Buck followed, having nowhere else to go. He glanced around at the filth and total confusion of the tiny place divided by a soiled and torn old quilt. The walls moved with bugs in the flickering candlelight.
Fred grabbed at Ginny, who wore a threadbare wrapper. She had a wonderfully white and soft-looking body, Buck noticed as Fred unwrapped her, but old evidence of smallpox marred her face, making her ugly. As soon as Buck thought it he remembered his own disfigurement in shame.
“Where’s the money? Money comes first, child,” Ginny demanded even as Fred shoved his hand between her legs.
Unusual drawings sat piled upon a small footstool and Buck went to them. They were shaky and crass but familiar.
“I’ll give you an extra fifty cents if you put it in your mouth, girl,” Fred bargained while unbuttoning his trousers. “But wait, what’s that mark at your mouth? You’re not diseased or anything, are you?”
“I had the pox as a girl …”
Buck looked up from the pictures and for a moment caught Ginny’s eyes. “Fred, she must be just Thankful’s age.”
The girl stopped what she was doing and glanced back at Buck. “Thankful?”
“Yes, our sister.”
“Who the hell cares?” Fred asked. “Go back to work.” He grabbed Ginny by the hair and jerked her head. “I’m paying, he isn’t. Listen to me if you don’t want any trouble.”
“Fred!” Buck shouted, but his voice hardly carried.
Buck watched as a tear rolled down the girl’s cheek. How desperate she must be to do this for fifty cents! “Miss Ginny, even now, right this very minute, there’s someone who wants better for you,” Buck said.
“Shut up, Buck!” Fred shouted as something stirred behind the other side of the quilt.
Buck peeked around it. “Willy!”
The quilt hid the worst of the room’s mess. Empty bottles and crumpled papers littered the floor.
“William, it’s me, Buck Crenshaw.”
“I know who you are,” William mumbled, rubbing his eyes. “Why are you here?”
“Fred is—well, he’s with the girl.”
“My wife?” William asked, detached.
“I-I don’t know. I mean, I hope not. Not the girl on the other side?”
“Yes, so what? I wanted to do right by her … and she cares for me. Ginny doesn’t judge.”
“Rich and colorful page turners. Morris has a fine sense of time and place and brings her memorable characters to life. She also tells a captivating story. You won’t find it easy to put her book down, and her characters will stay with you when you do. We can only hope she keeps writing and gives us more episodes in this fascinating chronicle.”
Featured Image: The Awakening of Conscience by William Holman Hunt