Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Tale Unravels

Bunny was tired of this secret Tula was carrying around. She wanted to know what it was and what it had to do with her mother. The only person she knew  of who may know the truth would be Aunt Cordelia. Bunny knew she could trust her to be honest and share whatever she knew. Certainly she knew something given Tula was her niece.

After calling Aunt Cordelia and asking if she could come by for a visit, Bunny told Della she was gone for the day and left the office. She drove over to Aunt Cordelia's home, which was one of the grand houses on the boulevard. Unlike many others, her house was in good shape with a manicured lawn. Bunny rang the front door bell and Aunt Cordelia was there to meet her almost immediately.

"Come in, come in child. Can I get you some lemonade?"

"No mam, I'm fine. I just appreciate your seeing me." Bunny walked in and took the chair Aunt Cordelia offered her.

Bunny took a deep breath, "Ever since Wells' birthday party when I met Tula, I keep running into people who ask me if I have seen her, if she has talked to me, and does my mama know she is town? There has to be a story here and I figured you would know. Please tell me what is going on."

The old lady took a deep breath,"I feared that was why you called." She paused, "It's not so much what is going on as it is what happened. Tula can be hurtful and mean. I honestly thought she would outgrow this but I'm afraid she has not changed."

"Your mother, Anna Belle, was a lovely young lady. In fact she still is today. When she was a teenager, she was accepted by all the families in town. You have to understand, most mothers would not let their sons keep company with any girl not of their standing. But Anna Belle was an exception.

And she was quite popular. She was a baton twirler for Gallagher High Marching Band while she was in high school. She was crowned 'Miss Swamp Grass'. And you know that award only goes to the prettiest thing around. Not only was she beautiful, she had straight teeth, never had to wear braces, and never suffered the indignity of teenage acne.

One afternoon during the summer before she went to college, a man selling vacuum cleaners showed up at the house. Your mother was all alone, but  being as nice as she was she invited him in. I never knew what he said or promised but she ran off with him that afternoon. She left her mother a note with a convoluted story about how one of the Butler girls had invited her to join the family at their place at beach for several weeks. The Butlers spent the entire summer at the beach. She told her mother in the note that they had sent her a train ticket and she had leave that afternoon."

Now this was a brilliant plan on Anna Belle's part knowing her mother was so into society that she would relish any contact she could have with them, even if it was through her daughter. Her mother did not question the note.

The salesman, I never knew his name, drove a nice Lincoln.   He assured Anna Belle he was a man of wealth from an old Atlanta family. They left Gallagher for Atlanta. Anna Belle had never been to Atlanta but she imagined his home something akin to Tara. She was surprised that he stopped continuously along the way selling vacuum cleaners. When she inquired he said that he held the patent to a special part of this vacuum cleaner and he wanted to show it to enough people to make sure it worked.

They always stayed in small run down motels. The salesman told her he had never seen how the common man lived so this was an exciting experience. Along the way he entertained her with stories of Atlanta society and how he grew up. He was always very nice and had good manners.

After 10 days or so they reached Atlanta. through a series of unfortunate and humiliating mistakes, she realized, he wasn't from an old wealthy family, he had less money than her family. He lived in the horrible unpainted wooden house on the edge of town, The worse part was he was married with 5 children. She insisted he give her $20 and she caught the bus back to Gallagher.

She was so ashamed she told her mother the whole story. Her mother was beside herself. "Anna Belle, you have gone and ruined your self. No one will ever marry you."

"Mama," Anna Belle said in tears, "No one will ever know. I promise."

"Wow, this is not what I expected, said Bunny wide eyed.  "Where does Tula come in?"

 Just wait, it goes on."

Anna Belle's mother continued, "And I suppose the invitation from the Butlers to join them at the beach was a lie also - just a ruse for you to carry on through the bowls of Alabama and Georgia with some door to door salesman. Honestly that is even worse."

"That I lied?"

"No, that the Butlers really did not invite you. I just knew that meant you were going to be spending more time with the Butlers. Then Janelle Butler and I could get to know each other and before long she might introduce me to the Grand Gallagher Ladies Club. But your little low life tryst has cost me another chance of  being introduced to the Grand Gallagher Ladies Club. And now that will never happen."

Anna Belle slid back into life in Gallagher as if she had never been gone. After several weeks she was over the ordeal, as much as she would ever be. She went to college that fall.

During Anna Belle's senior Christmas break, she met Beau (Reginald Beauregard Jackson, Jr.) They were both smitten. Beau was a senior at the University of the South (Sewanee). He roomed with Harrison Wells, who had brought him home with him for the Christmas holidays. (Beau's family was in France for the holidays and Beau's school schedule prevented him from joining them.)

Soon Beau and Anna Belle were engaged. The Jacksons were one of Mobile's wealthiest and oldest families. Anna Belle's mother was beside herself. Her daughter was marrying well and she could ride into high society on her daughter's bridal train.

When Anna Belle met Beau's family she found them to be pleasant and very down to earth given their wealth and status. They welcomed her, because if Beau loved her, they did. Only Beau's mother had reservations. She had another young lady in mind for her oldest son, one she felt was more suited for him. But he had not been interested. The young lady was heart broken when he politely passed on her."

Bunny stopped her, "My Mama was engaged to Reginald Beauregard Jackson, Jr.? " Under her breath she thought, -That makes my pursuit of Terse a little more complicated than I first. Wonder if he knows?

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