"But Granny Grace, I don't know what to do. Can't you just tell me? Tell me what to do," Glory all but wailed. Sitting on the swing of the enormous wraparound porch, using her left foot to move the swing into the rhythmic motion she'd always found so soothing as a child, Glory pleaded with Grace for guidance.
As usual though, Granny Grace's lips were sealed tighter than the lid on one of her mason jars of pickled beets. Grace simply stared at Glory, looked at her with a combination of pride and exasperation, and made no sound at all.
Frustration getting the better of her, Glory stopped the swing and jumped to her feet. Sitting here on Granny Grace's porch wasn't doing a damn thing for her. Frankly, Glory couldn't remember the last time that Granny had given her more than a slight hint at anything. Granny seemed to love to just sit there in her rocker, watching Glory stew and huff and swing herself with her left foot. Well, enough was enough. Granny was the matriarch, and she needed to start living up to her responsibilities and dishin' out some advice, real fast.
"Fine. Don't say anything. I'll figure it out on my own. Without your help, as usual. You just sit there rockin', with your lips practically sewn up, and keep all your words to yourself. I don't want 'em, and I don't need 'em. I can figure this out on my own," Glory all but spat. She was hoping that her outburst would cause Granny to react, to open up.
Reverse psychology always worked in the movies. Of course, that was Hollywood. Not Brimstone, Mississippi. Glory should have known better than to even try. There were some things that almost eighty years in the world protected you against. Apparently, reverse psychology from a fuming grandchild was one of those things. She watched as Grace kept rocking, the steady squeak of her chair reminding Glory of how many times she'd been out on this porch, hopin' for some answers.
"Look Granny, I get that you're not gonna tell me what to do. Hell, even you can't have the answers to everything, right? But at least tell me how to make this up to him. The man loves me. I know he does. And I love him right back. I've always loved him, Granny, and it's killin' me bad right now, thinkin' that I let him walk away. But I really didn't have a choice, did I? I mean, I've seen what The Curse does to the men that hook up with us. I know I don't stand a biscuit's chance at the breakfast table of marryin' that man and livin' happily ever after. Still though, I want to go find him, Granny. I want to find him and tell him how much I love him. I want a shot at happily ever after." Glory glanced at Grace and noticed that her spine had stiffened.
Right then, Glory heard the sound of footsteps, coming from the edge of the porch near the steps. Glory looked over and saw her momma, walkin' the length of the porch, eyes glued to Granny Grace. Having no idea what her momma was doing at Granny's house after more than two decades, Glory fastened her eyes on Granny's and waited for an explosion, or at least a minor disturbance.
"Hear that, Grace? Glory wants you to answer her. She's already lost one good man because of your 'curse'. Don't make her lose another too. It's time she knew the truth. Tell her," Mercedes implored.
"Mercy, you have no right to be spoutin' off at the mouth. We made a deal, you and me. I've kept my end of it for over thirty years. You better not stop keepin' yours," Grace replied, with her typical steely determination. When she used that tone of voice, nobody dared to argue.
Nobody but her daughter.
Mercy squared her shoulders and took a step forward, putting her cool hand on Glory's arm as she came to her side. Glory turned slightly so that both women were in her line of sight. Both of these women, so strong in different ways, both held the answers to what Glory needed. One of them had always been the past that Glory tried to outrun, the crazy momma that left her baby girl in front of the double doors on the wide wraparound porch. The other one had always been the pillar of strength that Glory leaned on, like the oak tree in the backyard that she scaled as a child. Glory held her breath and waited, sensing that explosion any second.
"I don't want your deal anymore. It's not worth it. Not if it means seeing Glory in this much pain. Don't you see that? The whole reason for that stupid deal was to make sure that my baby girl never felt pain. Well she's feelin' it now. You can stop it, you know. All you have to do is tell her the truth. Just tell her, momma," Mercy added that last word as a whisper.
Glory flinched at the use of the maternal name. As far as she knew, Mercy hadn't called her mother any other name besides Grace for over thirty years. That same feelin' of walls crashing, of tumbling, of having the air sucked right out of her lungs, hit Glory in that instant. She snatched her arm out of Mercy's grasp and directed the full force of her flashing blue eyes at Grace.
"What deal, Granny? What's she talkin' about?" Glory questioned her grandmother.
"Now chile', don't go listenin' to her babbles. You know she's most likely off her pills right now. She has no idea what she's yammerin' on about. Go on in the house and fetch me a glass of lemonade. I believe your momma and I have some words that need to be said betwixt us," Grace reached out and tried to pat Glory's hand, but for once Glory stood her ground.
"What deal, Granny?"
"I said to go on inside, Glory. Don't you stand there on my front porch and give me lip. I've already heard you swearin' like a sailor today. You think I'm gonna sit here and listen to you demandin' things that you got no right to demand? Now get inside and let me speak to my daughter," Grace demanded.
"No way. Not this time. In this past week alone, I've watched a baby-faced preacher bury my great-grandmother and helped deliver a baby. I've lost one man and chased away another. My momma's waltzed back into my home and I've seen [removed, by author. You have to buy the book or bribe McB to find this out!!]. Now you're sitting there, rockin in your damn chair, with some big secret that's about my life, refusin' to tell me. Well I got news for you. I'm not leavin' this porch until I know what it is." Glory was shaking as she finished, her voice louder than she'd ever used with Granny Grace and much more forceful.
"Oh Glory. Sweet Glory. Hallelujah! Finally yer showin' some fire. I was wonderin' how long it would take you to break those damn reins you been keepin' on your spirit.About this man, Glory. What does your heart tell you to do? What do you want?" Grace demanded.
Confused by the abrupt change of direction of the conversation, and even more confused that Granny Grace hadn't washed her mouth out with lye soap for her outburst, Glory took a second to try to decide how to answer.
"Want? Well, I guess I want what the fairy tales promise. I want a happily ever after," Glory finally answered. "But I don't see what that has to do with any deal you made with my momma. You're not gettin' out of it, Granny. You gotta tell me."
"All in good time, child. All in good time. First though, let me tell you something else. And you listen up good, y'hear? Happily ever after does not exist. It never has and it never will. If that's what yer lookin' for, then that man is better off without you, and you're better off without him. Now, I can see by the look on your face you think my mind's as jiggled as your momma's but hear me out. The best that you can get is happy, Glory. Just happy. Sure, you may get beyond that some days. You may feel like you're livin' on top of the ferris wheel sometimes, or that big rush you get when you're drivin' your car too fast down the road. But that feelin' don't last longer than a gray hair at Edna's beauty shop. There is no ever after, Glory. That's what I'm sayin'. You just have to be willin' to take each day as it comes, the good with the bad. Don't worry about the ever after. The good Lord takes care of that for you. You just search for that happy. And if you can't seem to find it, then you make some of your own, with the person you choose to share your days. You bake' em a pie, pick 'em some flowers, rub their back. Do whatever it takes for you to find that happy every single day, Glory. But don't you expect it. Don't you ever expect that it will be there, just because you think you deserve some fairy tale. You treasure those happy moments when you get them, and remember that they might not last forever. But live like they will," Grace finished, in what was surely the longest uninterrupted string of words Glory had ever heard come from her Granny's mouth.
Shocked almost speechless, Glory asked the one thing that she couldn't help but ask. "But Granny, what about The Curse?"
"Yeah, Grace. Tell Glory about The Curse. I can't wait to hear this one," Mercy said, taking a seat on the swing.
Grace fixed her eyes on Mercedes and uttered eight words that tilted Glory's world so far off its axis, she wasn't sure how she was still standing.
"The curse - -. - - - -[again, removed by the author. Sorry, can't let this one out just yet.]."
And for the third time in a week, Glory felt her legs give out as her butt landed firmly on the ground.