“You got somethin’ here.” He held a small card out to me.
“Yeah?” I squinted up into the sunlight.
“Yeah,” he said, his voice a little brighter than normal as he straddled the okra row. “From Juba.”
I snatched the card from him and turned it over. A neon sign glowed in the picture, Chapel of Love. I flipped the card again and read the postmark. Las Vegas.
Jubalee had gotten married.
After all those years of dogging out men and calling them everything from assholes to zipper squads, she’d actually run off and gotten hitched. Poor Harvey.
“Hey, Dell, get a load of this,” I snorted. “Juba says, ‘Harvey decided to make an honest woman out of me! We eloped to Las Vegas! Be home in a week!’” I couldn’t help but laugh. I noticed a P.S. written in Jubalee’s cramped writing. I turned the card sideways to read it. “Wait, Dell, there’s more. ‘P.S. Saw your Mama while we was out here. Says she sends you her love.’”
I stared at the words, rereading them silently to myself. My knees turned rubbery and I sat down in the middle of my garden. CJ lived and breathed. In Vegas. Mama was alive, living life and carrying on without me. All these years I’d been telling myself the reason she hadn’t called or come back for me was because she was dead, not because she was slung up in Vegas, too dizzy from spinning on some stripper pole to write me.
Turning my back to Dell, I gathered up my basket of vegetables. It was ninety degrees outside and I shivered as I crossed the yard to the trailer. Jubalee had known where CJ was all these years. I couldn’t imagine why she’d keep my mother’s whereabouts from me. I remembered all the nights I’d woken up crying, missing Mama, and Jubalee telling me enough was enough as she spanked me. I’d learned to cry into my pillow so Jubalee wouldn’t hear me.
Carrying my basket of vegetables into the kitchen, I threw the card down on the kitchen counter. I turned on the water and washed my hands. I began scrubbing the small potatoes from my basket. The more I scrubbed, the more I thought about it, and the more it hurt. The more it hurt, the madder I got. The madder I got, the more I scrubbed. In a matter of minutes, I’d scrubbed my entire basket of vegetables clean.
Maybe CJ didn’t want me to know where she was, or maybe she did and it was Jubalee who didn’t want me to know.
I pulled my big knife out of the drawer and started chopping. I chopped carrots, okra, cabbage, tomatoes and squash through my tears until I couldn’t see anymore. I stopped, afraid I would cut a finger off and wiped my eyes. I looked around at the vegetable massacre. I couldn’t do anything about Jubalee or CJ right now. The only thing I could do was clean up and make some soup so that’s what I did.
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