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Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Skeletons Waiting in the Closet

Buzz called Bunny that night to check on her and see how her day went. She gave him a brief summary. As always, Buzz found humor in it. "Well defining what 'betrothed' is is easier than what 'is' is." She asked him if he had ever been to Ivy Lane. When he said no, she asked if he would like to come out that night. He agreed to on one condition, he could bring a bucket of fried chicken and 6 pack of beer for supper. She agreed and he said he would be there around 7:30.

Sure enough, at 7:30 Buzz showed up with the chicken and beer. Bunny put it in the kitchen and asked him if he wanted a tour of the house. She took him all through the house, including many places she had never been. He was amazed. "I have always heard this was a beautiful place, but I had no idea."

Bunny recounted the stories Harrison had told her about growing up on the river and how much he loved the place.

"Why didn't he leave it to his daughters?"

"Damn if I know. I had no idea he planned to leave this to me. It never crossed my mind. In fact if I get hit by a car or die under any mysterious circumstances, those girls should be the first suspects."

Buzz laughed, "It's not that bad."

"Oh, it's worse." Then she told him about the outburst Belva had that morning when Bunny walked into the conference room. "It was so bad that her attorney had to take her out of the room and calm her down."

They took the beer and the chicken out on the top porch and ate at a small table. The evening was cool enough to enjoy a meal out of doors. Conversation between them was easy and always entertaining. Other than Harrison, she could not remember anyone she felt so comfortable with. Bunny had finally found a buddy, a good friend, a pal. Buzz was someone she could depend on.

After dinner they walked down to the river. As they stood on the bank, Buzz said, "Bunny I have something I have to tell you."

"Oh?"

"It's work related. I don't mean to interfere with this great night but I've accepted a position at Smith and Wells. I wanted to tell you before anyone else did. The bad part is I start next week. I realize I should give 2 weeks notice but they just offered me the job today and they need someone Monday morning."

Bunny paused. "Buzz, that is a great opportunity for you and it is our loss. Congratulations! Don't worry about the notice.  You and Larry need to work that out. You'll be a hard one to replace and the Eldridge sisters will mourn their loss."

"Hey, they can always frequent Smith and Wells more."

"How is their supply of gnome paraphernalia?"

Buzz laughed, "Hopefully non-existent."

"Seriously Buzz, I am very happy for you."

They walked back to the house and Buzz left.

Bunny put up what was left of the beer and chicken and made her way upstairs. This was a wonderful house she thought to herself. She would make it her home. It would take some doing, but she would make it homey. She wondered if the fire places worked.

The following morning at work, Larry was waiting for her when she got there. " 'Mornin' Bunny."

"Good morning Larry. Now what are we going to do without Buzz?"

"Well I been thinking 'bout that and I think I can handle it for a while. As long as you can use the plumbing service to handle those issues. Buzz was much better at that than I was."

"We can do that. Got anybody in mind to take Buzz's place?"

"No mam, but I'll keep an eye out."

"You do that and let me know if it gets too much handle here before we get you some help."

"Yes mam."

Before he left they went over the day's Maintenance List. It was fairly light, which was scary. Usually that spoke of impending danger.

When Della came in she asked Bunny about yesterday's events. Bunny told her the details and drama of the deposition. When she finished, Della said, "Wow, all that over one little word."

"That's right, there were 3 lawyers, 3 girls, and a court reporter all cooped up in a room to ask me if Harrison really asked me to marry him and what the word 'betrothed' meant."

Della hesitated, then in a serious tone she asked, "Bunny did you really wear Mrs. Wells' dress to the deposition?"

"Yes, I didn't have anything else to wear. I over slept and her clothes fit me, well almost. How was I to know that Belva and Liza would be there. Or if they would recognize the clothes or even care."

"Bunny that was not smart," Della said seriously.

"Whatever, they came with the house. If I lose 10 pounds in the right places they will fit nicely. I know Harrison would have wanted me to look my best."

Della just shook her head and went back to her desk.

Bunny decided not to tell her about Buzz's visit the night before but she did tell her about his new job. "I'm so happy for him. Aren't you? That will be a great opportunity."

"Bunny, did you want him to leave? Sounds like you are really concerned about his future. He is going to be hard to replace. Does Wade know?"

"No, I'll call him this morning."

The phone rang and Della picked it up. Then she said, "Bunny it's for you".

Bunny walked back in her office and picked the phone. She found herself on the line with Mr. Galt, the insurance adjuster for the American Liberty Fidelity Mutual Insurance for Home and Cars.

"Mr. Galt, what can I do for you."

"As you know I am calling about the unit our insured has at 112 Oak Street. The content's of Mr. Jackson's unit were covered by a renter's policy issued by ALFMHC. I understand that your company owns the building, rents the unit to Mr. Jackson, and that said building burned a week or so ago." He said, as if interrogating her. 

Having already been through one deposition that week, she kept her answer short and sweet."Yes, you would be correct."

"Well, Miss Vontese, was there a smoke alarm or sprinkler system in the unit?"

"Smoke alarm - yes, Sprinkler system-no. In accordance with Alabama state law only a working smoke alarm in each room is required."

Mr. Galt continued,"I also have it on good authority that there was a very thorough investigation of the fire. Seems there was some question about its origin. Do you anything about that?"

"If it was more thorough than normal, I would say that is the professionalism of a small town fire department to take care of all the details. I suggest you contact our fire Chief Pyre for any more information on the fire and whatever investigation you are talking about."

He thanked her for her time. She gave him Chief Pyre's phone number and he ended the call.

Next she called Wade to tell him about Buzz's new job. Naturally Wade already new about it. Said he picked it up from a waitress that morning when he got his regular cup of coffee. Bunny discussed a replacement for Buzz and some other items of business.

The afternoon was fairly uneventful. On the way home she decided she would detour by her mother's house. Maybe this talk was all a rumor. She parked her car a block away, walked very carefully down her mother's street, and sat on the porch steps of the abandoned house across the street. No one could see her because of the Wisteria that covered the porch.

It wasn't long before the front door to her mother's house opened and her mother and a gentleman stepped onto the porch. Her mother was wearing a flowing blue caftan. The gentleman handed her an envelope. "Why Haynes, you've already taken care of that?"

Addison Haynes Duiese, Bunny thought? Who would have guessed it.

"I know, but Anna Belle you are so special." She took the envelope and kissed him on the cheek.

She stepped inside and closed the door. He walked down the steps and looked both ways as if concerned about who was coming. Bunny did not to wait long before another gentleman was walking up her mother's steps. She was almost sure it was George Butler. It wasn't long before her guess was  confirmed. Her mother answered the door wearing a strapless peach colored jump suit.

"Why George, it's been too long. A lady can get awfully lonely you know?" Anna Belle said with a smile as she took his hand and led him in the house.

Bunny just thought, so it is true. My mama is a lady of the evening, a prostitute, a call girl, a harlot. Now she was glad men did not beat a path to her door. To think she would have assumed they were there to court her.

Just then she heard her name being called. "Bunny, what are you doing on the Clarendon's porch?"

"Shush," said Bunny as she scrambled off the porch and down the steps to keep him quiet. "Buzz, what are you doing here?"

"Walking Angus."

It was at that point that she saw the cute Scottish Terrier sitting on the sidewalk at Buzz's feet. "I live right around the corner."

He looked across the street,"Ah, you were spying on your mother. That's not nice." he said laughing.

They walked down the street several blocks. "Bunny, don't let that bother you. There are worse secrets in town. She is a known entity and, I have heard, she is very good."

Bunny blushed,"Buzz!"

"She is also a beautiful lady. I can assure you anyone who brings that subject up has a skeleton dancing in their closet just waiting to get out and dance."

"Like who? Tell me one person."

"Well your would-have-been step daughter Belva. She looks as if she has it all - the breeding, the looks, the education, the family. But then her perfect husband has been seen in Mobile shopping in thrift stores for large sizes of lady's clothes and women's shoes in very large sizes."

Bunny stopped and looked at Buzz.

"Yep, just like Lady Chablis out of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil except he cannot sing, is not that attractive, and has humiliated his wife."

"Why doesn't she leave him?" asked Bunny.

"Because that would show her high society friends that she knows about it. Right now, ignorance is bliss."

"How do you know these things?"

"Word gets around. See, you have nothing to worry about your mother is a hidden secret. Everyone knows about it. The men are never going to reject her publicly because they need her to survive their miserable marriages and fear retribution. And the women cannot afford to shun her, less she start naming names. So it is a polite and genteel mutual accommodation."

By this time they had circled the block and were at Bunny's car. "Are you ever going to trade that thing in?"

"Yeah, I probably should. I've held onto to it based on a tale I once was told, but I now know that was about as real as a unicorn."

Buzz laughed and made sure she got into her car. She waved as she drove off. Buzz and Angus continued their evening stroll.

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