The Obsession Page 10

“How long will we be here, do you think?”

“A day or two, that’s all.” Lettie put sugar and water in a pot to boil. “You ever made lemonade from scratch?”

“No, ma’am.”

“It’s a treat. Takes a while, but it’s worth it.”

Lettie puttered around. Naomi noted she didn’t wear an apron but just tucked a dish towel in the waist of her pants. Daddy didn’t like Mama to wear pants. Women were supposed to wear skirts and dresses.

Thinking of it, of her father, hearing his voice in her head, made her stomach tie itself up again. So she made herself think of something else.

“Miss Lettie, what do you do at the sheriff’s office?”

“Why, honey, I’m the first woman deputy in Pine Meadows, and still the only one after six years.”

“Like Deputy Wayne.”

“That’s right.”

“So you know what happens next. Will you tell me what happens next?”

“I can’t say for certain, as the FBI’s in charge now. We assist them. They’re going to gather up evidence, and take statements, and your daddy will have a lawyer. A lot of the next depends on the evidence and the statements, and what your daddy says and does. I know it’s hard, but it’d be best if you try not to worry about all that just yet.”

“I can’t worry about Daddy.” She’d already figured that out. But . . . “I have to take care of my mama, and Mason.”

“Oh, baby girl.” Lettie sighed, and after giving the pot a stir, she came around the counter. “Somebody’s got to take care of you.”

“Mama won’t know what to do without Daddy telling her. And Mason won’t understand what Daddy did. He doesn’t know what rape is.”

On another sigh, Lettie pulled Naomi into a hug. “It’s not for you to hold everybody else up. Where’s your mother’s brother now? Where’s your uncle Seth?”

“In Washington, D.C. But we’re not allowed to have anything to do with him because he’s a homosexual. Daddy says he’s an abomination.”

“I knew your uncle Seth. He was a couple years behind me in school. He didn’t seem like an abomination to me.”

“The Bible says . . .” It made her head and her heart hurt, what the Bible said—or what Daddy said it said. No, she couldn’t worry about that now. “He was always so nice to us. He has a nice laugh, I remember. But Daddy said he couldn’t come visit anymore, and Mama wasn’t to talk to him on the phone.”

“Would you like him to come?”

Just that, just those words made Naomi’s throat slam shut so she could only nod.

“All right, then. When I take the syrup off the stove to cool, I’ll see about getting in touch with him. Then I’m going to show you how to squeeze lemons. That’s the fun part.”

She learned how to make lemonade from scratch and ate a grilled cheese sandwich—a combination that would forever become her comfort food of choice.

As her mother slept through the day, Naomi, for the first time in her life, begged for chores. Lettie let her weed the flower garden out back, and the vegetable patch, and put fresh seed in the bird feeders.

When she was done, Naomi gave in to fatigue, stretched out on the grass in the shade, and slept.

She woke with a start, just as she had in the night. Something, there was something.

She sat up fast, heart pounding, half expecting her father to be standing over her with a rope in one hand, a knife in the other.

But the man who sat in the shade with her on a summer chair wasn’t her father. He wore khaki pants and loafer shoes without any socks, and as her gaze traveled up, a bright blue shirt with a little man on a horse where a pocket might have been.

He had her eyes, that medicine bottle green, in a face smooth and handsome as a movie star, all topped with waving brown hair under a Panama hat.

“I fell asleep.”

“Nothing better than a nap in the shade on a summer afternoon. Do you remember me, Naomi?”

“Uncle Seth.” Her heart hurt, but not a bad kind of hurt. She feared she might faint again, though it didn’t feel the same as before, but everything felt light and bright.

“You came. You came,” she said again, then crawled right into his lap, weeping and grasping. “Don’t leave us. Please don’t leave us, Uncle Seth. Please, please.”

“I won’t, I won’t leave you, baby girl. I promise you. You stop worrying right now, because I’m here, and I’ll take care of you.”

“You gave me a pink party dress.”

He laughed, and the sound eased the ache in her heart even as he pulled a snowy white handkerchief out of the pocket of his khakis and dabbed at her tears.

“You remember that? You weren’t more than six.”

“It was so pretty, so fancy and fine. Mama’s sleeping. She just keeps sleeping.”

“It’s what she needs right now. Look how tall you are! Those long legs. Got ’em scratched up some.”

“It was dark in the woods.”

His arms tightened around her. He smelled so good, like lime sherbet. “It’s not dark now, and I’m here. As soon as we can, you’re coming home with me. You, Mason, your mama.”

“We’re going to Washington, D.C., to stay with you?”

“That’s right. With me and my friend Harry. You’ll like Harry. He’s in playing Donkey Kong with Mason, getting acquainted.”

Prev Next