Vonnie stopped to see how Lisa was doing getting her new house ready. She knew Lisa didn’t like to be alone. She didn’t like being with Dylan either. He had taken an extra job loading trucks to make extra money to pay his dad back for the house.
Lisa sat in front of the radio humming to herself.
“Hey, I thought you were so busy.”
“I got tired.” Lisa admitted.
“This house should not be too difficult to keep up. It’s small.”
“Too small,” Lisa said. “Make me some coffee?”
“You could make it yourself,” Vonnie told her. “After all, this is your house.”
“Okay,” Vonnie got up and poured some A&P coffee into the pot. She added cold water.
“I’m gaining weight,” Lisa said. She played with the front of her dress “Nothing fits anymore.”
“You need to get more exercise. And leave the Fig Newtons alone,” Vonnie glanced at a package of cookies on the counter.
“Those are Dylan’s cookies. They make me nauseous. I can’t believe I’m gaining weight. I’ve been sick every morning.”
Vonnie had been half listening as she made a tray of crackers, cheese and cucumber slices. Then she looked at her sister. “Honey, when is the last time you had a period?”
“Not for awhile. Do you think I‘m sick? Maybe I have cancer.”
“I don’t think so, honey. But you need to see a doctor.”
“Vonnie, I don’t want to have a baby.”
Vonnie took the job at Almasy House. She wasn’t sure how much money Dylan and Lisa had. They had just purchased a house with Emil’s help. Now there was a baby on the way. Could Lisa care for a baby by herself?
She had been good with little Louis until… Vonnie thought about her son often, but always with great sorrow. She never discussed what happened with anyone, not even Walt.
Lisa had not been with any small children since that awful day. Vonnie could never predict Lisa’s reaction to anything. She had no doubt Dylan would make a great father. She just hoped he could manage Lisa and a baby. She would need to hire maids for Almasy House. Lisa could do some of that work. It would be extra money for her and for Dylan. Maybe if Lisa kept busy, she wouldn’t be so difficult to get along with.
The restored Almasy house would need a nursery. Some of the people who stayed there would have children, so a playroom would be ideal She could add a few cribs. She must ask Jack about the wisdom of adding facilities for children. Would the new owners allow that?
Even though Vonnie had been guaranteed full autonomy, she still liked to check her decisions; so she did that by calling Jack.
The bed and breakfast wouldn’t be just for vacationing couples? Weren’t lots of people having children now? She had read an article about something called the Baby Boom in one of the women’s magazines.
Vonnie walked the hallways of Almasy House. She checked on all the work and was disappointed that no secret passages were found and no treasure. She found an ancient desk in one of the rooms. An old timer who was assisting the carpenters said, it had been Rose Almasy’s desk. Vonnie cleaned it herself and had it brought to her new office. She would have a kitchen and a bedroom there at the house. She chose the suite that had once belonged to Rose Almasy. The old woman had died in those rooms, but Vonnie had no fear of ghosts.
She would welcome the ghosts of her late parents and her child if only she could be with them again.
“We can fix you a larger apartment,” Walt told her.
“Remember I have my own home,” she said.
“But you’ll be working long hours. Staying here will be like staying at a hotel,” Walt winked at her. Wherever Vonnie stayed, Walt would be staying too. Vonnie had already hired Walt as chief of maintenance. But Walt had become more than that. Maybe she could make Walt an assistant with a bigger salary. She had already increased Walt’s salary, and knew Walt was worth every penny.
“I don’t want to be anything more than handyman,” Walt assured her.
Some people in town now knew Walt was a woman and a special friend of Vonnie’s. They could only speculate how deep that friendship went.
Vonnie was glad she didn’t always have to be so careful with pronouns anymore.
Bev poured my coffee at the Yorkie Cafe and said it was on the house if I had news of Lisa.
“She’s getting out of jail tomorrow,” I said.
“Not good enough. You’ll have to pay.”
“Okay,” I said. “What I need is a word with the cook.”
So long as you don’t give anyone else the scoop.” She turned to the kitchen. “Elaine, someone here to talk to you.”
Elaine is fifty-something now and she showed every year. Her hair is gray, her face lined; her body carried too much weight. She frowned when she saw me. I wasn’t someone she’d want to talk with. “What do you want?” she asked. She sat on the stool beside me, grateful for a chance to take some of that weight off her legs.
“Thought you’d want to know. One of the reporters is asking about Jeff Hollander.”
“Let him ask. You didn’t tell him to come see me, did you?”
“No, but someone else might. I thought I’d give you advance warning.”
Bev brought her a cup of coffee “Guess I’ll take a break,” Elaine said. “What did he want to know about Jeff?”
“Why there aren’t pictures of him in Almasy House. Wasn’t he part of the history?”
“Not a good part,” Elaine said.
“In case he talks to you, I thought I’d give you a chance to decide what you’re gonna say.”
“I was underage, and the good priest took advantage. Well, that’s not fair. I knew what I was doing.”
“You wanted a better life People say he was handsome, and there was a Depression. You can’t be blamed for…”
“And he was ready to dump me,” Elaine said, “I knew that. I didn’t push him down those stairs though. I wasn’t there when - when it happened.”
“I believe you.” I said.
“Someone pushed him though. I saw his body; it had been bashed in. It was like he’d been hit several times with a heavy board or something. Who would do that? I keep asking myself that. Why?”
“It was right after he said he found bodies of murdered women in one of the tunnels.”
“You think it had something to do with that?”
I got up to leave. She put her hand on my arm. “Do you ever see Lucinda? Tell her I’m sorry.”
“I don’t see Lucinda,” That part was true. I saw Jack, but if I ever mentioned Elaine he might throw me down the cellar stairs at Almasy House. “We don’t want the past drudged up,” I said.
Lisa and Dylan’s baby was born in the middle of a snow storm. They had settled on Dr. Tracie and the hospital at the last minute, and that was partly because there was no way to get to Danni and the farm. Danni was married to Dennis now, and often out of reach in Michigan blizzards. Dylan wanted the baby born in a hospital.
Huge mirrors hung above the delivery room table. A dozen stainless steel instruments offered mirror-like images. Lisa kept her eyes closed, but she did look up just as the baby slid out from under the hospital gown she wore.
The baby had a tail that Dr. Tracie immediately cut off. Lisa and the nurse both saw the procedure and heard the baby scream when the knife cut off its tail.
Lisa started screamed too. It wasn’t the pain even though that was bad enough. She had just given birth to a little devil. She wouldn’t hold the baby, a little girl she and Dylan had named Dorothy.
Lisa turned unresponsive after the birth. “Kill it,’ she told Dr. Tracie. “ You have to kill it.”
“You have a healthy baby girl,” he assured her.
“Take it away, I don’t want it,” she whined. “It’s devil. My dad had hooves and horns.” The nuns had told her this at the orphanage. She hadn't believed them, but now her baby had a tail. “Does it have feet or hooves?” she asked one of the nurses. Sometimes Lisa would be quiet for long periods. Once she screamed, “This is Emil’s fault. He raped me.”
Dylan was rattled by the accusation.
Dr. Tracie suggested sending Lisa back to Newberry.
Dylan shook his head.
Vonnie talked to Dylan in the waiting room. “What Lisa needs is to keep busy. And I’m hiring maids.”
“But I need her at home. Who will take care of Dorothy?”
“I was hoping one of your sisters or sisters-in-law.”
“I want my wife to take care of our baby.”
“Lisa was so good with my baby.” Vonnie remembered. “Little Louis loved her.”
“I don’t know why she can’t care for a baby of her own.” Dylan wanted to care for his wife, but she was difficult. His family had talked to him about another divorce, but he couldn’t go through that again. “Lisa needs me,” he said.
“She should never have had this baby.” Vonnie sat down heavily in the hospital waiting room and began crying.
Dylan hated seeing a woman cry, and Vonnie was such a good person and so good with Lisa when she had her moods.
“I’ll ask Lillain,” he said knowing his brother’s wife had only one child of her own and liked to care for youngsters. Marry and Elsie were always off on shopping trips to Detroit or more recently New York and Boston. Lillian took care of their children. “Pa could do it too. But Lisa doesn’t like my pa.”
“Lisa’s confused. She doesn’t know what she wants or what she likes.”
Soon the town gossips were talking abut the child born with a tail.
“Dr. Tracie swore it wasn’t true.”
“The mother’s crazy. No one could deny that.
Lisa took a job helping Vonnie at Almasy House.
“Keep the baby away from me,” she moaned if anyone suggested she hold her child.
“Why?” Vonnie asked her. She held Dorothy in her arms, and gently rocked her.
“Remember how in the orphanage they said our dad had hoofed feet?”
“You didn’t believe that.”
“She had a tail; Dr. Tracie cut it off.”
“No,” Vonnie said. “You imagined that. You were drugged. I remember how it was when I had Little Louis. The pain is so bad, you get confused.”
“It’s true. There’s a scar on Dorothy’s butt. I can see where he cut off the tail.”
“Please stop talking about this.” Vonnie was angry now “You know this town never forgets anything bad about us.”
“It’s because of Emil. He raped me that night. He’s the devil, and he raped me and his child was born with a tail.”
Vonnie gave up arguing with her sister.
Local civic groups were quick to want the restored Almasy House as a meeting place. Both the local Democrats and the local Republicans reserved rooms for monthly meetings. Vonnie agreed to accept an “I Like Ike” sticker, but said she would place it on her farm house door. She couldn’t take sides at Almasy House. But if anyone asked, she admitted that she did like Ike Eisenhower and would vote for him in November.
The house was a remarkable success. Newlyweds honeymooned at Almasy House. Older couples and families vacationed. One large Detroit family reserved all the rooms one October for a huge family reunion. Wedding receptions and birthday parties dotted the calendar.
With clean windows and bright-colored paint, the house no longer looked spooky.
Most nights and weekends local clubs of one type or another had meetings there. The Latter Day Saints even had church services there on Sunday. They were saving to build a church, but in the meanwhile, they used Almasy House.
Vonnie had not guessed she would be so busy, but Walt was a big help. They seldom went to the farm anymore. Instead Dennis took care of the animals, and even rented Vonnie’s fields.
Dylan would drop Dorothy off at his sister-in-law Lillian’s house and then drop his wife off at work.
“That daughter of yours is so pretty. When are you going to start taking an interest in her?” Vonnie asked Lisa.
“She’s a brat. She screams all night.”
“She’s a baby.”
“She’s a brat.”
“Little Louis used to keep me up nights sometimes too. How I wish I still had him.“
Ike Eisenhower was in his first term of office when Dorothy started school.
Almasy House was closer to the school than Dylan’s or Lillian’s house, so Dylan brought his wife to work in the mornings and brought Dorothy along. Vonnie would walk Dorothy to school because Lisa said she was busy. She wouldn’t even touch her daughter.
“Auntie, the kids say, I’m a monkey.”
“You know that’s not true.”
“Mama believes it.”
“Your mama gets confused sometimes.”
“I got a scar on my butt. Are you sure I wasn’t born with a tail?”
“Of course, you weren’t born with a tail.”
“The other kids say I was. They’re mean.”
Vonnie stopped walking, squatted there on the sidewalk and took her niece into her arms and hugged her.
Dorothy started crying, “They’re real mean.”
“I know they are, Honey.”
Sometimes people ask me what happened to Dorothy. We used be close friends. If she went away, wouldn’t she tell me where she was going?
“I wish you’d tell me what happened with Dorothy,” Mary Mynter Smith said one day on the museum.
“She’s your niece. You mean you don’t know?”
“We worry about her.”
“Lots of people disappear,” I said. “Did you know Rose Almasy had a daughter.”
“That’s what they say. I can’t find any record of her in the town birth records.”
Things get lost. Just like people.
For Christmas that year Dylan bought his daughter a doll that was as big as she was. Dorothy named the doll Penny after the department store. He also bought his family a television set.
“It’s like a radio,” the salesman said. “With a picture.”
In the store, Lisa, Dorothy and Dylan watched as Hopalong Cassidy drew his pistols. Dorothy loved the horses that stood tied to a railing in the street. Lisa loved William Boyd, the actor who played Hopalong Cassidy. How she wished she had a beautiful husband like William Boyd instead of stupid Dylan.
Dorothy clung to her daddy and watched with glee. “I like cowboys,” she said.
Dylan loved seeing the awe on the faces of his wife and daughter. “What do you say? Should we buy one?” he asked his wife.
It was his daughter who answered, “Yes, Daddy, yes.”
“She’ll be spoiled.” Lisa said.
“Some of the kids at her school already have television sets,” Dylan told Lisa.
“Pretty soon every household in America is going to have a TV,” the salesman said confidently.
He showed them a magazine called “TV Guide” with Loretta Young’s picture on the cover.
Lisa loved movie magazines; this book was small, but it had a picture of this pretty actress on the cover. “She’s so pretty,” Lisa said.
“I’ll throw in the magazine absolutely free,” the salesman promised. Then to Lisa he said, “Loretta Young has her own show. Yes, siree. Every Sunday night. There’s all kinds of great movie stars on television now. Robert Montgomery has his own show and so do Jackie Gleason and Mickey Rooney. And my favorite is on every Monday. My wife and I never miss ‘I Love Lucy.’ Lucille Ball is hilarious. Wait until you get a chance to watch.” He glanced down at Dorothy. “And you’ll like Roy Rogers, little lady.”
“Who?” Dorothy asked.
“He’s a cowboy, just like that one.” He pointed to the screen where Hopalong was still holding a gun in each hand.
Lisa thumbed through the “TV Guide” at least a dozen times before the television was delivered. She had viewing plans for every night.
She knew two channels, 5 and 11 came out of Green Bay, Wisconsin, and channel 6 came out of Marquette, Michigan. She would be able to get all three major networks, so they could watch almost anything listed in “TV Guide.” Most areas of the country weren’t that lucky. They might get one or two channels and one network.
The first time she turned the television on, she got a test pattern. She knew that would go away at two p.m. when the stations started broadcasting. First there was local news and weather and a midget named Uncle Tom hosted a children’s program out of Marquette.
Dylan thought one day he would drive Dorothy to Marquette, and she would be a guest on Uncle Tom’s program. Tom always had an audience of children in the studio with him, and the station advertised for kids to come down and be part of the show. Uncle Tom would interview the children.
“She’ll embarrass us,” Lisa said.
Television allowed Lisa to indulge in her crush on actor Jon Hall. Every weekday Channel 6 showed reruns of his television program, “Ramar of the Jungle.” It had been cancelled, but she could watch these reruns.
She imagined life as Jon Hall’s wife. She would wear evening gowns every night, and she would have pretty children. Dorothy frightened her. She was such a plain looking child. What had Dr. Tracie done with that tail?
Real life scared Lisa. A father hung; a nephew drowned; a child born with a tail. Was Dorothy her punishment for not taking good enough care of Little Louis? She still heard the child scream in her nightmares.
But television was always great. Scary things always went away quickly. The scene changed; commercials promised shiny hair like that of a Break girl and spotless appliances in the kitchen.
Dorothy loved “The Mickey Mouse Club.” Lisa was sure she couldn’t stand to hear another one of those awful songs, and Dorothy marched around the house doing the show’s dances and singing the show’s songs. Lisa decided she had to find a way to turn off the set when that program was on.
Maybe she could unplug the set and say that it was broken.
Jack invited Lisa’s family and Vonnie to Detroit. He was getting married, and he wanted them to meet his wife.
“Who is she? What’s her name? Blond, brunette or redhead? What’s she like?” Vonnie wanted to know.
“Wait until you meet her?” Jack had said. They would have a small wedding at his home in Detroit.
“I hope she’s not a gold digger,” Lisa said when she heard. “Jack has lots and lots of money.”
Dorothy hated school. The school lunches tasted crappy. She had no one to play with. The kids called her monkey because her mother had said she was born with a tail, and that story had circulated all over town. During winter months, students had to stay outside at recess time. Dorothy shivered and huddled in a corner of the building. The other kids played around her. No one invited her to join them.
Then a new girl, Penelope Jane Payton moved to town. Penelope had scabs on both of knees that she sat and picked them in class. She had unruly brown hair, freckles and glasses that seemed almost too big for her face.
Dorothy disliked meeting new people because it was only a matter of time before they found out she had a crazy mom, and that she had been born with a tail. She was sitting by herself at recess when Penelope came up to her. “So how was Oz?”
“You’re Dorothy. What was it like on the Yellow Brick Road? What’s the scarecrow really like?”
Dorothy shrugged. Was this girl making fun of her?
“I’m Penny. I won’t offer you a penny for your thoughts. Most people don’t have interesting thoughts. Thoughts aren’t worth a penny. How much do you think your thoughts are worth?”
“I don’t know,” Dorothy said.
“What do you know?”
Dorothy didn’t answer. Penny looked like someone who would offer her friendship and then take it away.
“What do you like to do?” Penny asked. “We could go on the swings. No one else is on them now.” Penny was a talker.
Dorothy nodded and then followed Penny to the swings.
After school Dorothy and Penny walked home together.
“Tell me a secret,“ Penny said.
“I don’t have any.”
“Everyone has secrets. I’ll tell you mine. I have a crush on Kookie.”
“You mean Edd Byrnes.” Dorothy laughed and said, Byrnes was the star of a hit television program, “77 Sunset Strip,” and his trademark was the comb. He talked Kookie talk, calling all older men “dad” and he kept combing his hair. Lots of the little girls in their class loved Kookie.
“I bet you love him a lot too,” Penny said.
Dorothy shook her head. “I like Robert Horton on ‘Wagon Train’.”
“He is cool,” Penny said. The girls both nodded.
When they came to Mary Mynter Smith’s house they paused. “Let’s go inside,” Penny said.
“Nobody’s home.” Dorothy said.
“That is the best time to go inside.”
“She keeps the door locked,” Dorothy told her friend. “Mama says she’s afraid of being robbed.”
“Who wants to rob her? Anyway I just want to look inside.”
They walked up to the front door. Locked.
“I told you so,” Dorothy said.
They walked around back. The door was locked there too. Penny started trying to raise some windows.
It was Dorothy who found the basement window unlocked. She didn’t really think Penny would go inside, but Penny slid down into the basement.
“You better come out,“ Dorothy called. “You’ll get caught.”
“She’s at work for at least another hour. I’ve watched her car come and go.”
“Please come out,” Dorothy begged. Then she squeezed her body through the window and she was downstairs with Penny. “What are we doing here anyway?”
“Looking for stuff.”
“You aren’t going to steal anything. Tell me you aren’t going to steal anything.”
“Oh, shut up. I just want to look.”
They moved up the basement steps and into the kitchen. “ Nice appliances,” Penny said. “And expensive.”
“They’re new. Mama says Daddy’s relatives always have lots of money. Everyone in the family has money except her and daddy.”
“She’s my aunt,” Dorothy admitted.
“I forgot your last name is Mynter. You just don’t seem as stuck up as the rest of them.”
“Mama doesn’t like Daddy’s family.”
“Like you said, they’re snooty.”
“I said stuck up. It’s different.”
Dorothy didn’t see how it was different, but she followed Penny through the house. They opened drawers and looked at bills and records and check books.
One closet door was locked. “We have to come back and get in here,” Penny said.
“No way, I’m not breaking in again.”
“She’s your aunt. You’re not breaking and entering.”
The girls heard a car in the driveway and dived for the basement steps.
“Who is your new friend?” Dylan asked Dorothy that night after supper.
“Her name is Penny.”
Lisa said, “You know she got caught shoplifting at Pancheri’s store.”
“No. She wouldn’t do that.”
“You keep chumming with that one, and you’re going to get into trouble, girl.” Lisa scolded.
“If she’s a shop lifter, you should stay away from her,” Dylan advised his daughter.
A week later, Mary drove to her dad’s house to make sure he didn’t need anything. Something puzzled her.
“Pa, remember that notebook.”
“The one I keep my figures in.” It’s missing. I think someone took it”
“That old notebook ain’t worth anything. You probably just misplaced it.”
“It’s gone. Someone’s been going through my closet, Pa.”
Emil shrugged. “Why would someone steal that old notebook? You misplaced it.”
The next day Mary and Elsie bought safety deposit boxes and brought the remainder of Emil’s stash to the bank in grocery bags.
Lisa went though the Sears catalog twice looking for a gift for Jack and his new bride. It was hard not knowing his fiancé. What were her tastes like? Was she a poor waitress or doctor’s daughter? Was she younger than Jack? Probably, but how much younger? Lisa knew nothing about Jacks fiancé, not even the girl’s name.
“He said not to bring gifts,“ Dylan reminded her. “We’re working class people with a daughter to support. That brother of yours is as rich as Rockefeller.”
“I want to give him a wedding gift.” Lisa insisted. “He’s my brother. And he gave us a thousand dollars when we got married.”
“And I thanked him. We just can’t match his generosity.”
Detroit was 500 miles south, but not so far south that there would not be lots of ice and snow and cold. Lisa finished packing. Dylan gassed the car up and checked the tires. He then sipped coffee at the kitchen table.
Vonnie brought over fresh baked items, fruit and coffee from Almasy House. “Walt’ll take care of things until we get back.” she said.
“What a terrible time for a wedding,” Lisa said.
“It is not a great time in the hotel business either,” Vonnie said. She now had just two regular boarders.
“Too bad Walt can’t come with us,” Dylan said. He liked Walt and would have welcomed her company.
“She doesn’t want to go. She thinks Jack will be too fancy for her.”
“And we don’t know if Jack’s bride is ready to meet a queer.” Lisa said.
“Lisa, we are just two people who love each other.” Vonnie smiled at her sister. “Surely you don’t think of me as a queer.”
“Whatever. People say such awful things about us.”
“Some people just don’t feel good about themselves. That’s why they say mean things to others. And Jack has invited Walt and me down to his home anytime. His wife won’t object. Jack told me that.”
Dylan looked out that the snow piling up outside. “It’s a mean time to be driving anywhere,” he said. “But Dorothy won’t miss any school because of the December holidays. That’s a good thing.”
“Not if we perish in a snow storm.” Lisa said. She did want to see her brother again, but why couldn’t he come north. A trip downstate was lots of work when she had a brat and a husband to care for.
“There aren’t any new storms predicted,” Vonnie said. “This one should blow over in another hour.
“That doesn’t matter. If we have car trouble and have to walk, we’ll freeze to death.” Lisa insisted.
Dylan wasn’t worried. “I got matches, firewood, candles, and we’ll pack some extra food. We can wait it out if we need to.”
Vonnie shook her head. “It won’t be as bad as all that. I look forward to getting away for awhile. We can do some shopping in Detroit.”
“You can do some shopping. Dylan doesn’t have any money.”
Dylan felt his face redden.
Vonnie said, “I’ll treat you and Dorothy to new dresses shoes and new hats.”
“That’ll just be more stuff to cart home,“ Lisa said. “Do you know how much room a kid takes in a car? We had to pack her clothes and toys. She’ll be whining the entire way unless we bring along that awful doll.”
“I don’t want to bring the doll; Penny’ll stay home.” Dorothy said.
‘Did you name the doll after your friend?” Vonnie asked. “Isn’t her name Penny?”
“No, I named the doll after JC Penny, the store.”
“Don’t you have a friend named Penny?”
“ Yeah, but she’s in trouble. She stole some things.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“She’s the only one who’ll play with me though. The other kids don’t like her either. She gets into trouble all the time.”
“Well, don’t you get into trouble,” Vonnie said. “We can bring the doll if you want,” And anything else. Lisa, it won’t take that much room. Dorothy and I can play word games. We’ll make new words out of the letters in street signs. Michigan has such interesting place names. Kalamazoo and Ypsilanti. See what words we can make up out of those names.”
“I’ll take care of my own kid,” Lisa said.
Vonnie sighed. Both she and Dylan had the same thought. Lisa did not care for the child.
Dylan, Lisa, Vonnie and Dorothy piled into Dylan’s old Chevrolet.
“Let’s sing some songs,” Vonnie said to her niece. “What songs do you know?”
“All of them.”
“No one can know all the songs,“” Vonnie looked perplexed. “There’s too many of them.”
Lisa explained, “She watches ‘Your Hit Parade,’ and she does know a lot of popular songs.”
“Davy Crockett,” Dorothy explained excited.
“All right then,“ Vonnie began. “Born on a mountain top in Tennessee.”
Dorothy joined in.
Lisa put her hands to her ears. “I am going to have a headache long before we get to Jack’s house.”
When they got to the Detroit area, Vonnie read off directions, but Dylan managed to get lost anyway. They stopped at a tavern, and Vonnie called Jack. When she gave him the name of the tavern, he said he knew where it was. He would come and get them.
Fifteen minutes latter, Vonnie looked up from her Coke. A beautiful woman stood in front of her. At first she didn’t recognize the woman or the two pretty young girls who stood beside her. Then Jack was standing there beaming. “I think you know my wife-to-be. This is Lucinda.”
Vonnie and Lucinda threw their arms around each other and hugged.
Lisa sat with her mouth open.
Dorothy asked, “Who is that lady?”
Jack took them all to Detroit for a meal at the Badger Club. Vonnie and Lucinda chatted like the old friends they were.
“Why didn’t you tell me, you and Jack owned Almasy House? Why all the secrecy?”
“I was afraid if anyone found out a Black lady owned it, no one would stay there.”
“Ridiculous,” Vonnie said.
“Remember, I’m half owner too,” Jack joked. “And I am definitely not a Black lady.”
“That town is so prejudiced,” Lisa said. “They hate Blacks and Jews and queers.”
Vonnie frowned at her sister “We aren’t Jewish, honey. We aren’t anything. And I wouldn’t call anyone a queer.” Then she turned to her brother and his finance. “I wondered so many times what happened to you.”
Dylan was uneasy in the fancy restaurant. He would have preferred a hamburger and beer in that bar where they had all met up. He knew his shoes were scuffed, his hair was self-cut. He just didn’t look like he belonged here.
Dorothy squirmed in her seat. She couldn’t find anything on the menu that interested her and asked if she could have a cheeseburger and fries. The waiter said that the chef could prepare that for her.
Dylan stared at his menu. He didn’t want to open his mouth and show his crooked teeth. He was not fancy and perfect like the people around him.
Jack sensing Dylan’s hesitation ordered the largest steak the place had for Dylan. “You must be starved after that long drive,” he said.
The two teenage girls, Starr and Carol, could not look more different. Starr had her mother’s olive complexion, dark eyes and hair. She looked like Natalie Wood. Carol was blond and blue eyed more like Sandra Dee. But both girls were poised and dressed like teenage queens in satin slacks and cashmere sweaters with mink collars.
“Do you like school?” Starr asked Dorothy.
“Yeah,” Dorothy said because she felt it was expected. Actually she hated school.
“So what do you when you aren’t in school?” Starr was trying to make conversation.
“You must do something. Ice skate? There must be lots of ice up there in the U.P. Do you ski?”
Dorothy shook her head. She felt uncomfortable with these two girls who were both prettier than anyone at her school. She wished she could take these girls to school with her and show them off. See what pretty friends I have. They were sure a lot prettier than Penny Payton. Penny wasn’t pretty at all.
But Dorothy felt better, more at ease with Penny, who her mother said was a juvenile delinquent.
“I watch tv,” Dorothy finally said. “She had to say something, and she couldn’t think of anything else that she liked to do.”
Jack gave Lisa and Dylan a nice bedroom on the east side of his home. The mint green bedspread smelt like clean cotton. A bowl of apple cinnamon fragrance sat on the dresser. “I hope you don’t mind bedding down with Dorothy.” Jack said. “If not she could stay with one of the girls.”
“We’ll be fine.“ Lisa said.
“You know where the kitchen is. Help yourselves to anything. Vonnie will be next door; Lucinda and I are down the hall.”
Lisa could hear Vonnie and Lucinda talking excitedly in the next room. The two women could not get caught up. They had so many things to tell each other.
“Is there a television?” Dorothy asked. “I don’t want to miss ‘Maverick.’”
Jack was glad to make his niece happy in anyway he could. He told her where the television set was and that she could watch anything she liked. He closed the door.
Dylan and Lisa listened to his footsteps retreat down the hallway. “I can’t believe he’s marrying her,” Lisa said.
“She seems like a nice person,” Dylan said, “They’ll be happy.” Who could help liking Lucinda who had tried so hard to make them feel comfortable in that fancy restaurant.
“She’s a Nigger. White men don’t marry Niggers.”
“Keep your voice down,” Dylan hissed. “They can hear you.”
“I don’t care who hears me. We’re leaving right now.”
“I said we’re leaving. I won’t stay here in this Nigger’s house.”
“Lisa, we don’t have anyplace to go. I’m dead tired from driving all day, part of it in a blizzard. We can’t afford a hotel. Dorothy wants to watch ‘Maverick.’”
“What do you care about your daughter? The kids already make fun of her at school. Think what they’ll say when they find out her aunt is a black Negro.”
“I don’t care what anyone says.”
“My brother’s lost his mind. And I won’t have anything to do with her or him.” She grabbed Dorothy by the wrist and pulled her so hard the child cried out.
“Stop it. Stop it,” Dylan said blocking the door. “You’re hurting her.”
Lisa pushed her daughter so roughly that Dorothy fell to the floor. Lisa started hitting her husband. “Let me out of here. Let me out of here.”
Someone knocked on the door. “Lisa,” Vonnie said.
Then Jack called, “What’s going on?”
Dylan tried to put his arm around Lisa and calm her down, but she slugged him. Dorothy screamed when she saw blood on her daddy’s face.
Jack tired to open the door, but he had to push. Dorothy had rolled away from the door after she fell, but Lisa tried to hold it shut. Jack pushed until he was in the room and then took his sister in his arms. He held her. “What’s the matter, Little One?” he asked. She collapsed against him for a moment and then pushed him away. “I don’t want you to marry her.”
“Hush now, baby.” Vonnie tried to comfort Lisa, who she knew she had neglected in her excitement over seeing Lucinda again.
“The Klan’s coming,” Lisa said.
“No, we’re safe. This is Detroit. The Klan doesn’t come here.”
“The Klan is everywhere.”
Dorothy crouched in a corner. She rubbed the sore places on her wrist where her mother had grabbed her. When she looked up, she saw all those elegant people. Her aunt and her uncle and those pretty teenage girls who were supposed to be twins, but who looked so opposite, and yet both were as pretty as television stars. Beside them stood their mother, who was the most beautiful woman in the world.
Then she looked at her sad faced, plain-clothed, simple parents. Why did her mother have to behave so horribly? A doctor came and gave Lisa a sedative, Vonnie explained that the long drive and the excitement were just too much for Lisa. They should have come right to the house and rested instead of going to that restaurant, wonderful as it was.
In the morning, Lisa moaned and screamed. Vonnie and Dylan held her until that same doctor, a neighbor, gave her another shot.
“The doctor shook his head as he left. “She should be institutionalized,” he said.
“She isn’t always like this,” Vonnie said. Then she caught Dylan’s eye. They both knew the truth was very different.
Lisa rested alone in the upstairs bedroom while guests came to celebrate the wedding of Lucinda Rinaldi and Jack Brianka. The couple had asked that no one bring gifts, but a few friends brought gifts ranging from new cook wear to silver tea pots. Lucinda thanked them.
“I feel empty handed,’ Vonnie whispered to her friend.
“Don’t. You know Jack and I both have far more possessions than we need.”
“Where’s the honeymoon to be?”
“Right here in Detroit. We’ve been living together for years. And everyday is a honeymoon with Jack.”
“So why didn’t you guys get married before?”
“Silly things. Jack promised my father he would never marry me. Father wanted me to be in high society. But it was never what I wanted. I wanted Jack. We deserve happiness, don’t you think?”
Vonnie was the maid of honor. Jack asked Dylan to serve as best man.”
“I don’t even have a suit,” Dylan protested.
“Good.” Jack joked. “I’ll get married in blue jeans and a shirt. More comfortable that way.”
Lucinda’s dress was ivory velvet. After the ceremony everyone applauded the beautiful couple. Dorothy stayed in the bedroom with her mother.
“They’re ashamed of us,” Lisa whispered. “They don’t want us down there.”