Knowing that few people go through the pain of losing someone dear without saying goodbye, Iris decided to pay Stella Marlboro a call. A very nice young man answered the door. Iris introduced herself. He welcomed her in and said his name was Kirby. Stella was in the den with another handsome young man. Iris introduced herself to Stella.
Stella greeted her and introduced her other son Knox. She asked Iris to have a seat.
Iris sat and started. You may not know me, but I’m John Barker’s wife,” Iris paused, “widow.” John died unexpectedly also, so I understand what you are going through.”
“That is kind of you. I’m afraid I am still numb - in denial.”
“From experience, it takes a while to even get to the point of grieving.”
Stella paused, then asked, “How did you handle it?”
Iris laughed,”Not well. But everyone is different. You have these 2 sons to help you, I was alone.”
“I cannot imagine not having them here. Seriously, how did you handle these first days?”
“Well, first let me say, I’m the last person give advice. I came over to offer you my concern and support.”
“But you have just experienced this, where do I start?”
Iris took a breath,”I was possessed and went mad.”
“I do feel a bit 'possessed', but am too numb to go mad. What is it - the 7 stages of grief?”
“No, Stella. I literally felt as if I was possessed. They ended up having to commit me.”
“Yes, I am. I went out of my mind. Eventually, Mercer, Dr Magill, had me checked into a sanitarium. Iris stopped, thinking that was enough of her story. “But, it all worked out. I had issues before John’s death. Unfortunately, they did not raise their evil heads until he died.”
“You mean just uncontrollably distraught.”
“Something like that. But, that is behind me. What can I do for you?”
“I just have so many questions. What really happened, how long had he been there? Did he suffer in pain?”
“The same ones I had, once I could process it all.”
The 2 women talked for an hour or 2. Iris steered way from the details of her ordeal. But, they began to realize that the 2 deaths were very similar. Stella and Madison had had an argument on Wednesday, the last day she saw him. They did not part on good terms. Iris told her that she and and John were also having some issues.
Finally Iris realized she needed to go. Stella thanked her for coming. Stella suggested that the 2 of them meet for lunch. Iris thought that was a wonderful idea. They said their goodbyes and Iris left.
Earlier that day, Barbara walked into the Starlight Cafe. She was back in town to do some more 'research'. She reintroduced herself to Walter. “Do you have a few minutes to talk?”
Walter told her, he could spare about 5, but they were preparing for lunch, their busiest time of the day.
Walter and Barbara sat down at a table and Walter brought cups of coffee for both of them. Barbara started. “You may not remember me, I am Barbara Birch. I represent Spirit Productions. We want to make this movie.”
“About what?” asked Walter.
“It will probably be a love story - 2 people who meet in this small southern town.”
“Is this going to be a documentary?”
“No, we are talking about a full feature film?”
"So what do you need from me?"
"Can you give me the names of a few citizens who can tell me more about the town? Anyone you think would be willing to talk to me and tell me a few interesting facts about Gallagher."
Walter thought for a minute. "Let's see, you probably would be interested in speaking to Ella Osbourne, she is a widow. Also, see if you can get in touch with Wade Hampton, here is his number." He scrolled down the contacts list and gave her Wade's number. He paused, then said,"I know who can help you. The office manager at Q.G. Hampton Rentals and Housing Co. - Bunny Vontese. Bunny could tell you a lot, since she manages most of the rental property here." He gave her Bunny's number.
Barbara was writing down what Walter had been saying. She looked up,"This is an odd question, but last time I was here I noticed 2 older ladies dressed exactly alike walking down the street."
"Those would be the Eldridge twins, Cora and Flora. Ask Bunny about them. She can help you there." He paused, then his face lit up. "You have to visit our local museum,the Museum of Confederate Uniforms, Hats, and Paraphernalia and speak with Col. Wadsworth. The Colonel is a walking catalog of local history." Walter opened his phone and looked up the Colonel's number. "Here is the Colonel's Number."
After he gave Barbara the Colonel's number, he told her he needed to get back to work. She thanked him. Walter went back behind the counter and Barbara walked out of the door with some names to start with.
First on her list was Bunny. She walked into the rental company and asked to speak to Bunny. Della showed her into Bunny's office. Barbara introduced herself and explained her project.
Bunny was thrilled,"A movie, a real movie show about Gallagher? Wow, that would be wonderful. I've never been in a movie. Who could I play?"
Barbara explained that it was a love story about a small southern town. "We are still working on the screen play. We will have professional actors in the film."
"Well, this is exciting! Will you have movie stars like Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt? I would want Julia Roberts. I just loved her in The Runaway Bride."
Trying to keep Bunny on track, Barbara asked,"I am trying to learn something about Gallagher, about the people who live here. Walter at the Starlight Cafe said I should talk you."
"Isn't he just cutest the thing? I love the bald spot on the top of his head."
"Yes, he is cute." Before Barbara could say anything Bunny called Della and Vivian into her office.
She introduced her to them. "She's gonna make a movie here. I told her I want Julia Roberts to play me."
"Really," said Della.
"Well, that's exciting," said Vivian.
Bunny said, "This is almost as exciting as learning I have a sister." She put her arm around Vivian.
"So you 2 are sisters," asked Barbara trying to figure how those two could possibly be blood relatives. Vivian had on a cute skirt and sweater and boots. Then was Bunny with her teased blond hair, heavy makeup, skin tight dress, and stilettos.
"Well, we didn't know anything about it until several months ago," said Vivian.
"How did that happen," Barbara asked as she took out her pad to take notes.
Vivian started, "We have the same fathers."
"My mama didn't want to be a single mother, so she sent me to live with relatives."
"So she was young?"
"No, not really. Let's see, Tula, that is my mother's name, was married to Bunny's father when she was in her mid 20's."
Bunny added,"And my Mama married Daddy when she was in her mid 20's also."
"But Tula and our father only stayed married for a year or two."
"Then he married Bunny's mother."
Barbara commented, "So you are older than Bunny."
"No mam," said Vivian. "Bunny's 2 years older than me."
Barbara looked confused.
"See Bunny was 2 years old when I was born," said Vivian.
"So, Tula remarried your father"
"Heck no. By that time Tula was married to Lawrence Lutrell. She left Daddy for Lawrence."
Bunny added,"Mama and Daddy were only married a year before I was born. Then 2 years later Vivian was born."
"To Tula and your father?" Barbara asked.
"Yep, that's right," said Bunny as she pulled a mint from the jar on her desk. "Care for one?"
"No, I'm fine. So Bunny, your father and mother were still married at the time."
"Yes, mam," said Bunny.
Vivian laughed,"It's complicated."
'No shit', thought Barbara who turned to Della, "And what's your story?"
"Oh, nothing to write home about. Mama died 2 years ago and Daddy died last year. They were happily married for 42 years."
The door opened and Della walked out to see who was there. "Hey Buzz. Come on in. You can meet Ms. Birch. She is going to make a movie about Gallagher."
They walked into Bunny's office. "Ms. Birch, I'd like you to meet Buzz Jackson. Buzz this is Ms. Barbara Birch."
Laughing, Barbara asked,"So how are you kin to these 3 ladies?"
Buzz smiled, "Bunny is my half sister."
Buzz laughed, "No, mam. Can't say she is."
"So you are older than Bunny?
"Yes, by 3 years or so." He smiled, then realized where Barbara was going with this. "My Daddy and Bunny's mother were not married. I was raised by an adoptive family." He stopped, then added,"I guess you could say the family tree doesn't branch much."
Della laughed,"Well at least we don't marry our cousins," she paused, then added, "like some people think."