Authors: Jennifer L Ray
man and help me in the car. It's been a long day
and I'm old and tired and can't die until I straighten
out Jean's mess."
Volume 6, pg. 25 (February 1906):
poor Etta still crying over the baby she lost.
Seems she wants babies real bad now.
pregnant again and I sure hope this one come
Martha Thomas had lived her whole life for
no one but herself. She liked her alcohol, cigarettes
and men all in that order. Her old body had been
ravaged and wrecked by all three and she had long
ago lost her taste for any of them. They had left her
with a sore gut, chronic cough, and an empty heart.
She rested her tired bones against the leather
seat of Anita's son's car and rested for a minute.
After bending her sore back and creaking knees to
get into the backseat, she was out of breath. She
had questions, but they could wait until she had her
Willetta and Andrik remained silent as they
ambled along the dirt road back to Mama Jean's.
Both of them wondered who the old lady in the
backseat was and what her statements about "Jean's
mess" meant. There was something downright
mysterious about the old woman from the way she
had popped up out of nowhere and the fact that she
knew something about both of them, when they
knew very little about each other.
"What's your name, girl," the old woman
"Willetta Jones," Willetta answered.
There was a loud gasp from the old woman,
as she struggled to scoot to the edge of the plush
leather seat. She grabbed hold of Willetta's head
rest and pulled herself forward. Andrik winced as
he watched from the corner of his eye. Much more
and she would have torn the head rest completely
off the seat.
"Willetta, you say? Now that's a name for
sure. Where you get that name from?" she asked.
Willetta felt the old woman's breath against
her cheek and turned to stare directly into her face.
Her eyes were sharp and clear. They pierced
through Willetta's irises and probed for information.
Willetta knew that somehow her response was
important to this woman.
"I don't know who named me. I'm an
orphan. My momma left me with Mama Jean when
I was nine," Willetta said.
"Well, I know where that name came from.
I just don't know why nobody bothered to tell me
An old drunk got memories and
feelings too. Might've woke me up sooner, if they
had told me."
Willetta was made even more confused by
the ramblings of the old woman. She had no idea
what she was talking about, but felt sure she was
about to find out. The woman's old crinkled hand
gently rubbed her jawline and Willetta willed
herself to stay put. She wanted to move away from
the elderly woman, but something in her eyes stilled
The woman's eyes filled with tears and she
said, "My momma's name was Willetta. My
grandpapa's name was William and my
grandmama's name was Etta. They named their one
and only child, Willetta."
Willetta felt the skin on her body tighten in
response to the implications of the woman's words.
Unwilling to guess and terrified to believe, Willetta
waited, but her next words sent both Andrik and
Willetta into a mental tailspin.
"You look a lot like Stanley, my son. I
didn't know he had fathered a child. I bet Jean
knew it. It was just like her to keep it to herself
Andrik swung the car into Mama Jean's yard
and turned the switch off abruptly. "Do you mean
to tell me that Willetta is my sister," he yelled.
"Hold your voice down young man. I ain't
got no hearing problems," the old woman said.
"What's your name," Willetta asked.
"I'm Martha Thomas, your grandmother. I
ain't never been married because the one man I ever
loved got me pregnant and ran off with another
woman. It was always me and Stanley until
momma took him away from me."
"Where have you been all this time? How
could you not know about me and Andrik," Willetta
asked in disbelief.
"Now wait a minute. I knew about Andrik.
Andrik is Anita's son, but he ain't Stanley's son. I
just never knew about you, missy. I been in
California for thirty-five years now," she said as her
eyes slid towards Andrik.
Both Martha and Willetta turned their
attention to Andrik who was not lost to the
significance of the fact that Martha had been in
California for thirty-five years. He was exactly
thirty-five years old and his birth must have had
something to do with her exodus or either her exile.
Andrik suddenly had a very strong dislike
for Martha Williams. He didn't like or trust her.
She could be lying. He had never seen her in his
life and the things she was saying were unbelievable
and devastating. His mother could have told him on
her death bed, because he was there, that Stanley
Thompson was not his father. The one woman he
loved and trusted above all others, Mama Jean,
could have told him. But neither she nor his mother
had ever told him the truth. He wondered why. He
also wondered why the nasty old woman in the back
seat had suddenly resurfaced after all these years,
seemingly sober and ready to straighten out all that
Mama Jean had messed up. All her peers were
dead. No one was left to agree or disagree with her
account of events.
"Ms. Williams, Willetta and I are on our
way to town for supplies. Do you need anything
back from the store?" he asked coldly.
"I'm going to stay here with her, Andrik.
You can go on," Willetta said.
"Are you sure, you want me to leave you
here," Andrik said and glanced at the woman in the
Martha Williams was eighty and she had
learned over the years to understand people. So,
she kept her silence and let Andrik draw his own
conclusions. It wasn't too many secrets that actually
went to the grave anyway. People are always
thinking somebody has taken a secret to the grave
with them, but in reality somebody somewhere
knows the truth. Andrik was going to find his own
truth and it wasn't going to be from her.
"Go on with him, gal. We got plenty time to
talk. I'm just gone get on in the house and take a
nap. If I know Mama Jean, everything is still where
it always was. I'll find my way around."
Willetta and Andrik helped Martha into the
house and headed back down the road towards
Volume 8, pg.1 (September 27, 1906):
"Willetta Thompson was born this morning. I
could hear her wailing all the way out in the
field. She gone be alright. This baby gone live
to tell her own babies about life. I just know it.
"Can you believe this," Willetta said. She
shook her head and looked at Andrik in disbelief.
"Actually, no I can't. I don't trust that
woman," he said.
"What is there not to trust? She's old. She
has to be in her eighties at least," Willetta
"Do you know what it means if she's telling
the truth? It means Stanley Thompson was not my
father. It means Mama Jean let you struggle alone
on your own in Atlanta, Georgia all the while
knowing that you had a grandmother who could
take care of you. It means that sweet Mama Jean
was either evil or deranged."
Andrik spoke quietly and deliberately. He
was making every attempt to maintain control. He
felt as if he had been slammed against a brick wall.
Everything in his life that had never made any sense
was beginning to make sense and he wasn't sure if
he liked it. His thoughts churned quickly from one
what-if to another.
"Uh, Andrik. There is something about my
stay in Atlanta, Georgia that I left out," Willetta said
Andrik turned his head slowly in her
direction. He felt from the beginning that there was
a ring of untruth to her story. "What was that," he
"I didn't find that family. I wasn't that
smart. The family actually found me. I always felt
they were reporting things back to Mama Jean, but I
didn't care as long as I never had to set foot in
"Well, who were they, Willetta? It seems
there are a lot of secrets and unsolved mysteries
surrounding Mama Jean and I don't like secrets."
Willetta looked out the window and watched
the fields of wheat zoom past. She gave particular
interest to the brown dirt between the rows of
wheat. As the car sped along, the dirt between each
row would open up and then quickly fade into the
grass. She tried counting them, but soon realized it
was an impossible task. She tried again and again
to catch the momentum of the passing rows, but
Finally Willetta said, "I don't like secrets
either, but I wonder if they are sometimes
"Now what is that supposed to mean,"
Willetta shrugged and continued to look out
the window. She was thinking about all the work
Andrik had done to the beautiful house on
Thompson Estates. She secretly wondered if he
was concerned over his inheritance. At the same
time her heart ached at the thought that Mama Jean
had allowed her to live the life of an orphan when
all along she had a grandmother and an inheritance.
If Stanley Thompson was her father, everything he
left behind belonged to her. Willetta's hands curled
into fists as a new determination rose within her
Willetta felt the rise of the car as they left
the dirt road and finally found Intestate Sixty-One.
She and Andrik both had slid into their own
ruminations and by the rigid set of Andrik's jaw, it
was obvious his thoughts were angry.
"Andrik, the truth is always eventually a
good thing. Don’t worry. Everything will be fine,"
she said in an effort to sooth him.
"You just said a few minutes ago that secrets
might sometimes be necessary. It's clear your mind
isn't quite made up about anything. So, for right
now could you just keep your thoughts to yourself,"
he said meanly.
"Just what are you so angry about? Is it the
fact that the house just might be mine," she said.
The car accelerated as Andrik pressed his
foot down further on the gas. "Only an idiot
wouldn't be concerned. I've put my sweat and blood
into that house and land," he grumbled.
Willetta's eyes inadvertently went to his
hands. They gripped the steering wheel and the
strength they held was clear to the naked eye. The
dark skin of his arms curved and dipped with the
shapeliness of hewn muscles. He was a strong man,
but Willetta was no longer sure if he was as strong
as he looked. He was hurting and she had a feeling
that the hurting began way before Ms. Martha
Thompson had shown up with her revelations.
Willetta's sole purchase from Wal-Mart was
a pair of reading glasses. She would begin reading
the journals as soon as she could sneak a few out of
the ground. The determination to find out the
complete truth was now a burning fire within her. It
was stronger than her desire for Thompson Estates
or any material thing. She just wanted the truth and
she knew she would find it in the journals.
"Did you get everything you need," Andrik
asked. His eyes briefly scanned the small plastic
bag she held in her hand.
"Oh, yes. I brought practically everything I
own with me. So, I don't need any toiletries or
anything. Let's go," Willetta said. She was anxious
to get back to Martha and find out all she could
about her family.
Andrik's feet dragged. He was thoroughly
depressed. Everything was obscure now. The only
thing he knew for a certainty was that Anita
Thomas had been his mother. He also knew that
Stanley Thomas had never loved him and probably
resented his very existence. Something had gone
very wrong in Stanley and his mother's life. He had
always known they had never loved each other.
They had separate bedrooms from as far back as he
could remember. Why were they even together?
Had his whole life been a lie?
Andrik jumped when he felt Willetta's hand
slide over his as he pushed the basket of supplies.
Her hand was warm and soft. The warmth of it
seemed to spread up his arm. He gently squeezed
her hand and kept walking through the parking lot.
He could not look into her deep dark eyes. The
sympathy he was sure to see there would undo him.
She and he shared the same plight for sure, but she
was the strong one. She seemed anxious to get the
truth and put it behind her. He only felt a morbid
fear teetering steadily into sheer terror.
Volume 11, pg.1 (June 1910):
ain't never satisfied with nothing. Willetta has
filled my heart, but not her momma's. She
want another baby. She done asked that fast
gal over the bridge for her baby when its born.
She say a twelve-year-old ain't got no business
with a baby."
"I am never going to be your enemy,
Andrik. As far as I'm concerned, we are both
victims. We're smart enough to work this out,"
Willetta said as soon as they got settled back into
Andrik didn't say anything. He just nodded.
both victims. He realized the truth in
that. It was odd how earlier in the day he had held
the upper hand. The past was his, the family was
his, and the house was his. Now it seemed that it all
belonged to Willetta. He wasn't sure exactly where
that left him and he had no idea how he could
refrain from hating the person who walked away
with his heritage, even if it was Willetta.
"Willetta, how do we know we can believe
Martha Thompson," he asked desperately.
"We have to listen to her first. We will let
her talk, Andrik. You'll know if she's lying. But we
have to listen and be kind to her or else we may lose
our one chance to know the truth. Don't forget you
have to find out who your real father is. She has to
know," Willetta said.
"She's so old. She'll probably die like Mama
Jean did before we can find out anything," he
"Are you always so negative? Please stop it.
I don't like it and it makes you look bad," she spit
Andrik straightened his shoulders and sat
up. He really had slipped back into his dark days of
brooding. One shocker had shattered his new
image. Professor Chaston would be disappointed to