dontravis.com blog post #547
Image courtesy of Fixthephoto.com
What can some woman named Hilda Winemaker, who lives in the far corner of the state, tell Richie about his mom and Miss Emmalee? Can she confirm what he suspects or lead him somewhere else? Here’s the conclusion to the story. Enjoy.
PORTRAIT OF MISS EMMALEE
Once the dishes were cleared away, we sat with coffee and a light sherbet for dessert. She leveled a green-eyed stare at me and asked what I wanted to know.
“It must be of some importance to you to bring you all the way up to Tulsa to meet an old woman.”
I smiled at the thought. “I’d hardly call you that, ma’am.”
“If you don’t start calling me Hilda, you can clear out of my house.”
“Okay, Hilda. First, I have to tell you, I was estranged from my family for several years.”
“I know that. Tossed out on your ear by your father at seventeen, I believe it was.”
My ears flamed. “Yes, ma’am. And if you know that, you likely know the reason why, as well.”
“Yes. Your father was a narrow-minded bigot. He didn’t believe you had a right to choose your own direction.”
“Delicately put. He couldn’t stand a pansy in his life. At the time, I recall my mother said something about violating a contract. I asked about it, and she said the unwritten contract between parents and a child.”
“Not exactly forthright, I’d say. But understandable.”
“Can I be blunt, Hilda?”
“We won’t get anywhere if you don’t.”
“I’ve run across things that have raised some questions in my mind about… well, frankly, about my mother and Miss Emmalee.”
Hilda’s laugh was like silver striking crystal. “Given your own life choices, I can see where your mind led you. But let me assure you, the thing that bound those two women together was not a matter of the flesh. Well, indirectly, I suppose it was, but not in the way you’re thinking.”
She paused and left me wondering if I was going to have to pry it out of her question by question.
The woman leaned back in her chair and relaxed, making me realize how tense I was. Finally, she asked a question. “Where were you born, Richie?”
“No, you weren’t. You were born here in Tulsa.”
“Hush now, and let me tell you a story. Many years ago, Emmalee Vanderport and I ran around everywhere together. Everyone considers us prim and proper now, but that wasn’t always the case. For a time, we were rounders. There was a third girl… woman to our group. She was from another part of the state, but we’d met her at college and kept in touch afterward. That was your mom. She was married and a bit more sober and considerably less affluent than we were, but she was lively and likeable, and pleasant to be around. So when it happened, she was naturally the one Emmalee turned to.”
“When what happened?”
“When you happened.”
I shook my head. “I… I don’t understand.”
“Let me tell you my story, and you will. Both your mother and Emmalee are dead and gone, so you should know the facts. Emmalee’s father was a doting father, indulged her shamelessly, but he was very strict about certain things. And one of those things was having a child out of wedlock. Emmalee got pregnant by a young man she met in school when he visited Sidney. To see her, I think. She was besotted by him beyond all reason. Emmalee had a good head on her shoulders except when it came to… well, let’s just call him John.
Hilda took a sip of her lukewarm coffee. “She surrendered to him one night in the firm expectation he was interested in marriage. It was only afterward that she learned he was already affianced to a girl from Virginia. In fact, they wed shortly thereafter. Your real father never knew that she had his child.
“When Emmalee learned she was expecting, she came to me up here in Tulsa. Confessing her condition to her father was impossible. She knew exactly what he would do. He’d find out who’d compromised his precious daughter and gone after the culprit. Then he’d do what your supposed father did to you. Throw her out. Emmalee was a strong woman, but not that strong. While the rest of the world thought Emmalee Vanderport was touring the world, she was hiding out up here in Tulsa with me.”
Hilda toyed with her sherbet spoon. “It was my idea to contact your mother. We knew and trusted her character, but we didn’t know the man she married. He had to be involved, of course, and agreed once he learned Emmalee intended to give you an inheritance the only way she could. Her grandmother had left her a trust and she transferred it over to your mother. Fortunately, she was wise enough to put everything in your mother’s name.”
I nodded. “Forever earning his enmity.”
She gave a wan smile. “He was resentful because Mary, the woman you called mother, wouldn’t take anything out of the trust except a modest monthly income. The money was for you. He wanted to live the lifestyle, and he took his revenge when he threw you out of the house at the first opportunity.” Hilda met my gaze squarely. “Emmalee did not intend to cause you troubles, but she did her best to ameliorate things. She—”
“She paid for my room and saw to it that I had a job.”
“She also expected your mother—well, the woman you called mother—would be able to overcome her husband’s animosity. You took care of things yourself, when you volunteered in the army as soon as you graduated high school.” She smiled. “And you’ve turned out very well. Very well, indeed.”
Except that I was gay—maybe because of the bastard of a father they’d chosen for me—and went without a family for a few years, but I didn’t say that. “Why didn’t they tell me any of this?”
“Emmalee swore everyone to secrecy. There were only two provision she put in the trust. One was that Mary and your so-called father had to move to Sidney so Emmalee could watch you grow up, and the other was that you were never to know about your real parentage.”
“So that’s the contract they referred to the day he tossed me out on my ear. He didn’t break it by throwing me out, but he could have by telling me about the deal.”
“Exactly. But now that you know, what are you going to do?”
“You aren’t going to violate her privacy?”
“I wouldn’t do that to my mom… either of them.”
I thought hard on the drive back to Sidney. Now that I knew, I understood Miss Emmalee’s frown. Mother’s frown. It must have plucked her heartstrings every time she saw me. I regretted that I hadn’t been able to show her more of the real me, but she saw to it that I couldn’t. Well, I’d solved the puzzle. And yet, there were still only two things important to me. Cars and Jorge. Not even a million and a half smackers could eclipse either of them. But they might enhance them. I’d figure that out later.
No wonder Miss Emmalee kept an eye on Richie in his teen years. She was actually his mother. But tell me something. Do you think Miss Emmalee was a strong woman? Wouldn’t a strong mother have revealed herself, at least, after her father died. But we all do things in our own way, don’t we? Thanks for hanging with me through five installments.
Next week, we’ll try something different.
Stay safe and stay strong.
Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say… so say it!
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