87. Reconciled

Coming in from
Watering the chickens–one,
Dead from heat–she
Found Louise inside,
Beside the calendar,
Reading it there, pinned up
On the wall. Riah
Paused, surprised:
“Hi”: the back
Unmoved. Riah
Stayed, the feed-pail
At her hip, just
Waiting. Louise
Always spoke.
Riah waited.

“Well,” said Riah,
With a slight flush
Rising, “glad you’re
“I bet.” Louise
Did not budge. Riah
Stood, the pullets
Nattering outside.
She wished James were
Home: not time.
“You want coffee?”
“You got coffee?”
Mild interest, at
Last. “Well,” Riah said,
Uneasy, “well, not
Quite. It’s ground pintos,
Chicory root mixed in.”
“Thought so.”
No real coffee:
Riah felt

“Like a cup?”
“Thanks, but no thanks.”
Riah sat down:
“Thanks, but no
Thanks”: Louise,
To the wall.

Riah recognized
Louise’s dress: made
From a pattern Louise
Sketched from scratch, then
Sewed from scraps.
She’s so clever! Riah
Searched for words. “It’s
Last year’s calendar,”
She ventured. “Yep,”
Louise replied.
What to say?–
“Well!” Riah feigned
Brightness, “Where you

Wrong thing!
“Oh–” Louise
Whirled around,
“Been to Paris.
Riah was shocked
Speechless at her face:
Rage-red, veins
Distended, eyes
Inflamed. “Been in
Paris”: lips
Apart, teeth flashed.
“Brought you home some
Perfume. Pay you
Back for all your

Riah: “What? What’s
Wrong?” Louise
Paced the room,
Tugging curtains,
Swiping at the dust:
“Oh, you notice,
Then? You notice?”
Answered her own
Question: “Course you
Don’t. And why?”

Riah clasped her
Hands tight in her lap.
She wished she were
Anywhere but here,
Yet her eyes could not
Stray from that face.
“Why?” Louise asked.
Then: “Because you
Never notice

Riah mumbled.
“Speak up!” Louise
Snapped. Riah:
“I said–yes, I
Notice.” Louise,
Hands on hips:
“I did not stop by here
For three weeks.
So what did you
Do?” No answer.
“What you always
Do: big fat
Nothing. But–
Here the sharp voice
Faltered. Riah
Winced. For an awful
Moment her lip wavered.
Then she answered,
Strange to her own ears,
“I don’t know….”
“You don’t want to
See me.”
“No, not

Temper rising,
Louise glared.
Then she ran quick
Fingers through her hair.
“Well, guess I’ll be
Going. I am
Sure I ain’t got
Time to hang around.”
Panicked, Riah
Rose. Things must not
Remain in such
A mess! She could not be
Left with this alone.
Louise seemed to
Pause to smooth her
Dress. But
She would go!

Tensed for
The effort,
Elbows pressing
Sharply in her sides,
Riah forced herself:
“What you want?”

Louise faced her,
Standing arms akimbo.
She looked Riah
Keenly up and down:
“Not the question.
Question is–what
You want.”
No response.

Louise sighed.
She dropped both her
Hands. “I
Want,” she said,
“I want you to
Tell me that you’re
Riah followed
This remark with care:
It revealed
A chance Louise might
Hopefully, “I’m
Sorry,” Riah said.

Louise paused–“oh,
What the hell. Damn.
I give up.

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