When did it happen? – Friday Fiction
“When did it happen?” she’d ask. “How can you say for sure it’s true?”
Benjamin answered the questions with little more than a shrug. “All I
know is what the woman next door said, and I done told you that word for
Delia would give an understanding nod, but less than an hour later
she’d think of another question and start in again.
“Why don’t you go with me to Twin Pines,” Benjamin finally
suggested. “By now your daddy might be willing to let bygones be
bygones. After all that’s happened…”
He left the rest of his words unsaid. It hardly seemed necessary to
remind Delia that her daddy’s loss was as great as hers.
Delia shook her head. “No,” she said sadly, “it’s too late for mending
fences with Daddy.”
At the time it seemed she turned away from the idea, but the suggestion
took root in her mind. Before the week was out she told Benjamin going to
Twin Pines was a fine idea.
On the following Saturday Delia rose early and dressed in the flowered
dress she usually saved for church. She applied a thin coat of rose-colored
lipstick and looked back at the mirror. It was good. There was nothing
trashy about her appearance, nothing her daddy could find to pick at or
criticize. Before anyone else was up, Delia cooked a pot of grits and set a
stew to bubbling. If things went as she hoped, they might be late in
It was almost nine when they finally left. Delia toyed with the thought
of bringing Isaac to meet his granddaddy, but the fear of what could
possibly happen stopped her. She wanted to believe enough time had
passed, enough time for forgiveness to set in and soften her daddy’s heart,
but George Finch was a hard and unrelenting man. Still, even a stone could
be worn away by time so there was always a chance. After all, she was his
daughter. His only daughter. Surely that counted for something.
When Benjamin turned onto Cross Corner Road Delia said, “I’m not
taking no for an answer.” The thought was powerful, but her words were
small and wobbly at the edges. “It’s not gonna be easy,” she added, “but
I’ll tell Daddy it’s what Mama would have wanted.”
As Benjamin drove, Delia spoke of her childhood. She searched her
memory and pulled out stories that pictured the good side of her daddy: the
Christmas Eve he carried her home from church on his shoulders; the
morning he made her pancakes; the shiny locket he’d given her on her tenth
birthday. She said nothing about the all-too-familiar scowl he wore, the
demands he made, or the reason why she’d had to sneak out to meet
Benjamin. The truth was if you could open up Delia’s box of memories,
you’d see she was picking at a skimpy handful of good ones and closing a
blind eye to all the others.
When they passed through a narrow section of the road where dense
thickets of pines changed daylight to dark, Delia gave a wistful sigh.
“If Daddy can keep an open mind I think he’d come to love Isaac.” She
sat silent for a moment then added, “I brought a picture to show what a fine
boy he is.”
“That’s a real good idea,” Benjamin said, but when he looked across to
smile at Delia he saw her turned away. A tear slid from her cheek and
dropped into her lap.
As they moved past the thicket Benjamin stretched his arm across the
seat and covered her hand with his. “You gotta stop crying, or your daddy
ain’t gonna see nothing but red swelled-up eyes.”
They drove the rest of the way in silence.