Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving Wishes

May God grant each of you who read my blog, a Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving Day. Don't eat too much and get a belly ache. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Arlissa - Day 136-143

As Helen Tunstall took the jacket off of Benny, she was remembering seeing the gravestone of Eleanor Hinton as she passed by. Next to it, there was a smaller grave, for an infant girl. The date on both markers was the same year, 1942. Then, where did...?

He had always told her the mother didn't want the baby, but she never had believed him. She had always suspected the baby was Eleanor's. But if Eleanor's baby was buried beside her, then where had their baby come from?

And, had Arlissa come from? Had Mrs. Hinton had more than one daughter who had given birth to a child out of wedlock? Or was Arlissa actually Mrs. Hinton's daughter? Maybe belonging to Zeb's grandfather?

"Have I been wrong all these years about our Rosie?" she said aloud.

"What, what about Rosie?" Jake asked as he came in from parking the truck.

"Oh, nothing. I was just thinking out loud. I was remembering the funeral. It was a lovely service, wasn't it?"

"I'm hungwy, Gwamma," stated Benny.

"Sure, would you like a glass of milk and a cookie? We have lots of cookies right now."

"Yes, Gwamma, I'd wike dat! Can I go out to pway?

"No, not today, dear. Didn't Miss Hawkes let you go outside for awhile?"

"Yes, but she not hab no kitt'ns, wike you does."

"Let's do some coloring on your coloring book instead, okay?"


They went into his room and sat at the little table in the corner and she took out his crayons and coloring book. 

Meanwhile, back at the hospital, Arlissa had left for awhile and Granny sat slightly elevated in her hospital bed, reminiscing...

The woman had come for her in the middle of the night, with news that Eleanor had just given birth to a baby girl, and most likely would not make it another day...

Carla Sanderson knew she could never, should never, make such important decisions about someone's  home without at least consulting them, so she decided to go visit the hospital and talk to at least Arlissa first.

So she went to the hospital and inquired about Mrs. Hinton and her granddaughter. She was sent to the sunroom where she found Arlissa sitting, watching the drizzling raindrops and feeling as though the weight of the world was resting on her shoulders.

"Hey, there, little girl! You look as though you just lost your last friend," Carla gushed, then realized how that sounded since Arlissa's best friend was just buried that day. "Oh, my! I'm sorry! I didn't mean to say..."

"That's okay, Mz. Sanderson. I understand. I was feeling kinda blue, settin' here, lookin' out at that Fall rain drippin' down the winders. What are you doin' here? Visitin' somebody?"

"No, actually, I came looking for you. I got something I want to talk to you about. You know how, every so often, Miss Hetty takes it into her head to be helping somebody?"

"Ye-e-e-s? And?"

"Well, she decided to make cleaning up your all's farmhouse a thing for our lady's group to take care of, so...they're all out there working on it and it's my job to pick out the paint to repaint the walls. But I didn't want to do it without talking to you first."

"Ah...I see. We're her next project, then?" Arlissa sat back in her chair and felt her mood darken a little bit more. She and Granny had never been the object of anybody's project or charity. She didn't know how Granny was going to react. Granny took great pride in being self-sufficient. 

"Please, I know it's hard to have people doing for you, but their hearts are in the right place. You know, if somebody wants to do for you, it gives them a blessing. We like to do for others because it makes us feel good inside. You know? When you don't let others do for you, you're robbing them of that feeling. Believe it or not, you can get a blessing just by being one."

"Well...when you put it that does make sense. I jist hope I can convince Granny of it. I'll jist use the same words you used with me, I reckon."

"I was wondering, could you maybe come with me to Harvey's Hardware and pick out the colors you would like to see in the house and what rooms to put the colors in? Then, you're gonna have to do a mighty good acting job when you come out and see the house. Would you do that for me, please?"

"We won't be gone long, will we?" Arlissa was anxious about leaving the hospital for a long period of time with Granny so sick. 

"Oh, no! I promised I'd be back in a couple of hours, so we don't have long. We'll have to swear Harvey to keep mum about you being there."

The two stopped off at the nurses' station and left word that Arlissa would be back very soon; that she was going to the Hardware store, if they needed to reach her.

The team of women moved throughout the house, working steadily. They came to Granny's room, which didn't seem to have suffered as much damage as the rest of the house. Hetty noticed the drawers had been removed from the dresser, so she got busy picking up the clothing scattered over the floor. 

Con had apparently not cut Granny's clothing up as he did Arlissa's. Hetty had one of the other ladies hanging up the few dresses the old lady had that were lying all over as she picked them up.  Then, as she went on to the contents of the drawers, she noticed the rosewood box and picked it up. 

Curiously, she inspected it. She remembered her Aunt had owned one very much like it. Her dad had brought it back from some of his travels and her Aunt Lula had expressed an interest in having it. 

Hetty sat down on the edge of the bed, holding the box and remembering....

"Now, Hetty! You know you are not to play with my new rosewood box! I have told you, time and again!"

"But Auntie Loolie! I just want to look in it and hold it awhile," she had pled. "I promise, I won't hurt it any."

The memory was so very clear...she had dropped the box and had dented the corner of it. Her punishment was a trip to the woodshed. She could still feel the belt welts on her buttocks that her father had inflicted on her tender seven-year old skin.

Tears ran down her face and she quickly wiped them away and hid them, along with the memories. 

Now she gazed down at the box - she really wanted to look inside - but didn't know if she should. What kind of secrets could it hold? What juicy item would be at her disposal to share with others? 

Her conscience had never kept her from delving out nuggets  of titillating facts to use. 

Hmmm. Just as she was lifting the lid, Harvey's wife came in and asked if Hetty wanted to help in the kitchen. They were getting ready to tackle the icebox. 

Laying the box to one side, she got up and headed with Betty into the kitchen to clean in there. She looked back longingly at the box, and promised herself that it would not go unopened. 

After Arlissa had made her choices of paint, Harvey's wife took her back to the hospital. 

"Thank you so much for letting me choose the paint colors, Miz. Sanderson! I really appreciate what you ladies are doin' for us. Don't know how my Granny's gonna take it, but I'll explain to her what you told me about blessin's and all. I hope I can do it justice the way you told me. Like I said, she don't take too kindly to bein' a charity case. It was good of you to come get me, too."

Arlissa reached up and kissed Carla on the cheek ever so gently, then turned and headed for Granny's hospital room. 

"Hey, Granny! I see you're settin' up a little! You feelin' better, then?"

Granny picked up the ever present chalk board and wrote, "Where you been?"

"I went out a little while to get outdoors some."

"In this rain?" were the words that appeared next on the board.

"Oh, it ain't too bad, Granny. I needed some fresh air. I'll take you out when the rain clears up, so's you can get outta this buildin' some, too."

Arlissa had already decided not to broach the questions about her origins to Granny again. She would find out what she ached to know in some other way. The young woman didn't want to bring on another spell with Granny's heart. 

Little did she know that Granny didn't have all the answers. Only the woman who had been seen by Mildred, the Sheriff's secretary, talking to Alberto Donelli knew all the answers. 

The women finished cleaning the kitchen; there had been stuff splattered everywhere and they were tired. The painting was left to do, since Carla had only recently returned from town with it. It was way past lunchtime, so they decided to head back into town to the diner where Mildred had seen Donelli and the woman talking. 

The five women piled into the car driven by Hetty, since it was a Cadillac and would comfortably hold all of them. They put little Jan Hankins into the middle of the back seat. 

The ladies began chattering about what all they had gotten done during the morning. Hetty's mind, however, was on the rosewood box. She knew that quite often they were used to hold important papers and keep them away from prying eyes. Her curiosity was going to keep pinging away at her until she got a look at them. There had always been some kind of secret about the girl's parentage. She just bet herself that she could find out something from inside that box. 

Hmmm. Perhaps that Douglas boy had already looked inside it. She wanted to be the only one who knew whatever it held, other than Ms. Hinton, of course. 

She knew she was obsessing over that box, but she really needed to know what was in it. Perhaps she could look while the others were painting the walls. It would only take a minute or two. She had always had her suspicions about who the girl's father was. It was evident, wasn't it? Of course, there was a whole bunch of that family's boys and a couple of girls.

They all left the farm at an early age; couldn't get along with the old man, from what she heard. He beat them everytime they turned around, was the word in the town. Hmmm. Wonder if it was the old man? Nah...couldn't be.

As Granny lay there, waiting for Arlissa to return to the hospital, her mind drifted back to the night she was awakened by someone knocking at the door. 

Her husband was sound asleep, but she had been lying there thinking about her daughter, Ellie. 

Where was she? What was she doing? Would she ever see her again?

Quickly, she arose from their bed and went to answer the door. It was raining and very cool. She had heard the old clock on the mantel strike two as she went through the house.

Opening the door a crack, she felt the breeze blowing through her flannel gown and shivered. 

"Yes? Who is it? Who are you? What are you doing here?"

"I come to get you. Yore daughter sent me. She needs you. Come quick! She said to hurry."

"Jist a minute. I gotta get my shoes on and a coat and a scarf for my head. I'm hurryin'!"

The woman stepped inside to wait; her red hair glistening with raindrops hung in clipped ringlets.

Granny remembered the long drive to the little house the woman had taken her to. It was difficult to see through the rain on the dark mountain roads. Fortunately, she could follow the tail lights of the woman's car. 

She hadn't seen her Ellie since they had the big argument over Ellie's wanton behavior with that fella she'd been seeing all those months before. Then she heard he'd up and joined the army, leavin' Ellie high and dry.

It had been at least seven or eight months since she'd heard from the girl. Now, her daughter wanted to see her.

When they finally arrived, they found another woman in attendance to Eleanor. It was a local midwife, sitting near the bed where Eleanor lay, with a tiny baby wrapped in a clean blanket lying next to her.

The midwife looked at Mrs. Hinton and shook her head in a negative manner. 

"Ma. This here is Arlissa, yore granddaughter. I want you and Pa to raise her for me, please. I ain't gonna make it. Ma, I want you to promise me you won't never tell her who her father is, or that she had a twin, who only lived a few minutes. You gotta promise me, or I'll never have rest."

"Where is the twin? Was it a boy or a girl?" Granny remembered asking the midwife.

"It was deformed and so I buried it yesterday afternoon, out under an old oak tree." The woman who had come to get her had told her that.

The midwife had then told Granny that Ellie had begun to hemorrhage and she didn't think Ellie was going to make it. 

"She is so small that the effort just took too much and she's not been eatin' good, I reckon. The babies took all the good outta the food she ate, left none for her. I don't hold out much hope for her to get outta bed, even."

"Ma..." Ellie's voice was weak. "He was a good man. He loved me, I know. He just said it wasn't gonna work out; his ma didn't like me none, and he was his Mama's boy. He didn't know about me goin' to have the baby. We ain't spoke in over six months and I heard he got married soon after we parted. We argued over his love of alcohol. He just said he couldn't see no problem in drinkin' a little. When he hit me, it was just the last straw."

"Oh, my Ellie! What am I ever gonna tell her when she begins askin' about her mama and daddy?"

"You can't never tell her who her pa is. She'd be so shamed. Jist don't tell her nothin'. You gotta promise me! If you love me, please? Don't tell her neither about havin' a twin birthed just before her. It'd just make her sad. One more thing, when you bury me, put up a marker for my other baby next to me."

"Well, Ellie, what if she figures it out on her own?"

"Do whatever you can to keep her from it, but if that happens, then you can tell her. You promise, Ma?"

"Yes, Ellie, God help me, I promise." 

Granny remembered then how her daughter's hand slipped from hers and with a wan smile, Eleanor Hinton drifted away into the long sleep. 

Granny had looked at the baby being held out to her and quietly took Arlissa Hinton into her arms and drew her close, tears dripping down onto the baby's face.

Granny wiped the tears from her eyes, remembering.

That was how Arlissa found her when she returned to the room. 

"What's wrong, Granny? Are you okay?"

The old lady nodded, giving her the twisted smile that was now so familiar to her.

"Somethin' has upset you!"

Granny just shook her head in denial. How could she ever explain to her granddaughter what had taken place... How she had been so deceived by her Granny. 

Granny picked up her slate and wrote, "Thinking about Gramps." 

Only Gramps had been told what Granny knew, and it had gone to the grave with him so many years ago. He, too, had felt great shame in what his daughter had done, but he loved Arlissa with a deep and fierce protective love.

He gave the girl the protection that a father would during the years he lived past her birth. He took her fishing with him. Granny complained he was turning her into a tomboy, but he just laughed at his wife and said, "A gal needs to learn to do these things jist like a boy does. After all, she ain't got no brothers."

Arlissa thought about Gramps as she sat quietly with her Granny, both of them remembering...

Arlissa had learned to climb trees, and shoot marbles, and fish, even whittle a stick. Gramps and she had some wonderful times. Sometimes when they were fishing, she would ask him about her Ma. He would talk for awhile about how he had taught her ma the same things she was learning, but when she would ask what he knew about her Pa, he would say something like, "You know, if we keep talkin', the fish are gonna hear us and listen instead of bitin'."

She would say, "Oh, Gramps, you're talkin' silly, now."

Remembering brought Granny and Arlissa together in a sweet reverie. 

The ladies headed back to the Hinton farm, talking and laughing merrily; all but Hetty McReynolds - her mind was on the box and her lack of knowledge concerning the contents.  She intended to change that, however.

"Hetty, you're awful quiet. What's wrong?"

"I'm just keepin' my eyes on the road! You don't want us to go off it, do you?"

"Well, it's just that you're usually talking a mile a minute, 'n' nobody can get in a word edgeways."

"Ah, she's a plottin' somethin', is all!" One of the ladies joked and the others all laughed. Seems they really knew the woman. "Lookin' fer some kinda somethin' to gossip on."

"Myrtle, why don't you mind your own business. I reckon you know your husband sure likes lookin' at the young girls he keeps workin' around his office, runnin' errands fer him."

"Well! Since when did you have the right to criticize anybody's husband? I happen to know..." Myrtle stopped mid-sentence, not daring to continue. Being on the receiving end of Hetty's vitriolic gossip was not an enviable place. 

Carla piped up and said, "Say, have you all seen that new movie out at the Rialto? It is absolutely a thriller!"

They began chattering about the actors in the movie and the uneasiness left the automobile, but Hetty was not going to forget the stinging remarks made at her expense. They would pay! She would see to that. She knew her husband was not perfect, but he was basically a good man; he certainly helped a lot of people....

When they arrived  back at the farm, Hetty put on the smock she had been wearing earlier, and suggested they begin on Arlissa's room since it had been worst.

"Goodness! I just remembered! I forgot to finish picking up Granny's stuff and putting it away. I'll go do that right now, while you all get started on the painting." 

(To be continued)

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Arlissa - Her Story - Day 121 -135

Suspecting Arlissa could tell him more, but not wanting to push the subject any further for the moment, he changed the subject. He wanted to keep the young woman off the defensive, if possible, knowing human nature from years of law enforcement.

"Looks like we might be in for some wet weather," he said, deftly changing the subject. 

"Oh, my goodness! I do hope there is no rain today! Not when we're buryin' Rosie! That would jist be too awful!"

"Well, I sure hope so, too, Arlissa." 

He looked out of the windshield, casting a glance at the clouds hovering over the horizon. It seemed the morning was becoming more overcast by the minute. Then, all at once the sun broke through the clouds, and they both laughed.

"See, Sheriff! It's gonna be okay. Listen, I jist thought a' somethin'. You reckon they are gonna bring Benny to the graveyard today?"

"Hmmm. I don't know. You know, we always take children to the burying and also to the wake, although he wasn't brought to the wake last night. Quite possibly because Donelli was looking for him." 

"I wonder, then, who was keepin' him and where?"

"Hmmm. Can't say, Arlissa."

"Well, I sure know that man wants to get his hands on that sweet little boy. You know he actually keeps sayin' that I'm Rosie's sister?! Oh, and your wife thought I was somebody named Savannah - who is Savannah? You must know, since it was your wife that said it. I been wonderin' about that."

"Hmmm. Perhaps it's your resemblance to the O'Hanlons that makes people think you're kin to them."

"Huh! Red hair is common to lots of folks. I reckon me and the O'Hanlons ain't got no corner on that market!"

The sheriff only grinned in reply. He had ably deflected that question, he thought.

Within minutes they had arrived at the Sheriff's office, and entered. By this time, the sun was definitely out and the day was warming up. 

"Now, have a seat out here in the waiting area, and you'll need to write out your statement and I'll get Mildred over there to type it up and you'll sign both copies. There are some spaces in there for you to put your name and address, and then you can write down what all happened and how it happened. If you need anything, just tell Mildred. Okay?"

"All right, Sheriff." She smiled at Mildred, who gazed back with a brief smile, then went back to her work.

The sheriff left Arlissa filling out the paperwork and went into his office, where almost immediately the phone rang. 

The intercom buzzed and he said, "Yes, Mildred."

"Doc's wife is calling and wants to speak to you about something important, she says."

"Okay, put her through, Mildred. Hmmm. All I need today is to talk to that old busybody.

Ah, yes, Hetty. What can I do for you today?"

"Now, Sheriff, don't you take that tone with me! You know I don't deserve it! Listen, I need the keys to the Hinton house today."

"What??! Why do you need those?"

"Never you mind! I have only good intentions toward that poor girl and her Granny. You know I'm always willing to answer for whatever I do. If you must know, I have some ladies lined up to go out and fix that place up so's she and her Granny can live there again."

"Well, now! Ain't that right neighborly of you all! I reckon maybe I misjudged you, Miz McReynolds. Just stop by after the funeral and pick them up. I know you want to attend that. You probably all got some food to take out to O'Hanlon's for after the funeral. Tell you what, I'll give them to you out there, if that's okay."

"Thank you, Sheriff." She sounded absolutely smarmy when she replied.

Somehow, he suspected, she had some ulterior motives for doing the cleanup. What was she after, anyway? Was she looking for fodder to find more gossip to spread around? Was she perhaps thinking by doing a good deed,  she was adding "stars to her heavenly crown"? 

Whatever her motives, he was almost certain they were not as pure as the driven snow, regardless of how much she pretended them to be. 

Well, never mind that right now, he had work to do. How he hated paper work, but it had to be done. He flipped through the papers on his desk, then went to the filing cabinet and searched. All that failing, he then buzzed Mildred. 

"Where's those papers on the robbery last week?"

"Have you looked in the file cabinet? I seem to remember filing them yesterday under open investigations."

"Oh, okay, I'll check there." He flipped the switch off and went back to the filing cabinet. 

As he stood there, he happened to look up and gazed through the window where he saw Donelli walking down the sidewalk. 

"Hmm. Wonder what he's doing hanging around this area?" the Sheriff mused to himself. "Making for some kind of trouble, most likely."

He stepped out of his office through the side door and on out through the hallway and out of the door exiting from the back of the building. 

Continuing on, he rounded the corner of the building and went down the side till he reached the sidewalk where he could observe the man without being seen. 

As he watched, Donelli crossed the street to the other side and entered a local diner.

Looking down the street in the direction from which Donelli had come, Sheriff Bradshaw saw the sign hanging out in front of the Delsin Bed and Breakfast. 

"Ahhh, he must have spent the night there, I suppose. Wonder if my deputy knew that? I'll have to check up on that. In the meantime, I think maybe I'll have Mildred go over and get us a sweet roll at the diner. Don't want to tip Donelli off to the fact that we're keeping an eye on him. I need to see if he's meeting somebody over there. I'm sure he's most likely already had breakfast, cause Mz. Delsin sure feeds her boarders well on breakfast."

Returning to the back of the building, he enters quietly and goes to the outer office where Mildred and Arlissa are busy. 

"Mildred, I need you to do something for me. I just got a hankering for some sweet rolls and they have some mighty good ones over there at the diner. You reckon maybe you could go over and get some for us?"

She looked up at him, surprised at his request.

"Sheriff, I noticed you been puttin' on a little weight lately with all the settin' around you do. You sure about that?"

"Listen, Mildred! You're not my weight specialist! Old Doc McReynolds tells me when I need to lose weight! Besides, there's something else I want you to take care of while you're out. Okay?"

"All right! No need in gettin' all riled up over a little comment. What else is it you want me to do?"

"Come into my office for just a minute will you? Not all my business is for visitors to hear."

"Oh... well, for goodness sake. Okay."

They had no sooner shut the door than Mildred said, "Now what was so private that little girl couldn't hear what it was?"

"Did you notice that feller that was at the wake last night that was kissing women's hands like a regular romeo?"

"Ah, the one that was Rosie O'Hanlon's fella back in New York or somewhere?"

"Yeah, that's the one. Now, he's over at the diner across the way, and I want to know if he's meeting somebody and who it is, or just what it is he's doing over there."

"Okay, Sheriff. I'll do it."

"Now, Mildred, please don't be obvious about it, but take in as much detail about the person he's meeting as you can; get the sweet rolls and come back over here."

"Right! I'll be back in about ten minutes."

He gave her a five dollar bill and said, "I want my change back."  He smiled.

She bustled out of the office and was on her way.

Mildred walked across the street toward the diner, thinking about how she was on a secret mission, like those people in a spy TV show. She was going to "Get the goods" on that Donelli fella.

She bustled in self-importance as she entered the diner and sat down at the little counter, looking around as if to see if she was going to get quick service. 

Ah ha! Back in the corner she saw the object of her search sitting at the last booth. His head was bent in a whispered conversation with a brassy looking woman in her late forties or early fifties. She was smiling at him and flicking the ashes from a cigarette, as she blew smoke into the already stale air. 

Mildred lifted her eyebrows, wondering who in the world he was talking to. Somehow, she looked familiar, yet not. Who was she, anyhow? 

The woman picked a fleck of tobacco from her tongue and then said something to him that seemed to anger him. 

"Hmmm. If I can just get a little closer to them, maybe I can hear what they are saying," Mildred was thinking to herself. She started to get up, but just then Connie, the waitress, came over to her and asked what she needed.

"Oh, I'd like some sweet rolls to take with me. I have to work, too, you know. I just kinda ducked out for a couple of minutes; I don't have very long."

She stood up as though to leave the counter and head for the empty booth when Donelli got up hurriedly, throwing a few dollars on the booth table. He went by Mildred without even looking at her, slamming the door of the diner as he left.

"What rude people we have nowadays!" Connie remarked as he went out of the door. "I've never seen such behavior! These rude northerners. I declare! Didn't their mamas know they needed to teach them manners?!!"

Mildred smiled, "I guess not. Has he been in here before?"

"He was in here awhile yesterday afternoon late, and had some supper around five. You know we close at seven, cause we work a full day every day but Sundays."

Then leaning over, Mildred whispered to Connie, "Who is that woman still sitting back there in that booth? Do you know her?"

"Well, I have seen her around a bit, but not in a while. She don't get into town too much." 

 "I'm not quite sure who she is, Mildred. But I've heard rumors that she has some kind of connection to the O'Hanlons. Don't know how true that rumor is. She is some kind of recluse, though."

"Wonder how that slick lookin' feller came to know her? He sure did look like he had his dander up when he slammed out of here, didn't he?" 

"Yeah. Must have been something she said to him. Think maybe I oughta go back and see if there's anything else she needs. Maybe I can pick up on something. Ya reckon?"

"Hmmm. Well, that's your business since this is your business. Ha. Let me know if you find out anything, cause the Sheriff is right interested in knowing what we can find out about that feller. He's not up to any good, we know that for sure, Connie. You know that, well, he's the one that Rosie was mixed up with up north in some big city."

"Well, I figured as much. I knew he wasn't from around here. I reckon I know just about everybody that lives in this county, at least by sight; most by name, since most of 'em come in here sooner or later. I regret that I can't make it to the funeral today, since I can't get away from here." 

"I won't be able to go, either, cause the Sheriff can't let the office be closed during the day, I suppose."

"Here's the sweet rolls you asked for. That's a dollar fifty."

"Any news you pick up, let us know, okay?"

"Sure. Now I'd best get back and see if that lady needs more coffee er anything else."

So saying, Connie picked up the coffee pot and headed for the back booth of the diner and Mildred left with the sweet rolls. 

When she got back to the office, Mildred handed one of the rolls to Arlissa and took the other two into the Sheriff's office.


"Not much. He was talking to some woman about your age, and they wound up having some kind of disagreement and he slammed out of the diner in a snit."

"Hmmm. What did she look like? Do you have any idea at all about who she was?"

"Lot's of makeup, kind of tight dress, curly hair, not sure what color it was, she was smoking a cigarette, didn't get close enough to see the color of her eyes. That's about all I can tell you, except Connie told me she don't come to town very much. Some kind of recluse, she thinks."

"Ah...well...I wondered when she would resurface."

"Yeah, well, she's connected to some of the families around here. From what I know, she lived here some time back and then left to go somewhere else, finally returned about six or seven years ago. Lives out in the hinterlands somewhere in a trailer, keeps to herself. That's about all that is generally known about her; some people don't even know that much."

"She kinda piques my interest. I've lived around here for most of my life, too. She sure looks like somebody I should know, familiar like, you know?"

"Well, yeah, there's lots of people like that, if you just think about it."

"I reckon..." 

The sheriff knew that Mildred wasn't going to let the whole business lay. Her curiosity, once aroused, knew no bounds. This matter, though, was better left alone. Better to sidetrack her now, before somebody got hurt.

"Mildred, how about going out into your area and seeing how Arlissa's getting along with her statement? Thanks for bringing the sweet roll back and how about some fresh coffee, while you're at it? I've got this robbery investigation to get busy on. You might be able to give me some insight on it, too, huh?"

She hurried out of the office on the mission he had just given her; feeling that he could in no way do without her assistance.

After getting his coffee to the Sheriff, she went back out to her area and spoke to Arlissa. 

"How you gettin' along, honey? You want me to check it over for you?"

"Sure, I think I'm finished with it. Here, take a look at it."

Mildred, taking the paper, looked it over and after reading it, she said, "You poor child! What a terrible thing he did to you. My, but you're certainly clever, though, getting the best of him that way. And brave, too! Why, I doubt I coulda done what you did, hitting him over the head with that rock the way you did!"

She smiled down at the girl, patting her on the back. 

"Now, you just wait a minute and I'll take this in to the boss, and get him to look it over, then you can sign it."

"Sheriff, here is her statement; I think maybe it's ready to sign."

"Okay, Mildred. Hand it here."

He read the statement and handing it back to her gave instructions to have Arlissa sign it. 

"Then I want you to radio young Newman and have him come pick her up, on second thought, I'll take her myself. You can radio Newman and tell him to continue to keep his eyes on Donelli. Tell him that Donelli has been staying at the bed and breakfast on this street. He may still be there after his meeting with the woman you saw. He most likely will be at the funeral. I doubt he will miss the chance to be there, hoping to see his son."

Soon Bradshaw was on his way to the funeral home, accompanying his charge. He could tell she was nervous about going and facing the O'Hanlon clan again.

"Sheriff, could we stop by and see my Granny for just a few minutes? I need to see how she is doing. I promise it won't take long. We are a little early for the funeral, aren't we?"

"Well, the hospital is kinda on the way, I guess. So, yeah, we can do that."

"Thank you, I really appreciate it, and you lettin' me stay at your house an' all. I don't know what we'd ever do, without good folks a helpin' us." 

"Well, it's not much, but I do know what you mean. We're put here on this earth to be a help to one another, you know. At least, that's how me and the missus have always looked at it. We're lucky, too, to have someone like Sarah to stay with my wife and take care of her. Speaking of not knowing what we'd do, if Sarah hadn't been willing to help me after her Benjamin passed on, well...let's just say, I'd a been up a creek without a paddle." 

The two soon arrived at the hospital to find Granny was not doing too well. It seemed she had just had a bad spell with her heart, and the young Doctor Winston was with her. 

"Oh, I can't go to any funeral now, I don't care who it was. My Granny's more important than anything to me. What if she dies while I'm gone??? No! I'm gonna set right here next to her and hold her hand. I'm sorry, Sheriff. Please tell 'em I'm sorry, would you?"

Laying her hand on the good doctor's shoulder, she asked, "How's she doing, Doctor? Is she gonna be okay? She'll pull through this, won't she?"

Removing his stethoscope from his ears and folding it in his hands, he stood up and turned to the young woman. He smiled down at her.

"Well, Miss Arlissa, she seems to be holding her own, right now. That's about all I can tell you. You might want to sit with her for awhile. She seems to be somewhat agitated about something. Maybe you can calm whatever is bothering her. I know relatives that are close to the patients most usually have a good effect on them in times like these."

Looking at the Sheriff, after Arlissa had sat down beside her Granny, he nodded to him, indicating he would like to talk to him out in the hall. 

"Now, Granny, I'm right here beside you. You gonna be okay; you hear me?!" 

She patted Granny's hand and the old woman smiled, settling down. Her Arlissy was beside her now; everything was gonna be all right, she knew. Granny drifted off to sleep. 

Now what? What if Granny wasn't going to be okay? Was she going to be left all alone, now? She didn't know how she was going to go on, if her granny died. 

'What do people do, anyway,' she wondered to herself? 'I've probably lost my job at the drug store. I didn't make much at it, anyhow. Jist enough to buy us some things we couldn't get from sellin' stuff we grew on the farm. Our cows are gone, killed by that Con Douglas. Chickens were scattered all over, I ain't been able to go back out to feed 'em. Wonder if anybody's been feedin' the hogs? The house is all messed up; near everything in it smashed all to pieces. Oh, dear God! What am I ever gonna do? Please, Lord, tell me! Please don't take my Granny from me! I need her so much!'

While Arlissa was contemplating her future and that of Granny, the doctor was giving the news to the Sheriff that he wasn't holding out much hope for the old lady to survive this latest setback. 

Sheriff Bradshaw rubbed his hand across his face, thinking. 

"Well, it seems that young woman has been hit with a lot of realities lately," he replied. "Those two have had only each other mostly for the majority of her life. She has a lot of spunk, and I know that she'll survive this. Arlissa is finding out she's not quite so alone as she thought. She'll make it all right. We are going to make sure she does, if worse comes to worst."

They stood there for a couple of minutes, each lost in thought, until the doctor spoke.

"I have other patients I need seeing to. Are you going to be around for awhile?" 

"No, I have a funeral to get to and explanations to make for Arlissa's absence. Thank you for your frankness, Dr. Winston."

"Okay. We have to see that young woman gets through this. Right?"

"Sure. We won't let her do this alone. See you."

With that, the Sheriff put his hat back on and stuck his head back in the door. He saw that Arlissa was leaning over her grandmother, with her head resting near the old lady's.

Upon arriving at the funeral home, the Sheriff saw that the majority of those attending had already found a seat and the old preacher had taken his near the podium behind the casket. Mr. Hanson, the director, was just closing the casket, and replacing the simple spray on top of it. 

The Tunstall/O'Hanlon group was being ushered in to take their seats on the front two rows on the left of the casket. When the Sheriff was seated near the back, he looked around, searching for Donelli and saw him on the right side of the room, near the back just about in a straight line across from himself. Apparently, the man was trying to appear inconspicuous. 

"Fat chance of that!" Bradshaw thought to himself. The man stuck out like a sore thumb, but the sheriff had to give him credit for trying. Seemed that Donelli was trying to see if the boy would be there. He wondered where and who was taking care of the lad. No one had taken the sheriff into their confidence. Well, he figured they knew what they were doing. 

He also knew that sooner or later, the whole mess was going to have to be dealt with. After all, the law is the law, and he was sworn to uphold it, once the courts made a decision. So far, the matter had not been taken before a court, but he knew it most likely would happen. It would no doubt fall upon him to see to it. It was an unwelcome duty. 

The pastor got up to speak and a hush fell over the crowd. Somewhere in the back, a baby cried and the mother began to rock it back and forth, not wanting to miss anything, trying to hush it. 

He began to read from Psalm 23, the familiar words falling over the crowd and quieting them all. The family doubted that Rose was a believer; but the words were meant to comfort those still living. Once a person is gone, their chance at redemption is past; it is for the living that funerals are conducted. 

The pastor's message was brief. He reminded those present that we never know how long our life on earth will be; it is up to us to decide how we will live it. Rose died young; and left those behind to grieve for her passing. She had made her decisions, whatever they were. 

An organ began to play the hymn, "Rock of Ages" and one of the Hansons stood to lead those present in singing it. It was a song familiar to all and they sang it in solemnity. 

Once the song was finished, the family was escorted from the room, followed by the rest of those present. The casket was taken out the side door by the pallbearers and placed in the hearse. 

In the outer room, friends gathered around the family, hugging and giving sympathetic words. It wasn't long before the crowd dispersed and entered cars to either take the long trip to the graveyard in the hinterlands, or to go wherever they needed to go.

Sheriff Bradshaw was keeping his eyes on Donelli. He also noticed that Billy Newman was doing the same. He motioned to Billy to follow wherever Donelli went. 

Then the sheriff went back to his office. He had other work to take care of. He suspected that matters concerning the little boy would soon come to a head.

Immediately following the funeral services, the family and friends of Martha Rose O'Hanlon accompanied her remains to the Blithewood Cemetery that was located in a hollow back in the hills in a remote area of the county. There had once stood a church next to Blithewood. Only the remains were left standing. 

The day was crisp and cool, hinting at the beginning of the season to follow. 

The cortege was not a very long one; perhaps ten cars behind the hearse. 

Ellen Tunstall was reflecting on a past that was filled with conflict between Rose and herself. It has always seemed that Rose belonged more to Sean than to her. Well, actually, that was most likely true. Rose was always the little princess to her father. 

It was always, "That girl! Why can't she do what I ask her to do? Sean, you know you are spoiling her! I've tried! God knows, I've tried!"

"Sean was always singing that ridiculous song, 'Rosie, I'm always thinkin' of you, Rosie' to the girl, and swinging her up in his arms. Even when he was drinking, he never hit her. The way he brought her... no, I won't go there."

Ellen brought the handkerchief up to her eyes and swiped them, then hardened her face and clung to her husband's hand. Sitting beside him in the truck, she looked back at the vehicle directly behind them containing her two sons, daughter-in-law, and daughter, Marie.

She wondered what was going on in their minds and hearts as they followed.

Meanwhile, back at the hospital, Arlissa sat beside her Granny, watching the gentle rise and fall of her chest as she breathed. 

"Granny, don't die and leave me. I'm not ready to go on without you," she whispered. 

There was no response from the old lady except to continue her shallow breathing.

"Well, at least, she's holding her own right now," the young woman said to herself.

"I'm right here with you! I ain't goin' nowhere, Granny. I love you, Granny! I know I don't tell you that enough. I reckon maybe I take it for granted that you're knowin' it. I know that you love me, too. You're the only Mama I ever had, and you raised me good, teachin' me all about God and doin' what is right. I won't never forget what you always said about me bein' your gift from Him."

By now, Arlissa was near tears, but still smiling as she remembered her growing up years. The way Grandpa taught her to pitch a ball and how he taught her to whittle and play marbles. Then when she was just learning so many things, he up and took pneumonia and died. That just left her and Granny. 

She remembered how she had stood at the grave and said, "I'll take care of you, Granny! Don't cry," even as she herself was crying at the time. 

Her Granny had just smiled down at her and said, "Child, I reckon maybe we'll just take care of each other, eh?"

Her memories then took Arlissa to the time that she had asked Granny to tell her about when she was born. 

"Were you there when I was borned, Granny?"

"Well, child,"

Arlissa remembered how she had first heard the story of her birth. A woman had shown up on the doorsteps of the farm, announcing that Eleanor needed her mother. Granny had put on her coat and gone with the woman, only to find her daughter at death's door, hanging on until Granny got there.

"But, why? Why didn't you know? Where was my mommy when I was borned?" She had asked in her childish voice.

"Ah, it's just too complicated to tell you, except to say that your mama loved you and knew she was dying. She just wasn't strong enough to stay on in this world. She knew she wanted me to raise you and not let you be in the hands of strangers. Her last thoughts were of you. Never doubt that, child."

In the years since, she had asked Granny for more but the old woman had refused to discuss it any further. 

Even now, Arlissa wondered who had summoned Granny to where her mother had given birth and why she had not, would not, give her any additional information. Why had her grandmother lied about what year she had been born? Of what significance was that, anyway? What difference? 

Where had Arlissa's father been? Had he been there when Eleanor had given birth? Who had given Arlissa her name, even? Why the mystery? 

'Don't I deserve to know? Will I ever know?' she asked herself as she sat by Granny's still form.

"Oh, Granny! Why have you never given me the answers I long for?" she cried aloud.

The old lady stirred beside her. 

"Wiss" she muttered.

Arlissa sat up, startled to hear her grandmother speaking. 

"What? Granny, what are you trying to tell me?"

"Saw...." The rest of  what she was trying to say was mumbled.

The old lady gave a long sorrowful look at Arlissa and drifted back to sleep.

Remaining in the chair, but leaning back, she closed her eyes and drifted to sleep herself. She felt so very tired.

She awakened an hour later when the nurse came into the room to check on her patient. 

After taking the vital signs, the nurse said, "I do believe she is stronger. Why don't you go down to the cafeteria and get some coffee and perhaps a sweet roll or something to give you some energy? I'll page you if her condition worsens. Okay?"

"Thanks. I think I will."

Once she had her coffee and a fresh cinnamon roll she headed for a table in the corner where she could be alone.

"I think maybe I'll head for that tree me and Rosie used to meet at when I can be sure Granny is going to be okay. Wonder why she mentioned it in that note she left me."

Meanwhile, Alberto Donelli looked around at the people gathered at the gravesite, seemingly agitated. 

Sheriff Bradshaw wondered what kind of bee was in Donelli's bonnet (so to speak). Then realized the man was curious about Arlissa's absence. He was searching for the young woman who was at the side of her Granny. Why? What was his obvious interest in Arlissa?

No matter right now, because he wasn't going to see the girl here. 

They watched as the pastor spoke a few words and then Marie, Rosie's younger sister, stepped forward and began sing in a clear beautiful voice, the song so often played at funerals, "Amazing Grace". 

There was soon a wiping of eyes as she came to a close and the last haunting note sounded in the hollow. Flowers were dropped one at a time on the casket, and it was lowered into the ground.

Soon the people got into their cars and began wending their way back home through the hills and hollows. 

Mrs.Tunstall wiped her eyes and turned her eyes on her husband. 

"Well, that's that...Little did I dream when I got her that it would end like this. I believed that I could make everything good between us. I tried, God knows I tried!"

"You mean, when she was born...right?"

"Um..yes. What did you think I meant?"

"Well, that's just a strange way to speak of a child being born."

"Why are you constantly picking apart everything I say lately?"

"Honey, please! I know this has to be a difficult time for you. Why don't we get back on to the baby-sitter's and pick up little Benny? He'll be anxious to see us again."

"Okay! Just don't say anything else. I can't take it right now."

He started up the truck and they drove away in a heavy silence; she looked out the truck window, noting the leaves hanging in golden silence, fluttering softly in the breeze.

Except for the funeral director and grave diggers, they were the last to leave. 

Pulled to the side of the road, parked under the trees, sat Donelli in a rented car, watching and then as the Tunstalls passed him, he pulled out to follow a distance behind them. He was determined they would lead him to his son eventually.

Arlissa sat once again, by Granny's side, watching her breathe in and out, praying that she would continue to do so. 

Leaning  back against the chair, she began to reminisce. When she and her Granny had first gone to visit the O'Hanlon family at the occasion of Rosie's grandma's funeral, and she had first met Rosie, she felt as though she was seeing someone she had always known. The striking up of a friendship was an immediate thing. 

After that, they were almost inseparable. They would meet at the tree when they got a chance and talk about what they hoped to do with their lives. 

What a coincidence, too, that their birthdays were two years and one day apart. Now it dawned upon her, with the discovery of a new birth date, that it was only one day.

The funniest thing was that when one of them would begin a sentence, the other knew exactly what they were going to say, and sometimes finish it for them. The two girls often laughed about that. 

Rosie wanted to go to a big city and become an actress or a model. 

"I'll be the only model with my kind of hair; and I'll bet I get lots of jobs because of it. I'll be famous! Then I'll send for you and we can paint the town redder than our hair. Ha ha ha! Maybe I can even get jobs for you to model, too. We could model as  twins, couldn't we? The only red-haired twins in the business."

"Oh, Rosie, you're crazy! I don't want to go to no big town and be a model! I jist want to find out who my daddy was and spend some time with him if I can find him. I want to find a good husband and get married someday."

"I just wanta get away from here. My mom won't let me do anything that is fun! Everything that I like doing...well, except for talking to you, and she even tries to keep me from doing that sometimes...she won't let me do. It's like she hates me and can't stand to be around me!"

Arlissa sat deep in thought, remembering...

All at once she heard a sound coming from her Granny.

"ah ah."

Sitting up, she saw her Granny was licking her lips. They looked very dry where the old lady had been breathing through her open mouth.

"Water! You want some water..." 

Arlissa picked up the glass of water with a straw in it, and holding the straw in her Granny's mouth, let the old woman drink a few sips. 

"Granny! Are you feeling better?"

The old woman nodded and gave a grateful glance at the young woman, with a half-smile. 

"Would you like something to eat? Are you hungry?"

Just then the nurse came bustling in to check on her patient.

"Well, Mrs. Hinton, how are we feeling now? Do you feel like sitting up a little so you can breathe better, and maybe have a little something to eat? It is lunchtime, and the aide is going to be bringing a tray for the two of you."

After taking the vital signs, she busied herself straightening the already straight covers and then took the clip board at the end of the bed and recorded the vitals. 

As she left the bed, she patted the old lady on the feet affectionately, and smiled at Arlissa. 

"Don't let her tire herself out, now, young lady."

"No, Ma'am, I won't."

Arlissa had already decided not to trouble her Granny any more with questions about her past. There were other sources she could consult. 

Traveling along the country road, Jake Tunstall noticed the strange car following the truck he was driving, going to get little Benny. 

"Hmmm. Helen, take a quick look back and see if you can tell who is driving that car back behind us. Don't let him see you looking. Take out your compact and act like you're checking your make-up or your hair or something, like you women are always doing."

"Do you suppose it's that Donelli fellow?" 

"Yeah, that's my guess. We're coming up close on Henderson's curve and if it's him, I can pull off and he'll never know where we went."

Taking out her compact, she did as he asked, and verified his thoughts.

"Okay, I'm speeding up; no doubt, he'll do the same, but I'll pull off into that road around the blind curve and he won't see us. He don't know these roads like we do."

Within a couple of minutes, they were hidden in the side road and Donelli went on, passing them up, ignorant of the fact that he had been deceived. He never saw them again, since there were many side roads in the area and they had taken a different one to get to the baby-sitter's place.

Meanwhile, back at the hospital, Arlissa had left for awhile and Granny sat slightly elevated in her hospital bed, reminiscing...

The woman had come for her in the middle of the night, with news that Eleanor had just given birth to a baby girl, and most likely would not make it another day...

Not to be outdone, Donelli decided to go once again to the woman he had been trying to do a deal with for information about the O'Hanlons. She was trying to get more money from him than he was willing to pay. After all, she had contacted him several days earlier, when she had heard about his connection to them. Seems like, even here in the sticks, his family was becoming well-known. 

He didn't like to be on the wrong end of the bargaining table, so to speak. It was usually him or the Family that had the information desired. Well, he had ways of getting what he wanted, and he was not above using them when necessary. The woman had threatened to take the stuff she knew to the girl for free, if he didn't pay.

What did the old woman know? How did it concern the girl? 
Why was she willing to share what she knew? Who was she, anyway? How did she get the information she said she had?

Meanwhile, Hetty and company (her women friends) had gone to the Hinton farm to see what they could do about the mess out there. 

Upon arrival, they started to unlock the door, only to find it was damaged at the hinges. 

"We gotta get some men out here to fix this door!" This from a scrawny little woman who looked like she would maybe weigh a hundred pounds soaking wet. 

"Aw, shoot! My Harvey can fix that in no time. I'll call him right now. He can check whilst he's here to see if anything else
needs repairing." The hardware man's wife had spoken up and revealed this. "We can furnish the materials, too, from the store."

"Oh, my Law! Look at this mess on the walls!" spoke up the town lawyer's wife. "Have you ever seen such words in print? That Con Douglas should be ashamed of himself! I hope the court throws the book at him! Kidnapping that poor little girl!"

"Well, ladies, let's quit gawking and roll up our sleeves and get to work on this place." Hetty commanded the four who had accompanied her. 

Betty Crowe, the half owner of the town's hardware store, was on the phone giving commands to her husband's clerk. "I don't care if he is busy! This is important, too! Now you tell him...never mind, put him on the phone right now! Tell him to remember who writes the checks!...the very idea!" She patted her foot on the floor as she waited.

"Hello, Harvey? Yes, dear, we really do need you! We aren't gonna do all this work, just to see it messed up again by somebody happening by while nobody's here! We need you to come fix the door." She listened awhile and then went on.

"Okay...but if he doesn't do a good job,  you're gonna have to redo it! All right, all right! I'll see you this evening, then."

She hung up the phone and told them that he was sending out a carpenter that did odd jobs for his customers sometimes.

The ladies all got busy then, picking up the pieces of clothing, checking the pieces of furniture that had been knocked apart by Douglas and setting some aside they thought could be repaired. 

"Paint! We need some paint and brushes to repaint these walls. Call your husband back and tell him he needs to send some supplies for that. A coat or two of fresh paint will certainly brighten up this place." Hetty was certainly in command. "Carla, you have a good sense of decoration, what colors do you think we should put on the walls?"

Carla Sanderson looked at Hetty doubtfully. "Well, I don't know as I should be deciding something so important to the people who live here."

"Nonsense! I'm sure, being in the need of our charity and all, that they'll be grateful for whatever we can do for them! Now, come on, what colors?"

Reluctantly, Carla looked at the walls and the colors that were on them at the time. 

"Hmmm. It's going to take several coats of whatever we use, with all the writing that's on the walls." 

She began to suggest colors and shades of the colors and began to write them down. Then she came to a decision.

"Betty, why don't you hold off on calling the store and let me just go in and look at what colors Harvey has, then I can decide what we should get? Would that be okay? I'll bring the materials back with me. It will only take a short time, I promise." 

"Well, okay. Is that okay with you, Hetty?"

(To be continued)