Atticus' wife once went through the same thing that her daughter did as she came of age. A blithe yet shy and naive girl of nineteen, Ida Graham has been sheltered her entire life by her doting parents and by the whimsical fantasy worlds in her head. However, when she falls in love for the first time and begins a secret friendship with a lost, tormented man, she must come to terms with the town's cruelty and ignorance and find a way to shed her innocence without losing her goodness and without ending up broken like Arthur Radley.
There have been A LOT of Atticus/Miss Graham fics these days, so I wanted to post my take on her. My view on her is a bit different than most of the other ones. While my Miss Graham is as intelligent and boyish as the rest, she is shy, bookish, and naïve, as well.
Also, I couldn't come up with a good title, so I just borrowed from the quote at the beginning of the book.
So anyway, here it goes…
Languid on the living room couch, Ida idly realized that the days had never been as happy as these.
Everything about that Maycomb summer afternoon was lazy, but there was something about the somnolence that Ida loved. As she gazed out the window into the street, the pane seemed to distort and slow down time. Through the glass, Ida could see men trekking home from work, trudging sluggishly like straining horses bridled to loaded wagons. The ladies across the street reposed on their porches, their fans beating up and down, up and down, in a slow, hypnotic rhythm. Even the pigeon gliding through the sharp, cloudless blue sky seemed to dally.
Ida turned her head slightly. Her mother, a short woman with a round face, was behind her. Ida smiled slightly as she took in her appearance. The sweltering heat was so oppressive that even her conservative mother was wearing a skirt that only went halfway down her shin.
In response to her question, Ida sighed, "I've been staring out the window for the past hour. And I'm afraid the answer is still 'no.'"
Her mother smiled fondly.
"It's all right. You're not writing for a deadline or anything."
"But I hate moments when I want to write but can't," muttered Ida.
Chuckling, her mother replied, "I know. But if you stare out the window any longer, your eyes will pop out. Come and have lunch."
She smiled as she added, "I made special Earl Grey tea to go with our meal today."
"Not Earl Grey again."
"Well, I'll make some for dinner as well if you don't come and eat right now."
The girl reluctantly pulled herself to her feet.
"Oh, all right."
She trudged after her mother out of the room.
After Ida had finished the meal, she placed her tray in the kitchen sink and hastily switched on the water. She breathed out with content as the exquisitely cold water began to run over her burning hands. Then, slowly, she began scrubbing and rinsing her bowl and utensils.
Finally, when she was done with those, she picked up her glass. She carefully yet clumsily cleaned the inside with her rag, then shook the glass to get the water out.
Before she knew it, the glass slipped out of her hands, tumbled to the ground, and shattered loudly into pieces.
Ida blinked. She ran a hand over her forehead.
"Oh, lord, not today," she whispered.
At that moment, Ida's mother rushed in.
Not now, not now.
"Ida," she inquired, "did you break this?"
The girl gazed down at her feet.
"Yes, ma. I'm sorry."
Her mother inhaled sharply.
"We just bought this last week, and do you remember why? We bought it to replace the other glass you so courteously broke."
Ida protested, "I was trying to be careful, honest. It just—"
"Well, obviously, you weren't!"
"But ma..." Ida began.
Then, finding argument useless, Ida broke off.
"I'm really sorry, ma," she finished lamely. "I'll buy us another one—with my own money."
Her mother grumbled, "It's not that we don't have enough money to buy an infinite amount of glasses. It's just that there isn't a point in buying an infinite amount of glasses when you can use a single one carefully and keep it for a long time."
"I promise I won't break anymore glasses. At least, I'll try not—"
"And what has our Ida done now?"
Both Ida and her mother turned. Ida's father entered the room, amusement written on his face as usual.
With a huff, her mother commanded, "Don't come in here, Phillip. There are glass shards on the floor everywhere."
Ida, biting her lip, took another brief glance at the floor. Glittering fragments were scattered all over the kitchen.
Phillip, also scanning the room, chuckled.
"A glass again, Georgina?"
"Yes, Phillip," Georgina replied, both annoyed and placated by her husband's amused reaction. "It was another glass."
Phillip flashed a smile at his remorseful daughter.
"Here, baby, let me help you clean this all up. It'll be an all-evening job if you do it alone. I'll go get the broom."
As Ida knelt down and began to scoop glass shards into her hand, Phillip started toward the door. His wife stopped him with a murderous glare.
"Don't you try to help her one bit, Phillip. She needs to learn the consequences of breaking things so that she won't do it again."
"Of course she'll do it again, Georgina. She's been doing it all her life. That's just the way God made her. So we might as well help her clean up whenever she breaks things, because she'll never stop doing it, no matter how we try to prevent it."
With cold conviction, Georgina stated, "We must make her learn, Phillip. You must not help her clean this up."
Phillip raised his eyebrows.
"Come on, Georgie. She's nineteen. No use in trying to teach her anything at this age."
Ida's mother, completely ignoring him, glanced coldly down at her daughter.
"Ida, you may not leave the kitchen until you've cleaned up this mess," she pronounced.
I knew it.
The girl blinked. Her head snapped up.
"But ma, it's nearly five."
"Good. You'll miss your regular five o'clock walk. Hopefully you'll learn something from that."
Scrambling to her feet, Ida protested, "But it—my walk, I mean—today, I—"
Her father raised an eyebrow.
"What's the matter, girl? We may not like it, but your mother is the boss of our household. We have to do what she tells us to do, and that means that you'll have to skip your walk today."
Ida nodded slowly and quickly turned her eyes away.
Phillip soothed, perplexed at her behavior, "It's just one walk. Missing one day won't kill you, will it?"
Georgina turned to her husband.
"If she doesn't want to talk, just let the girl be. There's no way she'll go on her walk today, anyhow."
Georgina began to sweep out of the room, her confused husband in tow. Phillip glanced back at Ida once as he was about to be dragged through the door.
"Try not to break any more glasses, all right? You know your mother's temper. And plus, you'll never get a man this way."
Suddenly, Ida's eyes swerved to meet her father's. Her hands flew to her hips.
"What do you mean, Pa? Of course I will!"
For a moment, her mother and father stared at her, surprised by her outburst. Then, Georgina's angry expression melted into a tender smile.
"Ida," she inquired, "do you have your eye on someone?"
Not this question.
The girl glanced at her feet. She was silent for a long moment.
"No," she muttered finally, cheeks burning. "Definitely not."
After a moment, her arms fell out of their akimbo.
"Yes," she admitted reluctantly. "And I had something planned with him at five today."
"Oh, at last!" breathed Phillip, breaking into a wide beam.
He glanced at his wife and nudged her.
"Let her off," he murmured. "Just this once."
Georgina didn't need telling. Beaming, she told her daughter gently, "If you had something planned, I think you'd better set out now—it's nearly time. You can tell us about your man when you come back. But be careful if you pass the Radley place."
Usually, Ida would have countered her warning with "Ma, I'm nineteen." At that moment, though, all Ida could do was smile with pure relief.
Phillip assured, "Georgie and I will clean this all up, won't we?"
Ida's mother readily nodded, and Ida hesitated for a moment. Then, springing to her feet, she enfolded both of her parents in a happy embrace. She bounded out the door like a rabbit.
As Ida ambled down the street, sweating from the roasting heat, she deliberately kept her pace slow, trying to keep her repressed excitement from leaking through her calm demeanor. She glanced around at the quaint, quietly inviting houses. She missed Montgomery, sure, but something about the charming simplicity of Maycomb appealed to her. Ida always needed a fresh experience, a new adventure, something different to look at.
Finally, she was nearing the Radley place. That was usually the area where her path crossed the man's. As she approached the house, she slowed her pace to take it in once more. Plants of all sorts, some uprooted and some proliferating wildly, were scattered all over the front yard. Among them lay several of the roof's shingles, either cracked or completely shattered. The grass grew only in small brown patches. All the house's windows were dark, as if no one lived there. Ida couldn't tell what color the house was supposed to be; most of its paint had peeled off.
I wonder what really—
A timid smile crossed her face.
Atticus was approaching her, tipping his hat. As usual, he was decked in crisp, smart clothing. Tall with a sharp jaw, he would have cut a frightening figure if not for his small pot belly, barely visible beneath his coat, and the twinkle in his eyes, which not even his thick glasses could obscure.
Furtively studying him once again, Ida lowered her eyes and smiled again.
"Good evening," she returned, somewhat shyly.
Beaming slyly, he asked, "And how are you, Ms. Glass-dropper?"
Ida glanced at her feet morosely.
"I did it again this evening. Ma nearly murdered me. She keeps insisting that I learn how to cook and clean properly, because she thinks I don't know a thing about keeping house. And she's right."
Atticus laughed heartily.
"Why worry about those trivialities? Any lady can learn to cook and clean, but she can't learn to be a poet, Ida."
"Poetry isn't that useful in life."
There was a drawn-out silence. Then, Atticus frowned.
"Ida, I'm sorry. I promised to bring The Idiot today for you to borrow, but I couldn't find it anywhere, even though I searched my entire house. I think I must have left it in Birmingham when I went there last week."
Smiling, Ida replied, "No matter. I've read it before, anyway. All I wanted to do was to read it a second time."
"If I find it, I'll be sure to lend it to you immediately," said Atticus quickly.
Ida shook her head.
"Oh, don't trouble yourself with trying to find it. I I can find the copy I lost, I'll be sure to lend it to you immediately, Mr. Finch."
"Don't bother," chuckled Atticus. The corner of his mouth was turned up.
Ida asked, after a pause, "Are you going to pose a new question today or are we going to figure out the old ones first? Because it is your turn."
Atticus threw his hands up in surrender.
"There's no way I can formulate decent, coherent questions until we pick apart those other ones," he declared, laughing. "Let's head over to my place now. We can finally have that long discussion we planned about those three terrible questions."
Ida beamed as she and Atticus strode down the street together, leaving the Radley place far behind.
Over at the Grahams', Ida's mother and father, after prayer, reluctantly started dinner without their daughter.
Her tone annoyed but her lips curled up, Georgina muttered, "God, I wonder what that girl is up to right now. Something must have happened if she's decided to be late for dinner."
Phillip agreed, nodding slowly, "Ida wouldn't miss dinner for anything."
"You sound somewhat worried, Phillip," noted Georgina, slightly amused.
Phillip laughed, "Worried? About Ida? She's nineteen, and a strong, self-asserted girl if I've ever saw one."
Then, his smile faded.
"Actually, Georgie, I'm afraid you're right."
Georgina cocked her head, putting down her fork.
"She has to pass that house on her walk every evening, doesn't she?"
"What house? You mean the Radley house?"
Phillip nodded, lips thin. Georgina snorted.
"You're afraid of those Radleys? They wouldn't leave their house for anything, even if they wanted to kill someone."
Ida's father cut himself off with a sharp sigh.
"Yes," he conceded, "I suppose you're right. There's no use in believing silly town stories about that family."
However, the worry lines in his forehead grew deeper as he and his wife finished dinner and washed their plates.
Just as Phillip and Georgina returned to the dining room to wipe the table, the door swung open and hit the wall with a great crash. Ida burst in. Without a word, she raced past her startled parents. Just as she was about to tear through the other door out of the room, her mother called, "Come back here, Ida. You've missed dinner!"
Ida paused and turned around, panting. A smile that she was trying to repress tugged at her lips.
"Oh, I already ate."
Her parents exchanged a meaningful glance, and her father raised an eyebrow.
"Is that so?"
"And may I ask where?" inquired her mother.
Ida's beam burst across her face.
"At the house of an incredibly intelligent, sophisticated gentleman."
With that, Ida spun around, beginning to leave the room. Then, not able to resist talking more, she explained excitedly, "I met him the day we moved to Maycomb, when I took that walk to explore. While I was walking, he passed me on the street. He was coming home from work—he's a lawyer. He asked me if I was one of the Grahams who were moving to the town, and I told him that I was. And he just nodded and shook my hand, told me that he was pleased to meet me. Then, he went on his way. But then one day, about three months ago, I saw him holding a book—The Idiot. And I told him how much I liked that book. So we started discussing it, and we realized that we both had similar questions about. So ever since then, every time we walked past each other on the street, we'd ask each other a philosophical question—or a literary question—or a legal puzzle—or anything that struck our fancies. We'd take turns—one day he'd ask a question, and the next, I would. We've been debating over some of the questions for weeks. There were three questions in particular that have been bothering us for ages, and they're related to one another. So, we decided that we would sit down somewhere and settle those problems once and for all. That's where we were today. We didn't figure out any answers, but—"
Ida broke off, embarrassed. She smoothed out her skirt and began retreating hastily through the doorway.
"I'll go work on my poem now," she announced quickly before disappearing into the other room.
"Wait!" her mother called. "Aren't you going to tell us who this fine gentleman is? You've never told us this young man's name, you know."
Ida, reappearing in the doorway, glanced at her feet, biting her lip.
"Ma, this person is...not quite a young man."
Phillip merely looked puzzled, but Ida's mother stared at her with horror.
"Ida," she said slowly, carefully pronouncing her daughter's name, "you don't mean to say that you're in a relationship with a—"
"We're not in a relationship!" countered Ida.
By now, though, Phillip understood what had crossed Georgina's mind.
"Ida—" he began gravely.
Realizing what her parents were thinking, Ida sighed with annoyance.
"No. When I said that he's not a young man, I meant that he's a man, but he's not quite…young."
Ida's parents breathed a simultaneous sigh of relief.
"We raised you to be a good Christian," laughed Phillip shakily. "We wouldn't have it otherwise."
Loving someone, no matter whom, shouldn't be a sin.
Ida bit her tongue.
Her mother asked, "So how old is this man exactly?"
Glad that the subject had been changed, Ida shrugged.
"I don't know his age exactly, but Maudie says he's in his thirties."
Her parents exchanged a glance filled with mock horror.
"In his thirties?" her mother demanded. "Why, that's ridiculous!"
"He's older than I am!" protested Phillip.
Georgina slapped Phillip's arm.
"Oh, please, Phillip," she reprimanded, though she was smiling.
Ida insisted, "I know thirty is rather old to be a bachelor, but he's an incredible man. And if you knew him, you'd see why he's still unwed: it's because there's no lady who can—"
Abruptly, a rap sounded on the front door. The whole family groaned quietly.
"I'll get it," sighed Georgina.
Her mother slipped out of her chair and slid through the door. Phillip and Ida exchanged a glance.
"Stephanie again," they sighed simultaneously.
The two fell silent as they listened for the visitor's voice. They could hear a creak as the front door opened, then Georgina's surprised greeting.
"Why, good evening, Mr. Finch!"
Ida stiffened in her chair, licking her lips.
"Mr. Finch?" her father whispered. "The lawyer?"
"He just got elected to the state legislature," she murmured.
At the door, Atticus was asking, "And you're Mrs. Graham, if I'm not mistaken?"
"Yes. Would you like to come inside? I'll acquaint you with my husband and my daughter."
"I believe I've met Miss Ida before. We've chatted during her walk."
Georgina was silent for a split second. Ida knew that she had figured out who Mr. Finch really was.
"I'm glad to hear that she's actually talking to people, sir," chuckled Georgina finally. "She's so shy and absorbed in the worlds she thinks up that I fear for her social life."
Atticus replied, "I don't think you ought to worry about Ida. She's a very bright young lady."
Ida couldn't hide her blush.
At that moment, her father caught on, too. A smile starting on his lips, he slowly turned to Ida for confirmation. Ida, beginning to smile, also, nodded happily.
"In fact," Atticus was continuing, "I've come to give her a book she's lent me. I realized that I promised to return it to her this week during one of her daily walks, and it's already Saturday."
Georgina replied, "Oh, that's awfully nice of you, sir. Let me fetch Ida. If you'll excuse me, Mr. Finch."
Let me fetch Ida.
"Ma!" Ida groaned quietly, slumping in her chair.
She licked her lips as Georgina's footsteps grew louder and louder. Finally, her mother's face appeared in the doorway.
In a devilish whisper, her mother inquired, "I suppose you'd like to go out there and thank Mr. Finch yourself?"
Ida shook her head wildly.
"No, ma, no! I—"
Her father, growing serious, warned, "Ida."
With conviction, Georgina stated, "You must be polite, child. He made a special trip to our house just to return the book on time."
Phillip chuckled, "Being shy won't get you anywhere when you're in love with a—"
Ida sprang out of her chair, cutting off her father's sentence.
"All right! All right!"
She hastened out of the room.
When she neared the front door, she took one glance at Atticus, then lowered her eyes. She could her cheeks growing hot, but she tried to ignore their burning.
Almost sheepishly, Ida told him, "My parents told me that it'd be polite to say hello to you."
Atticus calmly handed her the book.
"I'm sorry I didn't return it earlier," he said.
"It's all right," she assured hastily. She stood facing him awkwardly for a moment. Then, she said, "Well, good day, Mr. Finch."
She quickly shut the door in Atticus' face. Then, she began to turn away.
Lord, I forgot to—
Rushing back toward the door, she flung it open. Atticus was heading back down the small pathway to their house.
"Wait, Mr. Finch!" she called.
Atticus turned back around calmly, as if he had been expecting it. A hint of amusement winked in his eyes.
"Yes, Miss Graham?"
Shyly, she said, "I think I forgot to thank you. For bringing the book, I mean."
"Oh, that? No problem at all, Ida. See you tomorrow."
Again, Ida hurriedly slammed the door. Then, she cursed herself for the rudeness.
He must think I'm so high-strung.
Sighing, she turned around. She jolted when she saw her mother behind her, frowning.
"You're supposed to invite him in for tea," she whispered.
Seeing the firm conviction in her mother's eyes, Ida groaned softly and turned back around. Slowly, with her eyes trained on the ground, she put her hand on the doorknob and turned it cautiously. Sucking in a breath, she apprehensively creaked open the door. Atticus was just about to disappear down the end of the street.
"Mr. Finch!" she yelled quickly.
He turned around. A wide, full smile now accompanied the twinkle in his eyes.
"Yes, Miss Graham?"
Ida squared her shoulders.
"Mr. Finch," she asked confidently, "would you like to come over for tea?"
"Tea?" asked Atticus, already beginning to stride back toward the house. "Why, that would be lovely."
A relieved smile splashed across Ida's face.
"All right. Come right inside, Mr. Finch."
"Maybe some tea will help us figure out those dastardly question, hmmm?"
"My lord, I sure hope so!"
Not able to help herself, she pulled up her skirt and ran out to meet Atticus halfway down the path. Awkwardly but courteously, she led him into the house.
When they entered the dining room, talking rapidly, they found that Georgina had already set the table. Ida pulled out a chair for Atticus, smiling, then sat down herself.
"I'm glad you've decided to stay for tea, sir," Georgina told the man. "Wait just a few minutes, and I'll have everything ready for you two."
She turned to Atticus.
"What type of tea would you like, Mr. Finch? I am quite an ardent lover of tea. I'm bound to have any kind that you may name."
"I'll have whatever tea will give you the least trouble to make, ma'am," he replied pleasantly.
Raising her eyebrows ever-so-slightly in approval, Georgina pressed, "But really, sir, you're our guest. Feel free to ask for anything you'd like. I have English breakfast, Earl Grey..."
"Oh—well then, ma'am, Earl Grey would be lovely, if you insist."
"It's my pleasure."
Somewhat slyly, she turned to her daughter.
"And you will have the same as Mr. Finch?"
Ida nodded quickly.
Georgina, chuckling to herself, swept out of the room. Atticus turned to Ida.
"Your mother is very nice woman," he commented.
"Yes. She is."
Being the guest, Atticus waited patiently for Ida to say something. Then, finally, Ida asked, "So how was your day?"
Then, she groaned.
"Lord. I already asked you that earlier, didn't I? I mean—"
"Why, thank you for asking. Nothing much has changed, I suppose. And you?"
"Nothing much has changed with me, either, Mr. Finch."
The two laughed. Atticus glanced around.
"Didn't you say that you named one of your kitchen curtains Dante, since it mysteriously caught fire one day and looked like a pillar of hell?"
"I name everything in the house. I think it's just a writer's whim."
"Oh, but it's such a fine habit," assured Atticus. ""Would you care to introduce me to this 'Dante'?"
Smiling, Ida said, "All right."
She gestured at the window, which faced the street. A slightly burnt purple curtain hung limply in front of it.
"This, Atticus, is Dante."
Atticus leaned back as if admiring it.
Ida continued, "But Dante's only the name of the left side. I don't have a name for the other side of the curtain. Any ideas?"
Atticus thought for a moment. Then, he laughed.
"Why, name it Beatrice, of course."
"Beatrice!" exclaimed Ida. "What better name could there be?"
The two studied the curtain couple with content. Then, Ida sighed, "The names Dante and Beatrice are fine. It's the inferno I could do without next time."
Atticus laughed heartily. At that moment, Ida's mother appeared at the doorway, carrying a dainty tea tray. Ida's eyes widened when she saw that the one she had brought was the one strewn with embossed flowers.
"The tea is ready," Georgina announced.
As Georgina placed the cups, whose designs matched the tray's, before Ida and Atticus, Ida gave her a mortified glance. Atticus, though, didn't seem to mind the femininity of the patterns.
"Thank you, Mrs. Graham," he said.
He lifted the cup to his mouth and was about to have a sip. Then, he glanced at Ida.
"If I may?"
Ida cocked her head, then realized what he was asking.
"Oh, that," she laughed, smiling. "Of course, go ahead."
Atticus promptly took a large sip of the tea. His eyebrows went up.
"Why, this has got to be some of the best Earl Grey tea I've ever tasted!"
Ida's mother smiled.
"Well, I do my best. I've been making this tea since I was a child, so it ought to be at least decent."
Heading out of the room, she said, "Call me if there's anything you two need!"
The moment her mother left the room, Ida glanced down at her tea. She smiled slightly. Georgina had brewed her English Breakfast instead.
For a while, Ida and Atticus sipped their steaming tea in silence. Then, wiping her mouth with the cloth napkin her mother had set out, Ida asked Atticus, "What's it like to work in law?"
Atticus put down his cup, surprised at the question.
"To work in law? Well, it's certainly more exciting than it may seem. There's always a new challenge, a new question. However, it's terrifying at times, honestly, since being a lawyer gives you say in deciding someone else's life."
Wistfully, Ida admitted, "I used to want to be a lawyer when I was younger—before I decided that I'd like to write. But it's difficult to get a job, as a woman."
She stopped to sip her tea.
Atticus agreed grimly, "That is precisely what I feel is the problem with this day and age—equality."
"Alabama folks are good folks, basically, but this hatred against Negroes is terrible. Women's rights, of course, is also an issue, but women aren't being lynched on the streets with no punishment to their tormentors."
Atticus sipped his tea thoughtfully.
"You know, I've always been considering what I could do about it—if there was anything anyone could do about it. But Ida—do you see any possible end to this, when even the government is saying that racism and hatred is correct?
"It seems like a vicious cycle. Every step we take forward is countered by a large step backward. I suppose there ought to be some solution, somewhere. I've come to the conclusion that, since it looks that we can't change much, we must just do what we can—we must counter hatred in small ways."
Atticus leaned in, listening intently.
"What sorts of small ways to you have in mind, Ida?"
"I mean, if I ever see—see a Negro being lynched, for example, I'll try to stop the violence somehow. Do you see what I mean?"
Nodding, Atticus sighed, "It looks like that's all we can possibly do."
By then, both of them had finished their tea. Reluctantly, Ida bid Atticus good night and led him back out the door.
I'd like to know what you think, as it is my first time writing this genre. Please leave an honest review!
By the way, I have the entire thing written. It's just a bit long, so it's broken into three chapters. I'll post the next chapter when I get a couple of reviews.