I’m going to be at a fun event on Saturday in Winnsboro, and I’m really looking forward to seeing my friends there. Bill Jones and I will sign copies of our books, Images of America and Reflections of Winnsboro, and then I will have my own books available for purchase and autographs.
And now another excerpt from Evelyn Evolving, the story of my mother’s life. This picks up after the last EXCERPT I posted on the blog. Fair warning, this next section touches on sexual abuse.
Today, almost a full year later, the fire had been overshadowed by the dwindling supply of food. And there had been no new donations of clothes for some time. The two dresses Evelyn had been given not long after the fire had fit her just fine back then, but she had since grown. In more ways than one. The good sisters were quick to point out to the girls that their emerging breasts were of no use except for nursing babies. They were not to touch them, nor let anyone else touch them, especially a boy.
Nobody would say why that rule didn’t seem to apply to Sister Honora. Sometimes Sister would come into the bathing area. To make sure the girls were cleaning themselves properly, she would say. But then she might take a rag and start washing one of the girls, lingering a long time on the soft, rounded humps on the girl’s chest.
Evelyn shuddered every time she heard the sound of Sister’s approach. The sister always came into the bathing area humming under her breath, as if to herald her arrival. When she stepped in, her demeanor would change. Instead of her typical stern expression, she’d smile, but the smile was like a garish cartoon, and she never looked at the girls’ faces.
Still humming, Sister would take the rag from Evelyn’s hand and rub, rub, rub, ever so softly. Evelyn didn’t know what was worse; the violation or her body’s reaction to the touch. Sometimes the rubbing made her nipples hard and sent a jolt of heat down to her private parts. She didn’t know what caused that, and Viola refused to talk about what went on in the bathing area, so Evelyn couldn’t ask her.
Even though it was her turn to take a bath today, Evelyn decided not to. Keeping her clothes on, she quickly washed her face and stuck her head into the washtub to rinse a week’s worth of grime out of her hair. All of the girls had very short hair, cut once a month by another one of the good sisters, so it only took a few minutes for Evelyn to dry her hair with a towel. Then she quickly ran out of the washing room before Sister might come in.
When Evelyn stepped into the hall, she almost collided with another girl, Maria. “Oh, sorry,” Evelyn said. “Are you next for a bath?”
“No. Sister sent me to get the rest of the children. We’re all to come to the dining area.”
That was odd. It was mid-morning. They never went to the dining room unless it was for a meal. “Do you know what’s happening?” Evelyn asked as she followed Maria.
“Sister didn’t say.”
Even though Evelyn fervently hoped Sister would have good news to tell them, some instinct told her otherwise as she hurried to join the other children gathered in the cold dining room. Without the heat from the ovens carrying the comforting smell of food, Evelyn’s sense of impending doom intensified.
After the last of the children made their way inside, Sister Honora strode to the front of the room and told all the children to sit down. For a moment, all that could be heard was the scraping of chairs across the wood planking on of the floor, then silence. The children knew not to speak unless asked to do so.
“Children. This is most difficult news I bear today. As you know, God has sent us many challenges in recent years. The Great Depression…”
For a moment Evelyn’s mind wandered. Sister kept saying that; “The Great Depression” like it was something wonderful, but Evelyn didn’t know what was so great about it. The last few years had been too often filled with days upon days of being hungry and cold and miserable.
“…the orphanage will have to close.”
Evelyn jerked her attention back to the good sister. What was that she said?
“We have made arrangements for some of you to go to work…”
Evelyn turned to Viola. “What is she talking about?”
“If you weren’t daydreaming all the time, you’d know.”
“The orphanage will officially close in two weeks, and we will meet with you individually to let you know where you will be going. That is all.”
The silence that followed was so complete; Evelyn could hear the beat of her heart as it thumped against her ribs. This was worse than the fire. Much worse. And she wasn’t sure she liked a God who would do this to them.
“What about Christmas, Sister?”
Evelyn looked around to see who had asked the question. It was Marie, and the look Sister gave the girl made Evelyn glad she had not asked.
“There is no money for food,” Sister said. “How can you expect Christmas?”
Evelyn didn’t care for herself, but she knew the younger children had been counting on something special for the Holiday. Last year the fire had stolen Christmas. Now this? If only there was a way. Evelyn raised her hand. Did she dare say anything? “Um, excuse me Sister.”
“Perhaps if there was money. I mean… I have a silver spoon. I’d be happy to—”
“You could have it. Sell it and—”
Sister laughed, and the sound was anything but pleasant. “You stupid girl. You think that would help? One silver spoon will not bring enough money to buy even one present, let alone…” Sister let the sentence trail off as she gestured to the crowd of children. She shook her head and turned away. “Silly, silly girl.”
Evelyn looked at the ground so nobody would see the tears that brimmed in her eyes and then ran down her cheeks. When would she ever learn?
That’s all for me, folks. I hope you have a wonderful weekend.