A pair of clear, blue eyes echoed the bright summer skies which lit another evening of blissful freedom. The road stretched out to the horizon, a ribbon of dust dotted with scrubby bushes, dry trees and jagged grass. Jedidiah Curry frowned at the figure sashaying towards his hiding place; her shape shifting in the shimmering heat haze as she walked passed the schoolhouse.
She was trouble, that one. She had changed his life the minute she had walked into the room, with her bright blonde hair and that intoxicating feminine sway. Odella Blau smelled of honeysuckle and jasmine in a world where females generally lived in a cloud of carbolic soap and new-baked bread. She was soft and round in all the right places and looking into her green eyes was like diving into a secret pool in a sun-dappled forest glade. Everything about her was a sensory experience from the warmth of her laughter to the hollow emptiness of the void she left behind when she was gone. This was the woman who had come between the two best friends. This was the woman for whom he lay in wait.
Thanks to her, Hannibal Heyes was not enjoying the sun on his skin, the freedom to walk in the warm, summer air, or the company of his best friend. This was a score that needed settling.
He turned, looking back down towards the town and a smile twitched at his lips. Yes, it was just as he thought; the preacher’s wife was heading towards the church where the junior chapter of the Ladies’ Mission were preparing for their craft show under the brightly coloured bunting which fluttered in the wind. It wasn’t just any craft show – it was the event of the year. Young women from all over the district were there, bustling about with their sewing, knitting, crochet, lace making. They were desperate to be named as the best in their field. A win was prestigious, marking a girl out as good marriage material, and Odella Blau was headed straight for it with her basket.
He climbed up onto his knees, making sure he was still concealed behind the rocks. The women were congregating around the stalls in chattering groups when Odella arrived. She laid her basket on the baked goods stall and used both hands to carefully place a dish of golden perfection among the offerings. The preacher’s wife turned, her interest piqued by murmured “oohs” drifting in the air. She raised her brows and stared intently down at the pie crust. “That looks beautifully browned, Odella.”
She smiled prettily. “Thank you, Mrs. Jay.”
“And you seem to have arranged all of the blueberries in a tight spiral. That looks absolutely beautiful and the glaze is perfect. It must have taken you ages.”
“It did,” Odella flushed.
“Well,” Mrs. Jay glanced down the table at the other offerings, “if it tastes as good as it looks it’ll be a sure fired winner. It looks good enough to be entered in the seniors’ competition tomorrow. I think we have the makings of a star baker in our midst.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Jay...”
Odella continued fussing and primping her at display, turning the dish this way and that, her fair head tilted to the side and the tip of a little pink tongue protruding through her rosebud lips in concentration. She stepped back to leave her competition entry, apparently happy that it was being shown to best effect.
Jed Curry grinned. His vantage point was the rocky outcrop between the church and the schoolhouse and from here he had a perfect view. Hannibal Heyes was there in the school house, cleaning the floor in front of the blackboard he had apparently just wiped as part of his detention duties. Jed scowled. He simply didn’t understand his older cousin’s obsession with thirteen year old Odella. Sure she was pretty and all, and made him feel real strange at times, but Hannibal was completely smitten. Since Odella had arrived at their school Jed had not only lost his fishing partner but Hannibal had lost all interest in their usual pranks and high jinks. Jed had even had to walk to school on his own because Hannibal was carrying Odella’s books for her. Why? She didn’t look crippled. He’d seen his ma bring in a whole basket of logs by herself, so it wasn’t like women couldn’t lift stuff. They were real good at it. His big sister was stronger than he was; in fact he still hadn’t forgiven her for holdin’ him down so that his younger sisters could put ribbons in his curls.
He shook himself back to the business at hand - Odella Blau and the contest. The church ladies were starting to file down the line of tables. Time to get to action. He raised his weapon and took careful aim, pulling back on the sling shot as far as it would go.
The aim was true. The projecting hurtled through the air and smashed straight through the school room window. Jed nodded with satisfaction at the sight of the school teacher bustling over to examine the missile, staring accusingly out at the yard to see where it had come from. One thing was for sure. She wasn’t going to blame Hannibal because he was standing in the middle of the room holding a mop. He might be in detention, but he was in the clear for this one.
The school wasn’t too far away, and he could hear Miss Gormley’s voice raise an octave in anger. She suddenly got louder when she appeared outside in the schoolyard, peering up at the rocks. Jed was ready for her though, and had already clambered down from his vantage point and was walking innocently towards the church.
“Miss! Miss Gormley!” The teacher turned and frowned at young Hannibal who was holding up the stone which had shattered the window. “It’s wrapped in paper. There’s a note.”
“There is?” Miss Gormley unwrapped the rock and stared down at the missive. Here eyeballs started to positively bulge before she crunched it up in her hand and marched off in the direction of the church. “I want that floor finished by the time I get back”, she called over her shoulder. “You are still in detention. I’ll only be a few minutes.”
Jed was strolling casually in the background as the irate teacher strutted up to the baking contest with the outrage of a wet hen. She scanned the table before giving a gasp of outrage and pointed at a blueberry pie. “That’s mine! I made that.”
“Are you sure?” The pastor’s wife scuttled up surrounded by the town matriarchs.
“Sure?” Miss Gormley pointed at the extravagant spirals picked out by individual berries in an everlasting, swirling fractal. “It took me hours to arrange the berries like that. I laid it out on the window sill to cool and it was stolen.” She cast guilty eyes over in the direction of the school. “In fact Hannibal is in detention right now for the theft. I was so sure it was him. He had blueberry stains on his shirt.”
“Odella Blau!” Mrs. Jay bawled at the blonde girl shrinking into the shadows. “What is the meaning of this? You stole this pie!? It’s your teacher’s pie?”
Tears glittered in her green eyes. “I...I had boasted to everyone about my pie... mine was stolen and when I saw that one sitting there it just seemed so perfect.” Her little hands formed into fists. “I couldn’t go without entering anything. I’d told everyone how lovely my pie was and I had nothing...”
“So you sat there and let me accuse poor Hannibal for something he didn’t do!” cried Miss Gormley. “How could you!?”
“I’m sorry. It was just a pie and I’m new here. The girls don’t like me and they said I was useless at baking. I had to out something in the competition.” Odella cast beseeching eyes at the adults. “I didn’t mean any harm. It was just a pie.”
“It was my entry for the Seniors Baking competition tomorrow,” Miss Gormley barked. “It was my special blueberry pie. Oh, poor Hannibal. He’s in detention for nothing.”
“Well, this is an easy decision. Odella Blau, you are disqualified and are barred from entering any of the Women’s Mission competitions for five years.”
The girl burst into tears and ran off in the direction of the town. Mrs. Jay turned to the teacher. “We can save your pie to enter in tomorrow’s contest. You can still submit that as an entry. There’s no real harm done.”
“I suppose,” Miss Gormley sighed, “now I have to go and apologize to Hannibal. I hate having to admit to students that I’m wrong.”
“To err is human, to forgive divine,” Mrs. Jay reminded to teacher. “This is actually quite funny,” she suppressed a quiet smile, “but we can’t possibly tell the children that. Where would it all end?”
“Quite,” agreed Miss Gormley. “It’d be chaos. I’d best get back to the school and let Hannibal get out to enjoy the sunshine.” Here keen eyes landed on a small figure in lurking in the background. “Jedidiah Curry! Get over here.” She watched the reluctant boy approach, dragging his boots through the dust as though they were made of lead. “Did you think you could send a note through my window wrapped around a rock without recognising the handwriting? You wrote that and pitched it through the glass. I’m your teacher. I know everyone’s handwriting!”
Jed drew aimless circles with his toe and cast rueful eyes to the ground. “I wanted to tell you what happened to your pie...”
“You could have just come to me. There was no need to be destructive. Your parents will have to pay for that repair.”
“I’m sorry, Miss,” Jed’s blue eyes widened innocently. “I thought you were too angry to listen. You were proper mad.”
“I am now,” she paused, “but I suppose you did tell me where my pie went. You will chop wood for the school fireplace every day next week for breaking the window, but because you helped me find my pie you can do it at break times instead of staying late.”
Jed nodded his curly head. “Yes, m. I understand. I won’t do it again.”
He watched the sparrow-like frame of his teacher disappear back in the direction of the schoolhouse clutching her precious blueberry pie, and it wasn’t too much longer before the an elated Hannibal Heyes came careening his way.
“Jed! That was you? You smashed the window?”
“Sure did, Han.”
“Wow! When the stone came through the window and there was glass everywhere. Man, Mrs. Gormley was furious. You found her pie for her? That was lucky. How did you know who stole it? Did ya see them? Huh, did ya see the thief?”
“No. I never saw them, but I knew it was Odella.”
“It was Odella?” Hannibal’s brown eyes filled with a mixture of disappointment and admiration. “She stole the teacher’s pie for the competition? But how do you know that it was her if you never saw her?”
“They know she did it, Han. She entered the teacher’s pie in the junior competition. She was caught with it and she was quite happy to leave you to take the punishment for it too, just because you had a blueberry stain on your shirt. She a wrong ‘un. She ain’t right for you.”
Hannibal shook his head in confusion. “But how did you know?”
“I knew when she insisted that she was puttin’ in an entry in the competition.” A devilish grin spread over Jed’s face and his eye twinkled with mischief. “The teacher’s pie was stolen and I knew Odella’s had gone missin’. Where do you think I got the pie we ate from? That’s how you’ve got a blueberry stain on your shirt.”
“You sly dog!”
Jed tapped his temple with grubby fingers. “Well you know what Grandpa Curry always says, Han. Up there for thinkin.’” He pointed down at his booted feet. “Down there for dancin’.”
“Thanks,” Hannibal scratched his head. “Yeah. That was pretty mean of her, huh? She shouldn’t have let me take the blame like that. It’s a good job you don’t let women turn your head. I need to be more like you. I would’ve been known as a thief. Can you imagine goin’ through life with that hangin’ over your head? Phew, talk about a narrow escape!”
Did anyone notice anything about the names? They all relate to the word blue – except for the boys of course.