In 1966 women in rural America didn’t have a voice. They didn’t know they had the right to choose destiny, let alone create one. Cora lived at home with her family. Higher education was never a consideration. She helped out around the house, looked after the younger kids, and worked part-time at a corner market for another church family while she waited for a suitor to find her. Sadie had gone away to live with her aunt. She became a secretary and wrote to Cora about the patients in the doctor’s office where she worked. Sadie had an outrageous sense of humor. Cora missed her. There was no one to trade dreams with.
James came into the store when he had a need for boot laces or a handful of two-penny nails. He was quiet. Cora imagined he was watchful. She felt shy in his company. She wanted to know what he thought, if his leg hurt, what war was like, if he was afraid, but she wouldn’t have asked those questions even if he’d been an expressive person. It would have been rude. Decent people respected privacy.
Cora saw James at church. His family’s bench pew was a few rows in front of her family’s. Church was no hodgepodge gathering; families were seated in accordance to their status in the church, deference was paid to longevity. Cora studied James, from her position in the background, without his knowledge. She detected enigmatic intrigue. He was mysteriously conflicted. She knew there were so many things unsaid inside of him that he must be choking on them.