This is a preview to the chapter Chapter Twenty-Two from the book PERSONAL BAGGAGE by Margaret McMillion.
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“I’ve got it; and this morning after I took Zac to the vet, I went to Sack and Pack and bought a map of Columbus.”
“Sounds like we’re all set, then.” Johnny activated the headlights as they turned onto Oakwood. “I think it’s strange that your parents never took you to see the old house or to visit the graves of your ancestors.”
“We didn’t travel for fun; money was tight.” Penny pictured Buck sitting on the desk in CCU telling her of his financial problems and his pregnant wife. “Johnny, Buck was trying to buy a house so his wife and his baby could come and live with him–-he loved them!”
The atmosphere in the car tightened, a noxious thickening of the air. Unable to stop herself, Penny tossed incendiary words into the flammable environment. “It’s insane to think that Buck would kill anybody!” She shifted in her seat and folded her arms. The engine accelerated, and she cast a sideways glance at the advancing speedometer needle.
Johnny gripped the steering wheel. “Now listen to me, all right? We don’t know the facts! You’ve connected a few dots but you’re coloring way outside the lines. Whatever happened is not our business!” He sighed and slowed the car. “Try to think about something else—let’s do our best to enjoy this trip.” An idea changed his expression, and he glanced into the rear of the car. “Get the book your uncle wrote from back there and read me the chapter that begins on page one-hundred.”
Penny retrieved the small black-bound work, The Seven Siblings, from the seat behind her. The chapter was entitled “Elizabeth Augusta Murdock (1841-1921).” She examined the picture of a young woman, her own great-grandmother.
“You’re prettier than she was.” Johnny’s voice was gentle.
Penny placed her hand on his thigh and he covered it, holding it with a firm grip. Feeling pretty, she looked out at the scenery along the Natchez Trace, at bare crepe myrtles and vacant gardens laid out, waiting for summer. She rolled down the window as they passed an old white farm house encircled by porches, and whiffs of wood smoke eased her tension. On either side of the road leafless trees reached up, their branches blending into a wash of grey and blue as details vanished in the fading light. Aware of the pressure of Johnny’s hand, a thought occurred to Penny, as it had not occurred to her for years: my husband loves me.
It was nearly 10 o’clock when they checked into the Holiday Inn in Columbus. Penny, propped up with pillows, attempted to read while Johnny studied the map, but both of them were worn out.
“Let’s stop at the library in the morning and see if they can direct us to the house,” Penny said. “They should be open on Saturday, don’t you think?”
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