#4

“It’s no big deal,” Tom said, “It just makes you relax.”

Olivia held the burning paper between her fingers and slowly brought it to her lips. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She began to feel light-headed.

“Pretty good, right?” Tom asked.

She looked back at him, smiling. She, Olivia Gardner, was hanging out in the same room as Tom Gibson, star quarterback of Huntsport High. She would be going to the homecoming dance with him in a few weeks and everyone would be looking at her. The rest of the Chemistry Club girls would be so jealous!

“I’ve never done this before,” Olivia said, “Isn’t this dangerous?”

“Only if you do it wrong. This never came up in Chem Club?” Tom asked, pleased with himself.

“We only ever blow things up. This is all kind of new.”

“You can come over anytime you want. Me and Paul are always here,” Tom said.

Paul and I, Olivia thought, resisting the urge to correct him. She couldn’t believe what she was doing. “You know, I have to go out and buy a dress for the dance,” she said, “Want to go with me?”

She saw Tom’s face screw into a knot. “I don’t go shopping,” he said, flatly.

Olivia felt a tinge of embarrassment. So much for being flirtatious. “I was kidding. I’ll…I’ll just let you know what color it is so you can match me.”

Tom nodded his head indifferently, remaining silent.

“Uh, well I guess I’ll get going,” Olivia said, rising to leave.

“Suit yourself,” Tom said, taking another hit.

Olivia left the smokey room, hating herself.

***

Magnolia Montgomery sat in the parlor of her Georgian estate reading a book she had read a thousand times before. The early morning sun complemented a face that had aged well over the past seventy-six years. Her gray hair gave her an air of dignity that was seldom found in this day and age.

“Miss Magnolia,” Junie said, “Breakfast is almost ready if you and Mr. Vinton want to come sit down.”

“Thank you, Junie. I’ll be right in,” Magnolia said, putting down the book. She looked out the bay window across the expansive lawn, remembering days that had passed. The gardens she used to keep had withered into dead, crumbling ashes. She sighed.

Walking through across the parlor, Magnolia’s eyes caught sight of the portraits that hung above the mantle. All dead now. They were gone from this world, but she knew they were always with her. She felt them walking through the halls with her everyday. She took comfort knowing they were watching over her, just as her mama had always told her.

“These eggs smell delicious, Junie,” Magnolia said, entering the dining room.

The table was lavishly set with eggs, bacon, potatoes, fruit, coffee, and juice–all for the two of them. While they hardly entertained anymore, Magnolia saw no reason for them to completely abandon ceremony. The Montgomerys, after all, were an institution, part of the rich history of Fox Hollow, Georgia.

END

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