Black Berries in July (A Black Berries in June Short Story Sequel)
A week had passed since the day Charlton was released from the hospital. He had pulled through the surgery well, after the many complications, and was resting his stitches at home. It would take a long time for him to recover, emotionally and physically. Linda hadn’t spoken to either Matt or Jamie in a long while, maybe not even since that night in the hospital. That night was probably when it all started going awry.
The paychecks were coming in, but were barely in Jamie and Matt’s possession before they brought a portion of it to Linda once a month. And the house was in no better condition than the frightful night weeks before. Matt had gone to work for Harold Wilkinson like he had promised he would. He was bringing in the constant main income of eight dollars an hour, and Jamie was still waitressing to make the extra bit of money needed to help out. Yet every month, each of their paychecks were cut a percentage, and once a month, Jamie went to Momma’s to give her Charltons check. So with money tight and no time to fix the house, it sat there rotting and breaking more and more with each passing day. This only added to the stress of Matt and Jamie’s relationship.
Every night, Matt came home at an ungodly hour while Jamie was already fast asleep, though she could still hear and feel him climb into bed. The stink of the lake on his skin, the cool wetness of his skin as he climbed under the sheets. After sleeping the few hours that they did, Matt was gone before dawn, and Jamie ate breakfast alone. So Jamie took on more hours, and worked until she tired in her bones. Washing dishes and busting tables for hours on end had made her skin brittle and cracked. So with Jamie and Matt out the house more than in it, there it sat; alone and in need of love and change in lifeless shell it sat.
The following day, Jamie went to Momma’s house to drop off Charlton’s monthly check. That was all Jamie could muster to stand: bring the check to Momma’s, Momma give Linda the check, and Linda avoid Matt and Jamie. And there was peace, for now anyways. Or at least that had been the plan until Jamie pulled into Momma’s driveway and saw Charlton’s car. Maybe I’ll just leave the check in the mailbox, Jamie thought to herself, dreading the talk would surely come with Linda here. “No, I’ve been avoiding her long enough. The least I could get from this is some God damned thanks for all the money we slave for every night!” At that thought, Jamie crept into the house calling “Momma,” as she entered.
“Momma ran out to the store for a few things,” Linda replied. “She’ll be back in a lil’ while.” Jamie’s stomach tightened at the thought of Momma not being here to keep the fighting at bay. “I brought this month’s check,” Jamie replied, barely audible. “I wanna talk about that a bit,” Linda paused. “I thought that we’d agreed on you paying us all of difference from Matt’s percentage, since he doesn’t deserve it and all.” “Firstly, Matt earned every cent he was given, and second, were paying as much as we can right now without breaking the bank. And you know that giving up that house is out of the question” Jamie rebutted, each word getting her more and more furious. “I understand Jamie, but Charlton isn’t well and you know that he can not work, and we still paying off them bills. Selling the house would give both you and me extra money to fit our needs, and it would no longer be a burden on your backs. And…” Jamie had heard all that she wanted to. She had walked right out that house and ran to the car before the screen door even slammed shut. As she pulled out of the driveway, Jamie could see Linda chasing the car for a few feet, cursing and screaming and her for running off. And that was as much as Jamie could muster.
Matt came home that night to find Jamie sitting on the porch swing, listening to the cicadas sing and watching the stars. “Hi,” he said, greeting her with a kiss on the cheek as he sat down next to her. “How come you’re still awake?” “I couldn’t sleep,” she replied, her voice raspy from either the crying she had done earlier, or the lack of use lately, she couldn’t tell. “Do you think we should sell the house?” “I don’t honestly know,” Matt said. When Matt didn’t say anything more, she changed the subject “You wanna go swimming,” she asked him, watching his face as an indicator to how he felt their relationship was moving along. “Sure.” So they both got up and made their way down the grassy patch of grass to the lake, hand in hand for the short walk. They removed their clothing and sunk into the chilly black water. Their two bodies intertwining, making their hard work and aging wash away from the long months that had kept them apart, making them one again. That night as they laid together in each other’s arms, both Jamie and Matt realized that this was the one thing that neither Linda not Momma, or anyone else for that matter, could take away from them. This feeling of belonging to each other and their unrequited love; there they would never give up for anyone or anything, and this house was a part of that.
The next day, Matt was called out of work to help take care of Jamie, who had apparently fallen ill at work that morning and went home. When he arrived at the house, Jamie was face down in the toilet, throwing up. After she had calmed herself enough to speak and was no longer throwing up, she told Matt the last thing he’d thought he would ever hear. “Did you hear me? I said I think I’m pregnant.” Matt didn’t answer here, for he could not hear anything. HIs whole world had been turned upside down in less that ten words. He got down on his hands and knees next to her then, and kissed her cheeks and hugged her and laughed. After many questions answered and much merriment over with, Jamie did have to ask Matt one painstaking question. “What do we do about the check?” Charlton’s check that is. They could pay for the house, pay for Charlton’s medical bills, and have an expecting baby on the way to pay for. “We’ll worry about that later, for now let’s get you into bed and rest.” And so Matt took her to their room and undressed and cleaned up Jamie, and sent her to bed. Jamie fell asleep not too long after being put down.
The following Sunday, everyone was expected to be at Momma’s house for supper. When Jamie and Matt got there, all eyes seemed to be on them, and it was brutal. “I guess Linda told Momma that I couldn’t stay the other day,” she said to Matt under her breath. As supper was under way, with looks shooting back and forth between the two ladies, Jamie got up from the table. “So Matt and I have something important to discuss with you all, especially you Charlton and Linda.” Jamie looked to her husband for moral support, who only grabbed her hand to tell her that he was with her all the way until the end. Her eyes softened with gratitude towards her husband. “Charlton, Linda. I’m sorry, but we have no more money to give you to help pay off your hospital bills. We’re pregnant and between the house, a new baby, and your bills, we just can’t afford them all. So as much as it pains me to say this to you, we choose the house.”
The silence in the room was deafening. “So let me get this straight,” Linda says, raising her voice with every word; her children begin to slump in their seats, trying to make themselves invisible. “So you two think you’re privileged enough to keep a house and a babe, but you say that you can not help provide for this family, your family, which is need of your help? That is absurd!” Matt started to rise up out of his chair as he replied, “Absurd? What is absurd is how you won’t give up your fancy makeup or whatever other luxuries you have to help split up the bills. And you!,” he said pointing at Momma, “You won’t even put a cent forward towards your own son’s well being, even after he quit high school to help provide for his family. How can you be so selfish?” “Selfish?” Momma asked in pure shock. “What is selfish is how can think of keeping a baby, when we clearly need money to pay the bills.” “Why don’t you all just do us a favor and get rid of it,” Linda added. “That is it! We are leaving! You are not getting anymore checks unless we get extra money, or have some to spear, you take we give you and you stop being so ungrateful.” Matt only stared at Jamie then, for she had never spoken so fiercely to anyone like that before. With everyone just silent and wide eyed like does, Jamie and Matt left gather their things and leave. Later that week, Jamie and Matt received a letter in the mail from Charlton.
Dear Matt and Jamie,
I hope that all is well with the pregnancy, and congratulations by the way, since I didn’t get to say so last time we spoke. I hope your both well and will visit me soon. I apologize for the way that Linda treated you the other night at dinner. She had no right to say the things she did. That is one of the many reasons as to why I am seeking divorce and custody of the children. Just thought you should know that. Anyway i’m fine, and getting better everyday. It may take me a while to pay off all of my bills, but I have found a job that pays and I don’t even need to use my legs. Anyway, please, you have done so much for me and this family, so I’ll I ask is that you stop sending money. I can handle this on my own; I just want you to fix up that house, birth a healthy baby, and be merry with your lives. I shall see you soon.
With all of my love and sentiments,
As the months passed, and Matt and Jamie bettered themselves and their relationship, Charlton sent small letters here and there to check up on Jamie and the baby. After nine months, Jamie finally gives birth to a healthy baby girl, to which the name Lila. In the weeks following the birth, Matt gets a promotion at work, now making 10 dollars an hour. Charlton filed and won the divorce and now had the children in his full custody, with approved sharing of custody of the children to let Linda see them. All is happy and merry, and the first room complete in the house is the nursery, though the house is still a mess. Jamie dreams of happy dreams that night, and wakes up to comfort her crying baby. She walks Lila around the house, trying to comfort her, and she walks into the bathroom of her room. As she enters, she stares at herself in the mirror. A now full and new mirror that replaced the old cracked one. “Like my family, this mirror is now whole. And full as the mirror is without cracks, is my heart filled with love. Now in the morning, we shall find the next thing to fix in this house of cracks and chipped paint.” She turned back towards the nursery, leaving the once broken mirror behind.
Disclaimer: This is a fictionalized fan fiction sequel to the work Black Berries in June by Rodger West.