Ruth's letter didn't have a letter in it. Maybe she'd been afraid to write anything, afraid of that bastard Bennett reading her mail. There was a page out of what looked like the Bible, all thin and the words close together, and a newspaper clipping with an ad for soap on one side and an article on the other.
The letters were close and all run together. If Ruth was trying to tell her something, she wasn't going to stare at all those newsprint letters until it finally made some sense. So she took it to Mama.
Turned out the newspaper article was a death notice -- Mrs. Jamison had passed on. Cancer, Mama whispered in hushed tones. And she'd only been fifty-three.
There wasn't a note written on the two cutouts or anything -- but Ruth had torn a page out of her Bible, which meant she was serious, and she'd underlined a bit of it that about broke Idgie into a thousand pieces, right there in the kitchen. She was headed for her Daddy's truck even while Mama was saying, "you'd better go bring that girl home."
She took Julian along to help with the lifting, because no way that Frank Bastard Bennett wasn't going to listen to her or Big George, and this was getting done today. So she'd better bring a white man, even if he could barely play poker.
The drive to Valdosta took about five hours if you were playing it safe and used good roads. Idgie nearly took the transmission out of the truck and made it three and a half -- Big George whispering, "You might want to slow down, Miss Idgie," every five seconds.
No, Miss Idgie did not want to slow down.
Half of everything Ruth owned had been tucked away in valises, just in case. She said if Idgie hadn't come soon, then she was about to take to take her best hatbox and fifty dollars and just go. Anywhere. "Lord helps them that help themselves," Ruth said.
"Well, that Frank Bennett has helped himself to a gracious plenty, " said Idgie, "and I have to say I hope that's all the help he's ever going to get."
Halfway back to Whistle Stop she thought maybe Big George should sit up front, and she let Julian drive the rest of the way, her arm around Ruth's shoulders.
What if Ruth really. What if she. What if. It rolled around in her head and she couldn't get rid of it.
Ruth sat tight the whole way and didn't say anything. "You fall too hard?" Idgie asked her, finally. She shook her head, but Idgie wasn't sure. She was pregnant and that bastard had pitched her down half a flight of stairs.
And what were they going to do about a damn baby?
Ruth stood in Mama Threadgoode's extra bedroom, her boxes all lined up with castoff things left by Threadgoode cousins and daughters and aunts. She'd never felt this much at home in her own house, and opened her mouth to say so. Nothing came out.
"Take a while to get settled, honey," Mrs. Threadgoode said instead, "and I'll send up Idgie in a little while."
"I still don't know how to thank you," she managed.
"Idgie can't read very well," Mrs. Threadgoode said, "so I had to read her that bit out of the book of Ruth."
Ruth's heart stopped cold for the third time that day.
"Do you love her, Ruth?" Mrs. Threadgoode asked. "Really love her? Will being with her make you happy? Because that's what Idgie needs. And close your mouth, Ruth Jamison, I am not as dumb as I look."
It was the kindness implied in that Jamison that told Ruth she was safe here -- really, finally safe.
"There's a baby," she said, her voice rising like a question that meant, do you mean it?
"I guess you know how to take care of a baby. And Sipsey's raised six of mine, half by herself. So you put your head together with that daughter of mine and see if you can come up with a way to find her some honest work."
Ruth had just had too much today. She sat down on the bed, her mouth still flopping open like a fish.
"Oh, Ruth," said Mrs. Threadgoode, picking up one of Ruth's dresses and hanging it away. "I don't know. If Buddy had lived, maybe things would be different, and Idgie'd have come up less like a wild child. I don't want to burden you with her after everything else. But you're the only thing that's good for her."
"She's perfect the way she is," Ruth said. "She's perfect. She came into that house like an avenging angel, and she saved me from hell."
"You saved yourself, honey," Mrs. Threadgoode said, "but I guess you knew who to call on. That girl loves you. If she's what you want, then it seems to me like you've earned her. And if she isn't, I reckon she could go stay with her aunt in Savannah for a while so we can get you settled someplace safe."
Ruth turned that over in her mind, that Mrs. Threadgoode thought Idgie was so fragile that she'd come up here and -- "Mrs. Threadgoode," Ruth whispered, "are you asking about my intentions toward your daughter?"
"Idgie looks at you the way Buddy used to," Mrs. Threadgoode said. "All heart and no wisdom. So if I'm not looking at what I'm seeing, you say so, and my apologies for saying anything."
"Don't you ever apologize to me, ever," Ruth said automatically. And thought about Idgie the way she'd thought about her a thousand times, only this time she thought Mama is dead and Frank is in Valdosta and Mrs. Threadgoode says would I mind.
"I just don't want either of you girls to hurt each other," Mrs. Threadgoode said, leaning against the dresser drawers, arms crossed over her chest.
Ruth could hurt Idgie. It was a strange thought, but she knew it was true. Idgie wasn't anywhere near as invulnerable as she put on.
"We'll probably hurt each other plenty," said Ruth after a while. "But I don't reckon you need to send her over to Savannah."
"Hey," Idgie said softly. "Hey."
She'd been just sitting there again, just sitting with half her things still packed up. Idgie was hovering over her, a glass of lemonade in one hand. "Mama said not to crowd you," Idgie said, "but you missed dinner, and I thought maybe you'd like a cool drink." She held it out to Ruth like she expected Ruth to fall apart if they touched.
She wasn't that fragile.
"Sorry. Thank you." The words sounded like a whisper, like something ghostly. She didn't know where her voice was. "Thank you," she said again, and noticed her eyes were wet. "Can't seem to stop crying, I just--"
"Don't worry about it," Idgie said, and scooted her over so they could sit next to each other. "I guess you've had the kind of day where nobody cares if you cry."
"I don't want to cry," Ruth said, and there, that was her own voice. "I don't want him to think I've shed one tear over leaving him."
"Way I see it, you ain't crying for him," Idgie said. "You're crying for you. And somebody'd better, because I'm about fixing to do it myself, and there's nothing uglier than me crying, really, everything runs --"
Ruth just grabbed hold of Idgie's shirt then, and started sobbing into it, and Idgie rocked her like a baby. But she didn't say shhhh, -- she just let Ruth howl like a dog at the moon.
"Your shirt's a mess," Ruth managed after a while. It was covered with tears and snot, but Idgie, predictably, didn't care. She produced a rather wretched handkerchief from the back of her jeans.
"Blow," Idgie suggested, and Ruth did. "And drink this, now," she added, and handed her the sweating glass of lemonade, forgotten on the dresser. It tasted good, like lemonade should taste, and Ruth wondered how long ago she'd stopped tasting her food.
"You haven't got to take care of me, Idgie," she said, meeting her eyes. Idgie just brought her big monkey-paw hand up and wiped at Ruth's eyes with her thumb.
"If I thought I had to," she said, "I probably wouldn't."
Ruth laughed at that, a weird little bubble of a laugh that startled her. "Guess I can take care of you, anyway," she said. And leaned over and kissed Idgie on the mouth, the way she'd wanted to since the best summer of her life.
"Oh, shit," said Idgie, with feeling, and kissed her back, slow and soft. About as far from Frank Bennett kissing her as the world was round.
"Watch your mouth," Ruth managed in between gasps.
"I know where it is," Idgie said. "You really want this?"
"Don't you know I do?"
"I thought you were normal," Idgie muttered.
Normal, Ruth thought. Lying on my back wondering when that animal would get done with me. "Only compared to some, Idgie Threadgoode."
"What about the Bible?" Idgie asked, three sweet kisses later. "And church and all that? I know that's important to you."
"Do you mean if -- this -- is a sin?" When Idgie nodded, Ruth bit her lip. "I read the Bible twice last year, all the way through, looking for it. They never even think about two women together the whole time. It says not to lie with a man like you do with a woman, and that's all it says."
"Well, however you did it with Frank," Idgie said, "just don't do ever do that with me, so you're in the clear with Jesus."
Ruth heard herself make a noise somewhere between a laugh and a yelp, and she settled her head on Idgie's shoulder. Not a problem, she thought.
"I do wish you wouldn't blaspheme," she added after a minute, and Idgie sighed, fifteen again.
They just held each other for a while. So gentle; she'd had no idea Idgie could be this careful, but she thought about wild honey, and how she should have known better.
"I want to marry you," Idgie said after a while, "but I'm not actually a man. Which some people might notice, even if you don't."
"Oh, I noticed," Ruth said, and kissed Idgie again. "I'm pretty finished with getting married, though. My name's Ruth Jamison now."
"All right then, Miss Ruth Jamison," said Idgie, "But I'm going to court you anyway."
"I'm pretty courted, you bee charmer," said Ruth. "I wouldn't worry about it." They threaded their hands together for a while, both of them grinning like fools. "But there's a baby."
"Just as well," Idgie said. "I don't see how we'd come across one otherwise."
"It's Frank's baby."
"No, it ain't," said Idgie. "Not going to cost him one dime to bring your baby into the world. And if you raise it right -- which you will -- it's probably got a chance, no matter who put it in you."
"You really mean it," Ruth said. "You really want us to do this."
"Depends," Idgie said. "If you want to do it. If you think it's okay for the baby. And if you can still cook, because I got an idea on how we can pay for everything."
"I can cook just fine," Ruth said. "I have no idea what it'll do to the baby, but I guess it's better than having his -- Frank -- around. And if I didn't want you I'd be halfway to New York by now."
"Didn't you teach how to jump a train?"
Idgie laughed at loud, at that. "Reckon I did," she said, and pulled Ruth back with her onto the bed.
"I'm not spooning with you in your mother's house," Ruth said firmly. "We'd cause a scandal."
"She's used to it," said Idgie, and kissed her again, and this was what love felt like, and this was lust, and Ruth had just thought that was in books.
"You put me in my own home," Ruth said, "you and your big ideas, and I'll show you a scandal, Idgie Threadgoode. But not where your mama lives. She's already asked me if I'll do right by you."
"Goddamn." Idgie laughed again; Ruth curled up with her so that she could feel Idgie's body shake with it. "What'd you say?"
Ruth fought for a straight face. God's honest truth, the strangest day of her life. "I said I had wicked intentions to ensnare you with my wiles."
"I'm pretty ensnared," Idgie said. "I wouldn't worry about it."
And Ruth didn't, not for a long time.