Freda was young only fifteen when she met her prince charming. Leo was tall, strong, and not to bad to look at. His dark brown hair always in place, he was determined and proud. Of course, she had been warned not to fall in love to fast; Leo was not the kind of person in a rush to settle down. Leo was twenty-two and not much interested in a kid of fifteen, but there she was every time he turned around. She was pretty, not like her sister Sarah who was made up to the hilt, or her mother who was extravagantly gaudy. Freda had a plane natural beauty, she like things simple, and quite. There was nothing fake about her, she was a hard worker, and enjoyed what ever she was doing. Leo worked at the knot whole factory, and was a sharecropper. Honest and true to his word.
Leo could not help but to like Freda, she was always tried to help someone. Baking, and taking meals to anyone who was not feeling well. She loved animals, gardening, and sewing. Freda’s mother and sister were neither the domestic type. Her Father had a small store full of everything a person could want. The family was not rich, but was doing better than most .He was a religious man who was very faithful to his beliefs. Freda’s father had noticed her infatuation with Leo and he was not thrilled, but she was young and crushes would pass. Besides her mother and sister would give her enough grief over the whole thing. He was just glad Freda showed signs of becoming a lady unlike the rest of the women in his life. He knew both his wife and older daughter had several men friends. His wife and he had decided to go their separate ways as soon as Freda was old enough to settle down. In the mean time, they live as peaceful as they could.
Freda could not stop daydreaming about a life with Leo, she knew it was crazy but if he would just get to know her, he was sure to fall in love. Everyone loved her it was just something about her; she drew you in with her true kindness. She would make sure some how that he saw her, not as a child but as young women. He needed someone to take care of him, to make him a home, and she was just the person to do that.
For a year, Freda would stop by and bring Leo something to eat, and talk for a while. Just friendly, not pushy, and she would never stay long even when Leo would ask her to stay awhile. This was happening more and more. She was sixteen now and had become a simple beauty. Her long black hair neatly pulled back, her tanned skinned shinning and her high cheekbones kissed by the sun. Freda seemed to glow as spring grew near. Leo was noticing every detail especially the fact that Freda no longer looked or acted like a child. She was now a catch and there were other young men who were noticing too.
In mid spring, every year there was a community picnic after Sunday morning services. All the women would cook their best dishes and pies. There were games and singing. Everyone would wear their best outfits. Freda had been working on a dress, the prettiest she had ever made. She had made a special pie for the occasion, along with other dishes. Today she thought Leo would have to notice that I am no longer a child, but a woman. The day was perfect. Sun shinning, beating down only enough to be comfortable, with a slight breeze. The wild flowers were in bloom, and gave off a wonderful fragrance. Every one was in church that morning. I would be a great day. As church let out Freda and her father gathered there belongings for the days events. Everyone was happy and visiting with folks, they had not seen for a while. Young couple were walking together and laughing. Leo was there, but he seemed to keep his distance from Freda. She was asked by one then another to take a walk or partner in one of the games, but she politely declined. Once and a while she would notice Leo looking her way but he never approached. She could not figure it out; she knew he liked her, so why was he ignoring her. Finally she had, had enough. If he would not come to her, she would go to him, and then right past him. She would show him he was the only fella in town. She had many offers, and if he could appreciate all the trouble she had went to then she would find some one who did. Freda rose to her feet, straightened her dress and smoothed her hair. As she began to walk in Leo’s direction, he smiled and tried to act as if he had not noticed her. As she approached, she shyly spoke. “Hello Leo, it’s a beautiful day isn’t it.” and she kept on walking. One of the young men in town joined her, and they talked and laughed. The rest of the day Freda ignored Leo.
The next week Freda did not stop and visit with Leo like she had usually done. When she saw him, she spoke and smiled. However, as far as Leo could tell, she had seemed to get over her crush on him. He saw her talking to some of the young men in town, and even seemed to be courting a couple of them. Maybe he should give it a try; after all, she might be more like her mother and sister than he had believed. For the next few weeks, Leo made a point of stopping Freda to talk and even requested some of her cooking that he really had missed. When he seemed to be winning back her affections, he invited her to join him on a picnic. She invited him to join her and her father to church and dinner after; soon it was a weekly affair. Freda had him or he had her. She truly loved Leo, and Leo had come to care for Freda. Though he had came to realize Freda was nothing like her sister and mother but that would not stop him from trying. He had a plan, and he did care so telling her how much he loved and needed to be with her would not be a complete lie. After all, he really did want her. It took some doing but soon he got what he had worked so hard for. Freda would gladly do anything to make Leo happy, and he was good to her, and patient. Even if the things he asks of her went against everything she new to be right.
By the end of summer, Freda had given her heart soul and body to Leo. She thought of how disappointed and hurt he father would be, but she could not help it she needed to make Leo happy no matter what. Freda wanted to spend the rest of her life with Leo, and though he had not asked she was sure he would. Maybe he was waiting for her birthday in September after all she was still only sixteen. But September came and went; Leo gave her a necklace with a small heart locket. There was no mention of marriage and though she was disappointed, she was still happy just to be with him. Then the worst thing that could happen did. I mid November Freda realized she was pregnant. What would she tell her father, and what would she tell Leo. It would break her father’s heart and Leo might hate her. However, it was done there was no other choice; she knew her father would not send her away and she preyed Leo would not either. The day after Thanksgiving, she decided to tell her father. He was a strong man, and proud but at that moment he seemed to become weak and small. Through tear-filled eyes, he told her everything would be ok. She and Leo would be married as soon as possible, and that was that. That same evening Freda went to speak to Leo. His reaction was not as kind as that of her Father. He seemed angry, and told her to leave. Freda felt as if her heart would explode. The man she loved more than life it self now seemed to hate her. Because she had did everything to please him and to prove her love for him, he know was turning against her. What would she do what would she tell her father? Oh how her mother and sister would enjoy this mess. The angle has fallen. She could already hear them.
The days passed slowly, they were grey and dark. Freda felt ill and alone. She could not bring herself to tell her father what had happen when she told Leo of the baby. She could not tell anyone. Had she been so wrong about him, about what they had shared? Christmas was only a few days away and there was no joy, only despair and panic. Freda was a small girl and clothes were beginning to get tight, she would not be able to keep her secret much longer. Her father had not spoken to anyone except for Freda herself, but he was always kind and loving. He had wanted to speak to Leo himself, but Freda had begged him not to, so he kept his silence.
Leo was torn; he wanted to despise Freda, trying to think of something, which would justify him turning his back on her. There was nothing, she was good and kind, nothing like the image he wanted to paint of her. He knew what he should do, but though he cared for her, he was not sure he would ever love her; at least in the way he knew she loved him. I would be easier if she were like her mother, free and flamboyant, shoot that was more his type anyways. He could even fall in love with a woman like that. What a mess this little game had turned into.
Early afternoon on Christmas Eve as Freda and her family were putting the touches on the decorations, and backing for Christmas day. Father had put on some records, they all sang along, and for a while, they were a happy family. Things were as they should be, then there was a knock at the door it was Leo. Freda’s father opened the door, and Leo knew from the look on the mans face he knew. Leo asks if they might have a word, and the two men step out to the barn. Freda’s father was silent until the barn door closed. “So, Leo have you come to what you know is right? SHe has not asked you to, and she will not. My guess is you sent her away, and as you asked, she did. Am I right?” Leo could not bring himself to look anything but the ground. No words could say what should be said. Leo was a good man, but the last few months his action had done anything but prove he was as low as the dirt he was standing on. After a few moments, Leo brought himself to look at this great man who stood in front of him. To his surprise, there was not hate, no judgment, only compassion. “Sir, I am sorry for everything. I have behaved terrible, and I am ashamed of the man you see here. However, Sir, I am here to make things right if you will let me. Freda is a wonderful girl and is better than what I disserve I know. Sir, with your permission I would like to make things right, and ask for Freda’s hand.” There was silence for what seemed like hours then the old man spoke. “I will give my permission, but the decision is up to Freda. I have only one thing to say on this. You have hurt my daughter; this will be the first and the last time. So unless you can make that promise and keep it, this is as far as this will go.” there were a few more moments of silence before Leo could speak. There was no mistaking what was said. “Sir, I promise never again will I leave Freda to be alone. I will never do anything to hurt or disappoint her again.” With that, the two me left the barn, and returned to the house.
Freda was just setting the table when the men entered the house. When she looked up tears filled her eyes and she could barely speak. “Freda, Leo has come to speak to you, and we will need an extra plate for supper.
The day after Christmas Freda, and Leo were married. Freda was the wife of a sharecropper and she was happy. She knew there was talk, but it was ok, none of that mattered. Leo seemed happy and content. They both worked hard to keep everything going and getting ready for the baby.
July 5, 1931 Arils was born. SHe had black wavy hair, dark complication and high cheekbones like her mother; she had her father’s eyes and nose. She was in Freda’s eyes perfect. Leo was proud of his daughter and had come to love Freda, not it the heart stopping way that young people look for, but in a calm, safe and secure way. He was happy, and comfortable.
With in two years Freda was expecting their second child, and in February, she gave birth to a son, whom she named after her husband and her father. Rayburn Leo was the image of his father. The children learned at an early age to work hard, and be respectful. Freda’s parents had gone their separate ways. Alice who seemed to worship her grandmother, and all her wicked ways began to resent her life even as a small child. Rayburn was the combination of her father and husband and in Freda’s eyes perfect.
When Arlice was about eight and Rayburn 5 the four of them left for California. Leo had a brother out there who was doing pretty good growing fruit. He told Leo they should pack it up and try farming out there. So they went and settled on a small dairy farm. Freda worked baking pies making quilts and she took in laundry for some of the families around, everyone worked Rayburn helped out at one of the larger dairies down the road, and Arlice helped with the laundry jobs. Freda had even had start raising and milking goats, and chickens for eggs and fryers Life was hard still but they were happy.
For two years life was good they had saved up enough to put a down payment on a small orchard. Freda was tired, more than usual, but with all the excitement, and everything that needed to be done, she did not complain. She had not felt well for some time, but she figured she had just been over doing it. Leo had noticed that she seemed to tire more easily lately and was worried that she was pushing herself to hard. Rayburn tried to pitching in more, but Arlice resented having to do more, after all this was not her idea of the good life. After a few months of Freda not getting better, and now no appetite, Leo insisted Freda see the doctor. For weeks they checked for everything, finally the local doctor subjected they go to the hospital so that some of the doctors there could examine Freda. So they went. The doctors found cancer, and a lot of it. The best they could do was to give her pain medication to keep her comfortable.
Leo could not believe the words, he was not sure he even understood what they meant. She was going to die, and soon, no one could stop it, what would happen to the children? What would he do?
On the ride home, Freda napped. Leo kept looking at her, she looked like a child, and she was smiling. He wondered how she could smile; she had nothing to smile about. She had not cried, or asked questions, she just sat there with a far away look in her eyes. What could she be thinking? Why is she so calm? Leo wanted to scream but he could even speak. Before they got home, Freda opened her eyes and smiled at him, she reached over and touched his face gently, lovingly. “Leo, it will all be alright. I will right your mother, she will gladly come to help with the children, and Father will help too. He has been wanting to visit for a while now. We will not tell the children at least not until the end. Everything will be fine I promise, you don’t need to worry I will take care of everything.” Leo wanted to say something anything but there were no words, he wanted to reach out and comfort her, and instead she is comforting him.
Arlice and Rayburn were kept home from school a lot, Freda told them they all needed to spend sometime visiting with their grandmother; after all, they had not seen her for a long time. Freda’s father found a place to stay down the road a ways and came by daily, to help Leo and check on Freda. Grandmother was a stern woman, who ran the house like a tight ship, Arlice and Rayburn were not sure they liked this much, their mother stricked was always kind and smiling. Freda slept a lot, and when she was awake and setting up she wanted the children by her. She told them stories, and they played games. Their grandmother would often try to show them out of the room when Freda seemed to get tired. However, Freda would always beg for them to stay just a little while longer, and they did.
It had only been four months since the doctors had given them the bad news. Freda was weak and seldom able to even set up. Leo tried to keep a strong face for everyone. Grandmother kept them all in line. Freda’s father tried to keep everyone in good spirits. The morning was cold and grey; the sky looked as if it would open up and drown the world with tears at any moment. Leo and her father were already at the barn; grandmother was filling the stove with wood to fix breakfast. Freda lay and watched out the window. “Lord, let the sunshine today, just once more please.” Grandmother was setting the table when the children came into Freda’s room; she could see Leo and her father coming in from the barn. The sun was trying to break through the clouds. Today she would try to eat with the family. When Leo came into the room she ask him to help her fix her hair and to get the pretty pink night gown and cover her father had brought her and then carry her to the table, and though the pain was terrible, she didn’t let on. When they had finished eating, and she was back in her bed, she asked Leo and the children to set with her for a moment. She told them everything she felt in her heart, and then told the children they need to go to school. The sun was beginning shine and there was a beautiful rainbow outside the window.
For the first time Rayburn cried, and argued with his mother, he begged her to let him stay with her. But she insisted they go. She kissed them, and held them as tight as she could. Arlice looked at her mother; she knew it would be the last time. She took her brother by the hand a led him out the door. Before they got outside, he broke free and ran back to his mother. “Good bye mommy, I love you and I’ll come straight home. I’ll learn a lot and I’ll make you proud I promise.” then he left. It was the longest walk he would ever take. Freda spoke to her father for a while, and then to grandmother who took Freda’s instructions to heart. Then Leo, the love of her life, she told him she knew that she knew that life had not been as he had hoped, and for that she was sorry. But she cherished everyday, and she hoped that he did not have many regrets. Leo could only say “none”.
Freda told him she needed to rest and Leo left the room. Freda shut her eyes and thanked God for the sunshine and the rainbow, and for all of dreams fulfilled.
A story of love, hope, dreams, and promises made.