Before you read this, you must promise not to hate any of the characters. Well, not much. You can hate them a little … but you can’t hate the story. Hating the story is decidedly not allowed. It’s off limits. Don’t even think about it.
As you can see, I’m testing out the ‘featured image’ setting for this theme. In my opinion, you should always have a featured image … and I never do. So, henceforth, there shall be a featured image.
Assuming I like the way this theme does featured images … so I guess that’s more of a ‘maybe’ than a ‘shall be.’
Oh, and this section has Christianity in it. Consider yourself warned. 😛
Flowers, Part 4
Millie Lark arrived not long after Judy and Adele finished pulling the weeds. She helped them clear away the long grass, thistles, dandelions, and other unwanted foliage and pile it behind the shed. She then agreed to take Holt, who had devoured a few too many newspapers not to be garage-bound, for a walk while Adele and Judy painstakingly planted each seedling.
“We don’t want them in rows,” Adele told Judy. “We want them to grow all over the place. After we get the seedlings planted, we’ll scattered seeds and plant bulbs everywhere, just wherever we can fit them. It’ll be prettiest that way.”
“And messiest,” Judy added.
“Well, your father has had his way with the vegetable portion of this garden, so I get to have my way with this half.”
Millie arrived just then, barely managing to restrain Holt. She managed to get him into the garage and close the door after stretching her muscles to their limit. She came to Adele’s side looking quite worn out. Glancing around her, she sighed. “Adele, I don’t often scold you, but isn’t it rather insensitive to just plant flowers when the world is as it is?”
Adele sighed. “I thought you’d say that. I don’t think I can make a sensible girl like you – especially since you’re so invested in the war effort – understand, but … I need this. It’s important. I don’t know why; it just is.”
“All right, then,” said Millie, not interested in protesting further. “I should head back to London. I have a lot of work to get to. I’ll see you soon, okay?”
Adele jumped up and went to hug her best friend. “Thanks for humoring me, love.”
“What are friends for?” Millie replied with a soft smile. “Goodbye, Adele, Judy. I’ll come see you again soon.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
After Millie left, Adele and Judy planted the remaining seedlings and went in through the kitchen door.
Mrs. Collier was starting dinner while Lola sat in the corner, cradling Camilla.
“What time is it?” Adele asked, laying her shoes just inside the door.
Granny and Lola simultaneously turned to the two gardeners and gasped.
“You’re all dirty!” Mrs. Collier exclaimed.
“I know. We both need a bath, don’t we, Judy?”
“But you hate dirt,” Mrs. Collier protested.
“I do,” Adele agreed, “But I love flowers more.”
“Flowers?” Granny and Lola exclaimed simultaneously.
“Yes. We planted some while you were so busy cleaning. In fact, Millie came out and brought me my seedlings.”
“You made Millie come all the way here, made her leave her work, for that?” Mrs. Collier asked, voice raising.
Adele’s chin lifted, but her hand trembled in Judy’s. “Yes.”
“Adele, how could you be so selfish? And for a flower garden!”
“That garden is infinitely important, maybe more important than Millie’s work.”
“To plant your insipid, meaningless flowers? More important than Millie’s work at the war office? Adele Elizabeth Collier, your arrogance, your cruelty, your utter lack of concern for your fellow humankind is disgusting.”
Adele’s eyes narrowed. “I am not Adele Collier anymore. I am Adele Kee,” she whispered.
Mrs. Collier scoffed. “What difference does it make?”
“A great deal. The fact that I chose to marry and move into a new household is emphasized by the name-change. I am thirty-one years old, have two children, and am the mistress of this house. Please give me a little respect and human decency.” With that, Adele turned and left the room.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Lola knocked on the door of Adele’s bedroom. “Can I come in?” she asked gently.
“No,” Adele’s voice replied.
“Please? Look, I know you and Mrs. Collier are upset about Troy being gone – I’m upset, too – but you just can’t fly at each other because you’re tense. Us five – you and me and her and Judy and Camilla – have to stick together. Women get terribly catty if they’re cramped in a small space without men around to keep them on the line, but we can’t. We just can’t.”
Adele stood up from her seat on the bed where she’d be refining her finally-clean fingernails with a file, walked across the room, and put her hand on the doorknob. “I’m not upset about Troy. I don’t care for him enough to be upset over his going, unlike my mother who loves him more than she loves her wayward hellion of a daughter.”
“Your mother loves you half to death! She just doesn’t know how to show approval of you without showing approval of your seeming lack of morals. And of course she loves Troy; she sees him as your savior from a life of sin, whether or not that is correct. And, as far as you not loving Troy, well, that’s your opinion, but it’s not mine.”
“I don’t love Troy. At least, I don’t love him the way I used to.”
“You’re not in love with him, you mean?”
“No,” Adele said, sighing. She opened the door and let Lola in. “It’s not the same as it used to be.”
Lola took Adele in from head to toe. She was wearing a skimpy pink nightgown under a fuzzy bathrobe of the same color. Her hair was still damp and messy from the bath she’d just got out of, and from the looks of her eyes, she’d been crying.
“What’s changed?” Lola asked.
“I don’t know. I suppose time just happened.”
“Didn’t change anything for Dave and me,” Lola commented, shrugging her shoulders slightly.
“Dave and you have been married all these years. Troy and I are starting over after a long separation which I spent hating him.”
“Love is a choice, Adele.”
“I get so sick of people saying that when I know I can’t help it when I fall in love and I can’t make myself fall in love and I don’t want to!” Adele exclaimed with a scowl.
“I’m not saying falling in love is a choice, exactly, though I don’t think it the all-powerful feeling most seem to think it is … but real love, the kind of love you want with your husband, is a choice.”
“But I don’t want to love like that. My parents did, and I saw nothing passionate about their marriage.”
“What do you call passion and how is it different from love?” Lola inquired, sitting down on the edge of the bed.
“I don’t have an exact definition. It’s something you feel, not something you explain,” Adele hedged.
“It’s just desire and fear and excitement all mixed up,” Lola said plaintively. “Love takes time; attraction can be instantaneous. There’s a difference, though most fail to recognize it. Now, here are a few questions you might want to ask yourself. Do you put Troy before yourself? Would you bear anything for him? I know you two like to flirt, but can you be serious together and when you are, do you act loving with each other? If so, Troy and I and everyone else in the world are likely to be fooled.” Lola stood and wrapped her arms around Adele. “You’ve a long way to go, but with God’s help, you’ll get there.”
Adele shook her head. “I don’t believe in God. Troy does, and he tells me Judy does now too, though, thank goodness, she hasn’t mentioned it to me yet.”
“It’s private to her, like so many other things,” Lola said thoughtfully.
Adele smiled weakly. “Private to her and Troy, you mean. She shares everything with him. He is her world, and I have no place.”
“She spent hours with you this afternoon, and she was practically glowing when I drew her bath. She loves you; she’s just cautious.”
“That’s what she says.”
Lola nodded. “All your problems are just going to take some patience to solve. In the meantime, love on your daughters (and Troy, when you get a chance) and spend some time with your mother, and plant those flowers. Someday you’ll do more work and be a real useful person, but one step at a time is a lot better than nine forward, ten back.” Lola opened the door. “And do read Troy’s Bible, dear! If you could tell him you’ve done that, he’d win the war single-handedly!”
“Troy won’t fly. They won’t let him. At least not on any important missions,” Adele said swiftly.
“Is that what you’ve been telling yourself? Ah well. Perhaps you’re right.” Lola closed the door behind her, leaving Adele alone with her thoughts.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
A few weeks later, Adele and Judy again knelt together, this time in the midst of a colorful assortment of blossoms.
“Why did the weeds grow back? I thought we got them all,” Judy commented.
Adele leaned back and glanced around her, brow wrinkled. “I don’t know. I suppose we didn’t get the weeds out.”
“Oh, nonsense. Weeds blow in from anywhere,” Granny said from where she sat on an old bench, Camilla on her lap.
Adele shrugged and went back to her picking. A long silence ensued.
“I’m going to leave Camilla in her basket and get back to the housework,” Mrs. Collier said at last.
Adele barely nodded. Granny left.
“I’ve been thinking about something, and … would you be angry if I talked about it?”
Adele winced, knowing what was coming. She’d heard it all before, but somehow she felt it’d be worse coming from Judy. But she said, “Of course not. You can tell me anything.”
“You know Daddy?”
She should have felt like laughing after that question, but she didn’t. “He’s an acquaintance of mine, yes.”
“He’s a Christian,” Judy announced solemnly.
“I … I am, too.”
“That’s what your father said.”
Judy took a deep breath. “Am I in trouble?”
Adele raised her eyebrows. “Why would you be in trouble for being a Christian?”
“Because you always said that it was a lot of fairytales and other times you’ve said you don’t much care for fairytales and …” Judy’s voice trailed off as her eyes dropped. “I don’t want you to think I believe in fairytales, because I don’t. I believe in Jesus, my Savior.”
“I know, Judy. It must be very real for you, and I accept that. Let’s keep working.”
“Could I … could I tell you about it?”
Adele was about to say ‘no’ and follow it with a sharp, ‘don’t talk back to your elders’ if this was protested, but something in Judy’s eyes told her that would be pushing her luck a little too far. “All right, Judy. Go ahead. Tell me about ‘your Savior.’” Not that I haven’t heard it all before, cursed delusion.
Judy took a deep breath. “Well … it says in the Bible that if you aren’t perfect, you don’t go to Heaven. And if you don’t go to Heaven, there’s no other place for you to go but … but Hell.”
“Mm.” Adele tried to concentrate on her weeding.
“Well … nobody’s perfect.”
“You are, baby.”
“No, I’m not. I sin all the time. And even if I’m not doing wrong things, I’m thinking wrong thoughts and feeling wrong emotions and … it’s just not perfect at all.”
“I still think you’re perfect. Or you will be. Little girls make mistakes; everyone makes mistakes.”
“Exactly!” said Judy, obviously relieved. “But God … God is so big and great and powerful that He just can’t be around sin of any kind. I mean, He can do whatever He wants to, but we can’t be around Him if we sinned. He hates sin, and sin gets in us so it’s a part of us, even before we’re born.”
“Well, for a while, that was bad, because then no one could go to Heaven, and God loves everyone so much that He wants us all to come live with Him. But that couldn’t happen … so God sent His Son, Jesus, into the world to save us from our sins. He died on the cross, and so we can be clean. We’re washed ‘white as snow’ by His blood.”
Judy considered this. “Not Jesus’ blood, though, I guess.”
“Magical blood. Makes sense.”
“Well, anyway, it does. But we can’t be washed clean unless we agree to be washed because God isn’t going to force anyone to come to Him. He wants us to come because we love Him. So … if you want to get to Heaven, you have to do two things. The first is ‘confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord.’ This means that you admit that you were wrong all along and that Jesus exists, that He is the King, and that He gets to make the decisions in your life from now on. The second is ‘believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead.’ This means you have to admit that Jesus is capable of conquering the thing that ties us all down – death – for our sake.”
“And you’ve done that, Judy?”
“Almost a year ago. I waited a while because I thought … I thought you might not like it. But … but I knew it was true for a long time before that. Daddy never lies, and I … I knew anyway. I’ve known for a long time.”
“Of course you have. I imagine Granny is pleased?”
“But you didn’t tell me.”
“No.” Judy dropped her eyes. “Was … was that wrong?”
“No, Judy. That wasn’t wrong. It’s your choice what you confide in me and what you don’t. But I like to hear about everything that affects you. I know I used to say that if you could take care of it yourself, I needn’t hear about it, but that’s changed now. Now I want into your life. I want to hear it all. Everything that concerns you, everything that hurts you and teaches you and brings you joy … I want to know.”
“Well … I really like chocolate,” Judy confessed.
“You don’t like for me to have it.”
“It’s all right sometimes. I just don’t want you spoiling your meals.”
“And …” Judy hesitated, then tested the ice. “Holt brings me joy?”
“Oh, no, not you, too!” Adele laughed. “All right, he can come in sometimes, but he has to have a corner to lie down in and stay there.”
Judy grinned. The ice held firm. It was safe to walk on. “Spinach,” she said slowly, “Makes me sad.”
Adele laughed and reached over to tickle Judy. “Oh, no! You’re not getting away from eating your greens, young lady.”
Judy giggled. “But they make me sad!” she protested.
“They’re also making you grow big and strong!”
“Ladies,” Judy said airily, “Don’t need to be big and strong.”
“Well, maybe you’ll surprise us and cease to be a lady someday.”
“Wouldn’t that be a bad thing?”
“It depends on what kind of not-a-lady you were. Sometimes I wonder if being a lady is a lot different than being helpless or being like Granny. I wonder if being a lady is just being an exceptional women. I mean, Millie’s a lady, but she doesn’t drive me up the wall.”
Judy thought about this. “Yes. Being a lady is about what you are inside and how you handle hard things and how graceful you are. Though not graceful like … like dancing. Graceful like … full of grace.” She glanced up at her mother. “Do you know what I mean?”
Adele smiled. “I think I’m starting to, Judy.”
That’s about it for today, folks! I know the post is late … I blame sleeping in until noon today … which is technically my fault. Although I do have a good excuse; my bed was soft. *drops mic*