Wednesday, December 13, 2017

When the Universes Collide

Anna Belle was at the dinner with Addison Duiese. She had not mentioned to Winfred that she had also been invited. Anna Belle feared it might make Winfred nervous. However, Anna Belle had failed to put 2 and 2 together and realize that, being the guest speaker, the Colonel and Winfred would be seated with Clark and Adair Butler. 'Well', she thought, 'this will show her worth.'  Anna Belle was not concerned about Clark. She had known him forever. He was very good at handling even the most delicate situation. Winfred, however, was the unknown here.

Bob and Parker were seated with Caroline and Paten Hollingsworth. Bob was very curious about the Tea Room and peppered Caroline with questions. Finally Caroline took a sip of her martini and said, "Bob, we do not discriminate. Gentlemen are as welcome as ladies." She paused, "Even gay gentleman." Everyone at the table found that funny.

Caroline added,"You are just pea green with envy that it wasn't your idea first. Think of it - fresh flowers, fine china, sterling silver, and exquisite linen. And your job is to serve Hattie's wonderful fare and keep up with all the town gossip disseminated by your patrons."

Parker laughed,"Well now that you put it that way. I'm beginning to think the CPA field is overrated."

Everyone at the table laughed and the conversation about the Tea House continued. Beau and Blanche Jackson were also sitting at the table. Blanche and Caroline had been roommates at Queen's College in Charlotte. She turned to Caroline, "You know Terse is seeing a young lady we have yet to meet. He seems quite smitten, which is unusual for him."

"Oh, Vivian is a sweetheart. She works as an accountant for Wade at the rental company." Then Caroline paused."Are you not familiar with her background?"

"No, not at all," said Blanche. "I understand she relocated here from another town."

"I think I saw her here tonight", said Caroline pivoting from her last question.

"Well, if you see either of them, tell them we are here, and not to leave without seeing us." Caroline assured Blanche she would.

At another table Blanche and Roy Sullivan were seated with Buzz and his date, a young lady named Miranda. No one seemed familiar with her, but she was a lovely poised red head. Jeb and Kathleen were seated at the same table as well as Aunt Cordelia. Blanch turned to Cordelia,"I hate to be a gossip, but I am terribly curious. What ever happened to Belva's husband, Culler and his little problem with the law?"

Cordelia smiled,"He pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing. Belva is telling everyone he will probably get probation."

"Well that's a relief", said Blanche.

Cordelia gave that knowing smile, "I'm not sure if he wouldn't be better off in prison when Belva gets finished with him. She has no room for forgiveness in her heart."

Back at the head table, everyone was making small talk. Naturally, Winfred was seated next to Clark, since he was the host and she was the wife of the evening's speaker. She was surprised how easy it was to sit next to him. He handled everything with such grace. It was as if Sara and DC lived in another world -albeit a parallel universe. That security was broken when a gentleman walked up to the table to speak with Clark.

Winfred did not recognize him. As he was talking with Clark, Winfred was having a nice conversation with Adair. Suddenly she heard the other man say, "Sara, Sara, is that you?"  pointing toward her.

Before Winfred could think, Clark was on his feet, "Honestly Madison, I'm not sure who Sara is. But I am sure you have had  much way too much to drink."

"But, that is Sara," Madison said pointing toward Winfred.

"No, that is not Sara, that is Mrs. Walker, the wife of our speaker this evening." Clark managed to quickly get one of the waiters to the table to escort Madison Marlboro out of the dinner. As the waiter gathered up Madison, Clark said, "Please just take him home. He has no business on the road tonight."

Winfred did not recognize Madison Marlboro, a partner in Marlboro, Winston, McGregor, and Sweeny. He was a regular at Anna Belle's but not anyone Winfred had ever seen. There was a reason -  he was always slightly to heavily inebriated. As everything settled back down at the table, Adair just laughed, "I've seen Madison have a little too much Scotch, but I think he was way past his limit tonight." She looked at Clark. "Who in world is Sara? And why would he be calling Winfred that?"

"Scotch does strange things," said someone from across the table. "Maybe instead of pink elephants,  Madison sees strange women, who knows?"

Thankfully, the waitress appeared at the table to serve the salad course. Everyone started enjoying their salad and the conversation turned to the food and the dinner itself. Winfred was thrilled when the conversation at the table turned to the Colonel and he started getting peppered with questions about the museum and what he was going to speak on later that evening.

Anna Belle, on the other hand, had watched from one table over at Madison's little outburst. Everyone who knew Madison, knew his affection for Scotch. It looked to her as if  Clark had handled the situation well. And from where she sat, it looked like Winfred was holding her own.

The main course of the dinner, beef tenderloin, was delicious, as was everything else. Then it was time for the Colonel to speak. One thing about Colonel Wadsworth Washington Walker III, he knew his history. He also knew how to keep an audience listening with rapt attention. His story about General Kirby was especially entertaining. Even with the wait staff who were trying to listen to the talk as they moved about the room. No one was disappointed in his presentation.

He finished to a standing ovation. Clark got up and thanked him for speaking to them. "If I had known history was so interesting I may have done better in that class in school." There was laughter in the audience. Then he added,"I don't remember any of those boring lessons recounting the tale of a distinguished General jumping off a front porch, buck naked." That brought about much laughter from the guests.

Clark thanked everyone for coming. He also reminded them why they were there - to help raise funds for the Historical Society. "There is a table in the front hall, staffed by one of our dear volunteers. Please take time before you leave and give a small donation." He looked around the guests."Think of it as your bar bill for tonight."  Everyone laughed. "OK, just donate what half of your bar bill would have been, keeping in mind there was no cheap wine or liquor." He thanked the Colonel again and reminded everyone that the bars were open and they were welcome to stay as long as wanted to.

Terse found his parents. He introduced Vivian to them. "Well, I was wondering if he was going to keep us from meeting you," said Blanche.

"Mom!" exclaimed Terse, "you know better than that."

Beau was impressed by her poise. "What made you come to Gallagher, of all places?"

"My parents were killed in an accident when I was young, so I was brought up by various distant relatives. I was always knew my Mama was a Wells. All my childhood I was told stories about Gallagher since it was where most of the family was from. So when I finished college and needed a place to settle - this was the closest thing to home I knew."

"Well then dear, welcome home," said Blanche. "Now Terse when are you going to bring her over to Mobile?"

"Soon, Mom, I promise. This second book is taking more time than the first."

The 4 of them kept talking for a while until Terse said they needed to get to the bar to meet their group. After Terse and Vivian left the table, Blanche said,"What a lovely lady. And a Wells? I wonder who her parents were?"

Parker hesitated,"If I am correct, her mother is Tula."

Everyone at the table was uncomfortably quiet. Beau broke the silence,"Tula? Tula Wells?"

Parker smiled, "Thank God, there is only one."

Beau looked at Parker,"And that - is one too many."

"Now Beau, all that is in the past," said Blanche in a very warm voice. "And we cannot hold that against Vivian. God knows she cannot help it."

"No, I would never hold it against that young lady. Bless her heart being saddled with that nightmare." Beau sighed, then looked at Parker. "I'm scared to ask, who is her father."

Bob very quietly said, "William Vontese."

Caroline spoke up, "Well that is no mystery, Tula and William were married at one time." She paused,"for a very short time."

Just when it all seemed to calm down, Parker added,"But Vivian was born five years after Tula and William divorced."

Paten said very slowly, as he swirled his glass of bourbon,"And . . . William was married to Anna Belle at that time."

"God, you cannot make this shit up," said Beau as he finished his drink. "I'm going to the bar. Anyone need a drink?"

Parker stood up, "I'll go with you."

"My glass is empty, I'll join you,"offered Paten.

As they made their way through the crowd, Parker said, "Beau, I am sorry I blurted that out. It wasn't fair to you and Blanche or Vivian."

"No, I'm glad we know it now. Like I said it's not Vivian's fault. Damn Tula, she is like a bad cold that keeps returning." said Beau.

As they approached the bar, they could see the Colonel and Winfred surrounded by admirers. Paten paused,"She looks very familiar. I just cannot place her."

Beau laughed,"The Colonel's wife, Winfred?" He turned to Paten,"Do you remember her when she also dressed in costume just like the Colonel? Talk about a transformation. She is an attractive lady."

Paten just stood there for another moment. "She is, she definitely is."

Parker laughed,"Don't look at me?"

As they were standing in line at the bar, Paten asked,"You said her name is 'Winfred'?"

"You heard the introductions this evening."

"Hell, I wasn't paying attention to all that." said Paten distracted. "She reminds me of a lady named 'Sara'."

Before Beau or Parker could turn around and question him, Paten quickly said,"No, I'm wrong. Don't know why I thought that."

Behind them Buzz walked up. "Gentlemen, good evening. They turned to see Buzz with this gorgeous red head on his arm. Buzz smiled,"This is Miranda." And he introduced Miranda to the men. There was no doubt in Paten's mind who Miranda was, no on could forget her. But her secret was safe with him. 

One would have never guessed that Paten was one of her S&M clients. Not even Caroline knew he was into bondage. To see the situation this evening, one would never think that the 2 had ever met - just another parralell universe.

Anna Belle watched from afar. It was always good to remind the members of the Gentleman's Club that she held the cards. No matter how powerful or wealthy they were, Anna Belle could bring them down at any time. Not that she was vindictive. She cared for these men as much as she cared for her girls. It was just good business to keep everyone in line.

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