Saturday, December 6, 2014

Arlissa - Day 144 -159

"Okay, Hetty, whatever you say! You are the leader, we know," Carla replied agreeably, winking conspiratorially at the others as they watched Hetty disappearing into the old lady's bedroom.

"She didn't even bother to take the paint and brush with her," said one of the other ladies. "She is up to something!"

They gave her about two minutes before they crept over to the door which Hetty had shut about two-thirds of the way. Peeking through the crack in the door near the hinges, they saw Hetty holding the rosewood box clasped to her chest.

Watching her with wonder, they saw her set the box in her lap and begin to open the lid. 

"She's going to look inside that box! She has some nerve! That could be private stuff she's looking at. We have to stop her, girls!" This from diminutive Jan Hankins, whose husband was the manager of the local bank.

"Oh, Hetty! You forgot...Oh!" Myrtle adlibbed as the women burst into Granny's bedroom, then stopped in midtrack.

Hetty looked up, guilty-faced, and quickly shut the half-opened lid. 

"Why...uh...uh...I just saw this layin' on the floor and was gettin' ready to put it into the dresser drawer. It's pretty, isn't it, with this flower cut into the top of it? I was just admiring the way it looks...Wait! You don't think I'd, no, the thought never entered my mind!" 

She suspected they had her dead to rights, but she was going to deny it. Getting up from the bed side, she immediately put the box in the top drawer of the dresser.

"Well, where is that paint, anyway? What color was picked out for this room, girls?"

Little Jan Hankins spoke up then, and asked, "Why don't we all paint this room and then we can get it done in a hurry and move on to another room? My Ma always said, 'Many hands make quick work'."

Carla spoke up and said, "I reckon that's a great idea!" 

The nurse came into the room and found Arlissa and her Granny both asleep, holding hands. Even though it was mid afternoon, she covered the younger woman with a blanket and heard a small sigh escape her lips.

"She surely must be bearing some heavy burdens right now," was the nurse's thought. She walked softly to the door; turning out the light, she left the room and closed the door quietly.

Two hours later, Arlissa awakened, startled by the sound of a knock on the door.

"Yes? Come in!"

The door opened slowly to reveal Bobby Joe Odom's smiling face.

"Hey! Is it okay if I come to visit a few minutes? Zee told me that your Granny had another spell with her heart, and I just wanted to see how you were all doing. I just got off duty. How you doin', Ma'am?"

He gently took the old lady's hand in his and she gave him the twisted half smile, but her old eyes literally twinkled up at him.

"Who is Zee?" Inquired Arlissa.

"Oh, that's Zeb's nickname from when we were in police academy together. We all had them. Mine was Odie." 

He smiled at her.

"Please sit down and visit with my Granny a spell; I need some fresh air and to move around some. That is, if you have a few minutes?"

"Of course, Miss Arlissa! I must say, you're looking mighty fine today! "

He smiled engagingly at her as she turned to leave. She blushed in return and just left, not used to receiving such bold compliments.

He smiled and sat down next to the old lady's bed.

"Mz. Hinton, I want to know if you would have any objection to my seeing your granddaughter, with the purpose of marriage sometime in the future?"

The old lady just lay there looking in amazement at the young man. Was he asking for her granddaughter's hand? This was a first, at least for Granny.

She picked up her slate and wrote: court her?

He nodded.

She wrote: you got good job?

He pointed to his uniform.

"Kentucky Highway Patrol, ma'am!"

She wrote: dangerous!

"I'm very careful, ma'am, and good at my job.  Right now I just want your approval to take her out and get to know her. I'll be respectful to her, Ms. Hinton. I promise!"

Alberto Donelli had been busy while the painting was going on in the farmhouse and the Sheriff was busy taking care of his business, and the Hinton/Tunstall family was occupied with their doings. 

He was meeting with his private detective who had found out where Rosie had disappeared to several days earlier, taking off with two of his possessions, his son and his money. He didn't really want the son, but was going to get him back because he belonged to Donelli. 

He had already conducted a fruitless search for the boy, and for the money as well, but to no avail in either case. Well, they weren't going to get away with it.

"That Hinton girl knows all about where they are! I know she does! I'll get it out of her, one way or another! The nosey Sheriff and his deputy kept her away from me last night, but I'll get her and when I do, she'll spill what she knows to me, or else!

He decided to give a visit to the local lawyer, Wilbur Johnson, to see what he could do about gaining possession of his son. He had asked his private detective to find out about the lawyers around the hick town and decided Johnson would do about anything for money. 

Donelli looked at the fancy writing on the door just before he entered the little building. A pretty young woman sat behind the reception desk. She looked up at him and smiled in a friendly manner.

He saw the nameplate on her desk. 

"Ah, Miss Garner, is it?"

"Yes, what can I do for you? Do you have an appointment, sir?"

", I'm sorry, I just stopped by with the hope I could see Mr. Johnson."

"Your name, sir?"

"Alberto Donelli, at your service, lovely signorina!" 

"Hmmm. Well, he is awfully busy. Just a moment and I'll check with him to see if we could set up an appointment for you."

Donelli could see she was flattered by his attentions.

She got up from the chair and flitted to her boss's door and knocked.

He had been leaning back in his chair, taking his afternoon nap, following his usual glass of Kentucky bourbon after lunch.

"Someone to see you, Mr. Wilbur! I think he is in need of a lawyer. He looks rich, too!" This last comment was a whispered one.

Wilbur Johnson quickly straightened his tie and put on his suit jacket which had been slung across the back of the easy chair near his desk, and sat up. He popped a mint into his mouth and fixed a smile on his face. 

"Wait about ten minutes and then send him in, darlin'."

After ten minutes of Alberto Donelli sitting in the outer office, obviously trying to charm the receptionist, she stood and pranced over to her boss' office door and gently rapped on it.

Opening the door, she looked inside the office, then turned her head and then smiled at Donelli.

"He's ready to see you now, sir."

Donelli gave her a courtly bow and entered the office.

Wilbur Johnson stood as Donelli appeared in view; extending his hand, he smiled like a possum, showing his deference to the prospective client who looked like he had money in the bank. Just the kind of client he was always looking for.

"Your name, sir?"

"I am Alberto Donelli, of Philadelphia, Mr. Johnson. I am in need of a good attorney, and you have been recommended to me by a friend of mine."

"Oh? And that would be???"

"No one you know, I am sure. But he assured me that you are the best this little town has to offer."

So saying, Donelli put down the lawyer as well as elevating his importance. 

'Quite a trick', thought Johnson. 'I'm going to have to watch myself around this fellow. He is slick.'

"Thank you, Mr. Donelli. Would you like one of my cigars? Cuban imported; the best money can buy."

"Hmmm. Don't mind if I do. Thank you."

They sat silently while they lit up their cigars. 

Johnson leaned back in his chair and puffed, then slid an ash tray in Donelli's direction. 

"That little gal out there has a regular fit if I drop ashes everywhere. Can't afford to make her mad at me, you know."

"Oh, is she your wife?"

"Oho! No,no! She does dust off the desk every once in awhile, though." 

"Now, to change the subject, what can I do for you, Mr. Donelli? I don't think I've seen you around here."

"It's my son, Benito. His mother left me and brought him here with her from Philadelphia. Then she took her own life, or someone murdered her one, and now I can't find him. I know where she brought him, but they won't tell me where he is. I want him back. I love the boy. He is only two and a half and needs me."

"Ah, a custody case. You say, perhaps she was murdered? When? Who was this person?"

"Her name was Rose O'Hanlon."

"Hmmm. Yes, I heard about that; poor girl. Out of her mind with drugs, I heard. Had ah. They buried her just this morning, right?"

"Yes, tragic. I want my boy back, Mr. Johnson. Can you help me? Money is no object! I must have him! He is mine!"

Wilbur Johnson sat up in his chair at those words. 

"Well, now, just calm down, Mr. Donelli! I'm sure we can take them to court and make them hand him over. The law is most certainly on your side as the child's father. Let's talk this over a little more, okay? I need some more particulars."

As Arlissa entered Granny's room, Bobby Joe stood up and shook Granny's hand, then turned to face Arlissa. 

"Miss Arlissa, would you do me the honor of letting me escort you to church in the morning? It would sure be pleasing to me, and I do have your Grandmother's approval, if you wish to go with me."

Arlissa was somewhat taken aback by this request out of the blue from the young trooper, but she smiled and said, "Maybe."

"What time does your church take up?"

"It begins at eleven; if you're sure you want to."

"Yes. I feel like you and me got off on the wrong foot when I chased you down to give you a warning about going too fast. I'd like to make it up to you, if you'll give me a chance."

"Well, you did rescue me from out in the wilds of the county and I'm grateful for that."

"What time would you like me to pick you up tomorrow?"

"About ten forty-five, or so, I guess. You know that I'm staying with the Sheriff, right?"

"Sure, I know that. Do you need a ride back there this afternoon?"

"I'm pretty sure that Sheriff Bradshaw's deputy is pickin' me up later today, but thanks anyway."

"Hmmm. Sheriff's deputy, eh? Is he that man I saw you with at the funeral home?"

"Well, yes, why?"

" reason, just asking."

Granny was lying there, watching the interchange between the two young people and smiling. She figured a little competition might be a good thing, so she wrote on her slate and got their attention by clearing her throat.

"Newman boy good looking?"

"Now, Granny, you know what he looks like! He's been in here to see you, you know."

Bobby looked a bit uncomfortable, but continued smiling. He figured he could beat out any deputy for her affections. He hadn't turned on his full charm for her yet.

"Well, I guess I'll be going, Ms. Hinton. I'll be seeing you soon. Arlissa, I'll see you in the morning." 

He nodded to them both and left.

Granny lay back satisfied. If she died any time soon, she wanted to see her granddaughter settled and happy. 

Just then, the nurse came in to check her vitals and to let them know that supper trays were on their way up.

After the nurse left, Arlissa turned to her grandmother and asked what she had been talking to Bobby Joe about.

"My business" was what Granny wrote on the slate, smiling.

That was all Arlissa could get from her. 

Donelli left Lawyer Johnson's office feeling quite satisfied. With the information that he had given the shyster, he knew he could claim custody of his son and once again have control of the boy, raising him in the way it was necessary for the boy to one day take over the family business. Besides, nobody else was going to have what was rightfully his.

The next thing was to gain possession of the other thing that the woman who had borne his son had stolen away from him. Alberto Donelli was going to find it, if it was the last thing he did! He knew the key to locating it was that Hinton woman. He decided to win her over. She was so naive, it should be as easy as pie. He had certainly fooled Rosie! These country hicks were so dumb, they would believe anything he told them! Rubbing his hands together, he chuckled to himself.

Thinking back, he remembered the first time he saw Rose O'Hanlon. He was standing around on the street corner, waiting for an associate, when he saw her walking along, looking lost. Struck at once by her youth and beauty, he bumped into her, as if by accident. From then on, she was easy to win over.

It wasn't long before she became like putty in his skillful hands. She was new to the city, had no place to stay. He was very respectful to her in the beginning, until she fell for him. She met his family who accepted her after awhile because she was his.

Smiling, he remembered when she realized they were going to become parents. He had been so happy and excited. At first, she had been happy, too,  She had become like a fishwife when he began paying innocent attention to a neighborhood girl who came in to help out Rosie. That was when he blew up and began to slap Rosie around a little. She shouldn't have acted that way. After all, Rosie was his, wasn't she? He gave her everything she wanted! She should have appreciated him more, then he wouldn't have had to punish her.

Then, after Benito had been born, Alberto had been over the moon, showing his boy to family and friends. Rosie had changed, was never home... she loved the boy, but, somehow. seemed to be jealous of Alberto's attention to him.

Then came the drugs...

The ladies worked all afternoon in the farmhouse, painting the walls; after finishing Granny's walls, Myrtle decided to put the box in her own oversized pocketbook and replace it just before they left.

From Granny's room, they moved on into the living room. They sat down about ten minutes to rest and have a glass of cold iced tea. 

"I'm sure glad you thought to bring that tea from the diner, Jan!" Carla remarked to the banker's wife. 

"Whew! Yeah! That painting is hard work! I'd rather work in the garden anytime!" spoke up Betty Crowe, Harvey's wife.

"I sure hope the girl and her grandma like the paint you picked out, Carla!" Hetty remarked.

"Ah, yeah, I'm sure they will! They don't seem to be too hard to please, anyway!"

"Well, they won't have much room to complain, since we are doing it for them!" replied the sometimes uncharitable Hetty.

Carla Sanderson, whose husband operated the coal mines, turned to Hetty.

"Sometimes, Hetty, you're just plain mean! Shame on you! What's got your back up, anyways?"

Myrtle looked over at the others and gave a little smirk. They all knew what was bothering Hetty, but didn't let on. Carla was just turning the knife, so to speak. She could do it, because the mines supplied the town with most of its economy. Nobody dared to cross the Sandersons.

"Never mind! Listen, ladies, it's time to get back to work, ain't it?" Hetty stood up and picked up the roller she was using to paint with. "We gotta rinse these pans and rollers, and change colors."

"Whew! I'm gonna have pains in parts of my body I'd forgot I had tonight when I go to bed!" griped Betty.

"How about I go see how the paint is looking in Granny's room?" Hetty asked about an hour later.

"Sure," Myrtle replied, "That sounds like a good idea!"

Hetty smiled and headed for what she thought was going to be fun, but when she got there, the box was gone. She blanched as she felt the blood draining from her face. 

Where was it? What had happened to the box? She was sure she had put it into the top drawer of the dresser! 

'Maybe I put it in the second drawer down!' she thought.

Quietly, but frantically, she began pulling out the rest of the drawers. 

Gone! It was gone! She ran over to the closet and pulled open the door. Not there, either!

She sat down on the bed, heart pumping furiously. 

"I know one of them must have hidden it! They guessed that I was interested in it and now I don't know where it is! But, I'll come back out here, and I'll find it! I can take it for myself and the Hintons will just think that Douglas boy stole it. Yeah!"

Just then, the other women came into the room to look at the walls and to see how Hetty was reacting to the loss of the box. 

The ladies saw Hetty sitting on the bed, fanning herself furiously. 

"Why, what's the matter, Hetty? Did you get overheated doin' all that painting? Bless your heart, honey. You look a little flustered! Listen, it's about time to go home. Why don't we get all this mess cleaned up so we can finish on Monday? We oughta be able to get it done in one more day, with some of the fellas to help us." 

Mrytle patted Hetty on the shoulders as she spoke to her.

The other ladies smiled and nodded their assent to Myrtle's plan. By this time, Hetty had regained her regal calm, and stood. 

"Say," Carla suggested, "Why don't I just drive us all back in Hetty's car, since she still looks a little peaked around the gills, and drop you all off, then I can just walk from my house up the street from hers, or I'll get one of Jack's workers to come pick me up."

"Nonsense, I feel perfectly fine to drive back. It is my car after all!" 

"If you're sure," replied Myrtle, hesitantly. "You are gettin' up in years, after all. You bein' the oldest in the group."

Hetty reared back and looked at her with contempt and surprise. 

"Myrtle Johnson! How can you look me in the eyes and say such a thing! Everybody knows you have me beat by a full two and a half years! No wonder your Wilbur flirts with everything in a skirt!"

Carla stepped in then, and said, "Ladies! Ladies! This is not the time or place to get into such a discussion! Remember, we are on a Mission of Mercy here! And we are all friends, are we not?"

Jan stood by and watched these ladies, and wondered how she had ever got involved with them. She had at first thought them to be so refined, but the longer she knew them, the more disillusioned she became. They were just like a lot of women she had known when she was growing up in a town in another state. 

'They must park their religion inside the church when they leave for home at Sunday noon,' she supposed to herself.

Within a few minutes, everyone had washed the paint utensils, and gathered their belongings, and were on their way home, with Hetty driving her big car, of course. 

Myrtle had quietly replaced the rosewood box back where it belonged. After all, if the Hinton girl decided to come out before she got a chance to give it to her, she would most likely be alarmed.

"Now, not a word to the Hinton girl! I want this all to be a big, pleasant surprise for them," Hetty remarked as they neared home.

"Of course, Hetty!" they all chorused to her.

"See you at church in the morning, girls!" She said to them each, as she dropped them off at their homes.

Then she told herself she would just take a short trip back out there some time tomorrow when no one was there.

Sunday morning dawned bright and clear. Arlissa stretched and yawned, thinking about what the day might hold for her. This was the first time she would have been escorted to church by a fella. Oh, she'd been in youth group with others on Sunday evenings, but never had been on a regular church date, where somebody had come by to take her. 

She jumped out of bed and ran to the closet where her few borrowed clothes were hanging. She picked out the pale blue one, with the ruffles just above the hem. They just seemed to float around her knees when she had the dress on. It made her feel like a princess. 

Putting on the borrowed housecoat, she went into the kitchen/dining area, where Sarah was making breakfast for the three of them. 

"Good morning, sir! How is Mrs. Bradshaw this morning?"

"Oh, she's not doing any better, but no worse, either. Would you like to go in and visit with her for a few minutes before we eat?"

"Yes, yes, I would! I'll be back in a bit."

Arlissa went into the bedroom where the frail little old lady lay in the semi-dark. She approached the bed gently and spoke.

"Good morning, Mrs. Bradshaw!"

"Savannah! You've come to visit me! Sit down and let me see you! How are you? Have you come back to live here? Why did you go away?"

"I'm not...Uh...I'm sorry! I should have come back sooner, I know. But I promise not to stay away so long again. Will you forgive me?" 

Arlissa had decided to go along with the idea, because she was afraid she'd upset the old lady.

"Do you remember when we were children and we would sneak into the apple orchard near the springhouse and swipe old Franklin's apples?"

Apparently the old woman was harking back to childhood days, and Arlissa laughed pleasantly with her, as the old lady chuckled. 

"That was fun, wasn't it? Listen, I have to go now, but it has been good visiting with you. I'll come again, okay?"

Leaning over, she kissed the old lady on the soft, wrinkled cheek and patted  her hand.

Arlissa wiped a tear from her own cheek as she left the room quietly.

When she reentered the dining area, she told the Sheriff and Sarah what she had done.

"She thinks I'm someone named Savannah, so I just played along with her."

"Yes, she and Savannah grew up together, then they lost touch with one another.

"Who is Savannah, anyway?"

"She was an aunt to Rosie O'Hanlon, Arlissa," replied Sarah.

The sheriff looked at Sarah quickly.

"Why don't we eat right now, since Sarah has it all ready for us?" Woodrow Bradshaw asked.

"Oh, yes, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to delay us. I have a kind of a date to church today, Sheriff." 

"Really? Well, that's no great surprise, a girl as pretty as you should have somebody to take them everywhere they wanted to go." 

Sarah was seated then, after pouring coffee for the three of them, and the Sheriff asked the blessing on their meal. 

Once they had begun to eat, Arlissa asked, "What ever happened to Savannah O'Hanlon, Sheriff?"

"Oh, I don't know, Arlissa. She went off somewhere and nobody has seen her for several years, I reckon. At least, not as far as I know."

"Do you suppose Mrs. Hinton would know? Wasn't she married first to Savannah's brother?"

"Well, yeah, I suppose you could ask her, but I'm not thinking that right now with the custody of the boy up in the air would be a good time for it. She's got a lot on her plate these days."


Later that morning, after Bobby Joe had stopped by, taking Arlissa with him, they walked into the little Hickston Methodist Church, and all heads turned in their direction. Eyebrows lifted, and the buzz began. It was just a little murmur, but anyone could see they had caused quite a stir.

Hands were placed beside mouths and heads tilted toward each other. One could almost imagine what they were saying.

"Who is that walking in with that Hinton girl?"

"He's that new state trooper that's been buzzin' around on the county roads, givin' out tickets like they was confetti, 'er some such thing. I'll have you know, I jist tore them up like they was a losin' lottery ticket! Hmphh!"

"Oh, him! Yeah, Mz. Hetty got one the other day. I heard her complainin' to her friends about it. Right funny, it was!"

Across the room, the volunteer group who had been working at the farm were making their own observations. 

"Look at that! Is that the handsome young man who rides around on that motorcycle?" Myrtle Johnson whispered to her husband, Wilbur, who looked as though he would rather be napping in his office, and no doubt would be napping before the pastor finished his sermon. 

"Hmmm? What? Oh! Oh, yeah, I guess." 

Mz. Hetty was sitting in her pew, deep in thought about that box out on the farm, when Jan Hankins nudged her. 

"What? What?" 

"Look who just walked in. That good looking cop that gave you those speeding tickets did. Look who he's got with him."

Hetty slowly looked up and her eyes opened wide when she saw the two young people come in and sit down in the pew in front of them.

The O'Hanlon, Hinton family group had already entered and were sitting across the aisle from Hetty and her friends.

No one observed the young man who came in last and sat in the very back pew.

Slowly the buzzing came to a stop and the pastor got up to pray. The meeting had begun.

Reverend Willetts opened his Bible to Psalm 36 and read aloud.

"To the Choirmaster. Of David, the servant of the LORD. Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes. For he flatters himself in his own eyes that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated. The words of his mouth are trouble and deceit; he has ceased to act wisely and do good."

He began to speak then what he had prepared to preach.

"Continuing in our study of the Psalms of David, I have chosen the scripture for today's reading with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I know that our church and all churches are in a constant war with gossip and the other sins of mankind.

You may ask, 'Preacher, what's the problem with a little harmless gossip? We don't mean nothing by it.' 

The problem is, they are idle words, that though spoken in jest, can be carried to others and misquoted, changing meaning, and become outright lies. Gossip is never harmless. Once a word is spoken, it cannot be called back into nonexistence. 

Take for instance, the arrow which leaves the bow, when it reaches its target, it pierces whatever it hits. It cannot be unshot, once it leaves. So are words. 

You've heard the expression, 'I could've eaten my words when I heard ...'. Well, we should remember that, before we speak the words that will hurt anyone, either intentionally or unintentionally.

As for the statement of David that we believe our iniquities will be safe and never be discovered...we deceive ourselves when we believe this.

In Numbers 32:23, Moses tells his people that if they do not follow the Lord faithfully, which they stubbornly were refusing to do, but pretending to obey, to be sure their sins would be revealed. 

In Romans 2:16, Paul tells us that our sins may not be revealed in this lifetime. For instance, the person who is a thief may not be discovered; the adulterer may keep it secret all his life, but God knows what they are, and what they do. 

He then goes on to say that all sins will be revealed by Christ  on the Day of Judgment. 

I pray that our congregation will take to heart what our Lord tells us about speaking ill of our neighbors, carrying gossip and harming lives. Remember that when we speak ill of others, we often take what is not ours to take. 

We need to always do good. When we take someone's reputation, we are robbing them. 

Taking what we do not own is thievery. We know that taking anything that is not ours is wrong. 

If any of you is guilty of any of these things, you need to repent and ask God's forgiveness and that also of the person you have wronged. Living with guilt can destroy peace of mind. Let us pray." 

The pastor then led the congregation in prayer, after which the young man who led the music got up and announced the hymn, "Have Thine Own Way, Lord". 

The congregation stood to their feet and sang. 

The ladies of the volunteer group had been nudging one another about the pastor's sermon and how it could have been directed at Hetty, forgetting they could have been included in the guilty parties in the pastor's sermon.

How about Hetty? Had she been listening, really hearing what the pastor preached about? 

And Alberto Donelli, what about his hearing and reception of the message?

These among the others, none of them being perfect, were all included in the needing to hear his words.

The service was over and the pastor stood at the door shaking hands and greeting the members and visitors. 

"Lovely sermon, Preacher! I'm sure everyone enjoyed it as much as I did," remarked Hetty McReynolds. "I've always loved the Psalms. They bring so much comfort to me!"

He knew at once that she had not heard a word he said, or that she felt it didn't apply to her. 

"Thank you, Miss Hetty! I always appreciate a kind word!" he answered, tongue-in-cheek.

Doc just looked at the pastor and shook his head, understanding clearly what had just taken place. He knew his wife was the town's worst talebearer, but he also knew she had a kindness in her at most times. That was her saving grace as far as he was concerned.

Doc had known his wife since she had been a little girl and  her family had moved from another state to their little town. In fact, they had grown up next door to one another. 

Pastor Willetts shook Arlissa's hand as she exited with the young state trooper. 

"How's your granny doing? I've been meaning to get over to see her, but I've been out of town for a few days. I promise I'll be over one day this week. Who's your young man?"

Arlissa blushed at his last remark, and looked up at Bobby Joe. 

"I'm Bobby Joe Odom, Preacher. Glad to meet, you, sir," he stated, shaking the pastor's hand. "That was a right good sermon."

"Thank you, son. I'm afraid it may have fallen on some deaf ears, but I reckon I have to keep trying." He smiled. 

"Yes, sir. See you, sir."

They passed through the doorway and they saw the O'Hanlon/Tunstall family group standing near their cars. Zeb left the group and approached the two.

"Hey, you two, have you made plans for dinner yet?" asked Zeb. 

Bobby Joe looked down at Arlissa and she said that Sarah had suggested they could come eat with her and the Sheriff, but it wasn't written in stone.

"Come and have it with us!" 

Arlissa looked over at his mother and asked, "Are you sure it would be okay with your mama?"

Apparently it was, because the younger woman saw the almost imperceptible nod of the older one. It seemed that she had known Zeb was going to invite the two of them out to the farm.

Arlissa had hopes that it meant Zeb's mother was going to welcome her as she once did when Rosie was still at home.

It was quite a procession of cars making its way out to the old O'Hanlon farm. The Tunstalls in their truck, Zeb and Angela, Marie and Les in Zeb's car, followed by Bobby Joe and Arlissa. 

Nobody noticed the rental car following at a distance, because they were all deep in conversation. 

"Bobby Joe, you may not know it, but I've been trying to find out who my pa was. Nobody seems to know, or if they do, they're not sayin' anything about who it was. I've always wondered about him. I think my Granny knows but she won't let on. I'm thinkin' I must be some kin to the O'Hanlons, but if I even bring up anything, Mrs. Tunstall jist looks daggers at me."

"I just always assumed your daddy was your Granny's son, being as you've got the same last names. I think maybe a lot of people think that."

"No, it's a fact I can't deny that my Mama and Daddy wasn't married. She died when I was born or the day after, anyways.  It makes me feel kinda ashamed, you know."

"Well, you're not responsible for your birth situation. There's nothing for you to be ashamed of. Your Granny's done a fine job of bringing you up, too." He smiled down at her, taking his eyes from the road momentarily. 

He hit a bump in the road and a tire blew. 

"Whoa! What in the world...?"

He drove on for a few hundred feet and realized the car was pulling to one side.

He pulled over to the side of the road and got out of the car. 

"Uh.Oh. Looks like a flat. This is gonna take a few minutes. Just sit where you are. I'll soon have it fixed."

He removed his coat and threw it into the front seat. Going to the trunk, he removed the jack, lug wrench and the spare tire. 
It only took him a few minutes to change the tire and replace the flat one into the trunk. 

As he was changing the tire, he heard a vehicle approaching from behind. He glanced up from the right rear tire that he was changing and saw it go past them. The driver didn't even glance their way, but was intent on driving.

When Bobby Joe placed the tools and flat into the trunk, he took a rag from the trunk and wiped his hands, then throwing it back in, closed the trunk lid. 

"Did you happen to see who that was driving the car that just passed us?" he asked, reaching in to retrieve his suit coat and put it on.

"It was that fella from out of town that Rosie was runnin' away from,Alberto Donelli. He's here tryin' to get custody of Benny."

"Ah, yeah. He's bent on causing trouble, too, from what I can tell. Wonder what he's doing heading out this way? Most likely trying to find the boy. Do you know where the boy is?"

"I reckon maybe the Tunstalls have him. I don't know. I haven't seen him since I was out there for the supper a few nights ago."

"Let's keep our eyes peeled for him on our way out there. Okay?" 

"Sure. I don't want no more trouble for them. They've been through a lot. Listen, I want to ask a favor of you after while. I'd like you to take me somewhere after dinner, if you have time."

"Of course, I will. You only have to ask. Ah, here we are."

As they pulled into the graveled area near the farmhouse, they saw the rental car parked and Donelli standing by it. Apparently he had just gotten out of it.

"Uh.Oh. We may not be getting dinner right away. Looks like trouble in the offing," remarked Bobby Joe.

Just then, little Benny came running out the door, being followed closely by the baby sitter, a teen-aged neighbor who was earning money for college.

"I'm sorry, Mz. Tunstall! He was out the door when he heard the car doors slamming. I was busy stirring one of the kettles on the stove, to keep it from scorching. Out he went, before I could grab him."

"Gwamma! Gwampa! You home! Ah..." He looked up then to see Donelli rushing toward him. 

Jake Tunstall grabbed the boy before Donelli had a chance to get to him. Benny began whimpering and hiding his face in his grandpa's shirt. 

Just then, the Sheriff's car entered the group of cars parked there. They all turned at his arrival and watched as he walked toward them. 

"Folks, I hate to intrude on your day, but I need to take this fella back to town with me. Alberto Donelli, you are under arrest for the beating of Savannah Lee O'Hanlon."

"What? Surely, Signor Sheriff, you are making a mistake! Who says I beat this woman you named? I don't even know who you are talking about!"

"Don't play the fool with me, Donelli! I have witnesses and her testimony!" 

"She's lying! They're lying! It's all what you call trumped up! I want to call my lawyer!"

"You can do that when we get back to the jail. Right now, we're going."

"Sheriff, is it okay if I go with you?" Zeb asked. "I'd like to talk to my aunt, if I could."

"Er...ah, sure, Zeb. I have no objection. She's in the hospital in a critical care unit."

Zeb turned to Angela, hugging and kissing her. 

"I promise not to be long, sweetheart. I really need to do this."

"I understand, honey. Take care of you for me!" 

She always spoke these words to him when he left for his job, knowing of the possibility of his not returning because of the dangers it held. 

He kissed his fingers and touched them to her lips as always. 

He left with the Sheriff and Donelli, following them in his car.

"Well, let's go on in and see about having dinner, shall we?" announced Tunstall to the group. 

It was a quiet assembly that entered the farmhouse, all taken aback by the turn of events. 

Bobby Joe was itching to be in town with those who had left, but knew his place right now was at the farm. He remembered the request that Arlissa had made of him earlier, and wondered what it was. 

Dinner soon was on the table and after the blessing was asked, and food began to be passed around, they really wanted to discuss the recent turn of events but refrained until the meal was over and Benny was otherwise occupied. 

After Benny was taken into the bedroom for his afternoon nap, Arlissa mentioned that the Sheriff's wife, who was in the latter stages of dementia, mistook her for the woman who was just beaten up, Savannah O'Hanlon. 

"Isn't that strange? Just because of the red hair, I guess."

"Just a minute, I have something I want to show to you. I ran across it yesterday when I was going through an old trunk, looking for something else. My former mother-in-law, Martha O'Hanlon, had it. It is really uncanny."

Now Arlissa was really curious.

Helen Tunstall went into the bedroom and came back carrying a large object.

"Do you suppose I could speak to you in private, Arlissa? I have something to tell you that you might want to be kept private or it's up to you if you want to share it with the rest of my family."

The surprise that Arlissa felt at that moment was nothing, compared to what she was to hear later.

 "Of course you can."

The mystified Arlissa got up and went into the kitchen with Helen Carter O'Hanlon Tunstall.

Helen shut the kitchen door and sat down at the kitchen table. 

"I've been doing some thinking about things that have happened lately and I believe it is time for me to tell you what I know about you and Rose, and the O'Hanlon family."

Helen then opened the old photograph album. She began flipping through the pages of old pictures, obviously taken with a little Brownie camera. Some were small, some were enlarged.

"Here, this is a picture of Savannah O'Hanlon. You can see what a beauty she was. Both you and Rosie have her coloring. Here is a picture of Rosie when she was just a couple of days old. Seamus is holding her, his dad was taking the picture."

"I don't understand...why are you showing me this album? What does it have to do with me? What are you telling me, anyway?"

"I have a story to tell you...I know you believe that Rose was my natural-born daughter, and I loved her as though she were. The truth is, she had a twin. Her father was involved with a young woman who died in childbirth. He knew she was a twin." 

Arlissa felt her heart beginning to beat rapidly and she was feeling faint. Could she believe what she thought she was hearing? She might have had a twin sister? If so, why didn't they grow up together? What had happened?

"How - how did that happen? Was your husband her daddy? Is that what you are saying? Were we twins? How did he get her from my mother?"

"It's a long story, but he was down here visiting his parents before going back from his furlough. He had been home with me in Pennsylvania for a few days, and wanted to see them before going back. It just so happened that you and Rose were born while he was here."

"How did he get a hold of Rose? Did he know that my Ma was expecting us? Did my Granny know about Rose? How did he get Rose back to Pennsylvania?" 

Tears were rolling down Arlissa's face as she listened to the story Helen was relating to her.

Helen continued her story.

"Well, you see, it's like this. Your mother and Savannah were really good friends, rather like you and Rose became after we moved here. I realized when we came here, that if you still lived in the vicinity, it was a possibility that the two of you would become friends. I really had no choice in the matter. That is a story for another time."

"Did my daddy know that Ma was going to have a baby?"

"No, at least he told me that he was unaware of it. He and your Ma were going together and he was beginning to drink. He had grown up watching his father come home from town where he was on the Town Council, drunk after stopping off at the bar in town. His father was abusive when he drank. He would come home and beat Martha Jane and the kids."

"But I lived nearby and never saw Mr. O'Hanlon like that. At least, not while I knew Rosie, after you all came here."

"No, he had stopped drinking some time before we came."

"Seamus, my husband, your father, had several arguments with your Ma, Eleanor, about his drinking. Savannah told Seamus that Eleanor had been going to tell him about expecting a baby on the evening that they had their biggest argument and he actually hit her. She told him to leave and never come back."

"Then what did he do?"

"He went off and had a few more drinks, then signed up to be in the Army. He never saw her or heard from her again."

"Then, how did he happen to get Rose?"

"Savannah was still in touch with Eleanor and knew that your ma was expecting. In fact, Savannah was present when Rose and you were born. Seamus was home on furlough visiting his parents before going back to base. I met him when he finished his basic training and was assigned to a base. We got married and the first I knew of Rose was when he came back from visiting his parents. He brought Savannah and Rose with him."

"How did he explain Rose to you?"

(To be continued)



Anonymous said...

Good for them.

Grammy said...

Caught in the act.