Monday, December 31, 2012
Chapter Thirty Six
Julianna had never been happier. Rick, the love of her life, was retired from his reporting job that kept him away from home several months out of the year. Her daughters were both happily married and keeping her well supplied with grandchildren. Her best friend lived next door to her and she was living in her favorite town, Camden Corners.
Julianna was originally from California, at least she thought she was. Her only memories of childhood were being placed in one foster home after another. She was one of the lucky ones, her families were all kind to her. She had heard horror stories through the years about children who had been abused by families trusted with their care.
At eighteen, Julianna was on her own. She knew she wanted to continue her education and applied for a job as a live-in nanny to the daughter of the popular movie star, Melanie Fairchild. She was pleasantly surprised when she discovered what a kind person Miss Fairchild was. Julianna didn't realize it at the time, but she was one of over fifty people interviewed for the job. Melanie was very particular about the people who watched over her daughter while she was away. Julianna and Melanie became fast friends. Julianna loved two year old Samantha and the little girl loved her too. Melanie, Julianna and Samantha flew to Camden Corners for the grand opening of The Merryweather Resort. Both women found love while in the quaint village. Julianna married journalist Rick Marino who had accepted a job with a large newspaper in Los Angeles. After 20 years and many separations due to his work, Rick retired to write a novel. Because they both loved Camden Corners, they moved across the country to Rick's childhood home.
Julianna, an accomplished photographer, reopened the art gallery originated by Jack Mackenzie in the early 1900s. She invited amateur artists to display their works in her gallery. This particular weekend, The Merryweather was sponsoring an exhibit of local artists. As Julianna directed the movers she had hired to transport the artwork, she walked by the display of photographs of the residents of Camden Corners almost one hundred years ago. She turned to look directly into the faces of Dahlia and Hyacinth Bloom Hightower. Julianna had a sense that they were warning her of impending peril. She brushed off the momentary feeling, but felt an unease the rest of the day.
The following Monday morning, Julianna was chatting on the telephone with her daughter, Lacey McCoy. She was hearing all about the family's trip to the zoo in Greensboro the day before. Sammy, who had won everybody's heart, was delighted to show his brother all the animals. At only four months old, Reilly was showing signs of hero worship for his older brother.
The doorbell rang. “Someone is at the door dear. I will call you later. Give the boys a hug from me.” Julianna opened the door to a woman her age standing there with a smile on her face.
“Julianna! I've finally found you.”
Julianna looked at the woman who was a stranger to her. “Do I know you?” she asked.
“It's Yolanda, your twin sister.”
Julianna looked at the woman again. There was a slight resemblance. This woman had bright red hair that obviously came from a bottle. Their eyes were the same color and the shape of their faces. Julianna had long ago given up hope of finding her birth family. Was it possible this stranger was her sister and a twin sister at that?
“Please, come in,” she said.
Yolanda walked through the front door. Without seeming obvious, she looked around the room. Julianna made out alright in life for a kid with no parents, she thought to herself.
“Yolanda, how do you know we are related? I could never find any information about where I came from or who my folks were. I gave up over thirty years ago.”
“It is a very sad story, Julianna. Our mama was not well after giving birth to us. She tried her best, she worked nights just to put food on the table. Her mother watched over us while Mama was away. You see her beloved husband, and our dear father was killed in a terrible accident when we were only a few months old. Mother did her best to carry on for our sakes, but when our grandmother took sick and died too, it was too much for her. She collapsed on the way home from work one morning. The authorities were called and we were wrenched from our home. We were only two years old. We were separated and both placed in different foster homes. Eventually, Mother regained her strength. She was able to find me, but the trail turned cold when she attempted to locate you. The poor sainted woman has never given up looking for you in all these years.”
Rick walked into the room. He heard the end of Yolanda's story and was skeptical. He introduced himself to the visitor. This woman was nothing like Julianna. He could see the coldness in her eyes. Being a journalist, he was accustomed to asking the difficult questions. He would have to be careful though, he knew Julianna had longed for any information she could find about her family.
Yolanda could see the doubt on Rick's face. I'm going to have to turn on the waterworks, she thought and proceeded to do just that.
“Yolanda, don't cry. We will figure this out. Tell me about our mother.”
Through sobs, Yolanda told of the long suffering woman's illness that forced her to be bedridden. “The doctors have said it is close to her time. She made me promise I would look for you. Her dying wish is that she is reunited with her daughter after all these years.”
“If your mother had attempted to find Julianna and wasn't able too, how were you able to locate her?”
“Rick, may I call you Rick?” she said whimpering. “I know you will think I'm a fool, but you see I was desperate. I'm afraid I sought the services of a psychic. I paid her $1,000, money I didn't have, but it was worth every penny because she led me to my dear sister.”
Rick was ready to show the woman the door, but he could see the look on Julianna's face. She wanted to believe the story even though her instincts told her not to.
“Yolanda, where are my manners? May I get you a cup of coffee or tea?”
“I'm a little parched dear, I wouldn't mind a tiny bit of bourbon if you have it.”
It was only 10:00 in the morning. Rick got up to pour her a light drink even more convinced she was a con artist.
“Where are you staying, Yolanda?” Julianna asked.
“Oh dear, I'm afraid I spent all my money on the bus fare here. I suppose I'll find a bench somewhere.”
Before Julianna could offer her a room in their home, Rick spoke up. “Don't be silly, we have a perfectly fine hotel in Camden Corners. You may stay at The Merryweather, don't worry about the cost, we will take care of your bill for the night.”
Yolanda knew she wasn't putting anything over on Rick. She probably shouldn't have asked for a drink but she needed it to calm her nerves. She would have to work fast on Julianna before her husband convinced her Yolanda was only after her money.
The truth was, Yolanda was indeed related to Julianna. They were cousins. Their fathers were brothers. Yolanda's mother, Gladys, married unsuspecting Harry Colby. Harry was a goodhearted man who fell for a pretty face some fifty years ago. Harry and his brother Henry were twins. Henry protected Harry through his growing up years. The day Gladys came into his life, was the end of the relationship. Gladys made sure Henry was out of his brother's life since she was in a better position to manipulate Harry without him. Henry married Rosemary, the complete opposite of Gladys. The women gave birth to baby girls within months of each other. When Julianna was less than a year old, her parents were killed in an automobile accident leaving her alone in the world except for Harry. Harry wanted to adopt Julianna, but Gladys insisted there was no room in their lives for the child. Gladys pinned the name Julianna Collins, a fictitious name, to the child's blanket and left her on the doorstep of an orphanage. She persuaded Harry to sign papers giving up all claims to the child and the deed to Henry's property. Guilt and despair over his brother's death and the treatment of his niece were too much for Harry's heart. He died just two months later leaving his widow with a child and no life insurance, only the two properties the brothers owned.
Julianna was adopted by a childless couple who discovered just before the adoption became final that they were indeed going to have a child of their own. They returned Julianna to the orphanage saying they were afraid they wouldn't be able to love her the way they would love their own flesh and blood. She was eventually sent to live in a foster home. She had a total of five foster families. Julianna was a delightful child, but none of the families she lived with were in a financial position to adopt her as their own.
Gladys lost track of Julianna after the first few years. She was all but forgotten until the day she picked up a tabloid magazine that was left on the bus. Gladys had always liked Melanie Fairchild movies. She noticed an article telling of Melanie's retirement several years before. The article mentioned and showed a picture of Julianna Collins Marino, a good friend and nanny to Melanie's daughter. Gladys knew right away that Julianna was her husband's niece. She did some investigating and discovered Julianna had married a successful newspaperman and was quite well off financially. The wheels started turning in the old lady's head. Her daughter, Yolanda, was not nearly as pretty as Julianna, but she could pass as her sister. Better yet, her twin sister.
Rick arranged for Yolanda to stay in a suite in The Merryweather. Julianna was slightly skeptical about the relationship, but she was willing to give the woman the benefit of the doubt. After Rick and Julianna drove Yolanda to the hotel and made sure she was safely in the room, they left with the promise Julianna would visit Yolanda in the morning. Once again, the photo of the Bloom sisters seemed to come alive as Julianna past by, sending a chill down her spine.
Watching from a pickup truck in the parking lot, a man in his early forties waited until the couple was well out of sight. He called the hotel and asked for Yolanda Colby's room. “What room are you in?” he said unpleasantly. Yolanda told him and he ended the call walking directly to her suite.
“Nice,” he said gruffly. “You can't stay here. Call the front desk and tell them you want to move to the cabin by the lake. I don't care what reason you give them, just do it.”
Yolanda knew better than to argue with her brother, Vinny. She had been the target of his wrath once too often. She immediately called the front desk. Much to her relief, the cabin was available. They would be sending someone to move her belongings momentarily.
“That was strange,” said Cindy, the desk clerk.
“What was strange?” replied Tracy Crowley.
“Rick and Julianna Marino checked in and paid for a guest. She just called and asked for a cabin. Most people would much prefer the suites. She is by herself. I know it's none of my business, but I just found it odd.”
Tracy didn't know why, but she sensed danger. She brushed it off as just being tired. I need to get home and relax with Jack, she thought to herself. “I'm leaving for the day Cindy, let's hope Ms. Colby is happy in her new room. Jack is preparing dinner tonight which means it will be a feast. He is a much better cook than I ever was.”
Yolanda settled into her new room. Vinny knocked on the door. “Hurry up, Yolanda, let me in.”
She hurried to the door and opened it. “Hold your horses, Vinny.”
“What happened to our plan? You were suppose to stay with her at her house. How come you let them bring you here? Can't you do anything right?”
“What could I do, Vinny? Her husband butted right in, he wouldn't let her ask me to stay with them. He's suspicious, I can tell you that.”
“I'm gonna stay with you tonight. That bed looks more comfortable than my pickup. I've got it hidden over in the vacant lot next door.”
Yolanda reached for the telephone.
“What are you doing?” Vinny shouted.
“I'm going to call Ma,” she said.
“How stupid can you be? Do you want to get caught? The first thing the cops will do is trace any calls from this phone.”
Yolanda walked into the bedroom and slammed the door. She hated Vinny. He was mean to her and made her feel dumb. She couldn't think straight when he was around. She wasn't stupid, just afraid and that made her do stupid things. She remembered the day Ma brought him home from the hospital. Yolanda thought having a baby to play with would be such fun. She was wrong. Her baby brother screamed all night and most of the day. She remembered the day Vinny's father walked out of the house. He said he couldn't stand the little brat and Ma could give him away like she gave away the other kid for all he cared. That was the first time Yolanda had heard about her cousin. She was afraid to ask Ma about the other kid because Ma would be angry and slap her again. It wasn't until several years later when Ma had too much bourbon and spilled the beans about Julianna. Yolanda dreamed about meeting her cousin one day. She thought they could be friends. Yolanda didn't have any friends of her own. She didn't own any nice clothes like the other girls in school. Not only did she not dress like the other girls, Vinny was such a bully, nobody wanted to be near him or his sister.
Julianna was so beautiful. She had a handsome husband and a nice home. Yolanda saw pictures of her children and grandchildren. Being left at the orphanage doorstep was the best thing that could have happened to her. Yolanda was envious. Vinny promised Julianna wouldn't be hurt, Yolanda hoped he was telling the truth just once in his miserable life.