She sat the girl on one of two rough chairs at the scarred table and gave her a pencil and an envelope containing a doctor’s bill she couldn’t pay. “You draw Momma a pretty picture.” “Okay.”
As she got down to work, Millie stuck out her lower lip. She resembled Nathaniel so much when she did that.
“I draw me and Momma.”
“That sounds wonderful. I can’t wait to see it.”
Cecile relaxed her shoulders. How long this would last was anyone’s guess. From outside came shouts, a couple having a fight, an infant screaming at the top of his lungs, dogs barking.
What she wouldn’t give for the peace and quiet of the New England farm where she’d grown up. But Nathaniel was a dreamer, and he’d envisioned making his fortune in Memphis by selling automobiles in the booming market and saving enough money to buy his own dealership.
The summer heat pressed on her, and she wiped the sweat that trickled across her brow and down her temple. Memphis proved not to be a land flowing with milk and honey but a wasteland. What he’d earned, they’d lost in the stock market crash just after Millie’s birth. She picked up a pair of Millie’s frilly white socks and went to return them to the bedroom. An acrid odor, something burning, reached her. She hustled to the kitchen. Millie had pulled her chair to the stove and stood stirring the broth, sloshing much of it onto the hot burner.
Cecile grabbed the child.
“You aren’t supposed to be by the stove.”
“I help, Momma.”
Someday, the girl would be helpful, but today wasn’t that day. “I know you want to help, but you are too little.” Cecile stood her in the tiny room’s far corner. “You stay there.” In no time …