Free Sugar by Bernice McFadden Page B

Book: Sugar by Bernice McFadden Read Free Book Online
Authors: Bernice McFadden
raised her eyes to meet the top of Pearl’s head.
    “Well?” Pearl said without raising her head. Her eyes remained focused on her chore. Her fingers moved quickly as she pushed the good peas to the left of the pile and the bad, bruised, discolored peas to the right.
    “Ain’t nothing much to say.” Sugar’s mouth moved to say more, but only breath came out.
    “Nothing?” Pearl’s head rose and her hand movements stopped. “C’mon, got to be something. What you do when you was up there?” Pearl’s tone was light on top but there was a pull beneath the words that would surely suck Sugar in if she did not step carefully.
    “I—I worked for a woman,” Sugar said in a low voice.
    “That true, doing what?” Pearl pushed. She leaned in.
    “What?” Sugar asked stupidly, already tripping over the lie she was laying down.
    “Yeah, what kinda work did you do for the woman?” Pearl’s voice probed.
    “I, uh . . . well she ran a house for uh . . .” Sugar was searching for the wrong words, the words that wouldn’t tell the whole truth. The right words, the true ones, dangled before her and she had to shift her eyes and close her mouth lest they jump in and spill out.
    “Well?” Pearl pushed again.
    Sugar scratched at the heat rising around her neck. “She ran a house for—for women. I—I cleaned up around the place.” The words were out as quick as Sugar was up and out of her chair. Pearl’s eyes widened, but she said nothing else. She went back to pushing her peas. She let Sugar be, for now.
    Sugar swallowed but it became harder to digest the truth about her time in St. Louis, Chicago and Detroit. She did not want to reveal her fifteenth year, the year she walked away from Short Junction. Small town ain’t fit for a woman that ain’t never had a mamma. It ain’t fit for a woman that never had any friends. It ain’t fit for a woman that dreamed beyond the confines and goings-on of the green and white Lacey home.

    She picked up and left with the next man that said, “Sugar, girl, you somethin’ else! You something special! Oohh wee! Girl, I could really get use to this type of lovin’ six days a week and twice on Sunday!”
    They left Short Junction on a slow-moving train to St. Louis, surrounded by the sweet smells of fried chicken, sweet biscuits and by the steady buzzing of talk about the girl that was found dead in Bigelow, some twenty or so miles down the road. They said she was beaten so badly her own mamma didn’t recognize her. Women covered their mouths and gasped in shock. A man called out over the sea of “I don’t believe it!” and “Can you imagine?” and revealed the worst thing of all: “ Her—her . . . privates were cut out and laid on the ground beside her.”
    Sugar didn’t believe the whole story, small-town folk will stretch a story until it became a tale. But she did believe that that was a sign that her departure was right on time.
    St. Louis was where life began picking away at her with the same slow, steady reverence of the train that brought her there.
    She was awed by the buildings that stood taller than the pine trees in Arkansas, her eyes burned against the bright light of day that bounced off of the glimmering sidewalks. Sugar was completely unprepared for the fast-stepping, high-fashioned, quick-talking black people that moved around her like bees around a hive. She wanted to be one of them.
    He dropped her off with a woman he called his sister. She lived in a brownstone house that looked like every other house on that street—the only distinguishable qualities about them were the variety of potted plants that graced the windowsills and the color of their doors. Mary Bedford’s door was red.
    Step behind the red door and you were accosted by the sweet smell of Midnight in Paris perfume. The perfume had been worn for so long by Mary and the women that worked there that it seemed to seep from the walls and move from room to room on the back of the air driven

Similar Books

Sally Boy

P. Vincent DeMartino

Apache Moon

Len Levinson

Fire Under Snow

Dorothy Vernon

The Book of Jane

Anne Dayton

Doctor On The Brain

Richard Gordon