Bessie Coleman was the first woman Eloise Delaney loved—before she knew love meant anything. There is a rectangular photograph cropped from the Buckner County Register, a local Negro paper, of Coleman standing atop the left tire of her Curtiss JN-4 “Jenny” biplane. Her gloved right hand hugs the cockpit. She is decked out in tailored aviation gear and stares directly into the camera. The photograph is at least thirty years old and dates back to 1926, the year of the brown aviatrix’s untimely death, but for Eloise’s parents the crash might have happened yesterday. They were the town drunks and time played on them murky.
A woman awoke in her new house. Her name was Adriana. It was snowing out, and her birthday, she was forty-three years old. The house was in the country. The village was visible from the house, on a hilltop, two kilometers away. Fifteen kilometers to the city. Adriana had moved in ten days earlier. She pulled on a light, tobacco-brown robe. Slid her long narrow feet into a pair of slippers that were also tobacco-brown and trimmed with dirty white fur. She headed to the kitchen and made a cup of instant coffee to dunk biscuits in. There were apple peels on the table and she swept them into a newspaper to keep for the rabbits they didn’t have yet but would soon because the milkman had promised to bring them. Then she went into the living room and pulled open the shutters. She saw herself in the mirror hanging over the sofa. She was tall, she wore her wavy copper hair cropped short, she had a small head and a long strong neck, her green eyes were wide set and sad. She sat down at the desk to write a letter to her only son.