I felt my insides begin to tremble and I was certain that the air pressure in the room around me had plummeted. I knew that it was time for my “lessons” to begin, but also longed for the comfort of simply enjoying my surroundings and reading a whole book in one sitting. It hadn’t taken me long to realize that reading Mama’s books made me feel closer to her. The corners were turned down on certain pages and I often found myself reading those pages twice. I was perfectly content being a beach bum and just knowing that somehow eventually it would heal all of my wounds. To my surprise I didn’t miss my life in Boston at all.
“From Mama?” The room grew blurry as my eyes filled with tears.
“Most of them.” Penny was dressed and had her purse tucked beneath her arm.
“Where are you going?” I wanted to go too. I wanted to save the letters for a rainy day ten years in the future. I wanted to save the unopened pieces of Mama-- after all, it was less than a week after we had buried her. What if this was the last little bit of Mama’s thoughts and feelings that I ever got to bear witness to?
“Shopping. I know your size, honey. I’ll grab a few outfits and tomorrow if you’re up to it we’ll go for that makeover we talked about.” Penny’s blonde hair paled in comparison to the tan that she was acquiring. I twisted my hands and fidgeted, prompting Penny to tell me not to read them at all until I was ready.
I watched from the window as Penny’s red convertible sped away, Penny had seemed nervous about the letters. I glanced down at the neatly stacked mound of envelopes in my lap. I closed my eyes and wished the temptation of reading them all in one sitting away. I opened my eyes and realized I didn’t want to read them at all. I was a mess. Penny and Mama had managed to knock me completely off of my rockers. The letters were numbered. They scared the hell out of me. I had no idea what I would find, and had even less of a clue as to whether I was ready to read them or not. One a day… Sounded like a vitamin. I hoped to God that these were the chewy kind.
I closed my eyes, opened the first envelop, and took a series of deep breaths to keep from hyperventilating. There are certain moments in your life that you just know are big. I didn’t know why, but this felt big. Mama never wrote me at college or even at boarding school for that matter unless she had something to say. I thought back over the letters that I had received from Mama throughout the years-- My grandma’s death, my Aunt Elise’s fifty year old pregnancy scare(with the town mayor, at that!), Anna’s breakdown, Joe Haynes’ suicide, and Mama’s leukemia. Letters from Mama always came with a lot to think about, a lot to cry about, and even something to laugh about at the thought of Aunt Elise bent over the portly Mayor’s desk. I knew that Mama understood the importance of the written word, and knew that whatever was written on the paper in my hands would be big.
As much as I wanted to read it, I didn't want to read it. I heeded Penny’s advice. I was going to wait until I was completely ready. I carefully folded it and slid it back into the envelop. I needed to clear my head... An early morning swim in the ocean would do the trick.
Penny arrived home around lunchtime loaded down with shopping bags. She glanced at the stack of letters on the coffee table-- she knew I hadn't read my daily dose yet. "Wait til you see what all I bought!" Penny was excited, all traces of tension were long gone. "We are gong to find you a man in no time!"
Penny's life goal had been to marry me off. I didn't know why, but for some reason she always offered to introduce me to her trainer or tennis coach. I had never taken her up on the offer, but couldn't completely rule it out now. My life was changing and I had to change with it.
We spent the afternoon playing dress up. I twirled, spun, and modeled each outfit with delight. It felt good to get dressed up and feel pretty! I thought about Anna, she would have had a ball. Penny and I laughed harder than we had laughed since Mama died. "Are you hungry, child?"
"I could eat." I climbed the mountain of clothes on my bed. A tag jabbed me in the leg and I frowned. "How much money did you spend today anyway?"
"Money? What's that! Penny Quinn has no such word in her vocabulary!"
"I hope you are right!" I could feel myself break into a smile. "Actually, I'm starving."
"Well get ready child! Can't wait to see what you pick!" Penny headed out the room, leaving me to sift through the endless choices and countless combinations of clothes. Adeline Banks was doing about the most girly thing possible and was enjoying every single minute of it! Maybe there was hope for "mankind" afterall! I knew that anything was possible with Penny around.