Miss Mabel and I sat there and for a minute, I was afraid that we were both going to break down. Then, true to character she said “run along home now. We’ll talk more tomorrow.”
After what she told me about Katy, I felt like the wind had been knocked out of my sails. I wanted to open more of the notes but I wasn’t yet prepared for what I feared I might see and I was already so desperately sad.
For an instant, I thought about having Dawn come over and cleanse the house but an instant was as long as the thought lasted. I, probably erroneously, thought that maybe my growing affection and compassion for Katy would somehow counteract the sadness left by her and maybe erase the energy left by that horrible, drunken excuse for a father. I just knew that I didn’t want to erase Katy.
I was being consumed by her and although the excitement of returning my house to its former glory was still there, it had taken a back seat to her. I found myself almost counting the hours until I could hear more of Katy’s story.
Later that night, I stared at the box of notes but couldn’t bring myself to open a single one. It was like I was caught in a self-imposed world of limbo…wanting to know what they said and not wanting to know what they said…being in this time and wanting to go back to her time.
The next day, before I went to Miss Mabel’s house, I stopped at the market and bought a six-pack of Coca Cola. I thought it was my turn to treat her.
I had so many questions but I knew that I would have to be patient. Miss Mabel was a centenarian and I also knew that talking about Katy was difficult for her.
She sipped on her Coca Cola, smiled and said “now where were we?” I told her that she had told me why she thought Katy never signed her name. “Ah, yes,” she said.
Before she went on, I asked her if she had ever seen the murals Katy had painted in Samwell’s and Dawn’s houses. She said “I didn’t know anything about them. Have you seen them?” I told her that I had and that they were absolutely breathtaking. Then I asked if she knew where Katy got her paint and brushes.
“I do indeed,” Miss Mabel said. “Her granny bought them for her.” My ears perked up and I asked if she knew if Katy had painted anything in her granny’s house. Miss Mabel said she didn’t know but maybe I could go ask the people who lived there. She said, “her house is just down the street a little ways.”
That was exciting news and I had to fight the urge to get up and leave. I wanted to see if Katy had painted anything in her granny’s house. Miss Mabel read me quite well and said, “there will be time for that later, child.” I smiled and thought “Coca Cola, cigarettes and Jeopardy have done her proud. She really is one sharp cookie.”
I asked her how she came to know Katy.
Miss Mabel said “well, Katy eventually got older, got bigger and got faster. She would run out of the house when her father was on a drunken binge and he couldn’t catch her. She wouldn’t go back until he passed out later that day. Her hair even started to grow back.”
“What do you mean, her hair started to grow back?” I asked. She said “that father of hers used to get the scissors and cut that child’s hair off, all the way down to the roots.”
I got a chill. I remembered the doll I found in the attic, hanging from a ribbon and told Miss Mabel about it. I said “her hair was cut off at the roots and there were band-aids on her arms and legs.”
Miss Mabel said “I’m not surprised. After an overnight stay with her granny…which I always called an overnight reprieve…she came home with a doll. It absolutely enraged her father. He yanked the doll away from her, took out his knife and started cutting off her hair. Katy was begging him to stop but he kept on. He threw it down, stomped on it and then threw it in the trash.”
“I imagine Katy rescued it when he was asleep. Poor little thing. She probably put the band-aids on it to hide the marks.”
I told her about the toys I found in the attic. A top and a little radio. “They were pretty old,” I said. Miss Mabel said “they weren’t Katy’s. I can almost promise you that. They were probably bought before she was born…when they expected a boy.”
She went on to say that Katy’s father used to catch her praying and made fun of her. “He once took her out in the yard and made her get down on her knees and raise her arms. He said pray for God to turn you into a little boy. Then you’ll be worth something.”
All I could think about was how much I hated that absolute horror of a human being and yes, I wished him a life in Hell a thousand times over. I wondered if he was the reason Miss Mabel thought “all men should be put down.” I agreed with her when it came to that monster.
We had talked through Miss Mabel’s mid-afternoon nap and it was time for her daily cigarette. We had gotten side-tracked, talking about what Katy’s heinous father had done to her. She said “let’s go out on the porch and I’ll tell you how I came to know Katy.” She lit her cigarette and began.
“I saw her one day, sitting under that big oak tree over there. I went out and offered her a Coca Cola. She didn’t say much for the first few weeks but she finally started talking a bit and even came inside the house.”
“We talked about any and everything except the hell she was living through. I told her about my love of the beach and how I longed to visit one. She was a bright little thing and like I said, a sweeter child never drew breath. But you know, she never talked about her hopes or dreams or wishes.”
I interrupted Miss Mabel and asked her why she had never been to the beach. She said “I just never had the opportunity and then after my accident, it was too late.” I asked her if she minded telling me about it. She put out her cigarette and said “that’s a story for another day.”
She told me about the day Katy brought all of her paints over and said she had a surprise. “For almost a week,” she said, “she made me promise to close my eyes when I went down the hall. I kept that promise and had a few bruises and a few dings in my chair to prove it. The day she told me to come in and look, I almost cried. I rolled my chair toward her and raised my arms to hug her but she screamed and put her hands over her head.”
She looked down, shook her head and said “she never did let me hug her. She was so damaged, she couldn’t stand to be touched.”
It was time for me to go home. Miss Mabel looked at me and said “do you think you might let me have one of her notes?” I smiled and said “of course.” As I was walking away, I turned and asked Miss Mabel if she knew what happened to Katy.
Again, she looked down and in an almost whisper, said “one day Katy left and never came back.”
To be continued__________________________