Diana: What is Building Around Us is Like a Fortress of Fire
It’s hard to explain what’s been growing around us but it feels much like the fire I walked out of just over a week ago. Strange to think where I was then and compare it to where I am now. There ain’t no woods here – only sunlight streaming in the dusty windows. I love the way the light illuminates the windows imperfections: the tiny bubbles that freckle the glass. It reminds me of Jane, Emmy and I, at our imperfections at our dark, rough pasts, and how now we can see through each other into the present.
When I look at Emmy I see only a heart. I see a kindness I have no words to describe. When I see Jane I see someone as lost as myself. I see a tired girl who was about to walk off the face of the earth into the dark or into the fire. Both of us were there, and then both of us suddenly were saved. It’s a miracle really.
So, each night while Emmy sits back and nurses her aches and pains (she’s got arthritis real bad), Jane and I celebrate. We sit around the hearth and sing whatever songs we cans still remember. It’s amazing what joy can help you remember. We all sip herbal teas Emmy has brewed up (she knows so much about the plants that are in the woods around town). And sometimes we read from the book aloud. It’s funny how I stumbled onto the book. It’s the one I read the first night I was here. It’s the book that brought me back from the darkness. Turns out, I’m not the only one the book is special to. Emmy says it’s the book that brought her and her husband Mr. Ricketts, or Henry as she calls him, together so many years ago.
The book is really only a bunch of stories woven together, the way my momma might have made a quilt from all our old clothes, or the clothes and rags of our ancestors. It’s a bunch of stories sewn together in a new way. Jane and I like the stories about the girls who transform the most. We love the story of Daphne, a girl who escapes the hunters who are chasing her by turning into a Laurel tree. Or, our favorite is the one where the girls escape by turning into birds. It’s an awful tale. A girl is locked up and raped, but she weaves her story into a tapestry that somehow escapes and is given to her sister in the capital. Her sister is so enraged she rescues her sister but not without terrible things happening first. I like how the story isn’t just a happy solution. I wouldn’t have believed it if it was. I believe them girls had to travel a hard path before they were turned into birds. I know what that path is like, I know how deep its rut is and how hard it is to fly out of it. But, me and Jane and Emmy, we flyin’ now.
Today, we already processed eight barrels and it is only 10:00 am. Them boys are real shy now that they proposed and we declined. Why on earth would I want to marry a boy from Pithole? I think, laughing to myself. Me and Jane, we gonna start a new life. We gonna get as far away from this present as we can. I know she ain’t got no one else, that’s why I’m gonna ask her to come back to North Carolina with me. Maybe, if I had Jane to talk to about my secrets I could handle going back. I could look my brother in the eye and we could get hired on at the family restaurant. I’m sure Jane could learn how to serve customers. Or, she could work back in the kitchen. I could show her how to make biscuits nice and light. I smile over at her as I think about the restaurant and our new life, but she just looks back at me square. She has so little joy that when it shines (especially at night) it seems to take up the whole room. Maybe it’s time I tell her my plan? What if she don’t say yes? I’m scared I can’t go back without her. I put the thought out of my mind and get back to work. We got a lot to do before lunch. And lord knows we get enough interruptions when we working from all the damn suitors coming around. Man, if I had a dollar for every dumb fool who asked me to marry me since we struck this here oil I wouldn’t even need the cut Emmy has promised me. I’d be rich from all these false promises. Imagine that two whores and a widow are the hottest tickets in town. Makes me laugh every time I think about it!