Authors: Sandra Hill
When Tante Lulu decides to matchmake, matches are made. But this time, her meddling Cajun charm will be put to the test .
For five years she thought he’d died in Afghanistan. For five years he thought she’d rejected him—thanks to his mother’s interception of the letter she wrote to him as he left on his tour of duty. Now she’s struggling to re-build a life for herself and their daughter, Katie, despite the devastation Katrina wrought on New Orleans. Thanks to Tante Lulu and her police-officer great-nephew, Tee-John, Savannah Jones and Special Forces Captain Matthew Carrington are about to be re-united. Will Tante Lulu’s bayou wisdom and sassy attitude be able to turn their broken relationship into a loving gumbo?
A Dixie Christmas
’Twas the Night (with Trish Jensen and Kate Holmes)
Saving Savannah—A Tante Lulu Novella
Heart’s Craving (2014)
Bell Bridge Books
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons (living or dead), events or locations is entirely coincidental.
Bell Bridge Books
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Memphis, TN 38130
Ebook ISBN: 978-1-61194-355-9
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Copyright © 2009 by Sandra Hill
Printed and bound in the United States of America.
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Cover design: Debra Dixon
Interior design: Hank Smith
Background (manipulated) © Wenani | Dreamstime.com
Mask (manipulated) © Oleg Tirunov | Dreamstime.com
Pull up a chair, pour yourself a tall glass of sweet tea, and listen to the musical sweetness of Beausoleil’s “L’Ouragon” (“The Hurricane”) while I stir the gumbo and tell you about the short story SAVING SAVANNAH. Would you care for a slice of Tante Lulu’s famous Peachy Praline Cobbler Cake to go with your tea? No? How about another beignet? No? Well, maybe later.
SAVING SAVANNAH is yet another of Tante Lulu’s adventures. When I first started writing these Cajun contemporaries about the wild LeDeux brothers, I never imagined how the old lady with a heart of gold would touch so many lives.
Although never in print before, SAVING SAVANNAH was offered free for a short time on my website. The Internet pirates soon put a stop to that idea. But now I’ve decided to update the story and expand it for all you fans of the outrageous Cajun traiteur and determined matchmaker, the favorite auntie we all wish we had.
Originally, SAVING SAVANNAH was meant to be a mini-prequel to my August 2009 romance, SO INTO YOU, the eighth novel in the Cajun series, but, really, it can stand on its own, out of order. In this story, you’ll laugh and cry as the self-proclaimed Grandma Moses with an attitude bulldozes her way into the lives of Savannah Jones and her five-year-old daughter, Katie, who are homeless in post-Katrina New Orleans. It’s hard to believe, isn’t it, that people in Louisiana are still suffering from that devastating disaster, even after all these years? Thanks to Tante Lulu’s newfound zest for helping the hurricane victims, not to mention her notorious matchmaking skills, ex-POW Captain Matthew Carrington discovers his former fiancée, mother of his child, working as a waitress in a strip joint. Sparks fly and humor abounds, guar-an-teed!
To learn more about my Cajun/Tante Lulu novels (THE LOVE POTION, TALL, DARK AND CAJUN, THE CAJUN COWBOY, THE RED HOT CAJUN, PINK JINX, PEARL JINX, WILD JINX and SO INTO YOU), visit my website at www.sandrahill.net or my Facebook page at Sandra Hill Author. Keep in mind, Tante Lulu is also featured in the novella JINX CHRISTMAS in the DIXIE CHRISTMAS anthology, as well as in book three of the Deadly Angels series, KISS OF TEMPTATION. The old lady sure does get around!
Check out the Cajun recipe at the end of this story .
. . a little lagniappe from Tante Lulu.
As always, I wish you smiles in your reading.
New York Times
A lady’s gotta do what a lady’s gotta do .
“NO, I AM NOT taking you into a sex shop,
“Why? It ain’t as if I’m not old enough.”
“Whatcha ’fraid of, Tee-John? Us modern ladies gotta keep up with the times. If men kin go ta these places, why cain’t us wimmen?” Louise Rivard, best known as Tante Lulu, put her hands on her hips and glared up at her nephew John LeDeux, a Louisiana police detective.
“It’s not like it’s illegal or nothin’.”
“Besides, it’s called the Garden of Eden. It’s prob’ly a religious sex shop.”
Tee-John rolled his eyes and gave her another head-to-toe survey of disapproval. “Did you have to wear that hooker outfit?” He couldn’t fool her. He was hoping to change the subject.
Not a chance! She smacked him on the arm with her St. Jude fly swatter. Truth to tell, if folks were staring their way, it was at Tee-John, who was once described by a TV reporter as “sex on a stick,” whatever that meant. That George Clooney didn’t have nothing on him. Or Richard Simmons, for that matter. Whoo-ee! That Richard Simmons could park his sneakers under her bed any day.
the tenth time you said that ’bout my ’pearance, and I doan appreciate yer sass any more’n I did the first time. Remember what I allus say. The gator doesn’t see its own tail.”
“You should check out yer own tail before checkin’ out mine.”
“Never in a million years would I make an observation about yer tail,
. I’m jist sayin’ that maybe you ought to dress a little more, I don’t know, dignified.”
“Dignified, smignified!” she scoffed.
Because of her petite size, she did most of her shopping in the children’s section of department stores, usually Walmart. “This is from the Hannah Montana collection, and Hannah Montana ain’t no hooker.”
“Hannah Montana has gotten older, and so have you. In fact, she’s just Miley Cyrus now. You shoulda seen her at the video music awards show. Whoo-ee! On the other hand, ninety-two-year-old women should dress their age,” he muttered.
She gave him a dirty look. “I might be so old I coulda made Fred Flintstone’s bed rock, but I ain’t dead yet.”
Today she was wearing her Farrah Fawcett wig, a nod to the prettiest gal there ever was, an angel for real now, bless her heart. A glittery red tank top and tight white pedal pushers, or what they called capris today, were meant to accentuate her assets. But, truth to tell, she’d lost her boobs and butt about nineteen eighty-seven; as a result, she wore falsies, both above and below, to help Mother Nature. Wedgie, open-toed shoes with purple flowers completed her outfit. Her fingernails and toenails were painted Hot-To-Trot Red. To her mind, she looked darned good.
“I’m still not takin’ you into a sex shop.”
“You heard of Desperate Housewives, boy?” She still called him boy, even though he was close to thirty now. Compared to her, Moses was a boy. “How ’bout Desperate Nonagenarians?”
. . what?”
“A person what’s ninety-somethin’. I heard that word on that new cable TV show.
Sex After Seventy
“You’re makin’ that up. Aren’t you? Never mind! You about froze my brain with that picture. And I’m still not takin’ you into a sex shop.”
“Are you blushin’?” On tippy toes, she peered closer at her nephew, once the baddest boy on the bayou before he married. Still was, truth to tell.
“Of course I’m blushin’. Is that why you wanted me to bring you to Nawleans t’day? Talk about!”
“No. I tol’ you. I wanna go ta the Voodoo Palace. Not that I believe in voodoo, but the shop carries some herbs I ain’t been able ta find anywhere else.” Tante Lulu was a traiteur, or folk healer. Had been all her life, and a good one, if she did say so herself.
“It’s at the end of this block.” Tee-John grabbed her by the upper arm and practically frog-marched her down the street a ways.
“Stop pushin’ me. I was jist kiddin’ ’bout goin’ in the sex shop, fer goodness sake.” Then she noticed something interesting and stopped in her tracks. “Whass that?” That was the great thing about Nawleans. There was always something interesting going on.
Before them was a grungy-looking storefront with the windows blacked out. The sign read St. Christopher’s House of Refuge.
“It’s a homeless shelter or soup kitchen, or something,” he said, attempting to tug her along.
She dug in her feet. St. Jude, patron of hopeless causes, was her favorite saint, but she’d like to know what St. Christopher was up to, as well. “Let’s go in.”
That’s when Tante Lulu got a big shock. She’d lived in Southern Louisiana all her life. She knew the seedy side of the Big Easy. Even though her bayou region wasn’t hit as hard as the city, she’d seen the news coverage of Hurricane Katrina and all its devastation.
What she hadn’t known was that, years later, people were still suffering. Terribly. That just dilled her pickle. Was she really that insulated in her cozy bayou home? Bayou Black was only an hour away from the Crescent City, but apparently worlds away.
For the next hour she and Tee-John walked around the place, both of them shaking their heads with dismay. It was a huge room, like a warehouse, with a mural of New Orleans before the Civil War adorning the walls. She recalled then that this had been an opera house in the 1800s. There was a cafeteria-style meal service to the left where folks were lined up for breakfast, it being barely nine a.m. After filling their trays, they sat down at long folding tables.
At one end were a series of ladies’ and men’s rooms and showers for each of the sexes. Desks had been set up at the far side where social service people were advising folks on what benefits they could get—not much—and job opportunities—very little. Racks of used clothing and blankets occupied another area, along with giant bowls filled with hotel-sized personal products, like toothpaste, soap, and shampoo, probably donated by traveling businessmen.
She’d have to mention this to her niece Charmaine who owned a bunch of beauty salons. Charmaine, a self-proclaimed bimbo who was once Miss Louisiana before she married the hottest cowboy to put his tushie on a horse, probably had lots of this kind of stuff she could donate. Poor people didn’t care if they were using last year’s samples or a no-longer-popular scent like Peanut Butter Brickle.
“No kidding?” she’d asked Charmaine when she’d shown her a new manufacturer’s display case last year highlighting ice cream scented shampoos, conditioners, body washes, and colognes.
“Oh, yeah,” Charmaine had assured her. “Some ladies like to smell like ice cream flavors.”
“I wonder if they attract lots of bees .
. . or ants,” Tante Lulu had wondered. What was wrong with good old Ivory soap anyhow?
Whatever! Ice cream scents were out this year, apparently, and tropical fruits were in. Go figure!
Most of the shelter space was filled with cots, hundreds of them, some of which were separated from their neighbors by hanging sheets. For families, Tante Lulu presumed.
The most pitiful thing was the belongings piled next to cots. Suitcases, boxes, big plastic trash bags filled with all their personal effects.
Tee-John explained that the Katrina floods wiped out certain neighborhoods, including ones with low-income housing. But instead of rebuilding the units, the government chose to sell the land to developers who were constructing more upscale dwellings way beyond the means of the poor people. “That on top of shutting down the HUD trailers,” he added.
She wiped the tears welling in her eyes with her St. Jude handkerchief. It was then that she noticed one element all these people shared: hopelessness.
“The saints must weep over this travesty,” she murmured.
Tee-John was staring at a curly-haired boy, no more than five, playing with two rusty old Matchbox cars. The little mite probably reminded him of his own son, Etienne. Distressed, he snarled at her, “Where’s your famous St. Jude when he’s needed so badly?”
She winced. It was hard sometimes to understand why God allowed certain things to happen.
“Do you wanna leave?” he asked, putting an arm around her shoulders.
She shook her head. “Not yet, but I need ta get some air.”
When they were standing on the back porch, which faced a small parking lot, she straightened with determination. “We gotta do somethin’ ta help.”
“We who?” Tee-John inquired.
Knowing her nephew, Tante Lulu figured he would probably slip the little boy’s mother a fifty-dollar bill. And he would mail a check to the shelter. She would, too.
But that was the easy way.
“Me and St. Jude,
who, you idjet. St. Jude musta sent me here t’day. He’s usin’ me ta get a job done.”
“Like an angel?” he teased.
what you wanna call me. All I know is God mus’ wanna use me fer a higher purpose. A LeDeux family mission, I’m thinkin’.”
Tee-John suspected that she’d be calling on him to be one of the “missionaries.”
Living on Not-So-Easy Street .
SAVANNAH JONES was a master of deceit. She’d become so, by necessity, while living in the Big Easy these past few years.
It was just past dawn. On the road outside Butler Park in New Orleans, she was busy polishing her red Subaru, which she’d affectionately nicknamed Betty. It was fifteen years old, but it still ran, as long as she employed that special trick in getting the wonky ignition to start.
Park police usually made their first rounds by seven a.m. She would move her vehicle before then to another location, probably the Walmart parking lot. But, no, she’d used that two days ago, and the security guard was starting to eye her suspiciously. She could push her shopping cart inside only so many hours without buying anything. Maybe the Dunkin’ Donuts. Or the parking lot behind St. Christopher’s. Yes, that was it. The homeless shelter served breakfast on Tuesdays and wasn’t so diligent about patrolling the premises. Plus, the authorities weren’t as persistent about grilling folks at the meal area as they were at the sleeping quarters.
She gave Betty one last pat with her chamois. It was important that no one realize it was her home. Had been for three weeks now. Three weeks and two days. If she could survive for another two weeks, she would have enough money to move. Alaska or bust! That should be far enough away from .
. . Never mind. She didn’t need to start her day on a negative note.
“Did you get the tree sap off, honey?” she asked the little girl who was studiously rubbing the fender beside her. At five, Katie was the sweetest little thing, not at all difficult.
“Yep. An’ some bird poop, too.” She smiled up at her, showing the empty spaces in her mouth where she was missing two front teeth. “I’m hungry, Mommy.”
“I know, sweetie. We’ll have breakfast soon. After we go to the Y. Then I’ll drop you off at kindergarten.”
“I don’t wanna go t’day,” Katie whined.
“You have to, darling. You know that. Mommy has to go to work.”
“Why can’t I come with you?”