Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Tale of Tula

Then there was Tula Wells Latrelle, the mystery women. Actually there was no mystery to Tula, she was just peeved at the world. In her opinion, things never went her way.

Tula's father was a Wells, a cousin of Harrison. However, when property was divided up several generations back, the son who Tula's part of the family came from was a spendthrift and went through his part of the fortune in a matter of years. The other sons invested the money and had professions that also provided a good income. All of the Wells, no matter what side of the family, were close. No one judged the economic situation of any family members. Well, no one but Tula. She resented the Hell out of her situation.

Although Tula grew up on the outskirts of Mobile, she was in and out of Gallagher all the time as a child. Her family may not have had a fortune but they had a name. Tula's mother made sure her daughter was as refined as she could be. They could barely afford it but she was able to go some of the best prep schools. Hopefully that would give her a chance to expand her social circle and find the perfect gentleman to marry.

During summers and holidays Tula had met and socialized with the kids her age from the prominent families in Gallagher. That was where she first met Anna Belle. Even though Anna Belle was not from a high society family, because of her personality, grace, and beauty she was accepted everywhere. But let's just say they were never the best of friends.

Tula's red hair matched her wild side. Nothing seemed to satisfy her. Whatever someone did, she was determined to best them. This irritable habit was generally overlooked by her friends. The summer after she finished high school, one of her aunts invited her to spend a month or two in Atlanta. Tula was so excited, she got to go the big city.

Due to Tula being someplace she should not have been and Anna Belle being on her 'trip' with the salesman, they ran into each other. Anna Belle was trying to get home. Tula befriended her and Anna Belle told her everything, all the sordid details. Tula helped her get home.

After that they did not cross paths for several years. Mrs. Jackson (Beau's mother) had gotten to know Tula's mother. Over a school break when Tula was home, Mrs. Jackson had the chance to meet her. She was very impressed. Here was a striking young lady with the right name and all the charms a mother could ask for in a daughter-in-law.

As soon as she could, Mrs. Jackson arranged a dinner for Beau's birthday. She included Tula on the guest list. Beau and Tula met but there were no sparks. Over the next year Tula asked Beau to escort her to a few society balls, which he did. They were at schools in different states. But Mrs.Jackson made sure they always 'ran' into each other as often as she could manage.

Beau had gone home with Harrison Wells that Christmas and you know the rest of that story. It was a toss up who was madder about Anna Belle coming into the picture - Mrs. Jackson or Tula.

When the dust finally settled Beau married Blanche Duiese. Tula played the field until she married William Vontese, the last person anyone thought she would choose. Naturally, marriage did not slow down Tula's 'dating'. It wasn't long before she tired of William and left him for Lawrence Latrelle. That marriage did not last long either. By the time Tula was rid of Lawrence, William had married Anna Belle.  Tula, no doubt, thought Anna Belle had picked up her cast away and they deserved each other.

Years went by and Tula's reputation kept her from finding a decent man to marry. She just seemed to move from one man from prominent family to another and (some them being single). Those affairs would only last until one of them got bored. The years also took a toll on her, one that eye tucks, a new nose, face lifts, and reshaped chin could only do so much to save. But she held onto her pride. Through it all, she still blamed Anna Belle for ruining her life. As far as she was concerned, Beau was going to marry her until Anna Belle came into the picture, whether he knew it or not.

She went wild when she learned that her cousin, the one that owned the home place, Ivy Lane, was keeping company with Anna Belle's daughter - of all people. It was like a nightmare that just continued. Tula had to return to Gallagher out of spite. After her little outburst at the bonfire before Anna Belle and Beau's doomed wedding, she was no longer welcome by any of her former 'friends and acquaintances'  in Gallagher. The Old South could be snobby, but one thing they did not do was humiliate one of their own in front of others. Yes, they could be viscous and conniving, but there was honor among the genteel.

Tula had no known source of income. There was an assumption that her parents had saved well and then there was the house that she sold. But that did not matter, she still had her pride and dressed fashionably.

Tula used Wells' birthday party as an excuse to come back. She called Belva and Liza inquiring about Bunny, however neither of them had met her yet either. Even Tula was surprised at what she saw. Anna Belle may not have been the social belle of the ball, but she always had class and grace. What happened to Bunny? What did Harrison see in Bunny? She would never know. 

Since Beau was Harrison's college roommate, he had never forgiven Tula for what she did that night. But his relationship with Bunny had nothing to do with Anna Belle. He adored Bunny. She was smart and honest and innocent - things he rarely found in women.

Maybe while she was back in town, enough time had passed that most folks had long forgotten about that night at the Butler's. So she stuck around. One thing that surprised her was that Anna Belle had been polite and dismissive when they talked. She did not seem embarrassed at all or scared Tula would mention Atlanta. William Vontese had no ambition and even less money. Tula knew that as his widow, Anna Belle was not left with any serious money.

Tula did resent how well Anna Belle had aged. She had few lines on her porcelain skin. How had she been able to keep her figure? Of all people, Anna Belle would have been the last one to age well. She just did not have the genes or upbringing. Tula saw her as a lowbrow want-to-be whose one chance at achieving social status had been denied her do to poor choices that summer in Atlanta.

Anna Belle had not seen the last of Tula. 

No comments: