James had shared plans and visions of the family’s future in the “House in the Field” as they called it. His eyes lit up with enthusiasm when they discussed changes in their little structure, improvements they hoped to make over time, still he didn’t volunteer intimate personal feelings. Cora knew better than to pry. He withdrew completely from conversation that ventured beyond his boundaries.
She didn’t have time to brood over her marriage. She was busy. The market’s owners had approached James with a sales proposition. They wanted to retire. Cora wasn’t sure James would fit into her work life. She knew she was selfish. Work was the only place she was just Cora; not a mother, or a wife, or a housekeeper, simply a member of the human race. Cora wanted the market. She dared to dream of the changes she’d make. It was a business that would flourish with a couple of changes. Changes forbidden by the church: cigarettes for the men, a pinball machine, maybe two, a jukebox, things to keep the high school kids busy while they waited for their lunches. Cora could hear the quarters piling up in those machines. She knew the teenagers wanted them, they’d asked her to try to convince the Hadleys to put them in. She hadn’t bothered. Listening to rock-n-roll was a sin, the jingling bells and buzzers of a pinball machine would surely precede the Apocalypse.
Cora approached discussion of the market gently. She felt a tenderness for the fragility of this dream that she’d never felt for anything else. James didn’t want to be indebted to the Hadleys. He thought they could make a go of it but he was adamantly against borrowing from friends and neighbors. Cora had saved her tips. She’d kept them in a pretty box Sadie had given her filled with shower gifts for one of the kids. She pulled it out of the closet. She opened it, telling James she’d started saving for a swing set for the kids but the oldest ones were too big to swing once she’d saved enough, so she’d started saving for bikes for all of them but youngest were too small to ride and she didn’t know if she’d ever be able to save enough for all of them…Her voice trailed off as she opened the lid.
James narrowed his eyes when he saw the money. He asked how much was there but she had no idea. When they’d finished counting, the little pile amounted to nearly three thousand dollars. She explained that she’d been throwing tips in the box for two years. She knew he wasn’t pleased, felt she’d been deceitful. She was very careful in choosing her words. “I thought I’d get things for the kids, things that they’d like but wouldn’t take anything away from the family. I never dreamed it would be this much money. I didn’t pay attention. Since we have it, maybe it would be enough for a downpayment at the bank.” Her heart thumped in fear at being denied her most cherished dream.
For reasons she’d never know, James wanted to own that business. He trusted her to run it but he would keep the books and she would bring the money to him. There would be no more hiding cash. Cora could have danced with delight, she could have cried in euphoria but she did not. She gave quiet thanks that her dream had come true.