The next morning, long before I was ready to actually get out of the bed, Brick was standing beside me, poking me softly and whispering my name.
“Grey. Grey, honey.”
Groaning, I rolled over. I had to be careful to not squash any of the dogs. “What? What’s happened?”
“Why aren’t you in bed with me instead of in here with the humane society? Remember that movie with Goldie Hawn in it? The one where she is a lawyer and he husband robs a bank? You’re like her with those dogs.” Smiling he snatched at my blanket.
“It was her ex-husband, Chevy Chase. Seems Like Old Times. I love that movie. You might be an ex-husband if you don’t have an excellent reason for waking me up at the butt crack of dawn.”
Handing me my phone, “It’s been blowing up for an hour. I looked to make sure it wasn’t Park or Christen.”
“Clarissa.” I corrected him.
“Whatever. Anyway, it’s Juniper. She’s probably wanting to ask you some questions since you’re leaving.”
“Shit.” I didn’t want to adult yet. I wanted to lay in my child’s pillow bed with my dogs. I stretched, pushed three of the seven dogs out of the way and climbed out of bed. Good grief, I had to pee! Every time I stand up. Five kids is hell on your bladder.
Grabbing my robe, I headed downstairs to have my morning meeting with Jaun Valdez. I picked up my phone and called the restaurant, Juniper answered on the first ring.
“I’ve been calling you for an hour! Where the hell have you been?” She was clearly irritated with me, which only made me smile. As calm and soothing as Harrison was, Juni was on the opposite end of the spectrum. She was as high strung as they come and she was the only person in the world I allowed to boss me around. Besides Ivy. She was just over four feet tall and wore a wig she got out of the Sears catalogue. She carried a wooden spoon around as a weapon and always had a clean apron on.
“Well Juni, I was sleeping. Shit, it’s still dark outside!”
“Then you shoulda known something was bad wrong and called me right back. I don’t bother you for nothin, do I?”
She had a point and suddenly I sat up straighter. “What?”
“That damn Toomey girl you hired got a snake in her car this morning when she came early to make the biscuits. The fool left her windows down and when she snuck out back to smoke a Pall Mall, she opened her door and there was a chicken snake on her seat. She pissed down both legs and called the law. That shit’ll be in the police blotter again. Last time it took two months for folks to calm down and eat here again. It hurt our business! I smacked her on the ass with my spoon and told her to git inside and quit smokin those nasty things and to ROLL HER WINDOWS UP! Probly didn’t come from here anyway. She proby drove that thing here from her house. What the hell are we gonna do?”
Biting my lip and keeping my voice as even as possible, “I’ll call Shep and ask him to not put it in the police blotter this time. And Juni, it really didn’t affect business last time. The Chamber Women wouldn’t park on that side of the building for a while but they eventually got over it. Give that girl a chance. She’s sweet and a hard worker. She needs taught. You are the one to teach her.”
“I didn’t sign up to be no teacher.” She hung up on me and no doubt was already barking orders at Tina Toomey. That girl was an accident waiting to happen. I liked her. She was smart. Her parents were trash and she needed some direction. She graduated next year and if I had anything to say about it, she’d be signed up at the community collage in the fall. Like Juniper, I can be stubborn too.
Poor old Shep. My high school sweetheart. His family owned our county paper the Lake Charles Independent. I was forever asking him to keep something quiet. It was usually about a waitress getting into a snippet of trouble. Last year when Finn hopped in one of his buddy’s trucks that had been left running and did donuts in the town park, I requested that be on the front page. Finn left huge ruts and scared the shit out of all of the kids, finally crashing into the curly slide and knocking it completely off it’s cement slab. It broke it completely in two. The kids cried and parents were pissed. Brick and I had to pay for a new one. The kicker? The park sits behind the Mayor’s office and across from the fire department. The chief of police was parked at the firehouse, bullshitting and saw the hole thing. Being friends with people in charge often has it’s benefits. I can pull quite a few strings and I throw a lot of fits if I don’t get my way. The Chief and Shep throw their hands in the air and give in pretty quickly. I’m not worth the fight. However, I can also use my powers for evil. Finn was sentenced to sixty hours of public service for the county. He had to paint all of the bridges, removing the graffiti. Hells belles, he and his friends put most of it on there. I told him to consider it Karma. He got to wear a black and white stripped jail shirt just like out of a Paul Newman movie. Being a juvenile, no names were used, but Finn is unmistakeable in the picture. I got a huge kick out of this. Finn died a few times. I had the newspaper article and picture matted and framed and it now hangs above the living room fireplace. I even bought a darling set of pillar candles to match the frame. It’s a nice little vinget.
So I would call Shep, for Juniper’s sake. I’d ask him to keep this bit of drama out of the police blotter. I’d also ask him if he had any good gossip. He’d share. He knew I’d keep my mouth shut. I hate a gossip. Now, I’ll talk to my Mother or Juniper about things, but that’s not stirring shit. That’s having a conversation.
As bad as I hated it, it was time to hit the road. Daylight was coming on and it was hotter than the devil’s knees already. I grabbed my cooler tote and filled it with waters and juice. I glanced longingly at the beer left from last night and with more than a little regret, shut the refrigerator door. I went upstairs and changed into a long skirt and an old band tee shirt. Keds finished my look. This was my usual attire. It was comfortable and my weight yo-yo’d so much, this was the perfect clothing to yo-yo with me. I had packed last night, I grabbed my suitcase and the garment bag that held two black dresses. It depended on how much Pizza King I ate, which one I would wear. I also grabbed the tote I had thrown my shoes and toiletries in. I had my make-up bag. Although I had no make-up on now. I don’t wear any. I hate it. It makes Mother furious when I don’t wear it. She won’t go to the mailbox without freshening her lipstick. I only wear lipstick at gunpoint. I cringed at the poor choice of words. I’d wear the shit. If I didn’t, Mother would say, “When you wear make-up, you look like me. When you don’t, you look like your dad. I would think that would be inspiration enough.” I’ve heard that since she bought my first pink lipstick at the makeup counter at Carson’s. It’s just easier to wear it. Ivy Arden can be a bit tenacious, I am way too tired for any battle waged with her.
“Wren! Come on little bird!! We gotta go!” I’ll be damned if she didn’t flounce in the foyer wearing that freaking Fancy Nancy dress. “I thought we agreed Wren! Please be good!”
“I am good Momma.” She lifted up the dress and underneath was her shorts and sparkly top. “When I get all itchy, I can just take it off!” Her hawkin shoes glittered in the sun as she walked out the front door. She stopped to admire them and asked me to take a picture of her since she looked so ‘acoming’. The back of her tulle dress was tucked into her shorts and her velcro was closed crooked. I had never seen anything more cute. I snugged her into her car seat. Showed her where all of her goodies were. Folded down her desk that was fascined to the back of the passenger seat and set her bag beside her.
“Movie?” I asked.
“Yes, please. Legally Blond. Then I want Old Yeller.” I put her first movie in and handed her the silky blanket she was never without. Her bear, Hubert, was beside her, his seat belt buckled up to keep him safe. And we were off.
Although it was hot and humid out, the air smelled sweet and I wanted the windows down. Getting Wren’s permission, I rolled down the windows and turned up the radio. Sweet Talk Radio was on my playlist on Pandora. Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow was playing. The wistful music was exactly what my soul needed. I was nervous and anxious and mad. I didn’t handle shit like this well. Everyone thought I did. I never complained. I didn’t fuss at anyone. I wasn’t grumpy or short with people. I did what had to be done. I did it with efficiency and a determination to handle the situation and handle it well. When it was over, I would smoke an entire pack of cigarettes and have a headache for three days.
I had six hours to dwell on the douchebag that was my biological nightmare of a father. Putting the car in gear, I started down the long drive. leaving a trail of dust behind me. God help us all.