“How do you know?” she asked, her voice shaky. “How do you know I can do it?”
“Because you’re you. You can do anything.”
I loved them so much it was almost sickening.
“Now come on,” Hank barked, slapping her butt. “Preach that sermon for Grace and me.” He went back to the couch and sat down.
Judy took a deep breath and released it slowly. Then she began to deliver one of the most moving sermons I’d ever sat through. She felt the words, and I could hear in her voice how much she believed in what she was saying. It was a beautiful thing to watch, my little sister growing up into her own person.
She did this on her own; this was her gift, her talent, not anyone else’s. She was born to be a preacher. She’d found her light, the thing that made her happy, and no one could take that from her.
I couldn’t have been prouder.
When she finished, I wiped my eyes, ridding myself of the tears she’d brought to life.
“Was it okay?” she asked, still nervous.
I stood and pulled her into the tightest hug ever. “It was more than okay. It was so freaking good, Judy, beyond words good. Now just do that same thing at dinner tonight with Mama and Dad.”
She took a breath and nodded. “Okay. Thank you, both of you, for believing in me. I wouldn’t be doing this crazy thing if it wasn’t for y’all.”
“Always and always,” I told her, squeezing her hands and smiling. “Now I better get to dyeing my hair before dinner.”
“I’m sorry, come again?” Judy’s mouth dropped open. “What do you mean dye your hair? Grace, Mama would have a fit! Does she even know that you have a tattoo yet?”
“No, but she’ll be fine.”
“Are we talking about the same Mama?” she joked.
Hank narrowed his eyes. “This seems like a sister conversation, so I’m going to go watch ESPN in the bedroom.”
He snuck away, leaving Judy to stare at me with concern. “Grace...” she started. “Is this you? I mean, listen, if you always wanted to do these things like dye your hair and get tattoos, I’m all about it. Lord knows if anyone deserves to find themselves, it’s you. I just want to make sure this is of your own doing and not Jackson’s influence.”
“Judy.” I took her hands into mine. “This is all me.”
She nodded. “What color hair?”
Her eyes widened. “You want to kill her.” She laughed. “You want to kill our mother.”
“Think of it this way. If she doesn’t die from this, she’ll probably live forever.”
“Okay, well, come on. Let’s get this over with.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m not going to let you dye your hair alone. I’m going to help you color it. Two set of hands are better than one, I’m guessing.”
I loved how my sister was always there for me, even if she didn’t understand my choices.
She loved me enough to let me explore unmarked territory, and she never let me walk it alone.
* * *
We headed to dinner, and Judy’s nerves were all over the place. Mama and Dad sat down at the table as their chef served us dinner. Hank and I couldn’t stop smiling from the excitement of what was about to take place.
The meal was wrapping up, and Judy hadn’t spoken up once. So, I decided to take charge. “I think Judy has something she wants to share with us all,” I said, getting everyone’s attention. Judy shot me a harsh look, but I just grinned.
“Oh?” Dad asked, looking over at my sister. “What is it, Judy?”
“I, uh, I…” she started, her voice trembling.
“Spit it out, Judith,” Mama ordered.
“Well, I was just, I was thinking, maybe, I mean, maybe one day I could do a sermon at a Sunday service. I even—” Before she could even reach for the printed copy of her sermon, Mama and Dad broke into laughter.
“You doing a sermon?” Dad remarked, tickled pink by the idea, which made me more upset than anything. He was supposed to be different. He was supposed to support Judy’s dream, but then again, in my parents’ minds, Judy was just a pretty little girl who didn’t have big dreams.
“Oh, honey.” Mama giggled. “That’s a good one. Now what did you really want to say?”
My parents missed it—the way my sister’s spirit wilted.
Hank started to open his mouth, to protest their laughter, but Judy placed a hand on his knee and gently shook her head.
“I was just gonna say I’m really looking forward to the Founder’s Day parade,” Judy choked out, holding back her tears as she sat up straight like a proper young lady.
“Yes, it’s going to be fantastic, and you get to ride on the float, too! You’re going to be the prettiest girl in town, Judy,” Mama remarked.
“She’s more than just a pretty girl, Mama,” I barked, more than irritated.