Chapter Two"’Bout time you came back inside, Jennie girl. What you been doin’ up there in that hideout all afternoon?”
Jennie stepped through the screen door into the kitchen. The delightful smell of fresh baked apple pie filled the room, its tart, cinnamon fragrance teasing her nostrils and her taste buds until she could almost taste its tangy deliciousness. It had enticed her back to the house despite her intent to hide away forever. She didn’t want to talk about what had happened, or the tears she had shed or the angry thoughts she was having. Instead she inhaled deeply of the aromas filling the kitchen.
“That smells so good, Momma.” No matter how broken her heart, she always had time for her mother’s homemade pies. Momma’s cooking was the only thing she was going to miss when she left the farm next week.
“It does smell nice.” Elise smiled at her only daughter. “You didn’t answer my question, though. Whatcha’ been doin’ all this time? I thought you were spendin’ the afternoon with that boy of yours?”
“Don’t think I’ll be spending any more afternoons with him, Momma.”
“You want to tell me about it sweet pea?” Momma’s kind voice made her feel even worse.
“First love’s always the hardest, sweet pea. ‘Specially when it leads to first heartbreak. I’m so sorry you’re hurtin’ but your Granny used to say it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”
“Sure, right. If Granny said it, then I guess it had to be true.”
“You watch that sarcasm, girl. Broken heart or not, you still have to respect your mother and your grandmother.”
“Sorry, Momma. I’m just not feeling so lucky to have loved Michael. Or Trisha...”
“Hmmm, so, your Daddy was right.” Momma’s tone was thoughtful as she reached into the oven and pulled out the pie that had been tempting Jennie relentlessly.
“Right about what, Momma?” Jennie grabbed a fork from the silverware drawer and dug into the pie without waiting for it to cool, knowing exactly what her Momma would say.
“You know hot apples like that will only upset your stomach and ruin your appetite for supper.”
“My appetite’s already ruined. What was Daddy right about?”
Momma studied her intently for a moment, looking deeply into her baby’s eyes. “He says he heard in town that your young man has been stepping out with your … with Trisha.”
“Oh.” Jennie fell quiet but continued eating the steaming hot pie as she stared out the kitchen window. So, the whole town knew what a fool she had been. There would be no living down the humiliation of what had happened. “I hate them both you know.”
“Hate’s a very strong word, sweet pea. You gotta love someone to hate them.”
“Well, then I don’t rightly know what to say, Momma. I hate them both with all my heart.” Jennie sat down at the big wooden table her Daddy had built with his own two hands and folded her arms on the dark stained wood in front of her.
“You’re just hurtin’ now, sweet pea. When the pain lessens, you will realize that hate only hardens the heart and tarnishes the soul. One day you will remember that you loved them and maybe even will forgive them for hurting you. If you don’t, you will be the only one sufferin’, I guarantee you that.”
“How could they do this to me?” She dropped her head onto her folded arms and squeezed her eyes tight, willing the tears away. She refused to cry any more.
“I know Trisha’s always been your best friend Jennie-girl, but that girl is reckless, thoughtless. She can’t see beyond her own wants and desires. She didn’t do it to you, she did it for her. I am certain she never once thought of you, only satisfying the need to prove she can have any boy she wants.”
“But what about Michael? He said he loved me. I didn’t know he would only love me if I have …well you know…”
The kitchen was quiet for a moment, only the sound of the whistling tea kettle disturbed the silence. Momma picked the kettle up off the stove and set it on the trivet on the table. Momma had tea every afternoon before finishing up the supper preparations, today would be no exception. She pulled out the chair next to Jennie, pulled a tea bag from the basket on the center of the table and poured hot water over it into the antique tea cup Momma took from the china cabinet. The tiny tinkle of the spoon against the china was musical, a sad tune that echoed the feelings in Jennie’s heart.
“Sweet pea, you gotta be true to yourself. I am proud of you for not giving in. That sort of … relationship… is meant to be between a man and a woman who are in love enough to be together forever. Sex has a lot of emotions attached to it. Mature emotions. It is not to be taken lightly. Especially not by someone as serious and sensitive as you are.”
“Well, maybe I don’t wanna be serious and sensitive. Maybe I wanna be more like Trisha. She’s happy being carefree. She never wastes time thinking about all the possible outcomes. Me, I can’t even get dressed in the morning without working a plan. It’s exhausting, Momma.”
The tears threatened again but she ignored them. Momma sighed and reached out a hand to touch her gently on the arm.
“Be true to yourself, Jennifer. Don’t be anyone but who God intended you to be. Someday the right boy will come along and you will just know it.”
“I thought Michael was the right boy, Momma. Obviously I can’t even trust my own heart.”
“Oh, Jennie, you are so young. There is plenty of time to really fall in love. What you had with Michael -that was puppy love. Not the real thing. If it were, we wouldn’t be havin’ this conversation right now.”
“It just hurts so much, Momma. I never knew how much a broken heart could hurt. And I am so angry with them both but I’m even madder at Trisha. I trusted her with all my secrets.”
“The loss of trust hurts more than any physical injury I can think of and is so much harder to heal from. But you will, sweet pea, you really will. Trisha may never recover completely from losing you as her friend, but you will come out of this OK. You are much stronger than she ever will be.”
“I hope it hurts her for a very, very long time.”
A loud thump followed by the sound of breaking glass from the floor above them interrupted whatever Elise was about to say next. Jennie looked at her mother in shock.
“What was that, Momma?”
“I…I’m not too sure.” She rose from the table so quickly her tea sloshed over the side of the cup and onto the white lace placemat staining it a dark brown.
Jennie followed her mother up the creaky wood stairs and down the dim hallway to the master bedroom. The door was closed; something heavy leaned against it because it would barely open a crack when Elise turned the knob. The top of Daddy’s denim clad thigh was all she could make out through the space.
“Oh, Johnny, no! What happened?!” Momma was sobbing as she pushed against the heavy wooden door trying to slide Daddy’s still form forward just enough to squeeze into the room. Jennie pushed alongside her, fear filling her heart. She had tried to push a dead cow once; the weight had been ridiculous, impossible to move. Daddy’s living two hundred pounds should have been so much easier but it wasn’t. A sob stuck in her throat as she dropped to the bedroom floor.
“Please don’t be dead, Daddy.” She whispered as she and Momma shoved the door with one final burst of strength. The body on the other side shifted just enough that they could fit through the opening.
John Marshal lay as still as a stone and as haphazardly as a rag doll, his limbs turned at odd angles to each other. The ashen grey of his skin, the blue tint of his lips and the pain locked forever in his brown eyes told them everything they needed to know.
“Oh, God! Oh, no! Johnny, no!” Elise crumpled to the ground next to her husband and grabbed his hand as she felt for a pulse. “You can’t leave me, John Marshall! You can’t! Do you hear me?! You must wake up now!” She shook him hard, pulled on his arms, yelled in his ears but there was no response. Tears ran down Momma’s face in rivers as she yelled and yelled but Daddy never made a sound. Jennie watched in horror as harsh reality sunk in.
Daddy was dead.
Momma looked up at her, wild eyed, her face streaked with tears. “Call 911 Jennie! Call an ambulance! Call Doc Hansen! He will know what to do!” She climbed on top of her husband and started pumping on his chest frantically. John’s body flopped like a fish out of water with the effort but his heart refused to begin beating again.
“Go, Jennie! Get help! NOW!”
Jennie turned and fled from the room in search of the phone but she knew in her heart that it was too late. No one could look that grey, that dead and still be alive. She moved in a fog, pushing the buttons on the telephone, giving her address to the operator, telling her what happened, describing the way her Daddy had blankly stared up at them from the cold, wood floor.
By the time the sirens made their way down the old, dirt road Daddy had been gone for over ten minutes. Momma was sprawled on top of his lifeless body, exhausted and sobbing when Doc Hansen pronounced him dead. They would find out later that he had had a massive heart attack. Doc Hansen said he had died instantly but Jennie didn’t believe it. She had seen the sadness alongside the pain in her father’s eyes as he lay on the floor, frozen in time forever.