This is part two of a two-part story. You can read the first part here.
“You can come out now, Lacy,” her father said.
She stood, rather slowly. “You knew I was there? Do you think Mama saw me?”
“I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t have said those things if she’d known you were there.”
Or maybe she would have. Maybe she wanted me to hear every word.
Lacy walked around to the front of the porch and climbed the stairs. “Thanks for standing up for me. I don’t know how I’ll make it through if I have to do it on my salary. New York is expensive.”
Her father walked over to the railing and stared across the lawn. “I’m sorry you had to hear that.”
“Why? At least I know how she feels.”
“I don’t think you do.” He gestured to the porch swing. “Have a seat.”
She obeyed. He pulled a metal chair with a plastic cushion over and sat facing her. “Your mother wanted to be a lawyer, but her father refused to help her. He didn’t think women should be lawyers.”
“So that’s why she doesn’t want to help me?”
Her father shrugged. “I suspect so. Her father taught her that work builds character, and she believes that.”
“So she never went to law school.”
“Actually, she did.”
“Really? How come she never talks about it?”
“It upsets her. She dropped out when she got pregnant.”
He smiled sheepishly. “We were careless. But we loved each other. Your mother gave up her dream, and settled into married life, raising children.”
“And she thinks I’ll meet some guy and do the same?” Lacy grimaced. She’d dated a few guys over the years, but nothing had lasted more than a few months.
Her father shook his head. “No, honey. You’re already an old maid in her eyes.”
“I hadn’t realized she was so old-fashioned.” Lacy looked down at her lap and picked at her nails.
Her father sighed. “She didn’t used to be, but she’s grown more conservative as she gets older. More like her own parents.”
Lacy looked over at him, feeling old and tired herself. “If I’m going to be a spinster, why won’t she help me get my graduate degree?”
“You’re a woman. You should do something befitting a woman.”
“And waitressing at a diner is lady-like?”
“Sure, because she did it. Secretarial work, or perhaps nursing fit her world view, too.”
That would never happen. I’m not giving up my plans, even if I have to fight her every step of the way, or never visit again.
But there were other issues, ones Lacy didn’t understand. “You need to borrow money. That means you can’t afford to support me?”
Her father rubbed his face. “Medical school is expensive. We didn’t want Hamilton to start his career in debt, so we used our savings and even dipped into our retirement to cover his expenses. I thought we would take out a second mortgage to help you, but your mother won’t sign.”
Lacy swung her feet and thought. Her professors would never understand if she took a second job on top of her teaching assistantship. She stopped the motion with her feet on the porch boards. “Look, dad, I can find work for the summer.” She pushed off again and slowly rocked back and forth, calmed by the squeaking of the metal chains supporting the swing.
Her father put his hand on the swing, carefully stopping its motion. “That’s not fair. We spent a fortune on your brother. I refuse to treat you any differently, simply because you’re a girl.”
Lacy stepped out of the swing and walked over to the porch steps. “Why not? Everyone else does. Mama does. Why should you be any different?” She started off across the lawn, suddenly overwhelmed by the realization that her mother had never believed in her the same way she’d believed in Hamilton, or even Robbie. When she reached the old Magnolia tree, with its beautiful large flowers, she pushed her face into the rough bark of the trunk, and let tears trickle down her cheeks.
A hand on her shoulder startled her. She smelled her father’s familiar blend of shampoo and after shave. He spoke softly. “My mother raised me to see that women were as smart and tough as men, probably even more so. I believe in you, just like I believed in your mother. I wanted her to go back to school after Hamilton was born, but she didn’t believe a woman should work once she had children. In my opinion, that’s made her unhappy. I don’t want you to turn out that way. If you want a career, you should have one.”
“Oh, Papa.” She leaned back into him, and he wrapped his arms around her. “Thanks. But I don’t think you should take out a loan for my sake.”
“You want to excel, and impress your teachers so you land a good job, don’t you?”
“Of course.” That was her ticket out of the South, with its antiquated ideas about women.
“Having a job would make that tough, wouldn’t it? Plus, you’d have to turn down that internship you accepted for this summer.”
She nodded, turning around to face him. He dropped his hand and stepped away from her. She stood tall, remembering how excited and proud she’d been when the offer to spend the summer in Germany arrived.
“Then I don’t want you to worry. I wish you hadn’t overheard our argument, because our money issues are none of your business.”
“I’m getting a degree in finance, for heaven’s sake. You should let me go through your books and straighten them out. You’re a doctor, after all, not an accountant.”
“No way, honey. That’s why I hired George Knight. Now, it’s getting late and your mother will be starting dinner. Go help her. And be kind. Try to understand that she’s her father’s daughter.”
Lacy sighed. “I’ll try to be nice, but it won’t be easy.”
“You can do it. If not, I’ll tell your mother where I found you just now.”
“Heaven help me if you do.” She laughed, a little bitterly, and walked towards the house, steeling herself for the encounter with her mother.
Thanks to Marlene at freeimages.com for the photo.