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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'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. . . . ”
“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.
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.
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