Chrissy Lou Smith: He’s shacked up with that murderer, isn’t he?
*Crying, sniffling, nose-blowing*
Deputy Lloyd: Ma’am, I was told you have some information about Jed Jackson’s murder, is that true?
Chrissy Lou Smith: Do you think it’s serious? I mean, do you think they’ll really get married?
Deputy Lloyd: Ma’am, I need you to focus, okay? One of the deputies said you left a message about Mayor Jackson, which is why I called you in here today.
Chrissy Lou Smith: Did you know Payton owes over $150 in library fines? What kind of an animal keeps a copy of The Outsiders for twelve years and never returns it? A murderer, that’s who. You should arrest her.
Deputy Lloyd: Ma’am, I can’t arrest someone because of library fines. Especially when we’re trying to solve a murder.
Chrissy Lou Smith: Stealing books is a crime and no one is doing anything about it! You should arrest her, but make sure it’s tomorrow after five o’clock.
Deputy Lloyd: And why should I wait until after five o’clock?
Chrissy Lou Smith: Because I have a facial peel scheduled at four, and I want to look my best when Sheriff Hudson needs a shoulder to cry on. Do you think I’d look better as a blonde? The sheriff seems to go for blondes these days…
Let’s take a moment and think if I’m a morning person…NO.
“Sweet mother of pearl, how many green bean casseroles does one person need?”
Rubbing my tired eyes with my fists, I stand in the doorway of the kitchen, blinking rapidly and vowing to never drink wine again, especially when I can’t get rid of my hangover with coffee the next morning. I’ve officially started hallucinating and I think I see Bettie standing in front of Emma Jo’s open refrigerator, shaking her head while she lifts the foil covering a baking dish, scrunches up her face in disgust and turns to look at me.
“Jesus, you look like shit. One little murder accusation and you let yourself go.”
My eyes widen in shock when I realize I’m not seeing things and Bettie really is standing in Emma Jo’s kitchen, looking me up and down with a wince.
“I’ve had a rough couple of days, I guess,” I admit with a shrug.
“Don’t worry, Mommy is here and I brought help,” Bettie informs me, lifting her arm and pointing to something on the counter I didn’t notice when I first walked in here.
“Oh, my God! You brought Baby Cecil!” I shout, racing across the room and throwing my arms around the smaller version of the Cecilware Venzia espresso machine that I have in my house. “My baby, I’ve missed you so much. You have no idea how hard it’s been here without you.”
I rub my cheek against the cool metal of the machine and pepper the top with kisses, my eyes filling with tears when I turn away from Baby Cecil and smile at Bettie. A flash of fear covers her face right before I race across the room, throwing myself into her arms. She awkwardly pats me on the back while I cry into her shoulder until she finally has enough and pulls out of my tight hold.
“Alright, you’re creeping me out. We’re not huggers. We’ve never been huggers. What did I miss since our last phone call?” she asks, moving back against the kitchen counter and pulling herself up on top of it while I busy myself making both of us a cup of coffee with the Kona beans Bettie also brought with her.
It’s been…shit, three days since I spoke to Bettie on the phone, and I can’t believe I forgot all about how she never called me back and told me who left her that voice mail. I’ve been a little preoccupied trying to figure out who else in this town could be responsible for murder, aside from me and Emma Jo. I’ve also been a little distracted by Leo, not that I’ve seen him other than from a distance in town while I attempted to get people to talk to me. At least he’s been sending me texts. Mostly just one-word ones like STOP, DON’T, and PAYTON, sent to me each time he saw me in town trying to get people to stop pointing their fingers at me. I mean, what does he expect me to do, sit around and wait for him to solve this case? As if. Not that I don’t think he’s a smart guy and could do it, I just think he’s too smart and I’d much rather find someone else to blame before he gets those stupid autopsy reports back and has to do something about all that pesky gossip floating around about me.
Gossip my mother has kindly kept me up-to-date about since Franny Mendleson is a secretary at the sheriff’s department and Franny Mendleson and my mother play Bridge together every week. I guess according to Bald Knob, you really can’t outrun your past, since everyone in town has been talking non-stop during their interviews about what a horrible teenager I was and how it only makes sense I’d gravitate from underage drinking to first-degree murder.
I ramble all of this to Bettie in one long, run-on sentence, not stopping to take a breath until I get it out and start crying all over again when Baby Cecil spits out the most delicious smelling liquid I’ve ever been in the presence of and I bring the cup up to my lips.
“Alright, seriously, suck it up. All this crying and snotting all over the place is giving me hives. It’s not like you actually killed the guy. Who cares if a few people think you did?” Bettie asks, ripping a paper towel off the roll and handing it to me so I can blow my nose. “And you’ve got a hot piece of man meat who practically professed his undying love to you. I don’t see what the problem is.”
I wipe the tears from my cheeks, moving over to the fridge and opening the door with my cup of coffee hugged tightly to my chest, refusing to ever let it go.