She had no desire to leave the life she had led for 17 years. The small town she had grown up in was perfect in her view. But falling in love with a wandering man changes her. She grew restless and reckless.
The main street was the highway that led to far off places. Men sat in chairs pulled from the pool hall to watch strangers drive through. The corner cafe had booths used only by travelers and then there were the ones in the corner that might have been reserved for the men’s coffee klatch. The community had no mayor and the one policeman did not have a car. Problems were solved using an informal committee method. There had only been one murder in town that anyone had ever heard of and peeping toms were very rare. The local prostitutes and second wives were treated with disregard but no judgement.
Annie was just a part of the whole. The men on main street said she was the prettiest girl in town. When the young man came to town on the 4th of July she thought he was handsome. An invitation to have dinner at her grandmother’s house led to a courtship of sorts. She saw him just enough to keep her interested and to make the other boys in town seem dull.
One day in May they ran away to a far off place and she began a new life. Jobs were very scarce but he didn’t want her to work so she lived in the tiny shack behind the service station that dominated main street. She took in wash but her husband never knew. He was wandering man and only came home to keep her company occasionally. There was always just enough money to get by on. He seemed to know how much she needed and where she might go if she had any more.
Annie loved the new little town they had moved to. It was in a green valley with mountains on each side and a river ran through the little town. She often joined other young people her age on the river bank to talk and dream. They knew she was married but they also knew she was young like them. Listening to her talk in that slow drawl made them dream about far off places.
The little town was much like the one she left…no mayor, men on sidewalks and only one murder that anyone would tell about.
When she became pregnant with her child she began to worry about that man. The one she loved didn’t seem to want to stay close by but he wanted her where he could always find her. He moved her to a brick house up the hill. It sat in the middle of the block and had a tiny yard that surrounded it. Trees shaded it from the summer sun and vines grew up the brick to keep the inside cool. It was a doll house of sorts and she always looked forward to the return of her love. The church sat at the corner of the block. A beautiful steeple had been built as a memorial to a native son and the bell pealed each Sunday morning. The little girl, now nearly 4, would go with her neighbor to Sunday school and come home talking about the songs, the pretty dresses and other girl’s daddies.
Annie never went. She was not married. The wandering man would not say but she suspected that there were other women that wanted to be married down the road. Her desire to be married began to gnaw at her. She was growing older, the child needing her less and less. Her man had remained a wanderer.
The day did arrive when he didn’t come. She knew with a certainty that he would never be back. Whether he was hurt or even worse she would never know. The idea of going back home was so horrible she could not do it.
It was the 4th of July. She saw a handsome stranger at the parade on main street. People said hello to her but never invited her in or even gave her any regard. She invited the man home for a picnic after he complimented her on the beauty of her child. He was a wandering man….