Love stories. A Secret Continued by Dewey Edward Chester.
“It was only a passing fancy
It passed like an April day,
But a look and a word and the dreams
Have stolen my heart away!”
Folly, folly! Rosemary was thinking, as she listened to the clothes woman singing in the courtyard. It seemed inconceivable that she could frequent this hiding place without being caught.
At that moment she heard quick steps on the staircase and he burst into the room. He was carrying a tool bag of coarse brown canvas.
She started forward to take him in her arms, but he disengaged hurriedly, “Half a second,” he said, smiling, “let me show you the gifts I’ve brought you.
He fell to his knees, threw open the bag and tumbled out a number of neat paper packets. The first one he passed to her had a strange yet familiar feeling. It was filled with heavy, sand-like stuff which yielded whenever she touched it. “This couldn’t be sugar, could it?” she asked.
“Yes, real dark brown molasses sugar,” he spoke proudly, “and here’s a loaf of rye, with an added jar of strawberry jam. And here’s a can of corned beef.
“But look! This one I’m ‘really’ proud of. I had to wrap a bit of foil around it, because—!”
Rosemary didn’t need him to tell her why he wrapped it up. The aroma was already filling her secret little room with a rich smell that emanated from her childhood. Occasionally she’d meet the scent, blowing down a passageway, or diffusing itself mysteriously through a crowded street—-sniffed at for an instant but then lost.
“It’s real chocolate,” he murmured, “real chocolate! There’s a whole pound here.” He smiled at her.
“How did you manage to get a hold of these things?”
“Politics. There’s nothing this town doesn’t have for the right people. Look! I got a packet of green tea.”
She squatted down beside him and tore open a corner of the bag. “It’s real green leaves, not powder,” she exclaimed.
“Yes,” he spoke vaguely.
She turned quickly and threw her shoe at the far wall.
“What was it?” he asked in surprise.
“A snake!” He stuck his beastly head from the floorboard. There’s a hole down there. I gave him a good fright, anyway.”
“Snake?” he murmured. “In this room?”
“They’re all over the place,” she spoke, indifferently. She lay down on the bed. “We’ve even got them at Mrs. Williams’ house. Some parts of this state are swarming with them. Did you know they even attack small children? Yes, they do! I’ve learned in some parts, a woman dare not leave her baby alone for even two minutes. It’s the great huge black snakes that do it. And the nasty thing is the brutes always….”
“Stop! Don’t go on,” he declared, with his eyes tightly shut.
“What’s the matter with you?” she appeared puzzled. “Does the mention of snakes make you feel sick?”
“Of all the horrors in the world—a snake!” he whispered.
She pushed herself against him and wound her limbs about his body, as though to reassure him with warmth. He opened his eyes and looked out the window. “Listen to that woman singing down there,” he said. “She’s delightful!”
In the courtyard the Black woman was singing again, and marching to and fro between her washtub and the clothesline. She took two more pegs from her mouth and sang with deep conviction:
“They say time heals all things,
They say you can always forget;
But the smiles and the tears across the years
They twist my heartstrings, yet!”
The Black woman knew the whole song by heart, it seemed. Her voice floated upward with the sweet summer air, tuneful—charged with melancholy.
There was the feeling this woman would have been perfectly content if the June evening had been endless, and the supply of clothes inexhaustible—to remain singing her song for a thousand years, pegging out diapers.
It struck Rosemary as curious that she had never heard people singing alone, and spontaneously. It seemed unorthodox, eccentric. Perhaps, she reasoned, it was only when people thought no one was listening that they had anything to say.
The sun grew suddenly hotter, so she undressed and fell asleep in his arms.