Part I: A Snapshot
“Davie Boy, pull that branch away from the main walkway, please. We don’t need anyone tripping and breaking their neck … The last thing I can stomach is a lawsuit, especially during a damn global pandemic. And while you’re at it, see if you can take a proper photo of the Jane Magnolia trees. I wanna showcase them in the new magazine for the shop.”
Starla beckoned from behind the desk of her family’s bed-and-breakfast. Davie Boy, her younger brother, helped to keep the place up and running. He was what you’d call a “handyman,” but he was more man than he was handy.
“And where is that God-forsaken niece of mine?! CHLOE! CHLOE! GET DOWN HERE, ASAP!”
The walls of the shop creaked. Starla was a loud woman. Always heard. Barely seen. She made the lives of everyone around her miserable. She now lived as a divorcée who owned two cats, a dog, and hundreds of handmaid quilts from the elder women in her family. And … part of the bed-and-breakfast. Buddy, her older brother, is the other owner.
“Starla, I don’t get paid enough for this. I threw my back out messin’ ‘round with them branches and those magnolia trees aren’t half-bloomed yet. Be a pity to waste good film on them in that state. Probably best to wait another week.”
Starla listened to the saucy words of her kid brother, knowing full well he was half-right. A lump formed in her throat. She swallowed hard.
“Whatever. Thank you.”
Buddy didn’t stick around much. The only things he had on Starla was age, favored gender by their dad, and the uncanny ability to lie in the face of danger. He could talk himself out of trouble and talk himself into bed with anyone. Starla, if she were truthful, envied him.
“I’ll just see if Buddy can do it the next time he swings by this way. He should’ve dropped the deposit off last Friday, haven’t seen the fool yet. Don’t worry about any of it, Davie Boy. It’ll get done. Can you collect your daughter and run to the store? Here’s the list.”
She handed Davie Boy the shopping list and watched as her niece came bouncing down the stairs in a revealing top and some short-shorts — Daisy Duke short.
“No, ma’am. No, ma’am! Head right on back up those stairs and put on some more clothes, young lady! What in the name … Have you lost your mind? Davie Boy, you let her dress like this? Showing her business to the world? You will march right up those stairs and find something else to wear.”
Starla rubbed her temples and sighed a great sigh. Her head throbbed. She needed a drink. Davie Boy’s voice snapped her back into focus.
“You know I can’t do anything with her, Starla. Since June died, Chloe’s been acting out — talkin’ back, breakin’ curfew, smoking weed — ”
“She’s been doing what? Aw, hell no! Leave her here with me. She can help me with the B & B and the flower shop. Don’t you fret, Davie Boy. Things’ll be back in order around here soon. Just you wait and see.”
Chloe descended the stairs just as her aunt finished her speech. This time, she had on a mini-skirt, a halter top, and some thigh-high boots.
“Davie Boy, go get me that vodka and some ibuprofen.”
Starla shook her head in disbelief, tutted the air between her teeth, and shot her niece a devil-filled stare.
“Tomorrow. I’ll deal with you tomorrow.”