"Is your brother coming to graduation?"
Ella was accustomed to her friends' obsession with her older brother. Throughout the years, she had endured a sickening amount of comments about how "hot" he was, but it was Grace who seemed to be completely obsessed with him. Ella sometimes wondered if Grace was only her friend in order to have better access to Wade. She had even caught her writing Mrs. Grace Hamilton across her Latin notebook. Grace stood silent; an anxiously waiting for an answer.
Wade, her older brother by five years, was tall, smart, and handsome. The problem wasn't that he was good looking; the problem was that he knew it. She was certain that he tormented her friends as some sort of sick game. She mentioned (more like screamed) it, over dinner one evening; calling him a man- whore that thrives on making girls follow him around like idiots, only to enjoy crushing their hearts later. Her step father, whom she had always called "Uncle Rhett", began to choke on his recently rationed whisky with raucous laughter. " It's not funny Uncle Rhett. He has some sort of mental issue.", Ella stoically reprimanded him. "I'm sorry sweetheart. I understand completely. I knew a beautiful young girl who acted like that. I feared she had mental insecurities as well.", he said winking at his wife; who in turn only glared back at him.
"Yes, of course he'll be there; as will be my mother, so you'd better abandon all desperate attempts to throw yourself at him.", Ella said smiling. Grace had "accidentally" walked into Wade's room clad only in a towel that barely covered her during a slumber party last June. Trying her very best to be alluring, she had intended to seduce her best friend's gorgeous older brother who was home from college, only to come face to face with his mother. Grace fiercely apologized, insisting that it was an accident.
"I'm so sorry Mrs. Butler! This house is just so huge, I get lost all the time".
Wade's mother smiled and icily replied, "That's perfectly understandable Grace; especially since you have been visiting this house since you were three years old. "
After that humiliating experience, Grace avoided contact with Wade and Ella's mother at all costs.
Grace inhaled deeply. Ella's mother was not physically intimidating, yet bone chillingly frightening. She could be captivating and charming; everyone always commented that she was the most beautiful woman in all of Georgia. She was average height and slender build, with magnolia white skin and jet black hair. She could smile, showing her dimples, and appear as the picture of southern sweetness, yet terrify even the strongest of men with just one look of her green eyes. Grace's mother Cathleen, grew up with Mrs. Butler and had confirmed that she had always had the talent for making people shake in their boots. "It's her eyes honey. They're such a pure green that it's unnerving".
Grace saw those same green eyes in Ella, and wondered what else she had inherited from her mother. Ella was always kind and sweet natured; but could she turn murderous when provoked?
"Do you think your mother is capable of murdering someone? ", Grace asked in general fear for her life should Wade's mother catch her in another compromising position with her oldest child. Ella smirked and couldn't help herself fan the fire of her friend's fear.
"Well, my stepmom said my mom killed a guy who was trying to break into her house when Wade was a baby; and that my Aunt Melly helped her hide the body."
Ella's step mother never had anything good to say about her mother. Her father had, at times, tried to deflect the venom that was hurled toward his ex-wife in the presence of his daughter.
"Now India, let's not talk about this now.", he'd say, nervously running his hands through his red hair.
"No Frank!", she'd yell," That woman is awful! Didn't you see the way she barged into the store and DEMANDED her child support?! She should be paying US! That low life she's married to is a BILLIONAIRE! How you were ever married to her Frank, I can't understand!".
Frank and Scarlett agreed at their divorce mediation that they would never disclose to anyone that it was only because of an unintended pregnancy, that had resulted in Ella, that they had even decided to get married.
Scarlett had tried to paint a rosy picture for Ella when she was little. She was told time and again that her father was engaged first to her Aunt Sue; but despite that commitment, her parents fell so deeply in love with each other that they could no longer ignore their feelings and decided to elope. She found out the truth years later during a heated argument between her parents.
"Are you serious? You're actually standing here asking me to agree to LOWER child support payments?". Scarlett asked in sheer bewilderment; the fact that he would even ask for this enraged her.
She could actually feel her blood pressure rising. So much for Dr. Meade's instructions to not get too worked up.
"Be reasonable Scarlett. Do you really need that much each month? Look around you; you live in a damn palace! ". Frank had never been bold enough to combat his ex-wife. Scarlett called the shots; as she had always done in every aspect of their life together.
"So, because my husband is well off; OUR child, YOUR daughter, has to suffer? Is it his responsibility to pay her tuition; which is by the way, the only thing your piss poor amount can cover!?". Her face was hot from the blood rushing to her cheeks.
"You should thank God that I even agreed to that pitiful amount! You make me sick, you know that? Why don't you just sign over your parental rights to Rhett; he's a better father to her anyway!". That wasn't true; Frank adored his little girl. Scarlett, largely pregnant with her third child, was only interested in hurting Frank, not the actual truth.
"That's not fair Scarlett; you know how much I love Ella! "; he was now yelling as well. Saying he was a bad father was hitting below the belt.
Ella, who was sitting in the front parlor, knew her father was in her mother's office and was straining to hear their conversation while appearing to ignore the loud confrontation by pretended to be engrossed in playing with her Monster high dolls.
Her mother had not been a good mood at all today. In fact, she had been in a terrible mood for weeks; ever since she was bared by her husband and doctor from going to work. It was either she stays home, or go on complete bed rest until her due date, eight weeks from now. Her father was taking his own life in his hands by going in there to talk to her at all, much less fight with her.
Frank felt a surge of confidence and began hurling insults himself "Do you think I would have put myself through the misery of being married to you if not for her !?" Frank's face was becoming as red as his hair. He moved toward the woman who had been the destruction of his life for almost seven years.
Scarlett clenched her fists, turning her knuckles white. "MISERY?! You were miserable?! I couldn't even STAND you! Our marriage was the WORST decision that I've ever made in my LIFE!".
Scarlett's raised voice must have alerted her husband, as he darted down the stairs in such a hurried fashion that he didn't even give notice to Ella.
"YOU were the one who said we NEEDED to get married!", Frank loudly reminded her.
"And you know why I did that! Do you really think I wanted to marry my sister's dirty old man fiancé? ". Scarlett braced herself on the edge of her desk. She was beginning to feel lightheaded.
Rhett burst into the room leaving the huge mahogany doors wide open; giving Ella the opportunity to better hear the conversation.
"Scarlett, calm down. Do you want to have this baby six weeks early ?!" From the moment, he learned that he would become a father, he treated his wife as if she were made of glass.
"THIS piece of garbage ", Scarlett pointed at her ex-husband with a shaky hand; "wants me to agree to LOWER his child support payments!"
Rhett could see that this was no time to try to reason with his wife. His focus was only on his child, and her need to remain in her mother's womb for at least four more weeks.
"Frank, if you want to discuss the payments, have your lawyer contact Henry and we will get it sorted out. Really, what kind of person brings some this sensitive up to a woman who is eight months pregnant?" Rhett's calm yet serious demeanor was enough to cause Frank to leave the Butler home conceding defeat.
No one seemed to notice the figure of a little girl with tears in her eyes, cowering in the corner of the parlor; convinced that it was she who was the cause of her parent's terrible marriage and years of unhappiness.
Grace stood in stupefied silence at the revelation the Mrs. Butler was indeed a possible murderer. "Don't worry Grace" Ella comforted her friend. "If my mom has restrained herself from murdering my Aunt Sue for all these years, I'm pretty sure you're safe."
"Text me later. I have to go. My grandma's picking me up today and she hates it when I'm not waiting out there for her. See you Saturday".