The sun was low behind the great oaks when Able heard the quiet voice of Charlotte Simmer call from the wagon bed. “It’s a bit cooler now isn’t it Mr. Handy? The air is feeling much better.”
He didn’t respond. CHAEAH’s words were still working their way through his mind…
“…devil played today…”
She mean th’ devil made dat woman stand b’hind me so her foot got broke? He shook his head. She mean Simmer th’ fuckin’ devil? He smirked and nodded. Maybe she mean dis woman actin’ th’ devil wit all dat smilin’ an’ touchin’ an’ carryin’ on? He shrugged.
Charlotte called out, “Mr. Handy!” a third time before he finally turned on his seat.
“I said it seems a bit cooler. Are we nearly through the forest?”
He faced forward. “Almos’.”
“It’s so odd here,” she said. “Feels like somebody’s standing just out of sight, watching us pass through. Does it feel like that to you?”
“Ghosts…” she said, “I think ghosts might make you feel like this. You think so? I never did like these trees…or those ropes.”
He yelled, “HeeYaaah!” startling Tahal into a near gallop. “Almos’ dere ‘mam,” he called back. “You wonts me t’ fin’ th’ Rev’rn when we gits dere?”
“I would be grateful if you would just take me to my home Mr. Handy. My husband will find me there.”
Fresh unease settled itself neatly atop Able’s piled up skittishness. “Yes ‘m,” he turned on the seat to face her, “but who gonna help ya gits ready to lay down? Yuh ain’t ‘posed t’ be on dat foot. Rev’rn need to see dat you gits dem clothes…I mean, shouldn’t yuh go rest now?”
She nodded, “We have a girl at the house. I gave her enough work. She should still be there.”
He turned back to Tahal. “Oh, no M’am, she ain’t! I seent her walkin’ in th’ road befo’ I hauled y’all to CHAEAH’s. She ain’t gonna be dere!”
Quietly, and odd to his ear, he heard her say, “Then you will do.”
Able felt the urge to face her, but the sound of her voice made him fear that she’d turned into some kind of spook curled up in the wagon bed. He didn’t want to see her looking at him with those queer eyes shining in the dark. She’d been acting hainty all day, looking him up, down, and around. He didn’t like it. And now this…carrying her to her bed…it was something he just did not want to do.
…devil played today…
Her voice interrupted his quaking thoughts, “Mr. Handy? There are chores that need your hand around the house. I will take this opportunity to speak with you about them.”
Able nodded as best as his stiff neck would allow before slapping at Tahal with the reins.
The edge of Fountain Square had come into view. The day was nearly done. He clung to the notion that in just a little while, the woman (and all the trouble she’d brought down on him) would be out of the wagon and gone, back where she belonged.
The only thing on his mind was the relief he knew he’d feel leaving her in that house and running down Simmer’s porch steps.
It couldn’t happen fast enough.