Rose and Justice — Installment Twelve

This is Installment Twelve of the novel Rose and Justice. It includes Chapters IV.i and IV.ii. It is 6,930 words long. As installments are posted, links for each will be added under the tab labeled “The Novel” at the top of this page. Enjoy!


            Rose looked at her father.  She had never seen him look more handsome than he did at this moment.  His face was a clouded joy, and both the cloud and the joy were as full as they could be.  He was on the verge of tears and she wondered when they would finally break, as she knew they would.

“My little Rosebud,” Phillip’s voice quavered.  “My little Dr. Rosebud, I guess I should say.”  He smiled proudly and she smiled back.  “I never thought this day would actually come.”

“I know, Daddy.  And it’s not officially Dr. yet.”  Rose studied her father, waiting for him to speak again.  Age had made Phillip Jackson even more handsome.  He wore a mustache, gray like his hair, and glasses now, too.  Central casting could do no better than Phillip Jackson if they were looking to fill the part of a man who embodied loyalty, trust, and dedication.   He had a slight belly, though on his still lanky frame you could hardly see it.  If someone told you that Phillip Jackson could still beat any of his sons in one-on-one in the family driveway, you wouldn’t have a hard time believing them.

“You know, no matter how big you get, or how smart you get, you will always be my little girl.”

“I know, daddy.”

“I love you so much, Rose.  I never knew I could love in the way I love you.  I’d lay my life down for you without a second thought.”

“But you don’t have to do that, daddy.”

“I know.  But I would.”  Phillip paused.  “Anyway, I always thought I’d have something more profound to say at this moment, but all I know to say is that I love you.  You’ve made me very proud and very happy.”

“Thank you, daddy.  You’ve made me proud and happy too.”  Rose flashed the smile that melted her father, among others, then said, “I guess we’d better go.”

Phillip nodded his head, then held out his arm for her to take.  “Let’s go, Rosebud.”  He escorted her to the big double doors, waited just a moment for their cue, then walked her down the aisle toward her waiting husband-to-be.

Rose met Rodney at Harvard.  They were both working toward the Ph.D. in English and began dating by default.  They had been part of a study group that disbanded rather quickly, but the two of them continued to get together for library rendezvous and coffee before or after classes.

Rose was passive about the relationship.  She allowed things to progress, but never instigated.  When Rodney reached out to hold her hand and stuff it into the pocket of his big down coat that freezing January night they walked through Harvard yard, she had let him.  In fact, she didn’t even realize he thought it more than a friendly gesture until he kissed her a few nights later.   There had been two women assaulted near campus that semester and Rodney insisted on walking her to her apartment after their evening seminar in Romantic poetry.   When they got to the door of her building, he hesitated, stammered something Rose no longer remembered, then leaned over and kissed her for a few seconds – not long enough to be passionate, but longer than friendly.  After that, Rodney was the one who just seemed to assume they were an item.  They never really spoke about the status of their relationship.  It was just there.  For three months, nothing much changed between them except the hand-holding, the kissing, and an occasional hug.  Rose was aware, though, that Rodney was intensifying each touch and each kiss by small increments each time they occurred.  She knew he was getting her used to the idea, making her immune she sometimes felt, and that she would eventually have to deal with what would be his desired next step.

She wasn’t turned off by the idea of sex with Rodney.  She had had sex with others, one boy in high school, a couple of guys in college, and, of course, Michael.   Each time she wondered if she was getting it wrong or if she simply had bad taste in men.  None of them made her touch heaven.   So with her track record and the rather benign way she felt about Rodney, it wasn’t that she was turned off – she simply never thought of it at all, except to recognize that he was going to want it soon.

About a week after Rodney kissed her, he asked himself up to her apartment.  Apparently, he realized he’d wait forever if he waited for her to do it.  That began a habit of going to her place, two or three nights a week — watching a movie, eating popcorn, having a few beers, cooking dinner, sometimes just studying – and the hand-holding, the cuddling on the couch, the increasingly intense kisses.

After three months of this, Rodney made his move.  Like the rest of them, nothing was discussed.   They made out on the couch until it crossed some invisible line of no return.  Rose tried to think of Rodney while they made love, but she couldn’t.  Her mind was on Keats.  If Keats was right, that love enters through the eyes, then what did it mean that she was staring at a spot on the ceiling while Rodney moaned on top of her.

Rose supposed she loved Rodney, or would grow to love him over time.  She wasn’t sure what being “in love” meant.  If she had been in love with Michael, she didn’t know it.  She loved him, sure.  But, whether he was around or not made little difference to her happiness.  She felt the same way about Rodney.  So maybe she was just missing the nuances that let people know they’re in love.  She was drawn to love songs on the radio, good ones, and felt jealous of the singers.  Maybe it was just a ploy to be marketable – to sing about this overwhelming feeling no one had ever really felt.  But something about that kind of passion seemed real to her.  She had read too much great literature to believe love was just some grandiose fiction.

Maybe she was incapable of loving, though she couldn’t figure out why that would be.  She had plenty of love in her family.  There was no sordid abuse or violation in her past.  She was, in every other way, a normal, healthy, young woman.   She enjoyed sex physically.  She had all the natural biological responses to stimulation.  But she had never felt a connection with anyone, that soul-to-soul meeting the books she read and the songs she sang along with seemed to promise.

Michael had been a pal with privileges, nothing more.  Thankfully, he had felt the same about their relationship.  Everyone around them stayed in a state of confusion, thinking they were destined to get married at one moment, then puzzled over the seemingly platonic friendship they usually displayed.   But, Rose and Michael were never confused.  They were friends, good friends, and sometimes they had sex.  And when graduation came around, they said so long, went their separate ways, and felt nothing other than an occasional interest in what the other might be doing.

Rodney wanted more, and Rose knew it.  He was more of an academic than she was, to the point that he was painfully awkward in social situations.  He was content to bury himself in a life of studying, teaching, writing papers, and attending conferences.  Most of that seemed beyond dull to Rose.  She continued her education because she was still searching for something she couldn’t name and felt drawn to look for it in literature.  She knew she could teach when she finished her degree, but also knew that she would never devote her entire life to the things Rodney coveted.   Because of the cave he chose to live in, Rodney would never find a mate in the outside world.  He needed to find someone cut from his cloth, who would share the narrow life he was pursuing, and graduate school was the best shot he would ever have.  Rose knew he loved her, but mostly she believed that she had been the right person at the right time for Rodney.

Rodney was a good man, though.  Rose analyzed her way into saying yes when he finally proposed.  She could do much worse, and the passion which might exist in the world hadn’t found her yet and might never.   He had been old-fashioned about the proposal – getting down on one knee with a modest diamond ring held between his thumb and forefinger.  He even wanted to call Rose’s father to seek his permission to marry his daughter.  Rose drew the line at this.

“I love my father, and I think you should meet my family, but I’m a grown woman.  No man owns me.  No one can give you permission to marry me except me.”

“And you do, right?”

Rose put on a playfully stern face.  “You have my permission.”

So they were married in the chapel at Harvard after finishing their class work and before they each began their major dissertation research.   It was a small wedding.  Rodney’s family was in Los Angeles, and only his mother flew in for the ceremony.   All three boys made the trip – Phillip, Jr., from Atlanta where he was the vice-president of sales for a television station, Paris from Nashville where he was doing session work and was one of the most sought after bass players in Music City, and Peter from Brunswick where he had taken the same position his father had once held as a high school band director – and Phillip’s and Peter’s wives and children.   Beyond that, and Phillip and Marabelle, of course, about a dozen other candidates in the Ph.D program, a couple of professors, and their various significant others were the small crowd who watched Rose Jackson become Rose Kaplan.  Rodney had no close friends and had asked Phillip, Jr., to stand up as his best man.  Phil felt a little strange about this since he had only met Rodney briefly last Christmas, but he agreed for Rose’s sake.  The maid of honor was a classmate of Rose’s, no one she was especially close to, but someone available and willing nonetheless.

Since neither had much money after all their years of education, they had decided to forego the honeymoon, but Phillip and Marabelle surprised them at the small reception afterwards with their gift of a Caribbean cruise.  It was a disaster from the start.  Rodney got motion sickness and spent the majority of the cruise in their stateroom, or more precisely, in the bathroom of their stateroom.  The few times he felt well enough to move about was when the boat was docked and they were free to go ashore.  Then he would spend the entire time making comments about how good it felt to walk on solid ground followed by a far too detailed description of how sick he had been the night before.  Rose didn’t want him to be sick, but was secretly glad he was out of the way.  She passed the time propped in a lounge chair, reading novels found on no graduate class reading list, and drinking frozen drinks with exotic names and little umbrellas propped in the slush.  She relished her freedom, she always had, and felt certain that, if marriage with Rodney brought her nothing else, she had partnered with someone who would let her have her freedom.

They returned to Cambridge and set up house in Rose’s tiny apartment.  They had the money to get through the next year of dissertation research, but would need to be looking for jobs after that.  Rose knew she would have freedom, but had no idea how ample it would be.  Rodney spent hours in the library, leaving the house at 7:00 am and often not returning until Rose was watching the evening news.  Often the only times they would see each other was when they agreed to meet for lunch or dinner when Rodney felt he could take a break from his research.   He worked on that dissertation like a Nobel Prize was the carrot dangling in front of him.  Rose spent considerably less time on hers.  She would spend a few hours at the library two or three times a week, then come home, spread her research out on the kitchen table, and write, hammering out her own ideas on the computer, ignoring the research she had gathered mainly because it was required.

Rose was also looking ahead more than Rodney.  They had agreed that the first one to land a job would determine their next hometown.   Rose was offered a tenure-track position at Vanderbilt University and jumped on it.  Vanderbilt was a prestigious school and this would be a plum job for her.  It was in Nashville and there were many schools in the area where Rodney might find a position.  Besides, Paris was there and it had been several years now since Rose had lived in the same city with any of her brothers.  Rose had finished her dissertation and defended it while Rodney kept insisting that he still had work to do, that to rush this would lay a poor foundation for the rest of his academic career.  So when the fall semester came, Rose moved to Nashville alone.  Her family thought the whole situation was crazy, but she insisted that it was fine, Rodney would join her as soon as his research was complete.

Rose found a small house for rent in west Nashville, about five miles from the campus, and moved everything they owned by herself, except the desk and bed which was all Rodney said he needed to keep in Cambridge.   She was going to sleep on the couch until her first paycheck came in, at which point she would buy them a “real bed,” as she called it, something besides the ever-shrinking double box springs and mattress they had spent the last year on.

Paris was recording in Los Angeles, which he did two or three times a year, and felt a brotherly guilt about not being there to help Rose unload.  All three boys still longed to fulfill the mission their father had given them the day Rose was born.  She was each brother’s special charge, and Paris was pleased and a bit proud about the fact that Rose would be most directly under his watchful eye now.  None of the brothers had the slightest notion about easing their sense of responsibility to Rose just because she had a husband.

Rose liked Nashville right away.  The people were friendly and the countryside around the city was beautiful.  It was a diverse town and fed Rose’s need for variety.  With Vanderbilt and the other universities in the city, there was plenty of free-thinking, generally liberal intelligentsia around, but there were also locals, good solid Nashvillians.   Rose soon determined that this was one of the most misunderstood cities she had ever seen.  People outside of Nashville, including her at one time, seemed to pigeonhole the city as just so much twang, nothing more than a large suburb of the Grand Ole’ Opry.  But the locals had long ago put that slice of its metropolitan pie in its place.  Rose was pleasantly surprised to find rock, pop, jazz, and even some classical music on her radio, along with the relatively few country stations.

And the people were just as varied.  There were Belle Meade Country Club snobs, West Enders who seemed to forget the rest of the city existed, Green Hills new money elites who were usually more new than monied, and those at the southwestern edge of the county who would move across the street if it would change their mailing address from Nashville to the more prestigious Brentwood.   There were also the middle-class and middle-of-the-road of Donelson, a bedroom community of the 50s and 60s which was turning into a haven for senior citizens and single moms.  Hermitage added both the redneck fringe and the east-side new money, middle management who were University of Tennessee alums rather than Vanderbilt.  Each section of the countywide metropolitan area seemed to bring its own flavor to the buffet that was Nashville, and somehow the resulting feast was a complementary combination of tastes.

Rose wondered how this southern town would accept her and Rodney, two highly-educated black people jumping into one of the most elite academic circles west of Cambridge.   Rose typically didn’t give much consideration to racial issues.  She had always been comfortable in her own skin and expected others to be comfortable with her as well.  Growing up black in Georgia hadn’t been as racially charged as one might think.  Of course, she had been shielded from a lot by her father and brothers, but to her knowledge she had never met an overtly racist person.   Boston and Cambridge had been nothing more than Harvard to her, and the liberal university atmosphere had welcomed her.  But she knew nothing of Nashville except that Paris seemed to like it.

There were a few sections of town that were historically black, as were two of the universities – Tennessee State University and Fisk.   She knew of the reputation of both schools, but their existence also made her wonder if Nashville was a town divided, whites in their area, blacks in theirs, and never the twain meeting.   She was pleasantly surprised to find several sections of town, mostly the middle-class east side, which were nice mixtures of racially-diverse suburbs.  On her street, among the West Enders, there were mostly white faces, but everyone had been friendly to her so far, and she thought she saw a black family pulling their car into a driveway a block away.  Not that it mattered to Rose.  She was not the type to survey her neighborhood and pass an initial judgment based on any sort of internal quota system.

She had never cared what color a person might be.  She had been raised by essentially non-racist parents who had taught her to value all of humankind, but she was certain that her father was unaware just how much he had passed on a general wariness about whites.  Phillip was about as racist as any other generally decent American who swore they weren’t racist.  He truly believed in equality.  But he was of the generation still one step closer to blatant discrimination than the generation his daughter belonged to.  He was no longer concerned for himself, but his protectiveness of Rose had uncovered the fears he still carried in his core.  Rose had dated a white boy her freshman year of college, but just a few times.  She instinctively knew not to mention him to her father.

The university had one of the most liberal non-discrimination policies in the country, even including gays and lesbians, so at work Rose felt accepted and respected.  She thought Rodney would like it here too.  Hell, as long as there was a library, Rodney would like it.

Paris came back to town three weeks into Rose’s first semester of teaching.  They met for dinner on a Friday night at one of the packed trendy restaurants downtown.

“I was trying to remember the last time you and I spent any time alone,” Paris pondered between bites of salmon.

“Hm.  You’re right.   It must have been that time we rode to the store together to get mom some dinner rolls.  I think that was Christmas break of my junior year of college.”

“Wow.  That’s been, what, five years ago?  It must have been, because I remember having to leave early that year for that New Year’s gig at the Ryman.   Jeez, baby sister, we might have to reintroduce ourselves to each other.”  Paris grinned, then blushed slightly.  His nose still showed traces of the freckles he had borne throughout childhood.   “I guess I shouldn’t call you ‘baby sister’ anymore, huh?”

“You can call me anything you want, Paris.  I’m just so grateful to have you here.  It feels like a whole new phase of our lives is beginning, one where we get to really know each other, as adults.”

“But, you were always closer to Phil and Peter.  Are you sure you’re glad it’s me?”  Paris’ question was part joking and part truly wondering.

“I think maybe things shift as we get older.  When I was a little girl, Phil watched me like a hawk.  It was like he felt he had to be dad whenever dad wasn’t around.”

“Yeah, tell me about it.”  Paris’ voice carried a sibling cynicism that stopped short of bitterness.

“And then when I got a little older, especially as Phil and then you left home, Peter was like a real brother, sometimes even a playmate.  Phil was almost like an uncle since he was twelve years older than me and stayed around Georgia to go to school.  Peter was only four years older, so we could relate to each other’s childhood a little better.  You were eight years older, probably not fond of a little girl tagging along when you were in high school, and gone off to USC by the time I was ten.  In some ways, this may be like getting to know each other for the first time.  So, here’s the first question I’ve always wanted to know the answer to – why did you go way off to California to go to college?”

Paris shrugged.  “I got a scholarship.”

“You also got a scholarship to Morehouse.”

“USC has a better music department than Morehouse.”

“And a scholarship to UGA, Auburn, and Duke.”  Rose raised her eyebrows.  When she put on that face, you knew she wouldn’t quit until she had the real answer.

Paris gave a tight-lipped smile of defeat.  “Okay, you got me.  I guess the answer is that I needed to get away from home.  Far away.  Our family was great, don’t get me wrong.  We had a pretty idyllic childhood.  Mom baked cookies and kissed skinned knees.  Dad played catch and built us a tree house.  And they’re still happily married.  What more could a kid want?  But it was like we had two families – the family with three boys and then the family that happened after you were born.  In the first family, I was the middle child, a hellish position to be born into.  Phil wasn’t musical, so when I came along I was dad’s little musician, even though he swore he didn’t want us to be musicians.   So, I was both his dream and his nightmare.  It was very confusing when I was young.  Peter came along and was moderately talented.  I’m not trying to put him down, but his musical ability is much more pedestrian than mine.  He’s great at what he does, but as a musician, Peter can’t really expect to do much more than teach high school.”

“Is that a little harsh?”

“Maybe.  But it’s true.  And I say that while being aware of the fact that Peter has talents I don’t have.  I’m a player, not a teacher.  I’ve watched Peter teach, and he’s damn good at it.  As important as I think music is in this world, and especially in educating our children, there are ways in which I believe Peter’s talent to be much more valuable than mine.   I couldn’t do what he does.  Conversely, he couldn’t do what I do.  Where Peter knows music, I feel it.  Put notes in front of me or don’t, I’m still gonna play.  So, even though Peter was drawn to music too, he always talked about following in dad’s footsteps and teaching high school band.  I think the security of that relieved dad a little.  I wanted to perform, and it scared the hell out of dad.”

“So, how do I figure into this?”

Paris sighed, then went on after looking as if he had to decide if he should or not.  “When you were born, you became the first priority in this family.  Dad declared it, and we knew it was just going to be that way.  Everything, including music, took a back seat to Rose.”

“So, you probably hated me there for awhile.”  Rose spoke softly and suddenly looked like a little girl again.

“I never hated you.  I probably felt like a lot of older brothers feel at times.  It wasn’t bad, Rosie.  It was supposed to happen that way.  If anything, I should thank you.  You were part of the reason I wanted to go far away and let music be first again.  I loved my years at USC, and the years I’ve been here in Nashville.  I’m doing what I came here to do and I couldn’t be happier.”

“I guess dad gave you boys a real trip about looking out for me.”

Paris laughed.  “You have no idea.”

“So, was dad just a teacher?  Or was he a player too.”

“I think he was a player.  Once, anyway.  Dad used to have this little jazz group that played out at the resorts.  He stopped when you were about two.  I remember going with him a few times and watching him play.”  Paris smiled.  “I was only about eight or nine, but I remember thinking that he looked like a stranger up there blowing that sax.”

“He played the saxophone?  I never saw him play the saxophone.”

“He played everything.  In one set he would jump from piano to drums to bass to lead guitar to sax to trumpet.  I even saw him do a hell of a riff on flute one time.   He was really in his element.  He looked so happy, the kind of happy that doesn’t necessarily even need a smile, just a deep-down, meant-to-be, in-the-zone kind of happy.”

“Why do you think he stopped doing that?”

Paris looked at Rose in disbelief.  “You don’t know?”


“For us.  For you.  He said he only did that to help buy our house, to bring some money to the family.   Mom and dad paid off the house when you were a baby.  Then he stopped.  I think he lied.  I think he played because it was in his soul, because he had to do it.  But, it was six nights a week during tourist season.  Once you came along, and the house was paid off, I guess he didn’t think he should spend those six nights a week away from us.  From you.”

“Shit, Paris, you’re laying a real guilt trip on me.”

“Oh, I don’t mean to do that.  He made his own decisions.  If it makes you feel better, I think mom would have made him quit once the house was paid off anyway.   He gave up a lot for us, all of us, not just you.  That’s why I’m never having kids.  I have two kids, my electric bass and my upright.  I guess you’re going to have to give me lots of nieces and nephews, Rosie.”

“Don’t hold your breath.”

“You’re not having kids?”

“Honestly, Paris, I’ve never even thought about it.  Which might mean I shouldn’t.”

“So, now it’s my turn for a question.”

“You just asked one.”

“That doesn’t count.  It was a natural extension of our conversation.”

“Okay, one question per dinner.  I guess I can live with that.”

“What’s up with Rodney?  Why didn’t he move down here with you?  Is that . . . is it a good marriage?”

One question.”

“It really is one question, Rose.”

Rose dabbed the corners of her mouth with her napkin.  “Paris, what is a good marriage?”

“No fair answering a question with another question.  Besides, what would I, the eternal bachelor, know about that?”

“And thus you have just answered a question with a question.   I don’t know, Paris.  Do you want to know why I got married?  Because it was the next step a person takes in life.  I felt no passion about it one way or the other, so I figured when in doubt, do what everyone else is doing.   Rodney’s a good guy.  I could do much worse.  He doesn’t smother me, and that’s a plus.”

“He’s like 800 miles away.  He can’t even hug you, let alone smother you.”

“He’ll be here when his dissertation is finished.”

“Rose, the entire world is on the internet these days.  Why can’t he finish it in Nashville?”

“Are you trying to make me think twice about my marriage?”

“No.  I’m just curious.  It all seems so. . .weird.”

“Rodney is weird.”  Rose said it with so much ease that she surprised herself.   “I can’t believe I just said that.”

“It’s okay, Rose.  I’m your brother.  Say anything you want.  Everybody ought to have at least one person they can say anything they want to.”

“And my one person is Paris.”  Rose grinned.  “Who woulda’ thought?”  They both laughed, then Rose continued.  “He is weird.  In a nice way, I mean.  He’s kind, and every now and then we have fun, but he’s completely tunnel-visioned about academia.   I love him, as much as I love anybody, I suppose.  But, and I guess this is the weirdest part, it doesn’t really bother me a bit that I’m here and he’s there.”  Rose lifted her eyebrows at her own confession.

“He’s not your Romeo.”

Rose suddenly stopped smiling.  She almost looked like a different person for a moment.  For some reason, she thought of the picture that now hung in her bedroom, the one that Rodney had never seemed to notice.  Within a split second, her next thought was of the beach.  She was so far away from her beach, and she missed that ever so much more than she missed Rodney.  She closed her eyes and stood on the south Georgia shore.  Then she whispered, more to herself than to Paris, “No.  He’s not.”


Rodney stayed in Cambridge for an entire school year.  Once a month, Rose would fly into Boston and they would spend the weekend together.  Rodney never came to Nashville.  When Rose asked if he wouldn’t like to come see the town he would next call home and the house she had picked out for them, he would absent-mindedly reply that he would see it in due time, and that he trusted her completely about the house.

Their weekends together were odd.  With each month that passed, it felt more and more like Rose was going to visit a stranger or a casual school acquaintance she was keeping up with for old time’s sake.  Some months Rodney would be so immersed in new research that Rose wondered if he knew she was there.  Other months, he would make an attempt to be engaging, take her to dinner or a museum, as if he was showing a first-time visitor around Boston.   They went for a stretch of three months without having sex.  Rose thought that if there was such a thing as the love she read about, then that love would propel two people into intimacy on such rare meetings as they had.   She had fully accepted the fact that Rodney was not the love of her life.  He was her husband, and maybe that was all she could hope for in reality.

During her first year teaching, Rose and Paris became closer than they had ever been when living under the same roof.  At first, they went to dinner together every few weeks, then Paris would come by her house to repair a leaky faucet or provide the brawn on the regular occasions when she decided to rearrange the furniture.  By Thanksgiving, when they rode home to coastal Georgia together, they were calling each other every other day, asking each other’s advice, sharing even the smallest details of their day.  They had the special relationship that grown siblings can sometimes discover, a friendship that’s more than family, yet more than friendship because it is family.   They both looked forward to the ride home together.  They could have flown, but decided to make it a road trip and anticipated it with the same excitement that Christmas morning used to bring.

On the way down, Paris had jokingly asked which one of them she thought dad would hug first.   “After you’ve been home for awhile, would you mind just mentioning to dad that I came along too?”   Rose played at being hurt by what he said, but they both recognized the bit of truth contained in the teasing.

When they arrived, however, Phillip was happy to see them both, and even surprised Paris by asking if they could have a little jam session before the weekend was over.   With Rose, Phillip was mostly concerned about Rodney’s absence.

“Is everything okay, Rosebud?  I think your husband should be here with you.  But then, I think your husband should live with you.  I know, it’s none of my business.”

“You can make it your business, daddy.  I don’t mind.  Rodney is, of course, deep into his research.  He’ll be here next Thanksgiving, I promise.”

But she never answered the question that Phillip was trying to ask.  He would be concerned about his little girl if she had married the prince of all men, someone he had hand picked himself.  This absentee husband business bothered him greatly.  He knew Rodney just well enough to know that he was a decent man and would never hurt Rose, but he felt intrigued by the mystery of Rose now more than ever.  There was something missing from this life for his daughter, and he was deeply saddened by the emptiness he sensed was growing in her.

On Thanksgiving morning, Rose woke before dawn and followed her familiar path to the Atlantic, slipping quietly across residential lawns until she reached the beach at Massengale Park.  Fall was more pronounced in Georgia before the sun came up, and she bundled up in her father’s pea coat that always hung on a hook behind the kitchen door.   When she reached the shore, the ocean winds cut through her like a knife and she felt her intestines shiver.  It had been a long time since she had stood on her beach.  In Athens, the ocean was just far enough away that the thought of going there began to get pushed aside by the business of day-to-day life.  In Cambridge, she still had to make quite an effort.  She sometimes walked over to the Charles River, but it wasn’t the same.  Once or twice she had explored different possibilities – Deer Island, Revere Beach — but there was a different feeling there.  It wasn’t her beach back home.  By the time she moved to Nashville, her disconnection from the ocean seemed complete enough that being land-locked hardly crossed her mind.  Over the years when Rose would come back to Brunswick for a visit, she found herself getting to the beach less and less.  She would have such a short trip home and her parents would have her time packed in a whirlwind of family get-togethers and special dinners.  She hadn’t realized that she had stopped going to the beach altogether over the past few years, starting about the time she and Rodney started dating.  She had moved away from her shore and finally the east altogether, moved away from her one constant, moved further and further from herself.

But recently she had been thinking about the ocean more and more.  She had determined that this trip home would include a pre-dawn jaunt no matter what.  And here she was, standing at the water’s edge, holding that stance reserved for this place.  The old pain returned, the ache of something she could not name.  But it had gained strength during her years away.  She had thought, hoped even, that she would come back here and feel nothing, that time and maturity would have erased what would prove to have been simply an adolescent longing.  Instead, she felt 14 again, but with an even greater capacity to understand how far down her emptiness went.

The water was only a cold gray when the first moments of dawn gave it any color at all.  The sky lightened and Rose saw why the stars seemed to have stopped burning.  It was overcast and even looked like snow.  It was a Boston winter sky on a Brunswick fall morning.  The sun never did show his face.  The light seemed to come from the soft glow of the clouds.    A deep fog draped the world in layers of sheer gauze.  Only a few layers deep along the shore, thirty or forty feet away, the trees seemed almost clear.  Deeper, the rocks looked like large bolls of slate cotton.  The ocean disappeared into the mist completely just 100 feet out.  It could have been a river or a lake instead of the mighty Atlantic.  The power of fog is that it hides what lays ahead, Rose thought, and the English professor in her saw it as a powerful symbol of the horizon hidden deep in her soul.

Rose felt a raindrop on her hand, and then realized it was a tear.  The discovery made her gasp audibly, a sharp intake of air that sounded like a reaction to pain.  She struggled to control her emotions.  The last thing she needed was for her father to think she had been crying.

She turned up the beach and walked parallel to the waves.  Movement might help.  She strolled up the shoreline, wiping her cheeks with the back of her hands, sniffing in to hold back the tide of her ache, then stuffed her hands into the pockets of her father’s coat.  She felt something in the left hand pocket.  She pulled out a sheaf of folded paper, briefly wondered if she was invading her father’s privacy, and then pulled it apart anyway.  Inside the single sheet of notebook paper was a crinkled newspaper announcement from several years before.  “Jackson Wins California Music Fellowship” read the headline, and Rose quickly scanned the article about Paris’ achievement in college.  It was from the Brunswick daily and instantly Rose knew this news would not have blipped on a local reporter’s radar screen without her father’s assistance.   She pulled the notebook paper from the bottom and stopped walking when she saw what it held.  Her father had neatly ruled the paper into a musical staff.   The composition was simply entitled “Paris.”  Between the treble and bass clefs, in her father’s tiny handwriting, were the lyrics, words of a father’s joy and immense pride.  Rose smiled, and wondered if she dare ask her father to play the accompanying music for her.   Or better yet, if he would play them for Paris.

Rose tucked the papers back into the coat pocket and turned toward home feeling a little lighter.   She may not have had a passionate true love, but she had a pretty damn good family, and for now that seemed like enough.

Rodney moved to Nashville the next August.  He had finally finished the dissertation and defended it, but moaned that it was not nearly what he knew it could be.  He had applied to every university within 100 miles and was disappointed to have only two offers – Western Kentucky, 50 miles away in Bowling Green, and Middle Tennessee State University, about as far the other direction in Murfreesboro.  He interviewed at both campuses and took the WKU position.    His commute was hellish for him – he had always been averse to driving – and it meant that he left the house at 7:00 am and returned home about 6 or 7 each evening, depending on how many student conferences he had going.  Rose was surprised to find that having him around wasn’t much different from having him in Cambridge.  They settled into a predictable routine within a few weeks.

In the fall of her third year teaching, Rose learned she was pregnant.  It was not a planned event and at first she contemplated whether she really wanted the baby.  She had almost determined that she would never have children, that her benign and lackluster marriage wasn’t exactly the ideal environment in which to bring a child.  But as rarely as she and Rodney made love, and on the pill at that, she began to think that the odds of conception were so low that this baby must be meant to be.   She even began to think that perhaps this would fill her aching emptiness.

She told Rodney about the baby when she was almost four months pregnant and starting to really show.   He was more floored than happy, although he evolved into a kind of acceptance.  When she went into labor the next spring, mid-morning of May 3, Rodney was in Bowling Green.  She tried to reach him, but he was in class.  She left a message with the departmental secretary then drove herself to the hospital.

Cade Paris Kaplan was born at 3:14 that afternoon.  His father arrived at 4:45.  It was the angriest Rose had ever been with Rodney.  She didn’t really care if he was around most of the time or not.  In fact, she didn’t really care that he hadn’t been there for the birth.  She was angry for her son.  She was angry at every thoughtless thing Rodney would do in the future and how those oversights would affect Cade.   From the moment the doctor first laid him in her arms, Rose knew that this boy was hers and hers alone.  The ache inside her eased momentarily.

© Deborah E. Moore – 2011

Rose and Justice — Installment Eleven

This is Installment Eleven of the novel Rose and Justice. It includes Chapters III.vii, III.viii, and III.ix. It is 7,332 words long. As installments are posted, links for each will be added under the tab labeled “The Novel” at the top of this page. Enjoy!


            The rest of the break was uneventful.  Every now and then, Justice could feel Jared’s eyes on him, would just get the feeling that he was being watched and then turn around to see Jared staring at him from across the way.  Justice knew that every move he made was being measured and weighed.  For four weeks, he performed like a Malone boy would be expected to, but realized more each day that it was exactly that – a performance.  He had grown up with a limited perspective on the world, yet somehow always felt uncomfortable with that perspective, as if he was a stranger in his own family.  He had known nothing except what his family taught him, and yet intrinsically knew there was more to be known.

His mind was becoming free, but the rest of him still somehow remained under the rule of Jared.  Justice began making plans to create more independence for himself.  He decided the first thing he needed was a job.  His first semester away from home quickly taught him that the outside world was run by money.   He wasn’t sure just what that money would be used for, and he knew better than to make any move that would create suspicion in his father, like buying a car, but he had a sure feeling that the money he earned would be of use at some point in the future.

Thus, the first big conversation Justice and Mark had as they drove back to campus from Waycross was purely economical.

“Mark, I need to know how I can get a job.”

“Why?  You got a wife and kids you haven’t told me about?”

“Yeah, right.  I keep them hidden back on the compound.  No, asshole, I need to make some money.   For . . . well, I don’t what for exactly.  I just need to start making some money.”

Mark glanced over at Justice through squinted eyes, understanding more of the situation than Justice had told.  “O.k.  Well, you don’t have a car, so it will need to be close to campus, or maybe even on campus.   I think there’s some kind of campus job center or something like that where they post all the on-campus employment.  We can check that out when we get back.”

“Thanks,” Justice whispered rather sheepishly.

Mark understood the feeling of indebtedness that Justice had toward him, even though he wished Justice wouldn’t feel that way.  “No problem.  Maybe I’ll even get a job.  It would be nice to have more than the peanuts the folks send me.  So, how did everything go?  Any big blow-ups, or did the Malone clan just spend Christmas practicing their target shooting?”

“It was okay.   It was just the normally abnormal compound life.  It is abnormal, isn’t it, Mark?  I mean, most people don’t live the way I did growing up, do they?”

“No . . . and yes.  No is the big answer and the most obvious.  Your family is pretty extreme.  But, on the other hand, I guess we all grow up in families that tell us a certain way to act and a certain way to think.  The biggest difference is that most people have more opportunity to rebel against their families than you do.  But, still, I guess most of us think the way our families taught us, probably more than we even think we do.”

“What did your family teach you to think?”

“I’m so close to it that I may not be able to say exactly, but I guess they mostly taught me that America is the best place in the world – which it might be for all I know – and that Christians are the only people going to heaven.   I suppose they also taught me that white people are superior, although they would deny teaching me that with their dying breath.   Of course, they also taught me that Santa Claus was real when I needed to believe in him, and that he wasn’t when I no longer needed to.   All in all, I have a pretty good family, but I suppose they have their way of seeing things just like every other family does.”

“What’s a good family?  I mean, how would you determine that?”  Justice asked.  “My father has always protected us and provided for us, and my mother has always taught us and fed us and washed our clothes and stuff.   That can’t be all there is to it because getting away from home feels better than anything.”

“For you and everybody else.”

“What do you mean?”

“I think everybody our age is pretty dead set on getting out of their parents’ house.”

“But not everybody our age has to escape their parents’ compound.”

“Okay.  You win that round.  I don’t know, Justice.  I guess a good family is one that raises you up and then lets you go.”

“No.  It’s got to be more than that.  Maybe a good family is one you want to come back to, even after they do let you go.”

Mark grinned.  It was his standard signal for the end of seriousness.  “I think a good family is a rich family, rich enough that their sons don’t have to go get damn campus jobs.”

Justice had already checked on the work-study positions in the biology and math departments.  The jobs had been filled, and he was beginning to get discouraged.  If the last one on his list was gone, he would have to start applying at the various service stations and fast food restaurants within walking distance of the campus.   He walked into the office for the department of English and waited for the secretary to end her phone conversation.

“Yes, Dean Spencer, I’ll let Dr. Williams know as soon as he returns . . . you’re welcome . . . goodbye.”  The secretary hung up the phone, then smiled politely at Justice.    “May I help you?”

“Uh, yes, I was wondering about the, uh, work-study job I saw posted in the campus employment center.”  Justice could feel the sweat start to trickle under his arms.  He had felt the same way in the biology and math departments and the nervousness wasn’t easing at all the third time around.

“Oh, good.  Well, Dr. Williams is not in at the moment and you would probably need to talk to him.”

“Then the position is still open?”

“As far as I know.  Let me check . . .” she riffled through some papers on her desk.  “Hmmm.  That memo was here a minute ago.  Well, maybe you could talk to Dr. Williams’ graduate assistant.  Hold on a minute, will you?”

“Uh, sure.”

“Please, have a seat.”  The secretary got up from behind her desk and disappeared down a hallway.  Justice sat in one of the reception chairs, combed his hair off his forehead with his fingers, and cleared his throat.  He tapped his fingers nervously on the arm of the chair.  He had a chance here, and the thought of having a job for the first time in his life was exciting and just a little scary.  He had waited long enough to start to relax when the secretary came back.

“This is Dr. Williams’ grad assistant.  She can talk to you about the position.”

Justice stood and then froze.  He would know her face anywhere.

The graduate assistant held out her hand.  “Hi, I’m Rose Jackson.”  Justice gained control of his body just enough to shake her hand.  She smiled.  “C’mon back to my office.”

Justice followed her down the hallway and felt every heartbeat along the way.  She ushered him into a small, but cozy space.  There was a window on the far wall and a painting just to its right.  It was an oil, not professionally done, but good nonetheless.  A large full moon dominated the right upper corner, with its dips and craters made three dimensional with the thick paint.  The universe around it was a remarkable study in subtle shades of black and midnight blue.  Stars were flecked throughout, but in the bottom left of the canvas one shooting star arced its tail through the dark night and, just as it was about to fizzle out, another joined it, crossing its path.

“Do you like it?”

“Uh, . . . pardon me?”

“The painting.  You were looking at the painting.”

“Oh, yes .  . . I was.  And, yes, I do like it.  Did you paint it?”

“It was my final project in an art class I took during my undergrad years.  I never thought of myself as much of an artist, but for some reason I always liked this one.”

“It’s very good.”

“Please sit down.”  Rose motioned Justice to a chair and took a seat behind her small desk.  “So, you’re interested in the work study position?”

“Yes.”  Justice took a seat and dropped his books on the floor in the process.  “I’m sorry.  I’m a little clumsy, I guess.”

“Don’t worry about it.  Relax.”  Rose smiled, and Justice felt that smile held a power he had never known.  “So, what’s your name?”

Justice hesitated.  Would she remember him from the south Georgia shore if he said his name?   “Uh, Justice.   Justice Malone.”

“Justice.  What an interesting name.  Your parents must have had an important reason for naming you that.”

The thoughts swirled in his head.  Obviously, she didn’t remember.  But, he did.  He remembered that incredible beauty which had only grown more beautiful.  And he remembered the story his father had told him on many occasions about how he came to be called Justice, how his name represented the Malone family’s stand for justice for the white people of the world against the inferior races that would encroach on their rightful legacy.  “I don’t know.  I’m . . . sure they did.”

Rose looked hard at him for a few seconds.  “Have we met before?”

“I don’t think so.”  Justice responded, a little too quickly.

“Um.  You seem familiar to me.  And that name rings a bell.  Which is odd, because it’s not exactly a common name.   Well, that’s neither here nor there.  What’s your major, Justice?”

“I have a double major – biology and electrical engineering.”

“Biology?  And electrical engineering?  That’s a rather odd combination.”

“Well, I really love biology.  The electrical engineering is just, well, you know, to be safe.”

“Tell me about it.  I have a degree in English.  Maybe I should have double majored in business, huh?”

“Well, it’s never too late.”  Justice began to notice how calm he was becoming.  What had once been anxiety over getting his first job was melting into a comfortable ease.

“I suppose not.”  She smiled again, that devastating smile, that wicked glow, that almost painful perfection.  “So, why do you want to work in the English department?  Looking to try out a third major?”

“No.”  Justice laughed out the word.  “I just . . . need a job.  And I don’t have a car.  So, I was hoping to find something here on campus, and the positions in the math and biology departments were already filled, so . . .”

“Oh, so we’re your third choice, huh?”

“No,” Justice almost shouted the word.  “I mean, no, I just . . .tried those departments first.”

“It’s alright.  I’m glad you made it to our department.”

“Me too.”  Justice smiled this time.  They were caught in the web of each other’s gaze.  It had happened a few minutes before, but Justice began noticing it consciously now for the first time.   Without any effort whatsoever, the most comfortable thing to do in this room was to look into Rose’s eyes.

Rose noticed it too.  She looked away and tried to gather herself.  “I have an application here.  You can fill it out in the outer office and give it to the secretary.   I’ll be sure to put in a good word for you with Dr. Williams.”

Justice took the application and stood up.  “Thank you.  I really appreciate it.  I’ll, uh, . . . I guess I’ll see you around.”

“I hope so.”

Rose Jackson stared at the closed door of her office for a long while.   There was something familiar about him, but it was more than that.   She had not wanted him to leave.   It had been like a reunion with a long lost friend, and she seemed to still feel him in the room.

The feeling was one she had never felt, yet she had no compulsion to try to explain it or understand it.  Nor did she rush to label it.  She spent no time contemplating whether there was a romantic attraction involved, the obvious differences between them such as age and race, or what might come of a friendship with this boy, for at this age, with 5 years between them, she thought of him as a boy.  She simply sat in the feeling.

As the moment was waning, she thought of his interest in her painting.  She looked again at her senior-year attempt to express what had been waiting inside her all her life.  She had held no delusions about her artistic abilities.   She was fully accepting of the fact that her unique gift to the world was not painting.  But, the elective she had taken just for the hell of it had proven to be a conduit.  There was a secret within her, so secret that even she did not know it.  She only knew it was there.  She had read to find it.  She had written to uncover it.  Perhaps a completely different expressive form would expose it.   She still had no idea what the secret was.  She only knew that somehow it had been transported to that painting, those crossing stars, still as mysterious as ever.

Rose had not changed much from the little girl who liked to climb trees in order to be alone with a good book.   She still commanded her father’s attention and devotion.   She still believed that the best part of swinging was jumping out of the swing.   She still felt least alone when walking the Georgia shore with no one else around.  She had made it her habit in high school.  Many times her father came down to breakfast only to find Rose coming in through the back door after watching the sunrise over the Atlantic.  The house she had grown up in was only five blocks from the beach on the southeast corner of St. Simons, just a few minutes walk away.  He would warn her to be careful out there all alone, and she would just say, “Yes, daddy.”  There was no need trying to explain the walks to her father, or anyone for that matter.  They were the most intimate part of her relationship with herself.

Rose would get to the beach while night still ruled.  The sound of the waves was different in the dark, like a loud whisper in church.  The stars shone like jewels on a velvet cloth blacker than black.   Sometimes she would see loggerhead turtles or blue crabs trying to catch the tide as it slowly receded into its daytime borders.  She would walk to the edge of the wave, letting its last landward push lap over her toes.  And there she would stand, waiting, as if the boat carrying her sailor-love was due to arrive any day.  Without slouching, without shifting from one foot to the other, she would stand and watch the black cloth of the night sky soften at the horizon, turn a deep blue, then a dark gray, until finally the edge of the sun sped up the change sending shafts of orange and pink to bounce off the morning clouds and hide the stars.  This had been familiar to her from the first time she remembered seeing it.  No, more than familiar.

Her father had often asked if he could go with her, but she had gently rebuffed him.  This was her time and hers alone.  She would never know that he had followed her, on four or five occasions, and watched from the trees, hoping to catch sight of the mystery of his daughter.

Rose hadn’t been the least bit interested in dating in high school, which made Phillip happy.  He never bemoaned the possibility of Rose not having a “normal” adolescence.  Rose had always been the kind of child who lived outside the norm, yet did so with such precocious confidence and self-acceptance that it seemed simply natural.   She had a few good friends, but seemed content to get close to no one.  Rose was not unpopular; she just made popularity seem overrated without ever even speaking of it.   She seemed to feel no sense of want – except for that deep aching which she and Phillip both knew existed, but neither could name.

They never spoke of this ache.   Somehow they both knew that acknowledging it would make it harder to identify.  Instead, when Phillip would become acutely aware of it, he would say something such as, “Baby, you know you can tell your daddy anything, don’t you?”  To which Rose would smile and say simply, “Yes.”

When Rose went to Spelman, Phillip was immensely proud and deeply saddened.  He had become almost dependent on her daily presence.  He wanted to guide her into a good life, but mostly he wanted what he learned from her.  For two years nothing much changed except that Rose was in Atlanta.   Then in her junior year she began dating Michael Jones, a student at Morehouse.   Rose and Mike were perfect for each other.  Both were straight-A students, determined to go to graduate school, and destined to lead scholarly lives.   They spent most of their dates in the library.  Phillip was happy for her, but struggled with his jealously.  He knew he would get used to Rose having another man in her life, he knew he would have to, but it was going to take some effort on his part.   When Rose graduated and announced her plans to attend graduate school at the University of Georgia in Athens, Phillip asked about Mike’s intentions, assuming they intended to be together.   But Rose told of Mike’s plans to spend a year in Europe before starting grad school, and did so as if passing along the news of a family friend, pleased for him and not the least displeased that he was going away.

At UGA, she was on track to finish her Masters in a year and a half.  She wasn’t certain which school she would attend after that, but knew that she was going to plow through the Ph.D. without taking a break.  She was interested in Georgetown and Boston University.  She was even going to give Harvard a shot.  She hadn’t even considered schools not on the eastern seaboard.   Wherever she went, she wanted to be close to her ocean and its daily show at dawn.

Rose stared at the painting until it was just an unfocused and fuzzy mass of black and blue.  She began to refocus on the room after a time and eventually looked down at the undergrad papers stacked on her desk, waiting for her to cover them in red ink and profound feedback.   She didn’t mind the paper grading, but tonight it seemed far too pedestrian.  She went to her car and drove east.  Hilton Head was only three and a half hours away.  She could get a room for the night in Beaufort, watch the sunrise in the morning, and be back to campus in time for her noon class.


Justice didn’t get the job in the English department.  Unbeknownst to Rose, Dr. Williams had already given the position to a senior English major.  Rose had called Justice to let him know, partly because it was the proper thing to do and partly because she wanted to talk with him again.  Their conversation was short.  Neither could find a good enough reason to extend it.  They signed off with “see you around” and both hoped they would.

Justice accidentally caught a glimpse of her one day.  He had been asked to deliver some supplies to the history department in his finally-landed job as general gopher for the acquisition department.  He had unloaded the boxes of copy paper and was pushing his empty dolly through the halls when he glanced through the window of a classroom door and saw her.  He came to a stop three feet beyond the door then backed up slowly until he could see her through the long narrow glass again.

She was teaching a freshman class, standing in front of the room and talking with complete ease.  Even as a graduate teaching assistant, she was already an accomplished lecturer.  He watched her move about the front of the room, write something on the board – he didn’t know what and strained to see which words might have known the singular pleasure of the touch of her hand – and turn the pages of her notes.  She must have said something funny because the class laughed.  Justice saw the side of her mouth turn up in that smile that had so captured him before.  He felt jealous of the students in the class, people who were required to listen to her, to look at her, for a solid 50 minutes three times a week.   He imagined himself as her student, having the courage to ask to speak with her after class, going back to her office with her.

He had no idea how long he stood there and watched her, but suddenly the class was standing and coming toward the door like a wave of humanity.   He regained his senses and hurried down the hall to the stairs.  This was not the way to keep the first job he ever had.

From then on, he would arrive at work as early as possible to sign up for any deliveries to that building between 9:00 and 9:50.  He couldn’t get there every time the class met, but he managed it once a week or so.  He would think of good reasons why that particular trip had taken so long, but they weren’t really needed.  Like most government jobs, it didn’t take too much to please his supervisors and a few lengthy deliveries raised no one’s suspicions.

Justice would always watch from his spot in the hall.   If someone came along, he would calmly turn his attention to the bulletin board on the wall, feigning interest in a poster advertising how wonderful it was to get a graduate degree in political science at Duke.  He thought about waiting after the class was over, timing it so that he could be strolling down the hallway just as she left the room.  He could say, “Hey.  Rose, isn’t it?  Good to see you again.”  He would be ever so cool and she would smile that smile and maybe they would even walk together for a while.

But he never did.  Some days he thought he would, but then he would chicken out at the last minute, almost running down the hallway to keep her from seeing him.

Justice told no one about Rose.  For one thing, what would he tell?  I met this girl and she makes me feel all warm inside and so I stalk her when she’s teaching?   And he felt that if he did tell, even Mark, just admitting it would make something real out of it, something palpable that Jared could sense in the air.

Jared.  That was what kept Justice from waiting for her after class.  He didn’t dare take even the first step down a road that would have dangers he couldn’t begin to imagine.   He knew that one hint of this would send Jared into a rage that would end Justice’s college career and any possibility for Marsh and Hannah.  Of course, there was really no this for Jared to hear about.  But there was something, and Jared would sniff it out like a blue tick hound on the trail of a rabbit.  No, he would have to stand still.  He would have to watch her from his hallway, moving only to finally and regrettably move away.  Whatever he hoped for could never happen.  Whatever he thought might become of standing outside her door and catching stolen glimpses of her must remain potential and not even approach the probable.

Justice felt he was the lone student on a campus of thousands who was sad to see the school year come to an end.  He thought he might have worked up the nerve to talk to Rose, knowing that an entire summer stood in the way of seeing her again.  But he didn’t.

Instead, he reluctantly packed and drove home with Mark, making the same rendezvous with Jared at the same Piggly-Wiggly.

Justice had been plotting out his summer for three weeks.  Before he left Athens, he opened a savings account.  Mark went with him, shaking his head in disbelief when Justice said he had never been inside a bank before.   He had earned $1,436 and spent just $72.  The campus cashier’s office cashed his paychecks and he kept the rolled up bills in an empty peanut butter jar under his bed.  The change jingled in the bottom.  If he ever wanted a soft drink or to go see a movie with Mark, he used the change only.  The paper money was off-limits, except for that one bookstore purchase he had made.

When the teller handed Justice his bankbook, showing a balance of  $1,364, he realized for the first time that he had to find a place to hide it.  His instant agitation was apparent to his best friend.

“Let’s talk over here,” Mark pulled Justice to some chairs in the lobby of the bank after saying thank you to the teller.  “Now, what is it?”

“The bank book.  I can’t take this home, Mark.  I mean, my dad cannot find this.”

“Hmm.  Yeah, I guess you’re right.”  Mark thought for a moment.   “I could keep it for you.   No, that wouldn’t be good.  I wouldn’t do anything with it, but my dad always says you should never do business with friends.  He says it’s the best way to turn a friend into an enemy, and I don’t want us to be enemies.”

“No, I don’t want that either.  But I would trust you to hold my bank book for me.”

Mark grinned.  “Thanks.  But we’ll figure something out.”  And then his grin changed to a smile of a-ha.  “I’ve got it.  Come with me.”

Mark led Justice to one of the desks.  The woman behind the desk looked up from her paperwork, then smiled her best customer service smile.

“May I help you?”

“Yes,” Mark said.  He had a frat boy way of sounding extremely businesslike in situations like these, even in jeans and sneakers.  “We’re interested in a safety deposit box.”

“Do you have an account with us.”

Justice jumped in.  “I certainly do.”  And he proudly displayed his new bankbook, the same bankbook that had a $15 deduction a few minutes later, the same bankbook that would spend the entire summer in the dark environs of safety deposit box #492.

The only problem was that now he had a key to hide.   If there was one thing Jared had taught him, it was how to be resourceful.  He pulled up the insole of his boot, put the key underneath, then glued it back around the edges.  All summer long the key to his ultimate freedom would be right under his left foot, and right under Jared’s nose.

The other plan he made concerned how he would get through the three long months at home.  It wasn’t a plan so much as a resolve.  He decided that he would not just endure the time under his father’s watchful eye, but he would find a way to relate to his father, meet him on his own grounds.  He wanted Jared to not just accept his going to school, but to begin to see it as a truly good idea.  He thought if he could pull it off, then each time home he might become more and more convincing.

Shortly after arriving back at the compound, Justice installed new lighting in the supply building and a security video system around the perimeter of the fence.   His father had bought the system during the spring and must have paid quite a bit for it. Justice never asked where the money had come from.  He wouldn’t have dared.  He just knew it was waiting for him and constituted some kind of test, which he passed with flying colors.  Jared seemed almost happy about his son’s new skills.

Because he had positioned the cameras, Justice knew where the one weak spot in the system was, the one place you could leave or approach the compound without being taped.   He had thought at first that he wouldn’t leave at all.  He didn’t want to risk angering Jared in any way.  But after a couple of weeks, he decided he could safely leave for short periods of time and walk toward the beach.  There was a certain mossy-haired live oak tree calling him.  He went to the spot where he had found Hannah those many years ago and sat in the same low, solid branch where the beautiful stranger rested as she had played clapping games with his cousin.  He stared out to the ocean, thinking about Rose, imagining the woman he saw on his delivery rounds sitting next to him here in South Georgia.  This place where they first met seemed holy ground.  The distance between them seemed as vast as the body of water before him.

At times he would laugh at himself and even question his own sanity.  He wondered if he was obsessed, and then thought that obsession must be a tyrannical sort of passion.   He counted the days until he could return to Athens, to Rose.  Just to be able to watch her through a classroom window was enough for him.

When in the compound, Justice spent more time than he ever had observing his father.  Each day away from Jared wore away the edges of the extreme ideology he had planted in Justice’s head.  After a year, he was beginning to see his father in a perspective he had not possessed before.  Justice began to realize that anger defined his father.  He was a rageful, bitter, hating man.   Justice had heard the stories growing up, how the government had taken their land, how the government was not to be trusted, how the government was slowly being taken over by Jews and nigger lovers.   He could understand being angry about the land, but it was in the past.  There was nothing they could do about that now.   As for the other things his father believed, Justice saw no evidence in the outside world he had come to know.  He didn’t understand how his father could carry so much hate for people just because they were a different color or had a different religion.  From what Justice could see, the rest of the world was doing a pretty decent job of getting along with each other, even appreciating each other.  Slowly it became clear to Justice that his father had stewed in his hate for so long that he no longer had it; it had him.   Jared had taken on the anger of his father like a birthright and, like any good son taking over the family business, had made it grow.   Justice knew just enough about his family’s past to know that his great-grandfather had built the distrust, his grandfather had built the hate, and his father had built the wall.  He wondered what was his to build.   What he wanted to build seemed as impossible as constructing a bridge across the Atlantic.

During his freshman year, Justice had made inquiries in the education department until he found what he wanted.  Among the clothes and books he brought home for himself was a textbook for teaching Braille.  It was his lone $72 purchase.  He was determined to teach Hannah how to read this summer.  He decided that this was one thing he was not going to hide from Jared.

“Dad, can I talk with you for a minute, sir?”  Justice found his father in the east tower the morning after he came home.

Jared eyed him warily, still waiting to see what changes had taken place in his son.  “Yeah.  What is it?”

“While I was at school,” Justice cleared his throat, trying to hold back his nervousness.  It wouldn’t do for Jared to think this was too important.  “While I was at school, I happened to hear about Braille, it’s a way for blind people to be able to read, and I was able to get a hold of this book about it, and I thought, if it’s okay with you, that I would teach Hannah Elizabeth.  How to read.”

“And what would be the purpose of that?”

“Well, Hannah is pretty smart, sir, and there are lots of things that blind people can do.  She might be able to learn enough to maybe go to college some day and . . .”

“Who said I’d let her go to college?”

Justice recognized his mistake.  He had gone too far and needed to backpedal a little.  “Well, maybe not college.  But, you never know what she might be able to learn and do.  Around the compound, I mean.”

Jared studied his son through squinted eyes.  “Well, she is pretty smart.   Aaron bought her that damn guitar last year and she picked it up in no time.  Plays it like she’s been playing it all her life.  And she sings all the damn time.  I don’t know what earthly good it would do to teach a blind girl to read, but as long as it don’t interfere with your chores then I don’t guess there’s no harm in it.”

“Yes, sir.”  Justice started to turn and go, but Jared spoke again.

“You think Marsh would get anything out of that college?  I mean, when he gets older, of course.”

Justice felt his pulse quicken.  He instantly knew that how he handled this one moment in time could have a huge effect on the future.  He spoke as if he wasn’t quite yet convinced.   “Well. . . I don’t know.”  Justice shrugged his shoulders.  “He’s not quite as interested in studying and all like I am.  But, come to think of it, there’s a whole lot of different things he could learn there, and not everybody there is all that smart, to be honest with ya’.  He’s a whole lot smarter than some of them.   I would think it could probably be useful.  Maybe he could learn about mechanical engineering or even biology, you know, pre-med kinda stuff.  Now that would really be useful.”

“Hm.”  Jared mulled it over.  “You’re right.  He’s not always the brightest bulb in the box.”

Justice heard only “you’re right.”  He tried to remember if his father had ever said those words to him before.  “You know, I could maybe teach him too.  Help him brush up on a few things.”

There was a slight pause before Jared said, “Yeah, maybe you oughta’ do that.”  He turned around to look through his binoculars out into the ocean and Justice knew he had just been dismissed.  He went down the ladder two rungs at a time and almost skipped back to the house.  He had something to show Hannah.


            Teaching Hannah to read was one of the easiest chores Justice had ever undertaken.  She had been taught to say the alphabet and even learned basic spelling from her mother.  No one had given her formal instruction beyond that, but they had no idea how much she was absorbing through careful listening and talks with Justice.   By the time Justice showed her the Braille textbook, there wasn’t much to do except familiarize her with this new bumpy writing.  They breezed through the alphabet and numbers in one afternoon.

Hannah was so excited she could hardly contain it.  From that first afternoon, the textbook became her property and Justice was only allowed to use it while they had lessons.  It wasn’t long before Justice knew he had to get his hand on other reading material for his cousin.  The education professor who had suggested this textbook to him had also told him about an organization which would send blind people Braille books or books on tape in the mail for free, like a postal lending library.  Justice had written the address on the flyleaf of the book.  After explaining it to his father, who gruffly agreed, Justice wrote to the company asking for a catalog and other information.  Within a few weeks, Hannah was the proud “borrower” of To Kill A Mockingbird, Jane Eyre, and The Miracle Worker.  She devoured them.  And then she reread each one.  The story of a young Helen Keller she read four times in total.  She couldn’t fathom letting her books go, but when Justice explained that she couldn’t get any more until she had sent these back, she offered to wrap them up herself.   Her books were returned with a request for Life on the Mississippi, Heart of Darkness, and The Awakening.  Justice didn’t know these works any more than she did, although he had read some Mark Twain in his Freshman English class, so he would read her titles out of the catalog and when one sounded interesting she would say, “That one, Justice.  I think I would like that one next.”

Often they would sit under their live-oak tree and Hannah would read out loud to Justice.  They both loved it.  Justice would lie on the ground, his eyes closed or looking at the clouds.  He quickly learned to always bring a dictionary.  The holes in both his and Hannah’s vocabulary were filled by Mr. Webster himself.  Hannah would sit cross-legged at the base of the tree, her book open on her lap, her right hand moving swiftly across the page with a soft sliding sound.  For the rest of his life, whenever he would rub his finger across paper, Justice would hear Hannah reading to him.

One particular afternoon, as Hannah was about to finish the horror of Conrad, she stopped suddenly and said, “Justice, do you remember that girl?”

Justice opened his eyes wide. He instantly knew who Hannah was talking about.  It was the only girl she had ever met.  “Yes,” he said quietly.

“I think about her all the time.  Her name was Rose.  I remember it because it was such a pretty name and I just knew she had to be pretty too.   Was she pretty, Justice?”


“Sometimes I wish I could see her again.  Just be around her again.”


“Yeah.  She was so nice to me.  Are the people outside nice like her, Justice?”

“Some are, I suppose.  Some aren’t.”

“Well, she was awfully nice.  I really liked her.  I was almost mad when you called my name and said we had to go back.  It would have been nice to stay with her awhile.”

Justice took in a deep breath and put his hands behind his head.  “Yeah,” he whispered.  “That would have been nice.”

Teaching Marsh was another matter.  For one thing, Marsh liked being on the compound now that Justice was out of his way and never once thought that he would follow his brother’s path and go to college.  Justice cornered him when he could, but didn’t push him too aggressively.  That would only pull out Marsh’s own aggressive nature and that was never a pleasant thing to see.   He realized that turning Marsh around would be a long process, that he would have to wear him down like water wears away the beach and changes the shape of the islands, slowly and consistently.

Marsh felt pulled between his position on the compound and his love for his brother, outwardly showing little affection for Justice, but secretly admiring what Justice was doing.  Marsh felt simultaneously drawn to emulate his brother and despise him.  The more he felt love for him, the more he would act out in rage against him, responding to great emotion within him with the only passion he knew.

By the time Justice was ready to return to school in the fall, he had convinced Marsh that learning something, and possibly even going to college one day, might just help him secure an important place in compound life.  And as some extra security, he talked up the football team to the point that Marsh was actually anxious to see a game.

And thus Justice felt his summer had been a great success.  His father seemed easier somehow, Marsh was coming around, and Hannah had been introduced to the world of books.  Not bad for three months’ work.

Returning to Athens felt like a homecoming for Justice.   Once he saw Mark, he felt the residue of the summer at home wash completely away.   He had just two things on his mind – get his job back, and see Rose.

The first part was easy.   His supervisor in the acquisitions department was happy to see him back and offered him his job again on the spot.   During his deliveries the first couple of weeks and sometimes even on his own, he would roam the hallways of the building where the English classes were taught.  He ticked them off in his head – 110, 112, 113, all the way to 144 on the first floor, then four floors up.  Rose was not in any of them.  After four weeks, he gathered the courage to become more assertive in his mission and went to the English department office.

“Good afternoon.  May I help you?”  It was the same secretary, though she didn’t seem to remember him.

“Yes.”  Justice had a story prepared.  “I was looking for the graduate assistant.  She had a painting I liked and I wanted to talk to her about what kind of paints she used.”

“Oh, you must be talking about Rose.”

“Yes, that’s right.  Her name is Rose.”

“The star-crossed lovers painting.”

“Excuse me?”

“That’s what Dr. Williams always called it.  After Shakespeare.  You know, Romeo and Juliet?”

“Oh,” Justice wasn’t familiar with the bard, but had become a little sensitive about some of the gaps in his education.  “Yes, of course.  Shakespeare.  Anyway, is she in?”

“No, I’m sorry.  She finished her degree in August and has gone on to get her Ph.D.  She’s at Harvard.”

Justice stood still, shocked to hear what he hadn’t even thought to expect.

“Are you okay?  Maybe Dr. Williams would know what kind of paint she used.   Should I get him for you?”

“No, no.  I . . . thank you.  Sorry to bother you.”  Justice was out the door before the secretary could even get out the words to tell him that it was quite all right.

He walked down the hallway and into the stairwell where he fell back against the wall, looked at the ceiling and exhaled a deep breath.  Why did it feel like something much bigger had just happened?  She was a woman he hardly knew, who might not even recognize him if she saw him again, but she had been something more, something unnamable, unattainable, unbelievable.

And Harvard.  Where was Harvard anyway?  He knew he could find it on the internet.  He could track her down, maybe even find a way to get to her.  He would hitch or take a bus or do anything he needed to do to be where she was.

He let out another deep breath.  Now he was convinced he might really be going over the edge.  “Forget it,” he muttered.  And that’s exactly what he tried to do.

© Deborah E. Moore – 2011

Rose and Justice — Installment Ten

This is Installment Ten of the novel Rose and Justice. It includes Chapters III.iv, III.v, and It is 4,085 words long. As installments are posted, links for each will be added under the tab labeled “The Novel” at the top of this page. Enjoy!


            “Over my dead, cold body.”

“But, daddy, you’ve always said it was important to know things, to be well-informed.”

“Everything you need to know you can learn from me.  That’s what tradition is all about, son.  I learned from my father and you learn from me.  The only thing you could possibly learn at the University of Georgia is gonna’ come from those liberal communists who teach at universities.  I won’t have it.”

Justice lowered his head and felt his brain spinning to land on another logical argument.   He had just turned eighteen and had gone about as far in his studies as his mother and aunt could take him.   Colleges had finally realized that home-schooled children were often very intelligent, well-adjusted, and desirable students.  The University of Georgia had developed a special program for evaluating the home-schooled that included a test of math, history, and science, along with a two-page essay.  By the time Justice was 15, his mother had convinced his father that it would be perfectly okay for Justice to periodically visit the public library since he was a much smarter boy than she felt qualified to teach and the library at the St. Simons Welcome Center was only about a mile and a half away, walking distance for an outdoor boy like Justice.  It was in this library that Justice discovered a virtual world of freedom thanks to the computers the nice librarian, Eleanor, had taught him how to use.  He had come across the UGA home-schooled admissions requirements and secretly completed the on-line test and essay.   He never expected to even hear back from the university.  It was just a way to pretend he was a part of the larger world outside the walls of his family’s land.  But then he received a letter from the school.

“Congratulations.  Based upon the test scores and essay you recently submitted, you have been awarded a probationary full academic scholarship to the University of Georgia.”  The letter gave specific details about how to accept and keep his scholarship.  He would have to maintain a 3.5 GPA each semester.  He didn’t even know what a GPA was, but suddenly he was determined to get to Athens somehow.  Before he even approached his father, he had devised a plan for running away.  But he knew his father would find him and there would be no discussion then.  No, his best bet was to try to get his father to approve his plan for school, no matter how disgruntled that approval might be when and if it ever came.

“Dad, you’ve been teaching me for 18 years.  Do you think I’m just going to forget everything you ever told me?  I mean, it’s not off in California somewhere.  It’s the University of Georgia.  I’m sure I’ll meet plenty of good southern boys who are just like us.”

Jared leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms across his chest.  He still felt like a young man, but he was beginning to look exactly like his father before him in these moments of contemplation.  The very act of thinking about it gave Justice more hope than Jared probably wanted him to have.

“What would you study up there?”

“Well, I don’t know.  Business, maybe.  Or history.”  There was no way Justice was going to tell his father that he had every intention of majoring in biology.  Jared hated scientists almost as much as he hated the government.  They perpetuated subversive notions like evolution and abortion and racial equality.  And half of them worked for the government anyway, or at one of those damn liberal universities.  Justice, on the other hand, was fascinated by the world and the way it worked, the way it all seemed to fit together, the way that every cell, atom and subatomic particle had a specific job to do.  He wanted to know, as intimately as possible, the world he had been denied for so long.

“Electrical engineering.   That’s what you’ll major in.  The history they teach is all biased.  And business majors are all the sons of rich men in bed with the government.  No, I think some education about electrical engineering might serve us well here.   I want to make this place as self-sufficient as possible.”

The thought of electrical engineering was disgusting to Justice.  There was still a scientific aspect to it, but it was the science of cold hard machines.  He wanted to study living things.  But, that little glitch seemed like the smallest of anthills to him at the moment.  His father had all but said he could go.   They talked a little while longer without Jared ever giving a truly definitive answer.  He avoided them whenever possible.  When they finished, Justice walked calmly out of the cabin and across the common area where he knew his dad could still watch him from the window if he chose.  He strolled with his hands in his pockets until he was behind the storage shed on the far side of the residential section of the compound.  Then he did the first cartwheel he had done since he was 10 years old.

Jared tried to balk a few times before Justice left, but it was mostly for show.  He seemed accepting of his son going to college, and at times even a little proud, but he remained wary of the influences Justice might be subjected to.   Melinda was about to burst with pride.  Justice would never know just how many times Melinda had saved this chance for him, how many times Jared had changed his mind late at night after a half a bottle of Jack Daniels and Melinda had calmed him down and repeated again all the fine and wonderful things Justice would learn and bring back to their little village.

Jared and Melinda drove him to Athens on the Saturday before registration.  The dorms were chaotic with the moving in of thousands of students.  The chaos worked to Justice’s advantage.  No one paid them much attention or stopped to chat.  It was odd for Justice to see his father in this situation.  The man who ruled an entire kingdom, modest though it was, looked almost scared in this crowd.  He walked carefully and peered around like a rabbit in a den of dogs.

Justice was most concerned about the roommate the university would place with him.  He desperately hoped the roommate was some good old boy from South Georgia.  If he was liberal, long haired, tattooed, disrespectful, or, god forbid, non-white, his father would throw his ass back in the truck so fast he wouldn’t even have time to formulate an argument.

Mark Miller seemed ordered up special just to make this work for Justice.  He was a fourth generation Georgian from Waycross.  He wore Levi’s, work boots, a dirty well-molded Atlanta Braves baseball cap, and, most importantly, a sleeveless t-shirt with a rebel flag emblazoned across the back.   When they first met him, Jared actually smiled.  Mark said all the yes sirs and yes ma’ams needed to impress Jared and Melinda, then excused himself explaining that he had to finish helping a friend of his from Waycross move in on the fourth floor.

When Jared and Melinda left later that afternoon, Justice felt odd.  He had never experienced this kind of freedom before.  It was exhilarating and somewhat scary too.    He pulled the desk chair over to the window and sat for a long time just staring out on the campus.  There were people moving about, freely, yelling hellos to friends and playing catch with a football.  He watched them with envy until he realized that he was no longer trapped behind the wall.   He could walk out of this building and across the lawn as freely as any of them.  He stopped seeing the wall altogether.  Just the window.  The wall had been conquered.


            “Man, you have got to be blowing smoke up my ass.”

Mark Miller’s reaction was pure disbelief.  After two weeks, Justice told Mark the story of his upbringing, about his family and the compound and even the Malone family credo – “I live and would die for God, family and race.”   Justice had never intended to tell Mark, or anyone else for that matter.   But after two weeks of navigating his way tentatively around the university and relying time and again on Mark for help, Justice knew that he was going to have to trust someone.  He needed one person who understood where he had come from and who would cover his backside in this new, strange, and oh-so-wonderful place.

“I wish I was.”

“How did you learn enough to even get accepted to college, let alone get a scholarship?”

“You pick up things here and there.   We were taught at home.  My mom and the other women in the compound were our teachers.  But mostly I read everything I could get my hands on, and listened, and watched.  My dad didn’t care for a lot of books, but he never saw anything wrong with our schoolbooks, so I devoured them.  I could probably recite, word for word, my entire science book from when I was twelve.”

“Shee-it.  And you never left this . . . ‘compound’ except for occasional trips to town?”

“That’s right.  And then my father was always with me.  I mean, we went to town, yeah.  But it was simply to get supplies and then get back to the compound.  When I got older he let me go to the library, but only to the library.  Nowhere else.”

“You never told him you were going to the library and then snuck off to do other stuff?”

Justice opened his eyes wide, as if the thought alone would have gotten him in trouble.  “No.”

“You never hung out with your friends?  You never went to the movies?  You never went to high school, for Chrissakes?  Bo-eh,” Mark sprawled out “boy” in the southern way, “you have got a lot to learn.  And ole’ Mark Miller is just the one to teach you.”

And that was how Justice began the first and best friendship he ever had or would have in his life.   Mark seemed to know just how skewed Justice’s view of the world was, even more than Justice knew himself.   He didn’t laugh as he carefully explained what a GPA was, how it was calculated, and the impact it had on your college career.  He stayed close by when Justice went to his first football game and off-campus party.  He patiently explained what fraternities were and why all the members acted like shit on a stick.  Justice thought they sounded like mini-compounds.  In short, Mark Miller taught Justice much more that first semester than all his professors combined.

It was with Mark that he shared his discontent over the major his father had chosen for him.  Mark had a southern father, too, though nothing like Jared Malone.  He understood that kind of pressure and seemed to know just how to maneuver through it.

“Don’t beat your head against the wall,” Mark suggested.  “Big Daddy wants you to major in electrical engineering, then do it.   And double-major in biology.   You’re smart enough to handle both of them.”

It was an option Justice hadn’t even considered.  And, yes, he was smart enough to do it.  In fact, he was much smarter than he could possibly have known with no one against which to measure himself.  He was the sole reason Mark managed to escape introductory biology and freshman math with a respectable pair of Cs.

Justice loved helping Mark with his homework.  His adoration of his new friend might have bordered on idolatry if he hadn’t been able to pay him back just that little bit.  As it was, they built a friendship wherein each felt immensely grateful for the other’s contributions.  Justice gave Mark a real shot at actually earning a college degree.  Mark gave Justice a whole new world, and a new way of looking at the world he had already known.

As 18-year-olds do, they had a million endless conversations that first semester, often lasting until the sun came up.  Justice had a brilliant mind, but was completely ignorant about the world.  Sometimes it was just in listening to Mark ramble on about girls, politics, girls, religion, and girls that Justice would begin to hear a new way of thinking.  Mark never told him what to think, but more than he would ever know he showed him how to think.

The first semester of college passed as quickly as time had ever passed for Justice.  When final exam week began, he suddenly realized that he would have to go home again in a few days.  The Christmas break was almost four weeks long and Justice knew it would be one of the longest months of his young life.  He talked this over with Mark in a late night confab.

“I know I spent 18 years there and only 16 weeks here, but this feels like home now.  I hate the thought of even stepping foot back in that prison, let alone staying there for a goddamn month.”

“Why don’t you come home with me?  My folks wouldn’t mind.”

“God, I wish I could.  But, you don’t know my father.  He wasn’t sure about me coming here to start with.  I just get the feeling I should be careful.  I mean, if he accepts me going to your house by our junior year then that would be speedy progress for him.   And . . .” Justice had been about to continue, but then abruptly stopped himself.

“And what?  There’s something else, isn’t there.”

Justice moved his gaze to the floor.   His voice softened.  “Actually there are two something elses.”

“’Splain, bubba.”

“Marsh and Hannah.  If they don’t get out of that compound, they’ll be lost forever.  It may already be too late for Marsh, but Hannah, she’s . . . god, Mark, she’s a genius, and far too good to rot away in that hell.”

“So what do they have to do with you?”

“Don’t you see?  I’m the guinea pig.  I’m the test case.  If anything, and I mean anything about this doesn’t set right with daddy, he’ll never even consider letting the others come.”  Justice paused, then put his fingertips to his forehead.  “Even beyond his wall, I’m still in his prison.”

Justice and Mark finished finals, Justice breezing through and Mark gratefully passing, then left Athens behind them.   Waycross was only about 50 miles west of Brunswick, so Justice rode with Mark that far.  Jared had planned to meet them in the parking lot of the Waycross Piggly Wiggly grocery store.  It wouldn’t do for Mark to drive directly to the compound, although Justice knew he would have if he had been asked.  About 15 miles outside of Waycross, Mark did something he never would have thought of doing in any other time or place, or with any other man.  He reached over and took Justice’s hand.

“You keep your chin up, y’hear?”  A slight crack in his voice gave away his emotion.  He pulled his hand away quickly.

They were silent the rest of the way, but when they finally said their goodbyes, Justice saw a slight glistening in Mark’s eyes, the closest to crying a southern boy dared come.

            The dread is worse than the doing, so they say.  Justice found the visit at home not as horrible as he had expected.  It was no joyride, but not horrible.   It helped to think of it as a visit.  Seeing his mother brought a happiness he had not anticipated.  In the male-dominated world of the compound, his mother had been only teacher and servant.  Now he saw her with new eyes.  He watched her move through her days, gently living out the life and ideas she had passively accepted, a model of pure grace.  He was determined to tell her he loved her before he left to go back to school.  He had never done that in his life.

Marsh was immersed in compound life.  He had discovered his own brand of freedom when Justice left for college and he was no longer under the shadow of his older brother.  Marsh worked harder than most of the men trying to prove himself to his father.  He seemed to need his daddy’s approval to even survive.  Justice instinctively knew he wouldn’t be able to share his true college experience with his little brother.  Justice loved Marsh, but there was something scary about him too.  When he shot a rabbit there was a gleam in his eye that was more than joy over having provided the family with a meal, but rather a feeling of victory usually accompanied by his own unique war whoop.  Seining the river for shrimp was Marsh’s least favorite job since it didn’t included hooking or putting a bullet into something.  The younger Malone loved to inflict pain, and Justice knew Marsh could make big trouble for him if given half a chance.

It was Hannah that Justice was most happy to see.   Before Mark Miller came along, Hannah been the closest friend Justice had.  Despite their four-year age difference, he felt closer to her than anyone from home.  He had waited four days to meander over to her cabin and then lead her off into the woods, hoping his father wouldn’t see them going off for one of the secret walks and talks they had shared so often.

“Tell me all about college, Justice.  I want to know everything.  Is it just the greatest?”  Hannah walked behind Justice, holding the tail of his shirt.

“Wait ‘til we get to our tree.  Then I’ll tell you all about it.”  There was a giant live oak on the edge of the compound farthest from the cabins.   Moss swung in slow motion from the low curving limbs.   They had spent many hours under that tree together, talking about the world as they knew it, sharing their true feelings with the only other person each felt comfortable doing that with, and singing.  Justice didn’t think he sang too well, but Hannah always wanted to sing and insisted that he sing along.   It took 25 minutes to get to the tree.

“Now, tell me.”

They sat on the ground, facing each other.   “Okay, but you have got to make a solemn promise that everything I tell you will be a secret between you and me.”

Hannah crossed her heart.  “I promise.”

“I mean it, Hannah Elizabeth.  Not one word of this to a soul.  I’m as serious as I have ever been about anything.”

“I promise.”  She emphasized the word as if to say that her promise was all he needed.  And he knew it was.

“College is the best thing that ever happened to me.  Hannah, there is a whole big world out there, and I mean more than just Athens, and it’s filled with all kinds of people with all kinds of ideas.  And those people have fun, and they laugh, and they don’t seem to care if you think something different from what they think.  It’s freedom, Hannah.  It’s freedom.”

Hannah looked as if she were hearing that heaven was real and just a few miles east of Atlanta.   “What kinds of ideas, Justice?  What kinds of things do they think?”

“All kinds of things.  Different ideas about the government and law and religion.  There are about as many different ideas about these things as there are people in the world.  And, Hannah,” he paused, “there is so much music.”

She took a sharp breath in, then whispered.  “Tell me about the music.”

“People come to college to study music.  They play instruments, more instruments than you can imagine.  And they sing, too.  The band plays at the football games – remind me to tell you about the football games – and there are hundreds of them.  Hundreds of people marching around and playing trumpets and drums and clarinets and saxophones and tubas.  Every time I see the band, I think of you, Hannah.  And that’s why this has to be such a secret.”


Justice paused.  “Because I want you to go there some day, Hannah.  I want you to get out of this place and play music and sing all you want.  So all this stuff about all the different ideas people have has to be a secret.  You do understand, don’t you?”

“I understand.”  Hannah was as serious as she had ever been about anything.  “Nobody will ever hear a word from me.  Nobody will ever keep me from going to college and playing music.”  She paused.  “Will they, Justice?”

“Not if I can help it they won’t.”

They talked for as long as they dared stay missing from the cabins.  Hannah kept wanting more.  She wanted to know about even the tiniest details of life outside the compound.

“Are there mud people there, Justice?”  She didn’t use the term the way Jared did, spewing it out with spite and hatred.  She simply used the only term she had ever heard to describe people whose only difference was one she couldn’t see.

“Yes.  And they’re not ‘mud people,’ Hannah.  They are just like you and me except their skin is a different color.  I mean, as far as I can tell, at least.  They’re African-Americans.  And some people are Hispanic and some are Asian – that means they’re from China or Japan or Korea or someplace way on the other side of the world.  There are all kinds of different people in my classes.  There’s a guy in my math class and he’s an African-American, and, Hannah, he is the funniest guy in the world.  He sits right behind me and is always making jokes under his breath about the teacher.  He’s really nice, too.  He even invited me to his church once.”

“Church like we have?”  Sunday morning church was mandatory on the compound.  It consisted of everybody singing some lame old song, out of tune, and Clete Camden reading from the bible and talking about how you should fear God, and then Jared talking about how the bible clearly gave the white man dominion over all other animals, including mud people, and how those animals should fear the white man just as the white man was to fear God.

Nothing like we have.  I went to his church with him.  It was kinda’ scary because, you know, I hadn’t ever been around a lot of Black people – that’s another name for African-Americans.  But, in nothin’ flat they made me feel like I wasn’t supposed to be anywhere else that Sunday morning.  Everybody shook my hand and the ladies all hugged me.  And then church started.   You talk about music.  Everybody sang for almost an hour.  Then the preacher started shouting about how good God is and then everybody started singing again, and then he would shout, and then everybody would sing again.  It felt like there was electricity in that room, Hannah.”

“Did he shout about the white man having dominion over all the animals?”  Hannah was testing the line she had been fed all her life.

“He never once said that.  But he did say that everybody was an heir to God’s kingdom, and I just assumed he meant white and black people.   He said that God had health and happiness and prosperity and every good thing, and because we are all God’s children we automatically have all those things too.   And then he said that God was everywhere and ‘workin’ in every situation.’  Those are the exact words he used – ‘God is workin’ in every situation.”  I remember that because he said it like 50 times.”

Hannah had a look of deep thought on her face.  She was a natural philosopher and often read into situations what Justice could not see.  Rarely did she have to retract anything she said since she never said anything that she hadn’t thought through and determined to be true.  She took in a deep breath and said, “Well, that sounds like what God oughta’ be.  And if that is so, then God is working in you being at college and us having this talk and me being here at the compound, too.   That would mean that God was even working when he made us cousin’s, huh, Justice?”

Justice smiled through a tear.  “God musta’ been workin’ then most of all.”

© 2011 — Deborah E. Moore