Norfolk, Virginia 1962
There is a picture hanging up in a narrow wooden hallway, the frame clearly looked like it had been though hell; dent marks and scratches all around. Around this picture were tons of others – with nice new frames I might add – some big and some small. The photos in them were all business like, usually a white man with a nice suit on, forcing a pose. Others were of a house, a white colonial house with a huge lawn in the front, and some were of a little black girl who had long brown hair and big brown eyes; the kind of eyes that are filled with pure innocence and curiosity.
But the less nice looking frame - the one that held a significant antique photo, a photo that was worth a thousand words – it was odd that this photo was hanging up. It was the only photo they had of them two together. The only photo that was ever taken. The white man's back was to the camera and so was the little black girl's. They were holding hands and the white man was looking down at her. The little black girl looked about four years old and had a white church dress on with a huge bow tie in the back. They were walking in a field of sunflowers. The little black girl had her head turned to the right and she was pointing to a sunflower. On the right hand corner of the picture was a date, it marked July 8th, 1944, and the names Henry and Lilliana
Lilliana stared at this photo for about five minutes, trying to understand why this photo was hanging. It had been eighteen years since this photo was taken. Eighteen long years but it seems only like only yesterday that she was running around in the field - her mother's field - with her friend. It was her mother's hobby; she loved sunflower seeds. Her mother used to smell like them, that's what her father, Henry, loved about her. Despite all the gossip and looks they received for being an interracial couple, Henry and Abigail were perfect for each other. They never saw color, only love.
Lilliana stared at the picture frame and its dents and scratches, admiring them. It was a frame Lilliana and Abigail made together when she was five. Lilliana gently brushed a dent and then traced her finger around the whole frame until her fingers met the dent again.
Somewhere in another room were a few coughs. Lilliana's faced turned to the side and then back to the picture to look at it one more time. She then walked down the hall to the third door on the left. She knocked twice and then turned the brushed, brass handle and peeked inside.
"Hey, old man," Lilliana said in a loving tone. She observed her father sitting on his accent chair, in his bedroom, reading the news paper.
Henry had closed the newspaper to look up at his only daughter. The thoughts that were going through his head on what he wanted to say to her were so loving. Hi sweetheart. I'm happy you're back again. You look like you've got a lot on your mind, what's wrong? But he couldn't bring himself to say it. Instead he responded the only way he knew how.
He coughed once and then glanced back down to open the paper and read it from where he left off. "When did you get here?"
"About ten minutes ago. I'm only here until tomorrow." She let go of the door handle and then she went to touch her necklace and rested her hands there. She only touched her necklace when a lot was on her mind. "Hungry?" She asked.
"I've got it covered." He put down the paper again and pushed himself off the chair to get up.
"Like I'm going to let you cook?" Lilliana teased and rolled her eyes at her father while holding a half-smile.
She headed off to the kitchen. And started to search for pots and pans and looked through the refrigerator.
The kitchen was very country cabin like but with a hint of elegance. The floors were hardwood and the wallpaper was eggshell, yellow. The way the sun would beam in, from the only window above the sink, looked like God was gracing them with his presence.
The dining room table, which was in the kitchen, was more like a booth connected to the wall. The leather cushion was an olive green and the table cloth was ivory. In the middle of the table was a vase filled with dead Lilies, from the last time Lilliana visited.
Henry sat down in the kitchen table with the newspaper still in his hand. He opened it once more and read as his daughter cooked for him. Every once in a while he would glance at her and his thoughts would run through his head. She looked skinny. Is she sick again? She never was the one for cold air. Maybe she should stay here for a while.
Every once in a while he would glance at his daughter again while she cooked. He was contemplating on the right time to give her the letter he received two days ago; a letter that had the power to change her life and start over. Something that would probably keep him from seeing her for a while. But he knew the importance of the letter. It was the gate to her happiness, the life he never knew he wanted for her. It was the letter for her heart to stop aching, and to keep her from crying at night. He knew once he gave it to her he would have to say goodbye and never tell her what he had always wanted to tell her. To tell her he loved her and that he wishes her life would have turned out different, that he is sorry for not preparing her the way he should have, for not telling her how the world really is, and for not being the father he could have been.
This letter would keep him from trying to create a new bond with her. A bond he so desperately wanted to try, though it would take all he had to change his ways, he just needed some time. Time he wouldn't have once he gave her this letter.
Lilliana set a plate of rice, baked potato, and left over chicken, that she had brought from home, in front of Henry and then sat down across from him. Henry picked up his fork and ate his food without hesitating.
"What's Wesley up to these days?" Though he could care less about her husband, he was just trying to make conversation that would convince him to give her the letter even more.
Lilliana shrugged her shoulders and avoided eye contact. He knew what that meant; she didn't want to talk about her husband. And she didn't have to, that son of a gun shouldn't have any worth left in his bones. He also knew that she came here to get away as well. It made him happy that she felt somewhat safe here. As she should. But he wished he lived further away, that way she would stay longer, but unfortunately New York was only six hours away from Virginia, and she loves to drive.
He finished his food and placed it in the sink. He looked out the window above the sink and placed his hands in his pockets. In his right pocket was the letter. Again, he contemplated his choices as he brushed the letter with his fingertips. The letter burned through his pockets with the feeling of it's the only way. Though he knew he shouldn't have to think at all. All that mattered was her happiness.
Henry turned and headed for the front porch to sit in his rocking chair. It used to be his wife's rocking chair but now it was his. He could never part with it. Henry looked to his front yard; it overlooked a huge lake, and there was a willow tree where Lilliana's car was parked under. He knew in a matter of time his daughter would arrive to join him and sit in the other rocking chair.
"Dad?" Lilliana called.
Henry smiled. Like clockwork.
Lilliana walked out to the porch and walked passed him to sit in her chair. The moment she sat down she took a breath and closed her eyes. Moments had passed and the silence was peaceful. If he could, he would live in this moment forever. His daughter by his side, and him staring at the most beautiful young lady. He noticed the way Lilliana closed her eyes, it meant she was resting, letting everything go from her mind so she can take in the scenery. It killed him that he was about to take away the moment. The moment he knew he could never get back. Henry hesitated once more; she was trying to forget her troubles and here he was again, bringing more.
His fingers twitched a little and then he locked them into a fist. He looked at his daughter – her eyes still closed – and took a deep breath.
He reached into his pocket to pull out the letter; the letter that would never let him experience this moment again.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:
Hey guys so for the few who have read my other story Fishing Hearts you can tell that they are two very different styles of writing. Or at least I can. I have never been able to write a story that took place in the present tense, it's very difficult for me and I have no idea why. As you can see by the more detail and words I have in this story, I am clearly comfortable and at home writing historical stories. I dont know what it is. It could be the simplicity of life that was back then and yet not so simple at all. It could be because I feel like I was born in the wrong decade. Who knows. But I wrote this story a few years ago and have yet to finish yet. I have tons of chapters on my desktop and would like to post them all and continue writing this story. I hope you all like it and enjoy it. This particular story is close to my heart and would love feedback.