Everyone stopped to look up before they went inside the theater in downtown Mossville. Everybody, even the ones who never paid her any mind. There it was, her name on the marquee: Lily Macon. Hometown girl a Hollywood Star.
A strong wind snapped a towel that had been on the line for days. The sound pulled Lily all the way out of sleep. Her summer gown twisted around her like a mummy’s shroud as she turned over and twisted it back right. She dropped her hand over her eyes against the bright sun streaming through the window.
Sonny had a job clear over in Raymond. She wouldn’t see him ‘til supper.
Lily craved the coke in the bottle tucked into the back corner of the refrigerator—the cold dark liquid that would burn against her tongue, filling her mouth with strong and sweet. Something to wash away the stale taste. The glass bottle cold against her sore cheek and throbbing temples would give her some relief. She returned to daydreaming through the headache. The dress she would wear to the movie premiere. Her long gloves. Her sparkling white teeth.
Some mornings Sonny jerked her out of bed. “Get up, Scarlet O’Hara.” He didn’t that morning. He’d overslept.
Lily eased out of bed, made her way to the fridge on stiff legs. Sonny’s beer cans crowded in front of the coke bottle in the back. Most mornings, Sonny slipped a can into his pocket with a church key beside it, a clicking noise accompanying him to his car.
With the bottle pressed against her face, Lily went out to the porch, the worn wood squeaking with each step. The tub was still there, the water murky. She’d need bleach to get Sonny’s t-shirt clean and white again. She didn’t want to think about hand cranking the clothes that morning. “One more day soakin’.”
A man inched warily along the edge of the property. “How ya doin’, T-Roe?” Lilly said. He kept shuffling forward. That’s what Sonny would call it. “T-Roe! You hear me?!” A knot rose from T-Roe’s brow, a fret of concern in his face as his shuffle turned into the long stride of a tall man in a hurry.
Earlier that week in the store, a fan creaked above Lily’s head, troubled the air around the package of cigarettes and beer she’d put on the counter. Then a boy’s sleeve brushed against her bare arm as he walked past her.
Every night, Theo’s wife May held her ear against his chest to listen for the beat. “Be careful, Hon,” she whispered to him every morning just before he walked out the door. She reminded him again every evening just after they slipped into bed.
Theo didn’t know why he hadn’t spoken to the woman at the house. Usually she was asleep when he passed. Or he’d manage a low greeting when she stood in the yard looking out at something in the distance, smoke trailing from the cigarette she held between her fingers.
Theo sometimes tried to talk to May about what had happened at that house a few weeks before. How he’d walked away from what he saw. How God clattered guilt inside of him every time he passed the house. Telling Eve anything about it just made his wife more afraid, made her hold their two girls tighter after he brought it up, reminding him what it could cost them.
Then there was the matter of the boy.