Miss Anne said:
Some folks in this town still think I know what really happened to Sophieleastwise those folks old enough to remember Pearl Harbor and the terrible days that followed.
Why, to this very dayover twenty years lateronce in a while, somebody will say to me, "Miss Anne, you can tell me what really happened to Sophie, now that it's been so long."
But I can't tell them.
Because I was never sure.
And I guess the reason they ask in the first place is that most of us still care about Sophie and want to know that she's all right.
To be truthful, I guess everybody in townleastwise those old enough to rememberalways felt a little bit bad for Sophie, how she wasted all her youth and beautyand to be perfectly truthful, there was precious little of the lattertaking care of her mama and those two old aunts. Everybody used to say that one day, Sophie would just up and run off and get married. When she was younger, I mean. But she never did. Guess you have to have a young man to do something like that, and I don't think there was anyone who was interested in her.
There was a little talk about a beau, just before the Great WarWorld War Onebut most of those boys never came home again. Boyd and Andrew and Henry and others whose names I can't remember now, so if there was ever someone who was interested in Sophieand I doubt ithe must have been one of them. It really didn't matter, anyway, because if anyone had come around about Sophie, her mama and the aunts would have nipped that right in the bud. I'm sure of it.
"Nothing lasts," her mama used to say. "So no use in Sophie getting started with it."
Sophie's mama was always like that. Bitter, in general. And about men, in particular. How on earth she ever agreed to marry any man is beyond me. All I can say is that Mr. Willis must have slipped her some elderberry wine or something. Because they only kept company for about a month or so, and the whole time, everybody in town could hear her berating him in a loud voice, right there on her front porch when he came courting. But he just kept on coming. Sat right there in the swing and smiled off into space while she went into tirade after tirade. Maybe she finally wore herself out.
Mr. Willis was quite elderly, and I guess he'd learned plenty of patience. Of course, Sophie's mama was certainly no spring chicken herself, by then, but she hadn't learned anything about patience. Never did, to tell the truth. But I guess one thing that kept Mr. Willis coming around was that he figured it was his last chance to get married.
Sosomehow or otherhe got her to the church.
Then he took her off on a grand honeymoon trip to New Orleans for two whole weeks, and when he brought her back, she was with childwe found out later. Only about a week after that, Mr. Willis died in his sleep. Left her a well-off widow with a nice, big house. And he left her Sophie, too, though she didn't realize that right away. And of course, that was certainly some surprise when she found that out. She sent right off to Atlanta for her two old maid sistersElsa and Minnieto come and live with her. And they did.
But goodness, what a time they had of it, especially right at first. Because Sophie's mama must have thought that they were going to wait on her hand and foot, and those older sisters must have thought the same thing about her waiting on them. Led to an awful lot of fussing and pouting, it did. But eventually, they learned how to get along right well, I guess.
And of course, they were happy about the baby that was coming, so that settled them down a bit. Almost every single evening for months, you could see them sitting together on the porch, crocheting to beat the bandwith their heads down and their crochet needles just flashing away. Went at it with a vengeance, they did. Why, by the time that baby was ready to come, they had enough clothes for a whole army of babies! Caps and sacques and booties and sweaters and blankets. But of course, not a single one of them could crochet worth a flip, so the sweaters all had one long sleeve and one short, and the caps would have fit a watermelon, they were so big. And the blankets came out shaped like triangles, for the most part. Still, they did their best, and I guess their hearts were in the right place.
Reprinted from Sophie and the Rising Sun by Augusta Trobaugh by permission of Dutton, a member of Penguin Putnam, Inc. Copyright © 2001 by Augusta Trobaugh. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced without permission.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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