Janie lugged her heavy legs up the steps of the screened in porch and knocked on the flimsy door. Her weight was such a burden when it came to high steps on these old houses. There didn’t seem to be any movement on the inside of the house and she thought to turn and leave. Almost as sudden as that thought began, the front door swung open and a frail old woman teetered across the porch to open the screen door.
“Well, bless your heart!” Lena Cross cackled. She welcomed the stout woman into her cluttered house.
“Missed you today in church,” Janie offered as she squeezed past Lena’s gaunt frame and walked into the living room. She plopped down on the old brown sofa that sat against a wall. It was sun bleached; hardened crumbs lay on the cushions and stuck to the back of Janie’s legs when she sat down. Lena shut the front door and lightly touched the walls to walk back to her easy chair.
For the past 50 years of Janie’s life she had known Lena Cross as the hard working woman you could always find in her garden or shopping in nearby Petersburg, Virginia. This small town didn’t hold too many people year after year, but most who stayed knew Lena Cross and respected her. She’d been born in Finnerton and lived all 83 of her years there. Her three children lived in Richmond or Petersburg, but Lena was a stable part of Finnerton’s community of elders. When Janie divorced her husband twenty years ago, she moved back to her hometown and it was Lena who invited her over for Sunday dinners. Their bond had grown steadily, along with Janie’s weight.
“Missed me? Whatever for!” Lena said with a smile. She pulled a lever on the easy chair and her feet swung up into the air as she reclined back. “Want something to eat?”
“Oh, no ma’am Miss Lena,” Janie said waving her hand. “I just come to visit since I didn’t see you in service. Wanted to make sure you’re okay.”
“I’m okay,” Lena replied. “You know, it’s good that you caught me now cause I had a bad night. Just wanted to stay home and finish this letter I’m writing.”
Janie frowned and leaned forward to get a piece of hard candy out of the candy dish.
“What letter is that?” Janie asked, unwrapping the cellophane.
“You know that Mary Gross who lives across the street?”
“Sure, I know Mary. She plays bingo down at the firehouse with me on Saturday nights.”
Lena rolled her eyes and balanced the notepad on her wobbly knees.
“I’m sure she’s full of games,” she snapped. “Well, I sit on the porch each day and watch that Mary Gross go back and forth to work.”
“And she waves her hand every now and then when I’m out there on the porch, but I know better.”
“Better than what?” Janie asked as she used her tongue to pull candy off her gums.
“She’s not a working woman as you think. She’s sitting over there hungry.”
“Don’t say,” Janie said as she reached for another piece of candy and a walnut from a nearby dish.
“Oh sure,” Lena dragged out in a high pitch. She wiggled the lever to put her feet down and got up from the chair. “Come look out the window with me and put them snacks down.”