Read The Sleeping Night Online

Authors: Barbara Samuel

The Sleeping Night

Table of Contents
They’ll need love and courage to see the dawn…
 

He’s a hometown native, returning from the war, determined to change the world he’d fought to protect. She’s the girl who’s been his secret friend since childhood, now a beautiful woman. Her war-time letters kept him alive. But he’s black, and she’s white.

In 1946, Gideon, Texas, their undeniable love might get them both killed.

Angel whispered his name and the tilt of events pushed them closer still. He hung in the moment, hearing the heavy, rhythmic pounding of the rain on the roof echoing in his chest, and he thought of a thousand things as his hand moved on her waist. He thought of their forays into the trees and of the letters she’d written to him through the war, letters that had leant courage and comfort and hope.

Wordlessly, she moved a step closer and raised her hand to his face. Lightly, lightly she touched her fingers to his mouth. Isaiah fell forward with a soft groan to press his head against her, his forehead close to her diaphragm, his nose against her stomach, his arms tight around her body. The smell of her filled his mouth, his heart, the world, and he breathed it in as if it would save him. She made a soft noise and bent into him, gathering his head closer, her cheek against his hair.

For a long, long moment, they rested together like that. He no longer felt the ache in his head or ankle. It didn’t matter that the world outside this room would curse him, that bloody Texas had hanged men for less.

The Sleeping Night
 

by

Barbara Samuel

 
 

Bell Bridge Books

Copyright
 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons (living or dead,) events or locations is entirely coincidental.

Bell Bridge Books
PO BOX 300921
Memphis, TN 38130
Ebook ISBN: 978-1-61194-151-7
Print ISBN: 978-1-61194-127-2

Bell Bridge Books is an Imprint of BelleBooks, Inc.

Copyright © 2012 by Barbara Samuel
In the Midnight Rain
excerpt copyright 2000 by Barbara Samuel,
originally published by Harper Torch
Jezebel’s Blues
excerpt copyright 1999 by Barbara Samuel,
originally published by Harlequin/Silhouette

Printed and bound in the United States of America.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review.

We at BelleBooks enjoy hearing from readers.
Visit our websites – www.BelleBooks.com and www.BellBridgeBooks.com.

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Cover design: Debra Dixon
Interior design: Hank Smith
Photo credits:
Sky (manipulated) © David M. Schrader | Dreamstime.com

Girl in window (manipulated) © Yakov Stavchansky | Dreamstime.com

:Mstn:01:

Dedication
 

There is only one person this book could possibly be dedicated to, and that is Christopher Robin, aka Neal Barlow, who heard the story of a book I had stashed away, made me dig out the manuscript, paid to have it scanned (when such things were quite difficult), visited the British Imperial War Museum and the beaches of Normandy with me, listened to a thousand conversations about all of it. Mainly, it is because he believed and wouldn’t let me give up that this book is making its way out into the world. Thank you!

PART ONE: DAWN
 

An angel, robed in spotless white,

Bent down and kissed the sleeping Night.

Night woke to blush; the sprite was gone.

Men saw the blush and called it Dawn.


Paul Laurence Dunbar

— 1 —
 

Gideon, East Texas

2005

On the morning that Angel Corey was arriving back in her home town of Gideon, Kim McCoy buzzed around her bookstore like a mad woman, trying to get things ready. The author was arriving at 11 o’clock to talk to the Black And White Book Club.

Corey had written plenty of books in her eighty years, but mostly they were spiritual in nature—ponderings on the nature of the soul and God. And she was famous for a radio show she’d been hosting for some forty years now.

Her new book was different, written—or rather collected—to commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of the end of the war. In the window were copies of Corey’s book,
War Letters (with Recipes)
, which had been deemed frivolous by MariAnna Hayden, who was twenty-four and Very Serious About Books and never liked it when they picked something with even a hint of romance or “traditional” women’s work, like recipes.

The older women in the group let MariAnna rage, remembering their own days of drama and agitation, and went ahead and read the book anyway. They read it for the Gideon connection, mainly, and to give themselves a bit of a pat on the back. The book club had been instrumental, after all, in the war memorial that was being christened today.

But the older women cried over Corey’s book, too, remembering things in their own lives. Remembering a time when things were harder, when the town wasn’t quite as easy in its skin as it was now.

Kim stacked copies of the book, with its cover of handwritten V-Mails, in the front window of her bookstore, Morning Books. She had taken the name from a poem by Paul Lawrence Dunbar. The store, cozy with armchairs and plenty of shelves and corners, sat right on the main drag of Gideon proper, a bookstore that featured African American books mostly, with some local history.

Which was actually another point of contention with MariAnna, that they were bringing a white author to an African American bookstore. MariAnna wasn’t black or even biracial, like Kim herself, but she made more noise than anyone. Honestly, she got on Kim’s last nerve, but she was grandmothered in since her grandmother had been an original member of the Black And Whites.

Kim said it was
her
bookstore and if she wanted purple people in it, she’d invite them. The Black and Whites backed her up.

The book club had been meeting once a month since five young women, three white and two black, had established the reading group in 1972. The South had not been entirely integrated in those days, and they had felt very daring and
avant garde
. Their first book reflected that:
Fear of Flying,
by Erica Jong. It broke the ice and let them read pretty much anything else they wanted after that, including some incendiary things like
The Letters of Angela Davis
and, later,
Helter Skelter
, after which they reckoned they didn’t much care for true crime.

They kept the rules loose, and the selection of titles absolutely fair. Each person put her name on a list (there were only women, no matter how often they tried to tempt spouses, sons, fathers, friends into the club) and when a name came up, the book club read whatever book she chose. Period. Each reader had one veto she could utilize once every two years (which was so strict because of Betty Michelin, who didn’t like anything but mysteries and killed pretty much everything else that came up; Betty quit the club the very next month and everyone breathed a sigh of relief).

The Black And Whites had struggled a time or two. Once was when they decided to brave themselves and public opinion and go see a Spike Lee movie. It ended up hurting just about every single person’s feelings on some level, requiring Augusta Younger, then president, to call a halt to the evening discussion and send everybody home to cool off. The subject of the film was forbidden for one year, and at that time they all had cooler heads and could talk about it a little more calmly.

The club now had twelve members, five white and seven black. They tried to keep it more or less half and half, to preserve the spirit of the founders, but the truth was, they hadn’t lost a member or picked up a new one in nearly three years, since MariAnna joined, taking her grandmother’s spot. One year before that, Johniqua Younger, just turned nineteen, had joined, taking the spot left vacant by Tillie High, who had finally died of the lung cancer that nagged her for years.

The whole group had said,
too bad Tillie wasn’t alive
for this day.
Too bad she couldn’t be here for this.

Kim stepped back to look at the store through narrowed eyes. Would it pass muster? This was the most important guest they’d ever had.

If not for the book club, Kim would not own the bookstore that was her pride and joy, complete with two cats—one white, one black, naturally—who chased the mice away and kept customers company when they curled up in an easy chair. If not for the bookstore, she would not have had the courage to leave her husband, who was not abusive, not evil, just completely and utterly wrong for her.

The Black And Whites were all aflutter about Angel Corey coming to town. Years ago, everybody in Gideon had thought she died, of course. That was the funny part of the title of one of her books,
The Resurrection of Angel Corey
. This morning the first thing Angel was going to do in Gideon was visit her grave and put some flowers down on it. Kim thought it was morbid, but what did she know? She was only thirty-six. Graves seemed a long way out.

At ten, Kim did a walk-through. They’d agreed to a morning meeting since the ceremony for the Medal of Honor winners and the unveiling of the Gideon WWII memorial was at two pm. They’d all want to be there for that, too, of course, especially Angel.

The book club, along with one guest each, strictly enforced, started gathering by 10:20. All women, because Angel’s brand of spirituality had been directed at women all along, all ages, from old to young. They brought mock apple pie made with Ritz crackers, and Spam with beans, and somebody even tracked down some Postum, which Kim thought was just about the nastiest thing she’d ever tasted.

At 11 o’clock on the dot, a black car drove up with proper pomp. A beautiful young man got out of the driver’s seat, tall and caramel skinned, with a glaze of black hair smooth against his head.

“Hel-
lo
!” said Johniqua Younger.

They
all
swooned over the way he opened the door and helped the woman within to her feet, but then she brushed his hand away and he laughed, making it plain they knew each other.

And Kim had to touch her tummy to rub at the butterflies, because there was Angel Corey herself, her hair snow white and clipped short. She was a little stooped, but otherwise looked spry in a chic dress, belted at the waist. Her arms were full of bracelets, and she strode into the store with an air of happy expectancy.

“Hello,” she said. “I reckon you’re all waiting for me.” She smiled, looking at each one of them in turn. “Now, which one of you is Paul’s granddaughter?”

Kim stepped forward, and lifted a hand shyly. “Here,” she said with a little squeak.

And Angel Corey, who was famous in sixteen countries, and had written twelve books, and had established a foundation named after her own father, Parker Corey, came forward and kissed her on the cheek. “I am so happy to meet you, sweetheart.” She squeezed Kim’s arm. “Thank you for giving me a reason to come back to Gideon.”

“Thank you for coming,” Kim managed. She gestured toward the food. “We made .
 . . um . . . lots of things.
From the war.”

Angel smiled, her pale green eyes as beautiful as they were in her pictures, and took Kim’s hand. “How about if I read a little first? You want to come sit beside me? I think,” she said, taking what the Black And White’s called The Queen’s Chair, because it was the chair the book club leader always sat in, “that there’s only one thing I can read from.”

Sunny Walker, as pretty as her name, edged forward, holding the book out. “
The War Letters
?”

Angel nodded and took the book. Only then did Kim see that the old woman was struggling with high emotion. “Can I get you something? Water, coffee?”

“No, sweetheart.” She squeezed Kim’s hand. “An old woman is allowed to be emotional.” A glaze of tears brightened the green eyes even more, and she paused for a long moment, taking in the group seated in a circle around her. “I’m looking at all of you and thinking how happy my father would be to see your book club. This is a fine, fine day, and I’m so proud to be with you.”

The young man at the back of the room edged forward, grabbing a bite off the table before he sat down nearby Johniqua, who straightened and pretended to ignore him. He smiled, and scooted over one more chair so he was sitting beside her.

Angel composed herself, opened her book, and began to read.

It began with a letter from Isaiah High, who had been my friend when we were children, but not for a very long time.

November 25, 1942

Dear Angel,

I heard from my mama about Solomon and I’m just writing to tell you how sorry I am .
 . .

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