Saved By The Belles (3 page)

“Soooo not creative,” Jean Pierre chimed in “but sure.”

“Thanks y’all. Sweet and cheerful with an overtone of warmth. That’s the idea, okay?” I reiterated.

“Sure, we get it. I’m just so disappointed you didn’t like it,” Coco muttered. “But, we’ll do it your way. Painting over this masterpiece is gonna be such a tragedy but of course, your wish is our command,” he smirked, pushing the guilt. “I’ll take some pictures so we can re-create it, maybe in the family room.”

Oh, Lord—how do I tell them it’s plain awful?

“Uhm, no,” I began,” let’s just hold off on the murals for now. Sonny likes all the exposed wood that is natural to the house.”

Conflict avoided-- for now. Whew.

“Here, take a look at your reaction, sweetie. I just knew right away that you loved it!” Coco grabbed the iPad and showed me my face as I looked at the mural for the very first time. Yes it sure looked like I loved it—if you like a face that looks just like I had stepped in a fresh steaming pile of dog shit. ‘Cause that’s exactly what I looked like.

“Okay, we’ll get to it tomorrow. For now just keep the door closed since it obviously isn’t your taste,” Coco said as he and Jean Pierre gathered their things. Just then someone walked in the house. I could hear the front door slam.

“Blake, Honey, you here?” Oh good God, it was Sonny. “I’m with Jay Johnson, you decent?”

“Oh, good! Maybe we need a second opinion,” Coco suggested.

“No, no! I think it would be much better if he didn’t see it.” I knew Sonny would certainly have an opinion but not one they necessarily wanted to hear. And Jay—oh my God, he was head of Vice and Sonny’s best friend at work. If he saw this, Sonny would never live it down. It would most assuredly get all over the station.

“Where is everybody?" Sonny sounded a little irritated.

I could hear their footsteps continue up the hallway. I reached in to try to grab the knob and pull it shut. “Hurry! Hurry!” I scurried to make everything look just right. But of course, Sonny beat me to the doorway.

“Good God Almighty!” Sonny shouted.

“Holy shit!” Jay burst into hysterics. He took out his phone and began snapping. “This is hilarious! Wait’ll the guys at work get a load of this!” He kept laughing till tears rolled down his cheeks.

“See. I knew he would love it,” Coco smiled giddily referring to Sonny’s reaction. Clearly he misunderstood the religious references.

“What the hell is Siegfried and Roy doin’ on the back of that flyin’ horse—in my new baby boy’s nursery? I know we didn’t agree on a Vegas theme!”

“No, that’s you, Sonny. Can’t you tell?” Jean Pierre asked.

Sonny squinted his eyes, “I can’t say that I can.”

“Oh, I can. It looks just like you,” Jay teased. “Especially all that chest hair. I never knew you were so sexy.”

“Fine, both of y’all just have no sense of taste,” Coco huffed. “We’ll fix it tomorrow. Keep the door closed since it’s such a eye-sore.”

“Oh, that won’t be a problem,” Sonny chided, closing the door to stop Jay from taking any more pictures with his phone.

“Ugh! You two!” Coco shook his head. “We’ll see y’all in the morning with the boring butter yellow and baby blue paint.” Coco leaned over and air kissed each of my flushed cheeks. Jean Pierre went down the front stairs and started the pink van. They drove away, spitting dirt behind them. I wasn’t so sure their interior-decorating career had much of a future. I could only hope my new baby would have a nursery and not a glittery Vegas show room when they got finished.

“Can we say blackmail?” Jay was still chuckling while flipping through the pictures in his phone. He held it up over his head and laughed a bit harder. “These are sure gonna come in handy next Christmas party!”

“You better delete every last one of those,” Sonny threatened. He was grinning but I knew he meant it.

“What are y’all doing here?” I asked.

“I needed to pick up a report I left here and Jay and I were heading out to check in with the coroner on that old man I found,” Sonny said.

 “Yeah, we’re kinda workin’ on this one together.” Jay explained. “We have a few leads so we thought we’d run over it all together.”

“Okay, I’ll have dinner waiting. Hurry back.”

Sonny bent down and kissed my lips.
“See you in a few,” I smiled sweetly. I wanted him to hurry up and leave.

I had a lot of thinking to do. Harry was on his way and Sonny didn’t want me involved.

I walked them to the porch closing the front door behind them. I let out a huge deep breath as they got into Sonny’s squad car.

I could hear the muffled sounds of Jay continuing to call Sonny a Vegas Act and how he had no idea how much he loved riding animals bare butt naked. I just hoped they could stay busy. I had a lot on my plate at the moment with Harry and I needed them to stay outta of my hair till I could get him back to Washington. Exactly how I was gonna to do that hadn’t quite come to me yet—but it would.

 

CHAPTER 5

 

 

 

The chill in the air along with the early morning light nudged me awake. The bedroom was awash in amber earthy warmth. My nose was cold, but it was so warm under the down crimson comforter and heavy thick blankets. I snuggled under them a little deeper not wanting to face this day. Harry would be in town soon and all that thinking last night didn’t get me anywhere but more and more anxious.

Sonny had left early headed out to the trailer park to see if he could find any more clues on that old man. So, I turned over and pulled the toasty covers up around my face hoping to catch a bit more sleep when someone banged on the front door. I turned over again not wanting to believe anybody would actually be up, dressed, and out for a visit this early.

“Blake! Sweetheart, it’s your mother! Get up and let me in! I’m freezing my big ass off out here.” It was Kitty, my mother the real estate agent who was fixin’ to marry our dear mayor, her fifth try at matrimony. But who’s still even counting? Oh, lord have mercy. What did she want at this ungodly hour? Maybe it was a nightmare. I snuggled down a little more but the loud wrapping came again. Oh no, I thought to myself. I had forgotten to tell her about Harry. Here it comes.

“Okay, okay, Mother! I’m coming!” I threw on my thick, warm, baby blue robe and slid into my fuzzy slippers and made my way to the front door, flinging it open. In marched Kitty, her arms flying, her bangles jingling.

“Lord have mercy, Blake, have you seen the newspaper?” I didn’t have to answer as she was waving it over her head as she flew in from the porch. “What the hell is he doing? Wrecking our plans to keep him in Washington forever? Good God, that man needs to keep it in his pants. When is he ever gonna learn?”

“Mother, he’s on his way here.” I knew that would go over well.

“He’s what? Well, he’s not welcome here. Baby girl, you've got to distance yourself from him or he’s gonna drag you right down under the ship when it sinks.”

“Thank you, Mother for the fantastic advice. He called me yesterday and told me he still loves me.” Canon ball number two. I knew I was toying with her.

“What did you say?” Mother fell down on the couch, “Get your mother a cool cloth baby and hurry. I feel a faint comin’ on.”

I scurried to the bathroom and grabbed a thick white washcloth and ran it under the freezing faucet getting it back to mother before she passed out. I wouldn’t be able to hide her when Harry got here. She’s the very last person that needs to be here when he arrives. Then I realized I had no idea when he was getting into town. I had so much to do--like just wake up and get dressed. Then it occurred to me. Harry had never seen me this pregnant. He had left for D.C. over two months ago, and I had done a lot of, err… blossoming since then. The bottom line was that I needed Kitty out and now.

“Here you go, Mother. Now come on. I have to get dressed.”

“Is that jackass coming here? Oh, Blake, please tell me he’s not coming here.” I knew if I told her the truth, she’d stay. In fact, she’d order popcorn for the show plus knives to throw at him. So I fibbed—a little.

“No, Mother. I’m gonna meet him and hear what he has to say. That’s all.”

“Well, make sure y’all aren’t in public. That paparazzi will be swarming all over that man like flies on shit and I don’t want my baby, let alone my grandbaby, anywhere near the stink.”

“Mother, I’m a big girl. I love you but I’ll be just fine. Now come on. I’ll help you up. You need to run by Krispy Kreme and check on Nanny. I know she was coughing when I checked in on her last night.”

I held out my hand to help her up and kept the conversation focused on Meridee.

“Did she see the news last night?” I asked. “Harry has no idea he’s flying right into the hornets' nest.”

“She saw it. That’s why she called me over. I stopped by with some spaghetti from DePalma’s. It’s her favorite, but she didn’t eat much and was coughing a lot. She may be coming down with something. So I’ll go check in and call you tonight.”

Kitty wiggled her rotund rear out the front door, still holding the cloth to her temple. She was a little on the dramatic side but a good mother. Despite how different we were, I knew I would always need my mother, like any real southern girl. I just didn’t need her here
right now
.

I kissed her goodbye and stood in the doorway watching her drive away. It was sunny out but still freezing, the bare trees cracking as the cold air swirled. The tall pines to the back of the little dirt road smelled of lush evergreen and the fragrance found my nose.

I loved the seasons. It helped me mark time and bring back memories. I loved my sensual memories of evenings underneath a twilight sky, or a soft breeze that kissed my cheek in summer, or the crunch of fall leaves beneath my feet on a crisp fall day. Tuscaloosa had great seasons. Well, except for dog breath season, my name for the heat of summer in the Deep South. The air feels like a big dog breathing on your face with one big, long exhale.

Seasons are earthy and as a mother, I now felt so connected to earth and time and life. Motherhood was already changing me, slowing me down to be present and in the moments. And, this moment was fixin’ to be a doozy.

I made my way to the shower with plans to call Vivi. I had just stepped under the hot water when the rapping picked up again at the front door. What the hell, I thought. It’s like a fiesta of Avon Ladies at the door today. I grabbed my robe pulling it around my still damp body. The banging continued as I walked through the bedroom and back into the front room. I could see a man through the beveled glass. It was Harry. On so many levels, I was really not ready for him.

 

CHAPTER 6

 

 

 

I yelled through the door to him. Harry was antsy, a mass of color and shadow shifting his weight looking like he was a bundle of nerves. I could see his image as though in a funhouse mirror through the beveled edges of the front door glass.

“Harry?” I shouted, “just a minute, okay? I gotta get dressed.”

“Blake, it’s not like I haven’t seen you before. I’m freezing. Just open the door and I’ll close my eyes. Come on!” He was begging—using persuasion like the top-notch attorney he was.

I exhaled giving in and flung open the door. The chill hit me like a deep freeze, especially since I was still wet from the shower. Harry stepped inside brushing past me in my big white towel around my huge pregnant stomach.

“Whew, thanks,” he said as he stepped into the living room, his dress shoes clicking on the hardwood floor of Sonny’s big lodge styled craftsman. He was in his dark overcoat and clutching a brown leather duffle in his gloved hand. He was GQ from head to toe. I always loved that look.

Harry stopped in his tracks, released his bag and stared at my belly, his gaze dropping the minute he was inside, the door clicking shut behind him. His blue-gray eyes found their way back to mine; a half smile crept across his lips. I looked back at him and suddenly felt my stomach drop like when you’re on a carnival ride. For some reason, I felt nervous-- Harry standing there, me wrapped in a towel, my dark long hair damp and clinging to my bare shoulders. I could see a genuineness glistening in his eyes for the first time in years. I knew deep down he felt bad—for all that really bad behavior that broke up our marriage. He looked sorry and happy for me all at the same time. I wanted to believe what I saw, though the logical attorney in me shouted warnings.

There was a moment when we were both silent, looking at each other, then he reached over to hug me. I was caught in that moment of sensing his joy for me. I leaned in to him and my thick white towel suddenly fell to the floor. I stood before him, nude and very pregnant. I realized Harry had probably never seen a pregnant woman naked before. His mouth dropped open as he bent quickly to grab my towel. I embarrassingly tried to cover my huge self with the palms of my hands placed over the strategic netherlands.

“Oh my God, Blake, I’m so sorry,” he awkwardly apologized.

“Oh Lord! Give me that thing!” I snatched the towel from him and wrapped myself, scurrying back to the bedroom, my bare bottom waving goodbye as I went.

“Well, you look the same from behind,” he laughed.

“Very funny. Have a seat. I’ll be right back.” I actually felt better after the towel fell. Maybe I knew I had nothing to hide. I was all out there—in every way. The laughter broke the awkwardness. I mean, really, what could we do now? Everything was suddenly real.

I pulled on my soft navy yoga pants with the built in pregnancy waist and slipped a simple white t-shirt over my head. It covered my belly since it belonged to Sonny. The shirt still held his cologne with a whiff of his signature peppermint gum. It was like I was taking Sonny with me to talk to Harry. It was my suit of armor, subconsciously of course.

“Harry, can I get you something to drink? Coffee, some orange juice?” I said hurrying out to get this over-with. The elephant in the room was there and this time it wasn’t me. It was the intern.

“No,” he said from the couch, “maybe just a gin and tonic.”

“Harry, it’s not even 8 AM!”

“For me it’s nearly 9 AM. I’ve been up all night. Never went to bed, so actually it’s basically midnight and I need a drink, a real drink.”

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