Another week has gone by and here's the continuation of my novel Sweet Baby James. Trying to get it finished by year's end. I have a book signing this coming Sat. Oct. 26th at Tamarack in Beckley, again. I love going there. It's fun to see all the beautiful quilts and crafts made by West Virginia artisans. I'm thrilled to have my two books in the book store there. Many people come through this center over a every day and I'm always fortunate enough to meet some lovely people who are touring the country, people going to or from vacations. People always in a festive mood. It's a fun place to be! Good food in the restaurant, by chefs trained at Greenbrier, and a great coffee stand and ice cream stand. So if you are near there, come by and say hello. Here's the continuation of Sweet Baby James. Remember, comments are welcome! Please! Hugs.
SWEET BABY JAMES
“Albert Ray,” Mama said, gathering strength and partly rising in the bed, “Pour me a drink of water, please. My indigestion is out of whack. I drank soda water earlier. It didn’t help. All I need is a good burp.”
Albert poured a cup of water for her and held the straw while she drank.
Joy Ruth touched her shoulder. “You’ve had all those appointments lately with Dr. Marshall. What’s that about?”
“I swear, you girls are a big part of my trouble.” She held her chest. “You’re always in my business. I didn’t bring you up to be such smart mouths.”
“Knock, knock, knock.” Joy Ruth stepped closer to the bed and pounded on her own head. “Come in, Mama. You didn’t bring us up. Remember?”
Suddenly, tension became a big presence in the room.
“If you recall,” Joy Ruth softened her voice, “daddy did that part.”
Vada Faith stared hard at her sister. Joy Ruth had never confronted their mother about abandoning them when they were little. They’d been with their daddy, but still. Sure she’d returned when they were adults but she hadn’t been around when they really needed her. The three of them were still resolving issues.
It had always been Vada Faith with the chip on her shoulder, always wanting to pick away at the wound. Not Joy Ruth. She’d always had a soft spot for their mama.
Their mother looked uncomfortable for a moment then covered her legs with the sheet. “Seems to me it’s cold in here.” She cleared her throat. “Albert Ray, be a dear, will you. Get me some Tums from the gift shop.”
Vada Faith was tired of playing games. “You are a master at changing the subject, Mama. Especially when the subject is something you don’t want to discuss.”
“Tums it is, Babes,” he said, standing up. He walked obediently toward the curtain.
“Don’t go clear to China,” she said. “I may need your help. These two might gang up on me.”
“Right,” he said over his shoulder, relief showing on his face as he headed off down the hall, glad to have something to do besides watch his girl be unhappy.
“Now, let’s talk,” Joy Ruth said, sitting down on the bed with their mother when he was gone. “You need to be honest with us.”
Helena started coughing and pulling tissues from the box, one right after the other.
Vada Faith sat down in the chair beside the bed and waited.
Mama stared up at Joy Ruth. “You are supposed to be concentrating on getting pregnant. No wonder you’re not having any luck in that department. You’re too concerned with everybody else. You both have that beauty shop of yours to worry about. Vada Faith, you have James, Charity and Hope to take care of. Don’t you all have your hands full without worrying about me?”
“I am concentrating on getting pregnant.” Joy Ruth jumped off the bed and walked to the far side of the room to look out the window. “I’m telling Bruiser you were rude.
“Tell him,” Mama said, “and see if I care. I’m sure he’d enjoy a little more attention from you. If you get my drift.” She fell back on the bed for emphasis. “Go talk to the doctor I don’t care.” She closed her eyes. “Just leave me alone.” Her auburn head sunk deeper into her pillow.
“I’m sorry.” Joy Ruth came back to sit on the bed.
“You’re awfully cranky.” Vada Faith looked at her sister. “Are you pregnant?”
“I’m late. Doesn’t mean a thing. False alarm, I’m sure.”
“Pregnant?” Mama’s eyes opened wide.
“No, and I’m not getting my hopes up. It’s no fun going through this. Wanting a baby and being disappointed every month.”
“Let’s get back to the subject, Mama.” Vada Faith stood up. “Should we go talk to your doctor?”
“No,” Mama said, “don’t do that.” Her eyes filled with tears.
“Then tell us what’s wrong?” Vada Faith’s breath nearly stopped at her mother’s tears.
“Andy has ordered some tests on my lungs. Don’t know what is going on there or why I’ve got this stupid cough.” Their mother worked the sheet into a ball. “The other news is,” she lowered her voice, “the other news is, he suspects I have breast cancer.”
“No,” Joy Ruth wailed, flinging herself down on the bed and nearly crushing poor skinny mama.
“It’s not that bad,” Mama said. “There, there.” She patted Joy Ruth on the back.
“Get off Mama!” Vada Faith demanded and tried to pull her sister by the arm. Joy Ruth didn’t budge. There were rivers of tears rolling down her cheeks.
“How long have you known?” Vada Faith’s voice came out in a squeak.
“A few days. Andy Marshall sent me to a specialist. There’s a lot to think about, still tests to do. He said the lump is small and my prognosis is excellent. I might just need a lumpectomy. I’ll know soon.”
Joy Ruth stood and paced the room, wiping her tears. She reached over to squirt sanitizer into her hands from the dispenser on the wall. “You could have told us.”
“You both have your hands full.” She grabbed another tissue from the box and wiped her nose. “The doctor said some of my fatigue could be from stress. Planning a big wedding and all.”
“Will you go through with the wedding next month and marry Albert?”
“Of course, I’m going through with this wedding and marrying that dear sweet man. I know. I know. I’ve cancelled on him several times before. Not this time.” Her eyes grew misty. “Though he might not want to marry me now. Especially if I lose a breast.”
“He would never abandon you,” Joy Ruth said, lowering herself into a chair. “He loves you. He’s waited all these years. Besides he’s not marrying your boobs.”
“He could be marrying me for my boobs,” her mother spoke up. “You can ask him for yourself.”
Albert had peeked his head into the cubicle.
“Ask me what?” He came over and handed Helena several packages of Tums. He bent and kissed her cheek.
“If you’re marrying me or my breast?” she asked, reaching up affectionately, giving him an embrace.
She didn’t take her eyes off his face.
He grinned down at her. “Babes, I’ll love whatever there is of you to love. We can always buy you a new breast or two. Maybe even three. I might not mind three.” He opened his big hands wide as if he were grasping melons.
“Albert!” She blushed. “I surely don’t want three.” She beamed up at him. “Now, go home, girls. I’m in good hands, well, um,” she stared at Albert’s hands, “you know what I mean. I’ll call you later, when I get up to my room.”
“You sure, Mama?” Joy Ruth asked.
“I’m sure, and remember, I’m praying for a baby miracle.”
“We’re praying for a miracle for you too, Mama,” Joy Ruth said, leaning over and giving her a kiss.
Vada Faith reached over and hugged her mother and then led the way down the hospital corridor, weaving in and out of patients with IV poles. Tears rolled down her cheeks. She was wondering why had such a perfect life when her mother and sister had such heart ache.
On the drive home, she prayed for a miracle. She believed in miracles , she just didn’t know if ordinary people ever got them.
End of Chapter One
Anyone interested in reading the beginning of Chapter Two? Let me know and I'll post the first few pages. Comments welcome, please. Thanks and hugs.