Thursday, 9:03 a.m.
Oaklawn District, Chatsford, Ohio
Gloria Wentworth Hampton stood in her driveway, her face shaded by her broad-brimmed gardening hat. She wished the shadow would somehow widen, darken, descend to the ground, and envelop her. Since coming to America from England a year ago, she'd often felt this way.
"Do come with us, Mum. Won't you please?" her daughter begged, pulling at her skirts.
"Maybe another time, darling . . . " Gloria began and, from recent habit, looked up and down the sidewalk. It was vacant except for a boy, perhaps eighteen, wearing jeans and plaid shirt. To Gloria he looked the typical American male, who thought himself a Wild West cowboy. She glanced away, feeling suddenly empty, wondering why she'd become so judgmental.
Her husband, Jim, held their son's hand and looked exasperated.
"Surely we should go as a family," he said. "It's their Founder's Day."
"Please, Jim, I just -- I don't feel good about that air show. None of us should go. Maybe the parade, later today."
"Gloria, I rather like air shows."
"Well then go, if you must do. But don't take the children, Jim. Please. Air shows can be dangerous."
"Fine, have your way," he said. "I'll not argue with you, Gloria."
She looked at her children's downcast faces and suddenly couldn't bear to see them sad. She tried to think of how to console them. "But they may visit Danny, if they like."
"Yay!" the children shouted, all smiles now. Before Jim could stop them, they raced across the street toward Danny's house, usually forbidden because of his outdoor mini-train that might run the children down and his open goldfish pool that might drown them, perhaps during a grandmother's unplanned nap. Gloria had wanted to hug them but instead she watched them run, effortless and graceful.
Jim let out a frustrated sigh, but he walked to his wife, took her in his arms and patted her back. "All right, dear. All right. But isn't the list getting a bit long, now? Ban on air shows? Out with carnivals? No rides on public buses. No --"
"Jim!" the next-door neighbor called from his front lawn. He beckoned for Jim to come in a hurry, no doubt to witness a crucial phase of the pool construction. Jim waved to him.
"Never mind, darling," he said to Gloria. "I understand, as do the children. We'll not have you feeling afraid. Whatever it takes, we'll do." Jim gave her arms a bracing squeeze and kissed her cheek. "But try not to worry so. We're all fine, really we are. Back in a sec, my girl, all right?"
Gloria hugged him, then lingered on the driveway to watch him go. She felt guilt for her fears and frights. Last night she'd dreamed of flying and freedom -- this morning of vanishing into her hat. She'd never been this timid back at home. Why should America have had jobs just when her husband no longer had one in England? They'd had no choice but to leave their Surrey cottage, her lavender-bordered garden and everything she'd ever known to come here, like daredevil adventurers.
Gloria caught sight of the boy still on the street and, for an instant, disliked him thoroughly for being and belonging here. When she realized her thoughts she felt ashamed and headed back up the driveway.
She went through the side gate and to the patio where she and Jim had sat, her trowel beside her tea cup, her rake propped against an empty chair. Clippers, shovel, pitchfork at hand. On the table lay the folder in which Jim had tucked his new greeting card designs when the children came to fetch him for the air show.
It was great good luck, not bad, Gloria reminded herself, that Jim had been hired straight out of England by one of the biggest American firms in the business. She removed a gardening glove, unwound the folder's string fastener, and thumbed admiringly through his designs. He'd earned it, of course. It was just as he deserved. By coming here Jim assured their future in one stroke, reached the pinnacle of his profession, had his own signature line, picked and trained young designers, and sat on industry committees for the company. Besides, the children loved America. She'd rather die than let him know what she'd since realized -- that she would never feel at home in this wide-open, rambunctious foreign country.
Copyright © J. R. Lankford February 2, 2001, Xlibris Corporation used by permission. All rights reserved. For permission to reproduce this excerpt, please visit www.NovelDoc.com/Lankford.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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