Rhae pays Mrs. Irma a visit. This is Steel Magnolias sad.. but such an important development for Rhae. Love my readers, and I hope you love this bonus scene.
Fall is ready to give way to winter, and I’m ready to move on from this life. Maybe one of the things I’ll do is visit Alaska or take a trip to Canada. Somewhere really cold. Somewhere I can test what it might be like to live in an area that is the polar opposite of North Mississippi.
When I get home, I air out the house by letting in some of the cooler fall air. After cleaning house, and reading for a while, it hits me. If Cade isn’t calling me, has he abandoned Irma? Mama raised me better than this. I might have missed the funeral during all this mess, but I don’t need to forsake Irma.
I pick my best house plant and dig for some ribbon in my desk drawer. All I can find is some green with white polka dots. “It’s the thought, right?” I ask of no one. Or maybe somewhere I think I’m asking Mama.
I tie the ribbon on the plant and go for a walk down to Irma’s house. I’m not surprised to find the sweet little lady swinging on her porch swing. Stopping at the foot of the porch steps, I look up to her.
“May I?” I ask.
“Of course, baby. Cade runnin’ off don’t mean you ain’t welcome.” She smiles and waves me up.
“I’m sorry I’ve stayed away so long. I wanted to be here.” I say, almost ashamed as I hug her neck. I set the plant on the railing of the porch.
“Nonsense! I had enough to deal with anyway. All those casseroles. Why do these women think I need to be fed because my husband died?”
I laugh so hard I have tears in my eyes. “Oh, Mrs. Irma! I know exactly what you mean. We had this discussion back when Ryan died. I’ll never understand it.”
Irma pats my knee, “Hell, some of them ain’t the sharpest tools in the shed, but they mean well. Where you been anyway?”
Sighing, I answer, “I quit my job today.”
“What? What are you going to do to pay bills?”
“Ryan left me some money. I’m going to use it to travel and change my life. You know, be on my own for a while. I think that’s part of Cade’s reason for disappearing. I don’t know if you know, but I was with Ryan since I was a teenager. He was my first boyfriend. My first kiss.
My first… everything.”
“Sex, honey. Use grown-up words around me.”
“Yes, ma’am. I have always lived with my parents, or Ryan. I haven’t ever been on my own. Something tells me that this is the key. So, I’m going to use the money to find my feet. I’m also selling the house.” I can’t look at her.
Memories of everything that happened from the day we bought it until now flash through my mind. It wasn’t all bad. There wasn’t much bad at all, really. Actually, there are really great memories there. The few sad memories are related to our inability to have children. There were a grand total of two pregnancies during our years together. Each ended in miscarriage. It took me months to get over the wasteland of emotions afterward. Finally, I told Ryan I didn’t want to be a mother anyway. Logically, it didn’t make sense for me to keep trying and hurting myself that way.
Irma keeps the swing moving, much the way Cade did the first night we met. If she noticed my mental absence, she didn’t mention it. After a while, she reached over and held my hand. I love the softness of her thin, wrinkly skin. It immediately reminds me of my Granny and Mama.
Blinking tears from my eyes, I turn to look at Irma’s profile. She’s smiling and staring into the distance as if she can see hundreds of miles away.
“Don’t give up, Rhae. Your story’s not over yet,” she says softly.
“I know. It’s just so hard,” I start sobbing. “Sometimes… sometimes, I just wish it was over. That there wasn’t some puzzle to solve, but just peace. Like I want to go to sleep and not wake up. When Cade was here, I felt lighter, like I wanted to keep fighting. Now, I… I can’t, I don’t… God, I don’t know anymore. When he quit calling, something else shattered. I don’t know how much more of this I can handle. Look at me Mrs. Irma. I’m a crying, snotting mess. I never cry. Never have been an emotional person.”
“Keep fighting, baby. Don’t stop fighting for your life. Fight for the peace your Mama’s and Ryan’s souls need. Solve this for everyone in your life. Find happiness for you and Cade. He has as many cracks and breaks as you do,” she stops and swallows. I notice she’s crying and then she turns to look me square in the eye. “When you see him again, you hug him so tight that all the broken pieces between you stick together. Hold each other up. Get through this together.”
I hug her hard enough to see if she can help stick my pieces together right now. She hugs me just as hard. Pulling back, I wipe the tears from my cheeks, nod and stand to leave. Some time later I wander up the steps to my house. I pour myself numerous drinks. All of which I drink sitting at the kitchen table and staring out the front window. A part of me is willing Cade to walk up the driveway. It doesn’t happen and I run out of booze before long. Carefully pulling myself along the walls, and using the furniture for balance, I manage to lock the front door and head to bed.
Something in me is so desperate for the comfort and assurance of Cade, that I text him.
“I know you’re broken. I am too. Maybe one day we won’t be.”
I fall asleep waiting for a response that never comes.