A Tale of Marriage, Medicine and Murder

Chapter Twenty-Five

This is a preview to the chapter Chapter Twenty-Five from the book PERSONAL BAGGAGE by Margaret McMillion.
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As the temperature teetered between bitter and balmy in March, Dixiana welcomed the arrival of tourist season. Azalea blossoms burst open as if they had been waiting for an audience to start the show.

Out of the kitchen window a drooping branch of redbud cast hundreds of tiny pink flowers onto the rain-drenched patio and Penny, unable to make herself clean bathrooms, opened the back door and stepped onto the concrete in her bare feet. The morning sky was overcast, the air full of unshed rain and the earthy scent of new life.

Collecting her shoes, checkbook, and grocery list, she drove across town to Kroger. So many shoppers on a Monday morning! All the convenient spaces were occupied, and she had to park halfway down the sloping lot.

As she walked uphill invigorating drops of rain moistened her skin, but when she entered the air-conditioned supermarket she shivered, and by the time she had finished shopping and checked out, she longed for a hot shower.

Back at home, Penny turned her TV to the Weather Channel and listened while putting away the food. “If you don’t like the weather we’re having, just wait an hour and it will change,” the weatherman said. “This time of year you can expect anything from clear skies to a tornado.”

In mid-afternoon, the sun appeared and Penny walked Zac around the yard on his leash, afraid to let him run free because the street in front of their house was full of out-of-towners. She then locked the unhappy dog in his pen. Johnny would be late returning from practice, so there was plenty of time to try out the city’s new walking trail before she started supper.

She drove to the Recreation Center and stretched beside her Chevette while rays from the sinking sun warmed her back. Tightening her abdomen, she tucked her chin and jogged beneath white-blooming locust trees to the newly-paved path extending around the perimeter of the park, settling into an easy pace when she reached the concrete.

A hawk swooped down, its wingspread longer than a golf club. It glided along in front of her with only an occasional wing movement. Penny ran faster trying to keep up, but the hawk rode ahead on a current of air and dropped onto the low branch of an oak, its dappled-brown back close enough for Penny to see individual feathers ruffling in the wind. The tips of its rust-colored tail feathers formed a gleaming black line, and the bird peered at her over its shoulder with one eye.

Penny stopped four feet short of the hawk’s perch, and it turned around to face her, revealing mask-like markings around its eyes and a gracefully-curved beak. They established eye contact and Penny felt the impact throughout her body: a sort of explosion in her chest and stomach followed by tingling that extended out into her fingertips. A surge of joy and strength slammed into her, making her feel as if she could fly up into the air. Penny remained motionless, and for a long moment the bird looked at her out of one eye and then out of the other. All sound stopped as they stared at each other, and everything in the world disappeared except the two of them.

Then the hawk spread its magnificent wings and flew, not much higher than Penny’s head, its speckled white breast exposed before her. It glanced back a couple of times, and about thirty feet ahead settled onto another tree and watched Penny catch up. When she was even with its branch, she looked the hawk full in the face and its blue-black eyes flashed silver. With several tremendous flaps, the bird launched itself forward, soaring ahead without wasting a motion, then it turned, swooped down, and flew toward Penny at the level of her chest, its wings fully extended. The hawk came straight at her, then at the last minute changed course and she felt wind on her face as it rose over her head. She watched it lift and glide, its feathers translucent against the setting sun. Then it rose and climbed out of sight. The air was clear and still; the path was absolutely quiet.

Penny glanced around and was struck by the normalcy of her surroundings. Fingers of light streamed through tree branches making patterns on the land. A mother hurried her child to the car, and two sweaty golfers waved and continued their conversation. It seemed to Penny that anyone nearby should have noticed the life-shaking event that just took place. She wondered how she appeared to the hawk. Pulling the chain out from under her shirt, she studied her hawk’s eye pendant, turning it back and forth to see the dark stone flash. Closing her eyes, she placed the medallion in the center of her forehead, imagining herself flying higher and higher until the world was far below. A feeling of quiet peacefulness filled her mind, and she opened her eyes as the sun disappeared and the edges of everything began to blur.
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"In her new novel PERSONAL BAGGAGE author Margaret McMillion gives us fine details of Southern family life and, she herself an..."

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