“Alice, you can either stay here at Johnson’s Drug or come with me to the Knollwood Market while Dad is speaking with Pastor Spaulding. What do you wanna do?” asked Dovie.
“Ummm.” Alice tilted her head. “I’d really like to buy Joy something, but I don’t know what yet.”
Dovie smiled as Alice looked at the shelves of jarred candy. “Guess you’ll be staying here then, silly goose. I’ll be back in about half an hour, and we’ll see if you’ve made up your mind by then. You know Joy is too little to eat candy, right?”
“Yeah,” said Alice, “but I thought I could give her a lick of mine. I’ve never been an aunt before, so I just wanna make sure I do it right.”
“Alice, I can already tell you’re gonna be the best kind of aunt to Joy the kind that spoils her rotten. Dovie laughed. “Meet me at the market when you’re done.”
Alice tried to decide what to spend her five cents on. She wondered what Joy would like. There were the peppermint candies that she always got when she came to Johnson’s Drug Store, but maybe Joy would enjoy the butterscotch candies more. She briefly thought about getting a chocolate coin to share but shook the thought away, realizing it would melt before they got home. Chocolate coins were best eaten right after purchase. Alice opened the jar to the peppermint sticks and inhaled deeply, letting the minty scent tickle her nose.
Unable to choose, Alice put the lid back on the peppermint jar and again stared at the rows of candy, begging one to answer her question on which to buy. Suddenly, a hard bump pushed her hard into the shelf. She quickly caught herself before swinging around to see who did it.
Alice couldn’t help but gasp in shock as a black boy paused beside her. She hadn’t seen a colored boy in Knollwood the entire time she had lived there. She had seen many in the shelters and food kitchen her family had frequented back when they were homeless during the Great Depression, but seeing one in her hometown was like seeing an elephant away from the circus.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to,” the black boy said before hurrying out of the store.
Alice shrugged and turned back to the candy. Accidents happened and he had said he was sorry. All the colored people she had met before were nice enough, she was sure this boy was no different.
Before she could continue her candy debate, three more boys bumped into her as they quickly left the store. None of them, however, stopped to apologize.
“How rude,” she whispered before her eyes grew wide. Those three boys were sure in a hurry, and she didn’t think it was a coincidence that they bumped her right after the colored boy.
Her candy quest forgotten, she followed the boys out of the store and watched as they ran down the crowded Main Street as if looking for someone or something. Alice searched the street but saw nothing alarming. As she turned to go back inside, a flash of movement caught her eye. Across the street, between the meat market and the post office, the black boy hugged the wall as if trying to disappear.
Alice glanced down the street again at the boys, who were now making their way back towards Johnson’s. She waited until the boys went behind Annette’s Café before spurting across the street to the black boy. She didn’t stop when she got to him but grabbed his hand and pulled him along with her.
The boy resisted.
“Come on,” whispered Alice, “I know where you can hide.”