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Chapter Fifteen

I hated to leave Muffy home alone again, especially after I ignored her so much while I’d thrown myself at Joe. Thank goodness we were behind my house, not that it mattered. Did dead people care if their reputations were besmirched? In the end I brought Muffy with me, hoping it wouldn’t upset Violet. My secret hope was Muffy would wiggle her way into Violet and Mike’s hearts and they would take her when I died.

The look on Violet’s face assured me she had not become immune to the barrage of surprises I kept throwing her way.

“Is this your dog?”

“Her name is Muffy and she is very sensitive.”

Muffy tooted her sensitivity on Violet’s doorstep.

“Oh, dear Lord. The stench…”

“She just needs more roughage in her diet is all, give her a chance. Little Mikey pooped out some nasty stuff, and I still love him.”

Violet didn’t look convinced. “You seem more cheerful than when you left.”

“I’ve had some time to get used to things.” As well as some other extracurricular activities.

“Aunt Bessie called and said she’d be here in about ten minutes.”

I led Muffy out to the backyard. Ashley ran behind us, excited to have a dog in her home. Thankfully, she seemed oblivious to Muffy’s physical inadequacies.

“Thanks a lot,” Violet said when I came in, sarcasm dripping off her words like butter slathered on corn on the cob. “You know she wants a dog.”

“I’ll share Muffy with her. She can visit anytime.”

Aunt Bessie gave us both big hugs when she arrived. Mike came home from work early and bounced little Mikey on his knee, keeping him distracted. Violet brought the box to Aunt Bessie in the living room. Violet and I sat on the sofa.

Aunt Bessie perched on a side chair, looking more nervous than I’d ever seen her. She looked down at the lid. “I haven’t seen this box for years.”

“You’ve seen it before?” Violet asked.

“Yes, it was Dora’s.” She stroked the lid, almost as if she touched Dora herself.

“Is Dora my mother?” I asked. I didn't have time to dilly-dally. My giant death clock was ticking down.

Aunt Bessie looked up with a sad smile. “Yes, Dora was your mother.”

I knew this already from the evidence piled in the box on her lap, yet hearing the words spoken out loud felt like a gavel coming down with a final decree. I released a small cry of dismay. Violet reached over, enclosing my hand in hers.

“How can this be, Aunt Bessie?” Violet asked. “Is she my mother too?”

“No, Violet. Your Momma is your mother.” She smiled at me again. “You both know that your Momma was a difficult woman to live with, but years ago, she did try. She loved your father something fierce, but your father was a soft man and her sharp tongue wore him down. After your momma had Violet, she became consumed with her, pushing your daddy to the side. She waited a long time to have Violet, thinking for years she’d never have children. Your father began to work more hours to help buy all the extras your momma wanted. That’s when he met Dora, who’d recently moved to Henryetta from Shreveport. Her family was from around here and she’d run off to the city for a little excitement. Dora was sweet and soft, everything your momma was not. Your daddy loved her and Dora got pregnant.” She nodded in my direction. “With you. Your daddy had to choose who he wanted to be with and he chose Dora.”