Five more long nights had gone by and in that time, Willie had perfected her routine. She performed well under pressure and this had been a good test. Her timing was exact and all of her duties were completed in the allotted time.
During that time she hadn’t encountered the fetching gentleman again. She wasn’t sure that she had really wanted to but she was sure that she was bone weary.
Sunday morning she got home in time for worship and she, Papa and the two boys headed to church. Reverend Peterson could be a little long-winded at times and she found herself drifting off while trying to pay attention to his sermon. She remembered hearing him talk about the importance of raising your children to have honor in all walks of life.
The next thing she knew, her head was resting on Papas’ shoulder and he was gently nudging her to stand while they sang the closing hymn. Any other time he would have been disappointed in her but he knew how hard she had been working. When she begged forgiveness, he smiled and said he was sure that the good Lord understood.
When they got home, she began preparing lunch. After they ate, Papa told her to go rest and said that he would look after the boys.
She was grateful and promised that it would only be for a little while. Laying down on her hay-filled mattress felt almost like a blessed event and she fell asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow. She began to dream of walking up huge stone steps that had been carved into the side of a mountain. The steps were broken and moss was growing around the cracks. She couldn’t see where the steps led and it frightened her. Suddenly she heard Enez calling her name and woke up.
She opened her eyes and saw Papa standing beside her bed, telling her that he was leaving to go to work. She sat straight up and said “Papa. I was dreaming that mother was calling my name.”
Suddenly, she realized that she had slept all through the day and all through the night. “Oh, Papa,” she said. “I am so sorry.” Papa looked at her, smiled and said “it’s okay child. We all deserve a good sleep now and then and what better to dream of than your mother.”
Willie got up, dressed and went to wake the boys. She went into the kitchen to start breakfast and on the table was a small glass of water holding three dandelions. Dandelions were Enezs’ favorite flower and after she died, Willie used to pick them and put them in a glass of water, hoping it would make Papa smile. She knew that by doing that, he was hoping to make her smile.
It was time for her to return to work and she walked the three blocks to the factory. Even after a week, the foreman, a middle-aged man who seemed to have a mundane relationship with life, still showed no interest in having even the slightest bit of conversation.
He handed her an envelope and walked out, locking the door behind him. Inside the envelope was six dollars. The foreman didn’t tell her that she had done a good job but she hadn’t been docked any pay, so she was sure he had been satisfied with her work. Six dollars! The daytime workers made two dollars a day but her work wasn’t deemed to be anything special so she was given half that amount.
As she clutched the envelope, she started dancing. She couldn’t remember the last time she had been that happy. Papa was going to be so proud of her and she was proud of herself.
Her dance was suddenly interrupted when she looked up and saw the fetching gentleman, once again walking down the middle of the floor. This time she was embarrassed for a different reason. What would he think? Would she get fired?
He turned toward her and for a moment, she thought she might swoon. She could feel her pulse quicken and wondered if he could see her heart beating through her shirtwaist. He seemed to be moving in slow motion as their eyes locked and she felt a chill go down her spine. It was as if he could read her most private thoughts.
He didn’t speak nor did she.
She watched as he disappeared down the long, dark hallway as he had before. She was unsettled and a little disappointed that he hadn’t acknowledged her presence but calmed herself by thinking “silly girl. Why would he speak to a poor working class girl like you?”
Nearing the end of her shift and readying the supplies for their place in the closet, she was puzzled when she noticed that the large dark stain had returned. Again, she scrubbed the stain and again, removed it with very little effort.
She didn’t give it a second thought. Her mind was occupied with the thought of running home to show Papa the envelope. When the foreman unlocked the door and stepped inside, she gave him a smile, feeling almost certain that he would not return the gesture. She wasn’t offended when he didn’t.
She knew her Papa would smile when she got home.
To be continued________________