I was ten when I got to know Estelle White who lived on the corner of our lane. Miss Estelle (that’s what everybody called her) was ageless because she always looked the same, which was ancient to us kids. Our folks said she looked the same way when they were our age.
Miss Estelle wore black all the time. Someone said she was still in mourning for her husband that had died years ago. Some said she might be a witch with her secretive ways and that old black cat she had. The black pointy hat she wore at times did not help this view. But in Miss Estelle’s yard were the best cherry trees in the county.
One day while playing baseball, the ball went into her yard. The yard was fenced in with a sign that said “NO TRESSPASSING”. But someone double-dared me to go get the ball. I did have an incentive because it was my ball, given to me by my favorite Uncle Jeb.
“I ain’t scared” I shouted. But my bravado was just for my friends, I was scared witless when I jumped the fence. But when I landed in the yard, I was amazed at all the pretty flowers. The big wooden fence had hidden the true beauty of the yard. I had half expected to see an overgrown yard with rotted tree stumps. Still I wanted to hurry before Miss Estelle saw me.
Where’s that ball? I wondered to myself. I finally spotted it in a bed of Blackeye Susans. I grabbed it and was on my way back to the fence, when I saw the cherry tree. Oh my, how those cherries were gleaming down at me. Eat me! Eat me! they seemed to call. I could not help myself. I put the ball down and began to climb the tree. I grabbed handful after handful, some I ate, some I stuffed in my pockets to share with my friends.
“You there! Get out of my cherry tree!” I heard someone yell.
I went to jump down but miscalculated and hit my head on a tree limb. You know it’s true, you do see stars. When I woke up, I was in a room with a towel on my head. When I saw the stains on my shirt and pants, I sat up and thought, I must be really hurt.
“Hey, baby how you feel?” It was Miss Estelle. “I sent those other children for your parents” She saw me looking at my pants. “Don’t’ worry baby, you ain’t dying, them those cherries you was stealin’ ”
“Oh, yeah” I said embarrassed.
“What’s your name, baby?”
“Well now, ain’t that a pretty name.” she said.
“Thank you” I said, as I looked around the room. It was truly a beautiful room. I was admiring everything when out of the blue, a big black cat jumped on my lap scaring the bejeebies out of me.
“Pumpkin get down, that’s not polite, you haven’t been properly introduced. Miss Chloe, this is Pumpkin.”
“Hi Pumpkin, please to meet you.”
Pumpkin purred and rubbed my legs. Why she wasn’t scary at all and neither was Miss Estelle.
“Can I get you something baby? Some water or something? How about some cherries? “ she laughed.
“No ma’am, I’m okay.” Now I had always been the inquisitive type, and it must have been evident that I had a question.
“What is it baby, what’s wrong?”
“Well, I was just wondering, your yard is beautiful, your home is beautiful and there are pretty colors everywhere. Miss Estelle, why do you wear black all the time?”
“Honey, black is one of my favorite colors. It’s always been positive to me. When my husband and I ran a business we loved it when we were in the black, and there’s nothing cuter than a black kitten or puppy. I love the lines of a shiny black car. I also find the color slimming too.” she chuckled.
“Well, we all thought...”
“Yes, I know, Ol’ Miss Estelle, she be a witch, or somethin’. Well, that’s partially my fault. After my Harvey died I did become a bit of a recluse, but you know something baby? It does get a little lonely here sometimes with just me and Pumpkin.”
I said, “Miss Estelle, I better get home, but if you don’t mind I would like to visit again.”
Miss Estelle had beamed and said, “Why, I wouldn’t mind that at all.”
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