A Woman of Quality
Click on image to enlarge.
by Faith Francis Berlin
Description: Wildly in love, Bonnie Rose O'Dare, a spunky, young Dolly Parton look-alike, and her childhood sweetheart, a handsome singer/songwriter, head for Nashville. She is positive he's destined for stardom, and she'll do anything ... even if it means losing him ... to see that he gets there.
eBook Publisher: Wings ePress, Inc., 2006 2006
eBookwise Release Date: December 2006
2 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [574 KB]
Reading time: 363-509 min.
Judge Garrison reached across the table to pat Bonnie's hand, glancing sternly down at Darcy and Lyla who were giggling. "Go on, my dear. It's lovely." he encouraged.
"This is the ending," Bonnie said, pink now with embarrassment.
"So here's to Randoph Bradford, the name he'll proudly bear,
I hope he'll be the happiest of children anywhere."
Bonnie crumpled her work in her sweaty palm, noting that Paul was white around the mouth and that his head was turned away. Only Judge Garrison applauded enthusiastically.
"Excuse me," she said, near tears. "I ... I ... have to use the facilities." She pushed back her chair and almost fell in her effort to leave the room as quickly as possible.
"Must she have included that part about ... making a baby'?" Eunice gasped, breathlessly pressing her hands to her chest.
Paul was humiliated. Why, he fumed--trying not to display his ire--had she not read him the damn thing first? He could have told her it was inappropriate. He could have guided her. His wife was making a fool of them both. It was intolerable. He would speak to her sternly when they left. This was never going to happen again. Lyla ... He glanced sheepishly across the table. Oh, God, what must she be thinking?
Darcy's laugh bounced rather shrilly off the walls. "We're all aware how children are produced," he snorted, "but it is hardly an appropriate subject for the dinner table. Lyla, what did you think of Paul's wife's poem?"
"Trite. Pathetic. Sorry, Paul," she said, gazing at him with sympathy. "Strange how a person's literary background--or lack of it--becomes painfully obvious with poetry, isn't it?" She glanced at Eunice, who seemed to nod agreement as she continued. "Well, what could you expect from a woman like Bonnie, anyway?" she asked no one in particular. "Taking advantage of Paul's kind nature, marrying him in such a mad frenzy. And now, she's so very pregnant. Makes one wonder, doesn't it?"
"Wait a minute, Lyla," Paul began. "Bonnie wasn't ... I mean; I have to say that she was..."
"Was what, Paul?" Bonnie asked from the entrance to the dining room. She had obviously overheard Lyla's remarks.
"I'll answer for him," Lyla said, rising from her chair. "He's too much of a gentleman to say what ought to be said. I think you should know what everyone's saying about you, Mrs. Bradford," she said sarcastically. "You married Paul because you were already pregnant with someone else's child, didn't you? Now you're trying to pass it off as Paul's baby! I say you are a cheat and a fraud."
Judge Garrison cleared his throat as he stood up and his face was very red. "See here, young woman, that is outrageous!" he sputtered at Lyla. "You are recklessly impugning Mrs. Bradford's reputation in front of witnesses. If you cannot prove those allegations, you should be sued for slander!" He fished a card from his vest and flung it down on the table in front of Bonnie's vacant chair. "I would gladly represent Mrs. Bradford against..."
"Lyla!" Paul broke in and the older man regained his seat. "The Judge is right. You're going too far. You can't..."
"Oh, can't I?" Lyla ignored the Judge's warning and continued. "I think it's time we got the facts straight; here and now." She sent a scathing glance at Bonnie, and then back to Paul. "You come home to Dunnstown with this ... this Nashville bimbo ... this blonde backwoods nothing, and expect me to be silent? Palming herself off as such a young, innocent thing! Look at her! Is that what you want to live with for the rest of your life? Is it?" Lyla's voice was shrill with anger and outrage as she leaned over the table toward Paul's white face. "You'd pick her over me? With my background, my European education?"
"European?" Bonnie repeated, coming closer to the table. "Smells like it to me, or is that just the natural odor of all husband-stealin' skunks like you?" Lyla opened her mouth but Bonnie glared it shut. "Just sit your skinny butt down, Lyla, and listen up." Eunice began to rise. "You, too, Eunice." Bonnie gave her mother-in-law's fleshy shoulder a sturdy shove. "I got me a feelin' you're at the bottom of this."
Bonnie casually lifted a cut-glass decanter full of cherry liqueur from the sideboard as she spoke. "I don't have to defend the ... the lineage--in case you thought I didn't know the word--of my child," she said firmly, pausing to fill Judge Garrison's thimble-sized goblet with the thick red liquid. "I know who made this baby, whether you want to accept it or not." Her voice was surprisingly calm, and her hand was steady.
Paul was immobilized with shock. What was she doing filling glasses at the table like a maid? Had she lost her mind? He sat staring at his wife as she moved on to Darcy's small glass while she continued speaking. "They've got tests today, remember? DNA tests, like on those lawyer shows? That'll settle who my baby's daddy is, won't it? Well, I'm ready for it," she said. "I'll take you all on." She had arrived at Lyla's chair. "Upper crust?" she mocked. "That what you call yourselves? Well, no wonder you remind me of cow flop that's been out in the sun too long. Maybe this'll cool you off." Bonnie lifted the decanter and poured the cherry liqueur over Lyla's perfectly-coiffed head while Lyla yelped, blubbered and flapped her hands in shocked outrage.
"We are leaving at once!" Paul shouted, leaping up and taking a firm grip on Bonnie's arm.
She stubbornly gripped the back of the Judge's chair, dug in her heels and stopped Paul in mid-stride.
"Hold on!" she said, turning to the speechless group gaping at Lyla's cherry-stained hair, face and ruined gown. "I want to thank you all," Bonnie said with the put-on southern politeness she detested. "I had a lovely time, and I've enjoyed myself immensely."
Judge Garrison was choking with laughter when Paul half-dragged her from the room.
Bonnie's rage did not subside till they were most of the way home. She hardly heard Paul's raised voice shouting threats and dire punishment if she ever did anything like that again; if she didn't apologize; if she refused to...
She closed her eyes. She was busy listening to her own body; she was busy feeling the fingers of pain grip her lower back; she was concentrating on the fact that, suddenly, she knew that her baby was ready to be born. He was ready right now. She pulled up her skirt and slipped her panties off, shoving them in her handbag.
"What are you doing?" Paul shouted, steering the car erratically. "You just went to the bathroom. Can't you wait till we get home?"
"No. I can't wait." Bonnie tried for a deep breath and felt her water break, flowing unchecked down her legs onto the car's carpeted flooring as a hard cramp bent her double.
"My God ... what is that?" Paul lifted one dripping shoe and saw the wetness. "Are you urinating? In my car? Are you?" He practically screamed. They had only two blocks to go. He swung recklessly to the curb in front of Hightowers. "Get out," he shouted. "Get out of my car, you ... you..." he sputtered.
"I can't." Bonnie braced against the wrenching pains. "The baby's coming. That was my water that broke, you idiot. Don't you know anything?"
"Get out, I said!" Paul raced around the front of the car, flinging open the door on her side. He reached in for her, grabbing her arm. Bonnie tried to swing her legs to the side, to get them positioned under her with her feet on the curb, but her legs felt like wooden stilts. She thrust herself forward, trying to stand and at the same moment Paul pulled too hard. Bonnie fell to the pavement, twisting herself to try to shield her belly, taking a crippling blow against the cement.
Her labor pains began in earnest.
Unable to rise, Bonnie knew she was going to have her baby right there in front of her own house on the public sidewalk. She managed to wriggle out of her mink and throw it protectively over her body, somewhat shielding herself. Her knees opened as her body arched into the birth position. Beneath her, the sidewalk was freezing cold with a layer of light snow that had fallen in the last half-hour. She welcomed the cold; it helped her to focus her mind.
"Get up!" Paul was shouting. "Get in the house! Cover yourself. People can see you!"
She could hear his voice, but it was as if she were lying in a dark tunnel.
"Get up, for God's sake. You can't do that here on the sidewalk." He pulled ineffectually on her arms. "Get in the damn house!" he screamed.
She moaned in an agony of heaving muscles she never knew she had. Wave after wave of pain washed over her. All around she could see lighted windows--and now, as she lay on the walk in agony, faces came to those lighted windows, peering out into the night; peering out, but no one came.
"Help me, Paul," she cried. "Help me, please. It's coming. Please."
Paul was vomiting on the curb, made sick by her sprawling white legs, and what was happening down there. He squatted beside her head like a fool, continuing to beg her to come into the house where people wouldn't be watching. It was all he could think of.
"Help me," Bonnie pleaded. "There's something wrong." Panting, she gripped his arm and tried to guide his hand down where she was certain the baby's head was beginning to crown. "Look," she cried. "Please, look and tell me what's wrong."