“Alright, girl, here’s another one. This here from Caroline down the road”, said Pearl.
Molly rolled her eyes, “Alright, put it on the table.”
“Whew, child. You mind if I oblige myself to this here sofa? All this running around, can’t be healthy.” Pearl heaved in and out as she sat down, lighting a cigarette. She closed her eyes, savoring the nicotine in her throat before releasing it into the air.
Molly chuckled, “Did you just say running can’t be healthy?”
Pearl cut her eyes at Molly, smiled, and answered by taking another long pull from the cigarette. Pearl was a big girl, and proud of it. She had a plump backside, wide hips, thick legs, and big breasts. So is the make-up of all the Tate’s.
“Girl, you know I can’t be losing no weight. Charles will have a fit. Have me walking around here looking all sick like y’all skinny heifers,” said Pearl as Molly laughed.
“I’m serious. Shoot, the bigger the berry, the sweeter the juice.”
“No you didn’t!” laughed Molly. Pearl joined in. She cracked herself up.
Molly glanced over the table, almost completely covered with German Chocolate cake, sweet potato pies, greens, macaroni and cheese, yams, baked beans; you name it, it was here.
“She’s not dead, you know,” Molly spoke from nowhere.
“All of this support. It’s like everyone’s acting like this is some kinda repass. Like my daughter is dead or something.”
Pearl let the cigarette die out in the ashtray. Whatever kinda buzz she had, Molly just blew it.
“They just tryna be supportive is all. You know how country folk are. Your child is their child. The men folk are out looking and the women folk are at home cooking. That’s how it is.”
“They will find her.”
Pearl shrugged, “Humph, I know they will. Got the dogs, NAACP and everything else. They better find her.”
“I mean alive. They’re going to find her alive. I can feel her, Pearl.” Molly thought about the last time she saw her very own mother that night on the porch, cold and tired. She wondered for a moment if that’s how Nora felt right now: alone, cold, and tired. Molly wanted to feed her. To give her all this food that was made for her.
Pearl sat back on the sofa, Here we go again. She wasn’t entirely honest with Molly, but everyone wore the same consensus on their hearts. There was a strong possibility they were not going to find Nora alive. No one wanted to give her credit because she talked too much. Miss Irene talked entirely too much and spoke with an unfiltered tongue, but what she said was true. Children in 1922 Mississippi didn’t just run away.
First, no one would let them. Besides their parents, there were just too many eyes watching, which is what makes it hard to believe no one saw anything. This was the South and you had not one parent or two, you had forty, fifty, and sixty. The whole colored community. People looked out for each other and someone, somewhere was always watching.
Still, she didn’t know how to break the news to her friend that she should prepare her heart for the unthinkable. Besides, she had her Marie to think about and she didn’t know what she’d do if something happened to her. If there was one thing her parents taught her, it was putting yourself in other people’s shoes. “That the onliest way to sympathize wit ‘em,” her father would say. “You gotta be able to feel where they been, where they walked, and then you can help ‘em ‘cause you knows. You knows in your heart what they been through and where they is.”
“She gone be alright, Molly. She gone be alright.”
Pearl lit her cigarette again, leaned back on the sofa, looked at the table, and prayed her words were true