She went to find him when he most longed to see her, walked through
town in her white cotton dress and her bare feet, and all along the
way men stopped and stared at her as if to wonder if she were not a
figment of their imaginations. Adam sensed the men’s
agitation before he became aware of Blue’s presence, heard
the murmurs of their hearts and their faint, embarrassed gasps as
she traveled past them like a breeze in the heat of the two
o’clock sun of a Sunday afternoon in August. Then he
recognized the stirrings of an old sadness, felt Blue move toward
him with the beat of his own breath, and by the time he went to the
door and saw her, he knew he should never have come back.
She looked like rain.
She stood before him with her purple eyes and her innocent’s
smile, a storm of golden-red hair against her tulip-white skin, her
body long and lean and Unself-conscious, her arms bare and cool and
hinting of desire—and he realized that he knew nothing about
her at all, that he had spent days investigating the woman without
gaining the slightest understanding of her.
“I wanted to see you,” she said.
stood in front of the Lamar-Church Boardinghouse in downtown
Knoxville. An old colonial mansion built on one of the original
sixty-four lots that had comprised the city in its early days, the
house had been abandoned for close to forty years—victim of
the urban flight that overtook Knoxville after the Great Depression
and that lasted well into the mid-1970’s. For forty years the
house had sat, unoccupied, along a deserted street, its windows
smeared with dust, its steps crumbling with age and covered with
kudzu. Around it the city had slept in shells of empty department
stores and locked offices, houses overrun by colonies of mice and
giant cats, cobblestoned alleys frequented by naked ghosts and
orphaned children, railroad tracks that transported only freight
cars, and a station where no train ever stopped. Then the
city’s leaders had embarked on a plan to invite life back
into its center. The boardinghouse had been sold for a pittance to
the first and only bidder, and money had been loaned for a
renovation. Investors had been invited to take over stores and
businesses. Streetlights had been installed. The train station had
revamped. A year after it had opened its doors, the boardinghouse
was still among only a handful of buildings that held a semblance
of life downtown.
That Sunday Adam shared the hotel with three other
guests—college students from Amsterdam on a year-long
cross-country tour of the United States. One of the boys had heard
her come in and was now standing at the window of his room
overlooking the street. Even without turning to see him, Adam could
imagine the look of stupefaction on the boy’s face, the way
his eyes watered as they strove to swallow Blue’s image
whole, the way he whispered to his friends
Adam had been in Knoxville for ten days already. He knew where to
find Blue, of course. She had lived in the same house in Fort
Sanders since she had moved here from a far-off and exotic land
twenty-four years ago. Her husband, a man everyone knew as as
“the Professor”, had brought her here with no fanfare
and with little explanation of her background. In Knoxcille the
last few days, Adam had followed Blue’s trail around town and
talked to people who knew her, looked up her records at the county
courthouse and the DA’s office, searched the archives of the
local press for references to Blue and her past. He knew he had to
call on her, of course—to look her in the face and determine
for himself the truth or falsehood of the rumors surrounding her.
Yet every time he came close to seeing her, he was overcome by an
instinctive sense of danger, a feeling that he would lose
objectivity the moment he set eyes on her, and so he had kept his
distance, from hour to hour and day to day, until she made the
“You’ve been asking about me,” she said.
The smile had spread from her lips into her eyes, and spilled like
heat onto everything she looked at. Adam watched the edges of her
mouth, the soft dimple in her right cheek, the curve in the nape of
her neck. Her dress, cut at the top in the shape of a V, was almost
transparent. Through it he could see the bareness of her breasts,
the line that ran from the center of her chest down over her
stomach, the tips of her hipbones against the sheer fabric. She was
like a creature from another world, he thought—a
child’s drawing of a woman, all those vivid, improbable
colors, the red and purple and blue that belonged more to trees and
to fish than to humans. She must have picked up a box of crayons,
he thought, once when she was three years old and her world was
filled with promise, picked up the colors and painted herself into
what she thought a woman would look like.
Blue shook her head to move the sun out of her eyes. Her hair fell
in long, soft curls onto her back and shoulders, reflecting a
thousand variations of light, giving her an aura of unreality. She
walked closer to Adam and out of the sun. At the second-floor
window, the trio from Amsterdam inhaled uneasily and remained glued
to their spots. Aware of their desperation Blue raised her eyes at
them for a split second, acknowledging their presence, accepting
their eagerness. Then she looked back at Adam.
It occurred to him then that she was not afraid of him at all,
though she must realize why he was here—because he had read
about Little Sam Jenkins’ death and come back to investigate
how he had died, because Sam may have well died at Blue’s
hands—he had said as much to the sheriff in the hours before
his death—because Adam was determined to establish the truth
or falsehood of that claim.
She came even closer to him and stopped. He thought he could feel
the warmth of her body spreading under his skin—like water
moving through the earth, finding every pore, filling a
longforgotten but excruciating need.
She was not afraid of him at all.
“Come inside,” she said.
Excerpted from SUNDAY'S SILENCE © Copyright 2001 by Gina
Barkhordar Nahai. Reprinted with permission from Harcourt Brace.
All rights reserved.