The Accidental Texan: Part 1 Chapter 8

Enter Madeleine

The first time Genevieve’s sister Madeleine came to visit her in Misty, it caused a great deal of confusion in the small town. Everyone knew that Genevieve just gave birth to her first child and couldn’t be expected to be out of bed for at least a week, so the town was shocked to see her driving around in a huge Chevrolet convertible, the top down and her hair wrapped in a gaily colored scarf. In hours the whole town became abuzz with questions. What was she doing up so soon? Where did that car come from? When did Genevieve learn to drive? Just what was going on? Lucky for the curious, Madeleine became lost looking for the Old Post farm, and having stopped to ask for directions she informed the helpful farmer who was tending his fence that she was Mrs. Archie’s identical twin sister. The farmer related the story to his wife when he returned home at sundown. Within the hour the town’s confusion was elevated by the grapevine.

After that initial visit when Madeleine expressed horror over Genevieve giving birth at home with a simple country doctor in attendance, she came to visit from time to time, when she remembered. The visits usually came when she was flying between coasts and wanted a break between flights. Her gentleman friend, the mysterious Heinrich, arranged that she borrow a nice car from one of his business associates in Dallas. He knew that she enjoyed the long drives through the empty country side, where police were few, and not many of those few could out drive her. When Madeleine lived in Milan she was taught to drive by the scion of a major European banking family, who liked to spend his family’s money on his personal racing team.

She seemed to have a sixth sense about when it was the worst time to come for a visit, and showed up during the height of the bomb shelter construction. Kelly wasn’t alone working on the bomb shelter any more. The men working on the shelter, the day Madeleine showed up, were surprised to look up and see a woman dressed all in white, from her wide brimmed hat to her hemline. Her tight fitting wool ensemble was made even more exotic since her head and neck were completely swathed in a smooth white silk from the hat down to her shoulders. It might have made her costume look like a nun’s habit had it not for the tight white wool skirt, which showed below her tunic, which ended just below her alluringly curved hips. The skirt came to her knees, showing off her deeply tanned legs, which were well matched by her shapely bare, and equally tanned arms.

Madeleine looked down at the men, and they looked back trying to peer up her stylishly skirt, as she stood hipshot, with her feet planted as far apart as the skirt would allow. She knew what they were doing but didn’t care as she flicked ash from her Turkish cigarette, clamped in an ornate ivory holder, into the hole.

“Whatever are you men doing?” Madeleine asked, lifting her sunglasses to reveal the piercing gray eyes that made her the darling of high fashion photographers.

“We are helping Kelly in building a bomb shelter,” one of the men said, enjoying the view. He heard about Mrs. Archie’s sister, but was shocked to see her in person. Her short visits to her sister gave the small town glimpses of the jet-setting life, and drove rumors that would have done the imagination of Graham Green proud.

“Piffle that MAN!” Madeleine said, turning sharply on her high heels, and went in search of her sister.

Madeleine found her twin sitting on the window-seat in the nursery watching her child napping, in the little cot that wasn’t quite a crib, and not quite a bed. Looking up Genevieve placed a long elegant finger across her lips, and guided her sister out of the nursery and down the hall to the master bedroom, out of earshot of the sleeping child. Throwing her arms around her sister she said, “Oh, Madeleine, it is so good to see you! I wasn’t expecting to see you again before you returned to Hong Kong.”

“It is good to see you too. Won’t you come with me? I hate to see your life squandered in this dreary little town! You belong in a city, like me. Hong Kong is wonderful, and if you were there with me, no one could ignore us,” Madeleine responded, keeping her sister in her arms.

“Oh, my dear sister, I love you dearly, but my child is more important to me than life. This is the best place for her. Someday when she is grown, Kelly and I are going to move back to a city, maybe even San Francisco,” Genevieve said, revealing her and Kelly’s future plan. “Then you and I can be the fabulous Davies girls again.”

“Well, you know you are always welcome in my home. I just got word; I got the apartment in Hong Kong I was on the waiting list for. My business agent has signed the lease for me as power of attorney,” Madeleine said, releasing her sister and patting the silk cover over her rigid shell of heavily lacquered hair to make sure the joyous greeting didn’t disarray its smooth contours.

“Whoever did you have to kill to get that?” Genevieve asked in amazement, referring to the Hong Kong digs. Her bright blue eyes meeting her sister’s icy gray ones, she felt the years drop away, and they were the Davies girls again. People often thought that the twins were identical until they realized that the eyes were so different. Genevieve’s impossibly blue eyes were the painful blue of the sky, on a spring day when you lie on the ground and looked straight up above you. Madeleine’s eyes were the eyes of a malamute, or more fittingly a wolf, with the irises such a pale gray as to be a hair’s breadth from being white, with a thick dark line around the edge separating the iris from the only slightly whiter part of the eye.

“I killed no one. Heinrich, well, I wasn’t about to ask,” Madeleine said with a sly smile. Setting down on the edge of the unusually low bed, her long shapely legs further exposed by her dress riding up somewhat, she continued. “Life has been just so much fun since I met Heinrich. You just wouldn’t believe. Hong Kong makes New York seem dull by comparison.”

Genevieve smiled at her sister, thinking of their lives in New York after they left their mother’s home: The struggling artist, and the up and coming fashion model. “That is hard to believe; our years in New York were so much fun,” she said.

“I should have never left you and gone to Milan. If I stayed and done that layout with Letecia Baker maybe you and the professor wouldn’t have gotten together,” Madeleine said ruefully.

“Ha! You would have never taken a job were you were just background dressing for photos of a Broadway star,” Genevieve said. “Madeleine, I wish you could see how happy Kelly has made me. How many women, do you know, who don’t have to choose between their career and a family. He makes it possible for me to have both.”

“Oh, if you say so,” Madeleine said with an edge of bitterness in her voice.

“You liked him when he was a failed poet and you didn’t know we were married. You even liked him when he was a failed playwright and was always trying to get you to introduce him to the important people around Broadway,” Genevieve pointed out. “I never understood why you took such a dislike to him once he got the professorship.”

Madeleine was about to make a biting retort to her sister when the two women’s attention was caught by the sound of a footstep on a loose board in the hallway.

Kelly was surprised at the charming tableau that greeted him when he walked into his bedroom. His wife, Genevieve, dressed in a simple shirtdress, of black cotton, showing a decorous length of leg, and low sensible shoes, leaned up against the mirrored dresser, her back curved as she looked down at her stylish sister, who was looking up from a position of serpentine elegance. They were the yin and yang of sisterhood, the light and the dark, the cool and the hot, and the good and the bad.

“Oh hello, Kelly; how is the hole going?” Madeleine asked her despised brother-in-law, consciously curling her lip in disdain for his dusty jeans and faded cambric shirt.

“Oh, Madeleine, I thought you were in New York,” Kelly said, edging around the room to retrieve a fresh handkerchief before returning to work with the men.

“I did, but I arranged a few days layover before flying to California to catch Pan Am to Honolulu, where I will catch up with Heinrich before going to Hong Kong,” Madeleine said, trying and failing to make Kelly feel guilty at having taken her sister away from the glittering life.

“I didn’t see a car outside,” Kelly said, making it sound like a question.

“Oh, Heinrich’s business associate made sure I was driven down this time. The car went back to Dallas after dropping me off,” she said, shortly.

Seeing she didn’t want to elaborate, Kelly pressed on, “Oh, why is that? I thought you loved to drive in big open spaces?”

“Well, if you must know, a very rude sheriff took my driver’s license away in upstate New York when I was visiting friends, and I haven’t been able to get it back yet. I guess he expected me to show up at traffic court, or something,” Madeleine said, still smarting that the sheriff hadn’t recognized her and gave her a speeding ticket rather than asking for an autograph.

“Oh, well that is too bad. How long will you be staying with us?” Kelly asked, not trying to sound the least bit hospitable, as his sister-in-law raised herself gracefully from the bed and stood beside her sister.

“Madeleine, you can stay as long as you like!” Genevieve assured her, as she slipped her arm around her sister’s slim waist.

Kelly smiled at his wife and said echoing her insincerely, “Of course, you are welcome to stay as long as you like.” Kelly made his escape back to the project, thankful to have it to keep him busy and away from his sister-in-law as much as possible.

After a few days, Kelly found that his patience with his wife’s sister outlasted Madeleine’s patience with being in a household with an energetic toddler. Kelly happily drove Madeleine to Dallas, the bed of the old truck filled with her designer luggage, listening the whole way to how he single-handily ruined Genevieve’s life. Once in Dallas, he found that she lied to Genevieve, and her plane wasn’t due to leave for a few days. Madeleine directed him to leave her at a hotel with a spa, where she could retreat and relax her jangled nerves, before the long trip to Hong Kong.

Over the next several months Kelly’s enthusiasm for the bomb shelter project never flagged, and infected people around him. Several other families in Misty started their own bomb shelters, and started getting together to help and support each other. Even the lackadaisical Bennie pitched in to help. As time passed Genevieve became suspicious of her husband’s motives, and began to keep a special eye on him; especially when he was with his survivalist friends.

One night she awoke to find his side of the bed empty and cold. Getting up and putting on her warm robe, she checked to make sure Alexis was sound asleep, before creeping down to the lower floor and finding her husband typing away on his portable typewriter. She returned unnoticed to the bedroom, slipped back into bed, and feigned sleep a short time later when he came to bed.

The next day when her husband was outfitting a heavy door to the nearly finished shelter with the help of Dean Massey and Gene Elbert, whom he was exchanging bomb shelter labor with, she slipped into the office and looked around for the manuscript her husband was working on, only to find that his desk was clear and all the drawers were locked, with the key missing. She knew from past experience that her husband only got this secretive when he was deep into a book that he didn’t want anyone to see until it was finished.

That night after dinner, Genevieve and Kelly sat in the glider on the veranda, enjoying watching Alexis running around on the grass barefoot, on summer hardened feet, chasing the lightning bugs, which were flying around the front yard in a natural light show, set to the music of crickets and frogs.

“Kelly, this new book you are working on has me worried,” Genevieve stated bluntly.

“What book? Who said I was working on a book?” Kelly asked taking his pipe from between his teeth. Kelly recently took up the habit of smoking his pipe on the veranda; no longer smoking it in the house because the doctor said the smoke was the cause of Alexis’ frequent bronchitis.

“We wives have our ways,” Genevieve said, laying her head on her husband’s shoulder. “I am worried that you are basing it on your bomb shelter project, which won’t show our neighbors here in a very good light, and we will have to move when you publish it.”

“Someday, I might make a book out of it, but what I am doing is working up a series of lectures for my next circuit,” he said puffing gently on the pipe stem and laughing at Alexis’ weaving and bobbing across the yard. “I will not present these lectures anywhere that might harbor citizens of Misty.”

“Tell me about it,” his wife requested, leaning up against him, encouraging him to put his arm around her shoulder. As he did, she lay the side of her head on his chest and waited, listening to the strong thumping of his heart.

“Well, I came up with the idea that no matter how silly the project, using the basic theories of my business management model, I could inspire even the most levelheaded people to become enthusiastic. So I picked the most foolish project I could think of, and set to work,” he said contentedly. “Honey, come back, don’t get out of the light,” he called, and watched as Alexis barely made it back into the circle of light around the veranda, before resuming her gyrations.

Genevieve, her eyes also riveted on the child, sat thinking. She ran over the last few months, in her mind, seeing them in the light of her husband’s brand of businessman’s self-help, and nodded her head, “Yes, I think your project has been a resounding success. The people, you have roped into it, are not the sort to follow every foolish trend.”

After the bomb shelter was finished and furnished, Genevieve helped her husband pack, and to see him off on the road again. As she carefully folded his shirts, and made neat rolls of his six pair of identical socks, she remembered how much fun it was the few times she went on the road with him before the baby, and wished she could go now. It was so exciting to be sitting in the back of an auditorium and watch her quiet husband walk meekly out on stage, to a usually skeptical audience. It thrilled her to see, over the course of a few hours, him take control of the lives of a room full of strangers. She found his power to be an exceptional aphrodisiac. That power of his worried her when he was out on the road alone, and she was left to reflect as to what he could be up to during the hours when he wasn’t performing. She assumed he had groupies. After all he was a man. She convinced herself that he wouldn’t let any out-of-town indiscretions come back to haunt him in Misty and hurt their marriage. She decided to trust her husband and put worry out of her mind.

Categories: Books, Novels by S. L. Pirtle, The Accidental TexanTags: , , , , , ,

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