Saved By The Belles (7 page)

“Thank you sweetheart, I have no idea what I would do without you,” I smiled as I sat at the table she’d saved. “Remind me the next time we’re lookin’ for a town crier.”

Vivi and I ordered the meat and three. In the South, that’s a chicken breast, a hamburger steak, or a “meat” and the three are the sides, like mashed potatoes, or boiled cabbage or in my case, three orders of fried green tomatoes.

By the time I told Vivi all about the phone call from the brothel we were knee- deep in cornbread.

“I just can’t believe you still think he could be telling you the truth. I mean that he was set up—not to mention that he said he still loves you. I mean for God’s sake, Blake. Really?”

I let out a huge sigh and leaned back in my chair resting my folded hands on my big belly. “I know the whole thing doesn’t make a bit of sense in a logical form but my gut tells me to keep looking.”

“That is exactly what makes you such a great lawyer. You rely on your gut even more than that brilliant logical mind. But I still have one teensy little problem with all this do-goodin’ we’re doin tryin’ to help Harry. He told you he still loves you.” She stopped eating and put her fork down with a clank, her eyebrows up at me. Still chewing she wiped her mouth, never once taking her eyes off me. I knew she was right. And she knew I knew it, too. Harry was using me.

I mean it was a problem. Harry saying he still loved me—using his love for me as his alibi. Then followed by the big news over his indiscretion. But the last bit of what he said to me was what lingered. “I’ve been set up, Blake,” he said, just before I threw him out the door. It began to gnaw at me because of the way he looked at me when he said it. I had known Harry Heart for over fifteen years and knew every look he had. And something told me he really believed he was set up. I just had a need to know the truth. It was my nature.

“I know but maybe with all this going on he was just feeling emotional. I have decided to overlook that part of all this. He said he was set up and my instincts just tell me to see if maybe he might be telling the truth.”

“Well, that would be a big deal for him.”

“What, him still loving me?”

“No, him telling the truth.”

We both laughed. I loved knowing I would always have Vivi in my corner. We had been together through thick and thin for nearly our entire lives. Usually it was me saving her from some God-awful misunderstanding but today, I felt more like I needed her just a tad more than she needed me.

“Do you have any idea where he is?” I asked her.

“No. Lewis said he hasn’t seen him since yesterday morning. Harry came out to the radio station just as the news was breaking. Lewis said he shoved him into his office and shut the door. Reporters were everywhere.”

“We need to find him. I have a ton of questions. The problem is, I have his phone so I can’t call him,” I said.

“He’s bound to be looking for it,” Vivi reasoned.

“I just wonder where he’s hiding out. There’re not a lot of places our newly elected senator can hide in his hometown.” I was thinking out loud as I took a swig of my tea.

“Well, I wonder an even bigger question,
is he hiding out with?”

“I can’t imagine he would even take that chance.” Then I wondered myself.

“Well, why do you think he got that call from that brothel?”

“No idea. But it sure doesn’t look good for him.” I started trying to piece it all together in my mind.

“Well, that needs to be the very next thing we work on,” Vivi suggested. “We have to find him. Maybe Dallas has some ideas on that. She’s pretty good at sniffing out a story, maybe she can dig him up. I’ll give her a call this afternoon.”

“And I’m gonna see what all I can find out about this brothel. I mean can you believe it—a brothel? Right here in Tuscaloosa?”

The waitress brought us our dessert of homemade banana pudding and both of us dug right in like we were still starving. I had a thought that if I could just stay right here and rest between meals, I could have dinner, then sleep till lunch tomorrow. Then eat again all right here from the table. Nice idea if I weren’t solving a sex scandal of my soon to be ex, and oh yeah, fixin’ to have my first baby with my one true lover, the homicide detective. My life suddenly seemed like a three ring circus. Usually it was Vivi’s life that was the circus. Just then, I heard my phone in my purse. It was Kitty.

“Hey Mother. Vivi and I are out to lunch,” I answered.

“Blake, sweetie,” her voice was cracking.

“What? What mother? What’s wrong?”

I could see the sudden worry in Vivi’s eyes.

“Oh, God. Okay, We’ll be right there.” I hung up and dropped the phone in my purse as I pushed back from the table. I looked up at Vivi and told her.

“It’s Meridee. She’s collapsed.”

“Let’s go.” Vivi jumped up and helped me to the car.






Vivi and I rushed into the emergency room of Druid City Hospital.

“Where is she?” I asked a nurse as we approached the triage desk. The stark white walls were cold and un-nerving. Kitty was walking out of a room to the side of the desk just as we entered.

“That old woman has finally scared me half to death. I swear, next time it will be both of us here in the ER.”

I could tell she was covering with sarcasm, a family trait. Tears pooled in her bright blue eyes as she reached to hug me, a little tighter and a little longer than usual. I knew she was scared. I was too.

“Mother, what happened?” I asked as she let go of me and reached to hug Vivi.

“We were on our way to the grocery store. I really don’t like her to drive anymore. She could barely see over the steering wheel as it was and now her eyesight is questionable most of the time. So I was turning there near the bakery at Fifteenth Street and Hargrove and she just fell over into the door, slumped sideways. I pulled over and when I couldn’t get her to open her eyes I called the ambulance.”

“What are they saying?” Vivi asked wanting the details.

“They have taken her to do some tests.”

“Is she conscious?”

“Yeah, but kinda confused.”

All of us looked at each other, our faces washed in a veil of worry. The love for our matriarch was too much to even describe. Meridee had practically raised Vivi since Vivi’s own mother had been so sick most of her life. Meridee was “mother” to all of us, our men included. Vivi and Mother and I walked over to the uncomfortable chairs in the waiting room. Vivi sat next to me and reached over and placed her hand on mine with a squeeze.

“She’s gonna be fine. I just know it,” she said looking straight into my eyes. Vivi was trying to soothe us as best she could. She gave Kitty and me a reassuring smile as she patted Kitty’s knee and nodded. I knew she was as worried as we were. “Come on y’all, we know what a stubborn Sassy Belle she is. She’s not going anywhere.” As we sat together holding each other up, waiting for word from Meridee’s doctor, I heard the automatic sliding doors open bursting in a blast of the chilly air. I looked up and felt my heart jump. It was Sonny. My knight in shining armor.

“Hey baby,” he said bending down to hold me. I stood up and rested in his arms. His jacket was still cold and his cheeks were rosy. But I could feel his warm hands rubbing my back and I felt like everything was gonna be okay. Sonny had a way of doing that. If he were there, it would all be taken care of. He was commanding at well over six feet tall and had an in-charge type of presence with his broad shoulders and large build. He was protective. He held me for a minute then I felt one of his hands let go. I glanced to my left and he was holding Kitty with his other hand.

“I got here as soon as I heard,” he said. “Is she okay?”

Meridee had raised all of us. As a teenager, when Sonny and I were “on again” he was at her house as much as I was. And Kitty had always loved him too. He had been family to us since I was fourteen years old and it just felt so good to have him right there for all of us.

“We’re waiting to hear from her doctor,” I answered. “They have her back doing tests right now. Who called you? I was so upset all I could think of was to get here in a hurry. I was gonna call as soon as we knew something.”

Kitty looked up at me and smiled, a tear falling from her cheek. “I called him right after I called you. I knew we all needed him here with us.” She squeezed his hand.

Lewis came running in from the parking lot and Vivi stood up with her arms out. Lewis hugged her tight as I saw tears form in Vivi’s green eyes. It was like now that her own knight was here she could let down a minute and the worry just flowed. We were all so scared.

Just as we all sat back down the doctor came through the double doors. We all stood in unison. His face was neutral. I tried to read him but he looked stoic and all business. My heart raced a little faster as I squeezed Sonny’s hand looking at the doctor as he approached us.

“Okay she’s resting comfortably in her room now,” Dr. Allen announced.

“Well, what did the tests show?” Kitty asked, her voice shaky with nerves. We were all anxious and impatient.

“She’s had a stroke.”

Vivi and I dropped our mouths open as our men held us a little tighter. Kitty gasped, her hand over her mouth.

“It was what we call a TIA, or mini-stroke. She may have been having these for a while now and not even have realized it. Today’s might have been a bit stronger.”

“Can she still talk, or walk?”

“Yes, she’s okay. The mini strokes don’t debilitate the way massive strokes do. She should be her normal self. It can make her a bit confused so be patient with her. I’m putting her on some medication but she’ll need to be watched as we work to get all the dosages just right.”

“Is she gonna be okay? I mean, is this a forewarning of some kind?” Sonny spoke for all of us.

“She should be fine. People can live with TIAs for years,” Dr. Allen reassured us. “For a woman of eighty years old, I’d say other than that she’s in pretty great shape, but we’re gonna keep an eye on her.”

“Oh, thank you so much,” Kitty leaned in to hug the good doctor. A sense of relief washed over the tense mood of our little group. That was until that blast of cold air hit us when the automatic double doors opened again—and in walked Harry.






“Good God, now I think
gonna have a stroke.” Kitty clutched her pearls and for a minute I thought she was either gonna fall over or yank them from her neck and strangle Harry with them. I totally went into shock. The lawyer in me kicked in with all the questions. Where had he been? Who had he been staying with all this time? And what the hell was that brothel doing calling his phone? Not to mention, how did he know we were all here?

“What are you doing here?” The first question jumped from my lips before I could put my tongue in control.

“How is she?” Harry asked.

“She’s gonna be fine. A stroke,” I said unconsciously folding my arms.

“Oh, my God! A stroke?” Harry seemed fidgety. Nervous-- but not exactly because of Meridee. I could tell he knew he was in shark-infested waters between all of us standing there together. Little did he know that Vivi and I had committed with Dallas to try to untangle him from his latest web of trouble.

“Yeah but Dr. Allen is handling her and he has her on some prescriptions. We’re all gonna watch her. Where have you been? I know you didn’t have a car.”

Harry shifted his weight, his face flushed with the cold outside and maybe a bit of awkwardness. “Uhm, well, I can’t really say. I was wondering though if maybe you ran across my phone. I can’t find it anywhere.”

“Yeah, I have it in my purse,” I said walking back over to the chairs to grab it for him. “I couldn’t call you, since you obviously don’t have your phone,” I sneered. I got his phone from my black leather Michael Kors tote and handed Harry his phone, but not before pointing out his latest call.

“Here it is,” I said holding up the device. “But I was wondering if you could explain this number. Whomever it is has called several times since last night.”

Harry took the phone and studied the number. His mouth dropped in a confused look. I wasn’t sure if it was fake or not. Then he shook his head.

“That number started calling me just before I hired the intern,” he responded. “I answered it one time and they said it was a wrong number. But for some reason they continue to call from time to time. I usually just ignore it.”

Well, that was pretty good, I thought to myself. He was still as fast as he always was in court. An expert with quickness like nobody else. Why oh why did I have this nagging feeling that he just might be telling me the truth. I hated that. I wanted to hate him. To at least be mad at him. He had been a notorious liar all summer long. Maybe it was the pregnancy hormones. Carrying Sonny’s baby boy made it hard to hate anyone. Ugh, a part of me just wanted to shove Harry right back out into the cold parking lot of the hospital, but instead somehow I felt sorry for him. He was fast becoming such an outcast, right here in his old hometown. Not to mention right here among the people that were once his family.

Lewis walked over and patted Harry’s back. “Thanks for coming, how in the world did you hear about Meridee?”

I had to admit, I was still wondering that myself.

“Well, here and there,” he hem-hawed.

Just then the doctor interrupted. “Y’all can go on in and see her if you want. I just checked on her and she wants to know –and I quote—“if any damn body out here cares about the old lady.”

“Okay why don’t you three go on in and we’ll all wait out here,” Sonny motioned to me and Kitty and Vivi as he rested his hand in the small of my back. I could feel his body next to mine now and it relaxed me in the chaos. For a moment, I forgot about Harry.

Vivi nodded to me, “Let’s get in there now.”

“Yeah, I got a few things to say to her myself,” Kitty winked at me and inhaled a deep breath of relief. The three of us headed into Meridee’s room not even thinking what we might see. None of us were prepared to see my lively vibrant grandmother lying in the hospital bed, tubes running in and out of her. A knot formed in my throat.

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