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“Why?” Sobbed Alma into Wilson’s shirt, “Did she have to live her last days with so much pain and hatred?”
“Shhhh,” whispered Wilson into Alma’s hair as he looked down at Alma with tears forming in his own eyes. “She forgave in the end and that’s what matters now.” His voice broke at the end of his sentence, and he bit his bottom lip. “She’s in God’s hands. Alma, listen to me,” Wilson drew Alma’s face up and looked her in the eye, “Candace is no longer in any pain, she forgave and asked for forgiveness. She’s in heaven and I’m sure it has a beautiful organ, where Candace is playing with all her might, singing all those songs she once sang.” A knock at the door of the room made both Alma and Wilson look up. Alma wiped her eyes and withdrew to a settee, which overlooked the front lawn. Wilson took a deep breath and crossed the room with long strides to the front door, which he opened.
“I’m sorry if I’m interrupting.” Nancy Ford said in an undertone to Wilson, as she took one look at Alma’s tearstained face and another at Wilson’s own. “But I’ve come to see if you and Alma would join me for a walk to the cemetery. I’ve brought some flowers from my last indoor poinsettia. If you’d rather just stay I’d understand.” As she uttered the last words she nodded toward Alma’s forlorn form sitting by the window. Wilson took one last look at Alma and motioned toward the door at his mother with his hand. Nancy took the cue and stepped out into the dark cloudy day with her son.
“Alma’s taking Candace’s death hard.” He remarked. “I just don’t know what to do, I mean now with her gone Alma doesn’t want to talk about a wedding or…” He looked over at the freshly dug grave in the church cemetery. His mother looked up at her tall son with compassion, just then he met her eye and something in his look took Nancy’s breath away. She grasped his arm.
“You blame me don’t you? For not letting you and Alma get married before Candace’s death.” She finished her last statement with something of a steel edge in her voice. She turned to walk down the wet front walk leading away from Candace’s house and almost slipped on an especially wet patch of ground. Wilson jumped forward and caught his mother’s arm. He turned her around so that she was facing him.
“Mother, no, it’s just that Alma and I, well maybe I was wrong about Alma and I. Maybe we weren’t made for each other and this whole time we’ve just been wrong, terribly, terribly wrong.” As Wilson finished his last sentence, he broke down. He slumped down onto the front steps and began to cry, sobs racked his entire body. Nancy glanced at the window where Alma’s forlorn figure had just been a few minutes before. Then she looked down at her son. She slowly sat down beside him and began tenderly, with motherly love, to rub her son’s back, as she had done when he was but a toddler with a scratched knee. He turned and walked away. He didn’t know where he was going to go but he knew he just needed to get away, away from it all.
Too late, Nancy realized as she watched her son walk farther and farther from her, that he wasn’t wearing any kind of protection from the elements. She shivered and strode away from the house, toward the cemetery where she paid her respects to Candace’s grave. Then she went to her house, half-expecting to see Wilson there, but he wasn’t. As Nancy mounted the steps to the front of her house, she thought back to her conversation with Wilson and the dilemma that she was in. She honestly didn’t want Alma to marry her son. Alma just wasn’t good enough for him. Only she, his mother, was. “That’s it!” Nancy exclaimed aloud, startling herself. She knew what she could do now to stop the inevitable marriage.
Meanwhile, Alma returned from the kitchen where she had been making some tea. She wondered what Nancy and Wilson had to talk about that was so important that she couldn’t hear. She supposed it was about her. As Alma approached the window, she realized that they were gone. “I wonder where they went.”She thought to herself as she speculated different scenarios while she sipped her hot tea. Alma turned and selected a cheery song to play on Candace’s organ. She sang along and became so absorbed with her actions that she never heard the small knock on the front door. Suddenly, Alma became aware of a banging on the front of the house; she turned off of the organ stool and started toward the front window. As she approached the front of the house, she glanced toward the sky and found it to be almost black. The clouds had rolled in and so had the wind, which made the shutters bang back and forth against the side of the house. Alma grabbed a shawl and was about to step onto the front porch when she saw it.
It was a note pinned to the door. The handwriting looked vaguely familiar yet strange all at the same time. Alma grabbed the note and held tightly onto it as she struggled against the wind to reach the shutters. When she finally closed them, she went back inside. Alma was breathless; she collapsed on the settee and shivered remembering the cold wind outside. She went back into the kitchen and made herself another cup of tea. As she got comfortable on the settee, once again she remembered the note. She withdrew it from her pocket and opened the note. It read:
I am very sorry to say that I don’t think that things could have worked out between you and I. Perhaps we just weren’t meant for each other. I hope that whomever it is who could make you happy will come into your live very soon.
At first, Alma was in a state of shock. Her face had become deathly pale and tears welled up in her blue eyes then something hit her hard. The handwriting wasn’t Wilson’s. It was someone else’s. Then it dawned on her, it was Nancy Ford’s handwriting. “But why would Nancy send me a letter pretending to be Wilson?” Alma wondered…
Simultaneously, Nancy sat at her house wondering if Alma had received her note. She marveled at the ease of which it had been to write the note and to pin it to Alma’s door. Yet Nancy had a sense of misgiving in the pit of her stomach. Her conscious told her that this whole business of tricking Alma into thinking that the note was from Wilson was wrong. Yet her mind reasoned that it was the only way that she could keep Wilson forever. Her little baby boy the way he’d always been. Her mind wandered to those days so long ago when Wilson was only eight. It had been then when he’d first declared that he wanted to stay with Mother forever. She’d been so happy that day. When he entered his college years, he had left his mother to go to East Derby. It was there that he had met Alma. Nancy smiled as she recalled Wilson’s childhood, one memory at a time.
Alma resolved to go over to Nancy’s house to have this straightened out once and for all. She glanced up at the sky and found the storm to be clearing. She readied herself for the excursion, and quickly left the house, locking the door behind her. She was a very pretty sight, with her blonde hair done up in a fancy French pompadour, covered by a sky blue hat, which was decorated with dark blue ribbons and yellow flowers. Her shirtwaist was silky white with dark blue ribbons running at the sleeves while her skirt was pleated and dark blue. As she made her way up to Nancy Ford’s house, her shawl fluttered in the wind. The note was safely tucked in her drawstring purse, which she clutched tightly as she held up her skirts. When she reached Nancy’s house she straightened her shawl and knocked on the heavy oak door. She waited what seemed to be ten minutes but which in reality was only a half a minute. Nancy opened the door and said without looking at Alma:
“I suppose you are looking for Wilson. Well he’s not here. I have no idea where he is.” She said all this very briskly, her hands fumbling with a loose curl at the nape of her neck. Nancy’s black hair, which was turning gray, was pulled up into a tight severe looking bun, which made any of her natural curls disappear. Her dress was a dark maroon, which seemed to make her eyes appear as snapping black coals. This whole appearance rather frightened Alma and she managed to stammer out:
“I... I don’t want to talk to Wilson… I mean I do! But that’s not who I came to see. I came to see you, Mrs. Ford.” She emphasized the word “you”, which made Nancy’s head, jerk up rather like a marionette doll. Nancy coldly invited Alma inside; her coldness was only in place to hide the growing fear, which was taking place in the pit of her stomach.
“I suppose I should offer you some sort of refreshment.” Nancy’s shrill voice broke the awkward silence, which had settled, over the room.
“Oh, no. You don’t have to… I mean I didn’t come here to eat... I came to talk to you about a note I found on my door earlier.” Alma’s words tumbled out one over the other as she rushed to finish her sentence. At her words, Nancy paled. Alma didn’t notice the change, which had occurred over Nancy’s face. She instead was folding and refolding the note, pressing the crease down.
“I know you wrote the note Nancy, but why did you do it. All I want to know is why would you want destroy any of Wilson’s and my happiness?” Alma broke down at the end of her sentence and tears welled up in her blue eyes. Nancy knew that this was no time to lie. But how could she even say it to someone who was crying and was probably not even rational right now. Nancy decided just to plunge and say what she thought of the marriage and perhaps she’d add a little white lie to help Alma to keep quiet about it…
“Alma, I am simply looking out for Wilson. You simply are ruining his life. The marriage would only make him more of a homebody then he ever was. I only want the best for him. Please understand. I wrote the letter in hopes that you would call off the marriage and that he would come back and stay –.” Nancy almost had said “with me”. But thankfully, she had caught herself. During this whole speech, which Nancy had made, Alma’s face had turned from unhappy to stricken. Her face looked like a ghost.
“No, I must go. This is too much, why oh why…” Alma’s sweet voice cracked again bringing her to tears. “This was too much for her. She had to find Wilson and she had to tell him what his mother had said. But no, she couldn’t. What Nancy had told her was probably something that she didn’t want Alma to tell Wilson. But oh how was she going to ever tell Wilson…” Alma’s thoughts raced through her head as she thought of one thing to tell Wilson only to find what seemed to be a better one. Alma quickly said her good bye to Nancy Ford and just as she was to leave the house, Nancy spoke up.
“Alma, I trust you not to say anything to Wilson about what I’ve told you. If you really love him, you’ll call off the marriage. I know that you’re a sweet girl and you wouldn’t want to ruin anyone’s life, especially Wilson’s.” Nancy’s voice flavored with a fake sugary sweetness, floated out the door and reached Alma’s ears with a pang of guilt. Nancy chuckled to herself. “This was almost too easy…”
Alma stumbled home and was surprised to find Wilson waiting on the front steps. She knew this was her chance to tell him that she wanted to call off the wedding but she knew that this would hurt him very much. She sent up a prayer to heaven asking for guidance and direction from her heavenly father. As Alma walked up the front path, she made her decision.
“Alma, where were you? I came to see if you want to go to dinner at Mothers. Do you?”
“Wilson, I have to speak with you about something very important.” At this statement, Wilson’s heart started to beat faster. Was Alma finally going to talk about having a wedding? He nodded and looked intently at her face.
“Wilson, I want to call off the wedding.”
“What? Why? Have I done anything? It’s got to be me. Or is it because of Candace’s death, Alma why?” Wilson’s voice was panicked.
“Wilson I just want to call off the wedding. Is that all right? Do I have to give you an explanation?”
“Yes, you do have to give me at least a reason why you want to call off the wedding. I mean we’ve been engaged for over 10 years and now you want to call off the wedding…”
“Wilson, I really shouldn’t say, your moth–.” Alma quickly stopped before she said mother.
“My mother? What does she have to do with us?” Wilson suddenly recalled the conversation that he and his mother had, had earlier that day. It played back in his mind. “’You blame me don’t you? For not letting you and Alma get married before Candace’s death.’” Wilson only understood part of it… He understood that Alma knew more but that she couldn’t say. “Alma won’t you please tell me what my mother said to you? Why doesn’t she want us to get married?” Alma want to say so baddy. Then before she knew it, the words were tumbling out of her mouth.
“She doesn’t want us to get married because she said that I would ruin your life.”
“What?!” Wilson nearly shouted. He grasped Alma’s arm and quickly walked off.
“Where are we going?”
“To talk to Mother!”
A few minutes later, they were standing in front of Mrs. Ford’s house. Wilson walked right into the house without knocking.
“Mother!” His voice rang throught the house.
“In the kitchen!” Nancy’s voice cried. She walked out wiping her hands on a towel and without looking up said, “My you’re home late, I would have expected you to have been back at least an hour ago. Did you have a chance to speak to Alm–” She broke off her sentence for that was when she had looked up and had seen Alma standing quietly next to Wilson. Alma’s hand was grasped firmly in Wilsons. “Oh my, I see that you’re here.” She stiffly nodded at Alma.
“Yes, she’s here Mother, and I plan on making sure she stay’s. I don’t want to ever hear you talk about Alma that way again. She is not ruining my life; in fact, she’s making it better. Alma Way is the best thing that ever happened to me and I don’t want to hear any more about you telling Alma that she’s ruining my life. I love Alma and we’re going to get married. And if don’t like it then you don’t have to come. But nothing, nothing you say will ever make me not love her.”Wilson glanced shyly at Alma who was standing next to him. And with that, he left the room with Alma right behind him.
Three weeks later, in a little church a couple, who was not so very young, stood before a minister. The minister was saying,
“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here in the sight of God, and in the presence of this company, to unite Wilson Ford and Alma Way in holy matrimony.”
And way in the back of the church sat Nancy Ford. She was dressed all in black and was sobbing. But no one even seemed to notice, all they saw were two people deeply in love…