Malignant Memories

At Uncle George's farm, Vivian knocks on the door of the little yellow house, and explains to the woman who answers that her friend used to stay there as a girl. Would it be OK to look around?

Margie, who's stayed by the car, needs a cigarette. She lights one, hoping the woman will say no. She doesn't.

Vivian and Ezzie push because they want their friend to remember. If she can remember, if she can confront her fears, she can learn to be strong.

They escort her to the top of the driveway, as if she were a schoolgirl again just getting off the bus to visit her now late aunt and uncle.

"He would walk with me to the back of the barn like this," Margie said, cinching her arm around Ezzie's waist. "He held me very tight and the horse would follow because he had sugar or something. I'd be squirming because I didn't like being held. And he would tell me if I didn't stop squirming the horse would stomp on me.

"And so I was always afraid of horses."

"But you showed me a picture of you sitting on a horse, and he was next to you," Vivian recalled. "You said you could remember your thighs being chafed after being here because you'd ride your horse."

"No," Margie says.

"From him?"

"Wasn't that just the perfect excuse to be sore down there?" Margie said.

Nothing shocks the Marvellas anymore. They agreed: Yup, the perfect excuse. Then they put their arms around each other's shoulders. Next, they were skipping down the driveway, giggling like kids, not caring what anybody might think.

Margie remembers only bits and pieces of being fondled in bed at night. Vivian decided to walk her through it, using those fragments to pry more memories loose.

"You sleep right here in this corner?" Vivian asked, gesturing toward a small window.

"Uh-huh. I remember times when I was sleeping in that little bedroom and he would go in and stoke the fire, and he'd come in my room and she would call out to him, 'George, aren't you coming to bed? What are you doing?' His whiskers were long late at night.

Margie's cheeks began to flush.

"So, you're laying in your little bed and what's he doing? Touching you?"


"Kissing you?"

Margie stared at the ground. Her cheeks were now bright red.

"I mean, you're getting whisker burns. And you've talked about his breath. Do you feel his breath?"

Margie couldn't answer.

By then, Vivian had her by the shoulders and was staring into her face. The prodding was more than Margie could handle.

"I just want him to go away!" she said in a little girl's voice. She burst into tears, put her head on Vivian's shoulder and sobbed, her body shaking.

At last.

Margie has always said she'd crack a bottle of champagne the day she finally cried. But since she no longer drinks, the Marvellas made do later with chocolate.

"Oh my," Margie said, pulling herself together. "That's enough for me right now."

Later, thinking the Marvella's were on a nostalgia tour, the farm's new owner led them through the barn. While he chatted away cheerfully, Margie systematically looked things over. Looking down on the stalls instead of up, she realized how small she was back then. The barn, which seemed cavernous back then, seemed so tiny. But no new memories came.

An hour and a half after first pulling down that driveway, the Marvellas were back in the car, debriefing.

"It wasn't scary going into the barn because you were with me," Marge told her friends.

And the scene under the bedroom window?

"I just wanted you to stop," she told Vivian. "I just went, 'No, don't; I don't want to remember this.'

"I feel a little heavy chested. But I do feel like I went and conquered something."