chat in his comfortable fashion. We lunched together, discussing topics of mutual interest. He was the only person who was always able to make me laugh. But when he asked me out, it was not for a dinner or a movie; it was for a weekend in New Hampshire. 
 
     “No problem,” he said. His wife understood his needs. I was the only person in Whitcomb School who didn't know I had caught the eye of a married philanderer! I could see the whispered smiles for months after.

     Frances Gale was a friend too, though the fault in the termination of our friendship rested entirely with me. Frances was a kind woman, several years my senior, who was a mentor during my early years of teaching. She and I would confide in one another; we both had ill mothers and I expect, though we never discussed it, past unfortunate sexual experiences.
We were friends for half a school year before I gradually became aware that Frances' attentions were more personal than I thought possible. When she openly expressed her physical attraction to me, I was horrified and abruptly ceased to have anything to do with her.
 
     Later, during my long seaside walks, and conversations with Amy, I wondered if my abrupt and violent reaction to Frances' advances might be because I too harbored similar feelings. No, I felt no sexual warmth toward Frances, only a long ingrained revulsion against what she sought.
 
     I feel more sympathetic toward her now, looking back on the situation. No, I don’t feel desire in any sense, but a sorrow I was not more understanding of someone as lonely as I; someone who at least offered, for whatever reason, to be my friend.  As long as Frances Gale remained in Sea View, I treated her unkindly. As I now write these words I truly hope she too has found happiness.
 
     My beautiful music continues and I refill my glass, hoping these words that no one will ever see, are not too wiggly and out of line. My electronic orchestra was purchased on a whim, a word hardly in my vocabulary a few months past. I would never have dreamed of spending plastic money on frivolities for my personal pleasure.  Did my God mean for me to be this happy?
 
     Only Amy darkens the mood. She really gave me what-for today, as mad as a petulant child.
 
     “Here you are, Lucille. You’re nearly thirty-eight years old, reasonably intelligent and marginally pretty. You’re blessed with an acceptable figure, but the thought of putting it to any amorous use petrifies you. Everyone else is hopping from bed to bed, with more husbands than we’ve had dates, more lovers than drinks, and you remain content.”
 
     “I am content,” I answer.
 
     “Stubborn is what you are!” Amy scolds.
 
     “Stop trying to make me into you!” I counter.
 
     “A wonderful man seems to care for us and yet we will not allow him to venture forward in the relationship a single step further. You’re a nun in teacher's clothing.”
 
     “You just don’t understand,” I counter.
 
     Amy knows I am happy but misinterprets the reason. I think she believes I am in love with Mr. Anderson, simply because I enjoy his company and look forward to my meetings with him. She doesn't understand love. After all, what experience has either one of us had with it?
 
     We love Emily, our sister, but that’s different. Love comes in dissimilar packages; love for a pet, for a child, for kin; a sister, and sometimes parents. But love between a man and a woman is unique. The difference must come from the physical attraction, that God-given urge that springs between the species. It is so tied to the love and intimacy as to be inseparable, an integral part of love that cannot be ignored. Absent it, love changes its cloak, becoming something different, no more than love of a kin or other.
 
     As dearly as I adore my sister Emily, I must admit it is not a totally unqualified love. Perhaps Emily and I love our mind's picture of one another, more than the real person. A “qualified” love? I realize deep down Emily isn't the saint I hold her to be and God knows I'm not close to her picture of me!
 
     Emily knows nothing of Paul Croucher or Gary Foley, who you have not met in these pages; both topics outside the bounds of our sisterly conversations. I am Lucy the good girl to my sister.  I so care for her that I'd do nothing to paint the “me” on a different canvas than what her rose-colored vision sees.
 
     I can't imagine loving someone more than I love my sister, and yet I know the bounds of that love. How all-consuming it must be to love another to the utmost, giving all and receiving all in return! Surrendering a part of yourself to create a new entity of both!
 
     I find myself thinking of Sarah after reading her words, her first mention of her future husband.
 
     “Ez came to call. Papa said he could.” Was Ez a friend too? Did Sarah so love this person she describes so little? I dearly wish she'd confide in me through her letters.
 
     If physical love is so important to total man-woman love, why do we so trivialize it? Mr. Anderson and I saw a movie last Friday that, admittedly, was humorous, but it treated love as a quick physical pleasure having nothing to do with long term commitment or endearing love. If we so utilize the urge for sex, how can anything remain to be given if strong feelings of love and commitment do pay us a call? Are we not cheating love if we have nothing to give it, nothing precious that we are holding back as an offering to love alone?
 
     Perhaps I shun romance because I am an impossible romantic. Can you truly love someone from afar, not knowing them completely and intimately? Isn't intimacy an intensely personal thing, a sharing that goes far beyond casual everyday contact? Sharing and trust, preceded by truly knowing each other. People are married years and never know each other beyond a superficial level and yet their relationship is often lasting and comfortable. But do they love each other? We're a society that has trivialized love and marriage until we've changed its meaning to a temporary arrangement, subject to the individual whims of the participants. A lifelong commitment? Don't be absurd! What a silly thought!
 
     If two people could and were willing to give themselves totally and unequivocally to one another in the most personal and intimate way of mind and body, how could that union, that intimacy, ever be severed except in the most extreme of circumstances?
  
     Amy accuses me of intellectual hypocrisy but I am unbending in my beliefs. She says I am simply fleeing reality by creating abstracts that do not exist in a real world. But they exist in the world of Lucille Peabody and I'll abide by them to my last breath, alone I suppose.
 
 
 
 

Author Notes Lucille age thirty-seven, is a school teacher and a near-recluse. After her mother's death, she is redoing her lifetime family home in an effort to be rid of the ghosts of the past. At the suggesting of her priest, she is recording her thoughts and feelings in a diary. After reluctantly accepting an invitation to have weekly Friday evening dinners with a shy church acquaintance, Mr. Anderson, she is becoming comfortable with his company. Part of her, whom she calls Amy, is rejoicing while her more conscious self is fighting any hint of intimacy. She develops a strong interest in old letters discovered in her mother's dresser.


Chapter 15
Friday, October 6th (Part One.)

By Fridayauthor

     Friday Number Eight, October 6th  (Part One.)
    
     Mornings are my favorite time of day, early morning before the world awakes. I can sit and watch the glow of a new day creep up above the horizon on the harbor, painting the sea in shades of red. When I was growing up, the morning was my time, when my parents were still asleep and the house belonged to me alone. It is Saturday morning, after Friday night number eight. As I sip my coffee, wrapped snugly in flannel against the chill, I am forced to conclude I've made a disaster of our last evening. For once lately, Amy and I are in full accord on that point.
 
     My mind is still at sea over the happenings so before I explain myself, I'll do justice to this journal and devote a few lines to the other matters that occurred during the seven days just past, though they are without any startling revelations.
 
     School continues with its small successes and travails. Don't think because my classroom happenings are not documented in this journal they are without interest. I have purposely omitted the doings of my school chums. To do them justice would require an increase of these pages ten-fold! Besides, I've attempted to restrict this journal to more personal matters. After all, I reluctantly promised Father Hammond to pour out my soul in this book, in hopes of attaining a purging of the inner grief he feels I continue to shelter. Give me a gold star for trying.
 
      My home hours are much the same as past weeks; busy and as a result no chance for a recent ocean-side walk. There has been one small change in my Hawthorn Street household. We have an addition, at least for the time being.
 
     My coterie of confidants is rapidly expanding. First there was Amy, and then this journal. With the recently discovered letters came Sarah whose thoughts I share via her writings; though decidedly ours is a one sided relationship. Now a new friend has joined our select group.
 
     A black cat who previously received his sustenance from the recently deceased Mr. Shulman, has taken to grace my doorstep every day this week. Although I tried to ignore him, his pathetic look finally succeeded in shaming me. I donated a small bowl of milk to his wellbeing yesterday morning, before I left for school. I feel he interpreted my offering an invitation to a long term commitment. Since then he has become an immovable fixture on my stair. Alas, today I allowed him entrance into my sanctuary.
 
     All my confidants have names but I was in a quandary what to title this new guest. While I refer to “it” in the masculine, I truly don't have a clue nor an interest in investigating the he or she of the animal. Therefore, a sexless moniker would have to be chosen. Amy and I decided on “Black Cat.”
 
     Black Cat is a pest, especially for affection. I've never owned a pet so I am unclear how much time should be devoted to their attention. I'm sure Black Cat is not being cheated. He has an insatiable appetite for a stroked neck and is a glutton for a warm lap. His sleeping habits also need adjustment if he is to remain in my home. He is presently curled beside me, catching up after a night of roaming my rooms and bed.
 
     I've dallied enough before reporting on a more important topic; Friday night. Much as I dread reliving our evening on these pages, here I go.
 
     Delaneys was fun as usual and we both endured a busy week, providing much conversational meat to the grinder. I passed on to Mr. Anderson more of Sarah's letters.
 
     “History in school was all dates and numbers,” he said. “Reading these letters gives us a look at the day to day happenings. It’s fascinating.”
 
     I agreed. “I’m dying to know more about these people, especially Sarah. I’m ahead of you in reading, a year or so. She’s about to marry.”
 
     “I’m sure I can trace down the family, now that we have the state and county” he said again.
 
     I had made careful note of any factual clue and shared the information. It was nice to have someone to share what had become an engrossing hobby.
 
     After dinner the night was so clear we decided to forgo a movie and instead drove along the beach and out the causeway that circles the bay to the south. The moon rose in gigantic splendor, spilling a silver walkway across the water toward us. Mr. Anderson pulled off the road and shut off the car allowing us to watch the Luna orb climb slowly above the distinct line separating the ocean from the clear night sky. We were parked quite close to where I had graduated from innocence with Paul Croucher, that rainy night, twenty years before. I shuddered at the memory but put the episode out of my mind. Mr. Anderson is no Paul Croucher. We both watched the spectacle before us in silence, relaxed in each other's company. Then he turned to me and smiled.
 
     “Life has a few pleasant little moments you can look back on for a long, long time after they occur. This will be one of them, don't you think?” He took my hand and held it. I couldn't help but agree with him completely. It was a wonderful evening and a most memorable moment, no less so now as I sit here, recalling it in perfect detail. I can still feel the secure warmth of his hand in mine.
 
     When Mr. Anderson and I left the beach, it was still early, so I invited him in as he drove me to my door. He had seen my house, at least from the doorway, but we had not spent any time here. He was my first guest since my remodeling had begun and I admit I was happy to show him the results of my labors.
 
     While my reading room and bedroom were both still a shambles, the living room looked quite presentable. He marveled at my sofa-nest, promptly sinking down among my pillows. Black cat stopped by and seemed to tolerate this intruder to his new found home. I had little in the house to offer by way of refreshment but we made do with some pound cake and tea. We were both relaxed and content after the pleasant evening and continued our discussion of Sarah’s letters which led us to things more personal than usual, his family.
 
     “My son was home for the summer,” he said. “But he graduates college in June so I guess this was the final home stay.”
 
     “Well, maybe . . .” I stuttered. “He’ll move back here.”
 
     Mr. Anderson laughed. “No chance of that! There’s a girl from Chicago who’s caught his fancy. His sister Becky is long gone too. She’s due to marry in June.”
 
     I sensed Mr. Anderson less satisfied than me with just his own company. I wanted to explain my new life to him but as usual felt tongue-tied. Then, quite unexpectedly, he turned to me. I looked at him, awaiting his next word, but instead he put his arm about me and kissed me!
 
     It wasn't a goodnight kiss. It was long and very tender but I'm afraid I reacted poorly. Pulling away abruptly, I must have given the poor man a startled look of dismay because he immediately seemed embarrassed at his actions. I was speechless! Before I could muster a word the phone rang; three times before I had the presence to rise and answer it.
 
     It was my sister Emily. I didn't dare betray my company to Em; a man in my house at that time of night would require a lengthy explanation! She was as excited as could be; her oldest, Anne was to make me an aunt in the spring! While I was nearly as excited as Em, I didn't want Mr. Anderson to misunderstand my actions. I listened impatiently as Emily clicked off stories of family reactions. I tried to hurry the conversation without betraying the reason. All this time Mr. Anderson seemed most uncomfortable. I so wanted to tell him that it was me; he hadn't done anything improper; it was me! But he rose, pointed at his watch, and gave a little wave and was gone before I could protest. I was forced to endure minutes more of news I should have been thrilled to hear, as I listened to his car drive away. Warm tears began to slip down my cheeks. I’ll sleep very little this Friday night.
 

Author Notes Lucille age thirty-seven, is a school teacher and a near-recluse. After her mother's death, she remodels her lifetime family home, to rid it of ghosts of the past. At the suggestion of her priest, she records her thoughts and feelings in a diary. She has reluctantly agreed to weekly Friday evening dinners with a shy church acquaintance, Mr. Anderson, and is becoming comfortable with his company. Part of her, whom she calls Amy, is rejoicing while her more conscious self is fighting any hint of intimacy. She has developed a strong interest in old letters found in her mother's dresser.


Chapter 16
Friday, October 6th (Part two.)

By Fridayauthor

            Friday Number Eight, October 6th (Part two.)
           
            I know I should now be dressing in my ratty old clothes and attacking my garden and the rest of the multitude of chores that await me, but I cannot seem to will myself to move. I remain here transfixed, my coffee growing cold, wondering why I am this miserable person.
       
            Hours have passed since I wrote those words above. I've finally, with the speed of leaking faucet, commenced my chores of the day. I reluctantly dressed and trudged outside, no joy in my actions as I pulled out frost-killed annuals and raked until my hands were blistered. At least action busies my mind and I don't brood about last night. Amy cheered me a little in the afternoon, telling me I may have exaggerated Mr. Anderson's reaction in my mind. Perhaps she's right; I dearly hope so.
       
            A cold rain has blown off the sea, chasing us inside where more than sufficient chores continue to urge us on. Though my mood has improved slightly, my ears hardly hear the music that I play as I sort books with little thought or care.
       
            At Amy's continued prodding, I cheer a little more as Saturday passes to late afternoon. Perhaps I am over reacting to the prior evening. After all, Mr. Anderson didn't leave in a fluster. Perhaps he'll understand. But it will be a week before I'll know.
        
            Amy has suggested I phone him and explain myself, but I laugh at her suggestion. Lucille Peabody explain herself? Don't be ridiculous! I'm so tongue-tied talking to myself I need a surrogate pretend intermediary!
      
            By prior arrangement Mr. Anderson is to be absent from church tomorrow; an annual pilgrimage to an ancient aunt in a Boston nursing home. It is six long days until next Friday evening. The week will be an eternity.
      
            I am too fidgety to accomplish menial tasks so once again I immerse myself in Sarah's letters. She has become engaged to Ez although the proposal is not documented as it occurred during a three month lapse in her writings. The work of deciphering her life occupies my concentration enough to put other thoughts at bay, at least for a time.
        
            I cringe at Sarah's exuberance at the prospect of sharing a bed and life with a man she hardly knows. There is no hint of fear or reluctance in her messages to her cousin, only excitement in taking on a life she must realize will be filled with gut-wrenching sorrow and unending drudgery. Her attitude is so matter-of-fact, so filled with automatic acceptance, that her letters are at times infuriating! I long to ask her how she can be so happy with so little happening in her life.
      
            “Ez has a new black suit. I'm proud.” Or, “A tooth pained me Tuesday and Wednesday last, but Mr. Reid pulled it Thursday, and now I'm near comfortable. Ez speaks much about California. Perhaps that's where our children will grow.”
      
            She's just a child, barely twenty. Could it be that her youthfulness still holds a naiveté? Doesn't she understand what she is taking on? The more I consider it, the more I think not. Sarah has cared for younger siblings nearly her entire life and witnessed all the hardships and disappointments the world has to offer, and yet she embraces all with a smile. This child of another time embarrasses Lucille Peabody who incessantly whines about such insignificant matters. My mind returns to today and I put Sarah aside.
      
            Listen to me! I didn't want to become involved in Friday evening dinners in the first place and now that I sense they are coming to a close, as I knew they would, I'm as upset as a child with a lost puppy, unable to concentrate on anything else but myself. I was perfectly contented with my life before Mr. Anderson and will be after he is but a pleasant memory.
       
            “Not so,” cries Amy. Her opinion is unsettling. I'm upset, she says, because if my relationship with Mr. Anderson ends I will lose the prime ingredient of my recent happiness.
      
            “And what's that?” I ask sarcastically.
      
            “Having something to look forward to,” she answers.
      
            She is right. I'll sorely miss our Fridays. But, I insist, I am happy! She pshawed me with a wave of her hand.
      
            “Contentment isn't happiness,” she replies. “It may be a comfortable state in short, gratifying doses, but it doesn't last and don’t dare call it happiness! Serenity doesn't make you wake up with a spring in your step, glad for the new day. Instead, if you embrace contentment for any indefinite length of time, it smothers you. It settles you into a life that is a long and unending collection of habits.”
       
            “Nonsense,” I answer, “I've been happy for years; perhaps not skipping and jumping my way through life, but nonetheless happy. What did I ever have to look forward to?”
      
            “Mother's death,” she answered, and though I'd not admitted it, even to myself, Amy was right. “And the freedom it brought you,” my willful mind-mate answered.
        
            I poked my way through supper, reheated beans and franks in true New England fashion, and tried to read a book. Even Black Cat seemed to prefer a seat by the window to my restless lap. Nothing helped. My mind kept going back to my life as so tersely pointed out by nagging Amy.
      
            Is that what happened to Black Cat's master, Mr. Schulman, my neighbor who recently died by his own hand? Did his life simply become a contentment in which there remained nothing to look forward to? No one to care for? No one to love?
      
            Rote, never ending rote, is what I endure. I remembered the pictures of the Roman oarsmen from some long forgotten book. They lived a life of stroke, stroke, stroke, following the monotonous voice of the coxswain, always the same, day after day, chained to their seat and whipped into obedience for a lifetime. How could they stand it? Didn't they want to simply roll over the side of their ship until the weighted chains dragged them down to peace of another kind? Was that my life? Was I whipped into complacency by the fear of pain?
      
       Questions, always questions, but seldom a resolution. Neither my God nor Amy seemed to have any answers.
 

Author Notes Lucille, age thirty-seven, is a school teacher and a near-recluse. After her mother's death, she remodels her lifetime family home, to rid it of ghosts of the past. At the suggestion of her priest, she records her thoughts and feelings in a diary. She has developed a strong interest in old letters found in her mother's dresser. She has reluctantly agreed to weekly Friday evening dinners with a shy church acquaintance, Mr. Anderson, and is becoming comfortable with his company. Part of her, whom she calls Amy, is rejoicing while her more conscious self is fighting any hint of intimacy. Recently, Lucille has reacted abruptly when Phillip Anderson kissed her.


Chapter 17
Friday, October 13th (Part One.)

By Fridayauthor

            Friday Number Nine, October 13th  (Part One.)
           
            The week was a Coney Island roller coaster ride. When I convinced myself Friday would come with our usual evening outing, I could touch the stars. Then came the valley depths when I was sure my only future contact with Mr. Anderson would be an occasional glance across the aisle at Sunday mass. Early Thursday evening the roller coaster finally crashed. My worst fears came to fruition. I somehow knew when the phone rang it was Mr. Anderson. My hand shook as I lifted the receiver.
        
            “I'm feeling a bit under the weather and think I should skip tomorrow evening.”
      
            He mentioned nothing of Friday next week and I knew in my heart this was his way of calling a halt to our evenings out. I managed to mutter something about my hoping he felt better before hanging up the phone. I sank into my sofa nest which, for the first time, gave me neither warmth nor comfort.
      
            It is now Friday, the time we should have been leaving Delaneys, hand in hand perhaps, on our way to a show or some other entertainment. Instead, here I sit, Black Cat and me, filling the pages of this useless journal.
      
            It shouldn't have come as a surprise that our Friday evenings are over, but I'm deeply saddened nonetheless. From the outset I expected no future, but I've reluctantly admitted to Amy, now that our Fridays have come to a close, I'm hurt, much more than I would have expected. Lucy is a big girl but it's difficult to crouch here among my pillows and keep the tears from flowing.
      
            Sitting alone in the near-dark, I ask my God for forgiveness. I hate Gary Foley with all my heart, and maybe others too who molded Lucille Peabody into this wretch she has become. Twenty years have passed and I still can scarcely say his name without feeling sick in the pit of my stomach, and wanting to bury my face among my pillows, and hide from the rest of the world. Even Amy and I don't talk about that long past time. It hurts far too much. But tonight Amy keeps repeating that maybe Father Hammond is right.
       
            “Write it all in the book and then burn it,” she says, over and over again.
      
            “If I thought it would ease the pain a sliver I'd do it,” I answer. “But not now. I hurt too much.”
      
            She won't leave it alone. I feel too miserable to fight her and at last I relent. I bite my lip as I try to find the words to put this long buried and hateful episode to the pages of this journal.
      
            It was the end of the summer of my senior year, late August and I was trying to push the ghost of Paul Croucher to the far corners of my mind. While I had managed to avoid the title of valedictorian, I had been awarded the prestigious Bendix scholarship, four years fully paid, at a highly rated, out of state university.
      
            I was secretly proud of this accomplishment, and kept a copy of the picture and write up from our local newspaper, though mother said I was vain to do so.
       
            For days I couldn't keep food in my stomach, a frequent ailment of my growing up years. I slept fitfully, so excited and petrified was I, at the prospect of a new life, one where I was at last on my own! It was my first time outside of the state, and except for church camp, my first stay away from home. Though my knees shook so I could hardly stand, I still fought back the fear and felt the tingle of freedom, a new start in the life of Lucille Peabody!
       
            No one accompanied me as I bussed, transferred, and bussed again, further from my childhood digs. I managed to wander my way through the paper jungle of admissions and finally, hours later, locate my dormitory, all without major mishap. I trudged up the stairs with my one suitcase and at last found my room.
       
            My roommate was already there, smiles and laughter, a bundle of non-stop excitement in tight jeans and a low-cut sweater. My new home, so very, very different from the last! I managed a nervous smile.
      
 

Author Notes Lucille, age thirty-seven, is a school teacher and a near-recluse. After her mother's death, she remodels her lifetime family home, to rid it of ghosts of the past. At the suggestion of her priest, she records her thoughts and feelings in a diary. She has developed a strong interest in old letters found in her mother's dresser. She has reluctantly agreed to weekly Friday evening dinners with a shy church acquaintance, Mr. Anderson, and is becoming comfortable with his company. Part of her, whom she calls Amy, is rejoicing while her more conscious self is fighting any hint of intimacy. Recently, Lucille has reacted abruptly when Philip Anderson kissed her. She is now convinced the relationship is over.


Chapter 18
Friday, October 13th (Part Two.)

By Fridayauthor

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of sexual content.

            Friday Number Nine, October 13th (Part Two.)
      
            By some strange luck of the draw, Barbara Stinson and I were tossed together in a stuffy twelve by twelve cubicle, that was to be our living quarters. We could not have been more dissimilar if someone wrote a script. Barbara, a parochial school graduate, introduced herself by leaping on the bed and yelling, at the top of her lungs, “Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, I'm free at last!” In the next few days she wailed to anyone who'd listen that she was a virgin and damned sick of it! She vowed to grab the first good looking guy she met by the you-know-what's and roll with him naked on the quadrangle lawn at high noon!
        
            With Barbara it was impossible to know when she was serious, if ever. But I didn't doubt for a minute chastity was not an important attribute in her eyes. She scared me and thrilled me and constantly left me bewildered. Here was someone who didn't care a hoot about what she said, who heard her say it, or what the world thought of her actions. She exuded self-confidence while I was a baffled child, tagging after her as she smiled and laughed her way around the campus. The school was only open to incoming freshmen, but Barbara knew everyone before the first four days were over. She would tug my arm to jump in to any gathering, especially of the opposite sex, and in minutes be leading the conversation.
      
            Back at the dorm, she couldn't sit still. “Let's find a party!” she'd yell. “Come on, Lucy. The world is crying for us! Let's have some action!” No one had ever asked me to join them! But much as I wanted to, little Lucy was far too embarrassed to accept.
      
            “I hear there are some sophomores coming on campus early. They've got their own house!” she'd say. “Let's go! What are you waiting for? They're only boys! We'll knock 'em dead!” but I'd just smile and mumble some excuse.
      
            At first I felt some hidden need to be faithful to Paul's memory, but our time together had come and gone so fast I wasn't sure what I should feel. I longed to tell Barbara about my “experience” but I never dared to do so. Then there was the fear any boy I even spoke to would somehow discover I was no longer pure, so to speak, as silly as that sounds nowadays. Lucy the bad girl. But the overwhelming reason was my natural shyness. I was scared witless! But all that changed, less than a week after I arrived, my first Friday night.
      
            “You've got to go, Lucy! I found out his name, it's Gary Foley, the one who was giving you the eye in the cafeteria. It's a fraternity party for God's sake! Think of it! It'll be a blast!”
      
            Barbara and two other girls wouldn't listen to any of my weak excuses and insisted I tag along. I hadn't been to a party of any kind since my ninth birthday and I was petrified. But it wasn't near as frightening as I had supposed. It was fun; loud and rowdy but everyone was laughing and it was like nothing I'd ever experienced! More and more fun as the evening progressed! Fruity, sweet tasting drinks were thrust upon me, making everything bathed in a wild blur of laughter. I even danced! Conversation wasn't near as difficult as usual. Then things started to become baffling, little lapses began to occur.
      
            “How did I get in the lady's room?” I'd laugh and so would everyone else. “I don't remember coming in here!” Someone would ask me a question, calling me by name but I didn't remember meeting them. I'd have another drink. I would be dancing, then I'd be sitting, talking seriously to someone I didn't know and then forgetting what I said. I remember talking in an unaccustomed babble, spilling out my life story, probably even my secret time with Paul, but later, time itself became a blur. Then I couldn't see Barbara and the others I'd come with but someone took my hand and led me back when I went to find them. And we'd have another drink. Then there was a long time I didn't remember anything but low lights and incredibly loud music.
      
            But later, much later, I gradually became aware something was incredibly wrong! I awoke with a start to find Gary Foley on top of me, ripping at my clothes, both of us wedged behind a sofa pulled out slightly from the wall. The music was so loud and our position so muffled my cries and screams were simply part of the mayhem, muted by his face pressed on mine. One of my legs was twisted beneath the sofa and I could hardly move. I felt ripped and torn and there was a mass within my body and I screamed, but he blocked my mouth further with his and wouldn't stop. He held my arms above my head and I couldn't move; I was trapped beneath him, my legs spread open by his kneeling body between them as that part of him jammed deeper and deeper inside me! And then, as I fought and struggled to be free of him, I saw the others, four boys standing on the sofa above us, bouncing up and down, yelling and laughing and cheering him on! Suddenly he finished hurting me and with a silly drunken smile crawled away, pulling up his pants as he stumbled to his feet.
      
            “Next!” he yelled at the top of his lungs as everyone laughed and cheered while my head spun in dizziness as I struggled and crawled away on hands and knees.
      
            I remember staggering to my feet and slapping at someone who tried to stop me, and then running from the room, tear-stained, gagging, ripped and mortified, my hands to my face so as never to see a one of them again. I dashed out the open door, across the lawn, stumbled, tearing my clothes further and cutting my arm. I vomited all over myself, and urinated into my shoes.
      
        When I reached my dorm, I ran directly to the shower, and stood there, fully clothed and sobbing, and tried to soak the evening away in a torrent of tepid water. Then, stripping away every stitch I wore, I stuffed them into the trash and ran, naked, down the hall to my room. With the door slammed and braced-closed by a chair, I sobbed and sobbed until there were no tears left to shed from my aching body. Finally, with the first light of dawn, I managed to bring myself to some semblance of composure. I stuffed my suitcase, clean and dirty together, dressed, and staggered to the bus station. Six hours and two transfers later I was back home at Sea View, less than a week after I'd left.
      
            The time in transit enabled me to further compose myself and I tried to think of a logical answer to why I had fled my Bendix scholarship and the university. I concocted a story I would tell and resolved to answer none of their questions. But when my mother opened the door that Saturday noon, all reason sank away in tears and anguish.
      
            I reached for her through the blur of my tears but she stepped back and looked at me sternly. “I told you,” she said, as if she had been there, somehow knowing. “Good girls don't do it!”
      
            She grabbed me by the shoulder and marched me to the bathroom where she sat me on the open toilet. From the closet she brought what I despised while I shook my head in protest. As usual, I dared not stop her and could only sob a contrition for a sin I hadn’t committed.
      
            She pulled off the rest of my clothes and sat me, like a child, in a scalding bathtub for most of the afternoon, as if gallons of water would wash and drown away the pain within me. She didn't even bother to close the bathroom door as I sat huddled there, unable to move myself to give this shamed and trembling creature a little privacy.
      
            My father, who was in the house all the time, said nothing, although I overheard him later mumble as he passed by, “I hope to God the stupid girl's not gotten herself pregnant. All we need is a little bastard running around the place.”
       
             Later, mother made me dress and we marched to church and Saturday afternoon confession.
       
            “I was intimate with a boy,” I blubbered, for a second time in my life, though intimacy played no part in what had happened.
      
            Father Hammond tried to question me but my wracking sobs became louder and he had the decency to stop. A quick ten Hail Marys and ten Our Fathers later I was absolved, from what I was never sure. I have not been to confession since.
         
            I forgave my parents much in life, but not the lack of understanding that weekend when I was a limp rag, incapable of thought or motion and more in need of their love than anything in the world. Here was their daughter, torn and hurt, crying for help, and they treated me as if I were the campus harlot, having sex with anyone who asked and laughing about it afterwards. I never sought an ounce of comfort in that house from that day forward, as long as either of them lived, and, I pray to God for forgiveness for it, but I gave them little or no comfort in return.
 

Author Notes Lucille, age thirty-seven, is a school teacher and a near-recluse. After her mother's death, she remodels her lifetime family home, to rid it of ghosts of the past. At the suggestion of her priest, she records her thoughts and feelings in a diary. She has developed a strong interest in old letters found in her mother's dresser. She has reluctantly agreed to weekly Friday evening dinners with a shy church acquaintance, Mr. Anderson. She had grown comfortable with his company, but recently she reacted abruptly when he kissed her. Part of her, whom she calls Amy, is pushing her to stop fighting any hint of intimacy. She is recalling troubled times in her past.


Chapter 19
Friday, October 20th (Part One.)

By Fridayauthor

       Friday Number Ten, October 20th (Part One.)
           
            My God truly looks out for this miserable wretch Lucille Peabody! Why I don't know, but I am as happy as a child at Christmas that He keeps me on His list! Last Friday, still dressed in my school clothes, and thinking about mixing some tuna salad for my lonely dinner, I heard the doorbell ring. When I answered, there was Mr. Anderson! My mouth agape, I didn't know what to say.
      
            “It's Friday,” he smiled. “Am I early?”
      
            I felt like a fool but it didn't bother me a whisker! With him waiting patiently on the sofa, I quickly changed and we were off to Delaneys like so many Fridays before. It was a marvelous evening! Aside from an, I-hope- you're-feeling-better, no mention was made of the prior week. We simply continued as previously, chatting about inconsequential matters and enjoying each other's company.
      
            After dinner, I went so far as to suggest we return to my house and watch a detective mystery on public television, which we had discussed. We did so, even sharing the bottom third of my Christmas sherry. Bashful Lucille is blossoming! And the evening ended with a hug and a goodnight kiss!
      
            I must seem like a silly fool to be so exuberant over so simple an evening, but it was like a rebirth to me. I had staggered through the week, not giving my little ones the attention they deserved, home chores piling up, unable to move from the lethargy that enveloped me like a seaside fog. I moped about, buried in the sad knowledge that I had again failed, after I'd promised myself to cease trying. Even the hens had to do without me on Wednesday; I couldn't face them knowing they'd soon learn, if they didn't already know, that Mildred's little girl Lucille had blown it once more. I couldn't bear to sit there knowing it probably came as no surprise to them.
      
            But then came Friday! When I will fall from this cloud, I can't say, but while I'm up here, I feel like singing! Sunday, at mass, with Mr. Anderson beside me again, I said every prayer of thank-you I could remember to my God for being so kind to me to give me another chance.
      
            Amy wants to talk about details. “Was Mr. Anderson really sick? More likely, Lucille was the victim of an overwrought imagination!”
      
            “Perhaps,” I answer. “But I don’t care.”
       
            “Of course you do!” Amy mutters. “You wonder if in fact, he terminated our weekly get together, but then changed his mind after missing just one Friday.”
      
            “He was simply sick,” I answer.
      
            “That’s not what you thought until he came knocking on your door! You weren’t even dressed to go out!”
      
            “A misunderstanding,” is all I can muster.
      
            “Discuss your feelings like a normal human being,” Amy chides.
      
            I try to ignore her. I’m an adult, standing here arguing with myself like an idiot, but Amy won’t let me go.
       
            Amy believes we should explain to Mr. Anderson, why Lucille is the way she is, as if I truly know. I resist. I wish to do nothing to disturb how grateful I feel for my renewed evenings in the gentleman’s company, regardless of how they came about.
      
            “What would have you done if he kissed you, with passion?” she persists. “Would have you stopped him again?”
      
            “I didn’t . . . stop him. I was just . . . startled.”
      
            “Then tell him that, damnit!”
      
            Would I have stopped him? Would have I explained myself, or allowed him to proceed? No! I answer. But I knew he wouldn't again kiss me as he had the week before. I believe he perceived my reluctance and as a result, although I'm sure though he doesn't understand, he is abiding by our original agreement to bow to each other's wishes. We are back to our original commitment! Our Friday night compact remains intact!
      
            Amy simply mutters her disagreement. “You invited him back to the house,” she says, as if I were leading him on. If I could see her, I know she’d be smiling.
      
            I block my ears and seek out Black Cat as a less argumentative confident.
      
            I'm becoming suspicious of Amy's resolve to our commitment of lifelong abstinence from intimacy, sexual or otherwise. Though she denies it, I see less fervor in her convictions than previously expressed. I sense she’s accusing me of conducting an artful ruse, cleverly feigning my sexual phobia in a sinister plot to entice the reluctant bachelor Mr. Anderson into my clutches! I just laugh at her. She is dead wrong, of course. The very thought of physical intimacy, with anyone, petrifies me, sending cold chills down my spine until I shake from the thought of it. I see ghosts above me, laughing and jeering, and feel the roughness and the hurt, and the smothering humiliation of that other long ago night.
      
            Twenty years, half a lifetime, and it won't go away. You were wrong, Father Hammond! The only remedy to the pain of the past is my shell, and I shall keep it intact. After showering, I stood looking in the mirror at a perfectly normal body that houses a mind that denies it access to corporal pleasure, directed by a personality so shy and bashful that it can't even explain itself. But as I stood there, dripping water on my new tiles, smelling of soap and shampoo, I was as happy as a babe.
      
        Yes, Amy, I'll continue to protect this person with all my will and be thankful of what little pleasure comes in spite of myself.
 

Author Notes Lucille, age thirty-seven, is a school teacher and a near-recluse. After her mother's death, she remodels her lifetime family home, to rid it of ghosts of the past. At the suggestion of her priest, she records her thoughts and feelings in a diary. She has developed a strong interest in old letters found in her mother's dresser. She has reluctantly agreed to weekly Friday evening dinners with a shy church acquaintance, Mr. Anderson. She had grown comfortable with his company, but recently she reacted abruptly when he kissed her. Part of her, whom she calls Amy, is pushing her to stop fighting any hint of intimacy. She is recalling troubled times in her past.


Chapter 20
Friday, October 20th (Part Two.)

By Fridayauthor

           Friday Number Ten, October 20th (Part Two.)
      
            It is Thursday afternoon now. School has ended for the day and I have floated down somewhat from my cloud of euphoria though I remain in love with life. But odd feelings creep their way into my consciousness, tossing aside my rote and causing havoc with my concentration. I have been on edge most of this week though there is no apparent reason. The solitude of my house gives me less comfort than it should. The changes to my home have been remarkable and I truly love my quarters, but it is as if something is lacking. I spend hours in my new den which has so completely replaced my parents room I scarcely remember that dark sanctuary I was loathe to enter, but even here I am not able to concentrate any more than in less hospitable surroundings.
        
            I actually went willingly to a special meeting of the hens last evening. They are planning a covered dish supper for tonight for one of their members who will be moving to a nursing home in another city. Her failing health requires her to move, near her daughter. A phone call would have sufficed to know what to bring but having missed last week's Wednesday gathering I made a personal visit.
      
            Mrs. O'Brien, the beneficiary of the planned supper, was not present so she became the topic of conversation. The discussion evolved to children who nowadays do not wish to inconvenience themselves to help their parents who did so much for them in life. I cringed inwardly. The “inconvenience” I endured was no modest concession, I want to shout. The hens compound the situation by giving me undeserved credit for caring for mother for so many years.
      
            Was I so kindly and charitable? I fear not. Perhaps I simply didn't have the courage to do that thing; send her off to some house of death to await her time amid like kind of failing individuals, while I wallowed in unbending guilt. My charity was inertia, a continuing of the status quo, the path most easily followed, not a gift of love. Mother became a habit; mornings and evenings administering to her shrinking body, rushing home at lunch to change her soiled wrappings and listening, ever faithfully, for her cursed bell summoning me.
      
            As I read Sarah's letters I wonder if her little acts of apparent kindness were also tainted with other motives. I think not, perhaps because I find it nearly impossible to think ill of this simple girl. There is much I'd dearly love to ask my new found friend of the last century, but I shall never have the opportunity. Still, she is giving me comfort and is helping me to chase the mood of the last few days.
      
             Amy says I miss my mother being in the house. At first I pooh-pooh her suggestion but on later reflection wondered if she is not, in part at least, correct. When I was very young a cousin and his wife occasionally visited us. The two never had a civil word to say to one another and the visits would often end in screaming matches between them, to everyone's embarrassment. Yet when the misses died, her husband was so lost he joined her in the grave a few weeks later. Voids in our lives perhaps need filling, even if they are created by the elimination of that which we detested while it existed.
      
            But I am in a far too favorable mood to let such weighty thoughts tax my scattered mind. I have my Fridays to look forward to and Black Cat is here to give me companionship. We are getting to know each other quite well, Black Cat and I. He is a quick study and has learned in hours that the refrigerator door means I am close to his food and if he steps up to my ankles and rubs and purrs he may be rewarded. Small expensive cans taste far better to his palette than dry food which he will only eat when all other offerings are exhausted.
      
            I have learned it is imprudent to lock Black Cat out of my bedroom as he will fling his body against my door until I relent and allow him entry. He will paw my face gently with his velvet pads just before the alarm sounds a new day and then stand patiently by the outside door, waiting to venture into my backyard for his morning business. No, any uneasiness about my life is quick to pass. I am truly content, both Black Cat and me.
      
            Amy's doubts aside, I remain totally firm in my resolve of nixing intimacy, physical or otherwise. As much as I care for Mr. Anderson, and, yes, in some ways need him, I won't let my feelings lead me to hurt once again. Thoughts of a looming impasse to our relationship are forever hinted by Amy but I chase them from the corridors of my mind. I am in too high a mood to allow them entrance. “Now” is for once the important time in my life, not yesterday or tomorrow and I chalk up my lack of concentration on the many changes that are taking place in my life.
      
            This is the element Amy has failed to consider. My situation has become a comfortable cocoon and I have no overwhelming urge to butterfly away from it. Amy and Lucy take excellent care of Lucy and Amy and the thought of altering this state to fit the whims and wishes of another party, for simple companionship is distasteful. Amy laughs at this, telling me I am fooling myself, minimizing my feelings, simply because I am experiencing emotions I've never felt before, but won't open the door to enjoy them.
      
            But I do enjoy them, Amy, whatever they are called. I even dance alone to my newly acquired music system if the mood strikes me. I hum to myself and wake with a smile to the new day. Go away, Amy! Lucille knows what she is doing.
        
            A wise Greek etched in the temple at Delphi the aphorism, “Know Thyself.” I do know myself, though at times I'm not sure when Amy tries to confuse me. Perhaps subconsciously Amy is me and even her name, Amy means “a me.” If so I pat the child-Lucy on the back if she were so clever in naming her make believe friend. But if Amy and I are one, then why do we persist in harboring these differences? I want her for my friend, someone to talk to in my aloneness, but why can't we see eye to eye? Why must we constantly argue and fight? I so want her to sing and dance and love life as I do, and stop reminding me of the shadows.
      
           
       
      
 

Author Notes Lucille, age thirty-seven, is a school teacher and a near-recluse. After her mother's death, she remodels her lifetime family home, to rid it of ghosts of the past. At the suggestion of her priest, she records her thoughts and feelings in a diary. She has developed a strong interest in old letters found in her mother's dresser. She has reluctantly agreed to weekly Friday evening dinners with a shy church acquaintance, Mr. Anderson. She had grown comfortable with his company, but recently she reacted abruptly when he kissed her. Part of her, whom she calls Amy, is pushing her to stop fighting any hint of intimacy. She is recalling troubled times in her past.


Chapter 21
Friday, October 27th (Part One.)

By Fridayauthor

            Friday Number Eleven, October 27th  (Part One.)
         
       
            It has been many days since I've written in this journal, though with good and just reason for my absence. So much has happened I'm not sure I won't fill these remaining pages before I bring this book up to date with all that transpired.
      
            That Thursday evening, as I indicated, I had an engagement with my church-going compatriots for dinner in the church hall to wish old Mrs. O'Brien a farewell. She is a kindly soul, nearly as quiet as I, and I'll miss her. Each of us was to bring our assigned food so I prepared my platter of tiny sandwiches and, on the spur of the moment, placed them on my grandmother's cut-glass serving tray. The tray has resided with its matched twin in the dining room china closet since the beginning of time. The fact that I put the family treasure to practical use only highlights the changes that are occurring in Lucille Peabody of late!
      
            The clocks were moved back to standard time the prior Saturday so it was dark as I began the short walk to the church, carrying the heavy tray. I never made it to my destination.
        
            Hawthorne Street is a steep hill which nearly switches back upon itself in its descent toward the center of our town and the ocean beyond. Stairs have been constructed for pedestrians to cut off the curve but like so much in our declining city, they are not well kept nor properly lighted. Because of the weight of my load I ignored common sense and began to use the stairs as a shortcut in spite of the dark shadows that crowded it like a widow’s smock.
       
            I had only the briefest sensation of a hand on my shoulder near my neck and another grabbing at my pocketbook, and a voice that warned me not to scream. I didn't scream, but instead spun around and in one motion slammed grandmother's crystal platter against the head of a dark face, my only glimpse before being shoved backwards, down the black stairs into oblivion. My next conscious sensation was opening my eyes to bright lights and a dripping tube attached to my arm. The white sheets of Holy Angels Hospital covered a body that ached from top to bottom. I was informed it was Friday afternoon, nearly twenty-four hours later. My head was ringing like a church bell.
      
            I suppose I slipped in and out of my stupor for several hours. Dreams floated by, happy ones and scary ones, but none stayed around in detail after I awoke. It was evening before I fully regained consciousness and found myself surrounded by scores of student-drawn get well cards and several vases of flowers. Mr. Anderson was sitting next to the bed, a book in his lap.
        
            “Hi, Sleeping Beauty,” he said with a smile. “They said you might wake up soon.”
      
            I tried to return the smile but I couldn't. My lips were parched shut, my head throbbed painfully. I hurt too badly to move.
        
            In spite of my silence Mr. Anderson sensed my thirst and thankfully raised, first a damp face cloth, then a straw to my dried lips. I nodded in thanks and closed my eyes, searching my body for mortal wounds and missing limbs. The left side of my head was swabbed in bandages and my left leg and side also felt as if there was a wrapping of some kind, but it was still painful to the touch. I could feel the bareness of my skin against the sheet under me. The hospital garb covered only my front beneath the covers. I drew the sheet to my chin.
            “Is there anything I can get for you?” he asked.
        
            “A nightgown,” I muttered.
       
            He rose. “No problem.” He bent and kissed my forehead. Sleeping Beauty and Prince Charming. “Where are your keys?”
       
            “My purse,” I mumbled. I must have dozed off again as I don't recall his leaving. Sometime later a nightgown and other things, probably suggested by the nurse, appeared on the edge of my bed. I experienced a wave of annoyance that someone had rummaged through my dresser, the first intrusion since mother's forages of long ago. Then, in a panic, I remembered sending Mr. Anderson on the errand. He was no longer next to my bed.
        
            With the help of a nurse who was much cheerier than I felt, I donned my familiar flannel garment. I felt a modicum of snugness though I still hurt painfully with each movement and was as groggy as a beaten prize fighter.
        
            I could tell it was dark outside but I assumed it was still Thursday, just much later. I don't remember either knowing what had happened or even wondering about it. I was still in a daze for hours. Being in a hospital was a new experience to me; I had never been a patient and in spite of my mother's long illness neither had she. My occasions for visiting others were minimal.
       
            I tried to sleep but there followed a succession of medical people poking and probing and assuring me I would recover, with a sore hip and headache. The disorientation would leave me in a matter of hours; it was as much the drugs as my injury. I just wanted them to go away and let me sleep. I suppose I was grumpier than I would have been in a conscious state, but I didn't care.
      
            A policeman stopped by and asked me some questions but I don't remember how I responded before a doctor chased him out. Father Hammond stopped by next, with a kind word and, thankfully, a short visit. He was a reminder of this journal and a wave of dread passed over me, knowing Mr. Anderson had been in my house! Then I remembered my bookcase hiding place for this tome.
      
            Just as Father Hammond left, in popped my sister Emily, looking as if she was viewing a ghost.
      
            “My God,” she said, “When I saw the priest leave, I thought they'd given you the last rites!”
      
            She began to cry and wrapped her arms around me, nearly tearing the IV from my arm. “Luce, if anything happened to you I'd die. Now look what you're doing, my mascara is running down my cheeks!” I could feel her hot tears against me. “If you don't tell me you're all better I'll never forgive you!”
       
            How can Em and I, two chickens hatched in the same nest, be so dissimilar? I love her so much it hurts though I've not spent a hundred hours in her company in the last thirty years. It's just sufficient to know she'll always be there when the need comes along. I was delighted that she dropped her life and responsibilities to dash to my side. I cried to myself later that night, from the sheer joy of knowing someone cared for me as much as my sister.
      
            Over the next few hours I had only the slightest awareness of Emily being in the room at times, and Mr. Anderson too. I could sense more than hear subdued conversations, though I paid no attention to the words. Much later, I awoke to a higher level of consciousness with Emily standing over me.
      
            “Hi,” I murmured.
      
            “Hi, yourself! You look like dog-meat, little sister. How do you really feel?”
      
            “Like dog-meat. My head's killing me, my hip's killing me, and I have to pee.” I started to get up.
      
            “Here,” she said, holding up a pan designed for the function. “Go in this.”
      
            “I'm not going in that . . . thing!”
      
            “For God's sake, Luce, you're plugged into an IV! You can't go traipsing off to the loo just because you're modest. I'll get a nurse to help you.”
      
            “I don't want to pee in front of a nurse either!” I grumbled.
      
            “Then let me help.” I hesitated and she turned away in frustration. “For God's sake Luce, I used to change your diaper!”
        
            “Where is Mr. Anderson?”
      
            “Mister Anderson? Phil? He's right outside!”
      
            “I mean Philip,” I didn't dare tell her I was still “Miss Peabody.” She's known him a couple of hours and he's “Phil?” No, I still hadn't detailed my Fridays evenings to my sister.
          
 
            “I'll go out and distract Mr. Perfect . . . grease the skids for you! Tell him what a great wife you'd make!”
      
            “Don't you dare!” I yelled through clenched teeth!
      
            She just laughed but left me to my own devices. As soon as she was out of the door I hurriedly maneuvered myself into position and urinated, with overwhelming relief, my stream sounding like a fire alarm in the metal container. Now that the thing was full what was I to do with it? Ah, the blessings of convalescence! I was in a terrible mood.
      
            Emily and Mr. Anderson came into the room smiling while I was trying to discreetly get rid of the container, but even the act of sitting up made me dizzy.
      
            “Now tell me, what happened?” Emily asked as she took the pan from me, thankfully with some discretion.
       
            “I guess I got mugged.”
      
            “Where's the Mace I sent you?”
      
            “With the Christmas ornaments. I'm going to hang it on the tree this year.”
      
            “You're impossible!”
      
            I remembered my purse. “He didn't get my pocket book. I think I hit him.”
      
            “You sure as hell did!” Emily said with joy. “You knocked the shit out of him! He's three doors down the hall and in a lot worse shape than you!”
      
            Gradually I learned the details. A passerby had seen my assailant laying on the sidewalk, unconscious, in a pool of blood and broken crystal, the strap to my pocketbook still in his hand. It was the ambulance attendant who noticed me at the bottom of the stairs, equally unconscious. Apparently we rode to the hospital together, assailant and victim, neither aware of the other.
      
            Mr. Anderson smiled. “You did very well for yourself, Lucille. I'm proud of you, but you took a heck of a chance. You should have just given him the money.”
      
            He called me Lucille. He'd never done that before. I realized it was for Emily's benefit but nevertheless, it sounded nice.
      
            “I didn't do anything except react,” I answered, feeling a blush. “I had no idea what I was doing. Is he hurt badly?”
      
            “Don't worry about that scum,” Emily said. “It's you who needs to get better.” She began patting down the bed covers in a motherly fashion.
      
            “What happened to Grandmother's cut-glass platter?” I asked.
      
            Mr. Anderson answered. “I’m afraid it’s smashed in a dozen pieces.”
      
            “Oh,” I said with dismay, “It was a hundred years old.”
      
            “Oh yeah,” said Emily sarcastically, “as if it's been out of that china closet once in the past thirty years! For God's sake Luce, forget it! It's a wonder the damn thing didn't self-destruct from the pure joy of freedom from that house. Besides, there was a pair of trays.”
      
            “I still can't believe what you did,” Mr. Anderson added.
          
            “Us quiet types may be bashful but we're no pushovers,” I said, feeling a little better.
      
            “Do you two want to be alone?” Emily asked, looking from Mr. Anderson to me. Neither of us spoke for a moment. Finally Mr. Anderson broke the silence and answered Emily.
 

Author Notes Lucille, age thirty-seven, is a school teacher and a near-recluse. After her mother's death, she remodels her lifetime family home, to rid it of ghosts of the past. At the suggestion of her priest, she records her thoughts and feelings in a diary. She has developed a strong interest in old letters found in her mother's dresser. She has reluctantly agreed to weekly Friday evening dinners with a shy church acquaintance, Mr. Anderson. She had grown comfortable with his company, but recently she reacted abruptly when he kissed her. Part of her, whom she calls Amy, is pushing her to stop fighting any hint of intimacy. She is recalling troubled times in her past.


Chapter 22
Friday, October 27th (Part Two.)

By Fridayauthor

            Friday Number Eleven, October 27th  (Part Two.)
           
            “No, that's okay,” Mr. Anderson answered my sister. “You've travelled a long distance and I'm sure you have to return soon. I'll be staying right here. We'll have our time together.”
      
            I looked up at Mr. Anderson and smiled. “Thank you for getting my nightgown.”
      
            “No problem. If there's anything else, just whistle. I’ll be nearby.” He rose and walked toward the door. “I'll give you two sisters some time alone.” He left.
      
            “You've got HIM?” Emily screamed as soon as Mr. Anderson had left the room. “He's a hunk! You little fox! You never said a word! Tell me you're sleeping with him!”
      
            “We're just friends,” I answered with a smile.
        
            “A nun wouldn't be 'just friends' with a catch like that! Nobody's 'just friends' nowadays! Luce, what am I going to do with you? No one is giving out virginity awards. This isn't the nineteen-thirties!”
      
            I continued smiling at my outspoken sister. “Oh, I forgot,” she continued, “Good Catholic girls don't do it, do they? Only bad girls do that horrid stuff.”
      
            “It has nothing to do with that,” I answered defensively. “We just enjoy each other's company once in a while.” She rolled her eyes and sighed in exasperation.
      
            “Is he gay?”
      
            “Of course he’s not! He's a widower. He has two grown children.”
      
             She bent down and kissed me. “I love you like crazy Sis, but I don't know what to do with you!” She picked up the shoulder edges of my flannel nightgown.
      
            “Yuck! Where did you get this rag? The Salvation Army wouldn't take it! God, you look like the little old lady who lived in the shoe! And he's seeing you in this!” She moved to lift up the hem and peek. “Don't tell me you're still wearing those God-awful cotton drawers mother used to force on us, are you?”
      
            “Heavens no!” I said, yanking down my garment with a blush.
      
            She just laughed. “I've gone and embarrassed Lucy again!”
      
            She reached over and hugged me about the waist, her grasp tightening my nightgown against my chest.
      
            “God,” she said staring down at me, “if I had tits like you I'd have ruled the world!”
      
            “You do,” I answered, with a smile as I tried to squirm away.

            “Bull! You're twice as big. . . .”
      
            “No. I mean you rule the world. You do, you know.”
      
            She smiled back and released her grip. “I guess I do, don't I? I've got a great family and Fred is super and so are the kids. I've fallen in do-do face first and come out like a rose, haven't I little sister?”
      
            If anyone said half the things to me my sister Emily does, I'd run off in tears and hide beneath a rock, but I love her so dearly she can do no wrong.
      
            “Did I ever tell you what I did about my cotton drawers?” she said, laughing. “Some boy caught sight of them when I bent over and made a fool of me. I probably slapped him silly, but I ran home anyway and cleaned out my bureau drawer, rolled up every damn one of them in a ball and tossed them at ma. I told her I'd go to school bare-ass before I'd ever wear them again!”
      
            “What did she do?” I asked in amazement.
      
            “Bought me new ones, I guess. I don't remember.”
      
            “You didn't get a beating?”
      
            “Probably.” Her mood darkened at once.
      
            “The past is dead. Forget it, Luce.” She slammed the door on the conversation by changing the subject. She felt the nightgown again. “This rag has got to go, Luce. I'll get you something sexy, so flimsy Mr. Hunk will want to ravage you right here at Holy Angels! That's what you need, little sister, a good ravaging!”
      
            I told her my nightgown was just fine, but she wouldn't listen.
      
            “Look, you're a woman, a young woman, not some old bag lady. Dress like it!  Hell, I'm embarrassing you again! Good! You need to be embarrassed; maybe it'll shake some sense into you!” She hugged me again. “Poor Luce, you're as bashful as a church mouse and I love you!”
      
            Amy claims I became a woman in the front seat of Paul Croucher's Chevrolet twenty years ago, only to become an old lady a few months later in a university frat house. I can't argue with her; my womanhood was of short duration. But when Emily returned later with a beautiful pale blue negligee, I put it on. It did look nice, but I felt half-naked. I told Amy it was to appease my sister Emily, but she didn't believe me. Em and I had a tug of war with me trying to pull the sheets up to my chin while she jerked them back down.
         
            Others came to call on Saturday; Mr. Abelard, our principal and three or four teachers who traveled in a group, as if there was strength in numbers. No, that's a tacky thing to say! After all, their indifference toward me has been the result of my stand-off actions. They were considerate to stop by and I should try harder to be nicer to them. Two of the hens also came calling, but I believe the nurses told everyone to make their visit a short one as no one tarried more than a few minutes. I was grateful for the limited visit. I still felt poorly.
      
            I spent much of Saturday dozing, with intermittent conversation in between, mostly with Em. She hustled in one time, after speaking with Mr. Anderson.
      
            “Luce, I love him! But he's as shy as you are! When you two go out on a date do you bring along a third party for conversation?”
      
            “Em. . . .” I looked at her sternly.
      
            “No, I'm not going to mess it up for you; I'm on your side!”
      
            It was my turn to sigh. “We talk about lots of things. We both like to read . . . mysteries, history. . . .”
      
            “Screw history! Start talking about anatomy! If you're going to hook this guy. . . .”
      
            “I don't want to hook anyone. I like living alone.” But the words sounded hollow, even to me. Emily gave me a don’t-be-absurd look.
      
            “We discuss lots of things, really.” I mentioned Sarah's letters and how I'd found them in mother's dresser, and how Mr. Anderson and I were both enjoyed studying them. Then, happy to be on a new subject, I asked Emily if she'd ever seen them or heard of the letters.
       
            “God, no,” She said. “I never went into that tomb unless summoned and sure didn't stick around long enough to rummage through Ma’s bloomers.”
      
            When I tried to pursue the subject, it became apparent Emily exhibited little interest.
      
            “Why should I care about those people who have been dead a century?” she asked when I informed her of my desire to try and find if Sarah or Anne were relatives. She was soon off on another story about her children's escapades.
      
            In more than short visits Emily's sheer exuberance exhausts me. I'm overcome by her zest for life and her fear of nothing. And yet the perimeter of our affection has clearly staked out-of-bounds markers. The past is taboo except in the most peripheral fashion.
      
            I would love to have told Emily all my secrets, all my fears and dreams and in turn heard hers, but ours is not that kind of relationship. I know as little of her as she truly knows of me and yet we both feel deeply for one another.
      
            When I was young and Emily would send cards and presents I'd feel she was an angel from heaven, someone larger than life who for an unknown reason actually loved me! And in between when she'd be off in her perfect world and I'd be left in the emotional squalor of mine, I'd dream she'd contract some horribly fatal disease from which the only survival would be part of me, a lung, a liver, an arm or leg. I'd then march bravely forth and, by so giving, prove my unending love for her. Sometimes I still feel that way.
      
            Though I love her deeply, I have purposely stayed away from her home, now only a few hours away, in spite of her asking me a thousand times. She has her life, and I am loth to intrude into it for fear I'll consume her with my needs. Perhaps I'm frightened of intimacy, even from the sister I love so very much.
 

Author Notes Lucille, age thirty-seven, is a school teacher and a near-recluse. After her mother's death, she remodels her lifetime family home, to rid it of ghosts of the past. At the suggestion of her priest, she records her thoughts and feelings in a diary. She has developed a strong interest in old letters found in her mother's dresser. She has reluctantly agreed to weekly Friday evening dinners with a shy church acquaintance, Mr. Anderson. She had grown comfortable with his company, but recently she reacted abruptly when he kissed her. Part of her, whom she calls Amy, is pushing her to stop fighting any hint of intimacy. After being mugged, she is recuperating in the hospital.


Chapter 23
Friday, October 27th (Part Three.)

By Fridayauthor

            Friday Number Eleven, October 27th  (Part Three.)
           
            Mr. Anderson remained nearby throughout Saturday although he continued to allow Emily to dominate the time with me. She was scheduled to return to her New York State home that evening now that she was assured my injuries were not life-threatening. He had called her as soon as he heard of my injury although he must have had to telephone a number of people to locate her. He knew she would be the person I would most wish to see.
       
            Late Saturday afternoon we had a few moments alone together. He had returned from another errand at my house, to feed Black Cat and pick up a comb and brush. He suggested bringing a book for me to read in case I felt up to it later, but I asked for Sarah's letters instead and he complied. It was strange, but I felt a degree of comfort in having Sarah near, even if only in the form of her written word.
      
            “Thanks for getting my things, again,” I said. “It seems I'm thanking you a lot lately. Did you have any trouble getting in the house?”
      
            “I guess I'd make a great second story man,” he answered. “Easy as pie.”
      
            Although I was thankful for his assistance, I was secretly disappointed that nosy Mrs. Forsythe allowed my premises to be violated without summoning a squadron of police. Her eyesight must have deteriorated more than I suspected. Though I sometimes complain about her and my other neighbors, I secretly appreciate their interest, regardless of their motives. It's comforting to know someone is peeking. Sister Emily lost a room full of furniture and all her electronic gizmos while she was vacationing in Florida a few years ago. No one even saw the truck. That could never happen on Hawthorne Street. Then again, Emily hasn’t been mugged within a couple of blocks of her house.
      
            Later, I tried to remember what Mr. Anderson and I talked about and couldn't, but it was easy conversation, pleasant and relaxing. I felt far better than at any point since I'd cascaded down the stairs. When he left during the obligatory meal time, Emily popped in while he was gone. She was as excited as a snow day from school.
      
            “I bet he took it!”
       
            “Took what?” I asked.
      
            “Your hair! There was a chunk of your auburn hair in an envelope on the night stand . . . they cut it off your head when they patched you up!” I reached up and touched my bandaged scalp. “Isn't that romantic?” she continued, “I think that's sweet! Like a love story! Prince Charming taking a lock of hair from the beautiful maiden!”
      
            “It's my hair,” I grumbled. “How much did they cut?”
      
            “What a poop you are! Who cares if you're bald? He's in love with you!”
      
            “Nonsense,” I answered, but Amy laughed, just as Mr. Anderson returned. I was beet-red, positive Emily would accuse him of lock-napping, but thank goodness, she was tactful enough to resist.
      
            “Did you see him too?” she asked Mr. Anderson. He nodded.
      
            “Who?” I asked.
      
            “The kid you clobbered,” Emily answered. “He's down the hall. I peeked in. He looks like hell.” She laughed.
      
            “Kid?” I asked. The police hadn't returned to question me and I’d been given no information on my attacker.
      
            Mr. Anderson answered. “His name is Tyrone Bradley. He's fourteen.  There's a policeman outside of his door, but it's open a little. You can sneak a peek.”
      
            I had brained, perhaps nearly killed, a fourteen year old boy? I had assumed it was some hardened criminal, some escaped or paroled junkie; not a boy. An eighth-grader? I was devastated. There must have been a shocked look on my face.
      
            “Don't worry,” Emily cautioned. “The cop outside won't let him near you. I don't think he could get up and get out of bed if he wanted to.”
      
            I didn't know what to say, but the boy remained on my mind. What if I had killed him?
      
            I was still thinking of Tyrone Bradley later when Emily prepared to leave.  She came in the room, dressed to travel, smiling, with tears streaming down her cheeks. She hugged me so tightly I thought I would faint; the pain in my ribs was like arrows. I made no move to stop her.
      
            “It's all set I worked it out with Mr. Wonderful. You two are coming out for Thanksgiving.”
      
            “No!”
       
            “No ‘no's’ about it. It's a done deal. He has directions and everything. He thinks it's a great idea!”
         
            “Don't I get a vote?”
      
            “Nope. You're in a sick bed; we didn't want to disturb you. I'm going back home and fluff up the feather bed so you two have a comfy little love nest to snuggle in.  . . . ”
      
            “Emily!”
      
            “Just kidding! You can make the round trip in one day; it's less than three hours. But you're both coming. I'm not taking no for an answer, at least to the visit, but I still think you're a fool not to sleep with him. Maybe I'll get Fred to disable his car so you have to stay. Call me!” Then she turned with a sob, “I hate 'good byes.’” She was gone from the room before I could protest further.
        
            As my room lights were being extinguished for the night, my doctor stopped by to say the police were still anxious to hear my side of the attack. He asked if I felt up to it. Though I didn't relish being questioned and had little to offer, I agreed to give a statement to the detective on Monday. Saturday night, in spite of having so much on my mind, I slept like a winter bear.
      
            Mr. Anderson and I spent most of Sunday together, from the time he returned from morning mass until evening dinner. Sarah was our chaperon. We read her long-stilled words, finishing the letters completely for the first time and afterwards re-reading a few before discussing them at length.
       
            We were reminded of our earlier chat wherein we described one another as people of another time. As I read Sarah's words aloud in the quiet hospital room the two of us were transported back to that other time, a farm house of the last century, where we sat, clothed in the warmth of a fire, friends and family nearby. It was a serene and altogether pleasant feeling.
       
            Together we watched through her words, as this young lady grew, experienced her joys and sadness, and disbursed charity and courage in a world we previously knew only from stilted history books. We followed her steps to the alter with shy Ez at her side and her loving family in attendance. We celebrated with her when she emerged from her quiet style with unaccustomed exuberance when she realized a baby would enter their lives in the autumn. The letters ended abruptly with the final startling sentence, “As soon as our child is able to travel, we're off to California!”
      
            As I read those words of the eighteen-fifties, I was shocked. Mention of the west occurred throughout the correspondence but when I had earlier glanced ahead at the last few letters I'd not read that final sentence indicating they planned to go.
      
            In one sense I couldn't hold back a deep feeling of pride for this simple young woman who was brave enough to leave behind a life she so cherished for the stark dangers of the west. And yet, her lack of knowledge of what she faced caused me to fear for the new family.
      
            “Why would she do it?” I stammered. I felt the urge to grab her by her cotton dress and plead with her not to leave this world of hers we'd witnessed, a world of friends, loving family and contentment. “Sarah, are they not telling you what's out there?” I asked, as if she were with us. “The wilds of the west; not one in a hundred makes his fortune! Tell Ez you won't go!”
      
            Mr. Anderson just smiled but I repeated my question. “Why would she leave all that security behind? Didn't she know what she was up against?”
      
            “She’s trusting enough to follow a dream,” he answered.
 

Author Notes Lucille, age thirty-seven, is a school teacher and a near-recluse. After her mother's death, she remodels her lifetime family home, to rid it of ghosts of the past. At the suggestion of her priest, she records her thoughts and feelings in a diary. She has developed a strong interest in old letters found in her mother's dresser. She has reluctantly agreed to weekly Friday evening dinners with a shy church acquaintance, Mr. Anderson. She had grown comfortable with his company, but recently she reacted abruptly when he kissed her. Part of her, whom she calls Amy, is pushing her to stop fighting any hint of intimacy. After being mugged, she is recuperating in the hospital.


Chapter 24
Fridays, October 27th (Part Four.)

By Fridayauthor

            Friday Number Eleven, October 27th  (Part Four.)
           
            I closed my eyes and pictured a train of wagons on a flat and empty prairie, with miles of dry dirt and heat before them. I could see mountains, Indians, wild animals, all matter of dangers lurking in the shadows of Sarah’s future. On one rode a pretty young woman with a newborn babe in her arms, the security of her past life fading out of sight in the trail of dust behind her.
      
            If Sarah wrote from the west to her cousin, the letters were lost to time. We were left to wonder if failure or success awaited this new family we had grown to know. Our curiosity heightened as we yearned more than ever to learn what had become of them, and their loved ones.
        
            Mr. Anderson wrote copious notes throughout my reading, trying to tie a relationship to the first names, the only identification mentioned in the letters. He planned to check the Federal Census records and try to find family names. It would at best, be a difficult chore.
      
            Both of us were tired and a little melancholy when he kissed me lightly and left me to my thoughts and slumber.
      
            I awoke Monday feeling much more like my old self. By that time I was able to get up and walk short distances and the resulting independence improved my attitude. The police detective arrived just as I finished breakfast.
      
            I explained as best I could, to the middle-aged detective, what had transpired Thursday evening. I attempted to answer his questions.
      
            “No, there wasn't a struggle. I simply whirled around and hit him in one motion, just as I fell backward, down the stairs.”
      
            “Did he push you?”
       
            “I don't know. It was all reflex. He had his hand by my neck and was pulling on my purse with the other as I swung at him.”
      
            He made a note on his pad before looking up. “Do you think you’d recognize him?”
      
            “No,” I said. “It all happened too quickly.” I didn’t say so, but I thought he was an adult, not a child.
      
            The detective was embarrassed asking his next question. “Did he touch you, sexually? Touch you?”
      
            “No. Not like that.” I murmured. "He put his hand on my neck.”
      
            “Did you think he was going to hurt you?”
      
            “Of course! He said as much!”
      
            The detective assured me I was safe in my bed and apologized for the fact my attacker was kept so close by. The charge to be filed against Tyrone Bradley was aggravated assault.
      
            “What will happen to him?” I asked.
      
            “You don't have to worry about Mr. Bradley anymore. Where he's going he won't bother anyone for a very long time.”
      
            “Has he done this before?” I asked. The detective looked at me as if my question was foolish.
      
            “Once is enough. Thank God you had the guts to take him out. He might have killed the next victim!”
      
            Guts had nothing to do with it, I wanted to say. Give the medal to grandmother's cut glass tray. “Where will he be sent?” I asked.
      
            “The State Youth Detention Facility,” the burly detective answered.
      
            I had read about “YDF” in the newspapers. They referred to the facility as the children's prison. I couldn't believe anyone who went there would come out an improved citizen, regardless of their age or makeup upon entry. I supposed it was a graduate school for every kind of crime and violence imaginable. In spite of what had happened to me I couldn't help but feel a pang of sympathy for the young man occupying the bed four doors down from me. I kept thinking of him not as a hardened criminal, but as an eighth-grader.
      
            “Does he have a family?” I asked.
      
            The detective laughed. “Not one that gives a damn. No one knows who the father is and the old lady is on the streets half the time.”
      
            “Who decides what happens to Tyrone?” I asked. It sounded strange using his name.
      
            “The punk is supposed to be released from the hospital this Wednesday.  There's a hearing set for the following Monday morning in Judge Ingersoll's chamber. The word is the kid's lawyer is going for a deal that will give him a year in the Kiddie-can. Otherwise, we can push to prosecute him as an adult and he could spend a long time away, with the big boys. You can testify if you're up to it. What you say will go a long way toward the Judge’s decision. You're the victim he put in the hospital.”
      
            What Tyrone Bradley had done to me was reprehensible and no feelings of sympathy could erase, or even minimize that act. I knew I should attend the hearing although at first I had no idea what I might offer to the proceedings. Furthermore, the thought of standing before a judge terrified me. I was incapable of presenting my opinion verbally, in a calm, succinct fashion that would make any sense. Thankfully, the detective didn't insist I attend court. After saying he'd type up my statement for signature, he left.
      
            Monday afternoon I did something silly. I nervously crept down the corridor and visited my assailant. I'm not sure why I did it except out of curiosity; curiosity about a fourteen-year-old who had so young learned violence. The policeman at the door allowed me to peek in the room.

            Tyrone Bradley looked far from threatening as he lay swathed in head bandages, more than the wrappings of his victim, his dark face a stark contrast against the sheets. He looked as meek as a child, perhaps because I hold the sword of incarceration over his head. Neither of us spoke but I'm sure he realized who I was. The visit was brief, but seeing him did not help me decide what, if anything, I should do.
      
            The doctors released me from the hospital on Tuesday. I was still feeling a little wobbly when I stepped from the mandatory wheelchair into Mr. Anderson's car, waiting at the hospital curb. I was happy to return to my world. The doctor told me in no uncertain terms, I was not to return to school for at least a week. I had plenty of time to regain my land legs. My left side hurt but aspirin and sitting still seemed to help. My swami bandage had been reduced to a simple patch covering the stitches on the left side of my head. I could almost comb my hair enough to cover it.
      
            The subject of my missing tresses hadn’t been introduced. I was inclined to discount Emily's theory that Mr. Anderson had pilfered my hair. However, during the short drive home, he owned up to the crime.
      
            “I have a confession to make,” he said, “I purloined a lock of your hair.”
      
            “Whatever for?” I asked, surprised by his admission.
      
            “Let's chock it up to a souvenir,” he answered with a smile. “Do you mind?”
      
            “No,” I answered, selfconsciously patting my head. “I guess I've got enough left.” That was the extent of our conversation on the subject, but his admission made me wonder, and smile.
      
            Mr. Anderson held my arm, walking me to my door, but paused inside the front hall as Black Cat scrambled by. “Is there anything else I can do?” he asked.
      
            “No. You've been more than kind enough and I'm sure you've been neglecting your store.”
      
            “Then Friday evening, if you think you'll be up to it?” 

            “Oh, yes!” I said with no pause. He bent and kissed me on the lips and was gone, leaving me alone, at least of human contact, for the first time in nearly a week.
      
 

Author Notes Lucille, age thirty-seven, is a school teacher and a near-recluse. After her mother's death, she remodels her lifetime family home, to rid it of ghosts of the past. At the suggestion of her priest, she records her thoughts and feelings in a diary. She has developed a strong interest in old letters found in her mother's dresser. She has reluctantly agreed to weekly Friday evening dinners with a shy church acquaintance, Mr. Anderson. She had grown comfortable with his company, but recently she reacted abruptly when he kissed her. Part of her, whom she calls Amy, is pushing her to stop fighting any hint of intimacy. After being mugged, she is recuperating in the hospital.


Chapter 25
Friday, November 3rd (Part One.)

By Fridayauthor

            Friday Number Twelve, November 3rd (Part One.)
           
            I spent most of that Tuesday, my first day home, resting although I managed to fix myself something to eat and bathe in privacy. It was after noon before it dawned on me today was Halloween and I was totally unprepared! I considered walking the three blocks to a corner store but even Lucille Peabody is not quite that foolish. Instead, I called a taxi for my shopping trip. I felt like a truant from my convalescence and discovered myself looking over my shoulder lest I get caught away from my prescribed bed. After purchasing the needed items I returned home and set about hurriedly creating little crepe-paper pumpkins filled with candy.
      
            It was a tradition, or more appropriately a habit, to give my little second graders a treat on this day, each with an individual name and a personal note saying how special each child was to me. Getting the prizes to them posed an additional problem, but Mr. Anderson again came to the rescue. He stopped by as I finished packing the treats, claiming he was in the area, and wanted to look in on me. He might have stayed longer had I not sent him scurrying off to my school as closing time was near.
      
            I always harbored mixed feelings about Halloween. Though I loved seeing my children in costume at school, I dreaded coming home where my mother shuttered the house to darkness, pretending absence to all the roving witches and vampires. It had always been that way. As a child I was never allowed to beg, as she called it, nor were others given any prizes if they ventured to our door. I would sit on the floor and peek past the draped window at the dark shadows, laughing and skipping down my street, and dream of being among them. The next day it was my chore to wash off the egg stains and scrape the wax hurled and painted on our property by the disappointed revelers.
      
            This year would be different! This first Halloween after my mother's death, the previously darkened house on Hawthorne Street would be as bright as a yule tree and goodies distributed with abandon! I continued with my paper pumpkins until I'd accumulated a great pile of sweets and was ready for the parade of revelers!
      
            But nature took hold and I collapsed exhausted into my sofa, hardly able to struggle to the door to answer the first ring of the bell. But it was not a trick-or-treater; it was Mr. Anderson, returning yet again, with a get well card signed by all my second grade charges. When he saw my sorry state he remained, handing out pumpkins by the gross until the last fairy princess and monster was fast asleep in their bed. I watched with pleasure from my sofa, a blanket about me, knowing I'd have been unable to distribute my treasures without him.
       
            We had little time to speak to one another, the throngs were so large. By the time they were gone, I was more than ready for sleep. A fond kiss goodnight and once again I was alone.
      
            Later, in the darkest part of the night, I awoke, short of breath, with a peculiar feeling about my body. I must have been dreaming but any details of my nocturnal encounter fled with my awakening. I lay there for some time but sleep eluded me. Nor would that tingle subside. While it was happening, I tried not to think of Mr. Anderson, but I blush to say with his usual quiet persistency, he crept into my thoughts and wouldn't leave. After, I continued to remain awake, feeling most miserable. I heard the hall clock chime four before finally drifting away.
      
            In the morning, it all seemed a dream, but at least one truth has emerged from the instance. No one shall ever to my dying day and beyond read these words of so intimate a confession as I've shamefully penned to these pages! I shall stop at the church on my way to school, as soon as I'm up and able, skipping my morning coffee to make the time to admit this transgression to my God, but not to Father Hammond.
      
            The following day, Wednesday, my physical wounds improved and I was in for a pleasant surprise. Mrs. Forseyth from across the street came to call just after lunch. While to some families this would be a natural occurrence, in the Peabody household social visits almost never occurred. A cautious smile when meeting on the street was all our neighbors grew to expect.
      
            Mrs. Forseyth carried a small cake, baked with her own ancient hands, and wished me, “quick recovery from my ordeal,” as she put it. I invited her in. I truly must be improving as only weeks ago this neighborly meeting would have presented a major ordeal to me. On this occasion the visit was a pleasure.
        
            We had a friendly chat for a half-hour. While the poor lady's hearing is nearly as limited as her eyesight, we nevertheless communicated quite well, about a wide range of subjects. While she lives alone in her small flat, she is remarkably well informed about life, even my social habits! But I’m not troubled by her interest as she is a kindly soul with a small world to view and I shall allow her to peek at mine, if it gives her pleasure. In spite of her age, she has a quick wit and a humorous way about her that is most endearing.
      
            My mood has been strange this week. It's not just the chaos of my hospital confinement and resulting disruption of my schedule; it's my state of mind. Too many other people invade my thoughts; Tyrone Bradley, Mr. Anderson, Sarah and even my sister, though certainly all for far different reasons. Try as I might I can't chase them far enough back to allow other pedestrian concerns their due. I mope about accomplishing far less than these unexpected free days offer. Even Amy is of no assistance. She remains silent. My usual reluctance to be around other people seems altered as well. While I've not turned into a social butterfly, I find my own company surprisingly insufficient.
      
            This slight desire for social contact caused me to venture out to my bi-weekly church gathering when my absence would have been expected. I hadn't meant to go. I was only two days out of a hospital bed and still a little shaky, but the emptiness of my house and the unaccustomed leisure time, which I’d not been able to put to good use, made me crave exposure to other human beings, even if only from my quiet corner of the Wednesday night meeting hall. I again called a taxi, and readied myself for a usual evening of sitting back and listening to the ladies of the church. No such luck.
      
             I am the heroine of the hen house! I entered our meeting to the standing applause of the assembled group. It turned me as scarlet as Phoebe Shaw’s lipstick.
      
            “You’re our hero, Lucille,” cried Agnes McNaught.
      
            “A saint, a near saint,” echoed Catherine Winter, dabbing her eyes.
      
             How was bashing the daylights out of young Tyrone Bradley a saintly act? I wanted to ask. But I could barely get in a word. The hens were a babble of questions, most of which I was unable to answer.
      
            “Did he have a knife?” Bertha Ryan asked.
      
            “I heard he had a gun!” Myrtle said, before I could answer.
      
            “Weren't you frightened out of your wits?” another voice whispered.
      
            “You poor child! Let me look at your head.”
      
            “I understand they kept him just down the hall from you at the hospital?  Weren't you worried he'd sneak in and . . . finish you off?”
      
            “No,” I managed to answer, though still blushing crimson. “There was a guard at the door. Besides, he was in worse shape than me.” I hadn't meant for it to sound like bragging but that was how it was interpreted and my answer brought on another round of applause.
      
            I admitted that I had seen Tyrone Bradley in his room, but no, I wasn't sure I'd testify against him at the upcoming hearing. I remained undecided about attending, I said. And, no, I didn't think it was necessary for the ladies to march to the court on my behalf!
      
            All week I played back in my mind the details of my attack. Did the boy mean to push me down those stairs and hurt me, or did I fall backwards when I struck out at him? I knew it was a moot question; I was injured in the course of his robbing me, so he was responsible for the outcome. But did he really mean to inflict injury or possibly kill me? I would never know and perhaps even Tyrone Bradley himself didn't have the answer. Those seconds moved far too rapidly, but I knew the results were far from over. Unwittingly, the burden of deciding punishment remained on my doorstep, like an unwanted gift.
      
            I agonized over the possible options. The easiest solution was to turn my back on what had happened and let the law take its course. That would have been the Lucille Peabody way of old. But I couldn't. Nor could I step before the bar and verbally offer an alternative. Amy failed me again by offering no help. Finally, it was Sarah, in re-reading one of her letters that helped me decide a course of action.
 

Author Notes Lucille, age thirty-seven, is a school teacher and a near-recluse. After her mother's death, she remodels her lifetime family home, to rid it of ghosts of the past. At the suggestion of her priest, she records her thoughts and feelings in a diary. She has developed a strong interest in old letters found in her mother's dresser. She has reluctantly agreed to weekly Friday evening dinners with a shy church acquaintance, Mr. Anderson. She had grown comfortable with his company, but recently she reacted abruptly when he kissed her. Part of her, whom she calls Amy, is pushing her to stop fighting any hint of intimacy. After being mugged and hospitalized, she is recuperating at home.


Chapter 26
Friday, November 3rd (Part Two.)

By Fridayauthor

     Friday Number Twelve, November 3rd (Part Two.)
 

     By Friday I had made up my mind how to handle the hearing for Tyrone Bradley which was scheduled for the following week. I resolved to tell Mr. Anderson of my decision, although I’m not sure why. Perhaps I hoped he'd understand what I proposed, but my determination to tell him caused me almost as much anxiety as actually doing it. Seeking outside counsel on any subject was out of character for Lucille Peabody.
 
     Mr. Anderson had asked if he should bring a takeout dinner to the house on Friday and pass up Delaneys, but I insisted I was feeling fine. It was comforting getting out to Delaneys’ cheery setting. Even the waiters were overly attendant, having read of my entanglement in the newspaper.
 
     I introduce the subject of my assailant to my dinner partner by conveying the humorous Wednesday night meeting of the hens, but he didn't find their reaction near as funny as I had. He told me he too, was very proud of my actions. His reaction to the incident was surprising. He has been most solicitous of me, but I sense he has discovered there seethes beneath the surface of Lucille Peabody, a person he knows far less than he thought he did. While this is true, the hidden Lucy isn't the terror of lower Hawthorne Street, but a frightened waif, scared of life and the world in general. And now I pledged to confide to him my decision on Tyrone Bradley. I was sure he would think me totally daft.
 
     Once the meal was over, I took a deep breath and blurted to Mr. Anderson what I had in mind. He was very kind, and while I'm sure he didn't agree with me a mite, he never said so, nor did he laugh and call me a mental case. He had sensed my feelings were strong about the incident, but he never questioned my reluctance to appear at the hearing. I suppose after a dozen Fridays he knows Lucille Peabody well enough to understand how difficult it would be for me to appear before the court.
 
     I had resolved to write a letter to the Judge Ingersol asking that he consider Tyrone Bradley's age, and his family situation, which I understood to be deplorable. While I felt Tyrone deserved punishment for what he had done, I saw no benefit to society in sending him away, where he would be further exposed to the corrupt influences. As I was the injured party, I proposed Tyrone be sentenced to serve sixty hours, working for me, at my house, under my supervision, and my responsibility. He would also be required to conscientiously attend school. This would be his alternative to incarceration. If he faltered in carrying out the provisions the court assigned, he'd be sent away. Mr. Anderson only raised an eyebrow after reading the letter I’d penned. He neither questioned my judgment nor called me a fool for what I proposed. Anyone else would have surely done so.
 
     I had thought long and hard over my proposal. While I was petrified at the prospect of having Tyrone Bradley placed under my responsibility, I could think of no other way to keep the boy out of the juvenile prison, the sole alternative. If I were to ask for a deviation to society's answer to this boy's crime, how could I expect anyone but me to take on the burden? Sarah and her family had answered their own problems and I would ask no one to answer mine.
 
     “I'll attend the hearing personally,” Mr. Anderson stated after some consideration. “The courthouse is around the corner from my store.”
 
 He smiled again and changed the subject to some mundane topic. It was the nicest thing anyone has done for me in ages, and set my mind on a smoother track than it had been for a week.
 
     Mr. Anderson gave me ample opportunity during the rest of the evening to expand on my decision, but I didn't raise the subject nor, thankfully, did he. Fear that his opinion might be voiced against the decision kept me silent. While we might argue the merit of a movie or book, I had not a leg to stand on in defense of my proposal to the court. I was letting my heart rule common sense, but I knew equally well if Tyrone Bradley were sentenced to the youth facility, I would blame myself the entire time he was incarcerated. I’d not spoken a word to the boy. I had no idea if he was incorrigible or perhaps disturbed. While having him in or around my house petrified me, it seemed the lesser of two evils. Oh well, I said to Amy, “There's still another of grandma’s trays!"
 
     I was feeling tired after dinner and instead of a movie, we returned to my house. The TV offered no acceptable fare, so we listened to some music on my new sound system and relaxed. And we talked.
 
     We continued to discuss Sarah and her letters. Mr. Anderson was making progress, he thought, on narrowing down her family. He would travel to the Federal Records Center in Waltham the following week. We discussed nineteenth-century young woman’s decision to leave all behind and take on a new life in the unknown west. Sarah's zest in accepting the challenge seemed totally unlike the two of us, pondering her choice decades later.
 
     Our conversation of family led Mr. Anderson to discuss my sister Emily, and how different she was from me. I described our childhood together, as abbreviated as it was, and how my sister was a mother to my younger years. It was the most personal conversation we'd had to date. It frightened me that I was treading on forbidden ground, places where I wished not to trespass. Perhaps he sensed my feelings as he didn't linger on the subject. He did indicate he was looking forward to visiting with Em and her family in New York State on Thanksgiving.
 
     After saying good night with a kiss and a hug, he left, much earlier than usual.  I must have been more exhausted than I would admit as I fell asleep almost at once, even neglecting the chore of penning words to this volume.
 
     In spite of having resolved the matter of Tyrone Bradley's fate at the upcoming hearing, I was still unsettled about my part in the attack. My concern sounds silly reading these words. After all, I was simply a victim, wasn't I? Why should I feel any guilt or remorse? I didn't do anything to be ashamed of, did I? I suppose my sense of guilt was due to the undeserved praise being heaped upon me for what I saw as nothing more than a sad and unfortunate incident. I needed someone to understand.
 
     Saturday, I decided to go to confession, not to unburden sins, but to seek understanding. It would be the first time in twenty years, since that awful day when mother had hauled me down to church, after an afternoon of soaking my sins in the bathtub. I was apprehensive about doing so but was sufficiently troubled to make the effort.
 
     There was no one else in the church, so different from times gone by. Twenty years ago the building was crowded and, blessedly, anonymity in the numbers of kneeling penitents. Now there was no place to hide and as I knelt, my heart racing, I knew I had made a mistake in coming. Father Hammond would recognize Lucille Peabody at once. What would I ask him? He was here to give absolution, but what was my sin? I couldn't disguise the facts; everyone knew what happened with Tyrone.
 
     What should I say? “Father, I hit someone. I nearly killed a boy. If I had, I'm not sure I could have carried that burden.” It was more than a week since the attack but it remained fixed in my mind. No, I wasn't frightened of dark places, only dark results.
 
      After kneeling alone for twenty minutes I silently crept from the church. Only two other people had come and gone as I knelt there and I couldn't bring myself to sneak to that darkened box and confess to the shadowy profile of Father Hammond how unsure I was of my actions. I'd have to rely on a private conversation with my God, and hope He would understand, and assure me I was doing right. Once again, Lucille Peabody is the only one who can help Lucille Peabody.
 
     Mr. Anderson and I attended church together on Sunday. He picked me up in his car. People I hardly knew and had never spoken to came up to me and wished me well. I nodded politely, growing even more uncomfortable about accepting congratulations for a deed for which I felt no pride.
 
     My God and I paused over the Our Father prayer. “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. . . .”
 
     I wasn't sure I was forgiving anyone, certainly not Tyrone Bradley. Was I just appeasing Lucille Peabody's conscience? I was noticeably quiet but Mr. Anderson didn't comment. Even the hymns sounded sad.
 
     My next visit to the doctor wasn't scheduled until Wednesday so I wasn’t released to attend school at the start of the week. I had three more days alone in my house. Monday passed at a snail's pace while I sat knowing the court hearing was taking place and I should be there. I considered sneaking into the back row but the thought of discovery and being publically questioned so petrified me I dismissed the idea summarily. I finished up another pillow for my sofa but my sewing was as erratic as my thoughts. It was early Monday evening when Mr. Anderson called.
 
     The hearing had concluded as I requested. Tyrone would be released to start his work duty under my sole supervision. I gathered from Mr. Anderson that the decision was not reached without discussion, but he neglected to offer what he had contributed to the outcome. No matter; the decision was ruled as I’d peoposed. Tyrone Bradley would report to me on Wednesday after school, just two days from today! I didn't know whether to be pleased or frightened to death, so I chose a combination of the two, but still thanked my God and Mr. Anderson for the outcome.
 

Author Notes Lucille, age thirty-seven, is a school teacher and a near-recluse. After her mother's death, she remodeled her lifetime family home, to rid it of ghosts of the past. At the suggestion of her priest, she records her thoughts and feelings in a diary. She has developed a strong interest in old letters found in her mother's dresser. She has reluctantly agreed to weekly Friday evening dinners with a shy church acquaintance, Mr. Anderson. She had grown comfortable with his company, but is frightened of a more serious attachment. Part of her, a make-believe friend from childhood whom she calls Amy, is pushing her to stop fighting any hint of intimacy. After being mugged and hospitalized, she is recuperating at home. Feelings of sympathy for her assailant grow stronger.


Chapter 27
Friday, November 10th

By Fridayauthor

            Friday Number Thirteen, November 10th
           
            In my usual fashion I worried away the two days preceding Tyrone Bradley's first day on the job, so to speak. There were plenty of reminders of what was happening. First the court telephoned to confirm the arrangement, then the police called, then Tyrone's court-appointed attorney. Yes, I answered to all, I understood what I was doing. Yes, I would keep them advised. With each call I became less sure of my own sanity.
      
             A policeman delivered my mugger; his head still dressed in bandages, and promptly stood by the boy’s side, as if expecting to remain there for the entire sixty hours of penance. I managed to insist to the officer that I felt perfectly safe alone in young Mr. Bradley's company. He let out a deep sigh in demonstration of his feelings and roughly pulled the boy aside, angrily whispering something in his ear. Whatever was said, it seemed to frighten Tyrone and he nodded in response as the policeman smiled and left.
      
            I think it was a toss-up which of us was the more uncomfortable. Tyrone was dressed in what is apparently the costume of the times; trousers with crotch at the level of his knees, handkerchief headband and tee shirt expounding the merits of some obscure rap group. He would not meet my gaze but stood, with eyes downcast, shuffling his feet from side to side.
      
            Tyrone is of average height, quite muscular and looks older than his age. He has a tendency to slump and is probably as bashful as I, at least away from those of his peer group. I took a deep breath and spieled my rehearsed speech, asking for conscientious adherence to my requirements and a full effort during the time spent on my behalf. He looked off to the side, giving no indication of understanding a word I had said. I then led him out back and pointed out my garden. We both went to my garage for the necessary tools.
      
            At my direction Tyrone commenced pulling the now-deceased annual flowers, digging up the dahlia tubers, and hoeing the soil. While he didn't work particularly fast, he was steady and methodical. Any directions I gave did not need repeating, and were carried out correctly. I busied myself piling the debris he gathered on my mulch pile and laying out the tubers to dry.
       
            That was how our first afternoon proceeded. Tyrone would lug out a wheel barrow load and I would unload it with him and direct him to the next area that needed work. All of this was accomplished with a minimum of speech, mostly nods, grunts and gestures as neither of us was apparently comfortable with customary linguistic communication. Finally, after an hour and a half, Tyrone was the first to utter a full sentence.
      
            “Them taste good?” he asked, gesturing to a dahlia root. At first I didn't understand what he meant. Then it dawned on me, he thought I ate them! I explained dahlias were flowers. I went in the house and brought out some snapshots Emily had taken earlier in the summer. The pictures showed my prizes in full profusion. He grunted at the photographs and continued working.
      
            I was about to tell Tyrone he was finished for the day at five o'clock, but although he didn't wear a watch, he beat me to it.
      
            “Gotta split.” That was the substance of his farewell message. We had survived day-one and after a sigh of relief, I carefully entered the hours Tyrone had spent working for me in a log I was required to keep for the judge. I then collapsed into my sofa sanctuary. A police cruiser pulled away from across the street.
         
            Thursday and Friday, days two and three, continued in a similar fashion to day one, although I excused Tyrone early on Friday to get ready for my evening out. Conversation between employee and employer remained consistent throughout our time together. Our communications are strange indeed; I point, he nods, I scowl, he shakes his head, I smile, and he makes some facsimile of doing the same. He is a strange boy. If I hadn't experienced his actions first hand, I wouldn't have thought him capable of mugging ladies for their purses. I wonder what urgent need for money caused him to attempt to steal from me.
       
            A sane person should have been fearful of inviting their attacker to their property, but I dismissed any such thoughts before I suggested this remedy. After all, the police knew where Tyrone was, and he had taken on my project as an alternative to something much worse. He had no reason to cause me physical harm; just the opposite. Besides, whatever the policeman who delivered him said to his prisoner, it was obvious no good would come to Tyrone if he laid a hand on me. Hawthorn Street became a popular spot for frequent coffee and doughnut breaks for our men in blue.
      
            As fearful as I am about everyday things, the usual phobias of snakes, bugs, boogie men, the dark, physical pain and all the other common fears have never been ghosts in Lucille Peabody’s closet. Perhaps we all have an allotted number of anxieties to waltz with through life, but my dance card has long since been filled to capacity.
      
            Friday evening Mr. Anderson and I finally discussed Tyrone Bradley at length, although he failed to voice an opinion on my decision to have the boy work for me instead of going to jail. He was sympathetic about Tyrone's circumstances in general but feels strongly, and I agree, it was no excuse for his actions.
       
            He expressed interest in my opinion of the young man. The court had sent me Tyrone's school records which in past years had been surprisingly good but had declined drastically this current year. Additionally, there were a number of absences. While I didn't feel his working for me would make a saint of Tyrone, I was still adamant it was an improvement over jail.
      
            I told Mr. Anderson the amusing incident about the dahlias.

            He smiled. “Dahlias don’t grow in Tyrone Bradley’s neighborhood,” he answered.
      
             His remark brought home the vast difference between our worlds. Tyrone is as much an alien to my life as I am to his. When I didn’t respond, he continued.
      
            “You know, Miss Peabody, this is an admirable service you’re doing.”
      
            “I beg to disagree,” I answered, after mustering up enough courage to answer. “You’re crediting me with far more charity than I deserve. It’s my conscience that would suffer if I had been instrumental in sending the boy away. Perhaps it seems like an unselfish good deed is, but in reality, it’s a selfish motive on my part.”
      
            He took my hand in his and laughed. “You’re being far too hard on yourself!”
      
            It is most comforting to have a friend with whom I can discuss topics such as this. We’ve reached that plateau together. Our subjects are broadening by the week. Since he's met Emily we've begun discussing family and I find his feelings for his children, Philip, Jr. and Becky are not unlike my love of Emily. He tries to leave his children's worlds alone as I have my sister's family life. He discusses his business often, and his concerns about its future. I talk about school, not just the amusing incidents that were the earlier light topics of our dinners, but more serious problems with children, their learning limitations and impaired home life.
      
            Sarah and her family seem to be on both our minds as well, like friends we have in common. It's strange. The letters document in detail a reality absent from history books. Sarah and Ann creep into our conversation. We ask each other how they would have reacted to a given situation, or what their response might have been.
       
            While I still harbor concerns about our future together, I am as happy as I've ever been when I am in Mr. Anderson company. We both seem to tread delicately with one another and I truly wish we could be more open and honest about our feelings, whatever they may be.
        
            I get a queasy jolt in my stomach when I consider my life without this man. Yes, I admit it, though only in these pages.
      
            We have made vast strides from those first nervous evenings together. Amy is pleased as punch. She thinks further progress will naturally evolve until we are both free and open with one another, in all ways. She accuses me of underestimating Mr. Anderson's capacity for understanding. Sadly, I disagree.
        
            My reluctance to communicate with him more personally is far deeper than his ability to perceive my emotional limitations.
      
            There is much in my heart I could never share, and my fear of giving is undeserving of receiving unquestioned understanding in return for nothing offered. Though I am saddened to say so, the Lucille Peabody I know does not warrant love. When these thoughts creep into my conscious, I fight to dismiss them, stuffing them back where they belong, in the deep recesses of my mind. Anything that might disturb our present delightful relationship is best left unsaid.
      
            Little has been mentioned by either of us concerning Thanksgiving and our trip to my sister's home in New York State. We find no difficulty in filling our few Friday night hours together with active conversation but the upcoming motor trip makes me nervous. Hours in an automobile will present a much, much longer time together. Perhaps it will be a measure of our companionship to be able to spend quiet time in each other's company, if conversation wanes. That's not all that concerns me about the trip; there's Emily. I don't entirely trust my sister, in spite of what her intentions may be, to refrain from saying or doing something that will embarrass me scarlet! While she kidded me at the hospital about doing so, it would be just like her to sabotage Mr. Anderson's car and trap us together!
      
             I think beyond Thanksgiving, ahead to upcoming holidays, wondering if we'll be together or if Mr. Anderson will spend Christmas with his children, here or at their residences, or if I'll ever meet these occupants of his other world. Do they know of my existence? Sometimes I wonder. In spite of the closeness of our relationship, we remain strangers in some areas. There are parts of ourselves we are fearful to share or expose, and not just the secret me I reluctantly confess to in these pages. I have seen his car pass by my house when Tyrone is there and I know he is looking out for me, but neither of us mentions it. I have walked by his store, peeking in the window when it is closed, but have been too embarrassed to admit it for fear he'd think me too forward. Silly, aren't we? But it is nice to have someone who is concerned, even clandestinely.
      
            Amy claims I am still a child, and continues to complain I am fearful of things to which no adult would give a second thought. She says I see boogie men behind every remark, ghosts in misinterpreted actions, and silence is my protector. Perhaps she's right. Maybe I'll make a New Year’s resolution to consider sanity, see a professional, as Father Hammond once suggested. In the meantime, the world is stuck with Lucille Peabody, the quiet woman fraidy-cat, in fear of tomorrow, but in love with today!
      
 

Author Notes Lucille, age thirty-seven, is a school teacher and a near-recluse. After her mother's death, she remodeled her lifetime family home, to rid it of ghosts of the past. At the suggestion of her priest, she records her thoughts and feelings in a diary. She has developed a strong interest in old letters found in her mother's dresser. She has reluctantly agreed to weekly Friday evening dinners with a shy church acquaintance, Mr. Anderson. She had grown comfortable with his company, but is frightened of a more serious attachment. Part of her, a make-believe friend from childhood whom she calls Amy, is pushing her to stop fighting any hint of intimacy. After being mugged and hospitalized, she is recuperating at home. Feeling sympathetic toward her young assailant, she has agreed to his community service under her supervision.


Chapter 28
Friday, November 17th (Part One.)

By Fridayauthor

            Friday Number Fourteen, November 17th (Part One.)
           
            My world continues its topsy-turvy pattern, so unlike the unchanging routine of only weeks ago. Tyrone's entrance into my life has forced me to appropriate many hours to overseeing his daily visits. As a result, I've not had time for my seaside walks, my books or other little pleasures that previously occupied my days. Even my after-school chores have suffered, but I am proud to say, I am adjusting quite well. It is late Friday evening so you can see I am at least back on schedule with my routine, adding a description of the weekly happenings to this almost-filled journal, after my customary evening in the company of Mr. Anderson. First, allow me to register the sad occurrence of the past few days.
      
            Black Cat has deserted my premises. For three days he has not returned and I fear he has emigrated to more favorable digs. While I don't deny shedding a tear last evening at his absence, I am proud of myself that my reaction was restrained. I'm sure in her other life, Lucille Peabody would have been distraught for days after being given so direct evidence that love she reluctantly offered was summarily rejected. While I secretly hoped Black Cat cared for me as much as I for him, the new worldly and practical Lucille Peabody of today realizes life is not without setbacks she must endure. Perhaps I am truly making progress though I do dearly miss the absence of the rhythm of his motor upon my lap, as I sit here and record his departure.
      
            Sunday's rain made a bog of my garden so continuation of work outside with Tyrone was impossible. But, believe me, I was not lacking for other chores that cried for attention. I have hardly begun tackling the cellar and attic. Both demanded far more effort than I have given them, but my garage presented the greatest challenge. Therefore, when Tyrone showed up on Monday I designated that collection of junk as our prime project. Amy claimed I specified an outside location because I was afraid to be in the house alone with Tyrone. Utter nonsense. He has given me no reason for fear.
      
            I had set aside some of my insurance money to repair the garage though the funds might have been better spent tearing the old building down. The structure had begun a slow list toward the Slattery property to the right of my lot. I was fearful a strong wind might collapse the entire building! I neither drive, nor had any intention of learning, so saving a garage may sound unnecessary. However, the building provided space for my garden implements, when I could squeeze them in, and it presented balance to the property. One thing was certain; even estimating the work necessary to restore the building was impossible, until the mountain of junk within its confines was emptied enough for inspection.
      
            I walked Tyrone to my sagging garage, indicating I wished him to begin moving out the boxes of accumulated history for my back-porch review, and ultimate disposal. I had some vague notion of having a spring garage sale and ridding myself of the debris once it was sorted, but I could have probably saved the effort. Deep down I was sure there was nothing there I truly wanted. But I had thought the same of mother's bureau and it produced the treasure of Sarah's letters. Perhaps buried in the long forgotten junk of the garage were more secrets awaiting discovery!
      
            Tyrone nodded and began to do my bidding. Then he noticed the car.
      
            Before my father's death twenty years ago, he drove a seven year old Chevy. Since that time the vehicle has remained exactly as he left it, now buried beneath boxes of assorted junk in the same position he parked, atop years of oil stains and four flat tires, the center piece of the dust filled building. Lest you come to the wrong conclusion, the car was no vintage relic of a classic era awaiting a collector's discovery. Nor did the vehicle remain in place as a sentimental treasure, like an empty setting at the table, or a coat on a rack, awaiting the return of a deceased loved one. My father's Chevy had seen better days when he was alive, and twenty years later it remains in place, succumbing to rust and decay, simply because no one had seen fit to put it out of its misery, by hauling it to the junk yard. Neither my mother nor I had any use for the automobile, nor would I guess, would anyone else. At least its enclosed location didn't create a neighborhood eyesore. It was out of sight and out of mind for two decades.
      
            “Just work around it,” I told Tyrone. “I'll have to get someone to haul it away one of these days.”
      
            “Does it go?”
      
            “It did twenty years ago,” I answered jokingly, but Tyrone seemed not to understand. He simply continued to haul boxes, robot-like, with no further word, until it was time for him to leave. But I could see him eyeing the dirty hulk as it slowly emerged from beneath the cartons and dirt and long abandoned furniture. His interest continued on Tuesday and Wednesday and when the car was finally freed from its burial mound of clutter, he asked politely if he could look inside. I shrugged in agreement and after a tug or two he opened the door and slid behind the wheel. My father's lunch box was still on the seat.
      
            The more I get to know Tyrone, if grunts, monosyllables and giving orders are getting to know someone, the less I understand him. He is quite neat in his own way and seems to take pride in doing what I ask of him without comment. He is at times preoccupied and I suspect, not unlike most teenagers in many ways. I would love to get to know him; find out what makes someone like him do violence, steal, expose himself to jail and ruin, but I know I never will. We are simply too far apart in our worlds to have anything but a nodding relationship with one another. And perhaps a modicum of respect.
      
            His teacher sent a nice note to me saying Tyrone seemed to be putting forth a real effort to follow what was required of him in class. Apparently he was getting some business from his friends about his new attitude, but was managing to ignore them. The message pleased me to no end. Perhaps the fear of jail was a true deterrent, at least for the time being. I cannot but guess how incredibly difficult it must be to succeed in emerging from the tight confines of his world, perhaps as comfortable to him as mine is to me. I told him I was pleased with his accomplishments but his reaction was his usual unreadable silence. While he does not appear to despise working for me, he shows no sign of enjoying it either. I have never met a less responsive individual. The only thing that seems to interest the young man is my father's ancient Chevy. He continues to look it over from broken tail light to dented fender, as if it were the center piece of a new car dealership.
      
            On Wednesday, word had spread to the hens of my arrangement with the court concerning Tyrone, and the fact, “the dirty little mugger,” as they referred to him, was actually at my house, unguarded! I knew it was only a matter of time until word reached the ladies and I was tempted to take a holiday from our Wednesday night gathering. Amy urged me to attendance with chants of “chicken, chicken, chicken.”
      
            The hens were of one voice concerning the matter: Lucille Peabody flipped her lid! Though propriety forbade them from saying so publicly, conveyed their thoughts with open mouthed stares, raised eyebrows and clucking. Each, in turn, pulled me aside to convey their unbridled personal support. Agnes and Bertha offered daily visits, to sit by the phone to call 911, when, not if, the need arose. Catherine’s grandson knew karate and she was certain he’d provide guard duty willingly. Phoebe Shaw frightened me the most.
      
            “Henry’s been gone eleven years, but I still have his gun.” She began digging in her purse. “I’ve got it right here. It’s got bullets. I never used it, but I’ll bet if you just wave it at him when he makes, his move, it will scare him to death!” She extracted a large revolver, holding it close to her ample chest so the other hens wouldn’t see her. The thing looked like a World War Two relic. I was aghast as she pushed it to me!
      
            “No! Please! I hate those things!” I cried as I stepped back. 
      
           Agnes McNaught noticed my reaction and started toward us. Phoebe quickly reburied her weapon. I smiled at our chairlady and told her how I appreciated everyone’s concern.
      
            Father Hammond pulled me aside after the meeting. I was prepared to defend my decision concerning Tyrone, but he didn't mention the boy, only this journal now propped upon my lap. I assured him I had nearly completed it and the writing was doing me a world of good. (I must remember to ask my God on Sunday if exaggeration is a serious form of lying.) The good father again offered to go over the book with me when it was completed, but the crimson of my embarrassment caused him to quickly add that the choice was mine. I stammered that I felt the benefit was in the doing, and parts recorded were somewhat personal. He nodded in agreement and added it was therapeutic for me to be writing about “matters close to my heart” but he remained available if I needed counsel. And, he added, he was pleased I was ‘involved’ with a gentleman. I guess I nodded or mumbled some response because I was freed to hurry home.
      
            Father Hammond is right. I am involved. It makes me cry to say it, but it is true. For as long as I've tried to avoid it, I am, in my own way involved. The thought of it scares me to death!
      
            Emily still telephones if two or three days pass that I haven't called her and brought her up to date. Her main topic of conversation remains unchanged.
      
            “Has he made a move yet?”
      
            “Emily, we're just friends. Good friends.” She will have none of it. She makes numerous suggestions about dress, sly comments I should make and finishes by telling me how intolerably old fashioned I am. I grunt at appropriate times and attempt to change the subject. Though I'm looking forward to sharing turkey with her, her family and Mr. Anderson, I quake at what she might be concocting concerning us. I want to scream at her to leave us alone! I'm so frightened she will disturb what I have, just because she has a mystical calling to see that sister Lucy gets a man.
      
            It takes concentration when talking to Emily to continue to refer to Mr. Anderson as “Philip”, but I do so as there is no way she would understand the formal titles we have bestowed upon one another. There is something symbolic about “Mr. Anderson” and “Miss Peabody.” Instead of terms of formality, I’d like to think, they are terms of the special relationship we have, like nicknames two persons close might secretly share. We only use the titles when alone; never to third parties.
      
            But it's “Philip” when speaking to Em though it's difficult as I am not devious by nature, nor do I do well with secrets. I managed to keep Emily in the dark about my arrangement concerning Tyrone, but even that lasted only for a few days. She called when the boy was on duty. He came to the door when it was time for him to leave. I had no choice but to explain to Emily. She was beside herself.
      
            “Really, I’m in no danger,” I pleaded.
      
            “Tell me the police are there!”
      
            Fortunately, it was coffee break time across the street, so I wasn’t telling a lie. “They’re right out front,” I answered. I proceeded to tell her Mr. Anderson had attended the court session, implying he had given a favorable opinion on the endeavor.
        
            “He let you allow that thug into your house?” she screamed. I tried to explain that my relationship with Mr. Anderson didn't extend to my having to seek his permission for my actions. She huffed and puffed for twenty minutes before hanging up, still thoroughly upset with me. I suspect she may have telephoned Mr. Anderson herself though neither mentioned her doing so. The next time we spoke she was calmer, though not even close to agreement with my arrangement.
 

Author Notes Lucille, age thirty-seven, is a school teacher and a near-recluse. After her mother's death, she remodeled her lifetime family home, to rid it of ghosts of the past. At the suggestion of her priest, she records her thoughts and feelings in a diary. She has developed a strong interest in old letters found in her mother's dresser. She has reluctantly agreed to weekly Friday evening dinners with a shy church acquaintance, Mr. Anderson. She had grown comfortable with his company, but is frightened of a more serious attachment. Part of her, a make-believe friend from childhood whom she calls Amy, is pushing her to stop fighting any hint of intimacy. After being mugged and hospitalized, she is recuperating at home. Feeling sympathetic toward her young assailant, she has agreed to his community service under her supervision.


Chapter 29
Friday, November 17th (Part Two.)

By Fridayauthor

            Friday Number Fourteen, November 17th (Part Two.)
           
            Mr. Anderson continues to religiously accompany Miss Peabody to dinner on Friday evenings, and Friday number fourteen was no exception. In fact, the evening produced the best news of the week! Mr. Anderson has been successful in locating the family names of Sarah, Anne and most of the other players in our ongoing saga of the nineteenth-century letters. He broke the news to me with a wine toast as we sat at our favorite table in Delaneys.
         
            The key to his success was the wedding date of Sarah and Ez. From there, he explained, it was a simple matter to check the census records for the additional information. He managed to locate dates of birth and last names for all the people we had met on the pages of Sarah's letters.
      
            Sarah is Sarah Jane Haskill, Sarah Fletcher after she married Ez. She was born on my birthday, November 28, in 1830 so the letters were written, as we had surmised, during the eighteen-forties. Anne was seven years older than Sarah and the daughter of Sarah's mother's sister. Much more information was available on Anne and her family of six children because they remained in Massachusetts. But, unfortunately, there was no clue to the connection to my family, if any, nor how the letters ended up in mother's dresser drawer. Sarah's future after writing the last letter remained a mystery. There was no news of her and her new family or details on their venture to California.
      
            I was as excited as a tickled toddler! Sarah, to whom I had grown so close over the past few weeks, had become a real person! Even if we do not share common blood, at least we share a birthday! I babbled on through dessert and told Mr. Anderson, who seemed quite proud of his success, that I couldn't wait for more news about the family!
      
            We tarried until most of the other diners had left, discussing these people of long ago as if they were mutual friends recently rediscovered. We speculated about present day descendants. Might we not be able to locate them? What would I say? “I knew your great-great-great-grandmother!” Perhaps someone has a picture of Sarah or Anne! Do I look like either of them? But the major question remained. How did these letters end up in mother's dresser? It was sad to think we may never know, but we’d made a start. We knew details about these people. I was convinced we'd be able to discover more information on these new found friends.
      
            The evening continued to be most cheery. After Delaneys we scurried to attend a high school play, arriving to a darkened hall ten minutes late. I have always enjoyed these productions. I marvel at the young people possessing such an abundance of confidence and poise, attributes I'm so lacking. The world is theirs, if only they'd recognize the fact. As I watched the young people perform I couldn't help feeling sad that Tyrone was no part of this world. Instead, success for him may be remaining alive to adulthood or remaining out of jail. Why? Who knows the harshness of the soil his seed was cast upon when he began his struggle to maturity.
      
            The play was a fun comedy, well-acted, and I knew three of the cast members from their early years in my school. It made me feel like an aging spinster to see my pupils so quickly grown, in both years and maturity, since I'd sat them in a circle and taught them to read. It seemed so few years ago.
        
            A light early season snow was softly falling when Mr. Anderson walked me to my door. I wanted to invite him in. We had gone for pie and coffee after the show and it was getting late, but I admit to being a little disappointed when he declined my invitation. I have my own company and my lack of a visitor gives me time to add these words to Father Hammond's assigned homework. And time to wonder about the world of Sarah Fletcher.
           
            It is now a several hours later than my last scribbled recordings; Saturday morning. I'm sitting here at my breakfast table, amid toast crumbs and daubs of marmalade, waiting for my coffee pot to do its business. Though only the late night hours have passed, they were by no means uneventful!
      
            When I had finished my writing, my sofa-refuge welcomed me for a few minutes longer while I dallied over hot chocolate. I wasn't quite ready for bed and I was reliving the evening in my mind when I was startled to hear a soft knock at my front door. It was well past midnight by then and the only person I could imagine who might be calling was Mr. Anderson, reconsidering my offer to visit. But when I opened the door, I was shocked to see Tyrone Bradley standing there, in only a light tee shirt, holding his arms about his body against the still-blowing snow.
      
            “Can I sleep in the garage?”
      
            “Is something wrong at home?” I asked, more shocked at seeing him standing there than anything else.
      
            “Stuff's going on I don't want no part of.” It was the longest sentence he'd uttered since I'd first met him. Though I wanted to know more, I felt it improper to press him further.
      
            “Come in,” I said, holding open the door, “It's freezing out there.”
        
            “Garage is okay,” he answered and turned to leave.
      
            “Tyrone,” I said, in my best second-grade-teacher voice, “come inside. No one is sleeping in a garage on my property.”
      
            He looked sorely disappointed muttered something inaudible and began to move away.
      
            “Tyrone,” I said, more sternly, “come in here. Now.”
      
            “You going to call the cops?” His back was to me but he had stopped.
      
            “No, of course not.” He grudgingly turned and stepped inside. I shut the door behind him. “I'll fix a place in my reading room.” Now it was Tyrone's turn to give me the same Lucille-is-crazy look I'd received from the hens, my fellow teachers and everyone else who had heard of my dealings with my attacker. I didn't doubt for a moment there was truth in the consensus, but at the time all I saw was a shivering fourteen year old boy; an eight-grader.
      
            Extra blankets and linen were still packed away in my mother's closet and I set about arranging them in a pallet on the floor of the room, amidst my books. I looked up, expecting to see Tyrone but he still stood by the front door, as if afraid to enter a step further.
      
            “Don't just stand there; come on in,” I called, somewhat sternly, “It's time you were in bed.” Then I added as an afterthought and pointed, “The bathroom is there.” I turned on my heels and without a further glance at the boy, went to my bedroom, closing the door behind me. My heart began to race as I realized what I’d done!
      
            I sat on the edge of my bed listening for some sound of Tyrone's movement. For a long time there was only silence. Then I detected a shuffle of feet to the bathroom, the sound of water, a flush and more silence. I waited minutes longer before disrobing to my ever-comfortable flannel nightgown, and then as if it offered protection, I donned my bathrobe as well.
       
            At first I didn't turn off my light but then thought I best at least pretend I was asleep, even if I were sure I wouldn't be able to close my eyes. I lay in the dark, propped up on pillows, my ear pressed against the wall, straining to hear any sound through the paper-thin partition that separated me from my parents' old bedroom. Memories of grunts, and cries and struggles of long ago came whirling back to my mind. And, in later years, sounds of creeping death in the wheezing coughs and gasps for breath from my dying mother. This night I heard none of that, only night sounds of the neighborhood, a slight breeze in the maple, a dog barking in the distance, an occasional car and silence.
        
            Silence had become my friend these past few months but now, knowing I was not alone, that another person, the first male in nearly twenty years to sleep beneath this roof, was but a few feet away. I strained my ears for some confirming noise. There was only stillness and the silence became more disturbing than the man-boy noises I expected.
      
            Finally, I crept to the door and opened it, to darkness, except for the glow from outside. Slowly I returned to bed and sat up, pillows behind me, counting the stars I could see in the frame of the living room window. It was hours later I heard the first noise and it awakened me from a half-slumber; feet slowly shuffling toward my door. In my mind it was years earlier and I silently cried for Amy as my father stood silhouetted in the frame of light before me.
      
            I must have made some startled noise because Tyrone spoke. His voice was soft, perhaps with sleep, perhaps with uncertainty, perhaps with fear.
      
            “I'm sorry . . . for hurtin' you.” And the silhouette was gone and the night was silently shrouded in stillness once again.
        
            After that I slept soundly, not waking until the disk of the sun had fully risen over the bay, and my room was flooded in red of morning. Tyrone was gone, the blankets piled neatly in a corner and I was alone.
      
            When Tyrone returned at the usual time on Monday, no mention was made of his nocturnal visit. But there was something unspoken between us that made me know I had nothing to fear from this troubled child.
      
 

Author Notes Lucille, age thirty-seven, is a school teacher and a near-recluse. After her mother's death, she is trying to rid her life-time home of ghosts of the past. Her priest suggests she record her thoughts and feelings in a diary. She has developed a strong interest in old letters found in her mother's dresser. At first reluctantly, now with increased interest, she is having weekly Friday evening dinners with a shy church acquaintance, Mr. Anderson. While comfortable with his company, she shuns a more serious attachment. Part of her, a make-believe friend from childhood whom she calls Amy, is pushing her to stop fighting any hint of intimacy. After being mugged and hospitalized, she is recuperating. Feeling sympathetic toward her young assailant, she has agreed to his community service under her supervision.


Chapter 30
Thanksgiving, Nov 23rd (Part One)

By Fridayauthor

            Thanksgiving Day, November 23rd
           
            The following week after Tyrone’s nocturnal visit, I was in a quandary about telling Mr. Anderson of the encounter. Strange isn't it? In the past I would have felt no qualms in keeping information to myself as there was no one with whom I might share my thoughts and feelings. Now there was someone who seemed, with each passing day, to occupy my mind more and more. Not telling him about my midnight guest seemed almost mendacious given our relationship. After all, Mr. Anderson was involved from the start in Tyrone’s court-sanctioned access to my property. Even if he was not necessarily in agreement with my decision to take Tyrone onto my property, I felt he deserved to know.
      
            In all honesty I guess I was fearful my friend would think my actions were totally irrational. The more I thought about my decision after the fact, the more I was convinced I had acted with poor judgment. If anything criminal had occurred, how would I have justified opening my home at midnight to this confessed criminal? I tremble at how the world would have perceived my actions! Regardless of my feelings of sympathy, the boy had proved he was capable of violence and I took a foolish chance admitting him into my house. But I guess my God was looking out for me because the outcome was satisfactory. Perhaps my foolishness will cause Tyrone to consider that the world is not his personal enemy and if he abides by society's rules and moral standards, at least some segment of the populace might respond accordingly. 
      
            By late Saturday evening I had made up my mind to share the experience with Mr. Anderson, though I bit my nails to the quick just thinking about the conversation. If I wanted to retain any fingernails,I didn't want to wait until Friday.
      
            Mr. Anderson was a few minutes later than usual for church on Sunday so there was no opportunity to speak before the service. When the mass was over I asked him if he'd accompany me to Byrnes Coffee shop and he willingly agreed. After our little snack, I took a deep breath and spilled out the happenings of Friday night.
      
            He remained attentive during my narrative which, I'm afraid, I told in a voice that spoke with a tremble. When I finished he smiled and shook his head.
      
            “Don't worry, I'm not going to say the obvious,” he said. “I will tell you, Miss Peabody, you either have marvelous instincts about people or are incredibly fortunate! You're a good woman.”
      
            A good woman. I don't remember ever hearing that before, and I must have blushed. “I didn't do anything. It was all instinct. If I'd thought about it I'd probably have slammed the door and called the police,” I added, “I didn't even have an extra bed for him.”
      
            “You're too harsh on yourself. You were there for someone when they needed you, even if some might question your judgment.” He smiled. “There's nothing more important than that.”
      
            We discussed Tyrone further, but there was so little known of the boy most of what was said was speculation. I mentioned how he had admired my father's old automobile and described the vehicle to Mr. Anderson. I told him I had considered giving it to Tyrone when he had finished his assigned hours with me.
      
            “It's not as if I'd be parting with a treasure,” I added, “I'd be tickled to have the space it’s hogging. If I didn’t give it to Tyrone, I’d have to pay someone to haul it away.”
      
            Mr. Anderson thought a minute. “Why couldn't you sell it to him? You wouldn't have to charge much but if he pays for it he'll treat it different than if it's a gift, or,” he added with a smile, “if he steals it.”
      
            What he said made sense, but I kept thinking of Tyrone's recent method of obtaining funds. I didn't want to give him an additional incentive in that direction! Mr. Anderson smiled when I mentioned my thoughts. What he said next took me by surprise.
      
            “Send Tyrone down to my store. He works for you after school but I can use him on Saturdays in the stock room. With Christmas coming up, a lot of merchandise is arriving. It might give him a sense of doing something the right way for a change. And, by the sound of it, the more time he spends away from home and off the streets, the better chance he has.”
      
            “You'd do that for him?” I asked in astonishment, “knowing his background?”
       
            “I'd do that before I'd let him sleep next to my bedroom!” he said with a sly grin.
      
            Much of Sunday afternoon was spent pondering Mr. Anderson, wondering what he must think of Miss Peabody who did such irrational things. Why does he put up with me? Are our Friday evenings, and now Sunday church services, as special to him as they are to me?
      
            “There, said Amy; you admitted it! You're in love!”
      
            “Shut your mouth!” I answered. “You don't even know what love is! We're just very special friends.”
      
            I waited until Tuesday before I broached the subject of the car to Tyrone Bradley. Monday passed with my waiting to see if he mentioned his Friday night visit, but, as I stated, he did not. The next afternoon when he showed up for work, on time as usual, I called him aside and explained what I had in mind regarding the vehicle. He was ecstatic. One hundred dollars was the agreed upon price for the old junk. I’d have paid that amount to have it trucked away. I vowed to myself I'd donate the entire amount in the collection plate I felt so guilty charging him!
      
            He whistled while he worked! I reminded him much more money and effort would be required before the Chevy could be registered, insured and capable of running, but I doubt he heard me. Tyrone remained thrilled the rest of the afternoon and I saw his smile for the first time.
       
            I could tell he was nervous about working at Anderson's Sporting Goods, but the appeal of the car was enough to overcome his fear. Although he was two years away from being of age to drive, he didn't care. He would be the owner of an automobile! I told him it would take at least that long to get the old thing running! But it was a partial victory from my point. Tyrone asked if he could rent my garage to store the car!
         
            “It wouldn't last ten minutes on my street,” he muttered. I couldn't help but agree with him, and I consented to his renting the space. I'm not finished with the old heap yet.
        
            The boy worked with a new vigor and tarried after his assigned hours, inspecting the automobile from bumper to bumper, even sliding under the vehicle on his back, oblivious to the grease and grime. I couldn't help but smile. 
      
            The entire week, shortened though it was with the Thursday holiday, was most hectic. My little ones were excited about the long Thanksgiving weekend and, as a consequence were a handful. I had my own worries about visiting Emily and her family and traveling hours in an automobile with Mr. Anderson. Much as I looked forward to his company, there remained my nervous trepidation at this extension of our relationship. I’d grown comfortable with our Friday evenings. The rules were simple and agreed upon. But our trip to Emily's was a new frontier.
      
             My sister called every day. It was as if she feared I'd change my mind and remain home if she didn't nag me. I assured her with each call that I hadn't “chickened out” as my students would say. We would arrive as agreed.
      
            I managed one long walk during the week. Wednesday class ended early and Tyrone was given the afternoon off to meet Mr. Anderson at the store. Amy and I had a nice long chat amid the late season sea gulls as we strolled the sand. She is still vague about her ideas of our future, a fact that frightens me. One of us is becoming a different person. When I returned from the beach, I sought solace in Sarah's letters, as if attempting to reach the level of contentment of my long ago friend. I am able to follow her prose easily now that I've spent so many hours with her and as soon as I pick up her letters I'm transported back to her times and life. I so hope she found happiness in the frightening west of so long ago. But in spite of her comforting dialog, I slept poorly Wednesday night.
 

Author Notes Lucille, age thirty-seven, is a school teacher and a near-recluse. After her mother's death, she is trying to rid her life-time home of ghosts of the past. Her priest suggests she record her thoughts and feelings in a diary. She has developed a strong interest in old letters found in her mother's dresser. At first reluctantly, now with increased interest, she is having weekly Friday evening dinners with a shy church acquaintance, Mr. Anderson. While comfortable with his company, she shuns a more serious attachment. Part of her, a make-believe friend from childhood whom she calls Amy, is pushing her to stop fighting any hint of intimacy. After being mugged, she feels sympathetic toward her young assailant and agrees to his community service under her supervision. When he is homeless one night, she lets him in her house.


Chapter 31
Thanksgiving Day Nov. 23 (Part Two.)

By Fridayauthor

     Thanksgiving Day, November 23rd (Part Two.)
    
     On Thanksgiving morning Mr. Anderson picked me up at seven-thirty as the dinner at Emily's was set early afternoon. The time would enable us to return to Sea View at a decent hour, hopefully ahead of the heaviest holiday traffic. Though my travels were so limited I had little experience for comparison, there seemed to be a large number of vehicles hurrying to turkey and fixings, even this early in the morning.
 
     We were soon away from the sprawl of the urban coast and rolling hills and small towns sat like post cards in the early morning sun. There was frost on the countryside. The roofs of red barns and white farm house roofs sparkled with crystals amid open meadows. We left the turnpike, ostensibly to get away from the traffic but I suspect Mr. Anderson was allowing me a closer look at parts of my state. While just a few miles from my home, I'd never seen this area.
 
     Any fear the drive out to New York state would be uncomfortable with long spells of silence disappeared like the morning mist and we had a most pleasant journey. Surprisingly, I did most of the talking! I was chatting away when I noticed my driver had turned from the roadway to a dirt lane. The look on his face was more serious than our banal conversation warranted.
 
     “Where are we?” I asked.
 
     “Acton,” he answered as he drove down a tree-lined street and turned at the gate of a cemetery. “I found out more information on our friends,” he added.
 
      And then I saw it, off to one side, a faded grey stone beneath a tree whose spreading roots had raised one side of the marker slightly upward. “Sarah Fletcher, born November 28, 1830, died September 18, 1851. My darling is with the angels.” Inscribed below the stone read, “Anne Fletcher, 1851.”
 
     Words escaped me. I bent down and touched the cold granite.
 
     “She died in child birth,” Mr. Anderson said solemnly.
 
     “I found the record yesterday. It said she was buried here.”
 
     “And her daughter too,” I added, biting back a tear. “She named her after her cousin Anne.” I turned to him. “All her plans, all her dreams, none of them ever happened; not even the trip to California.”
 
     “She never had a chance to go. But she had the dreams and a happy life, as short as it was. And love of a man.”
 
     I looked at the grave for a long time and silently said a prayer to my God on Sarah and her infant daughter’s behalf. Mr. Anderson held my hand as we stood there.
 
     “She needs some flowers to show someone remembers,” he said. “Perhaps we can drive out here in the spring.”
 
     We returned to the car in silence, both of us deep in thought about this young woman we'd come to know so well. We were back on the highway before either of us spoke again.
 
     “I feel as though I've lost someone close to me, as foolish as that sounds,” I said. “I was so sure we were related. If she left no heirs I can't be a descendent.”
 
     “You're directly related to Anne,” he answered. “Your great-grand- mother was Mary Agnes Thurston, Cousin Anne's youngest child. That would make you Anne's great-great-grand-daughter and Sarah's great-great-grand-niece.” He smiled and added, “I don't think it's foolish at all. Mostly they're friends.”
 
     As saddened as I was that Sarah's dreams had not come to fruition, I was thankful to have visited her last resting place and see that she was sent lovingly to her final reward. I knew in the days ahead I would think of her often and still pursue the outcome of her shortened life and those who were a part in it. Did Ez find his dream in the west alone? He never returned to rest beside his young bride. I wanted to know more about Anne, my grandmother's grandmother who treasured the letters sent to her by her young cousin. Did her children and her children's children cherish the letters too? And did my mother? My questions would have to wait. For now, my own family was my primary concern.
 
      Emily's children would be home for Thanksgiving dinner and Mr. Anderson asked about each, as much to move the subject away from Sarah as to be better schooled in the background of the other attendees of our holiday dinner. I willingly answered his questions, pleased with the excuse to move from the sadness of the cemetery. And my sister's family was a subject I was comfortable discussing.
 
     Emily, who would be fifty in the spring, married Fred Murphy before she was nineteen. My parents refused to attend the wedding and, as I was only seven at the time, that precluded my attendance as well. Years would pass before I met Fred as he was not welcomed at Hawthorne Street. No reasons were ever given in our near-silent house. Fred is a jovial man, a born salesman, who has been very successful. He adores Emily and dotes on her and their three children.
 
     Sometimes when Fred would travel, his family would accompany him I'd receive a phone call to meet them, usually in Boston. On occasion we would have dinner, other times it would be a quick stop at the airport, but at least it presented an opportunity to catch a glimpse of my nieces and nephews. After our father's death Emily would occasionally come to the house but her visits were few and far between, and always of short duration, and always without Fred.
 
     Anne is their oldest child. She was born shortly after her parent's marriage and is twenty-nine. Anne is a dentist and was thought by Emily to be a lifelong spinster like Emily's little sister, Aunt Lucy. But Anne shocked her parents by eloping with a fellow dentist after a Las Vegas convention this past winter. When her parents calmed down and met their son-in-law they were thrilled. Hap Chou is oriental and the couple is thrilled to be expectant parents, as announced to me that fateful Friday weeks past. I will be meeting Hap for the first time.
 
     Joey, age twenty-six did not attend college. He spent those years in front of a computer screen, at first to the dismay of his parents. But it proved to be times well spent as he now has a high paying position. Joey's employer sends him all over the world and he loves his work. I'm sad to say I've only seen my nephew four times in his life though he and I exchange letters and notes more frequently than any of the other children.
   
     Billy, Emily's daughter and youngest child is still in college. Her given name is Catherine but the nickname was an early gift from her brother Joey who wouldn't accept the fact he was not blessed with a male sibling. The name stuck. Billy and I are great pals since she and her mother spent a week with me this summer after my mother's death. Over the years I saw more of Billy than her siblings as the family traveled more in recent years. At twenty-one years of age, Billy is in love with a different guy daily, a whiz at school with no effort or direction, and the most confident, loveable young lady I've ever met.
 
     And now you know why, when I was in the hospital, I told Emily she ruled the world! My only regret is not seeing more of these wonderful people while they were growing up.
 
     In describing Emily's family to Mr. Anderson I intended to limit the description to simple facts, while skirting more personal matters, but I found myself in the unaccustomed position of blabbering away. Apparently he was not overly bored with my exuberance as he asked many questions and seemed genuinely interested.
 
     After a quick mid-morning stop for coffee we arrived in Emily's town just after eleven o'clock. I unfolded her hand-drawn map of directions to the house. With only one wrong turn we found it, perched upon a rise at the end of a long dirt drive that swung in a wide arc up the hill, guarded by massive maples. Though I had seen photographs of my sister's home, none did it justice; it was truly magnificent! We learned later the building dated to just after the American Revolution. It stood majestically beneath massive trees like the village patriarch, gazing down a long valley to a little village nestled in a calendar scene a half mile away.
 
     “I'm impressed,” Mr. Anderson said as we pulled up in front just as the door sprang open to the troop of excited greeters.
 
     Emily had decorated her home in period antiques showing taste and skill I hadn't known she possessed. Her housekeeping so immaculate I had to catch my breath. She laughed away my compliments in modesty, but her home was dressed as perfect as a magazine.
 
     Fred Murphy was his usual self, crushing me in a bear hug and kissing me like a long lost child. The children were equally demonstrative. Mr. Chou, who insisted everyone call him Hap, was a delightful little man with a bow tie and an infectious smile. He was six years Anne's senior but the two clung to each other like teenagers. Mr. Anderson, though overwhelmed by the boisterous crowd, seemed pleased to be a part of this happy group. Joey, who was even larger than his father, was an ardent sports fan. He hit it off especially well with my escort.
 
     There was enough food for the Turkish army and a babble of sounds competed from room to room, a football game in one, a laughter in another and the sound of dishes, glasses and pots and pans in a third. A stranger would never guess that three of us, Hap Chou, Mr. Anderson and I, had never set foot in this house before today. We were so treated like lifelong inhabitants, no different from the occupants of the beautiful home, as at ease as the furniture. It was a Thanksgiving to remember.
 
     When we were satiated to overflowing, a well-placed half time in the football game allowed the men to be shamed into doing the dishes. The rest of us slumped to the den where I was forced to fend off Emily and her daughter's blister of questions about my friend.
 
     “Aunt Luce,” moaned Billy, “If you don't marry him, I will!”
 
     I gave her a hug. “And break the hearts of a thousand young men? You couldn't be that cruel! Besides, he has a son just about your age. Maybe you should check him out!”
 
     Then, just as I was finally beginning to catch my breath, the men marched into the room. Fred led the parade, holding a cupcake with a sole lighted candle. Everyone began singing Happy Birthday in raucous, off-key voices, much to my embarrassment.
 
     While my birthday wasn't until the following Wednesday, the twenty-eighth, Emily insisted on celebrating in person, complete with wrapped presents from her and all of her children. I was overwhelmed! Em gave me a beautiful pair of satin black pants and a white silk blouse and belt to go with them. They were far more elegant than I'd ever purchase myself and very beautiful.
 
     She pointed her finger at Mr. Anderson. “Now, you make her wear these the next time you go out! I know her. Otherwise they'll stay in the closet and rot!”
 
     “I will, I promise,” he answered and then added, to my further embarrassment, “But she looks beautiful in anything she wears!”
 
     Anne and her husband gave me a lovely pair of earrings, Joey a pair of gloves and Billy perfume. Fred handed me another can of Mace!
 
     “This time keep it in your purse!” he said.
 
     “Yes, sir. I will,” I nodded solemnly, never daring to tell him my assailant had spent a recent night in my house!
 
     I had to bite my lip to keep from crying I was so happy with my family’s thoughtfulness. While I continue to sound foolish in the saying, I had never experienced the warmth and affection I felt that day. I couldn't hope to share a time of Thanksgiving with a kinder, more loving group.
 
 

Author Notes Lucille, age thirty-seven, is a school teacher and a near-recluse. After her mother's death, she is trying to rid her life-time home of ghosts of the past. Her priest suggests she record her thoughts and feelings in a diary. She has developed a strong interest in old letters found in her mother's dresser. At first reluctantly, now with increased interest, she is having weekly Friday evening dinners with a shy church acquaintance, Mr. Anderson. While comfortable with his company, she shuns a more serious attachment. Part of her, a make-believe friend from childhood whom she calls Amy, is pushing her to stop fighting any hint of intimacy. After being mugged, she feels sympathetic toward her young assailant and agrees to his community service under her supervision. She is nervous about travelling to her sister├?┬¢??s home in another state, for Thanksgiving dinner.


Chapter 32
Thanksgiving,Nov. 23rd (Part Three.)

By Fridayauthor

     Thanksgiving Day, November 23rd (Part Three.)
    
     Business demands required Joey to fly to Amsterdam that evening and sister Billy agreed to drive him to Kennedy airport and spend the night with a friend in the city. Anne and Mr. Chou, her husband, had just this morning flown from San Francisco and were still functioning on west coast time. The couple retired to their upstairs room by seven o'clock, leaving the residual four of us alone by the fire. I knew Mr. Anderson and I should be on our way back to Sea View, but neither of us made a move to leave the warm comfort, pleasant company and cheery fireplace.
 
     “I don't mean to pry,” Mr. Anderson said to Emily, “but I don't understand why you and your sister don't see more of each other. You certainly get along marvelously well.”
 
     I started to answer, but Emily stopped me. “I'll explain,” my sister said as she poured herself a glass of brandy and snuggled against her husband. “I left home when I was young and Luce was hardly out of diapers. Fred and I lived out west until a year ago and I didn't come back to Massachusetts very often.”
 
     “You're being too nice,” Fred told his wife. “Tell them the real reason you left home in the first place.”
 
     “Let's just say I didn't see eye to eye with my father and moved out at a tender age. I'll leave it at that.”
 
     “Tell them the truth,” Fred interrupted. “They're both practically family. Why smooth it over? Both of the old bastards are dead.” 
 
     My heart began to beat rapidly. The conversation was moving onto far more personal ground than I wanted to hear. “I'm sure we don't have to rehash all that business. . . .” I started to say.
 
     “Maybe I should,” Emily answered and turned to me. “God knows you have a right to hear my side.” She took my hand. “Fred is right; Dad was a bastard, Luce, a real bastard, and I got fed up with it and split. You can’t believe how sorry I was to leave you with them. I still can't forgive myself for doing that. God knows I didn't want to abandon you, but I didn't have a choice.” She rolled her eyes, “I used to dream of sneaking back and stealing you away in the night, while they were sleeping.”
 
     “Tell her why you split,” Fred urged as he poured another drink and passed the bottle to his wife. Both showed the effect of the brandy. I dared not look at Mr. Anderson, afraid of what might be coming next. Emily sighed and continued.
 
     “Pa used to come to our room, at first before you were born and then not for a long time . . . he went on night shift. But then, when he went back on days, I knew he’d start coming in again, after you'd be asleep. He said if I made a sound, I'd wake you and you'd be frightened. I woke you and got a beating for it, but he kept away, for a little while.” She began to cry and Fred put his arm around. Mr. Anderson shifted uncomfortably. I bit my lip and closed my eyes.
 
     “Em . . .” I began but she waved me away. Fred held her even tighter.
 
     “This isn't easy for her,” he said to us. “She couldn't talk about it at all for a long time, for years, but it does her good to get it out in the open; right Hon?”
 
     She nodded and continued. “Ma got tired of hearing you cry in the night and put you out on the sofa. That’s all Dad needed. Ma wouldn't believe me and I didn't dare tell anyone else but the older I got, the madder I got. Finally, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I took a great big butcher knife out of the kitchen drawer and hid it under the covers.”
 
     “My God!” I exclaimed.
 
     “He didn't come for three or four nights but when he did I was ready. He tried to get in my bed and I moved against the wall. Then, just as he moved near me, I stabbed the son-of-a-bitch as hard as I could!”
 
     “Good for you,” muttered Mr. Anderson, pulling me closer toward him.
 
     “I sliced his thigh, not as deep as I'd wanted to because the bed covers got in the way. I missed where I was really aiming. He screamed and fell on the floor and ma came running in and saw the blood all over the bed. You woke up crying and all hell broke loose! Ma was sobbing and screaming for him to go to the hospital; it was bedlam. He was yelling and really drunk. He wanted to kill me but I still had the knife and wouldn't let go. It was quite a scene. Finally, they screamed at me to get out of the house, for good! I told them I'd gladly get out and never come back. He tried to grab the knife, but I stabbed him again, this time in the arm and told him if he ever laid a hand on you I'd slash his throat! It was the first time I'd ever seen him frightened and it was beautiful! I could tell by the look in his eyes he knew I'd kill him in a minute and never have a second thought about doing it. I would have too. That's a hell of a way to think of your father, isn't it?”
 
     I couldn't help myself, but I started to cry. Fred and Emily felt terrible and poor Mr. Anderson didn't know what to say or do. I felt like a fool, but I couldn't stop. I sobbed and sobbed until finally Emily, crying too, took me aside and just held on until I trembled to a stop. Em, who had always spoken indifferently of our parents, had kept this terrible thing inside for a life time. There was so much I wanted to say. So much I wanted to know.
 
     Fred and Mr. Anderson discreetly disappeared until I was somewhat composed.Then Fred reappeared with a tray of pumpkin pie, mince pie, and a pot of coffee. We gradually returned toward the serenity we had enjoyed throughout the day. Nothing more said. It was as if we had watched a tragic movie, but now it was over and life outside the theater had to go on. 

     By the time we finished eating it was already ten o'clock. Both Emily and Fred were insistent we stay the night but Mr. Anderson seemed to sense I might rather return to Sea View and made some excuse on our behalf. After hugs and goodbyes we were on the road, amid promises to see each other far more often in the coming months.
 
     As soon as we were out of sight of the house, Mr. Anderson pulled the car to the side of the road, stopped, and turned to me.
 
     “Miss Peabody, undo your seat belt and come here.” I obeyed and slid next to him though I didn't understand what he wanted. He put his arm around me and kissed me gently on the lips. “Look,” he said, “what was said back there was terribly upsetting to you. It's not the right time to discuss it. You're far too tired and distressed. Don't even consider the conversation. Just sleep and dream of how pleasant the rest of the day was. You'll feel much better in the morning.” 
 
     With that, he pulled me next to him, hooked the middle seat belt around me and pushed my head beneath his shoulder and arm, where it was soft and warm. I remember him driving the car back out on the road but that's all. I next awoke in my driveway, stiff but somehow content as he helped me to the door.
       
     It was very early Friday.
 

Author Notes Lucille, age thirty-seven, is a school teacher and a near-recluse. After her mother's death, she is trying to rid her life-time home of ghosts of the past. Her priest suggests she record her thoughts and feelings in a diary. She has developed a strong interest in old letters found in her mother's dresser. At first reluctantly, now with increased interest, she is having weekly Friday evening dinners with a shy church acquaintance, Mr. Anderson. While comfortable with his company, she shuns a more serious attachment. Part of her, a make-believe friend from childhood whom she calls Amy, is pushing her to stop fighting any hint of intimacy. After being mugged, she feels sympathetic toward her young assailant and agrees to his community service under her supervision. She enjoyed Thanksgiving at her sister├??├?┬¢??s home in New York State.


Chapter 33
Friday Nov. 24th (Part One.)

By Fridayauthor

            Friday Number Fifteen, November 24th (Part One.)
           
            It is a good thing Friday was not a school day or else I'd have surely lost my perfect attendance pin. I slept in late and by the looks of my jumbled covers fought madly with my dreams, and perhaps nightmares, though none remained in my mind long enough to be remembered. A cup of coffee and some toast helped to wake me, but I needed far more than caffeine to calm the unsettled feeling that persisted throughout the morning. Yesterday had offered more than my humble mind could digest without time and seaside reflection. Even filling the pages of this journal failed to offer the usual solace, or chase away the confusion in my muddled mind.
      
            So much has passed since Father Hammond first presented this book to me and I vowed to accommodate his wishes. I resolved to then burn the result with the rest of my past. The book is nearly complete with words and thoughts most personal, but they are empty words for no one else to ponder and the thought of setting a match to my finished work offers no comfort. The phrases sound hollow and pointless, like a play presented with all the emotions a heart can render, but to an empty theater.
      
            It was a cold day, with a chill, damp wind blowing in from the sea, but I knew what my soul needed, in spite of the harsh weather. I set my pen aside and bundling up, took Amy for a long walk along the beach. We had much to discuss and I needed the openness of the ocean; not the stuffy confines of my house.
      
            What my sister had told me shouldn't have been a surprise and perhaps it wasn't, but just hearing the words, especially in front of Mr. Anderson, was exceedingly painful. And yet, I was somehow comforted he'd heard a hint of what I feared I'd never have the courage to tell him myself. Part of me longs for this man to know me beyond the surface; the surface I so carefully present to him. Yet part of Lucille is frightened beyond reason of what he will learn that will cause him to depart my life forever.
        
            Sarah is on my mind too. It was she who led me to examine my heritage in the off chance that kind and loving blood coursed through my veins in however minute quantities. I longed for her blood, possessed of so many fine qualities I admired, a loving heart, and a character willing to give up all that is safe and secure for the chance of a better world. Is there enough of Sarah's and Anne's blood to dilute that passed on to me at birth by my parents with all their petty hates and fears and cruelties? I long to tear them from me and in the void resurrect a Lucille I know is buried deep beneath. But the grave they dug has buried Lucille oh so deeply.
       
            I strolled along the sand, immersed in so many questions, with so few answers. Are we in any part our parents? Do we possess any of their disagreeable traits and cruelties? How can we ever trust anyone when those whom we most trusted betrayed us so harshly? Can we recover from what has been done to us in the name of love? Even Amy is challenged by so lofty the questions. She is pensive, offering no solutions to those things unanswered that plague us as we watch the sea gulls circle overhead in the dark and windy sky. Are Amy and I, at long last merging into a single mind?
      
            What must poor Mr. Anderson think of so damaged a family? What should I say to him? Should I answer his questions, those asked or unasked? I'm embarrassed by what he has heard. Why does it matter so very much what he thinks? I know the answer though I'm loath to admit it, even to myself, or to Amy. People in the past have never mattered to Lucille Peabody; I've made certain of that by the walls I’ve constructed. But this time it is different; it pains me to say the words but I really care. I've built my defenses carefully and now they crumble before me. I care for Mr. Anderson in a way I've never cared for another person in my long and dismal life.
      
            It's not just Mr. Anderson, though my feelings for him are very special indeed. It's Emily too, and Anne, Joey, Billy and even Fred. I find myself caring for others far more deeply than I've ever imagined I would be capable. Yes, I've always loved my family, in my own strange way, but the intensity of my love keeps increasing in spite of all I've done to limit those feelings. I fear the hurt that surely hides beneath, waiting to pounce at any minute and bury me in its depression. I'm not supposed to hurt anymore, but I do, so very badly, just thinking about it.
      
            What plagues me the most is this nail-biting uncertainty. My life, so structured and orderly in the past is now in chaos. Yes, Amy, the uncertainty regarding Mr. Anderson. I now know in my heart with each passing Friday our relationship cannot continue unchanged, this spinning carousel ride of Fridays I've grown to love is spiraling toward the end as he learns more and more about me. I know I should step away, turn my back and end our friendship, accepting the pain that will surely follow. At least then it will be over and I'll be able to breathe without my heart pounding and my chest-aching and my mind twisting in dizzy circles. Amy cries “no” at the mere suggestion of running away again, but I tell her it's destined to happen. Why tease ourselves into thinking otherwise? She should know that. We can't grow closer together, this kindly man and I, the impasse is staring us in the face like a prison wall. Lucille won't let go of the past and let the future happen so she should bite her lip, say the words that will send Mr. Anderson in search of another who is able to offer the love he dearly deserves while we, Amy and I, crawl back to the shambles of an empty life. Now, I've said it. Are you satisfied, Amy? At least then the pretending and the waiting will stop. Go back to your pillows Lucille, and your tears and your books and your empty house, all fancied up for no one to see. There you'll be safe from hurt.
 

Author Notes Lucille, age thirty-seven, is a school teacher and a near-recluse. After her mother's death, she is trying to rid her life-time home of past ghosts. At the behest of her priest she records her thoughts and feelings in a diary. She has a strong interest in old letters found in her mother's dresser. She is having weekly Friday evening dinners with a shy church acquaintance, Mr. Anderson but shuns a more serious attachment. Part of her, a make-believe friend from childhood whom she calls Amy, is pushing her to stop fighting any hint of intimacy. After being mugged, she is sympathetic toward her young assailant and helps him. She enjoyed Thanksgiving at her sister├?┬¢??s home in New York State where she learns her sister was molested by their father.


Chapter 34
Friday, Nov. 24th (Part Two.)

By Fridayauthor

            Friday Number Fifteen, November 24th (Part Two.)
      
            We tromp home, Amy and Lucille, dog tired with nothing truly resolved, and climb the hill to Hawthorne Street. Our world won't change from what it's always been; we know that now, we're too terrified to allow it. There's not enough of Sarah's strong blood in our veins; it's dried to dust in a forgotten grave in Acton. Our life will plod forward at its creeping pace until a forgotten grave is dug for us as well. We shake the sand from our shoes on the back stoop; the sun begins to dance through the clouds. The warmth isn't near enough to alter my mood.
       
            My only shred of pleasure comes from knowing it is another Friday and my life of late has been made up of anticipation of this weekly day. Perhaps at least one more evening will survive and leave me in the raised spirits I cling to week by week. One more Friday before I chase my friend away.
       
            The ringing phone startles us back to reality. It's Emily.
      
            She apologizes profusely about yesterday evening, bringing up the past and causing the resulting scene. I assure her it was my fault for reacting so childishly. No, she hasn't given Mr. Anderson a poor impression; I insist he seemed to understand.
       
            “Luce, you've got to nail that guy. He's so right for you!”
      
            I try to change the subject. Surprisingly, she does it for me.
      
            “I've been thinking about your letters,” she said, “the ones you found in Ma's dresser. Wasn't one of the women named Anne?”
      
            I told her “yes” and started to explain what we had learned recently about our family but she interrupted.
       
            “I don't really care a fig about that ancient history but when my Anne was born, Ma asked me to name her. It was the only request she ever made. Suppose she wanted her named for the girl in the letter?”
      
            “You let Ma choose your first-born’s name? You just got kicked out of the house, Em.”
      
            “I liked the name anyway,” Emily mumbled and then added defensively. “I didn't hate our mother, Luce. I felt incredibly sorry for her. She was a weak, miserable woman, but she was my mother. God knows what she went through in life. I don't know if I'd have fared any better married to that son-of-a-bitch either. Who am I to judge? I'll just take what God doles out to me and make the best of it.” And then she added, “You should too.”
      
            Could my mother have thought enough of those letters to make such a request of Emily? I told Em I just didn't know, but the letters were so many generations removed from mother, she couldn't have known any of the people mentioned in the correspondence.
        
            “Well,” she said, “It's your middle name too,” and went off on another subject.
        
            My middle name! I hadn't made the connection! Could the letters been that important to my mother?
      
            That evening I repeated Emily's remarks to Mr. Anderson. “You'll probably never know if your mother passed on the name, but at least she passed on the letters. It's a nice name anyway,” he added with a smile.
      
            “My mother never showed the letters to either Emily or me,” I protested.
      
            “She kept them, didn't she? Something about the correspondence was important to her. Maybe her mother or grandmother treasured them. Perhaps the letters were just passed down from one person to another until the source was forgotten. After all, it's the content that's important, not the author,” he said.
      
            It seemed strange that my mother's sole personal bequest to me would be correspondence nearly a century and a half old. And why request the name Anne and not Sarah, the author of the letters, if in fact the letters had anything to do with naming me and later, Emily's child? Was mother trying to tell us something she couldn't put into words? Something she couldn't or wouldn't accept herself but hoped her children would understand?
       
            Mr. Anderson and I discussed the letters at length that evening, as if we were both more comfortable avoiding personal subjects. I began the evening with the sinking feeling it might be our last dinner at Delaneys. Though I didn't know how it would come about, I was still convinced the end of our relationship was nearing. But as usual, I grew more relaxed in the company of my friend, and sad thoughts were put aside in the comfort of our conversation.
       
            “If you stop and think,” he mused at one point, “we don't know Anne as we know Sarah, but Sarah knew her cousin very well. Anne was her confidante, the one person she turned to when she needed advice, help, love. We never had the opportunity to read her advice to Sarah but it must have been very important to Sarah, for nearly all of her life. It gave her confidence to meet a challenge. Sarah had little by most standards, but she reveled in what she did have. Anne's advice allowed Sarah to embrace life.”
      
            I thought about Mr. Anderson's assessment for a long time and resolved to take my life as it came, to try and put aside all those thoughts of what would end and what would hurt. Like Em, I would strive to take what my God gave me and thank him for it.
      
            Neither of us said much after the meal. We discussed Mr. Anderson's meeting with Tyrone Bradley which went well and recapped the pleasantries of Thanksgiving Day. Mr. Anderson sensed I was troubled as well as tired from my lengthy walk and he too looked quite exhausted after a long night and an unusually busy day at his store. We both agreed the evening would be short. It was peaceful to walk from his car to my door holding his hand, and then to be kissed so softly. However, I remained ill at ease. It would take much effort for Lucille to put out of her mind the thoughts her world would tumble and be forever removed from the quiet tranquility of our Fridays evenings. I turned away quickly lest he see the tears in my eyes. I bit my lip in resolve at what would inevitably come to pass.
 

Author Notes Lucille, age thirty-seven, is a school teacher and a near-recluse. After her mother's death, she is trying to rid her life-time home of past ghosts. At the behest of her priest she records her thoughts and feelings in a diary. She has a strong interest in old letters found in her mother's dresser. She is having weekly Friday evening dinners with a shy church acquaintance, Mr. Anderson but shuns a more serious attachment. Part of her, a make-believe friend from childhood whom she calls Amy, is pushing her to stop fighting any hint of intimacy. After being mugged, she is sympathetic toward her young assailant and helps him. She enjoyed Thanksgiving at her sisterÛ??s home in New York State where she learns her sister was molested by their father.


Chapter 35
Friday, Dec. 1st, Part One

By Fridayauthor

            Friday Number Sixteen, December 1st
           
            My birthday on Wednesday began with my little second grade charges, somehow becoming aware of the date, and singing to me a joyous version of the appropriate serenade. I received a number of cards, mostly from the hens. There were three greetings from relatives I'd not seen since my mother's funeral, and years before that. Emily called and so did Billy and Anne, wishing me well. I had not heard from Mr. Anderson since Sunday mass. There was no real reason why I should, except after my Thanksgiving Day party, I knew he was aware of the date.
  
            I received one unexpected present. As I came home from school, an old friend turned the corner and confronted me. It was Black Cat, returned from God knows where, purring his way back to my affections, as if he'd never been absent. I chided him severely, but he paid me no heed. He has perfect faith that there awaits the security of food, a warm lap and love when he needs a respite from his adventures. So simple an existence makes me jealous.
      
            My mood has been positive all week as I've displaced sad thoughts with busy activities. Sunday I made a pact with my God to take life as he disburses it to me, without dwelling on the setbacks he might choose to place in my path. While it is a slow adjustment, Amy feels confident we are making progress.
      
            Tyrone came by at his usual time on Wednesday. I put him to work again in the garden as the weather had moderated and I was anxious to finish before the heart of winter arrives with its fury. Spring bulbs that should have been planted weeks earlier still remain on the shelf. The young man began to work for Mr. Anderson on Saturday and by all accounts is conscientious in his labors. The automobile, decomposing in my garage, is his beacon of promise.
      
            I was sitting alone in my sofa wondering if I should go out and help Tyrone when the doorbell rang. It was a delivery from the florist.
       
            The man held out a small bouquet of red roses and smiled.
      
            “Happy what-ever-it-is,” he said.
      
            “Birthday,” I answered, returning his smile and taking the flowers. I placed them on the coffee table and carefully opened the card. The bouquet was not from Mr. Anderson as I'd expected. It was from Tyrone. My heart at first sank, but I quickly realized how selfish I was behaving. I went to the back yard and gave the boy a hug of thanks that would have made Fred Murphy proud. I'm sure Tyrone blushed scarlet, but I didn't care. Someone else besides Lucille was embarrassed for a change and I honestly appreciated his thoughtfulness.
        
            After Tyrone had left for the day and I had eaten a sandwich for my birthday supper, the doorbell rang again. It was Mr. Anderson, with a large bouquet of red roses and white carnations, a silver wrapped bottle of cream sherry, all followed by a happy birthday kiss.
       
            “Friday,” he said, and then added, “Don't forget to wear Emily's present. I promised her I'd remind you,” and he was gone.

           
            Mr. Anderson called for me in a taxi Friday evening as his car was being repaired, not the first time that had happened as it is as tired as our town. For some reason I was as nervous as our first Friday together. I should have guessed the evening would be far different from prior weeks when he suggested we forgo Delaneys Family Restaurant for The Coach and Four. Mild surprise was all I felt at first although the suggestion broke a pattern of fifteen Fridays running, absent one. We had considered changing our restaurant at one time in the past, but both agreed we were comfortable at Delaneys and the menu variety was always a pleasant challenge in spite of the number of times we'd dined there.
        
            I must apologize in advance for so detailing the evening that followed, but it is so very important to me that I ask your patience and indulgence. As I write these words I can only hope to make sense of my feelings by not neglecting a trace of what followed.
           
            The Coach and Four is quite elegant and I felt a rush of pride when we entered. I blush to admit it, but we made a striking couple. I had taken extra care in my grooming and dressing. Emily's gift of clothing was far more elegant than anything I owned and I felt I owed it unusual attention. At first I felt out of place when I'd donned my gift, but I had to admit after trying on the clothes they fit perfectly and looked very stylish. I paraded before my mirror like a school girl going to a prom! But memories of my high school date so long ago produced a far different feeling from a Friday evening with my friend! The satin pants rustled when I walked and the silk blouse was loose enough to look casual, but most stylish. I went so far as to buy a special pair of shoes to match the ensemble. I wore a thin chain about my neck, birthday earrings and added a spray of perfume!
        
            Mr. Anderson looked particularly handsome in a dark blue suit I’d not seen, his silver hair a distinguished contrast and his stature, as always, arrow-straight. I was proud to be on his arm.
      
            The Coach and Four is quite expensive but when I attempted my usual procedure of passing my anticipated share of the bill beneath the table, Mr. Anderson shook me off. He does that every other week or so but Friday was the third time running.
        
            “Happy birthday,” he said with a smile.
      
            Unlike Delaneys, where only house wine is served, The Coach and Four has an extensive list and Mr. Anderson ordered a bottle of fine California merlot which we shared to completion. The meal was a delight and we were a merry couple indeed as we decided to forgo a taxi and hike the mile and a half to my home, holding hands like youngsters, while chattering away. Even the rain that caught us at the final corner failed to dampen our spirits.
      
            We both pulled off our damp shoes. We sank into my sofa as I turned on some pleasant music. My twelve different pillows, the final one completed this week in my splurge of labor, spilled about at random, adding to the softness of my nest.
           
            We settled, still laughing at a silly story about a mutual friend. A little later, sipping my cream sherry birthday present, we watched the receding lights of a freighter as it slipped out to sea from the bay. It was a mellow feeling, absent of trepidation I'd have felt with anyone else, comfortable after so many pleasant Friday evenings in the secure company of this man. I was serene in our compact of mutual consent, and put aside my fears of the end of our friendship.
        
            I was not ignorant of the situation; being here alone with a man for whom I cared deeply and, who in return I felt cared equally for me. We had spent similar evenings, though none so peaceful. But even so, I was again surprised when he bent to kiss me, not once, but in a continuing fashion, as he had a few weeks past. This time no telephone interrupted the embrace and though I was startled and my heart began racing, I didn't push him away. It was a most delicate kiss, and the brush of his fingers upon my back and shoulders was equally soft. Then he reached over my head and I heard the click of the light switch and when I opened my eyes momentarily, all I could see framed in my window were winking pinpoints of light across the shore. We remained so for several minutes, slowly sinking lower and lower into the pillowed softness of my sofa-nest, never speaking a word.
      
 

Author Notes Lucille, age thirty-seven, is a school teacher and a near-recluse. After her mother's death, she is trying to rid her life-time home of past ghosts. At the behest of her priest she records her thoughts and feelings in a diary. She has a strong interest in old letters found in her mother's dresser. She is having weekly Friday evening dinners with a shy church acquaintance, Mr. Anderson but shuns a more serious attachment. Part of her, a make-believe friend from childhood whom she calls Amy, is pushing her to stop fighting any hint of intimacy. After being mugged, she is sympathetic toward her young assailant and helps him. She enjoyed Thanksgiving at her sisterÔ??s home in New York State where she learns her sister was molested by their father.


Chapter 36
Friday, Dec 1st, Part Two

By Fridayauthor

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of sexual content.

            Friday Number Sixteen, December 1st (Part Two.)
           
            I'm sorry, but I feel most inadequate, unable to find the perfect words needed to convey what next transpired. Mr. Anderson’s hand moved to my breast but for reasons unfathomable now or then I made no effort to stop him. He gently massaged my parts most sensitive, first one and then the other, as polite to my feelings as holding out a chair or presenting an umbrella against the rain. I steeled myself to his grazing touch, but its gentleness relaxed me to ease and I maintained my silence. I was not ignorant of what was happening and yet I felt helpless against the urge to tiptoe a step further with this man before slamming the door, before explaining why he should not, why he could not continue further. A thousand thoughts and memories began to claw their way toward my consciousness, but I pushed them aside and begged my God to let me forget for just this moment. I lay there, letting him touch me, with fingers so sensitive, causing me to slip from reality to dreams, and to feel sensations unknown before.
        
            When he began to unbutton my blouse I remained submissive, continuing to kiss him as he kissed me, alarmed at the beginning stir I felt in my body so long ago forgotten. Swirls of conflicts of no and yes fought like demons a level below my consciousness and I cried in my mind for Amy, pleading for answers, but she was absent from my call. The silk slipped away easily and I arched my back as he reached behind me and unfastened my bra. With boldness I would have denied possessing, I stretched out my arm and allowed him to remove my upper clothing until my frontal bareness was open to the soft grazing of his fingertips.
      
            I could sense he was breathing more rapidly as he lightly felt my nipples, softly holding me between thumb and forefinger while we continued to kiss. But with the pleasure of his touch came a racing heart and wave of fear he'd lose control and like the nightmare of years long past, subject me to what I'd tried so hard to bury in the cellar of my memory and forget forever. If his slightest movement had in any way seemed swift or threatening I might have had the strength to stop him, push him away as I'd done to others far earlier in their advances than his. But instead he pressed his hand against the flatness of my tummy, first touching my navel with a single finger, and then, oh so gently, he slid his whole hand downward beneath my waist until his fingertips barely touched my hair below! I must have shuddered as he paused there, fingers barely touching, unmoving, until perhaps it was my continued kissing that told him I had not yet chose to forbid him further. It was then he began to unzip my satin slacks and I knew in my heart what would surely follow if I did not now, at this moment, finally stop him! Yet, I felt powerless to halt his advance. I was in a panic, knowing neither what to say nor what to do! I so wanted him to stop, wanted him to continue, a little more, another touch, just one more moment like this to remember forever!
       
            As he freed the snap and I felt the lessening pressure beneath my waist band, his hand began to tremble, my first hint that he too might be as unsure as I of what was happening. I clutched him, tighter than ever, as if for security against his proceeding further, and to still the shaking I felt vibrate along my entire body. He gently pushed me from my side until I was lying flat and he was half-sitting next to me, looking down upon me in the half-light of the outside that bathed the room.
      
            I was sure he would speak, ask me should he, could he, and I panicked of what permission I’d give without sending him off for ever, this man so kind, this man I cared for so very deeply. Instead he turned away and began to undo his tie and remove his shirt while I closed my eyes and trembled to what was happening, what I was doing, and tried to clear my mind of any thoughts and memories; to forget past pains and hurts, to forget anything but how I felt, at this moment, only this moment, this small instant in time, only now. Once again he touched me and reached across my body and with both of his hands and raised my hips, my bottom, ever so slightly. Then he gently pulled my satin pants downward until they were about my knees. I raised one leg, and as he pulled the pant leg free, and in some sort of answer of yes without thought or reason, I pushed the trousers lower with my other foot until they fell to the floor in a tumble. He reached to my lower legs and first one, then the other, slowly peeled the half- stockings down my leg, over my foot and dropped them away. And then I could feel the unaccustomed coolness of the night sweep across my nearly naked body as I lay there beside him.
      
            His hand began to slowly caress my stomach atop my panties and I could feel myself getting wet below. I arched myself upward toward him and became aware that I was making throaty sounds of pleasure and a damp sweat was beginning to cover all of me. I tried to muffle my sounds, pressing my mouth to his with increased intensity, as if to snuff out to the ears of unseen ghosts surrounding us the noise of what we were doing. Rising up, he leaned over me and for a moment I was paralyzed with the thought he would crawl upon me and do it quickly and forcefully and painfully, but instead, with perfect care he lifted my bottom once more until I followed his motion and raised myself up, enabling him to place thumb and forefinger at the seam on each side of my hips and slowly, ever so slowly, with tantalizing slowness, draw my panties down and down until they were about my thighs and I was there for him.
       
            I had never so exposed myself to a man, never, in thirty-eight years, never. One had tried clumsily to share his pleasure through half opened zippers and pulled-away under things and the other had violated me unseen and near unconscious, amid raucous sounds, attended jeering and ripped and tattered clothing. And now I lay, my most private self, completely exposed to the total control and eyes and touch and body of this quiet man, while I fearfully, expectantly awaited what I'd thought and prayed and had sworn would never ever happen again.
      
            Lying beside me, he slowly began to stroke my thighs, and then my pubic hair, intertwining it in his fingers, moving lower and lower until one finger slipped to the top of my legs, still tightly pressed together. My breath was coming in quickened gasps and I broke our kiss to stretch my head backward and suck in the needed air to sustain me. I slowly eased the pressure of my tensed body. Raising a knee, I moved my panties down and opened my tightened legs ever so slightly to the warmth of his deeper touch. His palpating finger slowly stroked my wetness until he slid inside and touched me where my pleasure was like nothing I'd ever felt.
        
            “Let him! Let him! Let him!” screamed Amy in my ear.
      
            With his other hand, Mr. Anderson took my hand in his and gently moved it toward his waist and I realized with a shudder what he was asking me to do. I must have hesitated because he released my hand, as if to apologize for his boldness, but I let my fingers remain, touching his belt buckle. I didn’t pull away.
      
            If we were to be one, it must be both of us, together. Not like the others, like some passive object, not like my mother; together this man and I. He continued to touch me, and touch me again, and again in rhythm to our breathing and after squeezing my eyes as if to shut out was I was about to do, I began to unfasten his belt, unbutton his waist-button and unzip his tightened trousers. Both our breaths were heavy as he moved to push and kick his clothing away, until they fell to the floor with mine. He started to pull off his undershorts, but I ever so boldly placed a hand to stop him and a person I no longer knew grasped his wide waist band and slowly slid them downward, doing as he'd done to me, slowly, until his bareness too was free to the night beside me. From the loosened cloth I could feel spring the unseen part of him I so feared and wondered, not knowing the person beside him, whose hands I couldn’t control!
      
            We moved closer together, on our sides, our bodies pressing. I raised my top leg, crossing it over him, opening myself further to his touch. I thought he'd turn me to my back and lay over me, but instead he again took my hand and moved it to the nakedness between us and with a shock and racing heart I felt his rigid, hardness in my hand! We both moved slightly apart amid the tumble of pillows and he continued to touch me in a way I wanted to last forever as I held him, not knowing what to think or what to do. My mind twisted and whirled, so fast was everything happening, so different was this person, this me! So strange, this body-part I'd only seen in pictures and felt in pain, and so long detested. It wasn't I who felt this need to explore; who was in this world I knew so little about, doing things I'd never dreamed of doing and feeling feelings and sensations I'd never known existed.
        
            And then the world was black with pleasure with what he was doing to my body. A wave passed over me with a dizziness that nearly caused me to faint, forcing me to cease to think or fear or remember.
       
            When I knew I could stand his touch no longer he sensed I was ready for him and he began to move above me, straddling me. Though part of me cried otherwise and tears streamed down my cheeks, I made no move to stop him. I bit my lip and with my heart still pounding, I clasped him as I've never held anyone in my life, digging my nails in his back and shoulders as he slowly rose over me. I could feel the hair of his thighs brush me as he gently moved my legs apart, and then the touch of his two fingers as he slowly opened me further. I braced for him to thrust himself inside me but instead he caressed my vestibule with the tip of his penis and with his hands under my bottom, lifted me to him before inexorably sliding himself into me until I could feel nothing but the swollen heat of him in all my lower body. He lowered onto me and his weight on my thighs stretched my legs yet further apart until I raised my legs higher and encircled him. I was trapped by this man and at the same time held in a cocoon of warmth and trust and protection like I'd not believed possible. It was as if I had given myself so completely, so intimately, I was no longer a single entity, so unconscious was I of all about me or who I was or what was happening to the world I'd so carefully built. All this amid touches of awareness; the familiar smell of my pillows, the street light in my room, the music still playing; even the feel of my panties still entwined about my ankle.
      
            He began to slowly move in a rhythm that caused me to lose further sense of time and purpose and at last I was alone with someone else. And, as if hearing the same music as he, I cautiously raised myself to him, meeting his movements and was one with him. Slowly, ever so slowly, and then faster for what seemed like hours or an instant or all time, our intensity rose and fell until it happened and there was a rush of pleasure between us amid gasps and moans and whimpers that made me feel I'd momentarily fainted and passed from this world. For the first time in my life, I was truly intimate with another human being. I cried with joy at the intensity of the feeling.
        
            He remained there, my nails biting his back and my legs locked about him until I felt the beginning of his softness melt within me as he slowly slipped away and life began to resume. We lay there, moments longer, still without a word. Finally, he discreetly moved to my side where we remained together, still holding each other in silence.
       
            Mr. Anderson rose and began dressing in the half-light from the window and I turned away as I pulled on my panties, hooked my bra, sitting there next to him on my sofa in the half-darkness of my living room. I then rose and  nervously slipped to the bathroom for a robe.
       
            When I returned he was dressed and thankfully, the light was still extinguished. I faced only his silhouette. We'd not spoken a word in hours and neither of us knew what to say. Somehow we both sensed it was not the time to talk of what had taken place. Finally, Mr. Anderson broke the silence.
       
            He rose from my sofa, nervously kissed me, holding me much tighter than usual, and murmured something about seeing me, next Friday evening. I slowly sank down in my sofa, left with my dreams.
 

Author Notes Lucille, age thirty-seven, is a school teacher and a near-recluse. After her mother's death, she is trying to rid her life-time home of past ghosts. At the behest of her priest she records her thoughts and feelings in a diary. She has a strong interest in old letters found in her mother's dresser. She is having weekly Friday evening dinners with a shy church acquaintance, Mr. Anderson but shuns a more serious attachment. Part of her, a make-believe friend from childhood whom she calls Amy, is pushing her to stop fighting any hint of intimacy. Her true feelings come forth after a birthday dinner.


Chapter 37
Saturday December 2nd

By Fridayauthor

            Saturday December 2nd
           
            I have spent the entire night, here on my sofa, wrapped in my flannel bathrobe, snuggled among my pillows, until I can now see the first pink streaks of morning peek across the bay amid the early sounds of the birds' awakening. I have smiled, cried, wondered, felt warm and content, cold and lonely, lost and at long last found. Most of all, I've felt an overwhelming need to talk to you, Mr. Anderson. Instead, I speak only with pen and ink to this near-completed tome whose final pages I've filled in the darkened hours since you left this room.
      
            Father Hammond was right. This journal has unwittingly provided me much insight and I shall not fail to so inform my priest. But when I place a final dot at the end of the last sentence of my writings, what shall become of my effort? No, Father Hammond, I shan't share it with you, much as you may be qualified to deal with a confessor of secrets. Shall I put a match to my journal of confidences? Or might I perhaps share them with another, not for sympathy or pity, not for understanding, just as an offer to glimpse at the true Lucille Peabody, unadorned, to take or discard as the reader pleases? I’ve labored over this question throughout the stillness of the night.
      
            Mr. Anderson, I so wish to tell you how very much I appreciated your kindness last evening. The words you didn't say were far more soothing than those you might have spoken. Any normal human being could stand up and tell you these things, meeting your eyes with a smile, but not Lucille Peabody. She is relegated to posting her thoughts and emotions in this book, for no other eyes to see. But now, after a night of soul-searching, I've decided to share these words, though the thought of another reading my  intimate revelations causes me to shiver in spite of the flannel that robes me. The fear doubles when I think you may be chased away by the shear mass of my complexities.
          
            Yes, Mr. Anderson . . . Philip; may I call you that at long last? I'm writing this to you. There is so much I wish to confide to you; I've decided to do so with pen as it is far more representative of my thoughts than tongue-tied Lucille speaking to you in person. It is so very important to me that you know all that came before last evening, so you will hopefully understand how much the intimacy meant to me. If I did not put last night to words and paper, in exacting detail, perhaps some minute feeling or memory would slip away with time, be forgotten and lost forever. I surely would be saddened beyond measure if that ever came to pass.
       
            Even these words so poorly scratched fail to suffice in conveying my feelings for you, so confused and alien are my thoughts and, yes, my passions. I also want you to meet my friends and know them as well as I; not just Black Cat whose infuriating independence far exceeds either yours or mine or Sarah's whose company we have shared and learned to love, but also Amy, that half-self of mine who lies hidden in the far recesses of my mind.
      
            Last night we shared something precious to me, and I'd like to think to you as well. You cannot know how difficult it was for me to offer this part of myself, this major portion, but even that was not all of me. There is more to Lucille Peabody as you can now see when you read these pages. Perhaps I've always been writing these words for you. Must I bare all these transgressions of my life in such stark and embarrassing detail, leaving nothing of my privacy untouched? I feel I must, as each happening so affected the others as to greatly alter this woman who has kept your company these Friday evenings, yet so long kept herself from you. Who is she, what does she feel, what are her thoughts, why does she act as she does, is she in love?
       
             I truly ask your pardon if the intimacy of these pages is embarrassing; if it is too personal in its detail of thoughts and descriptions. To me, intimacy is far more than sharing one's body in an exchange of physical pleasure; it is offering the intimacies of one's mind and beliefs and feelings. I've told you secrets in these pages few would share, perhaps offering my soul to you in addition to my body. But as you can see, my need is great. I want desperately for someone else to meet Amy and understand both Amy and Lucille a little better, as we are just now beginning to know ourselves.
       
            When we began our Friday evenings together, I never thought nor wanted them to culminate this way, as we lay together last evening, or you having to listen to my secrets through these pages. I hoped we'd share each other's company for a few weeks and I'd return to my solitary comfort of untroubled aloneness, content with Amy and my thoughts, with no fear of dragons at my door. Instead I've discovered a world I scarcely knew existed that frightens me beyond measure. It's a world where people share and give themselves willingly to love, knowing full well the hurt that might follow such an intimate and personal sacrifice. And yet it's a world so glorious I cannot ignore it any longer nor deny even the slimmest opportunity to squeeze through the door to its glorious daylight.
        
            I must thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for so closely abiding by our initial covenant. We kept to the rules. We did nothing each of us did not agree to allow to happen; even if it was a Lucille Peabody I didn't know who finally gave herself in body and in love to you last Friday evening. If she hadn't known in her deepest heart that the choice remained hers throughout, to retreat if she so desired, or proceed if she dared, she'd have fled the room in fear and dread at your very first touch.
      
            Amy claims I subconsciously planned the entire affair. She gleefully says I lulled you into a sense of security with my standoffishness, gradually wooed you with my charm, lured you with provocative clothes and erotic scents into my lair like a spider to her web, plied you with liquor and then took you for my own amid soft cushions and silken pillows. Untrue! Untrue! Untrue! Even she does not understand fully what it took to let last evening finally happen.
      
            It was Sarah who taught me that security and comfort absent love is a false comfort at best. You must give until you tremble no matter if it hurts. The world demands you take a chance if you are to live. I shall pass on to anyone who displays an iota of interest, Sarah's legacy as helpful as this girl of another time has been to me. I wish her well in her other life and perhaps, God willing, I'll one day meet her on the other side.
      
            Perhaps I'm old fashioned although after Friday night you may find that a hard lump of mashed potatoes to swallow! Giving one's body is just a symbol; giving oneself is the true measure of giving. To say," here I am I trust you with all I hold dear and treasure", causes a chill to my body I can't describe.
       
            No, I regret nothing that occurred last evening. We were most imprudent in our unprotected relations and the hens would have an inexhaustible supply of gossip should shy Miss Peabody be with child! But even if that miracle should have occurred, I would still dance beneath the stars with happiness at my good fortune in simply knowing you regardless of the consequences. To have a child with so kind and caring a man would be the blessing of a lifetime.
        
            I must have a heart to heart conversation with my God on Sunday next.  Surely He must be peeved at my recent carrying-on. I feel an overwhelming need to explain to Him my actions of Friday night. What I did with you seems to fly in the face of all that His worldly employees have established as appropriate behavior for a good girl. The subject of lovemaking has not come up in conversation between my God and me until now; living a chaste existence causes no questions of moral lassitude. If I offended Him, I'm truly sorry as He's been most generous to me of late, finding you, my dear and sweet Mr. Anderson . . . Philip. I'm hopeful He'll forgive me my transgression when He understands the wealth of insight I have gleaned from my actions, knowledge about myself, and the special blessed art of giving and not holding back to fear.
      
            It's strange, isn't it? It was really my bashfulness that brought our bodies together, my long-despised unwillingness to face an issue and deal with it. If I had not been so hesitant to say what was on my mind, I would have surely stopped you, long before you touched my body, and my mind, and my soul. We never would have made love together if I had been as bold, as I at one time wished Lucille Peabody to be. Again, like a few weeks past, I would have pushed you away, perhaps this time for good.
      
            In retrospect, I don't see how I could have accomplished the task of reaching the point where I am sitting writing this message to you, if we had not last night held each other as we did. If we are to further our relationship, and I dearly hope and pray we will, I never could have proceeded not knowing if I could do no more for you than hold your hand, and kiss your lips lightly at my door after a Friday evening. Think how grossly unfair it would have been to both of us if I had proceeded with our relationship with this unanswered question looming between us? We could have marched forward; you might have even asked me to marry you, thinking you knew me. We might have become man and wife, with me lying in your bed in fear as you wondered why I did not respond to your affections. Like my mother, I might have steeled myself to be a complacent repository for your seed and passion, but from fear, not giving to you any of myself in return. And if you didn't truly know me I'd be forced to live in constant fear of your learning the true me and sending me out with the trash. You're a kind and sweet man and perhaps you think similarly of me and with most couples that would be enough to create a life together. I dare say it would be far more than what many couples enjoy who claim compatibility as fitting well beneath the sheets or not screaming obscenities at one another on a daily basis. But that could never be enough for me.
        
            Anyone who takes love and gives it in return has a right to know the product, to read the label of what they are purchasing, knowing the soul they are about to share. “Artificial sweeteners added?” I offer on these pages Lucille Peabody, unadulterated, for your inspection.
      
            I am going to visit my parent's graves again today, and try and bury them once and for all. I'll ask their forgiveness for my unkind thoughts of them, but say goodbye to both as well as the past they created for me. I'm tired of yesterday now that I so enjoy today and may, God willing, have many tomorrows. Hopefully they have found peace from the demons that stalked their lives. But they had their life and it's time they gave me back mine.
      
            As difficult as it is for both of us, we must learn to communicate with one another and not hide behind the perception each of us has of the other. Philip Anderson is a real person, not just the Philip Anderson Lucille Peabody has invented, like another Amy, in her mind. And Lucille Peabody has an obligation to learn much more about this man for whom she cares so deeply. No, I ask not for a confession of past sins or a journal as intimate as what I hold in my hand, but a simple understanding of all you want me to know to be able to love the true you that dwells within. What I'm saying to you in these pages isn't a confession, for that speaks of guilt and I've come to learn I have less of that than I've always believed. I'm just introducing you to the true me I hope in my heart you will love as I love you. There, my dear Philip, I've finally said it. I love you.
      
            I pray to my God and Amy, that I'll have the courage to put a purple ribbon around the rest of me in this lengthy message and with trembling hands present it to you, next Friday evening. Pray God, you'll read it and understand the real me I'm just now beginning to know. And if you still wish to walk hand in hand with me toward tomorrow, I promise I'll be here waiting, nestled in my sofa among my pillows, gazing at the harbor, and thinking of you.
      
                             The End
      
 

Author Notes Many thanks for all at FanStory who have followed Lucille for the last 62,000 words and trials to this final chapter. Your interest, kind words and reviews have been most helpful.


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