Monday, August 28, 2017

It All Depends on the Meaning of 'Betrothed'

Reluctantly, Bunny packed a suitcase, Bootsy's things, and Bootsy and drove out to Ivy Lane. It was still the beautiful place it had always been, but it was not the same. It seemed quiet and lonely. She walked up to the Grand Hall Door and used the key to open it.

When she walked in all she could think about was the first time she entered the hall and how good Harrison made her feel. She took some time and walked through the rooms on the first floor. They were all big and beautiful, full of antiques.

But there was a formal coldness to them. She had never been brought up in such a formal atmosphere. She wanted everyone who came to visit Ivy Lane to feel comfortable and welcome. The oriental (Persian) rugs could go. She knew where she could get some braided rugs, even ones large enough for the grand hall. That would definitely give the hall a homey feeling.

Looking at the two tone fancy gold (damask) wall paper in the hall, she knew that would never do. She envisioned a blue gingham paper with a wide border of Dutch Girls, Cows, and Wind Mills just above the wainscoting. She would get some crushed velvet slip covers for all the (Duncan Phyfe) sofas. And athough the matching arm chairs were comfortable, she did not care for flowery (English Chintz) pattern. She's have to think about that.

She stood back, feeling proud of herself. Yes, she would make this place into the warm inviting home it should be. She would tackle the kitchen tomorrow. She had a John Deere theme in mind. This had been a long day. Bunny ventured upstairs to find a bedroom. Wow, they were all large with big fancy beds with lots of pillows on them. Re-doing the kitchen would have to come first before she tackled the bedrooms.

She chose, what she assumed was, the master bedroom. When she went to hang her clothes up, she found that one of the two large closets was full of ladies clothing. These must have belonged to Harrison's first wife. They were lovely outfits with shoes and hats to match. The other closet was Harrison's, because she recognized some of the outfits she had seen him in.

Before she turned in for the night Mr. Sweeny called and  was rather anxious. "Well Bunny, they did contest the Will."

"Over what? You said Harrison requested all the changes and everything was signed. I never thought he would leave me anything any way, but since he wanted to . . ."

"Bunny, they are contesting the Will over one word: 'Betrothed' ".

"Seriously?"

"Seriously."

"So what do we do?"

"They want to depose you tomorrow here at my office."

"What does 'depose' mean? Arrest me?"

"No, they want to ask you some questions. You will be sworn in to tell the truth and the entire deposition will be recorded. Now, I need you here around 9 tomorrow morning. The deposition starts at 9:30 but I'll be with you the entire time. If they ask you something you are unsure of, we can discuss it, off the record of course. And, if I think you are saying something you should not, I will stop you."

Bunny let out a sigh.

"Don't worry Bunny, you have the law and the truth on your side. You have nothing to worry about. I'll see you tomorrow."

As Bunny rang off, she knew she would have to go back to her house to get her dress clothes for this meeting tomorrow and she needed to let Della know she would not be there until after lunch. She went into the large marble bath room to brush her teeth. The bath mats, she noticed, were simple thick cotton mats. nothing fancy.

And there was no toilet seat cover, or rug around the bottom of the toilet. She made a mental note to pick up one the following day - a five piece set so she could cover the tank, the lid, and also get a matching bath mat. Purple would be a good color. The marble had a bit of purple it. She also made a mental note to look at all the bathrooms to see how many sets she would need and in what colors. This was going to be more work than she thought. It never dawned on her she would need to redecorate.

The following morning Bunny over slept. It was almost 8:30 by the time she got up, walked Bootsy and started her shower. She would never have time to stop by her house. Thank goodness she brought that black dress she could wear. It was a bit dressy but not too much.

After her shower she pulled her black dress out and tried it on. The zipper was broken. Then she remembered Mary Wells' closet. After all she had inherited Ivy Lane and all its furnishings, right?

She looked through the clothes and realized that she and Mary were about the same size. Mary was a bit smaller but Bunny could still fit into her clothes. She found a nice light blue sleeveless dress with a matching short jacket. When she went looking for shoes, she found a pair of heels that fit in the same blue as the dress. While looking for the shoes, she also found a matching very smart looking hat. When she looked in the mirror, the outfit was a bit tight, but weren't all fancy clothes for very nice looking women a little tight to accent their figures?

Since she was running late, she did not have long to talk with Mr. Sweeny before the girls' attorney came out of the conference room and asked if they were ready. Luther said yes, and he and Bunny walked into the room.

Bunny was prepared for the court reporter, the conference table, the microphones, and the two other attorneys. What she did not expect to see was Belva and Liza sitting at the other end of the table with their attorneys. As she and Luther took their seats, she quietly asked him, "Why are they here?"

"I would imagine to make sure their attorneys ask all the questions they want answered. It will be OK. It doesn't change a thing."

Just then Belva stood up, "How dare you?" she yelled. "Not only are you a harlot who lied about your relationship with our father and is now trying to steal our home, but you show up at a legal proceeding about all this in a nice suit that belonged to my mother. Have you no shame!"

Her attorney took Belva's arm and asked if he could speak to her outside of the room. In a minute or two they returned. Belva was quiet but her countenance said she was far from over this.

The girls' attorney introduced himself and his associate and went through the preliminaries of swearing Bunny in, explaining the deposition process, and asking if she had any questions. He turned to Luther,"Counselor, any questions?"

"No sir."

"Then we will proceed." With that the attorney hammered Bunny about details of her relationship with Harrison, had he ever discussed his financial plans with her? Did she know they needed to be "Betrothed" for her to inherit anything? Had they had discussed marriage prior to his supposedly proposing that evening? Why was there no ring? Why did his daughters not know?

She got through those questions fairly well, but she was nervous. Then the big question came up,"Miss Vontese, are you aware that the term 'Betrothed' is not a black or white term? It falls in the gray area. What I am trying to say is that it can mean many things to different people. Now, if Mr. Wells used the wording 'Engaged to be Married' we would not be here. That is a definite term that everyone understands. However 'Betrothed' is not as clear."

He paused for effect. 

"You have no ring, although money was not an issue with Mr. Wells. I find it hard to believe he would have asked for your hand in marriage without a proper ring. If it was such good news, you did not tell any friends, co-workers, or even your mother about it."

Luther stopped him. "All of that has already been covered in her earlier sworn statement. This is not a trial. You are not here to badger my client."

The attorney looked at Bunny, "I apologize Miss Vontese. But can you tell me the definition of 'Betrothed'?"

Luther had Bunny ready for this. He had given her a prepared script to read. This was one question they knew she would be asked.

"Yes, sir. Personally, I feel it is an old fashioned term meaning formally engaged. However knowing that this was the issue at hand, I did some research and learned the following:

Dictionaries tend to define the word as "formerly engaged" but in different terms. For instance according to Merriam Webster it means "a mutual promise or contract for a future marriage".  The Oxford Dictionary defines Betroth as "to formally engage (someone) to be married". Another dictionary states that the definition of betrothed is "someone who is engaged to be married". And one more defines to betroth as "to promise for marriage".

She stopped reading and looked at the attorney. "I imagine if you need more definitions, I can find some more."

The attorney paused, looked at the girls who had nothing to say. Then he said, That's all for today. I thank everyone for coming. Miss Vontese you are dismissed."

When they got back to his office, Bunny asked Luther, "Well does that take care of that?"

"Yes, we have successfully defined 'betrothed'. However, that will not stop them. I imagine we will hear from them again in the next day or two. Bunny this is not over yet. Those Wells girls are mad at their father and taking it out on you. But, the law is on your side. Did you move into Ivy Lane?"

She told him she slept the past night there and planned to move more of her clothes and personal items in that evening. They finished talking and she left. 

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