Beau and Henry the Post Master

Carolyn and I make our way to the post office to mail my letter. The summer heat beats down on me and we can’t reach the post office quick enough. Apparently, we were not the only ones mailing today, because there are people waiting in line when we get there. Luckily there is a shaded area on the porch that has a nice breeze to cool us while we ait. We stand there for a while when a very good-looking man comes up to join us. “Howdy Mrs. Cooper.” He nods his head to her, taking his hat off slightly and replaces it on his head again. “How’s the children?”

“Spoiled as ever Mr. MacDawson.” She says with a laugh. When his gaze drifts off to my direction, she adds, “Have you met my friend Bessie? She is visiting with my mother from out east.”

He turns to me then and I get to see how very good looking he is. His eyes are so green they are almost unsettling. He curves his mouth into a big grin revealing beautifully white teeth. He takes his hat off his head, holds it to his chest with his left hand, and reveals short curly red hair. “Howdy Miss Bessie” he drawls.

“Bessie, this is Mr. MacDawson he has a farm just outside of town.”

“Hello Mr. MacDawson, it is very nice to meet you.”

“Please, call me Beau. How have you enjoyed your visit so far?”

“Oh, I have only been here a couple days, but I feel like I could stay here forever! Everyone has been so kind, much kinder than anyone back home.”

“How much longer are you staying?”

I pause for a moment, trying to think of how to tell him it depends whether or not I get a husband, “It’s an open ended stay for now.” I say instead. “Or until Carolyn kicks me out!” I say with a chuckle.

“Oh if we wait for that you will never go home, dear! You are such great company, and more importantly: such a great baby sitter!” as we all laugh, I see something float across Carolyn’s face. “Beau,” she says suspiciously, “why don’t you join us for lunch Sunday, after church? I am making a roast and there will be plenty to go around!”

The line creeps up and a lady walks out of the building, “Miss Carolyn I would never pass up your Sunday roast! You’ll see me there!” he says. “Well ladies I still have a few more errands to run before I make my way back home so I will leave y’all to it. Very nice to meet you Bessie.”

I nod my head and agree with him when he is gone another person leaves the post office. “Carolyn, I think you are up to something.”

“I don’t know what you are talking about,” She says. We stand in silence for a beat. Before she can’t stand it any longer and continues “but if I were, all parties involved would love the idea. Beau would be a perfect husband. He is kind and gentle man who has his home, a steady income, he is hard working-“

I start laughing, and put my hands up in surrender. “I’ll give him a chance Carolyn. He seems to be a pretty good guy. You don’t have to sell him to me.”

We finally get up to the counter and I find out why it has taken us so long. Behind the counter is a man who is 100 if he is a day. He has sparse white hair, and the bushiest eyebrows I have ever seen. He hunches over as he moves at snail pace, finishing up on the order before ours.

“Hello Henry! I see business is keeping you busy this afternoon! You are looking handsome as ever!” Carolyn coos at the old man as he adjusts his coke bottle glasses, unamused. “This is my friend Bessie; she is visiting from out east.” He mumbles something intelligible “Bessie, this is our postmaster Henry Roy. Believe it or not, he has been our only post master. Ever. He was among the first people to settle here in town!”

Oh, I believe it all right. He looks as if one gust of wind could kill him, here and now. “Nice to meet you, Henry.” I say pleasantly. His reaction is underwhelming. He stands there, his eyes looking directly at me, but unseeing. I look over at Carolyn for help.

She takes the letter from my hand and puts it on the counter. “Here we are! Just need this to be mailed.” She pauses for a moment, allowing time for him to respond. He doesn’t of course, so she goes on, “Ok, we’re gonna be on our way. You stay charming Henry!” she takes my arm and gently pulls on it, pointing me towards the door.

“He sure is… um, lively.” I say once we are on the street again.

She throws her head back in a laugh. “Oh, Henry has been 100 since I was in diapers. Poor old man hasn’t talked since my mom was in diapers! The schoolchildren are all frightened of him. They say he must be a vampire to still be living! And honestly every wrinkle I get and he is still living AND WORKING the more I believe them!.”

Sunday Morning Introductions

Sunday morning we get up, dress in our best, and make our way to the church in the middle of town. The church is crowded with people and hot. It’s only nine in the morning but the sun has already warmed the earth and the too many people in this building. The sweat beads up on my forehead and matts my curls to my scalp. I know I look rugged, but then again so does everyone else.

The sermon is a good one. This is the first time I have ever listened to anyone besides our own preacher. Reverend Howard back home, is an Elderly man with a monotone voice and dull stories. Reverend Stephens, However, is a man closer to my age, who is much more interesting to listen to. Listening to him tell us his stories almost put the heat out of my mind, almost anyway. I look around the small church and scan the crowd for familiar faces. It’s almost funny. I have been here for less than a week but have already had more conversations with these people than most of the people I have been around my whole life. My eyes settle on Beau. He is sitting in the pew across the aisle from us. Just as I see him, he looks up at me and flashes me a million dollar smile that melts my heart, just a little and brings heat to my cheeks. I smile back at him and return my attention to the sermon. Out of the corner of my eye I can see Carolyn elbowing Anna and whispering in her ear.

When church lets out everyone empties out onto the lawn of the church and we all stand around talking. I am introduced to several people who come up to talk to Carolyn and her husband. Some people recognized Anna, and come to talk to her. Her face lights up each time someone approached her. It is so nice to see Anna this way. At home she is overworked and under appreciated. Seeing her this week, all smiles and all chatter around family, makes me feel so bad for the way that I treat her. Her and Jackie are the only ones who have ever shown me any kind of affection and while I showered Jackie in it in kind, I hardly ever even showed Anna a shred of kindness. For now, it shall be different. I wish I could do something for her, I wish she could be treated like this all the time.

Bessie’s Story Part 3: 1st Morning of the Party

The entire house was clean and decorated for this week’s festivities. All the house workers clothes were pressed so sharp that the pleats were sure to draw blood. My own skirts were starched so heavily that they didn’t need me to stand. People are already starting to trickle in; the servants are bustling trying to get everything ready for lunch. By noon, the whole house will be full of people.

I’m standing at the top of the grand staircase; light fills the room making the staircase shine and sparkle. I glide down the stairs, my slippers making a satisfying “Pat, pat” that would surely land me a good finger wagging from Anna. I am half way down the stairs when something off to the side catches my eye. Rather someone. The man from last night was standing next to the entrance to my father’s office, cigar in hand talking to our neighbor Frank Thomas. All the blood from my face drains. I turn to go back up the stairs when I hear my name being called. “Bessie! Where are you going!” my sister Jackie calls.

“I’ve forgotten something in my room; I’ll only be a minute dear Jackie” I try to keep going but in a flash she is beside me, escorting me down. If I had hoped to avoid a scene, I have failed because everyone in the foyer had their eyes on me, including the two by the office. “Bessie,” Jackie says only loud enough for me to hear, “who is that man talking to Mr. Thomas? He is very handsome don’t you think! And he is staring at you! They both are! This shade of green really becomes you with your red locks! “She starts to lead me over to them but I protest. “ Jackie, I know you mean well, but I really think I need to fetch something out of my room.” She stops then and turns towards me.

“What Bessie, what do you need to get? What is so important that you need it right now, right in this moment?” when I can’t come up with anything she continues “ OK good,  now come on we are going to introduce ourselves to the handsome man over here and we are going to enjoy ourselves.” Jackie, my dearest sister was my best friend, well truly my only friend. We tell each other everything, well just about everything. She still has no idea about my pregnancy.

We stop in front of the two men and Jackie acts as if her only intention is to greet our neighbor, not to fix me up with the good-looking stranger. “:how are you today Mr. Thomas? How is everything at your estate?“Mr. Thomas throws back his head and laughs, “Oh, I was not aware that you were so interested in estate affairs Miss Weller! My ‘estate’ is going swimmingly” Mr. Thomas is somewhere in his early 20’s not too much older than Jackie is. He is a fairly good-looking man, his blonde hair, sun kissed skin, and blue eyes were a constant conversation amongst my three sisters. He is considered an absolute catch. I’m sure Jackie is in absolute heaven just to have him speaking to her, and am sure that our sisters will hear about our encounter. “Have you girls met Mr. Jarred Harrison? He is visiting while his ship is docked in the harbor. Says he should be here until the end of the week! Just in time for the party.” Mr. Harrison, who I have met, last night in fact, turns to us and give us the most heart melting how-do-you-do smile. “This is Jackie and Bessie Waller; they are the daughters of John and Joan.”

Obviously playing his part Mr. Harrison face lights up as if he did not already know this information and tells us how excited he is to meet us. “You have a beautiful home! I am actually staying here for the week. Your father has invited me to while my ship is docked and I do my running about in town. You two should see quite a bit of my face.” He says with a smile.

“Oh, I very much doubt that Mr. Harrison, for you have joined us just the right time, for with this party you should hardly see anyone’s face twice.” I say feeling pretty proud of myself

“Thrice.” He says back to me and I start to panic, I chance over at the other two and see that they are deep in conversation. He offers me his arm “How about a turnabout the room Miss Weller?” as much as I feel that I should refuse him, I would also like to get away from our neighbor so I link my arm around his and allow him to take the lead. Jackie takes a break from her shameless flirting when she notices me leaving.
“Where are you going Bess?” she asks me.

“Mr. Harrison offered to take me on a turnabout the room, and I thought I would give him a tour of our house. Don’t doddle around too much dear sister, our mother will be looking for you soon.”
Turning to Mr. Thomas, she asks, “What time is it anyway?” He tells her it is just past 10:30 “OH!” she says as if she has been punched in the stomach. “I have got to go; she is going to kill me!” Mr. Thomas and Mr. Harrison both laugh.

“Well, if you must go, then how about I join you both on the tour.”

Before Mr. Harrison can respond, I do, “oh, actually I believe I shall go with Jackie, her memory may not get her all the way to mother before she gets distracted again.” I leave before either one of them could detain me.

The rest of the morning goes by uneventfully. We eat our lunch at noon, everyone finding a place on our lawn to eat his or her picnics. Some have brought their own baskets while others take one that we have made up for them. I take a basket and start to unpack it on my quilt that I have laid out intentionally away from everyone else. It is a nice day really perfect for a picnic my basket is just about unpacked when a shadow shades me. Expecting to see my sister I look up with a grin on my face, it evaporates, however, when I see that the figure looming over me is my neighbor. “Hey they Bessie, mind if I join you?” he asks, his lips curved up in a knowing smile.

“I’d much rather you didn’t, and also much rather you stay away from my sister.” I say between gritted teeth. He grabs me by the hair at the top of my neck, pulling my head back so that I am looking up at him, “I would appreciate a little more respect.” With that, he spits on my forehead. He releases my head with a push, tossing my whole body forward. I grab the napkin from my legs and wipe the spit from my face. He starts to sit down on the quilt, but hesitates. “Oh hello Mr. Harrison, already ate your lunch?”

Mr. Harrison circles around me; he takes in my face and says, “Mr. Thomas, I seem to be seeing you everywhere today. I do believe that there was a young blonde man in a grey suit looking for you near the baskets.”

“Oh, thank you, I will go see what is going on. Thank you.” Mr. Thomas stumbles. When he leaves, he goes the opposite way of the baskets.

“Miss Weller, are you ok? Did he say something to you that upset you?”
I rip my hands from his and stand up. I’ve given up on packing my basket, someone else can do that. “Look, thank you for your concern, but I’m getting pretty tired of you just popping up in the middle of my problems. You haven’t been here for 24 hours and I have seen you too much.” I take a deep breath and dust my hands off on my dress. “Just leave me alone. Please.”

I start to stomp off by he catches me by my wrist. Locking eyes with me, he says, “If you need anything, or find yourself in trouble, you come find me. I will take your side, no matter what, ok?” and for some reason, I know he is telling the truth. I nod my head and say ok.

For the rest of night I don’t see Mr. Thomas, and no one mentions his name, so I assume that he left the party after Mr. Harrison had talked to him. The day drums on until night and many more people have shown up, all in their very best. The large house is hard to move through with all of the dresses. When night falls the house empties one as the couples start to venture into the gardens, taking strolls in the moonlight and taking advantage of the cool night breeze.

Jackie and I stroll arm in arm through the garden ourselves. We take small steps, without a destination in mind. She tells me about her eventful day, telling me about all of the new gossip she has gotten from throughout the day. Jackie has a soothing voice, listening to her talk, no matter the subject, always puts me at ease. “OH! And supposedly, there was a debt collector here today! you know the super sleazy kind with greasy slicked back hair, wrinkled clothes, and gold teeth! No one seems to know who he was looking for, but it sure was exciting!”she says, as if wrinkled clothes adds to his oddity.

“So you got to see him,” I ask her

“Well, no, not exactly, but plenty of people told me about him! So he must have truly have been here!” I shake my head and laugh. “Did anything exciting happened to you today sweet sister?” the scene from my abandoned picnic flashes to my mind. I swallow.

“No, not really, you know me, I try to stay away from any excitement!” it is true, I do try, but somehow the harder I try to avoid it, the easier it finds me. Maybe I should try to seek it out, possibly it would leave me be then. “Jackie, do you remember anything about mother when she was with child?”

“What do you mean?”
“I’m not sure.” I say honestly, “did she just get a big belly and then there was a baby?”

“I was so little, Bess, besides that, mama kept to herself so much then.” Her eyes fall to the floor. We both know why she kept to herself; it doesn’t need to be said aloud. “Why do you ask? Have Jaime and Jolie been  noxious again?” she asks me

“No, I haven’t even seen them with all of the party preparations. Never mind about it. It was just something that had popped into my thoughts.” We have reached the end of the paved walkway, and decided to make one more loop before calling it a night.

“That Mr. Harrison, I think he likes you Bess.” Jackie says to me, off handily. Well as “off handily” as she could have.

“What makes you say that?” I ask

“Well, for one, he had sought me out today and was asking about you!” she turns her face to me, a grin beaming. “He does seem very sweet; he would be a good catch.”
“A good catch for me, but I’d be a tadpole of a catch for him.” I say beneath my breath, hoping just loud enough for me to hear.

I’m wrong. Jackie stops our walk and turns her body to mine, all smiles dropped. “You’re wrong Bess, you are a great catch. I know that you are not always treated as if you are one, but you are. This family treats you like you have a hunch back and spiked teeth, when you really are the beauty of the family. Any man should count himself lucky to have you.” I start to thank her for her kid words, when our mother comes up to us.

“Hello mother, would you like to take a stroll with us? Your party seems to be another hit this year!” my complement falls flat when she waves a small piece of folded up paper at me.

“It is a wonder that is a hit when I have you, Bessie Waller going behind my back trying to soil our good family name! I am not the only one that should be angry here, Jackie, you should be upset as well.” She hands the note to Jackie.

Jackie’s eyes quickly scan letter. When she has finished she looks up at me just long enough to push the letter into my hands. “Bess, I thought you better than this, if you wanted to have Mr. Thomas, you should have said something.” Jackie turned and walked back to the house, mother trailing behind her, but not before, she told me to sit out of the festivities tomorrow.

It was a note from Mr. Thomas, sent to my mother – today. The letter says that he had confided in me of his intentions to as for my sisters hand in marriage, but I had made it abundantly clear that his advance would be unwelcomed by our family, and that I suggested that his presence at all makes us uneasy. His intent of the letter was trying to find out what his wrong doings were so that he could rectify them, to get in our good graces, even if he could not have my sisters hand.

He really is the worst sort of man I hate for Jackie to be so upset at me, but the only way that I would be able to soothe her would be by telling her my secret. I cannot not do that, so I must rely on times healing powers. Being banned from the festivities comes as a sort of blessing. I am sure I will recover from that punishment. I hate having to mingle with the people from these parties. I find none of these men at all interesting, let alone marriage material, even if they would take me in my present state, to which they wouldn’t. Mr. Harrisons face floats across my mind. Well at least I shan’t have him pestering me for all of tomorrow. As the thought runs through my mind, my heart starts to ache, just a little at the thought of not seeing him. I chastise it for its disloyalty.

When I reach my bedroom, it feels as though I cannot get into my bedclothes fast enough. My body finds my bed and it feels as if they were long lost lovers, meeting once again. Once my head hits the pillow, sleep takes me most ardently.

Bessie’s Story Part 2 : Anna

The next morning, Bessie was awoken by her bedroom door opening. Anna, an older round, hard working woman, came bustling into the room. The woman’s two feet never leaving the floor as she walked, as she made her way over to Bessie’s bed and set the tray of food onto the side table. Anna’s silver hair was pulled back in a severe bun at the base of her neck, as it always was, never a strand out of hair out of place. She wore a faded pink dress, and an apron that used to be white around her waist. Anna had been her maid her whole life. Sometimes Anna would brag that she had gotten to hold Bessie even before her mother did.

As Bessie sat up Anna was opening the heavy floral curtains to let in the morning light. When she had opened all the curtains, she shuffled back to the bed and placed the table over Bessie’s lap, and disappeared into the bathroom that joined her room and the empty neighboring room. Bessie began to eat her breakfast as she heard her bath being drawn and froze in shock. Her hand slid down to her rounding stomach. Her condition was getting hard to hide, and if Anna found it out, then her mother was sure to find out. Anna told her mother everything! She tugged on the sheets trying to pull them up to her chin, rattling the dishes around and almost toppling over her orange juice. Anna must not find out.

As if to read her mind, Anna rounded the corner back into the room and removed the tray from the bed. Bessie held tight onto the sheets, even when her maid motioned to take them from her. “Miss Anna, I believe I will bathe myself today, in fact I think that I don’t need any assistance at all! I have become quite adept at doing my own hair.” Bessie said.

In everything but name, Anna was Bessie’s mother. She had raised her herself when her mother, Joan, had decided that she had raised enough of kids. Bessie was the youngest of six kids; she had two older brothers, John Jr, and Jacob, and three older sisters, Jaime, Jolie, and Jackie. She had been a surprise to her parents, Joan and John. Joan had made it quite clear that after Jackie, Bessie’s sibling closest in age, she would be finished having children. Joan found out that she was with child exactly one month before her birthday that was the only year that there was not a party held at the Weller house.

With the other five children, always a happiness glowed from Joan while she was expecting. She would wake up early and sing beautiful songs that would fill the large house with joy. As early as John would let her, she started planning nursery room schemes and decorations. The room would be stalked full of cloth diapers, rattles and everything a baby could ever need before her belly even had time to swell. Although it was frowned upon to be seen in public while in such a state, Joan could often been seen around the town shopping or visiting with friends. Always, was she cheerful and full of excitement to welcome the bundle into their home.

Though Joan’s final pregnancy was a mild one, with little sickness and hardly any trouble, it was the hardest one on her. Since the day that she found out that she was expecting, Joan seemed to be in a daze. She did not go on visits, nor did she allow company in the house. She did not prepare a nursery, or stock up on supplies for it and above all else, she did not talk about the baby. Joan did not visit the nursery until Bessie was almost a week old, and even then she did not pick up her baby. It wasn’t until Anna had insisted that the baby be given a name and a baptism that she was finally given a name. The name came from little Jackie, it was what she had named all of her baby dolls

Bessie’s Story part 1

Bessie walked briskly down the hall, the cold floor against her bare feet, drove them faster. She had to get some air she needed fresh air. She made it to the stairs and looked down, it was pitch black, so black she had a hard time seeing the next step. She held onto the railing tightly and made her way down the stairs, feeling each step with her toe before committing to the step. Once down the flight of stairs her body knew which way to go. She bobbed and weaved around chairs, ottomans, and tables in order to get through the rooms and into the kitchen. The kitchen windows allowed the full moon to shed its light into the room illuminating it, and allowing her to sprint to the back door and fling herself out it.

The door swung loudly and clattered against the house, sending an alarm of ducks and geese that were hovering near the house for warmth. Startled by the sudden explosion of honks and squeals, she lost her balance on the top of the two steps and crashed into something solid. Big hands grabbed her around the tops of the arms and set her on her right. She looked up at the man and stared into the eyes with the bluest she had ever seen.

“Are you ok ma’am?” his deep voice boomed, letting the smell of tobacco and whisky blow across her face. “You seem to be in an awfully big hurry.” He smirked a little, showing her a mouth full of very white, mocking teeth.

She just stared up at him, gasping, trying to catch her breath, to regain control of herself again.

“Ma’am?” he repeated and his hands went a little tighter, as his smile faded.

Finally, she could no longer bare it and began to push the man away, fighting against the only thing keeping her standing upright. Apparently, he could sense that, because as she tried to push away from his him, he just moved his hands from her shoulders to her waist and hoisted her from the stairs to get her on solid ground beside the house. Bessie stuck out her hand, just in time to brace herself against the wall and empty her stomach on the building.

In a flash, the man was behind her gathering her loose hair in one hand and kept his other his arm around her waist catching her from falling into her dinner, as her knees buckled beneath her. She heaved and heaved until she had nothing left in her stomach. When she was finally finished, she had no strength left to hold back her tears of embarrassment. No sound was made while tears rolled down her face. There was no signs that she was truly crying, had it not been for the big elephant tears rolling down her face, and landing on the back of his hand, and leaving dark splotches on his green sleeves. When she thought that she could she pulled herself up, with his help, and stood facing the wall for a moment before turning to face him. She was wearing a thin white night gown that clung to her body in the muggy summer night. It was trimmed with lavender ribbon that weaved in and out of the sleeves and neckline. No longer caring about the nightgown that would soon be too small, she took hold of the end of one of the ribbons on her sleeve, pulled it out, and put it between her teeth. She then reached up, with deft fingers pulled her hair into a fast braid, and tied it with the ribbon from her teeth.

“I’m” Bessie started, her voice was a raspy and her throat scratch from being sick. She cleared her throat and tried again. “I’m not used to meeting strangers on my back porch this late at night and I wish I would not have had to share this moment with anyone, but I am thankful that you were her to help me.” Her lips couldn’t quite make a smile.

“You’re most welcome, but I feel that I should tell you that this is not the way I usually meet people either.” He replied with a smile. “Are you ok? Do I need to wake anyone, or perhaps fetch someone?”

“NO!” Bessie yelled, eyes big, scurrying the ducks and geese that had fled earlier even further from the house. She took a couple calming breaths, realizing how abrupt she was and tried again. “no, that’s ok, everything’s fine,” her voice calmer this time “Everything will be ok.”

He didn’t seem too taken aback by her performance instead he just introduced himself. His name was Jarred Harrison, and he was a guest of her fathers. He met him in town, taken pity on him and invited him to stay with them for a few days while his ship was docked in the harbor. There was no wonder that she did not see him earlier, she had been so busy helping with the preparations, they could have marched the whole navy through her house and not have seen a single one of them.

Every year for her mother’s birthday, her father put on a big celebration, one that takes up an entire week.. All of the county would talk about it for months after and look forward to all year. It was by far the biggest party of the season. But what most did not know, is that the night before the grand party took place, Mr. Weller, Bessie’s father, threw a poker game. The poker game served many purposes, the biggest one however, was to reward Mr. Weller for having to put up with weeks of preparation and fuss from his wife. So that’s what he told his wife every year when she would insist that last year would be the last time that he stayed out all night drinking, gambling, and smoking cigars with the neighbors before her big event. Everyone was invited to her mother’s party, but it was an honor to even know of, let alone get invited to her father’s poker game. Bessie could not help but wonder what this man, who had to be not much older than herself, had done to get invited to such an exclusive card game.