Serafine gripped the steering wheel tightly, slowly rolling her hands back and forth. She was nervous.
She ducked her head slightly to look up at the house. From the driveway she could see him waving at her from the front-door screen. Waving back, she reached for the door handle grabbing her purse from the passenger seat. Before pulling it onto her shoulder she checked to make sure the letter was inside. It was. And now to find the second clue.
“Grammy here I go,” she whispered looking up at the sky, “please keep the peace between us.”
James lived in an old house he inherited from his mother, her grandmother. Who she did not know well before her passing. Their strained relationship only made it harder to connect with his family…her family.
“Hey Baby Girl!” James stepped out letting the screen door slam closed.
They hugged. He stepped back allowing his eyes to roam over her from head to toe, stopping at her eyes. Eyes so much like his.
“How are you? I haven’t seen or heard from you since Miss Jo’s service.”
She shrugged. “I’m okay. I guess…” She used her hand to block the sun as she looked up the street, trying to avoid eye contact.
“Well, let’s get you out this hot sun.”
James led her toward the stairs. They walked making small talk about the weather until they made it to the living room.
“Would you like something to drink?” He asked motioning her to the couch.
“No thank you. Actually I’d love sweet tea, if you have it.”
“You know I do!” He with a smile and retraced his steps only this time he made a left towards the kitchen.
He loved sweet tea. Serafine was buying herself a few minutes to collect her thoughts.
“Here you go.”
James handed her a glass jar, that looked to have been once a mayonnaise or pickle jar. She chuckled.
“What’s so funny?”
“Big Mamma also reused her jars.”
He laughed too. “Yeah, she was old school like that.”
They let the silence sit between them. As they sipped on their sweet tea.
“Dad how did things go at Grammy’s place?”
He placed his glass on a coaster on the sturdy wood coffee table. “Good…good. I did just as Miss Jo instructed me.”
“What?!” Serafine exclaimed. “As Grammy instructed? What does that mean?”
“She didn’t tell you?”
“Tell me what?”
“She wanted me to clean the house out.” He continued drinking his tea as if their conversation was perfectly normal.
“You did what?!”
Serafine could feel sweat beginning to gather on her upper lip. The ceiling fan was blowing but Big Mamma did not have central air. She had window units, which left the room not unbearably hot but way to warm for a Houston summer day.
“I cleaned out the house.” He repeated.
“I did not ask you to clean it out.”
“I know, but she did.” He noticed her annoyance. “Look you asked me to help but she give me instructions before she… Wait let me go get the letter.”
James stood and exited toward the back of the house. Leaving Serafine to her confusion. Just as she sat her glass down she heard her phone alert her of a new text message.
She dug around her purse locating her phone.
How’s it going?
It was Rachel. She responded.
He cleaned the house out!
What? Is he clean?
I think so. He doesn’t look high.
Are you sure?
Serafine looked at him really close. His jeans and cream button up shirt were clean. His eyes looked clear. He wasn’t shaking. But she had to ask him.
“Daddy, have you been smoking?”
James froze. “No, I haven’t. I’ve been clean for almost a year.”
Serafine did not response.
“I promise Baby Girl. I haven’t had a drink or drug in 300 days.”
She had heard his stories of recovery before. He never stayed clean long enough for it to count. But 300 days…
“That’s good Daddy.”
“Thank you Baby. I promised Miss Jo and I am going to keep my word.”
“I’m confused. You promised Grammy and she also instructed you to clean the house out?”
“Yes…and yes.” He sat next to her with a secretive smile on his warm caramel skin.
“Please explain what is going on.”
“Sure after I give you this…”
James passed Serafine a dusty box. She blew across the top sending dust and particles into the air. The both coughed as James stood and pulled the string on the ceiling fan to increase its speed.
With two hand Serafine lifted the top off the box to uncover her Grammy’s favorite book…her bible.
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