A young girl learns about love through an old woman's memories
"See that smoke comin 'outta them stacks yonder?" the old woman asked, sitting on the porch; staring out across the river.
Krista nodded. She knew the story all too well; dared not speak, lest her grandmother lose her train of thought.
"That's where I met my Russell. Ahh, but he was a fine, strappin' boy back then. Soon as I seen him, I knew he had his cap set on me. Now, you wouldn't know it to look at me now, but I was quite the looker in those days. Long dark hair and big blue eyes, most all the men fancied me, but they couldn't hold a candle to Russell. Those green eyes sparklin'; red hair blazin' in the sun. He worked on the boiler, what made the steam that kept the place runnin'. I had my chair at the sewin' station. I could sew 40 yards a minute. Fast one, I was. Russell was all the time comin by my station, yammerin' at me." she said, a wide grin on her face. She was picturing the scene, just like it was yesterday.
"'Ruby Mae, you'll make me a fine wife one day!' he would say, tryin' to snatch a kiss on my jaw, but I would just shoo him away, hidin' my big ol' smile. It tickled me to no end to know that this handsome man was soon gonna take me for his bride. Every now and then he would follow me to the water bucket when I needed a drink. He would lean down, breath hot on my neck, and say huskily 'Lord, Ruby-girl, you make me all crazy inside. If your daddy don't give me your hand soon, I'm liable to go mad as a bull runnin' at a red bandana.'
But my daddy was set on me marryin' Gilbert Wilson, owner of the grain and feed store. Now I would have rather swallowed a nest of hornets than for that old man to touch me, but you couldn't tell daddy nuthin'. " the old woman said, shaking her head wistfully.
Krista knew this was the part where her Gran got quiet; staring off toward the smokestacks, seeing something Krista could not.
Drawing in a deep, shaking breath, the woman continued. "It was early that spring morning. Everything was just as it should be. We had all settled in to our sewin'; the rhythm of our foot pedals pushin' the pressure feet, like an old familiar song.
Suddenly there was 'BOOM!' louder than any thunder clap I had ever heard. Then I heared the boss man and the other male workers yellin' bout the boiler. The boiler: oh dear God in Heaven don't let my Russell be back there now. Then some was hollerin' for somebody to fetch the doc, then the room began to spin as I heard a bunch of em sayin 'nothin for the doc to fix. Nothin left...'
I lost my Russell, along with a right good portion of my heart that day. People came 'round and gave condolences, but I barely heard em. My mind was off in a lovely green pasture, under a weeping willow, with a beautiful green-eyed man grinnin' at me with tousled red hair, sayin' 'I love you, Ruby-girl!'"