Loretta Lynn Davis grows up in Madison, Tennessee, a town known only for the fact that its Main Street divides Tennessee from Virginia. Rejected by her daddy from the day she was born, she never outgrows her craving for true love. On a summer day when they were both five, Loretta meets Crystal Brown-and so begins a lifelong friendship that both women cherish, even though Loretta knew she can never measure up to her friend. As an adult, Loretta finds herself trapped by circumstances in a contrived marriage that only makes her want true love even more. The constant yearning takes its toll on her, and she does her best to hide her growing depression. She might be able to hide the truth from the world, but not from Crystal. Together, the women do their best to help each other in dark times. Crystal is concerned that the secret Loretta has protected for eighteen years may be her undoing. Crystal does her best to warn her friend, but in the end there may be nothing she can do to protect her oldest friend from the fallout. Even as an adult, Loretta's little brother Buddy-the apple of their daddy's eye-is not about to stop exploiting and abusing his sister. Loretta's family drags her into a collision with her past, and no one will emerge unscathed. In the face of discovery, Loretta wonders if it's all worth it-but she must find the faith to accept the power of true love over death.
|Publisher:||Toplink Publishing, LLC|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.63(d)|
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On Robin Lane
By Brenda Dodson
iUniverse LLCCopyright © 2013 Brenda Dodson
All rights reserved.
As the screen door slammed on a humid and muggy August evening in Madison, Tennessee, Loretta Ward rocked in a beat-up white wicker rocker. She glared at Frank Ward as he walked past her toward Robin Lane.
"Where do you think you are going?" shouted Loretta.
Frank had been married to Loretta for nearly two years. He had learned not to answer after a screaming and name-calling fight. He kept walking down Robin Lane, past neighbors who turned their heads to ignore his disgrace, to the intersection of West Main Street.
Loretta sat and frowned at Frank as he walked down the street. She hummed "Rock of Ages" while rocking in her grandmother's rocker. It was the only object her daddy had allowed her to have from her grandmother. It held memories of being surrounded with love as she had sat, rocking peacefully, on her granny's lap. Those had been warm and loving times during her childhood.
The last intense rays of sunshine leaving afternoon to evening struck Loretta's coal-black hair and dark-brown eyes. She closed her eyes and stretched out her bare feet on the peeling painted porch. She had never been a beauty—as her daddy had emphasized her entire childhood. Her attractiveness was her healthy, vibrant, and physical presence. Loretta's twinkling eyes let her hidden beauty shine through.
Loretta cared about Frank, but love—that was another thing. It didn't matter to her that he was walking down Robin Lane with his head lowered and hands in his pockets, feeling dejected. His familiar form soon faded out of sight. It didn't occur to her that Frank was the victim and she was the one inflicting the emotional pain.
Flicking a fly off her tanned shoulder, Loretta continued rocking and humming. Thinking of the next day spurred her to sit a little straighter. She started to hum "Tomorrow" from the musical Annie. There had to be better days ahead, she thought.
Loretta's neighbor, Rose Nelson, was sitting on her front porch, knitting and observing Loretta. Since she and Frank had moved to Robin Lane, Rose had been drawn to something in Loretta that needed mothering. She had a feeling there was more to Loretta's depression than just the recent birth of Chrissy.
Loretta's eyes glanced across the street to Rose sitting serenely with her knitting. Why am I thinking today and tomorrow will be the same? She pondered. She knew that nothing much changed in Madison, Tennessee. It was a small southern city whose only uniqueness was that the Main Street divided Tennessee from Virginia.
Hearing the telephone, Loretta scooted out of the rocker and ran for it. As she picked up the phone, she knew who would be on the other end. She felt secure knowing that her best friend, Crystal, was always there for her.
They'd met on a summer day when both were five years old. Loretta had peeked out her window on Davis Road and seen a big truck unloading furniture next door. Out of a station wagon stepped a little girl dressed in crisp white shorts and a pink ruffled top. She was holding her doll. She looked up and down the street to see if any children were out playing on the Saturday morning. Looking next door, she spotted a little dark-headed girl with big eyes peering out the front window.
She put her hand up and waved at the little girl in the window, which sparked the shy Loretta to wave back. Loretta opened the front door and ran down the steps to meet a new friend. Every day after that, Loretta looked forward to playing with her new friend, Crystal Brown.
Crystal was like a lustrous piece of crystal. She was beautiful and sparkly, with finely chiseled features and a contagious bubbly personality. Her long, curly blonde hair bounced when she ran and played.
She was like no other friend that Loretta had met. The sun and moon dimmed in her glowing presence. Loretta needed a light in her life, and Crystal became that light. Without Crystal's friendship, Loretta wouldn't have known carefree childhood days and the confidence that a true friend loved her—unlike her daddy.
Answering the telephone, Loretta always felt the connection from her past to the future that she always felt when her best friend was on the other end.
"Hey, Loretta—what took you so long to get to the phone? I was about to give up on you," said Crystal. "I bet you were daydreaming again. You have the most vivid imagination of anyone I know. You should write a book," said Crystal, laughing.
Pulling out a chair in the kitchen, Loretta listened to Crystal ramble on.
"Loretta, are you listening to me? Good grief! Lately, I never know if you are hearing me. You will be really sorry if you don't listen to a piece of news that I heard over at Whitten Lumber Company. Sam came into the office during his coffee break and was talking about someone we know is getting married," explained Crystal.
"Well, are you going to tell me?" asked Loretta.
"Nope. I think I'll drive over to see you, if you aren't busy. You do remember that Sam and I are returning to fall classes at the university, don't you? This will give us time to visit before we leave," said Crystal.
Hanging up without a good-bye is just like Crystal, thought Loretta. She's busy with her summer job, going away to college and, of course, Sam Whitten. She doesn't have as much time for old friendships. She knew that times changed, but it still hurt Loretta to be the one left behind.
As she hung up the phone and tiptoed down the hall to check on Chrissy, Loretta wished for what she didn't have. Why did things happen the way they did? College had always loomed as a given for her future—but now things were different. It wasn't meant to be in her immediate future. Maybe it would never be.
The same old feelings of depression threatened to overwhelm Loretta once more. The helplessness and vulnerability still raged for days, weeks, and even months after Chrissy's birth. Without Crystal and Rose Nelson she would have never made it through. Even now those old feelings could creep in when she least expected.
Wondering where Frank had gone to for so long, Loretta opened the screen door and stepped out to the front porch to wait for Crystal to come zooming down Robin Lane. Usually Frank wasn't gone this long after a disagreement. Maybe he had gone over to see his mother. She thought to herself, Oh well, it doesn't really matter. He always comes back. Time flies. September will soon be upon us, and in a few weeks everything will change. Crystal will be heading back to college with Sam. I will be alone again with the secret that must never be revealed. Without Crystal, there's no one who understands. Mama, Daddy, and Buddy know, but they are no help. Actually, they are more of a hindrance, especially Daddy and Buddy.
An ominous feeling of foreboding spread throughout Loretta's body. Maybe seeing Crystal and hearing about a former classmate getting married would lighten her spirits. Yes, it would be like old times, chatting and talking about stuff—just stuff, not heavy, depressing secrets.
Where on earth is Crystal? It has to have been at least an hour since Frank pouted out the front door and down the street. Crystal called just a few minutes later. Bet she's on the phone with Sam, she thought. They are so much in love, but so mature and sensible. They are waiting till after graduation to get married and start a family.
Like a stabbing knife in her heart, everything came flooding back, piercing her inner being. Life had always dealt her a bad hand, starting the day she came into the world. She would never let her little Chrissy grow up in a world where her daddy despised and made fun of her.
Waving at Rose across the street, Loretta noticed a pair of robins flitting and flying from the sugar maple with the red-tinged leaves to the huge evergreen tree in the neighbor's front yard. She had always had an affinity with the robins. They always seemed to appear when she needed them the most.
Diverting her attention from the robins was the sight of Crystal's blue Mustang coming down Robin Lane, heading toward the friend who needed her. Crystal pulled into the driveway waving, and she softly tooted the horn, as if Loretta hadn't spotted her. A small trace of jealousy flickered across Loretta's eyes when Crystal stepped out of the car. She looked tanned and gorgeous in a lavender-and-white sundress with matching sandals. Her shoulder-length hair lay in bouncy curls. Crystal's smile would light up the darkness.
"Hey, beautiful," yelled Loretta.
Loretta called back, "Come sit with me and let's enjoy this warm evening. The baby is asleep and Frank left pouting. Yes, we had a disagreement over money, as usual. Don't ask, because I don't want to talk about it," she stated.
Crystal sat down beside Loretta, and silence surrounded them as each was lost in her own thoughts. Close friends don't always need words to feel comfortable. Sometimes the stirring of the air through the trees, the birds chirping, and memories are enough to satisfy until words become necessary. They sat and enjoyed the sunlight striking each blade of grass and the slight smell of early fall in the air
"Crystal, I'm afraid that when you leave for college and Frank is on one of his truck runs, I'll slip back into my loneliness and depression. I don't think I could ever stand to be back in that bottomless hole again without hope of recovering," said Loretta.
Reaching over to pat Loretta, Crystal asked, "Are you still taking the medication the doctor prescribed for you?" She worried about her friend.
"No, actually; I finished it several weeks ago and I haven't had it refilled. The doctor said by fall I should be back to normal. I really believe that being so tired all the time is the reason I fell into depression. I don't feel that way now, but I dread the thought that it could come back," said Loretta.
"Loretta, you are so much better, and that's not going to happen to you again—because you are too smart to let it," stated Crystal.
"Yeah, yeah, I've heard that before. But look at my life. It's certainly not what I had planned. Let's forget it, and let's concentrate on who's getting married."
"After this conversation, I'm not sure I should've called with my news," stated Crystal.
Crystal sat and bit at her lower lip. She had a pensive look on her face as she turned her head to gaze across the street. She had a habit of doing this when she didn't want to do or say something. Knowing Crystal as well as she did, Loretta knew something big was up.
"Oh look, there's Rose sitting on her front porch. I bet she's knitting someone a beautiful baby blanket, like she did for my little namesake, Crystal Gayle. I'm so happy that you have someone close to give you help when you need it. She was a godsend when you needed her the most," said Crystal.
Waving energetically to Rose, Crystal started to ask Loretta about Crystal Gayle and who had decided to call her Chrissy instead of her full name. But Loretta had had enough of her stalling. Eyeing her best friend as she rocked a little faster, Loretta knew enough to wait and pounce when the time was right.
Seconds passed and then Loretta said, "Okay, who's getting married? I've been left in suspense for the last half an hour. Just spit it out."
"Promise, if I tell you, that you won't go into a tailspin?" asked Crystal. "Sometimes you get so fired up that Madison Volunteer Fire Department couldn't hose you down enough to put out the fire. Just listen, take it in, don't give it a lot of thought, and go on with your life, instead of trying to live in a world you will never have. Quick, promise me, and I'll spill the beans," said Crystal.
Rolling her eyes and stretching her legs further on to the porch, Loretta wondered how the news of a classmate getting married would put her into a tailspin. Crystal was being overly melodramatic.
"Okay, okay, I promise. Are you satisfied now?"
Loretta stopped rocking and turned to Crystal with full attention, ready for the news that was so explosive she had had to make a silly promise.
"Well, where do you want me to start?" asked Crystal.
"You silly, infuriating goose! Of course, begin with who told you this news, and then proceed," ordered Loretta.
"Well, here goes. I was typing a report over at Whitten Lumber, and Sam took his break. He came running up the stairs two at a time. He just can't wait to see me, and of course I love it. He told me that one of the guys that delivered some lumber over at the Woods's house heard that the son was getting married this Saturday. They were building a platform for some wedding party Friday morning. That means that Tony and Lauren must be getting married. I'm surprised that they are going to marry so soon. They always said they wouldn't marry before they graduated college. Tony will undoubtedly go to law school, and Lauren will get her master's degree," said Crystal.
As Crystal began her news, Loretta sat listening; she was thinking that this must be a dream—no, a nightmare. Tony and Lauren were down in Atlanta, going to school. They were out of sight and not visible. Somehow, that made it easier to keep at bay those thoughts that crept up at the most inopportune times. It can't be true! Loretta shuddered as if someone had walked across her grave. She had known that this news might be in the future, but not now. Oh, please God, not now!
Crystal saw how this news was affecting her friend. Loretta's color had turned from a bright red to a deathly white, and her usually bright brown eyes were glazed and dull. She looked as if the breath had been knocked out of her.
Crystal jumped up suddenly and ran to Loretta's side in concern. An aura around Loretta spoke of pure, irresolvable devastation. She didn't move but seemed suspended in time. Slowly Loretta turned away from her friend to face the street ahead. Not even a whisper came from her.
Crystal sat watching her and decided to wait and give her space. Loretta would talk when she was ready and able to cope. They sat in silence, allowing time to fade into the dusk that was almost upon them.
Rocking back and forth in rhythm, Loretta realized the time that she had feared had come. There was nothing she could do about it. Dreams were fantasies that could never materialize. For everyone's sake, secrets must be kept now, and after this news they would be kept forever.
Sighing and facing the conversation she knew was coming, Loretta turned to Crystal with a look of desperation. She nodded and asked Crystal to repeat what she had heard about Tony and Lauren. Hoping that she had not heard correctly, but knowing better, Loretta listened.
Loretta had known that this wedding would loom in the future, but not this soon. It would stop her dreams of being with Tony, her first and only love. This marriage would forever end any visions of Tony coming into her life. It was time to leave those thoughts in the past, where they belonged. Lauren had always been Tony's love, not Loretta. It was hard to dash dreams that had been evolving since she'd been five years old, but she must. Crystal would be there to help her, as she had always been.
"Well, Little Miss Perfect Lauren finally got her wish, and she's dragging my Tony to the altar," declared Loretta.
"Now, don't start that, Loretta. Tony has always been head over heels in love with Lauren, and that will never stop. Just get him out of your mind, and concentrate on your marriage and daughter," advised Crystal.
"Isn't it funny we weren't invited to the wedding? After all, we've been friends since we were all in kindergarten together. Do you think it could possibly be that little sneak Lauren didn't want me at her wedding?" asked Loretta.
Shocked at Loretta's attitude, Crystal couldn't believe she still had it that bad for Tony. He had been away at school, and they hadn't seen him since high school graduation. Time should have healed some of Loretta's wounds, but evidently they were still as raw as ever.
"No, it's natural for us to not be invited to the wedding. We aren't part of that elite group, and you know that. So just suck it up and face the inevitable! They are getting married, and that's final," stated Crystal.
Ignoring Crystal's statement, Loretta demanded, "Where are they getting married?"
"Loretta, what is your devious little mind planning?" asked Crystal.
"What's got your panties in a wad? I just asked a simple question, and you're going to answer me," squealed Loretta.
Excerpted from On Robin Lane by Brenda Dodson. Copyright © 2013 Brenda Dodson. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse LLC.
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