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Trade Paperback
400 pages
Aug 2004
Bethany House

No Dark Valley

by Jaime Langston Turner

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The Birds Hush Their Singing

“We been hopin’ you’d come,” Aunt Beulah called, pushing the door open. She stepped out onto the porch, closing the door, then letting the screen slam behind her. “Come on inside before you freeze to death. Everybody’s here eatin’.” Her words came out in little white puffs. She was wearing a nubby black sweater over a navy blue dress and pink terry-cloth bedroom slippers on her feet.

Celia felt a sudden wave of panic. So that explained all the cars parked up and down the street. Aunt Beulah hadn’t told her that everybody would be here at her house eating. If she had, Celia would never have agreed to come. She had expected only Aunt Beulah and Uncle Taylor to be here, not everybody. “Come on by the house first,” Aunt Beulah had told her over the phone. “We can have us a little visit before we go to the funeral home.”

“Now, tell me again which cow this is,” Al said as they started up the sidewalk. On the drive here Celia had told him the names of her grandmother’s five sisters—Clara, Bess, Beulah, Elsie, and Molly—to which Al had replied, “They sound like cows.” He had then laughed, for what seemed to Celia a little too long, at his joke. He was right about their names, of course, though Celia had never thought of it before. And her grandmother’s name had fit right in with the rest: Sadie.

“This one’s Aunt Beulah,” Celia said. “She’s the only one of them who ever liked me.”

“Watch out for that icy patch there!” Aunt Beulah called. “Molly nearly slipped on it earlier. I got Taylor to sprinkle some salt on it, but it might have refroze.” She shaded her eyes as she watched Celia and Al make their way toward her. “I’m sure glad you could come, Celia. I told them you would.” The implication, clearly, was But nobody believed me.

Aunt Beulah stepped back and opened the door again. Behind her Celia could see a roomful of people, all jammed together with plates of food balanced on their laps. She heard somebody cry out, “Mercy, you’re lettin’ the cold in, Beulah!”

Celia felt her knees go weak as she started up the steps, Al at her elbow. “I don’t think I can do this,” she said to him. “These people are perfectly capable of violence. There’s no telling what they might do.” She could picture herself lying in the middle of Aunt Beulah’s living room, surrounded by all her Georgia kinfolk coming at her with their knives and forks.

“Don’t worry. I’m here,” Al said. “I won’t let them do anything.” He put his hand on her back. Celia knew he was looking forward to meeting her relatives, to see for himself if they were as weird as she had claimed.

“Come on, hon,” Aunt Beulah said, beckoning. “Quick, get in here where it’s warm!”

In that little space of time before she entered Aunt Beulah’s house, Celia tried to imagine how all of this could be translated into the opening of a novel. She often did this with incidents in her life, although she didn’t write fiction herself, in fact didn’t even read much of it anymore. As a freelance editor, however, she had helped two or three novelists, certainly not very good ones, get their manuscripts ready to submit. It was exhausting, really. She had to wade through so much bad writing and then try to be halfway tactful when helping the writers, always a touchy lot, get things shaped up. During such projects she wondered why in the world she did it. Compared to her editing work, her other job at the Trio Gallery seemed like a summer vacation.

But today might not make such a good opening for a novel, she decided as she lifted her foot to step across the threshold. Far too many novels and movies started out with funerals, many of them in the dead of winter on a day like this one. If she were going to make it into fiction, however, she’d start with this speck of time right now, right before walking inside to face them all, with her heart thudding like a hammer inside her chest. She might start with a sentence like Celia sucked in her breath and stepped across the threshold.

The hum of talk stopped as they entered. Celia glanced around at the circle of faces and nodded. She didn’t actually look at the faces, but at the wall slightly above their heads. She could sense that they were all looking her up and down, that she was being weighed in the balances of their narrow minds and found severely wanting.

“See here, I told you she would come,” Aunt Beulah announced, closing the door. Celia could still feel the pocket of cold air they had brought in with them. Aunt Beulah touched her arm. “Y’all remember Celia, of course, and this here’s her fiancé, Al.”

Al nodded and smiled. “Glad to meet you all.”

There were a few halfhearted replies. Mostly there was silence, though.

Fiancé? Celia thought. Where had Aunt Beulah gotten that? Certainly not from her. Celia was tempted to set her straight. “No, he’s not my fiancé,” she wanted to say. “We’re not engaged.” She wondered what they’d all do if she stood right there and told them the whole truth: “We don’t have any intention of getting married. We’ve been keeping our own separate lives and just sleeping together whenever we feel like it.” She wondered which one of them would lunge after her first. She remembered the tall oak tree in the middle of Aunt Beulah’s backyard. That’s probably the one they’d hang her from.

“Look, they didn’t even wear coats,” someone said from the far corner, and Celia saw it was Aunt Elsie. She hadn’t changed a bit over the years. Same frizzy gray hair. Same squinty eyes. “Maybe they taught ’em not to wear coats up North,” Aunt Elsie added. She gave a little scornful snort, then waved a chicken leg around. “Down here folks wear coats when it’s freezing cold outside!” Aunt Elsie brought the chicken leg swiftly to her mouth and bit off a large chunk.

Celia wondered if she should remind them all that she lived in South Carolina, had done so for a good twelve years now. Evidently they were still holding it against her that she had left Georgia, the land of milk and honey, and gone to a college in Delaware all those years ago, where she had studied journalism.

Celia would never forget how horrified they all were when she announced that she was going to Blackrock College in Delaware. They had all had their say about it, coming over to her grandmother’s house one by one to state their disapproval and offer gloomy forecasts of what happened to young people who went off to public universities, especially those in states other than their own. “It’s in Delaware, not hell!” Celia had exploded one day after one of the aunts had left. And her grandmother had looked as if she’d been poked with a high-voltage wire. “Celie, we don’t use that word in this house!” she had said.

“Well, come on out here to the table,” Aunt Beulah said now. “We got more food than we can ever eat. Everybody’s been so nice to help us out.” As she followed Aunt Beulah across the living room and through the wide doorway into the dining room, Celia could feel every pair of eyes on her.

“Pretty little thing, ain’t she?” she heard someone say.

“Pretty is as pretty does,” Aunt Elsie declared.

Behind her, Celia heard another voice she recognized immediately as Aunt Clara’s, apparently addressing the room at large. Aunt Clara’s voice was deep and husky with an authoritarian tone. She had always been the bossy one among the sisters. “Sadie raised her all by herself, you know, after Celia’s mama and daddy passed so sudden—and so young! Poor Sadie, workin’ her fingers to the bone to raise that child, and never a crumb of thanks she got. Sulky and selfish and rebellious. Broke Sadie’s heart over and over with her wild and willful ways.”

Celia glanced up at Al with a look that said, “See, I told you they were all batty.” He raised his eyebrows and emitted a low whistle.

Celia thought she heard someone in the living room make a shushing sound, but Aunt Clara either didn’t hear it or ignored it. Aunt Clara had been hard of hearing years ago, so Celia could only imagine she was even more so now. Knowing Aunt Clara, it wouldn’t have made any difference if she had heard it or not. If she had something to say, nothing could stop her. Celia could still hear her eighteen years ago, could still see her eyes flaming with indignation, her nose wrinkled up as if she smelled something spoiled: “Mark my words, you’re going to send your poor grandmother to an early grave, young lady, if you go up there to that godless state university!” Celia had laughed right out loud. In her mind, her grandmother, sixty-nine at the time, was already ancient.

“See here, there’s plenty!” Aunt Beulah raised her voice a little, perhaps to try to drown out Aunt Clara. “Y’all get you a plate and help yourself, and I’ll go get the tea. I must’ve set it down out in the living room somewhere. Now take your fill—we got more’n enough for now and later, too. And we’re not in any great big rush. We got us a whole hour before we got to be down to the mortuary.”

From the other room Aunt Clara could still be heard. “... and threw away all her training, ever’ last bit of it. Bowed Sadie down with grief to talk about it. Just had to go up North to some heathen college where they teach evolution and use drugs and let the boys and girls live in the same dormitories and fill up their minds with trash and ...”

The dining room table bore a random assortment of food, all in Corning Ware dishes, Pyrex, tin plates, and plastic containers of every kind. Al caught her eye and winked. He looked as if life had suddenly gotten a lot more interesting. This was one of the things that most irritated Celia about Al—his enormous preoccupation with food. At times he could be so intelligent, so witty and sensitive to her moods, knowing exactly how much to say and when to quit prying, understanding her unspoken jokes, but then he’d turn around and act like some kind of animal when he got hungry.

Evidently no thought had been taken to arranging the food in any semblance of categories. It looked as if it had been set down in whatever order it had been delivered, then shoved over to make room for more. At one end sat a big platter of ham, surrounded by a basket of hush puppies, a dish of apple dumplings, and a plate of salmon croquettes. Corn-bread muffins, fruit cocktail, fried chicken, pinto beans, creamed corn, biscuits, custard pie, JellO salad—on and on it went.

Typical, thought Celia. It would never occur to these people, her Georgia relatives, to put all the meats together in one place, then the vegetables, salads, and desserts. Just throw them all together in a big hodgepodge and dig in. That was their way, always had been.

That was exactly how they approached life in general—mixed everything together in one big pot, stirred their religion in with whatever they did. Celia remembered how mortified she used to be when her grandmother was in Kmart or Piggly Wiggly, looking for cornstarch or floor wax one minute, then accosting a total stranger in the aisle the next, telling him bluntly that Jesus died to save sinful men or inviting him gruffly to a revival meeting at church. Celia would always walk away and hide out in another aisle.

Looking at the table, Celia couldn’t help thinking how much Grandmother would have enjoyed this occasion, with all the people and all the food. She had loved family gatherings, would always arrive early and leave late, would sample some of every dish on the table, then go home grumbling about how she wished people wouldn’t bring so much food. In her medicine chest Grandmother had a bottle, among all the others, on which she had printed “When you eat too much,” and she would always shake a pill out of it after such a get-together and gulp it down. That was just like Christians, in Celia’s opinion—always looking for easy answers to problems.

And Grandmother had always loved a funeral, too, had dragged Celia to dozens of them all over the county during the years they’d lived together on the other side of this pathetic little excuse of a town. It was too bad a person couldn’t attend his own funeral, Celia thought. Maybe they should have rehearsals for them the way they did for weddings. That way the person could come and see how the service was going to go, then give suggestions for improvements, and after that go ahead and die.

* * *

Celia followed Al around the table, taking small helpings of a few dishes. Al’s plate was heaped before he had made it halfway around, and he looked longingly at the other side of the table. There were two empty folding chairs in the dining room, angled into a corner beside the gas heater. The wallpaper—a design of large red roses twining in and out of a lattice—looked scorched above the heater and was curling apart at the seams. Celia was glad the living room was full. She would have hated to eat in there with all the aunts glaring at her, their small minds racing to think of all the wicked things she must have done since she left her grandmother’s house eighteen years ago.

She thought Aunt Clara was through in the other room, but evidently she had just stopped a few moments to chew. “Sad how some folks’ll wait till a funeral to come back and pay their respects,” Celia heard her say. “Poor Sadie. What she wouldn’t of give for that girl to come see her before she died. You’d sure think a body would have enough common decency to come visit their own grandmother when she was on her deathbed!”

But I didn’t know she was on her deathbed! Celia felt like shouting. She kept quiet, though. She wasn’t going to let these people get to her, not anymore. She didn’t owe anybody any explanations for anything. She had nothing to apologize to them for. She had been done with that way of life for a long time.

Suddenly someone was standing in front of her. “Hey there, Celie.” Celia looked up to find her second cousin Doreen grinning at her, holding a plate in one hand. She must have put on a good thirty pounds since Celia had last seen her, but it wasn’t hard to recognize her with her round freckled face and curly red hair. Doreen wiped her other hand along the side of her dress, then cocked her index finger and thumb at Celia and made a shooting noise as if firing a gun. “Gotcha!” she said. “Remember how we used to all the time do that in the hall at school?” She laughed, showing broad yellow teeth. She had some fish sticks on her plate, Celia noticed, all cut up into small squares and slathered with ketchup.

“Hi, Doreen,” Celia said. “How are you doing?”

“Ornery as always and up to no good,” Doreen said. “How ’bout yourself?”

“I’m okay,” said Celia. “Managing to keep busy.”

Doreen laughed again. “Hey, remember that summer at Bible Memory Camp when I hid from you in that big old patch of poison ivy? And then jumped out and scared the livin’ daylights out of you while you was walking by?”

Celia smiled and nodded. Doreen had always loved practical jokes, though they often backfired on her. The two of them had been good friends during the first two years she had lived with her grandmother but had drifted apart after that. Doreen could have been a lot of fun if she hadn’t had such a religious streak.

“And then a little bit later I started itchin’ and scratchin’ like crazy,” Doreen said. “I ’bout scratched myself raw before it was over. I remember that!”

Celia nodded again. She remembered a counselor threatening to tie Doreen’s hands behind her back if she didn’t quit scratching.

Doreen reached behind her and dragged a little red-haired boy out to stand in front of her. He looked down at the floor and twisted from side to side, three fingers jammed in his mouth. “This here’s Ralph Junior,” Doreen said. “Named after his daddy. You remember Ralph, don’t you? He graduated same year you did. Played football.”

Celia felt her stomach knot up as she glanced at the boy. Probably no more than four or five. She nodded at Doreen. She remembered Ralph all right. Big dumb Ralph Hubert, who reinforced every stereotype in the world about football players. She thought she remembered her grandmother writing her that he had gone into the army a year or so after graduating from high school, but she was already away at college by then and couldn’t have cared less about any of the hicks she had gone to high school with. She looked back at Doreen’s little boy and felt something like the cold point of a knife against soft skin.

“So you finally decided to get hitched yourself, huh?” Doreen said, nodding to Al. “Never too late. Better not wait around for ten years to have you a kid like I did, though. ’Course that wasn’t the plan. I expected I’d just drop ’em out one after the other the way Billie Ruth did, but no sir, not me. Me and Ralph had to traipse all over to a hundred doctors ’fore we found out what was wrong, and then—”

“And how is Billie Ruth?” Celia asked.

“Oh, same as ever. Had her another baby couple of months ago—number eight. Imagine that, my sister’s got eight, and I had to work like the dickens just to get me one. Mama told her she ought to get her tubes tied, but ...”

Al spoke up, his mouth full. “And how old is Ralph Junior?” he asked. The boy scowled up at him briefly, then turned and buried his face in his mother’s skirt.

“Five his next birthday,” Doreen said proudly. “He goes to the four-year-old kindergarten school over at the Baptist church three days a week, don’t you, Ralphie?” No response from Ralphie. “Here, show Cousin Celie and her friend how good you know your numbers, Ralphie.” Doreen tried to pry him away from her legs, to no avail. “Come on, Ralphie, one ... two ... three ... Count for us and show what a big boy you are.” Ralphie wouldn’t deliver.

“Oh well, maybe another time,” Celia said.

“Yeah, maybe so,” Doreen said. “Well, come on then, sport, let’s go back out here to the kitchen and finish up your din-din.” She grinned at Celia. “He loves fish fixed like this.” She nodded toward the plate she was holding.

This came as no surprise to Celia. Breaded fish sticks that came frozen in a box would be exactly the kind of food her relatives would love. Give them a fresh fillet of flounder amandine or Chilean sea bass, and they wouldn’t have a clue what it was.

Doreen waved. “Talk to you later, Celie.” She jerked her head toward the kitchen. “We’re eating out here with Candy. You remember Candy—she’s married now and has her a baby. She’s trying to nurse him, but she’s afraid she doesn’t have enough milk.”

For a moment Celia didn’t understand. Surely this wasn’t the same Candy she remembered—Aunt Elsie’s “change of life baby,” as everybody had called her. The last time Celia had seen her, Candy was still dragging a blanket around and sucking her thumb. But that was over eighteen years ago, Celia realized, which would make her twenty or more now.

“And Ralph’s coming to the funeral, so you can see him, too,” Doreen was saying. “His boss is letting him off early today. He’s one of the pallbearers—I didn’t know if you knew that. Your grandmother picked ’em all out herself before she passed.”

Celia shook her head. “No, I didn’t know.” She waved back at Doreen as she steered Ralphie toward the kitchen. As they disappeared through the swinging door, the sound of a baby’s wail broke forth, then suddenly stopped. A rushing sound filled Celia’s head, like a semi passing by, and she took several deep breaths.

“Wow, there goes one classy woman,” Al said, then laughed. “I can’t understand how you escaped all this, Celia.”

Celia watched him for a few moments. He had already picked two chicken wings clean and was busy now with a mound of spaghetti casserole. He was having trouble getting it to stay on his fork, however, so he finally took up his spoon and, with the aid of a corn-bread muffin as a pusher, began to make headway. Celia looked away. Bringing Al with her on this trip had seemed like such a good idea a couple of days ago.

She wondered if her grandmother had planned out the whole funeral. That would be just like something she would do. She probably had it all written down in one of her notebooks somewhere, right down to the songs that would be sung. This was something southerners were fond of doing. And knowing Grandmother, there would probably be dozens of songs.

Next to her Bible, her grandmother’s favorite book had been the old brown hymnal they used at church. She even had her own personal copy of it that she carried back and forth to church. Tabernacle Hymns Number Three it said on the cover. And she sang those songs at home all hours of the day and night the whole three years Celia had lived with her. During that last awful year Celia would often turn her radio up full blast to block out the sound of her grandmother’s singing.

Looking up at the roses on the wallpaper, Celia suddenly thought of the words of one of Grandmother’s favorite songs: “I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses.” She could remember her grandmother singing it over and over at home and calling out its number time and again at church on request night. In Celia’s opinion it was a sappy maudlin song, one of those that sounded pretty but meant nothing. Well, Grandmother, Celia thought, it looks like the dew has all evaporated now and the roses have wilted and died on the trellis, just like you.

And even though she tried hard to keep it from coming, she could clearly hear her grandmother’s abrupt answer. “No, Celie, I haven’t died. I only changed addresses is all. And the dew is still on the roses up here, and there’s not a single thorn on ’em, either.” As much as she disliked it, Celia couldn’t stop a picture from forming, one of her grandmother strolling through a lush celestial garden with Jesus by her side. Or rather stomping through the garden. She had never known Grandmother to stroll anywhere.

Grandmother loved the second stanza of that song and would always close her eyes when she sang it at church: “He speaks, and the sound of his voice is so sweet the birds hush their singing.” In Celia’s opinion, if Grandmother was the one in that garden with Jesus, that explained the birds’ falling silent. It had nothing to do with his voice—the poor birds were terrified of hers.

In the doorway from the living room appeared the bent figure of an old man with a white goatee. For a moment he stood absolutely still, peering into the dining room at Al and Celia. Then he shuffled forward toward the table and leaned down close. “Looking for some more of that cobbler,” he said, staring hard at the chicken pot pie.

Aunt Beulah came back into the dining room carrying a brown plastic pitcher of tea. “No, Buford, that cobbler you’re wantin’ is down here,” she said loudly and pointed him to the far end of the table.

“Uncle Buford,” Celia whispered to Al. “I don’t think I would have ever recognized him. He’s shrunk.” She watched as Aunt Beulah set the pitcher down and helped him fill his plate with cobbler. “He’s Aunt Beulah’s twin brother. The only boy in the family. He used to be a preacher—a very long-winded one.”

“So there was a bull among the cows,” Al said. “He looks like he could be Colonel Sanders’ grandfather.” He stabbed at his plate with his fork. “Hey, what are these little brown things, anyway? They’re good.”

“Crowder peas,” Celia said. “He’s married to Aunt Bernice, who used to dramatize the story of Elijah and Jezebel for all the neighbor kids. She made a very convincing Jezebel.” Uncle Buford headed slowly back to the living room, stopping briefly to peer over at Celia and Al, then emitting a soft belch and moving on.

“Here, let me pour y’all some tea,” Aunt Beulah said. “Sorry we got to use these little foam cups. They don’t hardly hold enough to spit at.” As she poured, Celia saw that her hands still shook the way they always had.

“Oh, now, see there, I’ve gone and dribbled some on your plate,” Aunt Beulah said. Before moving away, she leaned in close to Celia and spoke confidingly, her rhinestone pendant dangling near Celia’s chin. “Celia, hon, you don’t have to rush, but I do want you and Al to come with me to the funeral parlor when you’re done. I asked them to leave the casket open for a little bit before the funeral so you could see her if you got here in time. She looks so sweet. My, they did such a good job on her.”

Aunt Beulah left with the pitcher of tea. “A ‘good job’?” Al said. “Celia, these people are everything you said and more.” He lifted a spoonful of stewed apples and examined them appreciatively. “But they can sure cook.” He chewed for a moment, then said, “Hey, you don’t have to go through with this, you know. We can leave. We can think up some excuse to tell them and go back home. Or don’t tell them anything—just get in the car and leave. They can have the funeral without you. Nobody can make you stay.”

Celia shook her head. “I’ve come this far, I might as well finish it.” But it was more than that, though she knew Al would laugh if she told him about it. The truth was, she had made a promise to her grandmother years ago. Not that she wasn’t above breaking a promise. She had done that often enough. But this one was different. It was the kind that would rise up to haunt you if you didn’t keep it.

It was the last time she had seen her grandmother, actually. Fourteen years ago this spring. Grandmother had ridden a Trailways bus all the way up to Blackrock to attend Celia’s college graduation. Celia had tried to discourage her, but she had her mind made up. “Everybody needs family at their graduation,” she had said flatly. “I didn’t pay for your education. Your daddy’s money did that, along with your granddaddy Coleman’s, but I still feel like I had a part in it.” And then, as if Celia didn’t already know what she meant, she went on to explain. “I prayed for you every single day, Celie.”

It had been more than a little bother, she recalled, working out the details—having to borrow a friend’s car to pick her grandmother up at the bus station, take her to a motel near the campus, get her to the graduation ceremony, take her somewhere to eat, take her back to the bus station, all that.

It amazed Celia at the time that the two of them were able to spend those two days together in Delaware pretending nothing had happened, as if they had parted four years earlier on the best of terms. Not that the two days had been without strain. Anybody watching them could probably have told that there was a volcanic history between them. But the eruptions were in the past, and they both took care to step over the landscape gingerly.

It was at the bus station at the end of the two days that the promise had been exacted, though Celia had never actually spoken the words I promise. Grandmother had handed her a small box and said, “Here, I wanted to give you something. You’ve done good in your studies, and I’m proud of you.” Grandmother wasn’t the sentimental type, so this was a surprising speech for her to make.

The box wasn’t wrapped but had a piece of gold yarn around it, tied in a bow on top. “Go on, open it before I get on the bus,” Grandmother had said. Inside, Celia had found a watch. Not a new watch, though. “It used to belong to your mother,” Grandmother had said. “It was one of the few pretty things she ever owned. Your daddy gave it to her before they married, and she fussed at him for spending so much. She used it a long time, but then it needed a new crystal and she left off wearing it for a while. It was sitting at home on her dresser the day they went out to buy that clothes dryer. I put it back to save for you.”

That was how Grandmother always referred to the day Celia’s parents had died—“the day they went out to buy that clothes dryer.” On their way back from the appliance store, they had been struck head on by a drunk driver in the middle of the day and killed instantly, both of them. This drunk couldn’t wait till nighttime to get behind the wheel of his car. No, he’d had to take his joyride at four o’clock in the afternoon. Of course he staggered away from the accident unharmed while Celia’s parents lay strapped in their seats, crushed to death. Celia was barely fifteen years old. She had been at home doing her geometry homework when it happened.

“I thought it’d make a nice graduation gift,” her grandmother said that day at the bus station. “I got it out and took it to the jewelry store, and they cleaned it up and fixed it up like new.”

Celia nodded, staring down at the watch. The face was tiny, not as big as her thumbnail, and the bracelet band folded over and snapped. “It does,” she said. “It makes a very nice gift.” If someone had asked her the day before to describe her mother’s watch, she couldn’t have, but now, touching her finger to its small face, it seemed altogether familiar, like something she had handled every day for many years.

“Well, good, I’m glad you like it,” Grandmother said. “Here, you’d better close it back up and put it somewhere safe before somebody comes along and steals it. You might have to get the band adjusted. Your mother’s wrist was about as big around as a stick.” She grunted. “’Course, you’re not any bigger’n she was.” She reached down and picked up her old red train case. “Well, I got to go get me a seat on the bus. I like one by the window.” They stood facing each other for the briefest span of time, as if waiting for something, and then Grandmother said, “There’s no telling when we’ll see each other again, but I’m only asking you to promise me one thing, Celie. Nothing more, only this one thing.”

Celia said nothing. She was old enough now to know the danger of promises.

“I want you to promise you’ll come back home to see me buried when the time comes,” Grandmother said.

Celia didn’t know what to say, but Grandmother didn’t wait for an answer. She moved away toward the bus, then stopped and turned around once more. “I tried, Celie. I did try. I didn’t do very good, I know that, but I tried.” And then she was gone. Celia watched her mount the steps into the bus, saw her move down the aisle and settle into a seat by the window. When the bus pulled out, she turned her head and looked out at Celia, but neither one of them waved.

Excerpted from:
No Dark Valley by Jamie Langston Turner
Copyright © 2004; ISBN 0764292633
Published by Bethany House Publishers
Used by permission. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.