A Peach of a Pair
Author:Kim Boykin





32

NETTIE


It turned out Lurleen was not immortal. Nine weeks after we buried Miss Emily, she passed away in her sleep. I didn’t call the ambulance or even Remmy. Just sat with her and felt the loss of loving someone so dear, a friend. A sister.

The phone rang several times around midmorning. I stayed by Lurleen’s side, heartbroken she was gone and elated she was with Miss Emily where she belonged. The phone started ringing again and then stopped and continued on and off that way for a few minutes. Not long after that, I heard the screen door bounce in the jamb and footsteps running toward the bedroom. Remmy stopped in the doorway for a moment and then rushed to my side; it was then that I started to cry and didn’t stop.

I was a mess when I went to the funeral home to make the arrangements, but wasn’t surprised I didn’t have to do much, just choose flowers that were in season. Lurleen had taken care of all of the details years ago, right down to the hymns she wanted sung. Of course Miss Emily had nothing planned; when Lurleen had chosen her flowers, she told me Emily was a roses and satin kind of girl. When I’d asked her what kind of girl she was, she’d replied, “The simple kind. Daisies. Lilies. Even carnations feel too frilly for me.”

So the church was full of every manner of summer lily; a blanket of snow-white daisies covered the casket that was painted to match her sister’s, and the church was packed with Camdenites who’d known and loved their gun-toting librarian. I rode the waves of grief much like Lurleen had with her sister, laughing and crying, and through it all, Remmy never left my side.

The morning of the funeral, it had rained then poured during the church service, but when the azure blue casket reached the burial site, the clouds parted on cue to reveal the loveliest August sky. Remmy squeezed my shoulder and smiled at me when Pastor made a joke that Miss Emily was showing off for her sister; everyone laughed. But that’s the kind of sisterhood she and Lurleen had, the kind that loves and forgives and makes a stormy Carolina sky cloudless and beautiful.

The Eldridge home welcomed hundreds of guests who brought more food than they ate, which didn’t seem possible. Children ran about the house playing while folks laughed and reminisced about the Eldridge sisters. Most of them I recognized from Miss Emily’s service. The same enormous spread was laid out with enough fried chicken to feed nearby Shaw Air Force Base, every manner of casserole, desserts galore. And lots of banana pudding. The ladies of the Kershaw County Library Auxiliary insisted I mingle with the guests while they fussed about, making sure platters and bowls stayed filled. Paper plates and cups stayed picked up.

I’d noticed a chubby little redheaded boy who was maybe nine eyeing the piano, which had a beautiful tone after Lurleen had it tuned. He opened and closed the lid several times before his mother warned him to leave it alone. He watched until she was deep in conversation, opened the lid, and touched a few of the upper keys.

“Do you play?” I asked. He shook his head, unable to take his eyes off the keyboard. It called to him like it had called to me and Lurleen’s mother. Her brother, Teddy. I sat down beside him, placed his hands on the right keys. The old piano began to sing. Chopsticks.