Authors: Pepper Phillips
“Bitsy, you said I looked just like Maudie. Do you have a
picture by any chance?”
Bitsy thought on that for a moment, “No, I don’t. Maudie
hated to have her picture taken. She even missed having her picture taken for
our yearbook. No, I don’t believe I ever saw a picture of her.”
“I have one.” Joanna said. “It’s a picture of the
‘six-pack’ as they like to call us.”
“The six-pack?” I asked. “What do you mean by six-pack?”
Joanna put down her cup of coffee and frowned. I don’t
think the sour puss came from the cookie.
Bitsy giggled. “Oh, that was just a name our group was
called. We were all short and hung around together. There was Joanna, Maudie,
Edna, Naomi, Bobbie and me. I might have that picture, but it was a long time
“Yes, Edna. She married a guy named Ralph just after we
graduated and moved to Baton Rouge. We never saw her much after that, even on
I felt my heart drop. Edna and Ralph were my adoptive
parents. “Did Maudie and Edna stay in close touch?”
Joanna snorted, “Maudie and Edna. I sincerely doubted
that. Edna stole Maudie’s boyfriend right out from under her, a first for
Maudie, usually it was the other way around. Maudie didn’t care, she’d only
dated him a few weeks. Can’t remember his name now, he was only here for his
“Joanna!” Bitsy said.
“Well, it’s true. The girl needs to know that if she is
Maudie’s daughter, her mother wasn’t a saint. After all, no one even knew that
she ever had a daughter. And Lord knows, Maudie never married.”
“Well, you could just be a little tactful.”
“Maudie was not my friend.”
Bitsy looked down into her coffee cup, then took a sip and
laid the cup and saucer back onto the table. She stood up, brushed her hands
on her pants, looked hard at Joanna, and said, “She was my friend. And she
was your friend too. Just in case you forgot.”
Joanna winced. “Well...yes, I guess she was.”
She stood up to leave.
“You know she was.” Bitsy turned toward me and gave me a
smile. It transformed her face, open, honest, and beautiful. “It was a
pleasure to meet you, Sara. I’m going to look through my albums tonight and
see if I can’t find that photo, and we’ll talk together real soon.”
“Yes, I would like that. I don’t know anything about Maudie
and I have a lot of questions.”
Joanna hesitated by the front door. “The last time I was in
here Maudie found something I wanted, I wonder if it’s still here.”
“Feel free to look,” I said.
I watched her closely because she seemed nervous about
something. She walked straight as an arrow to the table that I dusted
earlier. Her back was to me, so I couldn’t tell what she picked up. She
turned and I could see the glass item I wondered about earlier.
She was smiling, which was scary to say the least. She
looked like the rat that ate the canary.
“Here it is.” Holding out the glassware to me. “I noticed
that the price tag fell off, but Maudie told me it was ten dollars.”
Shit. She was a rat. She knocked off sixty-five dollars in
a blink of an eye.
“What exactly is it?” I turned it over in my hands, and
could feel the gumminess from the sticker still on the bottom.
“Oh, it’s a fairy light. I collect them.”
“Yes, they were designed to be used as night lights in the
1800's. Much better than a plain candlestick, as a small candle fits inside,
and it gives a most delightful glow, plus you don’t have to worry about fires.”
“How interesting. And you collect them?”
She turned inwards then, wondering I’m sure if I was going
to let her have it for the price she set.
I decided to be as cagy as she was. “I really couldn’t sell
you this for ten dollars.”
Clear disappointment settled on her face.
“How about I trade it for that picture you have of Maudie?”
I could see the wheels turning in her mind.
“Oh, yes. I would gladly trade.” If she could dance in
delight, then she was certainly trying to, her body quivered. She was
positively excited to get her hands on the piece of glassware.
I took it to the counter and began to wrap it in newspaper
that was located on a bottom shelf.
“Oh, you don’t need to wrap it, I’ll just take it like it
“Are you sure?” Her fingers were actually grasping in
midair reaching for the glassware. I handed it to her. She clutched it to her
bony chest, like a treasure. She then turned and made an beeline for the front
“I’ll bring in the picture this week,” she said.
“I’ll be waiting. Enjoy your fairy light.”
She finally gave me a genuine smile. How sad, to have to
revert to duplicity in order to obtain something you want.
The door closed behind her and the room felt cleaner for
“I like how you handled that.” Bitsy said.
“Well...” I hesitated, not knowing what to say next.
“It was sweet.” Bitsy reached up and placed her hands on
both sides of my face. “Maudie would have been proud.” With that, she pulled
me closer and gave me a kiss on the cheek. It surprised me and I drew back
“Forgive me. But you looked like you need a kiss.”
“I’ll gladly kiss her.” A masculine voice said.
We both turned toward the door and there was Grant.
He bent over and grabbed her, giving her a hug and a kiss,
while twirling her around.
“Let go of me, you big lummox.” She slapped him on the
shoulder but he continued to twirl her.
He stopped and gently let her loose, then turned to me with
his arms outstretched.
“Next?” He said.
Yeah, Tina the bitch would like that. “I’ll pass. What are
you doing here?”
Before Grant could answer, the door opened.
T-Jack Couvillion, cub reporter, hustled in.
Bitsy took one look at him and said, “I’ll talk to you later
about your mother, Sara.” She then moved out of the door and down the street
as fast as she could, her plastic duck feet making a slapping sound on the
T-Jack stared after her. “Now, that is a snappy little
woman.” He turned and looked at me with a big grin. “Ready for your interview,
I know I must have grimaced, because he laughed and said,
“Hey, it won’t be that bad.”
Grant gave me a goofy grin and as he turned the doorknob, he
said. “I see you’re busy, we’ll talk tonight.”
. Slinking out like that.
T-Jack smiled a crooked grin. “Ready, girlie?”
“Well, I guess so. Would you like to sit down and have a
cup of coffee?”
“Coffee? Sure, that would be great, I hope it’s not that
He sat down on the sofa that Bitsy and Joanna vacated. He
brought out a notebook and took a pencil from his pocket.
“So, tell me. Who’s your daddy?”
I was scraping carrots when Grant came in.
“Honey, I’m home!”
He still had the goofy smile, which was really quite
something with the dimples. He took off his tie and draped it over a chair. He
walked up behind me and looked into the sink.
His closeness almost made me scrape my knuckle.
“Ugh, carrots. I hate carrots,” he said.
“Maudie never cooked carrots.” Slowly he began to unbutton
“I’m not Maudie.”
“So I noticed.” There was a long pause, then he said.
“What else are you cooking?”
He removed his shirt and added it to the tie. Thank
heavens, he had a t-shirt on. His slow striptease was interesting, but
“Just a meat loaf, some mashed potatoes, a salad, dessert.”
He moaned. “Sounds great, except for the carrots.”
Again, there was another long pause. I looked at him
briefly and caught a serious look to his gaze.
“Can I ask you something personal?” he asked.
Personal. After the questions I’d been asked today, I think
everyone knew what bra size I wore.
“Why not? Everyone else in town seems to think it’s okay to
ask exceedingly personal questions.”
He smiled. “Oh, T-Jack got to you?”
“Yes, T-Jack, and about two dozen visitors after him. I
think word got out that I had coffee and cookies. I was cleaned out in no
time.” I put down the knife and, checking the clock on the stove, slipped the
rolls into the oven.
“Well, I did warn you.” He chuckled.
I washed my hands while thinking of an answer. “Yes, you
did. Now, what did you want to ask me?”
“Did you find out what you wanted to know?”
“No.” My answer was blunt. Grant frowned.
“You know it might take awhile.”
“I know. I just hoped.”
“Hope’s good.” He hesitated. “You look fetching in your
I threw him a look, telling him I knew he was lying.
“And you smell good.”
He must want something.
He rubbed his hands together and licked his lips. “Great,
absolutely great.” He picked up his shirt and tie and walked to his room. Before
he entered, he turned with a questioning look. “Why such a plain meal then?”
“Well, Hondo, that’s the meal plan for tonight. It’s easy,
it’s basic, and I made up for it when I fixed the dessert.”
“And the dessert is?”
“Better Than Sex cake.”
He laughed. “Baby, there’s nothing better than sex.”
Well, I do have to agree with him, though it’s been awhile
since I’ve indulged. I threw him a look and raised my eyebrows. “Don’t you
think it’s time for your cold shower?”
“Oh lady, you do wound me.”
Pointing the scraper at him, I said, “I
you if you don’t leave me alone while I’m cooking.”
“As the old saying goes, let me get into something
. I could picture him in something
comfortable, his birthday suit for one. I grabbed the last carrot, and the
visual that came to mind made me hesitate, before I began to scrape the skin
off that sucker in a hurry.
* * *
Grant was moaning over the buttered carrot in his mouth.
It was almost embarrassing to see a grown man appreciate
food so much. The potatoes were mashed with just a few bits of lightly steamed
cabbage that I chopped fine and added as I beat the mixture. The meat loaf
with the boiled eggs in the middle. Even the radish roses in the salad
intrigued him. He raved about every bite. Plus, he had thirds on the minted
Grant finally spoke up. “Two cents for what you’re thinking.”
I sighed, than began. “Was Maudie really a wild woman? I’m
getting so many diverse stories, that it’s hard for me to get a grip on the
woman she really was.”
“I can only tell you what I know to be true. But remember,
Maudie kept secrets, you being the main secret of all.”
“But she was a good woman, she took me in, gave me a home
and a strong guiding hand. She didn’t have to, but she did, and I loved her
“Do you have any pictures? Everyone I talked to said that
she hated to have her picture taken, several promised to bring me one, but my
curiosity is killing me.”
“Maudie has a huge photograph book around here somewhere.
She used to look in it whenever she felt blue.”
“Do you know where she kept it?”
“It’s either in the bookcase or in her bedroom, I imagine.”
I glanced at the hundreds and hundreds of books in the
bookcase. If it was in an album, it should be easy to find. At least, I hoped
so. Pushing the chair back, I got up and started over at the far corner and
began looking at book spines.
Grant also got up and started to look at the other end.
We both fell silent. Thinking our own thoughts.
“Here’s a good one.” A deep throaty chuckle announced,
“Temples of Convenience and Chambers of Delight.”
I couldn’t help but smile, how like a man to go for toilet
My finger raced across the book titles, each and every one
of these were purchased, read and used by my birth mother. Yet, what was she
really like? A student, a scholar, a know-it-all?
“Tell me Grant, did Maudie really read all these books?”
“Maudie always had a book in her hand, and she always knew
what the most obscure object was, and what it was worth. She was thrilled to
finally find a pair of chicken glasses.”
“You’re kidding. Chicken glasses?”
“Yes. She sold them for a good profit. Everyone called her
a shrewd businesswoman. Oh, here’s another good title, ‘Hidden Assets: Stories
behind the Throne.’”
I groaned, he must be in the personal sanitary section.
“Think album, Grant.”
“I am, I am. There’s a lot of interesting material here,
better reading than law books.”
I couldn’t believe the different books, tablecloths from the
fifties, depression glass, farm implements, cookie cutters. There seemed to be
a book on everything that might be an antique. But so far, no photo album.
Grant and I inched closer and closer together until our arms
barely met. A shock coursed through my body with that gentle touch. Just
standing next to him gave my libido a jump.
This six week stay would be difficult at best, perhaps I
should sleep downstairs to keep myself under control. I wondered if Grant
would want to peek through the windows?
“Here is it.” Grant was almost on the floor, reaching into
the bottom stack of books and pulling out a dull black book that didn’t look
like a photograph album at all. He handed it to me.
Clasping it to my chest, I wandered over to the sofa and
sat, resting the book in my lap, my fingertips ran over the embossed title ‘Photos.’