When they arrived, she slowed the car to a stop in front of her childhood home and turned off the ignition. She turned her head toward Atticus and smiled. "We're home."
Her father returned her smile. "So we are." Always trying to do things for himself, he turned his frail body and swung his legs out of the car. But when he tried to stand, he teetered, causing Jean Louise to scramble out of the car to steady him. She grabbed his arm, waiting patiently until he was able to stand fully upright. And then he gave her a gracious smile.
"Thanks, Scout. I guess I'm not as agile as I used to be."
She laughed. "You're seventy-two years old, Atticus. You're not supposed to be agile."
Atticus scoffed. "Well, I used to-."
Jean Louise chuckled. "You used to do a lot of things."
"Right. Before this damn arthritis took over."
She looked around, somewhat disturbed when she realized that although it felt as though they'd been walking for hours, they weren't even halfway to the front door. And Atticus seemed to realize it too, for his pace slowed considerably.
"Come on, Atticus." She said quietly. "Just a few more steps and we'll be there before you know it."
Neither of them said anything more as they moved on and suddenly, true to her words, she noticed that she was now helping him up the step that led to the wraparound porch.
"You made it." She said, beaming with pride. It was such a small, insignificant thing, but to her it was a milestone. Never had she been so proud.
It was odd, feeling this way and she wondered what had brought it on. Perhaps it was the fact that their relationship had changed in the course of only a few hours.
It wasn't enough; not by a long-shot. But it was a start, anyway.
She unlocked the door and they went inside. Everything was as it was before, bringing, as the sight of her former home always did, a flood of childhood memories.
Everywhere she looked, a memory was evoked.
"Do you want some coffee, Atticus?"
"Sure, that sounds fine, just fine, Jean Louise." He said. But before she went to make the coffee, she went to her father. "Did you want to read the newspaper while you wait?"
"Actually can you hand me that book?"
She looked around the room until she spotted a blue book sitting by the sofa. She crossed the hardwood floor and picked it up. "This book?"
"That's the one."
"Sure is an awful big book, Atticus." She winked.
Always one step ahead of her, he laughed. "I know an awful lot of words, Scout."
She nodded. "Right. I'll go and make that coffee now."
She headed into the kitchen and filled the coffee pot with water and began the task of making the coffee. Soon the heavenly aroma of freshly brewed coffee wafted through the kitchen, prompting her to set two coffee cups on the counter instead of just the one; might as well take pleasure in it.
However, it would be a few more minutes before it was ready to be poured, so she sank down in the rickety wooden chair, content to take time to ponder her thoughts. So much had happened in such a short time. She'd been betrayed by two, no three men she loved; Henry, Atticus and her Uncle Jack but it took a strike across the mouth from her strong-willed Uncle Jack to make her see the light.
And boy had it worked.
My God, had she really become that blind to the world around her, and worse, to the people closest to her in the tiny town of Macomb Junction, Alabama?
Suddenly the thought of being alone didn't seem like such a good idea. Having the chance to think only made things worse; and things couldn't get any worse than they already were, even when she'd made amends with Atticus. There had to be more; much more.
She sprang from the chair and q quickly poured her father a cup of steaming coffee. And then she carefully walked into the living room where he was sitting in his chair engrossed in his book. "Here you are, Atticus. Nice and hot just the way you like it."
"Thank you, Scout."
She stood staring at him for a moment. And then she returned to the kitchen to pour her own cup of coffee, returning quickly to the living room. She could feel him, watching her as she sat down on the sofa next to him and began to quietly sip her coffee. She deliberately kept her gaze straight ahead, staring out of the window at the curtains blowing softly in the breeze. Calpurnia must have left the window open again. But the breeze was welcome against the stifling heat.
"How's your book?" she asked, after a long uncomfortable silence.
"What? Oh, right. It's fine. Very interesting."
"What's it about?"
"It's about the Civil War." He explained. "Such a trying time for so many people. Why I remember in school we talked about this-."
His voice trailed away, replaced with unsettling voices in her head. And the voices were what had her springing to her feet. She gulped down her coffee, wincing at the pain the hot liquid brought to her sore mouth.
"Scout what's wrong?"
"Nothing Atticus. I-I need to go."
"What's your hurry?"
"There's something I need to do. I'm sorry, I really have to go."
She started for the door, moving faster when she saw him stand. "Atticus, don't help me. I'll be fine, okay? I'll be back later."
Hot tears stung her eyes as she rushed out of the house and to her car. And as she started the engine she could see him watching her through the screen door, most likely wondering what had gotten into her.