I was on my way home from teaching my morning dance class when Denny called me.
“You sound staticky. Are you driving Lucy? I don’t want to tell you this when your driving.”
“I’m not driving,” I lied.
“Find an exit,” he told me. Denny knew me too well. I knew him too, enough to know it was bad news again, the second time in a week. He had called me when Nate was killed, tried to get me to go back out to Leifton for
the funeral, but I couldn’t. There was too great a chance of running into Larry Lutzen, and even if I didn’t, the mere feel of the air in that town only brought back what he had done to me. I had felt terrible, but I couldn’t do it. Not even for Molly.
I found an exit and pulled over. “What’s up, Denny?” I said trying to sound brave.
“You have to come, Luce.” He sounded exhausted, defeated.
“Denny, we’ve been through this.”
“Lucy, it’s Molly.”
“What did she do?”
“She started a fire in the wheat field, where Nate died. Jennie didn’t know what to do. She called me. She’s at the store…”
“Good Heavens, Denny. What in the world are you talking about?”
“Molly’s gone Luce. You have to come.”
“What?” I said. “What do you mean she’s gone? Did she leave?”
“She covered herself in accelerant, put together a cross on the spot where Nate died, started a fire. We couldn’t save her….”
Denny was choking on his words; he couldn’t save her. He never should’ve had to try.
“God, Denny, I’m so sorry you had to see her like that. I swear, I didn’t think she’d take it that hard.”
“I’m serious, Lucy. I don’t care how hard it is for you to be in Leifton, coming out here isn’t optional this time.”
“I know,” I said. I knew he was right, and although it frightened me, I was willing to accept whatever the future was about to bring. I only wished the past didn’t have to come along for the ride.
“The County’s expecting you to take Jennie. I convinced them to let me keep her for the day. They want to hear from you right away, but I thought it would be better if you heard the news from me.”
“What’s the number?” I sighed. I had no idea what I was going to do with a nine year old girl I’d never met, or how I was going to explain the whole situation to Frank for that matter. But I knew there was no other option than for me to go down to Leifton and get her.
“I have to talk to Frank, and get someone to cover my classes. I should be getting out to the farm late tonight, or early tomorrow.”
“I brought Jennie to my place,” Denny said.
“Well, bring her back to the farm. There’s plenty of room. You can stay there with her. If I have to go out to Leifton I at least need to avoid as much of the town as I can.”
Denny didn’t say anything.
“Please, Denny,” I said. It was a cheap trick, I knew. Denny had never been able to say no when I said please.
“Fine,” he said. “I’ll be on the davenport. Wake me up when you get in. I’ll let the social worker know I got a hold of you.”
I waited until I got home to call Frank. I hoped that he might be working at home. He did that sometimes, but he had some sort of presentation coming up where he was working on the animation. It was a collaborative effort, and he needed to stay close to the office so he could confer with the other artists. I called him and told him to come home. He tried to argue, but I threw him.
“I’m driving out to Leifton tonight,” I told him.
“You hate that town,” he said. “Isn’t the funeral over for your brother-in-law by now?”
“It’s not Nate, it’s Molly. I’m not getting into this over the phone. This affects you, and you’re going to hear about it whether you come back here or I track you down.”
“Lucy, I’m sorry. Let me wind things up here, we’ll talk when I get home” Frank said.
“Be here in an hour,” I told him. “I have to make some calls out to Leifton and get Stuart to take over my classes.”
“Did you ask Susie to go down with you? I’d take some time off if I could….”
“I wasn’t going to ask you to go with me, and I’m not going to ask Susie. You know she and Molly had their differences. It wouldn’t be right to ask her to go. Besides, Denny’s been there. I’m sure he can help with whatever
“I’ll bet,” Frank said.
“You are not pulling your possessive jealous crap on me, Frank. Not now. You have no cause, and no right.”
Denny was the only good thing left of my history in Leifton. But it was history, and I had been done with it for over a decade. All I wanted was to get through my sister’s funeral, and raise her daughter the best way I could. I wanted stay true to both my conscience, and her mother’s memory. I realized I had a challenge ahead, and there was no room for Frank’s jealousy.
“You know how you get when you’re frightened,” he said. “Don’t even start, Frank. I’m in no mood. I’m not saying another word over the phone. Tell your committee you have a family emergency, and get home. “
I actually found it a bit comforting that Frank was being an ass about this. It would be that much easier when I had to tell him I’d be bringing Molly’s daughter back from Leifton.
Frank was right when he said that Leifton scared me. I’d always thought it ironic the way so many people seemed to associate small town and country life with safety; I felt far safer in Minneapolis than I did back home.
Going back to Leifton meant going back to being a little girl. It meant facing all the ghosts and monsters of my childhood. I was glad Frank couldn’t go along. Denny was my best chance at softening the blow of my hometown, and my best link to understanding what I would need to do the same for Molly’s daughter. Frank would only be in the way.
The hour deadline I’d given Frank turned into nearly three. I touched base with the social worker in Leifton, assured her that Jennie was most definitely safe with Denny until I got out there and we set up a nine a.m.
appointment out at the farm. I explained that my husband would not be able to get away from work, and I would be coming to Leifton alone.
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