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Walk About, Chapter Fourteen
Darlene Franklin-Campbell's new novel, Walk About, is being posted online chapter-by-chapter, for people to read for free. Previous Chapter: Walk About, Chapter Thirteen, or start at the beginning: Walk About: Chapter One.
By Darlene Franklin-Campbell
The Wednesday afternoon lady's prayer group seemed more like a tea club to Ace, minus the tea. The meeting was held in the sanctuary of the Thorn Grove Church a few miles from Jennie's place. There were several elderly ladies just as Jennie had said there would be and they gathered in one corner of the sanctuary. Ace wore a white sun dress and lavender cardigan, not her usual style at all but she reasoned that when spying on people at church it was probably best to look as saintly as possible without over doing it. She also figured that she needed to put the finishing school lessons to use and present herself with a touch of class. Jennie introduced her as a border from Romania, which Ace did not dispute.
"Romania? Where's that?" asked a blue-haired lady in white rimmed glasses.
"Oh, you know," said a woman who appeared to be in sixties. "It's over there next to Russia."
"So, are you Russian?" asked the blue-haired lady.
Ace smiled. "No, I'm not Russian."
"So you're from a communist country?" asked a woman who looked rather young but was dressed as if she were old. She was petite, long dark hair with bangs that were curled upward and sprayed stiff. She wore a long faded denim skirt, a gray cardigan and white tennis shoes. Her garments were all too large for her tiny body and she seemed dwarfed by her attire just as her delicate facial features were dwarfed by the large round glasses she wore.
"Oh, no, she's like Lisa on Green Acres. She's a blonde gypsy girl," said a very large redhead in a sequined green sweater with peacocks all over it. "Do you speak American, Sweetie?" she asked Ace.
Ace caught herself before she rolled her eyes. She had just spoken to them in English. She smiled. "Yes. I grew up in the United States." She wished she could go have a cigarette and a cup of coffee, but she was stuck.
"Well, that's nice," said the redhead. "It's good to speak American if you're going to live in America."
Ace smiled. She thought the little community she'd left in Kentucky was sheltered and backward, but this little group of ladies were as naive as they come, except for a tall, stately woman in a green cardigan and dark slacks who came in quietly and sat just a little apart from the rest of the group. Ace studied her. The woman appeared to be in her seventies or maybe beyond. She had short white hair styled to perfection. She wore a jeweled broach, a statement piece, on her lapel and simple stud earrings. Although she was elderly there was an elegance about her, the erect posture, the confident air. It was obvious that she had once been a striking woman. Her presence still commanded attention and compared to her, all the other women in the room were frumpy. Something Ace picked up off her let her know that this woman believed herself to be superior to the others in this room and though none of them spoke it aloud, so did they. She was ruling class and they were middle and lower class peasants.
A short gray-haired woman with that same short style of curled hair that the blue-haired woman got up and stood in front of the pews, looking at her small Wednesday afternoon congregation of retirees, widows, and spinsters. "Ladies, it's so good to see all you mighty prayer warriors gathered in this room, and I want to welcome Jennie's guest." She slowed her speech down as if Ace couldn't understand her. "It--is--SO NICE TO HAVE YOU." She leaned forward as if Ace were partially deaf. "Are there any prayer requests today?"
"Let's pray for my Uncle Alfred Johnson," said the small woman with dark hair and big glasses. "A truck fell on him and broke his leg."
"Thank you, Sister Stacey," said Powder Blue.
"And let's pray for Evelyn Smithson," said the redhead. "She has a terrible head cold. Might be pneumonia."
Several of the ladies nodded and said things like "Oh my."
"Oh, let's do pray for Minnie Rowe," said the blue-haired lady.
"What's wrong with Minnie?" Asked the redhead. The blue-haired lady just shook her head and pretended to sip from a bottle.
"Oh, how sad," said the big redhead. "Well, while we're praying for those with addictions, Lester, y'all know Lester," she shook her head, "my poor Lester, he's taken up smoking again. Right as not he'll get the emphysema just like his daddy. So, let's prayer for him to be strong."
"Oh, Edna Mae, I know what it's like to watch your man smoke himself to death," said Powder Blue. She looked to the stately woman. "Do you have any requests, Mildred?"
"Unspoken," Mildred said. Ace wondered how they were supposed to pray for something so secret that it couldn't be spoken but then again, if she had any prayer requests, they'd definitely have to remain unspoken.
"In that case, let's pray...." Powder Blue didn't finish because Jennie interrupted.
"Oh, Edith," Jennie said. "If you don't mind, add my border, John, to that list. That young man seems a might too lonely if you ask me."
After the women had finished praying, they went into the back and had coffee and cookies. Ace thought she'd have the opportunity to sit beside Mrs. Filmont and talk to her, except Mrs. Filmont didn't do coffee and cookies. As soon as the prayers were over, she excused herself and Ace watched as she headed toward the bathroom, so Ace excused herself, and also went into the bathroom.
She looked in the mirror over the sink and pretended to have a lash in her eye just as Mildred Filmont came from a stall and approached the sink to wash her hands.
She followed Mildred at a distance after the astute woman left the restroom. If she approached Mildred wanting a job for Rosie and Clyde that would be suspicious, and the woman didn't seem like the type to chat with the rest of the prayer group. Still, Ace knew that this might be her only chance, so she had to think fast. She had the feeling that Mildred was leaving so she told Jennie that she just wanted a breath of fresh air then went outside the sanctuary and waited on the church porch steps. Sure enough, Mildred came out and would have walked right past Ace if she hadn't spoken.
The older lady turned around, "Yes?"
"Jennie tells me that your family started this church and has played a crucial part in this town's history. My sister is somewhat of a history buff, a genius actually, and she is writing her dissertation on distinguished families of the south..."
"Your sister is working toward her Ph.D.?"
"Impressive. Where did you say you were from? I know you're not Russian or Romanian or..."
Ace thought fast. "My grandmother was truly Romanian but I am from Lexington, Kentucky," she said.
Mildred looked at Ace, her eyes sharp and condescending. "Well, you seem like quite an elegant young lady, well-bred in your demeanor and presentation. If you will accompany your sister to my estate tomorrow at four o'clock I will consider your request. Do not bother calling ahead of time. When you arrive at the gate buzz the house and I will send Charles, my attendant, down to escort you. I assume that if you have been in this town for any time at all then you know where the Filmont Estate is located."
"Yes," Ace said. "Jennie has informed me."
Mildred lifted her nose. "Oh, that poor dear. How you manage to stay in that dreadful monstrosity of an inn is beyond me. You do know we have a proper hotel in this town."
"I know," Ace said, "but when I met Jennie I felt sorry for her so decided to stay there for a time and perhaps help her..."
"You might as well flush your money down a drain," Mildred said. "Small people tend to stay small, and I hope that a young, elegant lady such as yourself will not settle for being small in mind or in spirit. Good day." She continued down the steps and got into a silver Cadillac. An elderly man had been waiting for her during the entire prayer meeting. Ace figured that must be her attendant.
Ace went back into the church. She would have cookies and coffee with some of the "small" people now. It did puzzle her that if Mildred really thought of these people as less than herself that it was odd she would attend their weekly prayer service. Then Ace smiled, thinking that perhaps Mildred fancied herself as some sort of queen and these ladies, while her peers in age, were her lowly subjects and it was some sort of charity that she mingled with them once a week for an hour and a half.
"I'm so glad you came," Jennie said on their way back to the bed and breakfast.
"Yeah, me, too," Ace said. Pinky would be pleased. Their feet were in the door.
When they got back home they discovered that Rosie had already gone to pick up Clyde and Pinky from their town escapades. Clyde was wandering around Jennie's yard, picking up things and inspecting them.
"What's she doing?" asked Jennie.
"Oh, she's just wondering if there's anything she can make out of your stuff."
"Well," Jennie said, "I don't mean to be impolite but she'd have to buy it first."
"Don't worry," Ace said. "We will pay you for anything she takes."
Rosie met them in the shop as they entered. "Guess what?"
"What dear?" Jennie asked.
"I made dinner for all of us."
Ace's eyes widened. Ever since James Allen's unfortunate food mishap no one had really wanted to eat Rosie's cooking. "Did you pick any plants to put in it?"
"No," Rosie snarked. "I just opened cans. Jennie, you're welcome to eat dinner with us."
"Oh, how sweet of you."
Rosie was sidetracked by the sound of a vehicle and from where she stood she saw John's truck pull into the drive. Clyde opened the door and came into the shop at that same moment.
"Say, you think he might want to eat with us?" Rosie asked.
Clyde shrugged and looked over her shoulder, door still half open. "Hey," she yelled. "You want to eat with us?"
The man studied Clyde for a moment. She was wearing wide-leg jeans, a good ten years out of style, a baby doll top with crocheted sleeves and a bandana tied around her unruly curls. He grinned. "Okay."
"Oh my gosh!" Rosie wailed. "He won't give me the time of day but he smiles at the hippie flower child grease monkey? She doesn't even have any boobs."
Clyde stepped in and closed the door. "Who n...needs big b...boobs? They get in they get in the way when you do stuff."
"Rosie, can I talk to you for a minute?" Pinky said.
"Sure, what's up?" Rosie asked.
"In the dining room," Pinky said. Rosie followed her to the dining room.
Pinky pushed her long dark hair behind her ears and paced for a few seconds.
"What are you all uptight about?" Rosie asked. "I did what you said. I went dress shopping and kept an eye on John but he left and I couldn't exactly just go jump in the truck with him."
"It's not that," Pinky said. "It's just that well, Rosie. We don't need to get in too thick with Jennie, with anybody. So, after tonight, no more cooking dinner for them. Got it?"
"Okay," Rosie said. "I just like to cook. You know that."
"How about dresses? What did you find?"
"Nothing worth wearing to any fancy party," Rosie said.
"Then we'll have to keep looking," Pinky said.
Ace came into the room and whispered to Pinky. "I met Mildred Filmont today and we have a lot to talk about after dinner."
Darlene Franklin-Campbell, an Adair County native, holds an M.A. from Lindsey Wilson College but has also done post-graduate work in storytelling and literacy at Western Kentucky University and is an alumnus of Campbellsville University. She is a member of the Elizabeth Maddox Roberts Society, the Adair County Arts Council, The Adair County Genealogical Society, The Green County Genealogical Society, Phi Theta Kappa, and the Mysterium Society (an IQ society for linguists). She has attended the Appalachian Writers Workshop, WisCOn, and Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts. She currently teaches Art at the Adair County Primary Center. You may visit her webpage at https://www.dardet.com or her writer's blog at https://whisperingwind.blog to check out more of her work.
This story was posted on 2022-04-14 22:02:29
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Walk About, Chapter Thirteen
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