“Say you’re sorry to the lady,” the woman pushed the boy toward Alva.
“I’m sorry,” he said and looked at his shoes. “Can we go outside now, Mama?”
“That’s okay, sugar. No one got hurt. You not hurt, ain’t that right?” Alva leaned down to look at his face. She wanted to pick him up and hug him to her. It was all she could do to contain herself.
He looked at her with big, round eyes and suddenly grinned. “We all fell in a pile, didn’t we?” And then he added, “What was you doing on our porch?”
“Don’t be rude, Bobby,” the woman said.
“Yes’m,” he replied.
“All right, now,” his mother said. “You and Willie can go out and play for a little bit.”
His brother ran in from another room. They grabbed their jackets and were out the door before Alva could get a good look at the older boy.
“You have a wonderful family, truly,” Alva said. Without waiting for the other woman to ask, as she thought it rude not to have introduced herself before, but what with all the commotion, she felt now was the time to make herself known. She took a breath and straightened her coat one final time.
“I know you must be wondering, just like your boy said, what am I doin’ here on your porch step. Well, my name is Alva Patterson and I came to call because … ” Here she stopped not quite knowing how to continue.
The woman watched Alva without saying anything. Her expression said she had no idea what Alva was there for but that she was not in the least worried about Alva and felt comfortable with her. So Alva pulled herself up and took another deep breath and plunged in again.
“I come to call because I wanted to meet with Moses Freeman. I think this is the right house?” She finished, feeling so far she had done just fine. What would come next, she had no idea.
“Yes, Moses is my husband,” the woman said. “I’m Cecilia Patterson. Those are our boys,” she motioned to the front door. “What did you want to see him about? He’s at work right now. Maybe I can help you.”
Alva had not expected Moses to be out. She had no plan for that. She twisted her handbag strap, not sure how to proceed.
“Well,” she began. “It’s kinda hard what I got to say. Very hard. I don’t quite know where to start. I don’t want to be a problem or anything like that.”
“Let’s go in and set, and you can take off your coat and breathe a bit,” Cecilia said. “Would you like some tea or maybe coffee? It’s mighty cold out today.”
They entered the living room. Cecilia took Alva’s coat and placed it on the back of a chair. Then she sat on the couch and motioned for Alva to do the same.
“Those pictures,” Alva pointed to the mantle, “they all your family?”
“Yes,” Cecilia said. “My people and Moses’s people and our children. Our wedding. I guess you could say that’s pretty much our life up there. Very precious of course, to us.” She smiled at Alva.
“Maybe that’s a good place to start,” Alva said and noticed that Cecilia look momentarily confused.