Posted by Gwynlyn MacKenzie Aug 23 2011, 12:01 am in contemporary romance, Home at Last Chance, Hope Ramsay, new release, Ruby Release, spotlight
Haley Rhodes Tells All!
It’s August, and Last Chance, South Carolina is sweltering, but when Miz Ruby called to tell me another of her sons was in the cross-hairs, I couldn’t resist. Clay and Jane’s story turned out so well, and I really do want find out what happened after the Great Lightning Strike at Golfing For God.
Reaching the Cut ‘N Curl, I hurry out of the heat, my mouth watering for a long, cold glass of Miz Ruby’s sweet tea. I no sooner enter the shop, however, than my arms are filled with young Haley Rhodes who looks like she’s gone ten rounds with an army of chocolate chip cookies.
The cookies, obviously, lost, but not without doing some damage.
“Praise the Lord, Gwyn,” Ruby says. “You’re an answer to prayer. Elbert just called. There’s a ruckus down at Golfing For God. Watch Haley, won’t you?”
And with that, Miz Ruby and all the church ladies bustle out the door, leaving me gaping at the gamin sprite smearing chocolate on my white blouse.
Now I remember Haley from my last visit. Haley sees angels. One particular angel, who she calls The Sorrowful Angel, seems to be her constant companion.
She’s grown and lost her two front teeth since last I saw her, but her hair is still defying restraint and her clothes refusing to stay clean. She’s just precious, and I can’t help but give her a hug as we watch Miz Ruby’s van disappear.
“I wonder what that’s all about,” I murmur, glancing around the silent shop, unsure how I’ll keep Haley out of mischief until Miz Ruby returns.
“It’s Uncle Tulane, Miz Gwyn.” Haley shakes her head, looking much too wise for her seven years. ”He’s come home, and he’s a magnet for trouble.”
Someday, I’m going to ask Miz Ruby what she was thinking when she named her children, but for now, Haley needs me. ”And how do you know that, Miss Haley?”
“Granny says so. She says trouble follows him like his old blue tick hound used to. It’s so bad, he has hisself a babysitter.”
A babysitter? Interesting.
I make myself comfy in one of the well-padded salon chairs and settle Haley on my lap. “Want to tell me about it?”
“Yes’m. See it’s all on account of the fact that they painted Uncle Tulane’s racecar pink. I don’t see any problem with a pink car—after all Barbie has one, and Mrs. Henrietta Charles down over to Allenberg got one selling Mary Kay—but Granny says Uncle Tulane is kind of proud. And besides, I reckon pink is a funny color for a man to wear.”
“Well yes, I suppose it is,” I agree, trying not to grin. I’ve seen a couple of NASCAR races, and Tulane Rhodes drives a car sponsored by Cottontail Disposable Diapers. The car’s cotton-candy color is more than enough to make a man cringe, but the sponsor added insult to injury and painted a huge cuddle bunny on its hood.
Tulane’s pit crew looks pitiful in pink.
“So, anyways,” Haley continues, “Uncle Tulane was supposed to help at the Value Mart with the baby-changing races only he played hooky. I reckon his boss got really mad at him for that, and he got put in the dog house. ”
“Baby-changing races?” I ask. “What the he . . eck is a baby-changing race?”
“Oh, that’s where mamas bring their babies to the Value Mart and have a race to see who can change their baby fastest using Cottontail Disposable Diapers with the quick release tabs for quicker pit stops.”
I stifle a groan. The tag line is cheesy enough without the child’s deadpan delivery.
“Anyways, Uncle Tulane is supposed to go to the races and of.. off…”
Unwilling to watch her struggle, I hazard a guess. “Officiate?”
Halely nods. (Whew!) ”Yup, that’s the word. So, you see, when Uncle Tulane played hooky, he got in big trouble. And that’s when the folks who make the diapers sent Miss Sarah Murray. She’s Uncle Tulane’s babysitter. She’s supposed to make sure he goes to all the baby-changing races on his schedule.
“I guess he doesn’t like her very much.”
“I wouldn’t say that. Miss Sarah is really smart. She came up with an idea for Uncle Tulane to do something instead of baby-changing races.”
“Oh? And what might that be?”
“She wants to help mamas learn how to use car seats to keep their babies safe. And I think that’s a real good idea because, when I was little, I was in a car wreck, but I didn’t get hurt on account of my car seat. I want to help Uncle Tulane and Miss Sarah with the car seats, but my daddy said no. He’s a grump. Even The Sorrowful Angel thinks helping with the car seats would be a good thing.”
Haley releases a long, woebegone sigh—just before her busy little mind lights on another thought.
“Hey, you know what”
“Miss Sarah is smart about some other stuff, too, like Granddaddy’s putt-putt course. She told everyone she thought Golfing for God could be the kind of fun place folks from all around the world would come to. And she even convinced Miz Hettie Marshall, the richest lady in town, to form a committee that’s going to fix up what got broke that time when Aunt Jane’s boyfriend came and made trouble. I’m glad about that.”
An index finger makes feathering swipes at one of the chocolate stains decorating my now ruined blouse. “But I’m not so sure about what Miz Miriam says about Miss Sarah.”
Oh, boy. Now we’re getting to the good stuff. Miriam Randall is Last Chance’s main matchmaker, and when she makes a match it’s a done deal. “What does Miz Miriam say about Miss Sarah?”
“Well I’m not sure exactly, but Miz Polk and Miz Hanks have told everybody in town that Miss Sarah is going to marry Reverend Ellis.”
“Really? He is kind of cute.”
Haley wrinkles her nose. “He’s okay, but I don’t think Miz Polk and Miz Hanks got it right.”
Despite the fact we’re alone in the shop, Haley stretches toward my ear and whispers, “I saw Uncle Tulane kissing Miss Sarah in Granny’s kitchen when they were visiting before. He’s teaching her poker and pool and a lot of other stuff. And I heard Miz Bray saying that Uncle Tulane and Miss Sarah were down at Dot’s Spot dancing and carrying on.”
“Uh huh. And Granny went shopping with her, too. Granny says Miss Sarah hides her light under a bushel basket, and Granny should know—’cause she’s the bestest beauty consultant in all of Allenberg County.”
“Your Granny gave Miss Sarah beauty advice?”
Haley smiles and nods like she knows when Miz Ruby starts doing makeovers love is probably in the air. “Yes’m, Granny sure did. And after she did Miss Sarah’s hair and nails and took her shopping, I heard Granny tell Granddaddy that she thinks Miss Sarah is the one.”
“The one?” This was getting better by the minute.
“Uh huh. I’m not sure what that means, but Granny likes Miss Sarah a whole lot.”
Before I can formulate another question, Jane enters the shop. “Hey, Gwyn.” She gives me a quick hug before taking Haley. Needless to say, another blouse bites the dust, but Jane doesn’t seem to mind, planting a kiss on Haley’s chocolate-y cheek. “You ready to go home, Sugar?”
At Haley’s nod, Jane turns to me. “Miz Ruby called. Sent me to rescue you and lock up. She wants you to wait at the house.”
Still jonesing for that glass of sweet tea, I hop out of the chair. The thought of drinking it parked in a rocker on Miz Ruby’s front porch sounds like heaven, and it will give Jane and me a chance to catch up. Knowing Jane, I’ll soon have the complete scoop on Tulane and Sarah. I can’t wait.
“Let’s go. I’m right behind you.”
* * * * **
One lucky non-Ruby commenter will win a free copy of HOME AT LAST CHANCE, featuring the story of Tulane Rhodes and Sarah Murray and a very pink NACAR racer. You can buy HOME AT LAST CHANCE at Barnes & Noble or Amazon.com.
Hope Ramsay was born in New York and grew up on the North Shore of Long Island, but every summer Momma would pack her off under the care of Aunt Annie to go visiting with relatives in the midlands of South Carolina. Her extended family includes its share of colorful aunts and uncles, as well as cousins by the dozens, who provide the fodder for the characters you’ll find in Last Chance, South Carolina. Hope earned a BA in Political Science from the Universityof Buffalo, and has had various jobs working as a Congressional aide, a lobbyist, a public relations consultant, and a meeting planner. She’s a two-time finalist in the Golden Heart, and is married to a good ol’ Georgia boy who resembles every single one of her heroes. She has two grown children and a couple of demanding lap cats. She lives in Fairfax, Virginia where you can often find her on the back deck, picking on her thirty-five-year-old Martin guitar. You can follow Hope on twitter (@HopeRamsay), visit her webpage (www.hoperamsay.com), or connect with her on Facebook.