Saturday, July 21, 2012
A Wedding at the Villa
A Wedding at the Villa
“Nettie, I feel like I'm 18 again. I can't believe I'm a blushing bride at my age.”
“You look beautiful, Evelyn. The little hint of pink in your cheeks is very becoming. Aren't you glad you listened to the children and agreed to a wedding with all of them witnessing your happiness?”
“I am, but I'm not too sure about Dudley. He was ready to run off last night to find a justice of the peace just so he wouldn't have to say his vows in front of an audience. It's funny because he can talk for hours about an artifact from the 18th century to a group of strangers, but ask him to declare his love in front of friends and family and his nerves begin to fray. He's such an odd man, Nettie, maybe that's why I love him so much.”
“He may be odd but he loves you too. I can see it in his eyes whenever he glances your way. I'm so happy you found love again after all these years.”
“I am too.”
“They're playing our song,” came Harvey Wilson's voice from the other side of the door. “Your groom awaits.”
Nettie opened the door and Harvey's face showed his approval of the bride. He extended his arm. It was his honor to escort Evelyn down the aisle of the villa's chapel.
With Nettie in the lead, Harvey and Evelyn walked to her waiting bridegroom. Dudley looked anxious until he saw his bride. He waited all his life for this woman and he wasn't going to let a case of nerves ruin this day. He smiled and all was right with the world.
Vicar Will performed the ceremony. The chapel was filled with folks from Greensboro and Camden Corners. The children who lived in the villa were gathered together. They loved Miss Evelyn and were happy Mr. Dudley was going to be living at the villa with her.
The reception was filled with laughter and children of all ages. Many of the youngsters had lived a short time at the villa themselves and were reunited with Miss Evelyn, the staff and their friends.
The bride and groom cut the cake and took off for a short honeymoon which consisted of two nights at the Greensboro Hotel. The staff insisted Evelyn take some time off. She didn't want to go too far in case she was needed at the villa.
The next day, Hattie and Jessica stayed at the villa to visit with their friends. Oscar and Nettie went into town to the apartment house where the girls lived with their grandmother. Evelyn had given them the name of Mrs. Oliver who lived across the hall from the grandmother's old apartment. Evelyn said she was very chatty and could probably help them discover more about their daughters' family.
“Who are you?”
“I'm Oscar Crowley and this is my wife, Nettie. We would like to ask you a few questions about Hattie and Jessica who lived across the hall.”
“What about them? I didn't do anything wrong. I couldn't take those girls in, I have barely enough food for myself. I had to call the authorities.”
“I'm sure you did the right thing, Mrs. Oliver,” Nettie said in her soothing voice. “We have adopted the girls and would like to know about their family, if there is any.”
“Aren't you two a little old to be their parents?”
“Yes, we are older than most parents but we love them very much and we are trying to give them a good home.”
“Well, I guess it's alright. Come in and I'll tell you everything I know.”
Nettie and Oscar took a seat on the shabby sofa. Nettie had the feeling Mrs. Oliver didn't have many visitors and was happy for the company.
“Poor Minnie Dean, she had her hands full with those twins after her daughter, Rosella died. Rosella was a frail little thing. Minnie said she had rheumatic fever when she was just a wee babe and was never healthy a day after that. I remember Rosella was very pretty, she had big blue eyes and a pert little nose. Minnie coddled her all her life.
“Gerald Long had a terrible crush on her in high school. It's too bad Minnie didn't let them court. Rosella might still be alive today.
“Minnie worked as a maid in the big hotel downtown. Rosella wanted to get a job after she graduated but her mother insisted she stay at home and rest. Poor Rosella, I know she felt useless. Minnie had no idea Rosella would sneak out of the apartment just to take a walk while her mother was at work.
“During the fall of that year, a young fellow by the name of Cloy Livingston moved into the apartment down the hall. Oh, he was a smooth character. Rosella took one look at him and fell hook, line and sinker. He used to stop her in the hall and tell her how pretty she was. She would giggle and run back into the apartment. This would go on day after day. Cloy would go out at night and come home with one floozy after another. He was simply no good.
“Rosella never knew about his nightly visitors because Minnie made sure she was in bed and asleep by eight o'clock every evening. I never spied on Rosella, mind you. I just happened to have my door opened a crack whenever she and Cloy would meet in the hall. After a few months, I noticed Rosella would slip into his apartment. It was a disgrace, I tell you, an utter disgrace.
“It was none of my business, of course but I couldn't help but notice when Rosella began to put on weight. I'll never forget the day she confessed to her mama that she was expecting a baby. Minnie shouted at the girl so loud the walls shook. She marched down the hall to Cloy Livingston's room and pounded on the door. You have probably guessed this already, but Mr. Cloy Livingston was nowhere to be found. Poor Rosella, she was so distraught I thought she might lose the baby then and there. At least I thought it was only one baby at the time.
“The months went by and Rosella never recovered from her misery. Minnie told everyone that Rosella and Cloy had been married and Cloy died in a tragic accident shortly after the marriage. Of course, nobody believed a word of it. It was becoming obvious that Rosella was carrying more than one baby. She went into labor way too early. Minnie delivered her grandchildren and kept them alive by holding them close to the warm stove and feeding them sugar water with an eye dropper. Poor Rosella, she never recovered from the birth and died when the twins were less than a week old. I do believe she died of a broken heart.
“Minnie cared for those precious babies. She gave up her job and took in laundry to support herself and the twins until they started school. After that she worked at the bakery. She would get up at 3:00 in the morning six days a week. She would run home during her break to see the girls off to school and she was always home when school let out.
“She kept up this schedule for years until one day she collapsed as she was walking to the bakery. The poor little girls were orphans. They came home that day and their grandmother was gone. That was when I called the authorities to report them abandoned. I never knew what happened to them after that day. I'm glad they are well and happy.”
“That is a very sad story Mrs. Oliver. Thank you for telling us. I assume you never saw Cloy Livingston again?”
“He never dared show his face around here. I'm sure he knew poor Rosella was in a family way. He hightailed it out of town so he wouldn't have to face Minnie. I can't say I blame him, Minnie would have boxed his ears but good. The man was a coward and a weasel. Those babies were better off without him.”
“Thank you again for your help Mrs. Oliver.”
“Of course, if I think of anything else, I'll call Mrs. Keys at the villa. She seems such a nice lady.”
“What do you think Oscar? Should we look for Cloy Livingston or do you think we should just let it alone?”
“I'm not sure, Nettie. We suspected the twins' father would not be a fine upstanding gentleman. Maybe it's better if we don't pursue it any further. On the other hand, if we don't do everything we are able to find the girls' father, are we doing them a disservice? I might have a private investigator check into it. We may be setting ourselves up for extortion. If that's the case, do we really want the girls to know their father would be a part of something like that?”
“I'm sure you will do the right thing, Oscar. You always do.” Nettie knew Oscar would carefully consider all his options and come up with the right answer eventually.
Six weeks later, Oscar received a report from the private investigator stating that Cloy Livingston had been killed in a fist fight in June of 1901. There was no evidence Mr. Livingston had any living relatives.
“Nettie, I don't see any reason to share this information with anyone.”
In a small apartment in New York City, Lloyd Palmer was gazing out the window.
“Are you still thinking of the twins, Lloyd?”
“Yes, I know they are better off not knowing about me but it still hurts. I don't know why I assumed Cloy's identity when I lived in Greensboro. Cloy was a ladies man, maybe I thought if I used his name I would be a hit with the ladies too. Instead, I paid for any attention they gave me. All except Rosella. She was such a sweet little thing. I ran when she told me she was expecting a baby. What a coward I was.”
“If only you hadn't thrown the first punch when you and Cloy fought. You wouldn't have spent three years in prison.”
“Cloy wouldn't be dead either. No, Ruby, I deserved the time I served.”
“You are turning your life around Lloyd. Maybe you should rethink telling that investigator the truth. I told you I would be willing to help you raise your daughters.”
“Ruby, don't make me sorry I told you the truth. Those girls are with a family who loves them. Maybe I don't have the kind of money Mr. Crowley does to hire a high class investigator but I have done my own investigating. They are better off in Camden Corners with two parents who love them. If I were to win custody of them, what would they have? A life in a rat infested apartment with a jailbird for a father. No Ruby, you will not tell anyone my secret. It's the least I can do for my daughters.”
Lloyd never did tell Hattie and Jessica that he was their father. He often traveled to Camden Corners on business and would catch a glimpse of them through the years. They looked so much like their mama and more so every time he saw them. He was a cad for taking advantage of Rosella but he did love her. He was just a kid himself back then. If only he'd had the courage to stay in Greensboro. His life would have been so different. Who knows, with the love of a good woman he may have been able to make something of himself.