Meeting Margaret, Chapter 4

It was a very quiet and small wedding. Lee knew Margie wasn’t used to their country weddings, and the neighbors wouldn’t know what to make of Margie.
And so although Margie was married, and officially part of the community, she hardly knew any of the people.

“Lee, your mother mentioned that there is an ice cream social in town next week. Will we go?”
“Do you want to?”
 “Yes, I want to meet your neighbors, the people you know. They will be my friends now.”
“It is different from what you know.”
“Yes, but I can adjust. It will be fine. Can we go?”
“If you want to, of course.”
“Is it alright if my parents come along with us?”
“Lee, this is your farm, you make the decisions, you don’t have to ask permission from me. Do I look good enough?”
“Margie, you’re beautiful.”
She was wearing a full red dress, with cream lace around the neck, and black trimming.
“Will they think I look nice?”
“I don’t mean this against the others, but they are very plain. You see…the girls here…”
She was staring intently into his face, trying to understand what he meant.
“…oh well, it doesn’t matter. You will see soon enough. Come along, we need to get going.”

“Here we are,” Lee said. He smiled at Margie and took her hand. “Let me introduce you.”

“Lee, how nice of you to come,” Mrs. Gratcher exclaimed. “And this must be…?”
“This is my wife, Margie. And this is Mrs. Gratcher, a long-time friend of our family.”
“Pleased to meet you,” Margie said quietly.
“I hope you are adjusting to country life?”
“Yes, I enjoy living here.”
“Oh, Josie, here is Lee, come back from the city,” Mrs. Gratcher said, catching a girl walking past. “And this is his new wife, Margie.”
“Hello, Lee.”
She did not speak to Margie, but her eyes scanned Margie quickly.
Josie was a strong girl, her face was tanned from long hours in the sun, she walked with a heavy tread.
“How has your family been doing, Josie?” Lee asked.
“Fine. Mother had another baby, a little girl. And that makes eight of us now, plenty of help around the farm!”
Lee laughed and asked Josie to give his congratulations to her mother.
“Lee, glad to see you back,” a man said, coming up and shaking his hand. “And you brought someone with you?”
“Yes, Henry, this is my wife, Margie.”
“Pleased to meet you, Mrs. Mitchell.”
“And you, as well.”
“Lee, I wanted to ask what you do for calves that are…”
And suddenly Lee was whisked away from Margie, to talk with the other farmers about calving. She stood there, alone and surprised at her husband being gone, and felt very out of place. Margie was an only child, she had no experience with children, and all the young women her age were either watching their own children or their siblings. She didn’t realize it, but she began to stare at the girls, watching their faces, studying their clothing. They’re so coarse, she thought, and loud, what dark skin they have! And their hands are so red and rough. I suppose they do nothing but work on their farm, day after day, year after year, nothing more to life than that. And she felt a twinge of panic and fear—that she would turn into them. That one day she would look into the mirror and see a brown-tanned face, hair pulled back in a tight bun, an ugly bonnet over her head, a dirty worn-out dress, and hands rough as sand, chapped, with torn fingernails. Suddenly she realized the other girls were staring back at her, and she was embarrassed for a moment before glancing down at her dress and seeing the impeccable fashion of it. There’s no reason to be ashamed, those poor girls just don’t know what stylish dresses look like.  She lifted her chin high and resolutely, sweeping over the young women with a hollow glance, and walked towards her husband.
“Margie, that’s no place for you,” Eva said, coming up to her quickly.
“Why not?”
 “They’re talking menfolk talk, and we don’t go and interrupt them.”
“Oh,” she stammered. “But Lee’s there, and I want to be with him…”
“We don’t do that around here, so come meet these girls, they’re about your age.”
So Eva led her back to the same cluster of women she had just fled from.
“Girls, I’d like you to meet Margie, Lee’s wife. Margie, this is Josie, and Mary, and Helen, and Gladys. Margie’s from the city, and is new out here.”
Margie thought it sounded like Eva meant that to be an apology for something about Margie, “she’s new out here, so she can’t help it,” but wasn’t sure what “it” was.
Eva was called away by someone to help with the ice cream, and the girls were left staring silently at each other. To Margie’s relief, the multitude of children around soon distracted everyone’s attention, and it wasn’t necessary for her to even speak to the other girls. Eventually Lee returned to her.
“I am sorry I left you, the others wanted to know about our calves.”
“That’s alright,” and Margie smiled for she noticed he said “our” calves. But then it washed over her—the confusion she felt when he wasn’t there, the loneliness when Eva said it wasn’t proper for her to go stand beside him, and the quiet strain of looking at the other women but not knowing what to say.
“Lee, I want to go home,” she murmured and put her head against his shoulder.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, I don’t want to stay here,” and she closed her eyes and buried her face in his arm.
“Margie, I am so sorry this happened…I wanted you to get along with the others…” He led her away from the group of people until it was quiet. “I didn’t want this to happen, I knew you weren’t like them…”
“Lee, don’t blame yourself—you tried to tell me,” she said, looking up at him and wiping tears from her face. “I didn’t understand; it isn’t your fault.”
“I should have done something, so you wouldn’t feel so left out.”
“Never mind about it now, can we just go home?”
“Yes, of course. I’ll go get my parents, we’ll leave right now then.”
And she stood looking back at the others, talking and laughing together. She shivered and turned to leave.

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