Disclaimer: It's on fanfiction dot net. It's free. So I'm obviously getting nothing out of it aside from my own perverse amusement. Don't sue me. I'll share my perverse amusement with you if you ask nicely. :)
This is part one in a potential series. I'm currently thinking abouta sequel so feedback is always welcome and appreciated. Those who are familiar with my other work know that I'm pretty responsive to reviews. They've even been known to affect the story. But in this case, the story is already completed, it will be exactly 10 chapters long, and I will upload a new chapter every Saturday night. So stay tuned if you like it and be prepared. I like angst. Lots of angst. Beware that my character is not only NOT a Mary-Sue, she could be viewed as a complete bitch. But I say nothing else for fear of ruining the story. So, onward...
The General Lee tore through the dirt roads of Hazzard, as it was prone to do on any day where the sun rose and set.
Balladeer: Well, things seem to be just as normal in Hazzard, old Bo and Luke racing their car and practicing their fancy moves. Too bad things never stay normal, not in Hazzard.
As it drove smoothly along Highway 31, a glimmer of sun caught on a piece of metal not a half mile up. Bo cocked his head back, trying to get a better look. As the light passed, his eyes focused on a very nicely shaped behind in a pair of black leather chaps, crouched down beside a motorcycle.
"Looks like we get to do our good deed for the day, cousin," he quipped to Luke.
"Can't think of a prettier sight to do it to," Luke shot back.
With a mild screech of tires, the General Lee pulled up behind the motorcycle and its comely rider. The woman stood up, eyeing the General Lee warily. Honey-brown hair streaked with red-gold highlights fanned out behind her, adding to the appeal of the picture she presented. A black leather jacket, not too bulky but long enough to cover her hips, disguised exactly what kind of build she possessed, but no one who could fill out a pair of leather pants that well could possibly have a bad one.
A blond head popped out of the driver's seat, bright smile firmly in place for a pretty girl. Luke was only a tad bit slower, but he was closer, so that gave him the advantage.
"Can I help you?" she asked, and both Duke boys noticed that she was clutching a crowbar in her hand, nervously switching it from one to the other.
"Actually, Miss, we were about to ask you the same thing," Bo said, cheerful and flirty as ever. "You havin' trouble?"
"Nothing I can't handle," she said breezily, glancing down. "Already fixed, actually."
"Oh," Luke said, as if he and Bo were of one mind and could easily pick up each other's sentences, "well, then, at least allow us to introduce ourselves. I'm Luke Duke and that's—"
"I know who you are," she cut them off, her face darkening unexpectedly.
Bo blinked. Then he blinked again. Like a puppy recognizing his master, he leapt from his perch on the General Lee and came bounding around the hood.
"Henri-Mae?" he asked, voice going high with excitement.
"Henri-Mae Locke?" Luke picked up for him, feet also on the ground.
The woman nodded coolly.
Both Duke cousins pulled up abruptly.
Balladeeer: Now you may be wonderin' why the boys are hesitatin' now that they know who the pretty girl is. But Henrietta May Locke had disappeared from Hazzard immediately after Bo had graduated from high school – she didn't even show up for the graduation ceremony, which also happened to be her own. She hadn't been seen in these parts since, and that was at least seven years ago.
Bo lost the ability to speak. Luke was never so unlucky. "God, Henri-Mae, we were so sorry about your dad—"
"Henna," she corrected them. "I go by Henna." The cold had not left her voice; it was obvious that she was correcting them simply because the familiar "Henri-Mae" was annoying her. "And I'm sure you are."
"Well," Bo had finally found his tongue. It was somewhere in his front shirt pocket. "Is there anything that we can do for you?"
Henna turned to him, looking at him fully for the first time since they'd pulled over. Blue eyes met blue eyes, ice against the ocean. Ice won.
"No, Bo," she said, soft but with enough bite to kill a rattlesnake. "You've done quite enough already."
She slipped the crowbar into the sack that lay at her feet, hitched the sack back to the cycle's back seat, slipped her helmet over her head, and drove off, leaving both Dukes quite speechless in her wake.
"Well," Luke said.
"Yeah," Bo said.
"I always said you weren't too bright," Luke finished.
Bo seemed to snap out of it. "What?" he squawked, even as he tumbled back toward the driver's seat.
"All of that hostility was obviously about you," Luke said as he swung his legs back over and settled into the passenger seat. "You and your stupid libido."
"Talk about the pot and the kettle," Bo shot back caustically.
"Hey, I ain't never pretended to be loyal to a woman in my life," Luke said. "At least the girl knows that going in."
"Well how was I supposed to know?"
"Oh, yeah, Mr. Big-Time Linebacker. There was no way of knowing how many pretty girls were going to start throwing themselves at you once you started winning games. It just wasn't fair, was it?"
Bo retreated into a sullen silence. He wasn't much for talking about it.
Balladeer: Now, we don't usually do this, but y'all need to hang on for a good old flashback.
Henri-Mae's mother had walked out on them when she was ten years old.
Before then, the family hadn't exactly been the happiest. Henrietta got along well with her father – she was a bit of a daddy's girl – but her mother drank. It wasn't so much that she was abusive, but she was sullen and would retreat into her room, basically ignoring her only child. It was Henri-Mae's father who helped her with her homework, went to the parent-teacher conferences, made sure she had lunch before she went off to Hazzard Elementary. But still, Henrietta tried to know her mother. The closest she could get was sneaking into her room while her mother was sleeping off a binger and snuggling up beside her, and bringing her coffee or glasses of water with aspirin to take the edge off the hangover when she awoke.
When the woman disappeared without so much as a note, but an empty closet and overturned underwear drawer, Henrietta took it much harder than expected. She grew rebellious. She was expelled from Hazzard Elementary for unruly behavior – the last straw had been when she'd led a small pack of girls to smoke in the restroom, and then had set the trash on fire by putting a smoking butt in it in a desperate attempt to cover up what she'd been doing. Secretly, the school psychiatrist suspected that the girl wanted to be caught – standing there, smirking up at the teacher who had walked in on her, while the trash smoked obviously beside her. But it was too much – her father enrolled her in a private school, where she attempted every which way to get expelled from that, as well. The nuns were made of sterner stuff, until Henrietta, in a final act of desperation, had wandered into the convent in the middle of the night, raving drunk and overturning everything that wasn't nailed down. Her father had come to pick her up the next day.
She was seventeen when she returned to the Hazzard public school system. They hadn't had much choice but to take her, as seven years had passed and the new principal was already facing enrollment problems. Hazzard High serviced not just Hazzard proper but several counties surrounding, just to keep its doors open. If Hazzard High went down, all the children of the surrounding counties would have to get bussed into Capital City, and no one much liked the prospect of being forced to go to school with city children.
On Henri-Mae's first day at school, she had beaten the snot out of another girl who had made fun of her name. Instead of it getting her suspended, yet again, it earned the girl's respect, and Henri-Mae became part of a small gang. There weren't many of them – if there was one thing that Hazzard boys didn't like much, it was girls who acted too much like men.
Knowing that graduation was less than two years away, Henri-Mae resigned herself to the situation, and actually calmed down a bit. The kind of mischief her friends inflicted was mostly harmless, as they were country girls and had all been brought up more or less right. Besides, her father wanted nothing more than for her to graduate with decent grades so she could go away to college, and she was suddenly inclined to make him happy.
The first day she'd seen Bo Duke had been at football practice. They had gone to heckle the cheerleaders. Henri-Mae despised cheerleaders with all her heart and soul…possibly because the display case at the school showed her mother as the head cheerleader of a championship-winning squad, twenty-odd years ago, at Hazzard High.
They were lounging on the upper bleachers, smoking, drinking soda, and generally making as many rude comments as they could get away with. And then the linebacker had removed his helmet, revealing a halo of shimmering gold hair.
"Gimme those binoculars," Henri-Mae hissed at Tonya, who promptly handed them over. They usually used them to spy on teachers and the strange things they did at their cars, but as they were expensive Tonya generally kept them with her at all times, never in her locker.
Through the lenses, Henri-Mae saw the most beautiful boy in existence. "Who is that?" she asked, her voice just a touch louder, for fear someone unwanted would hear her.
"Oh, that's Bo Duke," answered Shelly, the most tomboyish of the bunch. Her expression, however, bordered on dreamy. "He's the new linebacker this year. I hear he's really good."
The other girls looked at her.
"Well, people talk," she said with an embarrassed shrug as she buried her nose back in her magazine.
"Forget it," Lula Marie said from beside Henri-Mae. "He's got jock written all over him."
"Yeah," Henri-Mae murmured.
"And jocks only date preppy girls," Tonya took up the echo.
"Let me guess," Henri-Mae said, shooting both of them a rather cocky look. "You both struck out."
"They didn't even get up to plate," Shelly said from behind her magazine. The other girls glared at her but she went on. "Last dance, he had so many girls flocking around him you couldn't get close. And he enjoyed every minute of it."
"A playboy, that one," Tonya said, trying to sound wise as she wiped her glare away.
"Sounds like fun," Henri-Mae murmured.
"What are you thinking?" Lula Marie asked.
"I'm thinking," Henri-Mae drawled, "that he might make a good notch on my belt."
The trio laughed. "Girl," Lula Marie said, slapping Henri-Mae's knee, "even if you do get him, it'll totally be a race to see if you can dump him before he dumps you."
"Sounds like fun," Henri-Mae said again. And it had been the beginning of one of the most miserable six months of her life, which led into the most glorious year she would ever have.
Henna pushed open the screen door. She shook her head – her father had refused to believe in locking his door, all his life. She had never thought anything about it before she'd gone away to school. When she came back, she insisted on putting the older, heavier door that was kept up in the attic, back on its hinges. The one with the locks.
For a family name, it sure didn't fit.
Her father had removed that door, apparently, but it had never made its way back up to the attic. She found it sitting in the foyer, in a corner, ignored and dusty, covering an old closet that contained her old coats. Seeing a task that needed to be done, and willing for anything that would distract her from the inevitable, she quickly got to work reattaching the old thing to its hinges, and then slid the locks firmly in place, keeping the outside out. But it didn't help.
It felt so empty here.
Henna looked around. Bare bones-- that had been her father. No frills, nothing fancy. She stepped closer in, her footsteps sounding so loud in the place. She hesitated at the kitchen table, which blocked her way to the other rooms. She wasn't sure she was ready to go into his bedroom, to look through his personal things…
Her hand rested on the table, feeling how the wood had been worn down to a velvety surface after all these years. Usually, it had been covered with a tablecloth of some type. Most tables were varnished to keep things from staining the wood, but her father had built the table himself, and ran out of steam when it came to applying the varnish. Her mother put the table cloth over it until he had time, but the time had never come. The tablecloth had stayed, for years and years. When she left, it seemed he had removed the tablecloth as well as the door. He never spilled a drop of anything. The surface was as clean as ever.
She sat down in one of the chairs. It wasn't fair. She hadn't meant for this to happen. Her father wasn't supposed to die before she had been ready to come home. She was supposed to be able to find him here, to see him smile at her return, feel his embrace as he forgave her, prodigal that she was. She knew her father loved her. She knew how much she hurt him when she left, just like her mother. Yet she had always hoped that he understood her reasons…
Flinching, she pressed her face into her hands. The last time she had seen her father had been through the thick glass of a prison visiting room. He smiled for her, joked for her, but the disappointment was there.
She should have come home the second she was out. She should have. But it was too late for should haves.
It came on her fast, so fast she didn't expect it. Her chest was heaving, her breath was coming in labored gasps, and her cheeks were wet. She didn't recognize the sound of her own sobs, but she was making them. She cried so hard, she cried herself to sleep, right then and there, seated at that kitchen table. It was there that she spent her first night back in Hazzard.
"Henrietta Mae Locke is back in Hazzard," Jesse mused as he helped Daisy pack the picnic basket. His voice didn't sound strange, but there was a look about his old eyes that made the cousins uneasy.
Bo sat at the kitchen table, considering. "I don't know if this is such a good idea, Uncle Jesse," he finally said, realizing that he had no appetite to finish his apple pie.
"Nonsense," Jesse Duke replied. "Girl lost her father. Who also happened to be a good friend of mine. We're going, all of us." He shot Bo a sharp look. "Got it?"
Bo looked to Luke, desperate. "I don't think she wants to see Bo, Uncle Jesse," Luke said. "I mean, there's a lot of bad blood there—"
"Don't rub it in," Bo muttered, cringing at the thought.
"Well, I'm just saying," Luke went on. "It might go better if Bo stays here."
Uncle Jesse turned around and fixed his youngest nephew with a gaze. It was understanding, but there was an unyielding quality to it that Bo had seen many times before. He stepped away from his task, letting Daisy finish filling the basket – a few loaves of bread, some fried chicken, and one of Daisy's famous crab-apple pies were a helpful gift from the Duke family to Henri-Mae, seeing as how she just got into town and no doubt needed some provisions while she was taking care of family business.
Balladeer: Now if there was one standard that Jesse Duke lived by, it was to always stand by your friends, and most especially, the children of your friends once your friends had gone. Having raised three orphans himself, he knew the value of kindness. When people talk about a heart of gold, they're talking about Uncle Jesse.
Sitting down in front of him, Jesse thought carefully before speaking. "Look, Bo, what happened was a long time ago. Seven years…that's a lifetime for some people. Now I'm not going to sugar-coat anything and say that she doesn't have a right to be mad at you, but you're not the same person you were then. You were a boy, and now you're a man. And a man faces up to his mistakes."
"Can't make her forgive me," Bo muttered.
Jesse shrugged. "Well, who says? You gotta be a stand-up guy, Bo. You'd never in a million years make the same mistake you did. And if you gotta take some cold looks and a few unkind words as part of your medicine, well, so be it."
Bo felt himself deflate, but he nodded. The only way to show Henri-Mae that he had changed was to…well, show her.
"We're not going to get a warm welcome," Bo warned.
"Well, you hang back in Dixie and let me pave the welcome," Jesse said, rising. "I've never known anyone to resist a basket of fresh fried chicken and a crab-apple pie before." He grinned and winked. "Come on, sun's getting higher in the sky. Can't waste the day."
A/N: I'm really trying to do the Balladeer correctly. Let me know if you have any suggestions to make the Balladeer more like the show.