My Life A Bit South of Normal

Thursday, May 31, 2018

What's All This About?

On Sunday, Belva had called Cordelia. She was most upbeat. "You know I have always been interested in the Historical Society.  I understand that there is a fund raising dinner tomorrow night."

"There is. Pearce Phinnigan is hosting it at Cre Uisce Aer. I'm looking forward to seeing the estate, as much as the dinner."

"Aunt Cordelia, I have a favor to ask."

"What my dear?"

"If you are going alone, can I go with you. I know they are charging $1000 per person. I can either get a check to you or the Historical Society by tomorrow."

"I would love for you to go with me. After all I rarely get to spend time with you." She paused and added, "Now you know Colleen will most likely be there."

"I figured as much. I can handle that."

Cordelia told her what time the dinner was and they discussed logistics. After that they rang off. Cordelia then called the Colonel to tell him she was bringing Belva.

Monday evening Belva met Cordelia at Cre Uisce Aer. Cordelia complimented her on her gown. "You are such a lovely girl. Well, I guess I mean 'lady'. You and Liza will always by 'girls' to me."

As they moved through the small crowd, Belva asked, "Where is Colleen?"

Cordelia looked around, and saw Colleen and Haynes standing in the garden speaking with Mercer and Iris. "Over there?"

"In the green gown?"

"Well, I must say he, I mean she, knows how to dress."

Cordelia took a sip of her wine, "Belva, be nice. This is no time to air family issues."

Belva laughed, "Aunt Cordelia, I did not come to this dinner to see Culler. I wanted to contribute to the cause."

Now having doubts about her niece's motivation to come that evening, Cordelia corrected her, "Colleen, her name is Colleen Cantrell."

Belva still looking across the garden said, "I would never have recognized him, I mean her."

Is was at that time, that Pearce stood up, to welcome his guests suggest that they move into the house.

Looking at the seating chart, Cordelia said, "We are at table 7."

"Where is Colleen sitting?"

Cordelia gave her a questioning look, "Did you expect to be seated at her table?"

Belva laughed, "No, of course not. But it would have been interesting."

With that they moved into the dining room and found their table. Sitting with them were Mercer, Iris, Hollis, Stella, Betty Jean Winston and her husband Finch. Cordelia introduced Belva to everyone. When she got to Betty Jean, Stella interrupted, in a slightly sarcastic tone, "And Betty Jean and Finch Winston." Stella realized Cordelia was looking at her. Stella gave a smirky smile and added, "Betty Jean was a partner in my late husband's law firm."

Belva, detecting an issue, spoke to everyone and took her seat next to her Aunt. As Cordelia placed her napkin in her lap, quietly she said to Belva. "Well, I'm not sure what, But there's some issue there."

"No doubt," Belva quietly responded.

Over the wine served before the appetizer, everyone at the table enjoyed a pleasant conversation. Stella looked over at Betty Jean. "What have you been doing with your time these days?"

"Just working. We are fairly busy at the firm."

Stella looked her squarely in eyes and firmly said, "Since you have more personal time, I thought you might travel or something."

Betty Jean smiled, "No, no trips."

Hollis looked at Stella. Quietly he asked, "What is that all about?"

"Nothing, it's just between Madison, me, and Betty Jean."

Hollis stood up, "Excuse me, I'm going to get a Scotch from the bar. This wine is good, but it is not Scotch." Looking at Stella, he added," My dear, why don't you come with me."

Recognizing the look on his face, Stella knew she needed to go with Hollis. And, no doubt explain her comments to Betty Jean.

They out onto the patio. "Now, would you like to explain what is going on? I have never seen you act so rude."

"She is not my favorite person."

As they made their way to the bar, Hollis replied, "Hell, everyone at the table knows that now, if they didn't before. What is this all about?"

Stella stopped and looked at Hollis. "She caused me much pain. She and Madison were having an affair. They had been seeing each other for years."

"I'm sorry."

"I blame her for Madison's death."

Remembering the morning Madison was found in his car, Hollis asked, "How is that? I'm the coroner, I was there. I told you, either he had a massive stroke or heart attack. No one killed him."

"Oh, I don't mean murder. She spent enough time with him, she was aware of his drinking, but she didn't do anything to stop it. If anything, she enabled him."

"You don't know that?"

"Oh, I do. And for the record the affair did not bother me. Our marriage had been over years before Betty Jean came along. I just hold her responsible for his death. If she really loved him, why didn't she save him."

"Sweetheart, you need to get past that. Yes, according to you, they an affair. But you cannot hold her responsible for his death."

Hollis could tell Stella was furious, "Hollis, because of her, my boys have no father. She did that to our family."

"You need to get a hold of yourself."

Stella interrupted him, "Maybe so, but I've been so mad at her, I've considered killing her many times."

"And what good would that do? It's not going to bring Madison back." He paused, "Think about it, then your sons would have neither a mother nor a father."

Stella calmed down and wiped the tears from her face. "I know what I said was ugly. But I don't think I can ever forgive her. Just being around her makes my blood boil."

"Stella, we have a choice here. You can calm down, get past this ,and we will continue with the dinner. Or, I can go back and make our apologies and we can go home."

She smiled, "I'll be okay. I'm sorry. I will change my attitude at dinner. Get your drink and let's get back. It is an interesting table and I can only imagine the food, after reading the menu."

"That's my girl," Hollis kissed her on her forehead. "You had me worried there for a moment."

Hollis got his glass of Scotch and returned to the dinner. When they sat down, their table mates didn't even acknowledge they had left. Soon, Stella and Hollis were involved the conversation as well.

"Stella, we need to toast you for a great job," said Iris as she raised her glass.

"What job?"

"Picking our table mates. This is a great group.  I am meeting people I did not know before this evening."

The table toasted her. Hollis smiled and asked Iris, "I didn't realize one could choose their table."

"Well, technically no one could. But Stella, being Stella, called Pearce and requested that the 7 of us sit together." Iris paused, "Well 8 now since Belva has joined us." Iris raised her glass to Belva.

Hollis took a sip of his Scotch. Given their conversation in the garden, this made little sense. Instead of making a big deal, Hollis decided he would wait until he was alone with Stella. Then he would find out what this was this was all about.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Don't Worry, You Cannot Mess up the Seating

By the time Pearce was able to step out on the stoop, there was a crowd of guests walking up the front walk. He greeted each one, welcoming them to his home, and thanking them for their generous donation.  Adair Butler laughed. "It is well worth it - both to support the Historical Society as well as finally see what you have done with the house," added Clark with a smile.

Pearce gave a small little laugh. "Well, I hope you get your money's worth this evening."

The Butlers thanked him for the invitation and moved into the house. Pearce continued introducing himself and welcoming each guest to his home. When Colleen and Haynes arrived, like everyone else, Pearce was captivated with Colleen. He took her hands into his. "I've always loved the name Colleen, such a beautiful Irish name for a lovely lady."

Colleen thanked him and told him how excited they were to be invited. Haynes introduced Bob and Parker to Pearce. They spoke for a moment, and the 4 of them moved into the house. Ella was next. She gave Pearce a big hug when she reached the stoop. "Oooh, I cannot wait to see the house, now that it is finished."

"Where is your friend? Rayanne, if I'm correct."

"How sweet of you to remember. She sends her regrets. Unfortunately, she came down with something  this morning."

"Well, I must say, the 2 of you are truly unforgettable. Please send her my regards and tell her I hope she feels better soon."

'Miss' Ella was followed by Bunny and Mike along with Annabelle and Walter. Vivian and Terse came in along with Della and Sam. Shortly behind them were the Jacksons, the Hollingsworths, and Cordelia. Wade arrived about the time Iris, Mercer, Stella, and Hollis were walking in. Pearce spoke to each of them. Dixie and Harrell walked up with Kathleen and Jeb, who had just returned from their honeymoon. The line of guests continued.

There was a gentleman dressed in livery, showing everyone the way to the patio and gardens. The band was playing wonderful music in the background, low enough to allow for pleasant conversation. The bar was busy serving the guests. Attendants in tuxedos were walking among the crowd serving champagne and light hors d'oeuvres to the guests from large silver platters.

While waiting at the bar for drinks, Winfred and the Colonel ran into Clark and Adair Butler. Clark gave Winifred a little smile as he spoke to them. "Well, Colonel you look splendid as ever. And, Mrs. Wadsworth . . ."

Winfred interrupted him, "It's Winfred, please."

"Winfred, that color really suits you."

The Colonel complimented Adair. While he had not caught the half second look between Winfred and Clark, it was not lost on Adair. No doubt something was going on between the 2 of them. She had noticed a change in Clark over the past several months. But she couldn't put her finger on it, until just then.

The Colonel beamed. He was so proud of Winfred. It had not taken him long to adjust to her new life. It was as if she was a new person. She was beautiful lady. As much as he was devoted to dressing in period costume, he had come to accept that it was not best for her.

Stella stood in the garden waiting for Hollis to get a drink for her. It was hard for her to believe that just a few months ago, Madison was alive and her life was so different. Even though they were not on the best of terms, his death had been difficult for her. She found these feelings confusing. She was still very angry with Madison's law partners for not stepping in and aiding her in getting Madison the help he needed for his addiction. Certainly, at least one of them, could have intervened.

Mercer and Iris were on the patio, making their way to the garden. Iris held Mercer's arm and pulled him close to her. "Did I ever thank you for bringing me back from the abyss?"

He kissed her on her forehead, "Once or twice."

Dixie and Harrell were talking with Kathleen. When Dixie spotted Colleen, she turned to Kathleen, "Do you see her? You know the story?"

"Yes, Mama, I do, and . . .?"

Dixie interrupted her, "Well, I cannot believe what she has done to Haynes."

"Done what to "Mr.' Haynes? He seems happier than I have seen him since 'Miss' Blair died."

"Kathleen, she is making a fool out of him."

"Mama!"

"You sound just like Charlotte. I mentioned it at tea the other afternoon, and she got upset with me. She actually defended Ms. Cantrell." She took a sip of her champagne. "I honestly think Charlotte is naive, taking Colleen's side."

"Good for her," Kathleen said. Having heard enough, she turned to Harrell, "Daddy, I'm going to go find Jeb."

When she had left, Harrell turned to Dixie. "That is enough. I'm tired of you acting so high and mighty. Of all people, after what you did at the kid's reception? You don't have the standing to comment on anyone." He gave her a look Dixie had not seen in a while. "I don't want to hear anymore of this." They looked to see Haynes and Colleen walking toward them.

"Haynes good to see you. And, Colleen, I knew you would be a fashion plate tonight. What a lovely dress," Harrell said as he reached over and kissed Colleen on the cheek. Dixie was incredulous.

It dawned on Harrell, for the first time, how angry he was at his wife. She was getting worse. At first he tolerated her, but now it was down right embarrassing. In the past week, he had considered leaving her, something that had never crossed his mind before. Only one thing stopped him. He knew a divorce would be ugly and felt she deserved nothing from him. Lately, all she had contributed to the marriage was angst and misery. If only she would disappear - just go away.

They were interrupted by Pearce's Irish brogue coming from the patio. He welcomed the guests and thanked them for their generous donations. "My Mum always said Gallagher was a special and now I know why - the people." He smiled. "If any of you are curious, feel free to tour the house." Pearce pointed out Mack in the crowd and introduced him. "If you have any questions, Mack knows more about the house than I do." He laughed, "Although, we are both  still looking for Uncle Falon's ghost that I was told wondered around here."

Pearce told them it was time for dinner. "As you enter the dining room, you will see a seating chart. There are tables in the dining room and living room. Enjoy!" With that he stepped away from the mike and let the combo continue playing.

Setting up the seating had been like shooting in the dark for Pearce. When he asked the Colonel for suggestions, he was told not to worry about it. "Gallagher is such a friendly place, you cannot mess up." So Pearce had assigned seats randomly, only making sure everyone with a date, spouse, or significant other were seated together.

As it turned out, Pearce had put together some 'interesting' combinations. He had seated the Colonel and Winifred at a table up front. Looking over the donations the guests had made (above the $1000 per head for the dinner), he tried to seat the higher donors up front. That put the Wadsworths together with the Butlers, Cordelia, Stella and Hollis.

As soon as they were seated, Winifred found herself sitting by Clark. Keeping in mind she had managed to handle her last dinner seated with the Butlers, she took a deep breath. Clark made polite conversation with everyone at the table, as well as Winfred, who was sitting to his right. Sitting on his left, Adair could not hear their conversation, but she paid close attention to Clark and Winfred. The more she thought, the madder she got. How could he humiliate her like this?

From across the table Hollis asked Adair, "You were out of town last week when I was visited Clark last week and he showed your gardens to me. This is the first time I've been able to tell you that they are just lovely, as always. "

Adair offered an icy response that was lost on Hollis, "I'm surprised he was home. But then, I was out of town."

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Labors of Love

Pearce had forgotten how much he enjoyed entertaining. Thanks to his mother's southern hospitality, and the time she had spent training him, he felt comfortable hosting a grand affair or intimate dinner. For the first time in a long while, he wished he had someone special to share the evening with. The end of his last relationship was painful. Pouring his time and energy into Cre Uisce Aer was as much about keeping himself so busy the pain was dulled, as it was restoring his mother's home place. The project had been cathartic and now that it was finished. He wasn't sure what to do next.

One reason he wanted to host the fund raiser, besides raising money for a good cause, was the chance to meet the townspeople. The ones he had met were very friendly, but they had been few. He had reached out to his cousins. They were polite but not engaging. To be honest, short of the familial connection, they had little in common.

Mack, Pearce's best friend and contractor for the restoration project, walked into the kitchen where Pearce was checking with the caterer. It was only an hour until the guests were supposed to arrive. "This old place looks pretty damn good if I must say so myself."

Pearce laughed, "Well, you should know. Your blood, sweat, and tears are all over it! Speaking of that, you clean up pretty good yourself." Pausing for a moment, Pearce added, "You make one heck of a wing man. I appreciate everything you have done to help with this labor of love."

Mack patted Pearce on the shoulder. "I wouldn't have missed this ride for anything. Right now I'm going to check out front and make sure the valets know what to do."

"If they don't now it's a little late don't you think?"

"Hey, I didn't wear this tux just for dinner, I'm prepared for anything, substitute bar tender, valet."

They both laughed. Mack walked out front. Pearce made his way to the patio. The band was tuning up. The weather that evening was perfect for this event. It was just cool enough to be comfortable and, amazingly, there was little humidity. Even better, there was enough breeze to hold the bugs at bay. He made his way from the patio down to the garden. The smell of the roses and lilies were sweet, but not too much. One of the bartenders asked if he could serve him something to drink. Pearce thanked him, but declined, "I really came down here to see if you needed anything."

"No, sir."

"Well, then carry on."

Pearce walked back into the house to check the tables. It was probably the third time he had looked at them that day. He knew they were fine, but he still needed a final confirmation. As he walked table to table, he shook his head and said to himself, 'Why am I doing this, I know they right?' Just then he heard the crunch of gravel out front. Making his way to the front of the house to start greeting his guests, he found himself surpisingly excited.

When he opened the door he found the Colonel, in full confederate regalia, along with his wife. Pearce welcomed them. The Colonel introduced Winfred to Pearce. He was a bit taken back. This was not what he expected of Mrs. Wadsworth. Standing before him was not some dowdy little woman, but a strikingly very attractive lady in a fetching gown. "Welcome to Cre Uisce Aer!" Pearce then stood aside so they enter.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Riddles in Smoke and Mirrors

Haynes picked Colleen up from her house around 3 that afternoon. They were going to Mobile for dinner and a movie. As soon as they were on their way, Colleen turned to Haynes. "Okay, I know my life has been a bit different than most. But I had something happen to me today that I am still trying to wrap my head around."

She had Haynes's attention. "Well, do tell."

Colleen told him about Vivian and Bunny asking her to brunch and how much she enjoyed it until . . .

"Until what?"

"Well, we are just sitting there enjoying our meal and suddenly this strange woman appeared. I'm not sure if she was a witch or what. She was dressed in a flowing black caftan wearing a purple gele."

"And, she came to your table?"

"Yes, but that's not the story. She had the most intense green eyes I have ever seen. When she spoke they almost glowed. She had these long craggy fingers with red nails." Colleen paused. "Haynes, she pulled out 3 tarot cards and put them in front of me, one by one."

"Well what did the cards say?"

"That was most peculiar. There were 3 cards, I don't remember the first 2, but the 3rd she called the 'card of death.' She said that there was danger and sudden changes in my path. And that there would be an end to something, but she wasn't clear what. It could have been the end of a relationship or something else. Then she said there was death in my future. Someone close to me would die 'or worse', whatever that means." She paused again, "Haynes, if Vivian and Bunny had not been with me, I would have thought I was hallucinating."

"I'm afraid you weren't."

"What are you talking about? How would you know."

Haynes took a deep breath. "If I am not mistaken that was Reeza."

"Reeza? You know who the woman was?"

"Colleen, my guess is that this morning you met Blair's older half sister."

Colleen was a little taken aback.

"Reeza was much older than Blair."

"The witch is your sister-in-law?"

"Every family has skeletons in their closet. Unfortunately, one in Blair's closet comes out from time to time to dance."

"She can't live in town, Vivian and Bunny were clueless as to who she was. Gallagher is a small town and she would be hard to forget."  

"She doesn't live in town, she lives way back in the Bayou. In her late teens she started having 'visions'. Naturally the family was concerned about her mental health, enough to send her to specialists. The doctors said physically, she was alright. They asked family to provide a complete history of her life - any major happenings in her life - illnesses, loss of close family or friends, any traumatic incidents. As it was, Reeza had almost drown in the river at a family picnic. Luckily, one of the uncles was a medic in the army. If he had not been there, no doubt she would have died."

Haynes just kept his eyes on the road. "Once she recovered, Reeza insisted she had died - had had some out-of-life experience. No one took her seriously. She was never the same after that.  She started saying she saw images, could predict the future, and speaking in strange languages. People in Mobile where the family lived, started to talk about her. Finally she disappeared. It was several years before anyone saw her."

Colleen was captivated, she had heard of people like this, but never met one.

Haynes continued, "When she showed up, she appeared on a street in town, stopped a lady. She handed her some tarot cards, told her what they foretold, and just disappeared." Haynes looked over at Colleen. "I cannot remember her prediction, but it came true."

"Have you met her in person."

Haynes sighed, "Yes. She showed up at my office one afternoon, dressed just like you described with those green eyes and long fingers. She told me I would lose Blair. I'll never forget her eyes."

"And, that was just before she died?"

"No, that was just before she was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer. She died a few months later. And you know, at Blair's burial, I could swear I saw Reeza standing in a distance in cemetery during the service."

"Wow."

"Yes, 'wow'. She has this reputation as a Voo Doo Priestess."

"So, I should take her prediction seriously?"

"I would, but it sounds like it was fairly cryptic."

"It was," said Colleen looking out the passenger window, trying to remember Reeza's exact words.

Haynes put his hand on her knee, "Don't obsess on this. I'm a firm believer, you cannot do anything about it."

Colleen was incensed, "So just ignore what she said. Live in fear from here on until something happens. What did she mean? Am I going to die? She turned back to Haynes, "Or you or Wells?"

Haynes pulled the car over onto the side of the road. Putting the car in park, he turned and looked Colleen in the eyes. "Honey, neither of us can do anything about it. I believe the reason she came to you is because she cares about you. In that case, you just have to have faith. Whatever happens, it is out of your control." He reached across and put his arms around her. "You have to live in the moment. I learned that after Blair died."

When Bunny got back to Ivy Lane, she was almost in a panic to find Mike. "Oh, God, you won't believe what just happened." Trying to calm her down, Mike made her sit down in a kitchen chair. Then she told him, moment by moment, about their encounter with Reeza. When she was finished, she looked at Mike, "Have you ever heard of such."

Mike just nodded. "I have. I'm pretty sure that was Reeza."

"You know her?"

"Well, not personally." Mike went on to describe what he knew about Reeza and the encounters he and the Sheriff had experienced with her."

"So, Colleen should take her seriously?"

"Yes and no. From my experience, her 'predictions' are fairly cryptic. She frustrates the Hell out of the Sheriff. He says it would help if she didn't speak in riddles with smoke and mirrors."

That made Bunny laugh. She and Mike continued to discuss the episode from that morning.

When Vivian told Terse about Reeza's visit, he found it terribly interesting. "I have heard about such encounters, but never learned her name. The few stories I heard always ended with her just disappearing. Some think it is malarkey - that the one is describing a hallucination."

"Well, I had only had 1 Mimosa and was sober enough to know what I saw was real," Vivian laughed.

She could tell Terse was thinking. "This would make one Hell of a plot for a book."

"Maybe so, but I think I would be careful doing the research."

"I don't know. Maybe she would tell me whether or not the book would be a best seller."

Sunday, May 27, 2018

The Haints are in the Wind

Friday evening Vivian called Bunny. "I want to do something but I need some help."

"Like what?"

"I want to have brunch with Colleen. Don't you think she deserves to know she still has friends?"

"Well, of course I want her to know we are still her friends."

"I thought asking her to brunch would be a way we could, you know, show her we 'have her back'."

"I'm game, what's the plan?"

"What if I call her and ask her to meet us at the Tea House, say at 10:30 tomorrow morning?"

"Okay."

"But we will be there 20 or 30 minutes early."

They discussed a few more details. Vivian said she would call Colleen. "Unless you hear differently from me, I'll see you at the Tea House a little pass 10 tomorrow morning."

Bunny agreed and they rang off.

Colleen said she would love to meet them for brunch.

Vivian was at the Tea House at 10 the following morning with Bunny just a few minutes behind.

Colleen was on time. Grice quickly seated her with her friends.  Vivian and Bunny had ordered mimosas, and had a third waiting for her. (Blanche and Caroline had expanded their Weekend Brunch menu to include Mimosas - a decision that proved to be very popular.)

The 3 ladies chatted about this and that. Grice brought them plates of chicken salad, fresh fruit, and some of Hattie's famous scones and biscuits. Vivian looked at Bunny and Colleen, as she buttered a biscuit. "You realize that everything Hattie makes is fat free and low calorie."

Bunny looked a bit perplexed. "How does she do that? With all this butter and sugar?"

Colleen and Vivian laughed. "Bunny, it was a joke."

"I'd say more like a dream," Colleen smiled as she took a bite of one of the delicious scones.

Vivian just shook her head.

"Well, a girl can dream, can't she." Colleen laughed as wiped the crumbs from her mouth.

Blanche walked over to the table. "Y'all are just having too much fun!"

"They were telling me Hattie's scones and biscuits are fat free." Bunny said. 

Blanche just smiled, "I believe in miracles, but unfortunately, I see the bill for all the butter and sugar she uses." Looking over Colleen's shoulder, Blanche noticed Hattie standing at the door of the kitchen. Knowing this was odd, she excused herself and made her way to the other side of the dining room, politely speaking to patrons as she did.

When she reached Hattie, Blanche could tell something was definitely amiss. "Hattie, are you okay?"

"No'me. There is a cold wind blowing and that is never good." Hattie looked around. "She's near by."

"Who's near by?"

"The priestess, that's who. And, that is never good. I can feel the haints." With that, Hattie turned and walked back into the kitchen.

Blanche knew better than to question anything Hattie said. One thing she had learned about Hattie was, besides being one of the best cooks she had ever met, when she had one of the 'feelings' of hers, there was generally something to it.

Caroline caught her attention so Blanche walked to the front of the dining room. Caroline had a question about a tea party scheduled that afternoon for the 10 year old granddaughter of one of their friends. Spreading the papers showing the guest list, requested menu, and seating chart on the front desk, Caroline pointed to a problem she had come across.

As the two ladies discussed the issue, the front door opened, and a strong breeze blew the papers off of the desk. Caroline and Blanche looked up to see a tall thin older woman, wearing a long black caftan with a purple gele on her head. Neither of them recognized her. Before they could speak, Reeza pointed a long finger with a bright red nail toward the other side of the room. "There is someone I need to see. I will not be here long."

Colleen and Vivian were discussing the eclectic collection of sterling flatware and China Caroline and Blanche used with each serving. "I don't think I ever knew there were so many patterns . . ." But Colleen did not finish her sentence. She saw Reeza moving toward their table. Not only was her long caftan and purple headdress a bit different, but it was if she floated across the floor.

By the time Reeza reached the table, all 3 ladies were staring at her. "Miss Cantrell, you have never met me but I have a message for you."

Colleen looked at Reeza, "Please have a seat."

"No, I don't have time. I will not be but a moment."  She did not even acknowledge the other two ladies at the table. It was if she was not aware Vivian and Bunny were sitting there. "I'll not mince words, the cards are not good for you."

Before Colleen could reply, Reeza pulled a card - seemingly from nowhere - and placed it on the table in front of Colleen. With her long craggy fingers, Reeza turned it over.

"The Tower card, it is saying there is danger, crisis, sudden changes and destruction in your path."

Colleen started to ask something but stopped when Reeza gave her a cool stare. With out saying a word, she placed a second card on the table and turned it over.

"Ah, the Star Card, this implies an end, possibly of a relationship, or something worse."

Colleen just sat there, still and quiet.

"But the truth will come in the third card." Again she placed another card on the table. She paused and then turned it over. "The Death card, it simply implies what it says - there will be death in your life. Someone very close to you, or worse." Reeza quickly picked up the 3 cards. "You have been warned."

Before Colleen, or either of the other ladies, could speak, Reeza had left. Colleen turned to watch her go. But she just caught a glimpse of her floating toward the door. Then she just disappeared.

"Do you realize that it is as if no one else in the room saw her?" asked Vivian as, she too, looked toward the door.

"I don't know how. She would be hard to miss," commented Bunny.

But no one else in the dining seemed to notice. The conversations among the patrons just continued in the same quiet tone.

Vivian looked at Colleen, "Oh, my God. What was that all about? Do you know her? She surely knew who you were."

"Colleen," Bunny said very seriously, "She was talking about death . . . and you or somebody you know."

Colleen just sat there for a moment or 2 without saying anything. "No, I have never seen her in my life. I've heard about tarot cards but have never seen them, much less had them read to me."

Hattie came out of the kitchen. Caroline and Blanche were picking up the papers that were strung across the floor. As they tried to get them back in some semblance of organization, Hattie quietly said, "I told you so. A haint is a hard thing to miss."

Friday, May 25, 2018

The Invitations Were Sent

On Thursday invitations arrived to a fundraising dinner for the Historical Society Pearce was hosting at Cre Uisce Aer. It was not a big guest list and everyone on the list had been informed a month earlier to 'save the date'. Bunny opened the invitation as soon as it came in the mail. She was reading it as she walked into the house. Mike was already home preparing steaks for the grille. "Mike, look at this." She held up the invitation.

"What's this?"

"It's the invitation to the Historical Society fundraiser next Monday. Remember, I told you that Pearce called weeks ago and asked us to save the date." She continued to peruse the engraved card she was holding. "Oh, it's formal, black tie for the men."

She handed the invitation to Mike. He read it and looked up at Bunny. "Hmh. I say the most impressive thing is the Phinnigan Coat of Arms embossed in color on the cards."

Bunny looked at Mike, "That? Oh, I thought that was just decoration."

Mike continued salting and peppering the steak."No, the Phinnigan family was an old family in Ireland." He flipped the steaks. "Of course, I am sure the Fitzgerald crest is as impressive."

Bunny, moving on, almost oblivious to what Mike was talking about, started pulling vegetables and greens from the refrigerator. Mike handed her a glass of wine he had poured earlier. "Let's go sit on the porch."

Together they took their glasses and walked out onto the front porch. As they were sitting down, Bunny asked,"I guess I need a long dress for dinner next week."

"A formal one? Yes. No doubt you have a closet full of gowns to wear."

"I do, but I never can figure out what looks good on me."

Mike reached over and gave her a kiss. "I think I can help with that."

"Will you?"

"Of course. But not now."

Together they talked about their days. It was Bunny's favorite time to be on the porch. The sun was setting on the river and cast a magical glow across the lawn at Ivy Lane.

Pearce was excited about hosting the dinner. His mother had taught him how to entertain on a grand scale as well as for an intimate meal, all with her southern style. He was also very proud of how Cre Uisce Aer looked. The restoration was finally finished. When he ran into the Colonel one day in town and found himself in an enjoyable conversation about Gallagher and the all the history of the area. That meeting gave Pearce the idea of hosting a fundraiser.

After setting a date, the Colonel suggested, since Pearce was hosting that he put together the guest list. Pearce offered to handle the guest list as well as the invitations.

When Haynes got his invitation, he immediately called Colleen to tell her about it. "I know you have something to wear. If you don't, let's go shopping."

"What I wear is not the problem. Attending is my issue."

"Colleen, we have already talked about this. I'll be right by your side. Remember, I told you this is when you learn who your true friends are. And, trust me, if there is any problem Bob and Parker are prepared to take care of it."

Colleen smiled to herself. "I never thought of Bob and Parker as my knights in shining armor."

"Oh, they are. I'll pick you up at 6:30 Monday evening. And don't forget we are going to Dot's tonight. I'll pick you up at 6."

They talked a few minutes more then rang off. Colleen took a deep breath. This was it - what she had dreaded for a while. She had to remember she was strong. She could do this. Then she remembered what Haynes had said. If there was a problem, Bob and Parker would take care of it.

The talk at the Tea House was the fundraiser and what everyone would wear. "Oh, I love going to a black tie event. I rarely get to dress up," commented Adair. She added, "I have a dress I got on sale that I have never worn." She took a sip of her tea. "God, I hope it still fits!"

The ladies laughed. "Maybe we should wear long white gloves. I always feel like Audrey Hepburn when I pull mine out of the drawer."

"I don't think long white gloves, a tiara, and loosing 30 pounds would make me feel like Audrey Hepburn," laughed Charlotte.

Dixie, being haughty as ever. "Has any one seen the guest list. I was told it was small - only a select few are invited." She paused and when no one replied, she added, "It is so sad. This is the kind of affair Hayne's late wife, Blair, would have enjoyed." She buttered a biscuit and gently placed the silver butter spreader on the edge of her bread plate. "I know Haynes will not attend. Who could imagine he could be tricked by that  'Colleen'." She paused, "Certainly she will not be there. How humiliating that would be for Haynes."

Charlotte was appalled, as were several other ladies at the table. She spoke up, "Dixie, if you are going to be so ugly about this, perhaps you should not attend to event."

Always wanting to have the last word, Dixie replied, "Well what else can you expect from Haynes. After all look how his son, Bob, turned out."

Stella had also had enough. "Dixie, I don't think I have ever met someone like you. Even if you feel that way, you can keep your thoughts to your self. Do I need remind you who's picture was on the front page of the Afternoon Daily Press."

Most of the other ladies murmured in agreement.

Dixie kept on, "Ella, certainly you agree with me. After all, you remember the days when everyone was proper and knew how to behave themselves."

Ella was offended that she was selected as Dixie's next victim. "Dixie, personally, I think Colleen is lovely. I enjoy her company. After all, it is so nice to see Haynes happy." She paused and laughed, "I just wish I could find someone that would make me that happy." Everyone at the table laughed out loud.

Charlotte spoke up, "My only issue with Colleen, is how regal she always looks. I have never seen anyone as stylish as she is."

Adair agreed,"And worse yet, she can wear anything and it will look elegant."

The conversation continued, although Dixie stayed quiet. 'Stylish?' she thought. What was happening to these ladies.  Most of whom had been raised in fine southern homes, were willing to even speak with Colleen, much less defend her. Why is she still here? Their entire culture was going to Hell, simply because of this Colleen. She wished the woman would just disappear.

Stella considered the conversation, especially 'Miss Ella's' remarks. True she enjoyed Hollis's company but how long would that last. If something happened between Colleen and Haynes - which single man would Colleen's dupe next. Something about her made men comment about her style every time she was around.

Later that afternoon at the Starlight Cafe, Bob and Parker were having lunch. 'Miss' Ella walked in and spoke to them. Both Bob and Parker stood up and asked if she would join them. Ella always enjoyed their company.

After she had ordered, she entertained Bob and Parker repeating the lively conversation from that morning at the Tea House. Needless to say they were both humored and surprised at Dixie's comments. The meal came and the conversation continued.

Parker offered, "I am most surprised at 'Miss' Dixie's comments. Even if she feels that way, why would discuss them with that group of ladies?"

Bob laughed, "Well, all I know is I am pea green with envy when it comes to Colleen's wardrobe. She makes the rest of us look like we are wearing seed sacks. I feel like the second fiddle every time I am around her and Dad. As long as she is around I cannot compete."

Parker added, "I guess so. Then you could regain your title of 'best dressed' in town."

At that time, Ella's cell phone rang. She looked at the screen, "Oh, boys this has been delightful but I have to leave now. As she answered her phone, she pulled a ten dollar bill from her purse. Placing it on the table, she mouthed 'for my lunch'.

Parker tried to give it back to her. "Let us get this."

Ella just waved him off, smiled, and walked away talking on her phone.

"She is a piece of work. It is sad she never found anyone after 'Mr. Howard' died, commented Bob.

"Well, there are only so many single men in town and most of those are taken."

They finished their lunch and stood to leave. As they walked out Bob told Walter, "Best burger in town!"

It was about 6:30 that evening when Haynes, Colleen, Bob, and Parker arrived at Dot's. As they greeted Ike, he asked, "Regulars?"

"Yes sir," answered Haynes. "I think we will sit at that table," he said pointing toward a table for 4 on the side of the room.

"Where ever you want," Ike answered as he busily prepared their drinks.

There were a few people in the bar when they arrived. Some they recognized, 1 or 2 they didn't. No one paid any attention to Haynes' group as they got settled at their table.

Ike brought the drinks over, white wine for Colleen, a red for Bob, bourbon and Coke for Parker, and a glass of scotch, neat, for Haynes. They chatted with him as he served their drinks. Bob looked at Ike, "Ike, let me tell you - you were the sharpest dressed at Kathleen's reception. You wear a dinner jacket well."

Ike thanked him and commented about how much fun it had been.

Parker followed up, "Personally, I found the suit you wore at Bunny's wedding very sharp."

Ike just smiled, "For an old man, I try."

He made his way back to the bar and the group took the first sips of their drinks and started chatting. "I think I am going to wear a dinner jacket to the party at Pearce's."

"That's a little much," laughed Parker.

"Well it is black tie."

"Whatever. Since when have I tried to give you fashion advice?"

Haynes shook his head. "Boys, you both know you are going to look sharp, whatever you wear."

"But Dad," Bob said, looking at Colleen,"the bar has been raised once 'Miss' Colleen here arrived. I've got to step up my game."

"Please Bob, really?" Colleen asked faking annoyance. "Okay, would it make you happy to come go through my closet to see if there is anything you want to wear."

"No, dear, that will not be necesary." Bob smiled. "I've got a plan."

Everyone at the table laughed at Bob who continually acted as if he was terribly concerned about Colleen usurping his long held place as most fashionable.

Several friends came in while the group was there. Most stopped by the table to talk. All in all it was a pleasant evening.

Pearce had selected a catering company, well known for their unique menus. He selected special wine from his wine cellar, as well as champagne and craft beer. The gardens were in full bloom, so he engaged Lavenia to come out and use the estate's flowers in arrangements for the dinner.

To make the evening more special, he had cleared all the furniture from the middle of the main hall and living room. In it's place were 7 or 8 round tables, covered in fine Irish linens and set with his mother's sterling flatware. Pearce had found a very good jazz trio, he had once he heard at a club in Mobile. At that time, he had asked them, if he ever needed them, would they come out to Cre Uisce Aer. Needless to say they were more than willing. After all, who could resist Pearce's Irish charm.

As he reviewed his lists and saw how good the house looked, he was pleased. It was going to be a success. Everyone would have an enjoyable evening. Being careful, he knew there must be something he overlooked. But that was not something he could worry about now. Nothing was going to go wrong.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Mary's Garden Redeux

"I didn't realize there were so many different kinds, or that they bloomed."

Mike just shook his head, "Neither did I. Where were they shipped from?"

"California. It has taken a week for them to get here."

"How did you ship them?"

"By truck - see the u-haul." She was so excited Mike just watched her as she started tearing the brown paper from the pots.

As more plants were revealed, Mike asked, "Honey, I don't think anyone would ship something, especially live plants, across the country in a u-haul." Mike looked over the hundred are so pots. "And, you paid for shipping?"

"Only the cross country part. The seller was so nice, he said he would pay for the part from Mobile."

"It's your money and I hate ask, but how much was the shipping?"

"Oh, a little over $1000."

"How much over $1000?"

"Oh, sweetheart, don't worry. You know I have good business sense. I thought the seller was very reasonable. The final bill was $1800 for the shipping. Bunny paused, "The seller set it up so they were shipped to a place in Mobile. Then these nice men picked them up and delivered them to me."

"And, the price for the plants?"

"That's the best part, these are all very rare species, and I got them for $40 each." She could tell Mike had more questions. "Don't worry, I did some research. These same rare types sell for over $60 other places."

"So the ones the seller had pictured matched the rare types you found while looking for prices?"

"Mike, this grower is so famous, that when I looked up the rare types on other web sites, they had used the picture from his site in the article. Now that tells you he knows what he is talking about, if they used a picture of his."

"So, he said the picture was from his garden?"

"Well, no, he didn't answer that question when I asked. But, he knew what he was talking about. He told me they were from a garden at an old house. He was very lucky, he bought them from the estate. I told you, he is an expert."

Mike looked over the plants that he could see.  Most of them were privet hedge - the same as the bushes behind the house that had to be cut down constantly to ensure they did not overtake the backyard. Bunny continued unwrapping the plants. One took a while due to the amount of paper around the plant. When she finally finished with the paper and could see the plant, she was a bit surprised. Instead of a small bush, it was a 6 inch seedling. Seeing Mike's reaction, she said, "Well, he said some were miniature."

"Miniature or immature?" asked Mike.

"Miniature, in fact he said most were a miniature variety."

From what he could see, most of the seedlings were English box woods. Mike remembered working with the gardener one summer at Belmont while he was planting new hedges. The gardener had taken time to teach Mike how to identify the different varieties among seedlings and the characteristics of each. The plants at Belmont were definitely English box woods, a variety that was very slow growing.

Before Mike could say anything, Bunny pointed to a corner in the garden, "And over here is where I am going to put the fish pond."

Mike looked toward the corner she was pointing to. "Fish pond?"

"Oh, I can't wait for you to see it. I didn't want a black pond, so the dealer found me a pink one. That will add color to the garden. Don't you think?"

"It definitely will.  No doubt it will be quite the conversation piece." He just smiled. "Where is the pond coming from?"

"Well to get the 'special' pink one, I had to order it from China."

"And. . . who sold this to you?"

"Another seller on eBay. He also just happened to have some rare Koi." She paused. "You know the fancy different colored fish you see in garden ponds."

Mike nodded his head as he envisioned a pink Koi pond in the corner of the garden.

"But these are a special type of Koi. They are gold - all of them are gold - gold over. The seller said the solid gold ones were rarer."

"And, more expensive."

"Mike," Bunny said exasperated, "He sent me pictures of the fish. They really looked orange to me, but he said as they grew, therir color would change. I've never seen gold Koi before. Why, my pond will look like something out of a James Bond movie, don't you think so?"

"Definitely. I imagine it will be much more 'special' than Mary's original garden." Mike put his arm around his wife's shoulders. "Honey, I feel certain your 'special rare' box wood garden and your pond will be quite unique."

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Any Mother Would Totally Understand

It wasn't long after Charlotte's departure, that most of ladies at the table followed suit. That left only Adair Butler there with Dixie. Immediately Dixie reverted to her 'Motherzila of the Bride' persona. "What was that all about? Imagine Charlotte Beauregard lecturing me. Of all people - everyone has skeletons. Of course my only embarrassing moment was after I had way too many glasses of champagne. I was not responsible for my actions."  Dixie took a sip of her tea. "Everyone knew I had just learned my only daughter got married behind my back." She looked at Adair. "Any mother would totally understand."

Adair had had enough of Dixie. Before Adair said anything ugly, she excused herself. From Dixie's smug countenance, one would see that she assumed that Adair agreed with her. Either that or she acted as if Adair didn't know any better. Dixie followed a few minutes later. On her way out, Dixie noticed that both Blanch and Caroline were polite but not engaging.

Down at the courthouse, Mike and the Sheriff were at Tula's hearing. No surprise, Tula was dramatic as ever. However the Judge had little pity on her. Her attorney argued his best, but the Judge took little pity. He agreed to release her on bail with the stipulation that she would wear an ankle monitor. When Tula protested, the Judge looked over his reading glasses, "Miss Wells, I wouldn't push it if I were you. There is always the women's prison in the next county. I am sure they have room and I would think orange looks good on you."

Finally, reality hit Tula and she realized that she best stop while she was ahead. The Judge dismissed them and called the next case. Leaving the courtroom, her attorney told Tula, "I need to go arrange your bail." He paused as they walked down the courthouse hall. "This will have to be quite creative. Lucky for you, I know a bail bondsman who owes me a favor." He looked at Tula, "But our first stop is the Sheriff's Station so they can take care of the ankle monitor."

"Are you sure that you can't handle that? Of all people, you know I am not going anywhere."

"Of course I can," said her attorney sarcastically.

Tula was thrilled, "I knew you would take care of me."

"How do you like orange?"

"Seriously?"

"It's your choice Tula."

Reluctantly, Tula accompanied her attorney out of the courthouse to the Sheriff's Station.

Mike and the Sheriff returned to the Station. "You think an ankle bracelet will keep Tula at home?" asked Mike.

"Not a God damn chance," the Sheriff laughed.

Mike shook his head.

Later in the day, Cordelia called Collen to check on her.

"Cordelia, you were right. Haynes was as sweet and understanding as you said he would be."

"I told you."

"However, Belva was not. She informed me that she told Wells I had died in an accident."

"I called Belva. After, we had a little talk, I think she understands," Cordelia paused. "Oh, she is not thrilled but she understands that, just because the two of you are not on the best terms, Wells should be able to make his own decisions."

"Thank you so much."

"Oh, honey, this family is like herding wet cats, but someone has to do it." Cordelia said matter-of-factly.

They spoke for a few more minutes and then rang off.

That evening, Bob and Parker were having supper with Haynes. When they walked into the house, Parker gave his father a big hug before he even said hello. "How is Colleen? We have been thinking about her but were not sure whether to approach her or not." 

"She would appreciate any support she can get. She's a tenacious woman.  It won't be pretty, but we will get through this."

Bob laughed, as he poured 3 glasses of wine, "All I've got to say is that she is one of the strongest women I have ever met." He took a sip. "Not to mention the best dressed ever."

Haynes laughed, "Well there is that."

"I just remember the afternoon you saw her for the first time." Parker said with a big smile, "You were totally smitten."

"I was." Haynes accepted a glass of wine from Bob and continued, "I still am."

After a glass or 2 of wine, the men moved into the dining room for supper. Haynes had prepared quail and asparagus. There were even hot biscuits. Parker picked up a biscuit. "Now, I'm really concerned about you." He looked over at Haynes. "I was impressed with your new cooking skills but biscuits! Dad, as much as I pride myself as a skilled cook, I have never been able to make decent biscuits."

Bob added, "Damn, these are good," as he buttered one.

Haynes laughed, "I'm not about to take credit for the biscuits, you can thank Hattie"

Bob looked over at Parker, "Now, we have the family secret."

"I'm impressed you thought of getting biscuits from Hattie. I would never have considered that."

"Hey, I know my culinary limits."

They chatted over dinner about the recent weddings, sports, business, etc - anything but Colleen. As soon as dinner was over and the dishes were done, Haynes announced, "Let's go out on the patio. This weather is ideal. Scotch, either of you?"

Both accepted his offer. As soon as the drinks were poured, they walked out onto the patio. It was a beautiful southern night. They sat on the plush sofas and chairs Blanch had used to decorate the terrace.

"Okay Dad, I've had enough to drink. What are your plans with Colleen?"

"As far as I am concerned nothing has changed. I fell in love with the beguiling Colleen, not her past. Of course, it is not something I ever considered - getting to know a transsexual, much less fall in love with one." He laughed quietly and shook his head. "I don't care what people say. Well, I care when they hurt Colleen's feelings. And, unfortunately, I feel like the gathering storm will be pretty rough."

"Jeez, Dad. Remember I put you through more. You and Mama caught Hell when I came out."

Haynes laughed, "Well, let's just say we learned who our friends were."

"Hey, you would have never known me. And, that would truly been a loss," Bob could not help but offer.

Parker suggested that the 4 of them go out Friday night. Bob agreed, "We haven't been to Dot's lately."

Haynes said he and Dixie would meet the 2 of them there Friday evening around 6:30. It wasn't long before Parker and Bob had to leave. Haynes thanked them for their support. Parker's comment was, "Dad, did you think we would do anything else."

Bob gave Haynes a hug, "God, I only hope Parker grows up to be someone like you." 

Parker, shook his head, "Now I know it is time to go home."

Haynes watched the tail lights as they went down the driveway, slowly vanishing into the night. At least he knew he had Parker and Bob's support.

When Mike got home that evening, there was a u-haul truck pulled up next to the house, unloading dozens of plants. Each pot was wrapped in brown paper, so he couldn't tell exactly what they were. He was walking towards the truck when he heard Bunny. "Sweetie, they are here. I am so excited. Come look."

Mike followed her into a garden on the side of the house. "Harrison, loved this garden, but he couldn't bare to work in it after Mary died. So I decided to make it my next project," Bunny said with that innocent excitement Mike was so used to. As they walked through the gates, Mike was surprised to see an additional several dozen plant pots sitting there."

"Aren't they gorgeous? I'm so excited."

"Flowers? This will look nice with something that blooms? It looks like it was a flower garden before."

"Oh no, it was a boxwood garden. And, the ones I bought are 'lush, green, rare boxwood like plants'. Just wait, it will be gorgeous."

Mike and Bunny had to step aside so the men could bring more plants into the garden. "Honey, just one question, where did you get all these from?"

"eBay, of course. I checked HSN first but they didn't sell them. I found a gardener who wanted to sell his entire collection. It was a deal - the price was very reasonable. I just paid for shipping." Bunny stooped down and removed the brown paper from one of the plants." She was silent.

Mike just said,"I'll agree, what you have here are 'rare boxwood like plants'. I've never seen any quite like these."

"See, I told you?"