Twelve hours later, Glory had her car packed with her few belongings and was headed south. The miles and the hours passed barely noticed as she wrestled with emotions that were quickly becoming a two-headed monster. It certainly wasn’t difficult leaving St. Paul, she’d been inching closer to that decision every day. For the past eighteen months she thought of herself as “trying on” different places, like one would search for a new winter coat. She’d left Dawson with the firm conviction that there was a place out there that would act as a balm, a salve to her soul; and she could bask in it like a healing Caribbean sun. But the climates changed, population fluctuated, and Glory still felt as if she was an empty vessel, insides echoing her barren life like a bass drum. East, west, cities, small towns, suburbia…nothing brought peace.
No, leaving Minnesota was easy but the very thought of returning to Tennessee brought beads of sweat to her upper lip and a sickness deep in her belly. What if Granny’s sight didn’t return? What if this truly was the beginning of the end of her independence? Glory’s heart ached for lost time and uncertain futures. A part of her could barely force herself to press the accelerator for the dread of seeing her hometown of Dawson again; yet another part of her could not reach her grandmother’s wiry embrace fast enough.
Before she knew it, she was a mere handful of miles from the Tennessee state line, less than two hours from Dawson. Her grandmother lived a few miles beyond that, deep in Cold Spring Hollow, nestled in the verdant, misty foot of the Smoky Mountains.
The rolling lay of the land in Kentucky seemed to be priming Glory for that inevitable moment when she would cross into the lush hill country that had nurtured her for her first twenty-six years. As her car chewed up the rapidly decreasing miles, she prepared; assuring herself that there would not be a great crashing wall of memory that would overcome her at the state line. Months of therapy had suggested perhaps there would be no memories ever.
Still, Glory doubted the professionals’ opinions. True, she had no “memory” of that night. But she did possess an indefinable sense of gut-deep terror when she turned her mind toward trying to recall. Which told her those memories were there, lying in the darkness, waiting to swallow her whole.
Could she face Dawson and all she had lost there?
Could she actually live there again? If Granny needed her, of course she would. Still…one day at a time. First thing was to get home and assess the situation.
She rolled down her driver’s side window. The roar of the wind at seventy filled her head. She glanced at the graceful rise and fall of the green pastures beside the interstate. She drew deep breaths, as if to lessen the shock by easing herself home, by reacquainting her senses gradually to the sights and smells of hill country.
As a child, Glory had loved visiting the wild of the deep hollow where Granny Tula had lived since the day she was born. Life in the hollow was hard, but straightforward understandable. People of her grandmother’s ilk had no time or patience for dwelling on the superficial. They accepted whatever life handed them with a nod of stoicism and another step toward their future.
Hillbillies. That’s what her in-laws called folks like Tula Baker. Of course, they would never say anything like that directly about Granny, but the thought was there, burning brightly behind their sophisticated old-money eyes. What they had never understood was that neither Glory nor her grandmother would have been insulted by the term. Glory’s mother, Clarice, on the other hand, would have been mortified. Clarice, the youngest of Tula Baker’s seven children, had struggled to separate herself from the hollow and all it implied.
As Glory watched the terrain grow rougher and the woodlands become increasingly dense, she didn’t feel the tide of panic that she’d anticipated.
I’m going to make it. The thought grew stronger with each breath that drew in the mingling of horse manure, damp earth and fresh grass. I’m going to make it….
The instant she saw the large sign that said, “Welcome to Tennessee,” Glory’s lungs seized. All of her mental preparation to disappeared on the wind rushing by her open window.
Suddenly lightheaded, she pulled onto the emergency lane of the interstate. As soon as her car stopped moving, she put it in park, fearing that she might pass out and start rolling again.
The car rocked, sucked back toward the racing traffic when an eighteen-wheeler whizzed by going eighty. Miraculously, the truck was gone in no more than a blur and a shudder, and Glory’s four tires remained stuck to the paved shoulder out of harm’s way.
She concentrated on her hands gripping the steering wheel hands that could no more deny her heritage than her green eyes and thick, auburn hair. Sturdy, big-boned hands that somehow remained unsoftened by the cultured life she’d led. Hands that reminded her of Granny Tula’s. That thought gave her strength.
After a few minutes, the cold sweat evaporated, the trembling in her limbs subsided, and her head cleared. She put the car in drive and rejoined the breakneck pace of traffic headed south.