Chapter 9 - Night and Day

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"I'm sorry about your father, Johnny. He was a good man."

Jenkins, the head of shipping at the mine shook Jonathon's hand while Jonathon mumbled his thanks. It was the fiftieth time or more he'd heard the phrase, or a variation on it, and he was sick of it.

As Jenkins went to join a group of department heads from the office, Jonathon took in the crowded grand parlor. People milled about, smoking cigarettes, eating, drinking his father's liquor. Some huddled together in small groups, talking in quiet voices.

Billy was standing off to the side of the room with Kitty holding his hand. She'd been with him nearly continuously over the days since Father had died, supporting him through his grief. He needed it. His young face was pale and drawn, and his eyes had a haunted look. To Jonathon, he seemed lost. Jonathon shook his head. Poor kid. He didn't deserve to lose his father at the age of sixteen.

His mother was sitting on a couch surrounded by her friends. As they talked to each other, they tried to include her in the conversation, but she barely responded. Jonathon had noticed for most of last hour, she'd stared straight ahead, a plate with an untouched finger sandwich on her lap.

Thank goodness her friends had come early that day to help her get ready for the funeral. Ever since she'd been home from the hospital, she'd been like she was now, subdued almost to the point of catatonic. Jonathon wasn't certain she would have been able to get ready for the funeral on her own, and he and Billy would never have been able to manage it either.

Her friends had gotten her dressed, fixed her hair and makeup, and then taken her to the church. They'd stayed by her side all that morning, even riding in the car with her behind the hearse while Billy and Jonathon followed in the Duesenberg. Jonathon had worried how his mother would handle the service, but she'd born it as well as could be expected under the circumstances. She'd remained stoic until the moment they lowered the casket into the ground. That's when she'd broken down and her friends had to help her back to the car.

The funeral had been well attended. Most of the men who worked at the mine, business leaders, the mayor and other town officials, and even a state senator had come to pay their respects. After the burial, everyone had come to the Blackwell home where Mother's friends had arranged tables to be set up with food brought by their servants.  Jonathon just wished they'd leave. Well, everyone except for one.

Helen had come with her aunt and uncle. She looked beautiful as always in a navy blue knit suit, her blonde curls gleaming under her hat. Realizing he was looking at her, she gave him a sympathetic smile and a small wave. He smiled back, but as pain filled his heart, he tore his eyes away from her. He'd give anything to have her standing beside him, holding his hand and supporting him like Kitty was with Billy.

The people in the room were engrossed in their discussions or helping themselves to more food, and Jonathon realized no one was paying any attention to him. Maybe he could slip out without anyone noticing. He just needed to be alone for a few minutes so he could breathe.

He moved sideways towards the door while keeping an eye on those closest to him, but no one looked his way.  He stepped out, and when he turned around, he was dismayed. The hallway was filled with women in maid's uniforms, waiting until they were needed to bring more food out, clear away dishes, or clean ashtrays.

"Hello, Johnnie," he heard, and Annie appeared, a white apron over her black dress.

"Oh, hello," he said, his shoulders slumping.

"I'm sorry about your dad."


"Is there something we can get you, Mr. Blackwell?" an older woman asked loudly. She gave Annie a stern look, and Annie slunk back to the other women.

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