Flash Fiction by Katy Goforth
I was born old. My mama and daddy had been busy before me and stayed busy after me. I was number four of thirteen. Lucky in some ways. I got marked as Lettie. Number ten got left with Tibb. And, well, the last one just got saddled with the nickname Hump. We don’t even know what his real name was.
I was fourteen years old when John Lee showed his face on daddy’s farm.
Mama said, “Lettie girl. You’re a woman now. But just ‘cause you’re a woman don’t mean I ain’t your mama. Don’t go to sassing me or thinking you get to run off with the next boy you see.”
By fifteen, I’d married John Lee. He’d presented me with the most beautiful diamond. It was from the Jewels of Joy line. Not some five and dime ring like a few of my sisters had.
Mama worried but not enough to stop me. I think she was more worried she was losing an extra hip to ride one of her babies on. Daddy didn’t say much. What could he say? He didn’t have anything better to offer me.
Besides, John Lee was movie star handsome. He had dark curls that fell across his forehead and blue eyes for days. He’d picked me—Lettie Ann Hill. My legs stuck together from my thighs to my knees, but John Lee loved me still.
Our first Valentine’s Day together was something. John Lee had gone down to the drugstore and picked out a small pack of cards. They had hearts on them. Some were pale pink with roses. Others were blood red with sashes across the front declaring undying love to a one and only. I know what they all said because John Lee gave them all to me.
He said, “Lettie, I don’t reckon I have anyone else I love like that, so you can have them all.”
My own baby came when I was sixteen. Mae was an easy baby. I suppose just one baby is an easy baby after growing up with my crew. One day, not too long after Mae had arrived, John Lee came home with a wig form. He’d scratched my name on the bottom of it with his pocket knife.
He said, “Now go on to the salon and pick out some nice hair to make you feel good on Sunday mornings at church.”
That’s exactly what I did. I picked out a wig that matched my natural color just right but gave me some height and some extra curls.
I had to work. I got a job in the cotton mill right alongside my John Lee. Judee Mae Birdsong, a dear old neighbor lady who I loved so fiercely that I named my first baby after her, kept my Mae and then John Leonard once he came along a couple years after.
We lived in a two-room wooden house right by the train tracks. No floor. Just dirt. But you know what made that house special? It was mine. Didn’t belong to no mill owner.
I’d stroll home with lint in my hair and sweat and dirt caked in any crease it could find on my already broken down body. I’d see that Jewels of Joy wedding set sitting on the pine dresser right beside my wig form, holding all those curls that matched my hair just perfect. It was my glamorous life.
Katy is a writer and editor for a national engineering and surveying organization and a fiction editor for Identity Theory. When she’s not busy blessing hearts, you will find her petting a dog. She was born and raised in South Carolina and lives in Anderson with her spouse and two pups, Finn and Betty Anne. You can find her on Twitter at MarchingFourth, and you can find her published work at katygoforth.com.