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Catching Moondrops, страница 1

 часть  #3 серии  Jessilyn Lassiter

 

Catching Moondrops
 

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Catching Moondrops


  Praise for Jennifer Erin Valent

  “The first book in this series was a gem. The second a sparkler. But with Catching Moondrops, Valent closes out her series with a glistening jewel of a book. This is an author coming into her full talent, telling honest stories about love and conviction.”

  —Sibella Giorello, Christy Award–winning author of The Clouds Roll Away

  “An immensely satisfying conclusion to a beloved series, Catching Moondrops is a can’t-put-down read that will open your eyes as much as your heart. With vivid characters and snappy dialogue, Valent brings the pre–civil rights South to life.”

  —C. J. Darlington, award-winning author of Thicker than Blood

  “Valent is a gifted author with a promising future.”

  —Romantic Times on Cottonwood Whispers

  “Valent’s debut is both heartwarming and hand-wringing . . . [and] the cast of characters is rich.”

  —Publishers Weekly, starred review of Fireflies in December

  “Valent has created a darkly evocative historical novel that boldly explores the divisive effects of unreasoning hatred, greed, and fear on a community.”

  —Booklist on Fireflies in December

  “With expressive descriptions and credible characters . . . Valent shines an awareness on the racial tensions in the South in the 1930s and its impact on innocent children.”

  —Romantic Times on Fireflies in December

  “I found [Fireflies in December] difficult to put down, and it stayed in my heart well after reading the last page.”

  —Christian Women Online

  “A tight, finely crafted novel that challenges us to root out any hint of prejudice in our own hearts.”

  —Titletrakk.com on Fireflies in December

  “Jennifer Erin Valent’s debut novel is as sweet and salty as the South itself.”

  —Jan Watson, award-winning author of the Troublesome Creek series

  “Fireflies in December is an extraordinary first novel—a pure joy to read.”

  —Maureen Lang, award-winning author of Look to the East

  “I love this book! And I cannot wait to see what comes next from Jennifer Erin Valent!”

  —Eva Marie Everson, coauthor of the best-selling The Potluck Club series

  Visit Tyndale’s exciting Web site at www.tyndale.com.

  Visit Jennifer Erin Valent’s Web site at www.jennifervalent.com.

  TYNDALE and Tyndale’s quill logo are registered trademarks of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

  Catching Moondrops

  Copyright © 2010 by Jennifer Erin Valent. All rights reserved.

  Cover photo of girl copyright © by Janie Airey/Getty Images. All rights reserved.

  Cover photo of moon copyright © by Keren Seg/Shutterstock. All rights reserved.

  Cover photo of stream copyright © by Zen Shui/Laurence Mouton/Getty Images. All rights reserved.

  Author photo copyright © 2008 by Melody Smith. All rights reserved.

  Designed by Jennifer Ghionzoli

  Edited by Sarah Mason

  Published in association with the Books & Such Literary Agency, 52 Mission Circle, Suite 122, PMB 170, Santa Rosa, CA 95409-5370, www.booksandsuch.biz.

  This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons living or dead is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of either the author or the publisher.

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Valent, Jennifer Erin.

  Catching moondrops / Jennifer Erin Valent.

  p. cm.

  ISBN 978-1-4143-3327-4 (sc)

  1. Race relations—Fiction. 2. Virginia—Fiction. 3. Domestic fiction. I. Title.

  PS3622.A4257C38 2010

  813′.6—dc22 2010022909

  To my uncle Jim Corrie, and to our Savior,

  who has welcomed him home.

  Acknowledgments

  With every book, I stew over this part. Who to thank? There really are too many people. I’ve been blessed with a wonderful family and group of friends—people who have supported me, encouraged me, and walked this crazy journey with me. You all know who you are, you know what you mean to me, and you know how thankful I am to have you in my life.

  Most particularly, I’m immensely grateful to my parents, who have always and forever had my back. Mom and Dad, I love you with all my heart!

  To my Tyndale family—I owe you all an enormous thank-you! I’m learning as I go along just how many members of the Tyndale staff have had a hand in the wonderful production of my books, and I’m honored to have each and every one of you on my team. Stephanie Broene, Maggie Rowe, Babette Rea, Sarah Mason—I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with each of you, and I’m honored to have you by my side during this process. Thanks for all the coaching and support!

  To all my readers who have taken time out of their lives to read what I write—thank you, thank you, thank you! I truly hope you’ve enjoyed every page.

  Above all, I owe everything to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Lord, help me to use each step of this journey to glorify You—my amazing God!

  Chapter 1

  There’s nothing in this whole world like the sight of a man swinging by his neck.

  Folks in my parts like to call it lynching, as if by calling it another word they can keep from feeling like murderers. Sometimes when they string a man up, they gather around like vultures looking for the next meal, staring at the cockeyed neck, the sagging limbs, their lips turning up at the corners when they should be turning down. For some people, time has a way of blurring the good and the bad, spitting out that thing called conscience and replacing it with a twisted sort of logic that makes right out of wrong.

  Our small town of Calloway, Virginia, had that sort of logic in spades—after the trouble it had caused my family over the years, I knew so better than most. But the violence had long since faded away, and my best friend, Gemma, would often tell me that made it okay—her being kept separate from white folks. “Long as my bein’ with your family don’t bring danger down on your heads, I’ll keep my peace and be thankful,” she’d say.

  But I didn’t feel so calm about it all as Gemma did. Part of that was my stubborn temperament, but most of it was my intuition. I’d been eyeball-to-eyeball with pure hate more than once in my eighteen years, and I could smell it, like rotting flesh. Hate is a type of blindness that divides a man from his good sense. I’d seen it in the eyes of a Klansman the day he tried to choke the life out of me and in the eyes of the men who hunted down a dear friend who’d been wrongly accused of murder.

  And at times, I’d caught glimpses of it in my own heart.

  The passage of time had done nothing to lessen its stench. And despite the relative peace, I knew full well that hearts poisoned by hateful thinking can simmer for only so long before boiling over.

  In May of that year, 1938, the pot started bubbling.

  I was on the front porch shucking corn when I saw three colored men turn up our walk, all linked up in a row like the Three Musketeers. I stood, let the corn silk slip from my apron, and called over my shoulder, “Gemma! Come on out here.”

  She must have been nearby because the screen door squealed open almost two seconds after my last words drifted inside. “What is it?”

  “Company. Only don’t look too good.” I walked to the top of the steps and shielded my eyes from the sun. “Malachi Jarvis! You got yourself into trouble again?”

  The man in the middle, propped up like a scarecrow, lifted his chin wearily but managed to flash a smile that revealed bloodied teeth. “Depends
on how you define trouble.”

  Gemma gasped at the sight of him and flew down the steps, letting the door slam so loud the porch boards shook. “What in the name of all goodness have you been up to? You got some sort of death wish?”

  A man I’d never seen before had his arm wound tightly beneath Malachi’s arms, blood smeared across his shirtfront. Malachi’s younger brother, Noah, was on his other side, struggling against the weight, and Gemma came in between them to help.

  “He ain’t got the good sense to keep his mouth shut, is all,” Noah said breathlessly.

  I went inside to grab Momma’s first aid box, and by the time I got back out, Gemma had Malachi seated in the rocker.

  Gemma gave him the once-over and shook her head so hard I thought it might fly off. “I swear, if you ain’t a one to push a body into an early grave. Your poor momma’s gonna lose her ever-lovin’ mind.”

  Along with his younger brother and sister, Malachi lived down by the tracks with his widowed momma—as the man of the house, so to speak. He’d taken up being friends with Luke Talley some two years back when they’d both worked for the tobacco plant, and they’d remained close even though Luke had struck out on his own building furniture. Malachi was never one to keep his peace, a fact Gemma had no patience for, and she made it good and clear many a time. Today would be no exception.

  “Goin’ around stirrin’ up trouble every which way,” she murmured as she pulled fixings out of the first aid box. “It’s one thing to pick fights with your own kind. Can’t say as though you wouldn’t benefit by a poundin’ or two every now and again. But this foolin’ around with white folks’ll get you into more’n you’re bargainin’ for.”

  The man who’d helped Noah shoulder the burden of Malachi reached out to take the gauze from Gemma. “Why don’t you let me get that?”

  Gemma didn’t much like being told what to do, and she glared at him. “I can clean up cuts and scrapes. I worked for a doctor past two years.”

  Malachi nodded toward the man. “This here man is a doctor, Gemma.”

  I was putting iodine on a piece of cotton, and I near about dropped it on the floor when I heard that. Never in all my born days had I seen a colored man claiming to be a doctor. Neither had Gemma, by the looks of her.

  “A doctor?” she murmured. “You sure?”

  He laughed and extended his hand to her. “Last I checked. Tal Pritchett. Just got into town yesterday. Gonna set up shop down by the tracks.”

  Still dumbfounded, Gemma handed the gauze to him.

  “What d’you think about that?” Malachi grinned and then grimaced when his split lip made its presence known. “A colored doc in Calloway. Shoo-wee. There’s gonna be talk about this!”

  The doctor went to work cleaning up Malachi’s wounds. “I ain’t here to start no revolution. I’m just aimin’ to help the colored folks get the help they deserve.”

  “Well, you’re goin’ to start a revolution whether you want to or not.” Malachi shut his eyes and gritted his teeth the minute the iodine set to burning. “Folks in these parts don’t much like colored folk settin’ themselves up as smart or nothin’.”

  Gemma watched Tal Pritchett like she was analyzing his every move, finding out for herself if he was a doctor or not. I stood by and let her assist him as she’d been accustomed to doing for Doc Mabley until he passed on two months ago. After Tal had bandaged up Malachi’s right hand, she seemed satisfied that he was who he said.

  Noah slumped into the other rocker and watched. “It’s one thing to get yourself an education and stand for your right to make somethin’ of yourself. It’s another to go stirrin’ up trouble for the sake of stirrin’ up trouble.”

  “I ain’t doin’ it for the sake of stirrin’ up trouble. I done told you that!” Malachi flexed his left hand to test how well his swollen fingers moved. “Ain’t no colored man ever gonna be free in this here county . . . in this here state . . . in this here world unless somebody starts fightin’ for freedom.”

  “Slaves was freed decades ago,” Noah said sharply. “We ain’t in shackles no more.”

  “But we ain’t free to live our lives as we choose, neither. You think colored people are ever gonna be more’n house help and field help so long as we let ourselves be treated like less than white people? No sir. We’re less than human to them white folks. They don’t think nothin’ about killin’ so long as who they’re killin’ is colored.”

  “Don’t you go bunchin’ all white people together, Malachi Jarvis,” I argued. “Ain’t all white folk got bad feelin’s about coloreds.”

  Malachi waved me off in exasperation. “You know I ain’t talkin’ about you, Jessilyn.”

  Noah had his hands tightly knotted in his lap and was staring at them like they held all the answers to the world’s problems. “All’s you’re doin’ is gettin’ yourself kicked around.” He looked up at me pleadingly. “This here’s the second time in a week he’s come home banged up.”

  I put a hand on Noah’s shoulder and set my eyes on Malachi. “Who did it?”

  He put his bandaged right hand into the air, palm up. “Who knows? Some white boys. You get surrounded by enough of ’em, they all just blend in together like a vanilla milk shake.”

  “How’s it you didn’t see them? They jump you or somethin’?”

  “Don’t ask me, Jessie. I was just mindin’ my own business in town, and then on my way home, they start hasslin’ me.”

  “What he was doin’,” Noah corrected, “was tryin’ to get into the whites-only bar.”

  Gemma sniffed in disgust. “Shouldn’t have been in no bar in the first place. There’s your first mistake.”

  “Whites-only, too.” Noah kicked his foot against the porch rail and then looked at me quickly. “Sorry.”

  I smiled at him and turned my attention back to Malachi. “It’s a good thing Luke ain’t here to see this. He don’t like you drinkin’, and you know it.”

  Malachi’s eyeballs rolled between swollen lids. “I don’t know why he gets his trousers in a knot over it anyhow. Ain’t like there’s Prohibition no more. And he’s been known to take a swig or two himself.”

  “Luke says you’re a nasty drunk.”

  “He is.” Noah knotted his hands back in his lap. “And he’s been at the bottle more often than not of late.”

  “Quit tellin’ tales!” his brother barked.

  “I ain’t tellin’ tales; I’m tellin’ truth. They can ask anybody at home how late you come in, and how you come in all topsy-turvy. He comes home in the middle of the mornin’ and sleeps in till all hours the next day.”

  “What about your job at the plant?” Gemma asked.

  Malachi closed his eyes and waved her off, but his brother provided the answer for him. “Lost it!” He loosened his grip on his hands and snapped his fingers. “Like that. There goes his income.”

  “I said I’ll get another job.”

  “Oh, like there’s jobs aplenty around these parts for colored folk. And anyways, if you find one, how you gonna keep that one?”

  Gemma had her hands on her hips, and I knew what that meant. I leaned back against the house and waited for the lecture to commence.

  “You talk a fine talk about colored folks needin’ to stand up for equality, but you ain’t doin’ it in any way that’s right and good. You’re goin’ about town gettin’ people’s goat and tryin’ to get in where you ain’t wanted and gettin’ yourself all liquored up and useless. Now your family ain’t got the money they depend on you for, and why? Because you walk around livin’ like you ain’t got to do nothin’ for nobody but yourself.”

  “I’m standin’ up for the rights of colored folks everywhere.” Malachi was angry now, pink patches spreading on his busted-up cheeks. “You see anyone else in this town willin’ to go toe-to-toe with the white boys in this county?”

  “Don’t put a noble face on bein’ an upstart.”

  Malachi pushed Tal’s hand away and sat up tall. “You call standi
n’ up to white folks bein’ an upstart?”

  Doc Pritchett tried to dress the wound on Malachi’s temple, but Malachi pushed his hand away again. That was when the doctor had enough; he smacked his hands on his thighs and stood up straight and determined in front of Malachi. “I ain’t Abraham Lincoln. I’m just Doc Pritchett, tryin’ to fix up an ornery patient, and I ain’t got all day to do it. So I’m goin’ to settle this argument once and for all.” He pointed at Gemma. “She’s right. There ain’t no fightin’ nonsense with more nonsense, and all’s you’re doin’ by gettin’ in the faces of white folks with your smart attitude is bein’ as bad as they’re bein’.” Then he pointed at Malachi. “And he’s right too. There ain’t never a change brought about that should be brought about without people standin’ up for such change. And sometimes that means bein’ willin’ to fight for what’s right.”

  Gemma swallowed hard and didn’t even try to argue. My eyes bugged out of my head at the sight of her being tamed so easily.

  “Now, I’m all for civil uprisin’,” Tal continued. “I don’t see nothin’ wrong with colored folk sayin’ they won’t be walked on no more. I don’t see nothin’ wrong with wantin’ to use the same bathroom as white folks or sit in the same chairs as white folks. Way I see it, none of that’s goin’ to change unless someone says it has to.” He squatted in front of Malachi again and stared him down nose to nose. “But all this hotshottin’ and showboatin’ ain’t goin’ to do nothin’ but get your rear end kicked. Or worse. You aim to stand tall for somethin’? Fine. Stand tall for it. But don’t you go around thinkin’ these battle scars say somethin’ for you. You ain’t got them by bein’ noble; you got them by bein’ stupid. All’s these scars say is you’re an idiot.”

  It was one of the best speeches I’d heard from anyone outside my daddy, and if I’d ever thought for two seconds put together to see a colored man run for governor, I figured Tal Pritchett would be the man for the job. As it was, I knew he was the best man for the job he had now. Sure enough, being a colored doc in Calloway would be a challenge. But I figured he was up for it.

 
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