Berenice began with the old same story that they had heard many times before. The story of her and Ludie Freeman. A long time ago.
“Now I am here to tell you I was happy. There was no human woman in all the world more happy than I was in them days,” she said. “And that includes everybody. You listening to me, John Henry? It includes all queens and millionaires and first ladies of the land. And I mean it includes people of all color. You hear me, Frankie? No human woman in all the world was happier than Berenice Sadie Brown.”
She had started with the old story of Ludie. And it began an afternoon in late Octorber almost twenty years ago. The story started at the place where first they met each other, in front of Camp Campbell’s Filling Station outside fo the city limits of the town. It was the time of the year when the leaves were turning and the countryside was smoky and autmn gray and gold. And the story went on from that first meeting to the wedding at the Welcome Ascension Church in Sugarville. And then on through the years with the two of them together. The house with brick front steps and the glass window son the corner of Barrow Street. The Christmas of the fox fur, and the June of the fish fry thrown for twenty-eight invited relatives and guests. The years with Berenice cooking dinner and dewing Ludie’s suits and shirts on the machine and the two of them always having a good time. And the nine months they lived up North, in the city of Cincinnati, where there was snow. Then Sugarville again, and days margining one into another, and the weeks, the months, the years together. And the pair of them always had a good time, yet it was not so much the happenings she mentioned as the way she told about these happenings that made F. Jasmine understand.
Berenice spoke in an unwinding kind of voice, and she had said that she was happier than a queen. As she told the story, it seemed to F. Jasmine that Berenice resembled a strange queen, if a queen can be colored and sitting at a kitchen table. She unwound the story of her and Ludie like a colored queen unwinding a bolt of cloth of gold—and at the end, when the story was over, her expression was always the same: the dark eye starting straight ahead, her flat nose widened and trembling, her mouth finished and sad and quiet.