Claire Worthington-Devereaux

“Abigail, that moss clinging to those old oaks, I do believe, looks like the cobwebs in the attic at Longworth. You know, time and again my big brothers would dare me to sit in that attic. I would so boldly accept, of course, but then barely get inside before I would start crying and thinking that those cobwebs were phantoms come to take my soul.”

“Gran, tell me about it later, please. Who cares about moss, and attics, and your mean old brothers?” She was starting to cry harder than ever.

Oh heavens, I need a drink.

I know she’s my granddaughter, but some girls are just not attractive, and she’s one of them. Took after her momma’s side, of course. If it weren’t for my money, I’m sure, not a boy worth a turnip would want her. Money makes everything look more attractive, and that’s the law.

My first husband, Charles, and I were married 43 years ago here on the hotel grounds, in the same gazebo where my homely granddaughter will be presented to society later this afternoon. Odd, but those live oaks that frame the gazebo have bore witness to every turning point in my life. The morning I married Charles, when I walked down the bricked path to stand in front of God and society, I had the same feeling that the moss was really those phantoms in the attic. And I was right. And the azaleas and hydrangeas in all their vernal glory were funeral bouquets, created by God and tended to by the Grim Reaper himself. Thankfully, the morning mimosas, and granddaddy’s whiskey, made it all better by the time I waltzed to my funeral pyre.

"Grandmother," Abigail howled. "I hate him! I hate his fat momma! I hate those stupid gossips! And I hate that two-faced heifer! Why her? Why today?"

"Abigail, now, you stop that crying before your makeup ruins your dress. And if you hate them all, why in heaven’s sake do you care? Now hush.”

My granddaughter's heart was clearly broken, and rightfully so. The boy had done her viscously wrong, choosing to escort her best friend to the cotillion instead, but Abigail was to be presented in an hour, and a lady never presents herself with a streaked face and ruined organza. She would just have to plaster a pretty smile on her face and walk out on her daddy’s arm. She could dance with her sorry brother, if he could still stand or wasn’t tossing grits in the rhododendrons. I didn't have the heart to tell her that she would feel better soon enough, long enough for the nasty memory to fade, so another boy who likes her name and money could break her heart all over again.

"Abigail, I have loved three, no, two men in my life: your real grandfather, bless his soul and Big Jackson, bless his soul..."

"Wait. You said three, grandmother. Who's the third?"

I immediately regretted my feeble attempt to console her.  Where’s that girl Classy? I need my drink.  I could see the curiosity piquing in Abigail’s eyes.

"The third? Oh, just some silly boy who's hardly the worth the mention. In fact, the day I was presented, he had broken my heart, just like that rascal Wilson has broken yours. In fact, come to think of it, he made a very similar choice to what Wilson has made. And if you ask anyone, even Amy Vanderbilt herself, they would say that makes him an unmentionable. As if his family is worth their weight anyhow."

I lied about my beau, but I didn‘t want to cheapen the memory by sharing with her. The boy, my first love, my only true love, haunts me to this very day. Although, he chose me: I was the one who turned him down for another. But he was poor, uneducated, not the kind of boy with whom privileged girls associate and marry or love.

"You know, Abigail, before I married your grandfather, there were actually a couple of silly boys to break my heart as bad as yours is breaking right now. You're just getting practice for the real thing, that's all. And when the real thing comes along, and he gets down on one knee and promises you the world, you'll appreciate it all the more."

And that was another lie. I have never appreciated anything my first or second husband had given me and they couldn’t give me what I really wanted.

I turned her toward the mirror. The look of horror on her face let me know that my lying streak was coming to an end, and she began the laborious task of repairing her streaked face. Bless her heart.

Abigail's tears had reopened an old wound. Today, I would see that boy, my beau, with his face just as flawed , yet as youthful and as beautiful to me as it was on the day he kissed me 45 years ago, the very day I chose to exchange my soul for garden parties, a mansion, and a well-worn name. Yes, my love, my true love, is still living, but he's dead, just like me. If I couldn't have him then, and I can't have him now, well…

“Classy Mae?”


“Be a dear and get me another drink. Make it a double, would you? And bring one for Abigail, too.”

The End

75 comments about this story Feed