So, I know originally this story was a oneshot with just the previous chapter, but then this assignment came up and I was really proud of it, so I'm posting it. Here was the assignment: write a journal entry or a short scene about either the Ewells, the Cunninghams or the Radleys.
Originally this ended on a happy note, but the plot kind of took charge of itself and forced me to end it angstily. Ish. Just know that it was not my original intention to make it sad.
Small disclaimer: I own Joyce. Nothing else. The songs mentioned are all real folk songs.
It was a rickety old house. The walls shook, and there were many permanent leaks in the ceiling. And occasionally, when she came home, Joyce would see Mayella crying in the corner. When that happened, the little girl would stand there for a moment and then creep silently away. After a while she became used to Mayella's tears.
So it was a surprise when she returned from snooping on the older children to find Mayella laughing, laughing so hard her body shook. Her big sister was standing over something in front of the miserable shack they called home, and her face was spread in a wide grin.
Cautiously, Joyce crept forward on cat's feet. The object of Mayella's joy was, she saw now, a potted plant. It was dirty, and some of its leaves had holes in them, but there was a single, budded flower poking its head up from atop the highest stem. Joyce gave a small gasp, and Mayella froze.
Peering around, the older girl noticed Joyce standing barefoot by the garbage heap. her shoulders lost some of their tension.
"Hey, Joyce." She gave a small smile. "I finally got it to bud. Do you like it?" she asked shyly.
For a moment Joyce didn't say anything, just stood there looking at the plant. Only when her sister's smile started to slip did Joyce speak up.
"'S beautiful, May-May," she said.
Mayella's face lit up once more.
"Now that I figured it out, I can grow more!" she exclaimed. "We can have our own little garden, right here in the front yard!"
"Won't Daddy mind?"
"Why should he?"
"'Dunno. When he's on the drink he ain't too with it. He might get mad 'n' start tearing things up," Joyce explained.
Her sister frowned.
"Maybe so. But there ain't nothing we can do about it."
The sixteen-year-old and the six-year-old sat in silence together and stared at the blossom.
Half a year later, there were a total of fourteen plants reaching for the sun in the garden by the garbage dump. When Joyce came back from her various daily activities, the two sisters would water them together and, because Mayella had read in an old gardening magazine she'd found that plants liked music, they would sing songs such as Moonshiner and Shady Grove, and Joyce's favorite, St James Infirmary. The six year old would curl up next to the older girl and sit in the sunshine with her eyes closed as Mayella's somewhat nasal voice wove a story out of golden threads in the summer air. The birds chirped in the background. Joyce was happy.
"This is nice, Joy-Joy, isn't it?" Mayella said, half to herself.
"Just you and me. No father beating us black and blue. No boys telling us what to do." She sighed. "I wish it could be like this all the time." They sat in silence for a few minutes, listening to the mockingbirds and finches in the trees.
Eventually Mayella spoke again. "It's nice to love someone like this. I'd like to have someone else. Someone special."
"'M not special?" asked Joyce groggily. Her sister laughed gently.
"You are. But not that way."
"You know. Romanticky." This got a grunt from Joyce. Mayella smiled slightly melancholily. "You'll get it someday, Joy-Joy. Right now boys're annoying, mm?"
There was no reply from Joyce. She was fast asleep in her sister's arms.
It ended at the bottom of a bottle. It always did. Ever since Mayella had been small, it had always ended with drink. This time, it had begun with several beers, and then when Mayella dared nurse the hope that it might stop there as well, her father had brought in the whiskey. He'd hit her a couple of times, and though it hurt, she could stomach beatings. But their father also beat Joyce. He broke her arm. The little girl was in the back room, not making a noise in her agony.
And then their father had staggered out front and picked up a plant. He'd stood there swaying for a minute, drooling slightly, and then he'd ripped out the roots and thrown the flower on the garbage dump. He'd proceeded to wreck the entire garden, all the hours Joyce and Mayella had spent weeding, rearranging, and most importantly, the flowers. When the man had finally passed out on the kitchen floor, Mayella had gone into the back room and gathered up Joyce in her arms. The girl was deathly pale from shock, but Mayella knew that she would feel better if she were out of the house. She carried her all the way to the nearest corn field, and they sat together as the sun went down, shivering and miserable but together. Mayella sang St James Infirmary.