Thursday, August 31, 2017

Love Thy Brother

"So Mr. Jackson, what kind of character would you say Miss Vontese has if she has romantic feelings for you - her half brother. Here in Alabama we call that incest - which is against the law. Do you really think someone of her character, or lack there of, would be what Mr. Harrison Wells would choose if he had been in his right mind?"

Mr. Sweeny objected. "This is nothing but a trick. Of course my client would never commit incest if she knew the truth. Obviously she was not aware of this. Her not knowing about Mr. Jackson's lineage is not a character flaw."

Mr. Todd responded,"That doesn't matter. It shows a lack of breeding. Given this, what else do we not know about?"

Once again the judge had to call the courtroom back into order. "Counselors, remember why we are here. Now let's continue and try to stay on track, please."

"Mr. Jackson you had no idea who your birth mother was?"

"No sir, obviously not."

Bunny was starting to whimper. Mr. Sweeny handed her a tissue and told her to get a hold of herself.

Mr. Todd continued, "I find that hard to believe given the reputation of Miss Vontese's mother, her history with your father, and the situation of your birth. You're telling me you never wondered?"

The Judge pounded his gavel on the bench. "Mr. Todd that is enough. This is not an arena to embarrass Mr. Jackson or Miss Vontese. I do not see how this is relevant here. 

After reviewing this case, I find there no reason to question Mr. Wells' mental capacity. He sought counsel from his attorneys and his financial advisers. It was publicly known that he cared for Miss Vontese. We have heard testimony in this courtroom today to that truth. That was a matter of the heart. Contrary to popular belief, everyone in this town does not pick and choose their friends according to their social standing. I understand a family not agreeing with their father's wishes. However, having read the complaint, heard the testimony, and reviewed the case, it is my opinion that Mr. Harrison Wells acted in good faith and in sound mind when he planned ihs estate and signed his Last Will and Testament. Therefore I deny this complaint and do not want another baseless claim against this estate filed. Court is dismissed."

Mr. Sweeny walked over and shook the hands of the girls' attorneys, like a decent attorney would do - no hard feelings. Meanwhile Belva and Liza gave Bunny looks that would kill and quickly left the courtroom. Buzz walked over to Bunny. "Honestly, I had no idea. I never thought about it. I loved the Tomkins so much I never wanted to look any further for my birth mother."

Bunny looked up with tears in her eyes, "I'm going to kill my mother!"

They walked out and in the hall Mr. Sweeny told Bunny that this should take care of everything and they could proceed with probating the estate. She thanked him and left. As she walked out of the courthouse there stood Tula. Of all people, the last human being she wanted to see was this woman. She tried to ignore her and kept walking.

"Well, well, well, Anna Belle had another secret. Who would have thought? Well anyone who knows her is probably not surprised with this news. Luckily your father stepped in and saved her honor. Bunny at least you are legitimate, right?" She paused for affect, "Are your sure?"

Bunny just kept on walking. How evil could this woman be? She was the only person on the face of this planet who was more vile and vindictive than her own mother.

Having more fury than she had ever felt in her life, she went straight to her mother's house. She did not even knock, instead she walked straight in. Her mother was surprised to see her, but before she could say anything Bunny started, "I thought you were evil and had made my life miserable, but I had no idea how evil, how heartless, how vile, how trashy you could be. And to think I am your daughter and I have to live with that for the rest of my life. Do not ever call me or try to contact me in any way." Bunny turned around crying and left.

She went straight to her car, not looking back. How could she ever face anyone in this place again? Thinking back on the feelings she had for Buzz she was physically sick. As she started her car, she felt like her life had ended. Then of all things, her car would not start. Her battery was dead. All she could do was hit her forehead on the steering wheel several times. Damn if she was going to ask for help. Instead, she got out of her car and started walking, although she wasn't sure where she was going.

Bunny walked all the way to Ivy Lane. She locked the doors, turned off the lights, and crawled into bed. Maybe Armageddon would occur while she was in bed and she would never have to face another human being. She slept until her phone rang. She answered it half awake, "Yes".

"Bunny." It was Buck. "I am out front, come let me in."

"Why would I do that?"

"Because your soul needs saving. You need to have your soul washed of your sins. According to the Bible..."

Bunny did not let him finish. She hung up. He called back. She turned off her phone and went back to sleep.

She was next awakened by a knock on the front door. She pulled on a terry robe and went down stairs. Her hair was not combed, her face was stained with makeup that had bled with her tears, and she was only half conscious. When she opened the door she found Mike standing there.

"You OK?"

"Why does it matter"

"Well it looks like Jesus is concerned and wants to save your soul."

Bunny just looked at him puzzled.

He continued, "Buck is out at the front of the driveway with a cross and a bull horn shouting to everyone who passes by that God still loves you even though you have sinned by committing incest."

"Dear Jesus!" said Bunny as she let Mike into the house.

"Well if Buck has his way, that is where you will start."

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Bologna,Twinkies, and Pink Chablis

Bunny got up the next morning feeling great. Everything at work was going well. She had a plan for Ivy Lane. According to Mr. Sweeny, it looked like the Will issue was settled and just a matter of time before the family came to terms with their father's wishes. After talking with Buzz last night she decided that she did need a new car. That would give her something to do to take her mind off Harrison. She did miss him. It seemed they were just getting started when -boom- he was gone.

She had come to terms with her mother. As Buzz said, every one had their skeletons, at least hers weren't hiding in the closet where she lived in dread of someone opening the door at any time. Oh, no, her skeletons were alive, in color, and dancing in public.

Maybe she would invite Buzz for dinner tonight. She could pull out the china and crystal, maybe a candlestick or two and have a nice dinner for the 2 of them. Bunny knew she would enjoy that. Buzz always made her feel so good. Since he no longer worked for the company, any complications had been eliminated. This could be good.

Once in the office, she called Buzz to invite him to dinner. When he didn't answer, she left him a voice mail inviting him to dinner. Meanwhile she planned her menu. It had to be a romantic meal. She knew she could put together a green bean casserole, that was her specialty. There was a recipe in a magazine for a layered bologna casserole she had always wanted to try. She could pick up the few ingredients she needed on her way home. And she would have a special rice dish. Everyone liked RiceARoni. And for dessert, she could make her favorite Twinkie cake.

Bunny was excited. This would be her formal entertaining debut at Ivy Lane. And who better to share it with than Buzz. She made a list of everything she needed to get.

Just before noon, Mr. Sweeny called. "Bunny, I'm afraid I do not have good news. The family has filed another complaint contesting the Will."

"Now what?"

"They now say, 'The family questions their father, Harrison Wells', mental health and his ability to make sound decisions. His being seen in public with Miss Bunny Vontese, a good person, but not of his standing brought into doubt his good sense. Had he been himself he would have never been keeping company with a woman who did not know how to dress, was not a member of the Junior League, The Grand Assembly, or the Grand Gallagher Ladies Club. In addition she was not only the daughter of a prostitute, but came from a family line of prostitutes.' and it goes on."

"How can they say that?"

"Oh, they can say anything. We just need to have witnesses who will attest to Harrison's good mental health. But we have time for that. I'll let you know what is going on."

Bunny left the office early so she could get everything ready for dinner. Buzz had called her back and said he would be there at 7:30. She stopped by the store, got everything she needed, and headed home. The casserole was no problem. The layered bologna casserole took a little more time than she thought it would, but she was able to get it done. The RiceARoni was no problem.

She found a table cloth for the dining room table, as well as dinner plates, and crystal. She had bought a bottle of Pink Chablis wine. The color would compliment the bologna very well.  After looking at the crystal she could not figure out which of the 4 types of glasses were for wine or which were for iced tea. Instead of embarrassing herself she went back to the kitchen and got plain glasses from the cabinet. Even though they did not match, she they were both wine glasses. The tea glasses she found did match. The only thing she could find for the candles were the 2 very large candelabras that sat on the buffet. She moved to the dining room table. 

Finally it was all set. She went upstairs and changed her clothes. By the time Buzz arrived, Bunny had had 2 glasses of wine and was feeling very well. The dinner went well, although she noticed Buzz didn't eat as much as she thought he would. They talked for a while and he left fairly early. She was so tired or drunk, that she went to bed and left everything out. She would deal with it later.

Morning was not kind to Bunny. Her head hurt. Her mouth felt like she had eaten cotton. Worse yet, she could not remember too much about the night before. Maybe it was best that way. It took her a while to clean up from the night before.

As soon as she walked in the door, Della told her she needed to call Mr. Sweeny.

"Bunny, I need you down here now. It seems that the girls' attorney has scheduled a hearing on this case this morning. I'll fill you in when you get here."

This was the last thing she wanted to do this morning but she had no choice. When she walked into his office, Mr. Sweeny asked,"Bunny who are a few people you can get in here this morning as character witnesses for you. You know, friends who will testify that you are a good and sound minded person."

Bunny thought. Who really knew her and would speak well about her? She would get Wade and, maybe Buzz. That would do. She told Mr. Sweeny who she had in mind and he made the calls.

The hearing was scheduled for 11 that morning. Mr. Sweeny and his crew were in the courtroom before 11. It wasn't long before Belva, Liza, and their attorneys entered the room. The Judge started the hearing on time. He read the complaint and asked if either party had anything to add. Neither did at that time.

Mr. Sweeny called Buzz to the stand to testify to Bunny's good character. "Buzz, please state your legal name."

"Gerald George Jackson."

He went on to ask him about his job, how he knew Bunny, etc. Buzz went on about how capable she was at her job, how she was talented and could multi-task. He continued about her warm personality, how genuine she was, and her honesty. Mr. Sweeny asked him a couple of questions. Then he turned it over to the girls' attorney.

Mr. Todd, the main attorney, stood up and approached Buzz. "Mr. Jackson, can you describe your relationship with Miss Vontese?"

"Well she was my manager at the rental company until this week when I started another job. I would say we are good friends."

"Tell me, have you ever been to Ivy Lane?"

"Yes sir. Miss Vontese invited me out there."

"I think she invited you out there twice for dinner, if I am correct?'

"Yes, I think that is right."

"So you were just there having a meal with a friend?"

"Of course."

"Then can you explain the formal candle light dinner you enjoyed with her last night?"

Mr. Sweeny stood up in objection. Mr. Todd assured the judge that this was going somewhere. The judge allowed him to continue.

Buzz answered,"It was a nice dinner."

"Mr. Jackson, would you say that you and Miss Vontese are maybe more than friends."

"I would say we are good friends. We have just started spending time together."

"Mr. Jackson, your father is Reginald Beauregard Jackson Jr., is that correct?"

Mr. Sweeny stood up,"Judge where is this going."

Once again Mr. Todd assured the judge there was a point. The judge allowed him to continue but warned him to wrap it up.

"Mr. Jackson, you were not raised by your father were you?"

"No sir, I did not know who my father was until I was 16 years old."

"And your mother? Who is she?"

"I never knew who my birth mother was. The Tomkins raised me. As far as I'm concerned, Mrs. Tomkins is my mother."

"Mr. Jackson," the attorney said,"I have a piece of paper here that is your birth certificate and it states that your birth mother is Mrs. Anna Belle Vontese. Were you aware of that?"

There was a sound of surprise from the gallery. Bunny just sat there stunned. Buzz wasn't sure what to do. The judge had to call the courtroom back to order.

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."


"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 well known 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.

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' ".



"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. 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Girls are Not Happy

The morning started with a visit from Terse. "A claims adjuster from Dad's insurance agency is going to come by today to ask some questions about the fire. I guess Dad had renter's insurance or something. I don't know, he just said to tell you."

Bunny assured him they would take care of it and, yes, she was pretty sure it was renter's insurance.

As Terse walked out, Bunny shook her head, would that boy ever grow up. Guess not if Dad did everything for him. That always puzzled Bunny. Everyone liked Beau Jackson, and he did not seem like the type who would baby a son this old. She wondered if Terse had ever had a job.

Terse walked out just as Della walked in. He and Della spoke. When the door closed Della said, 'He is one good looking young man."

Bunny laughed, "He is one clueless young man. If one ever wanted to know how large the gene pool is just look at Terse and Buzz."

Della laughed, "Well that could be nurture versus nature."

"Speaking of a nice looking man, how is George doing?"

Della blushed,"Oh, he is great. I just had no idea he was an FBI agent. That was a surprise."

Bunny laughed and heard her phone ring.

The call was from Anna Belle and the black clouds descended, "Bunny, honey, there is talk in town, and you know how I do not like talk, especially when it is about our family. I heard at Dot's last night that some people actually think you and Harrison were engaged. Honestly, how far are you going to carry on this charade."

"Mama did you hear me last time we talked, Harrison and I were engaged. It's not just talk. It's the truth."

"Bunny just because a gentleman sees you more than 2 or 3 times and pays some attention to you, does not mean you are engaged. You are making a fool out of yourself."

Bunny was livid. "Well, he loved me and all it cost him was love and attention,"

"What are you saying?"

"Don't even start talking about sullying our 'family name'. Apparently I just didn't follow the profession of the women in my family. Granted I have not had many men in my life, but the ones I have had did not have to pay for my services."

With that she hung up not wanting to hear what lie or, worse yet explanation, her mother would give her. Bunny was furious. Starting with the name she was given at birth, to Anna Belle's constant nagging about Bunny's weight, her poor taste, and any other personal trait Anna Belle felt she could use to make Bunny feel inferior. The idea of the social climbing Anna Belle, with her blonde hair, great figure, flawless skin, and chic wardrobe - parading on the edge of society simply by her profession of prostitution made her sick to her stomach. Now she had committed the greatest insult on her daughter - making her the laughing stock of town.

Bunny was sure everyone in town knew except her. How could she ever show her face again. And worse yet, it went back generations. Did everyone in town think she herself was a lady of the night? Once again, Anna Belle had managed the ultimate curse on her daughter. Bunny tried not to tear up. She sat looking out her window. Was her mother oblivious to how she had ruined her daughter's life?

Buzz interrupted her thoughts, "Bunny, you OK?"

Bunny wiped her tears and turned around,"Yes, it's just my mother." She started to ask him if he knew about her family's lineage, but decided not to. Why be unable to face anyone in her office? At least in here she could live in a safe world among friends. Bunny laughed - in her own La la Land.

"OK, just checking. We still on for lunch?"

"Of course."

She and Buzz discussed some things she needed him to check on that day and he left. Bunny knew she could not deal with Mr. Sweeney today. She'd worry about that tomorrow.

Cora Eldridge called to report a problem with their kitchen sink. Bunny told her Buzz and Larry were committed to another project for the day. She would call a plumber and get him over there later that morning. 

"Well we can wait until tomorrow?

"No, I promise I can get it done this morning. We use this plumber a lot."

"How old is he?"

What an odd question Bunny thought. "Well, I don't know. It's a company and I'm not sure which one they will send?"

"Never mind it can wait until tomorrow." With that Cora ended the call.

Bunny shook her head. Where did Wade find these characters? They had been renting from the company much longer than she had been working there. She added the Eldridge's sink to the "Maintenance List". Her thoughts were interrupted when she heard Della say, "Bunny there's a call for you."

"Bunny Vontese."

"Miss Vontese, this is Luther Sweeny. I know I told you not to worry about signing those papers, but I think you need to sign them today."

"Is there a problem?"

"No, well not yet. The girls are not real happy and I fear they may contest the will."

"Can they do that?"

"Oh, they can do it. Whether they can succeed is another story."

Bunny said she would come after lunch. That suited Mr. Sweeney. She decided she still did not want anyone to know about what Harrison left her yet. She could not deal with it. She did wonder if a membership to the Grand Assembly came with the house. Surely it did. 

She left to meet Buzz for lunch. He was waiting for her and was such a gentleman. He stood up and pulled her chair out for her, just like Harrison did. They talked about generic topics. Then Bunny remembered the Elderidges and their kitchen sink. She told Buzz about them waiting until he and Larry could come fix it.

Bunny laughed,"Is there something going on there that I need to know about?" she asked as she took a bite of her burger.

Buzz died laughing. "I can assure you not. Those gnomes alone give me the creeps and while I'm sure those ladies are fine people, personally I find them a little weird."

"Well they must think otherwise," Bunny said. 

They continued a nice lunch. Afterwords, Buzz went back to work and Bunny headed toward Mr. Sweeny's office.

When she arrived, Mr. Sweeny looked anxious. "The daughters' attorney called to give me a heads up. They are definitely going to contest the will."

"What should I do?" Bunny asked.

"Sign these papers, take the keys, and move into Ivy Lane. We need to establish occupancy and ownership. Bunny signed the papers and took the keys. She had not really thought seriously about living there without Harrison.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Oldest Profession

Bunny was shocked. Parker was telling her that her great grandmother was one of the "ladies" at Idelle Arnell's, and even more shocking that the profession ran in the family. Apparently her mother, the perfect Anna Belle Vontese, was herself making a living in the oldest profession.

"But I don't understand," asked Bunny. "How can she do that and still be any part of Gallagher's society?"

"Because none of the men are going to admit it and none of the women want to think their man would do that kind of thing. So it's mute truce."

"Why I never?"

"But why should you have known, or suspected, or even thought about it. She has always been very discreet and proper."

"Proper!" Bunny yelled,"How in the Hell is one 'proper' selling herself to men."

"It's not like that?"

"How would you know, you're gay?"

"Men talk. Your mother is well thought of. She is held in high esteem. It is more than sex. It is companionship, company, offering an ear to someone whose wife no more listens."

"What difference does it make? A whore is a whore."

"Bunny, don't look at it that way. Most people don't."

"Except jack asses like Jeb."

"Well he is a jack ass and an exception to the rule."

Bunny just shook her head. "Parker thank you for telling me this. I just need to get home. This is too much for me, especially today."

"I understand. And, Bunny," he smiled at her, "I know you made Harrison very happy and I am so sorry about what happened."

"Thanks," said Bunny, really meaning it.

When she got home she put Bootsy in her lap. Great, she thought, my fiancee is dead, no one thinks we were engaged. his family despises me, and now I learn my mother is the town whore. Can it get worse?

Her phone rang and it was Buzz. "I haven't seen you since Harrison died. I am so sorry. I know you loved him and he made you so happy. If there is anything I can do, just let me know."

"Thanks Buzz that is very sweet. I'm OK right now. It hasn't really sank in yet."

"I know we work together and it may not be proper, but would you like to meet for lunch tomorrow?"

Bunny hesitated, was this a concerned friend, someone interested in her, or just Buzz?  Having been lonely since Harrison died, she accepted. They agreed to meet at Eds the following day at noon.

When she hung up the phone, she thought to herself, is everyone's life this screwed up? After today, what else could happen. She knew she would have to confront her mother.  She could not live with herself if she didnt. She still had Harrison's estate to deal with and lovely and evil (almost step) daughters Belva and Liza. Anything else would have to wait. A girl could handle only so much drama in one week. 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

And, Who Knows About This?

Shocked Bunny just nodded her head, "How did you know that?"

"Because last week Harrison came in and redid all his finances and his estate. It was clear he planned on spending a lot of time with you. He knew just what he wanted changed. So we made the changes and they were executed Friday."

She just stood there. He continued "I gathered the family this morning to review Harrison's estate and his Last Will and Testament. Basically since he proposed marriage to you, Ivy Lane has been left to you free and clear as well as a substantial trust to care for the property and for you."

"But we never married?"

"Yes, that may be. However, you were betrothed and that was how he had the documents written. He feared y'all would not get married prior to his death."

"And his family knows this?"


"And, I assume they are not happy."

"It doesn't matter. It was Harrison's wishes. His daughters were well taken of."

For the second time in less than a week, Bunny found herself falling into a chair. 'I don't know what to say?"

"You don't have to say anything." Mr. Sweeny said with a smile. "Just get back with me when you are ready to move forward." He smiled, opened the door, and left her office.

Bunny kept herself busy with a new lease, construction plans for Terse's place, and returning some phone calls. She just could not deal with Mr. Sweenty's visit at the moment. That alone would bring on strep throat and dermatitis, two things she did not need right now.

At lunch time she walked over to Ed's for a grilled cheese sandwich. She was leaving when she ran into Tula - the last person she wanted to see. "Well, well, who do we have here? Harrison Wells' fiancee or so she says."

Bunny just kept walking, hoping she would go away. But no. Tula continued. "Or were you really engaged? I don't see a ring. No one knew about it, not Harrison's girls or your mother. One would think such good news would certainly have been shared with loved ones, wouldn't they?"

Bunny kept walking. Tula followed, "Funny how that rumor came out just as his death was announced and the word "betrothed" was key in the documents."

Bunny stopped. "Tula, there is nothing to discuss here." And with that she went back to the office. 

That evening after work, having been the day from Hell, Bunny decided she did not want to be alone. She changed clothes and made her way to Dot's (Do Drop In). Ike smiled as she entered the door. "Miss Bunny, I'm so sorry about Mr. Wells. He was a good man."

"Thanks Ike."

"You want a Mai Tai? It's on the house."

"Yes, that's awfully sweet of you."

"I think you deserve it," then he lowered his voice," just for having to deal with those Wells' girls if nothing else. How such fine parents could have such hateful children I'll never know.

When she sat down at the bar she saw that Parker, Bob, Jeb and Kathleen were having a lively debate. Parker looked her way and immediately said,"Come over here Bunny and join us."

She moved over to the stool next to Parker. Ike sat her Mai Tai in front of her. Parker laughed, "Oh, we are going to have fun tonight." Picking on Bunny, he added, "Don't get upset, I really enjoyed that night. It has been a long time since some chick tried to pick me up."

Bob added, "Just for the record, Parker's with me tonight." They all laughed, especially Bunny and Parker.

The group talked and joked for an hour or two. More beverages were consumed. Tales were told and they talked about growing up in Gallagher. As they got more inebriated, they became more loud and loose with what came out of their mouths. At one point Parker laughed, "Jeb, maybe Kathleen's not enough and you need to visit Idella Arnell's House of Pleasures for the Lonely Man." That drew a raucous laugh.

Jeb replied, "Or, we can have that here, right in Gallagher. No need to go to New Orleans. Right Bunny!" He let out a laugh.

Everyone else was silent except Bunny. She reached over and slapped his face, "How dare you talk of me like that. I am not that kind of girl."

Jeb rubbed the red mark on his cheek, "I wasn't talking about you."

Parker said, "I think it's time for all of us to go home now. We've had enough fun for one evening."

Bunny and Parker walked out together. "Bunny, I was just making fun of Parker. I did not mean to offend you in any way. You know I think much more of you than that."

"Parker, of course you didn't offend me, it was Jeb. And he deserved that slap on his face."

"No, I should not have brought up the subject."

Bunny laughed, "You think I'm a prude or something. I'm not some blushing southern debutante who doesn't know about life. Of course I know all about Idella Arnell's."

Parker stopped walking and looked at Bunny, "Maybe you don't?"

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

It's A Family Affair

Bunny walked out and made her way to Ivy Lane. The drive way was full of the cars of friends and family. When she rang the bell, Belva answered the door. She looked a bit perturbed. "I cannot believe you would show up at a time like this when this family is mourning the death of my Daddy."

"Belva, I know, I was as shocked as you. And I loved him."

"Seriously, I guess you did. Any low rent Harlot like you would. Well, he is gone and we have no use for you at all." Bunny could see Liza approaching Belva from behind.

"Who is that?" asked Liza.

"Bunny Vontese, come to pay her respects. I told her we appreciated the thought but the family needed this time."

Liza looked at Bunny, "Miss Vontese, thank you for stopping by. We really do appreciate your thinking of us. I am sure you were very fond of Daddy. He never mentioned you after Wells' party so we did not know a lot about you. We are only entertaining those friends whom he was close to."

Belva ended it, "Have a nice evening," and she closed the door in Bunny's face.

Bunny was not sure what to do. She turned around to see some other towns people walking up to the house to pay their respects. She nodded to them and walked back to her car. This was hard to believe, finally she had met someone who truly cared about her and now he was gone. He had asked her to spend the rest of her life with him and no one believed her. His daughters were pure evil.

The day of the funeral, Bunny was concerned about what she would wear. She had found a pair of black espadrilles with a high wedge heel. She bought a pair of black stockings. Since she did not have anything else black to wear she decided her hot pink and green striped sun dress would do. After all it was the nicest thing in her closet. The wide stripes in a chevron pattern were like something she had never seen. Best of all she had a small vintage black velvet hat with brown feathers and a short black mesh veil that would partially cover her face. She had remembered at the last minute that it was in the bottom drawer of her wardrobe. Bunny had kept it all these years after her senior class play in high school.

The service was being held in the Church of the Seven Wells and Three Stones, the old Episcopal church in town. It was close enough for Bunny to walk. Knowing the service would start at 11:00, she left her house at 10:30 so she would arrive at the proper time. As she made her way down the side walk among other friends of Harrison's she noticed people paying attention to her. Some she knew and others she did not.  Perhaps, thought Bunny, they realize my chic outfit shows that Harrison had taste in women. Or maybe it is the hat and veil, so they know I am truly in morning.

She reached the church and started up the stairs. Tula met her at the top step.  "Oh my Bunny, I knew you cared for Harrison, but you would think he loved you or something. When will you get the hint he did not care at all."

Bunny tried to ignore her and open the large wooden door to the church, Tula pushed it shut. "The family asked that I remind you this is a family affair and they would not want you to be confused with the family. Things get so complicated around here. Since Harrison kept company with you at times, we would not want talk. It would even be worse than his being seen with your mother." With that Tula slipped into the church and the door closed behind her with a loud thud.

Bunny knew if she walked in there it would be ugly. She did not want that for Harrison. He deserved more, much more. She decided she would drive to the Oak Grove Cemetery where the old families in town and other dignitaries who passed away were buried. It was full of ornate grave stones, mausoleums, even a few pyramids - all monuments to themselves. Each trying to out do the other.

She parked at the back and walked through the grounds. It really was a lovely place. There was a grave dug and a few chairs near by. That must be where the graveside ceremony will be, she thought. She looked at her watch and it was already noon. Still there was no one there, not even Cliff.  Clint's Home of the Dear and Departed Deceased was handling Harrison's arrangements. Cliff was their main man.

By 1:30, Bunny knew something was wrong. She had looked up Harrison's obituary on her phone and it clearly said, "Burial to follow at the Oak Grove Cemetery." She was so distraught thinking about Harrison that she knew when they finally arrived she would be a hot mess. She feared making a scene. So Bunny drove home totally dejected and in mourning.

By Wednesday morning Bunny felt she could face lief and made her way into work. Life would go on. Della gave her a big hug. "You OK? I've been worrying about you. Sam and I did not see you at the graveside. I know you were there. We were going to see if you wanted to sit with us."

"Graveside? I waited at the graveside for an hour and a half. By that time I was so upset, I went home. What time did the service end?"

"Oh, gosh the service ended around 11:35, we were all at the cemetery by noon."

"At Oak Grove by noon?"

"No, the burial was at the lovely family cemetery at Ivy Lane. They announced that change at the end of the service. You didn't hear that?"

"Della, I wasn't at the service. Tula stopped me at the door and told me I was not welcome."

"God, she is worse than I thought."

"Well she got her way. I'm sure she was speaking for Belva and  Liza."

Wade dropped in to give Bunny a hug and tell her that he was thinking about her, "He was a nice southern gentleman. And I know you made him very happy. I had not seen him smile that much since Mary died."

"Thanks Wade, that's very sweet of you to say."

"Well, it's the truth. If I can do anything, let me know."

"I will."

The wilted roses were sitting on her desk. Now they were even more pitiful given the way they arrived and how petty she was over the Ball. She carefully moved the roses to a side table. They would stay there forever, if she had her way.

Sam came in later and offered his condolences. He was such a kind man. She asked if he would be leaving seeing as his "mission" here was over. "No, I've decided to stick around. This place grows on you. And, I'm quite fond of this sweet little thing over here," he said looking at Della.

A little later, Mr. Sweeny of Marlboro, Winston, McGregor, and Sweeny, the local law firm, walked in and asked to speak to Bunny. He walked in her office and closed the door.

"Miss Vontese, let me say first I am sorry for your loss. Harrison Wells was a fine man."

"Yes sir he was," said Bunny, trying not to tear up.

"But I did not come here to upset you. Actually, I am here on official  family business."

"For Harrison's family?"

"Let me guess, they have issued a restraining order fearing I will not leave them alone. Well, Mr. Sweeny, you can tell them there is no love loss between us. I assure you I have no desire to ever see them again."

"Miss Vontese, I have one question, did Harrison propose to you?"