Flowers Out of Bone

Photo of Ethel Morgan Smith

by Ethel Morgan Smith

Chapter 1

Emma sighs and stretches her arms forward and sits up. She doesn’t look as much like me as I do Beauty. But she doesn’t look anything like her daddy either, other than a feature here and there. I am pleased that I don’t see my dead husband when I look into my daughter’s face. A few years ago I’d have thought that would be a mean thing to think. It’s not, just honest. Emma’s long curly hair is braided in a thick ponytail.

            “This is a new car. What can be wrong?” Emma asks.

            “Do I look like a mechanic?” I hiss. This is the first sign of bad luck. How can we be having trouble in this new BMW?

            “I hate it when this happens.” Emma yawns.

            “Everybody hates it when this happens,” I snap. “I think it’s the tire.”

            “It’s not that big of a deal.” She stretches and yawns again.

            “I just don’t like feeling trapped.” I try rubbing away my headache. I have to get ahold of myself if there’s any hope of me getting through the trip in one piece. Maybe this was a mistake. Maybe I am not ready to be here. Why haven’t I demanded that Ruby and Beauty come to Atlanta? I could’ve even had a driver pick them up.

            Emma unbuckles her seatbelt, gets out of the car and reaches her arms to the sky. Her honey eyes are wide with curiosity, like Beauty’s but with the almond shape of Big Mama’s. “No reason to panic; we’re in a park. Fresh air.” She opens her hands like a fan. “Remember what that is? Freedom! Let’s make this an adventure.” She beckons me to join her. “It would be nice to have a picnic here.”

            “The state park is just a stone’s throw away,” I concede and step out of the car.

           “We can call AAA from here. And I’m not going to panic.” I pop the car locks.

            “We could use a break about now.” Emma reaches her hands above her head until they meet in a triangle. “A picnic would be nice.”

            “We?” I turn to my daughter and smile. “I think I’m the person doing the work.” I point to myself.

            We walk in a silent peaceful rhythm about a fourth of a mile. When I am not watching her, I see the broken necks of dandelions and patches of burst buttercups near the side of the road. The bittersweet smell of wildflowers is cut by the sharp scent of the pine trees stinging my eyes. I wish I could crush my past away as easily as flowers underfoot. Even the flowers are responsible. As nice as the park is, even it is a reminder of my fearful childhood that stole my voice. Never walk in the park. Always go around the long way. No, you can’t go to the lake for a picnic. No, you can’t try on the clothes in the stores. It’s the law. Stop asking so many questions.

            I struggle through the thought. Take a breath and count to ten. “The moment you dance, your heart dances with you,” was on a postcard I received from Mr. Anton Haas before we left Atlanta. Take another deep breath and count to ten, but try to remember only the good. And there is some, it’s just buried by what happened to Emmett. I massage my temples again and step over a patch of purple crocus. Why had I worn these stupid clothes?

Flowers Out of Bone is to be continued