August 12, 1921 | Part III
Winter leisurely turned to the time before when everything happened. The automobile was to arrive that summer, the summer of 1921. Provoked by keeping the secret of her father-in-law, Claire decided in her 16th year that it was time to pursue her father. She packed quietly one evening, escaped from her 2nd-floor window trellis through her linen curtains as usual, and hastily made it to her uncle’s house across the field from her own. There she stayed until she could board the morning train south to bustling New Orleans. She remembered how no note was left for her sister. Perhaps if she could have trusted Theresa to keep her location a secret, she would have told her. She would write…
~~ * ~~
Once in New Orleans with her father after so many years, she barely recognized him from the man she once knew as a little girl. His speech was the same, even his movements, but his demeanor was different…a side effect of his brokenness. He welcomed her openly and proudly introduced her still as his “little girl”. He inquired after Anne and Theresa, but no mention was brought of Fred. Claire knew her father was aware of their family’s situation the past 10 years, but didn’t know how to tell him of her pain since he left.
One night she staunchly told him of her loss, her fear, and her reason for leaving. These were all the same matter, so they spoke of Fred till daylight that next morning. Upon this, her father instantly realized what he believed to be a visit was intended to be a move. Claire only purchased one ticket.
Once confirmed she would be now living in New Orleans, Claire waited a matter of weeks to write Theresa explaining her decision. She urged her sister to come live with their father, and believed this would make them closer once outside of northwestern Ouachita. The only response Claire received was one she never thought to expect…
”Claire, I never believed you. I was next. Come soon. Take me back to Orleans with you. I’ll be waiting. Please.
~~ * ~~
June wasn’t known to be a necessarily hot time in Louisiana, that being saved for the later summer and early fall seasons. However, this June started off as if it were an August, the rest of summer gradually worsening. The bugs came early, the fallow field refused to produce, and the rain withheld. Darkened packed-dirt roads lightened and dust began to prevail. It seemed to reflect the desecration in the air. This August was different.
Claire managed to be back in Ouachita in a week after her sister’s letter. Although she took great risk doing so, she knew no other choice. Again harboring herself with her cousin Gerald and Uncle Tom, she waited a few days until Sunday the 21 when she knew her mother and Fred would be at the town’s morning church service. Feigning a headache, Theresa stayed home, managing to inconspicuously pack her most treasured possessions. Despite being rushed, Claire urged more haste in order to make it out before the parish service ended.
It was arranged they would stay with their uncle across the field for the night before the Monday dawn train on the 22 , but Claire wanted out sooner. Rationalizing the Orr farm would be the first place their mother would look, Claire made a brash decision. Glancing in the yard, her peripheral caught the shiny raw edge of glass…the car had arrived in her absence.
To be continued…