Jennie picked out a camping lantern, for about $20, and a blank inside card with a man holding a girl’s hand. I figured Frank couldn’t get too upset about that. Jennie wrote in the card herself.
Just a little gift to brighten your day.
“Do you think it’s too big of a hint?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” I admitted. “But he’s going to love it. That’s what’s important.”
She gave me a big hug and I reminded her to stay clear of Mr. Lutzen while she was in Leifton. We went to Susie’s to wrap the present and I used her phone to call Denny. Frank was acting too weird, and I knew he would
make something out of it if I tried to call from home. I wanted to tell him the same thing.
“How is she?” Denny asked me.
“It’s a bumpy start,” I admitted, “but we’re working through it. She starts at a Catholic school on Monday, we had a few delays, but I think we’re fine now.”
“Well, that’s good. Catholic school. Molly would be impressed.”
“I hope she thinks so. I’m not sure she isn’t still watching my every move. I do appreciate the break. It’ll be good for Frank and me to be able to digest this whole situation.”
“He’s been okay, then?”
“Sure,” I said.
“Then why don’t I believe you?” he asked.
I got defensive. “I don’t know Denny. Maybe you’re the type to see trouble, whether it’s there or not.”
“I’m sorry,” he said, “None of my business.”
“You’re right,” I told him. “It’s not. I wanted to double check; make sure your whole calendar was clear. I don’t want Jennie anywhere near Larry.”
He told he worked Saturday morning, but he should be done before Jennie and Susie arrived. He was clear from then on, and he’d watch Jennie like a hawk. He promised. It was hard to tell how many visits would be plausible. It was already getting cold.
Susie teased me about taking too long on the phone and I promised to pay her for the call. She and Jennie had started making tacos, and I ate one quickly before we headed back. Susie had wrapped the present too. It looked
huge, and I asked her to hold onto it and bring it with when she came Saturday morning to get Jennie. It looked like it was more than it was, and I didn’t want Frank to see, especially when Jennie wasn’t even going to be there
I picked Jennie up early on Friday from Mrs. Slatskov’s and we spent all afternoon in the yard. She seemed almost as happy there as she was with her sketchbook. She asked me if I thought Frank would make it to church with me on Sunday, since she wouldn’t be there.
“I don’t know,” I told her. “I can’t make him go. I’m not sure how much work he’s going to have. But I’ll make it there. My membership classes are going to start soon. Gotta be on top of my game, you know. Maybe Stuart
will go with me.” I wanted to do something to open Jennie’s eyes on what a good person Stuart really was. As much as I wanted to keep Molly’s ideals in mind in raising her daughter, I wasn’t going to tolerate that kind of prejudice, not even from a child.
“You’re not going to tell Father Christopher that Stuart is your husband, are you?” she asked.
I dropped my rake and guided Jennie to the picnic table. “Why would you think I would do that?” I asked.
“Never mind,” she tried to tell me. “It’s not important. We should get back to work. It’ll get dark.”
“No,” I said a little more sternly. “You don’t blurt something like that out and get away with it without explaining yourself. You tell me what’s going on or you aren’t going with Susie tomorrow.”
“I saw your wedding pictures in the letters,” she admitted. “They’re all you and Stuart. Uncle Frank isn’t even in them.”
“I was afraid,” I told her. “I just got married and I didn’t want your mama to judge me or worry because Frank was older than me. Stuart looks more like the man Molly would’ve expected me to marry, and I knew she would never come out here. She was pregnant with Paul Martin at the time. I didn’t want to upset her after she had lost the other babies. But mostly, I think, I wanted her to approve of me for a change. Can you understand that Jennie?”
“But it was a lie,” she said.
“It was,” I confessed. “But it’s not one I’m going to be telling Father Christopher, or anyone else at St. Ignatius.”
Jennie was silent, and after a few seconds I announced that we needed to get back to work before it got dark. It had been wrong to lie, I knew, but it didn’t matter anymore anyway. It was the last night before Jennie would be
back in Leifton for the weekend, and I wanted to do everything to make sure there wasn’t another incident. I wanted to spend the evening in peace.
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