Home > Savannah Blues (Weezie and Bebe Mysteries #1)(13)

Savannah Blues (Weezie and Bebe Mysteries #1)(13)
Mary Kay Andrews

I was a file clerk at my neighbor’s uncle’s insurance office, a data entry operator at the bank where Mr. Tal had always done business, medical records clerk at the dentist’s office where I’d gotten my teeth straightened when I was twelve. The only job I’d ever gotten on my own was as a clerk at the public library. I’d passed the spelling test with flying colors.

I’m a great speller. Blessed Sacrament School fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-grade spelling bee champ.

But championship spelling probably wasn’t one of the life skills Women’s World was talking about in their article about picking up the pieces.

BeBe still can’t believe I never suspected anything was up between Tal and Caroline. But why would I have? He didn’t work any later hours, our love life didn’t change (sex on Saturday mornings and Thursday nights), he never tried to hide his fondness for her—in fact, he was insistent that she and I should become new best buddies. The friendship thing didn’t take, of course. We gave dinner parties together, went sailing, and played golf, the whole deal. Now that I look back at it, I realize I did the cooking for the dinner parties and Caroline bought the wine. Tal and Caroline crewed the boat; I packed the picnic lunch.

My resentment simmered, then festered, until late one Sunday, after a whole weekend of forced buddying up with Caroline, I let Tal know how I really felt.

“I’m sick of her,” I told him. “We have nothing in common. She hates all my friends. She’s always saying what a flake BeBe is. Whenever we have these stupid get-togethers, I do all the work and she sits back and looks fabulous all the time. The woman has no sweat glands. She’s great at everything and she deliberately tries to make me feel inadequate.”

Tal just laughed. “You’re jealous!” he said. “It’s natural.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You know exactly what I mean,” Tal said. “If Caroline makes you feel inadequate, it’s probably because you’re so, well, unfocused. Face it, Weezie, you go off in a million different directions. You piddle with this and that, but you’re never serious about anything. Not anything I care about, anyway. You’re…”—he took a deep breath—“You’re a dabbler, Weezie.”

If he’d picked up the fillet knife off the counter and plunged it between my ribs, Tal couldn’t have wounded me any deeper.

Unfocused. Twist the knife; see if you can hit an artery.

A piddler. How about a major organ?

A dabbler. Rip out my heart and stomp it on the heart-pine kitchen floors I’d stripped and hand-waxed all by myself.

Coming from him, I thought, it must have been true. After all, everybody was always saying how Talmadge Evans III was so accomplished at everything. Architecture. Classical guitar. Golf. Fly-fishing. Sailing. And now adultery.

I’d stayed in the house until the last possible moment. The judge had given me a month to remove my stuff.

At 6 P.M. on a Friday, exactly thirty days from the day the property settlement was final, I finished moving out of the big house. The moving van with Caroline’s furniture had made two passes by the front door already. To be perfectly honest, I cried more over leaving the house than I’d ever cried over the loss of Talmadge Evans III.

That day, I rolled up my threadbare oriental carpets, packed up every stick of blue-and-white porcelain I’d scrounged for the past ten years, boxed up all my antique reference books, including every Kovels’ price guide issued for the past fifteen years, and then, sobbing, I hand-carried the pieces of furniture Tal had never liked over to the carriage house, my new home.

I didn’t trust movers with my treasure, so I loaded up the little blue milk-paint goat cart I’d converted to a coffee table, and wheeled it back and forth until I was done.

The judge gave Tal the four-poster mahogany Charleston bed we’d bought for our fifth anniversary, all the silver flatware his mother and her friends had given us as wedding gifts, the eighteenth-century drop-leaf cherry table in the foyer, and all the living-room furniture.

After I’d made the last load I went back to the big house one last time. It was dusk. I unscrewed every lightbulb in every fixture in the house. I crawled up under the kitchen sink, and with a pipe wrench, I removed the grease trap from the sink. I put a crimp in the copper pipe leading from the hot-water heater. After some consideration, I opened up the refrigerator—the three-thousand-dollar Sub-Zero I’d gotten for half price from an appliance distributor I know, and I removed the little wire do-jiggey that tells the ice maker it’s time to make more ice cubes.

An hour without ice in Savannah is like a lifetime in hell.

There was more I could have done, but I couldn’t bear to inflict any really lasting wounds on my house. It didn’t matter what the judge said; it was my house. I had found it, breathed life into it, made it my own. The paint on the walls were colors I’d hand-mixed, the old gas-light chandeliers were ones I’d taken apart, piece by piece, polishing the brass, washing the crystals, and rethreading the arms with new wiring. Since I’d rescued the house I’d taught myself to reglaze windows, strip woodwork, lay tile, repair plaster, do simple wiring, paint, and garden. Dabbling, Tal would call it.

Of course, there were things I’d learned I couldn’t do. I’d burned my hand badly with a blowtorch the one time I’d attempted plumbing. I couldn’t hang wallpaper straight, nor did I have any particular affinity for carpentry.

That afternoon I wandered aimlessly about the darkening rooms, my footsteps echoing in the half-empty high-ceilinged rooms. “It’s time to go,” I said sternly, after I caught myself looking around for a broom to sweep one last cobweb from one last bit of cove molding in the living room. “They’re his spiders now.”

The last box of my clothes was upstairs in our bedroom. His bedroom, now. I picked up the cardboard box and lifted the flap to see what was in this one. It was full of cheesy lacy lingerie; teddies, bustiers, French-cut and thong bikini panties; all gifts from Tal, who never seemed to notice that none of it was my taste.

I glanced in the bathroom, caught a glimpse of myself in the gold-leafed mirror over the vanity.

There were dark circles under my eyes from not sleeping. I’d lost weight, and my clothes hung from my hunched-looking shoulders. Two tiny earrings shone from my right earlobe. My fear of needles borders on the pathological, but BeBe had talked me into the second set of ear piercings. I’d gone for the idea because I’ve always loved earrings and have boxes and boxes of unusual vintage ones I’ve picked up over the years at estate sales and junk stores.

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