Kitty changes her plan.
They did not speak much during the last leg of the long ride. Alva was busy with the contents of her purse, checking her cell phone for messages – of course Kitty didn’t have one of these either – and making sure her clothes were rearranged after sitting for so long. Kitty took a trip to the bathroom in the back of the bus. When she returned, Alva had walked to the front to say something to the driver, who was not supposed to talk to the passengers while driving, but he did say something to Alva because Kitty could see Alva laughing.
When Alva returned, she was still chuckling.
“Oh that man,” she said as she sank into the seat.
“What did he say?” Kitty asked and then thought maybe she shouldn’t have.
“Oh, he and me, we just kid around like that. Ain’t nothing special,” Alva shook her head.
“Do you know him?” Kitty asked.
“Sure I do. He’s my cousin’s husband on my daddy’s side once’t removed. Or is it twiced? I have trouble keeping relations straight when they get past the first and second remove. Anyhow, we’re kin, you know,” she nodded.
“Really?” Kitty was astonished.
“Oh, sure. He driving this run every day, practically. Least four times a week anyway. He drove me down to Richmond to see my sister.” She said it as if he was her personal chauffeur.
“Do you go down there a lot?” Kitty asked.
“Not right much excepting when she needs me, like when she gets sick like she done this time. But sometimes she comes up to see me, too. And then there’s other family that go back and forth. We got a whole lotta cousins and aunts and uncles. They like to come up and stay with me. But no one’s to my house right now. You know.” Alva leaned her head toward one shoulder as if she was considering some very deep thought. She stayed that way for a few moments, with Kitty watching her, wondering what she was going to say next.
Kitty thought Alva must be thinking about her large family. It made Kitty feel sad and she thought about what Alva had said before about Kitty finding her own mother. Thoughts tumbled around in Kitty’s mind about her mother and the old house they had lived in back in Kentucky. She remembered how it smelled in the spring. And how the river looked when it was swollen with spring melt. How brown and roiled it got. And how the barges strained against their ropes when the water ran high.
“Hey,” Alva suddenly said, shifting in her seat to fully face Kitty. “I got an idea. See what you think of this.”
“What?” asked Kitty.
“How about if you was to not go up to that convent right away? How about if you was to come and stay a little time with me in Brooklyn?” Alva held up her hand as if to say to Kitty, don’t talk just yet. “Hear me out before you say no. I got the house. It’s plenty big. Lots of bedrooms and baths. No one else is there right now, well no one except the one lady who’s stays in the back room on the ground floor off the kitchen. She don’t mind nobody. She’s a good old soul.
“And you could help me with my accounts, like you said you done for your husband. I need a hand with that because I had this bookkeeping man and he just up and left me. And them books is a right mess now. You could fix those up for me before you go on to the convent. And we could trade that for your room and board. And then, when you’re ready, you could go on up there to the sisters. Whenever you’re ready. Because, to be honest with you, I don’t think you’re ready for that quite yet. Okay, you can talk now because that’s my idea.” Alva sat back in her seat and smiled.
Kitty didn’t know what to say. What an idea, was all she could think. To go and live with someone she had met on a bus. To live in Brooklyn, New York. She had no idea what that must be like. To do work for someone – real work. And not to go to the convent right away.
“I,” she started and then stopped. They had come out of the Lincoln Tunnel. The air was thick. There was traffic all around them. The bus was turning at a light. Kitty couldn’t think. She felt as if she was being stood on her head and shaken. Nothing was normal. This day, this place, all the people in the street, this bus, her feelings. Not one thing was what it should be.
“Do you really think it’s a good idea?” She said finally. “I mean do you think it would be all right?”
“Yes I surely do,” Alva answered. “I think them sisters would not want you to come up there and stay with them if you was at all regretful that you didn’t know your family. And I think you want to know what happened to your sisters and your brothers and your mama. I think deep in here,” and Alva pointed to her own heart, “you got you an aching. And it ain’t no aching for the convent. It would be an aching for family.”