Daddy brought me a glass of milk while I sat on the ladder backed cane chair in the formal living room of our great big house on Legarde Street. He knelt down to talk to me for a minute, asking if I was alright and did I want to go outside and play in the backyard with the other children. I didn’t want to play just yet. I thought Mama would be proud of me if I sat nice and lady like in my Sunday dress with my white gloves and accepted the condolences of friends and family. I learned that word sometime later, condolences, but I knew they were sorry. Their eyes were all red and puffy, their noses were running and white hankies were everywhere, dabbing at eyes and covering up mouths when they spoke near me so I wouldn’t hear “suicide” or “accident”, or other words to hurt my eight-year-old feelings. Those white hankies were in such abundance that day, I never got over thinking they signaled “secret” instead of “surrender” like white flags were supposed to. For years I would watch war movies and wonder what the secret was.
That spring two people came into my life at almost the same time, one floating into my world like a pretty butterfly, magical and perfect. The other would get me into more trouble than one girl growing up in Louisiana should ever find.
I first met Honey Sinclair that terrible April afternoon. She had come to the house with her father, a new man in town who worked at the grocery store Daddy shopped in. They’d become friendly and when Honey’s father heard that Daddy and I were left alone, he thought Honey would be just the thing to cheer me up. “My name is Honey. You must be Margaret. I’m sorry about your mother.”
I remember what she said because of the way she said it. She really seemed sorry, for me, not for herself or because that’s what she was supposed to say. I liked her right away. “Thank you.” I looked down into my lap at my white gloves, maybe they held a secret too.
“Here, I brought you something.”
Honey had her hand out, holding something small, and I put out my gloved hand to receive whatever small present she had chosen, not in the mood to disagree. She dropped a sugar cube onto the palm of my hand, the glove too small and tight like a drum, and it almost bounced off before I closed my fist, snagging the treat in mid air. We giggled and Honey popped one in her mouth at the same time, her white gloves and mine hiding the evidence of our thievery.
Honey became my protector that day, in more ways than I could ever imagine. Sent by God or whoever did nice things to make me believe in goodness, kindness, and in the absolute balance of the universe, here to counteract evil and naughty neighbor boys.