Miss Julia Delivers the Goods

BOOK: Miss Julia Delivers the Goods
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Table of Contents
 
Also by Ann B. Ross
Miss Julia Paints the Town
Miss Julia Strikes Back
Miss Julia Stands Her Ground
Miss Julia’s School of Beauty
Miss Julia Meets Her Match
Miss Julia Hits the Road
Miss Julia Throws a Wedding
Miss Julia Takes Over
Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind
VIKING
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3
(a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
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Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
 
First published in 2009 by Viking Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
 
 
Copyright © Ann B. Ross, 2009
All rights reserved
 
Publisher’s Note
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s
imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business
establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
 
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING IN PUBLICATION DATA
Ross, Ann B.
Miss Julia delivers the goods : a novel / Ann B. Ross.
p. cm.
eISBN : 978-1-101-03257-2
1. Springer, Julia (Fictitious character)-Fiction. 2. Women-North Carolina-Fiction.
3. Widows-Fiction. 4. North Carolina-Fiction. I. Title.
PS3568.O84198M55 2009
813’.54-dc22
2008045609
 
 
Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
 
The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrightable materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

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This one is for my John and
his boys, Jack and Jake.
Several people were kind enough to answer questions relating to this story, and I’d like to thank them for putting up with me.
 
District Court Judge David Fox, Henderson County, North Carolina, patiently gave me valuable information even though I called him at home near dinner time; Deputy Register of Deeds Nancy Cochrane, Henderson County, North Carolina, was most generous with her time as she pointed out the details of the Records of Deeds; Obstetrician/Gynecologists David Ellis, M.D., and John M. Ross, M.D., kept me on the right medical track, and Kathryn Wells gave me a pearl even though I accosted her on the sidewalk as we walked to a football game.
 
If I misunderstood anything relating to the many facts they each gave me, it is entirely my fault.
Chapter 1
 
 
 
“Miss Julia?”
I turned from the rain-streaked window of my bedroom to see Hazel Marie’s head poking through the half-opened door. “Come in, Hazel Marie. Are you feeling better?”
“A little, I guess,” she said, edging into the room. “Are you busy?”
“Not at all. I could use some company.”
“I don’t want to bother you.”
“You’re not bothering me.” I indicated the easy chair opposite mine by the double windows. “Come watch the rain with me. I thought we were having another dry summer, but just look at it come down.”
Hazel Marie sat down and, like me, turned to look out at the soggy yard, dotted now with standing puddles of water. I’d not turned on any lights although the dim room could’ve used some, so we sat in companionable silence for several minutes. After a while, I frowned, recalling that she’d bypassed breakfast, saying that she wasn’t hungry. Now here she was, doing something else unusual. It wasn’t like her to sit any length of time without chattering away about something. She was normally full of wonder and awe and bubbling over about one thing or another. I liked that about her. You would think that after some years with me, she would’ve become used to a life without financial worries. You would’ve thought that she’d have begun taking her carefree days for granted. But she hadn’t. Oh, she enjoyed herself immensely, don’t get me wrong. But the most endearing thing about her was that she was so eternally grateful for her good fortune, even though it had come at the expense of my knowledge that she’d carried on with my first husband in such an inappropriate manner. But that carrying on had produced a child who covered a multitude of sins.
Lloyd was no kin of mine—try as I might I couldn’t figure out any relation. There was no name for a husband’s child by another woman, but that didn’t stop a kinship between me and the boy that went beyond bloodlines. Lloyd was more like me than any child I could’ve had, but didn’t. And his mother was like a ray of sunshine in my life—as long as I didn’t dwell on what she’d done. And I didn’t. I didn’t because her sweet disposition and wide-eyed wonder at whatever came her way made me value her for herself alone without letting her unsavory past poison the present.
The only thing I could never figure out was why she’d been attracted to Wesley Lloyd Springer in the first place. He was certainly no bargain, although I may be prejudiced. In fact, though, I don’t think she was ever specifically attracted to him. I think he found her when she was at a low point, which was where she’d been since birth, and took her up. He gave her a place to live, such as it was, and then she found herself with child and that was it for a good many years. She wasn’t the first woman to find herself trapped with a man she neither liked nor loved for the sake of a child.
Her first taste of freedom, and mine, too, for that matter, came when Wesley Lloyd passed, and I was finally able to put aside my terrible anger and open my home and my heart to my husband’s mistress and their little son.
All the while that these thoughts were running through my mind, she’d sat staring out the window, her elbow propped on the chair arm and her chin on her hand.
“Hazel Marie?” I said. “Is something on your mind?”
She sighed, looked down, and began to fold pleats in the cream-colored crepe trousers she wore. “I’m not sure,” she mumbled.
“Well, I can see that you’re worried about something. So tell me and let’s try to fix it.” Then a jolt of anxiety shot through me. “Is it Lloyd? Is something going on with him?”
“Oh, no. He’s fine. He’s almost finished with his summer reading list.” She glanced up at me, then down again at the pleats she’d made. “You know how organized he is. He’s really enjoying the tennis clinic, too.”
“Then, Mr. Pickens? Is he worrying you?” I could see how he would, since he was as stubborn as a mule when it came to settling down, which, considering the favors I assumed she granted him, he should’ve done some time ago. Of course, I didn’t know for sure what went on between them, but I hadn’t just fallen off a turnip truck.
“No.” She shook her head, her eyes still downcast. “No, J.D.’s . . . all right, too. It’s just, . . . oh, Miss Julia.” She looked up again and I saw tears welling in her eyes.
I leaned toward her, concern in my voice. “Hazel Marie, what’s the matter?”
“Oh, Miss Julia, I think . . . I think something bad’s wrong with me.”
Chapter 2
 
 
 
“You mean you’re
sick
?” Alarmed, I leaned over and clasped her hand.
“I think I am. I’m afraid it’s something . . . terrible.” She nearly choked on the word.
“Wait. Wait, now.” I had to take myself in hand in order to reassure her, but it was hard. I wanted to appear calm and rational in spite of the dire possibilities that were rushing into my head. “Tell me why you think that. What are your symptoms? Or is it just a general feeling?”
“I don’t know what it is, but I’m just so tired I can hardly do anything. And I feel like crying all the time, just sudden-like. I mean, sometimes I feel real happy and then all at once, everything just falls apart.”
“Mood swings,” I said, nodding as if I knew what that meant. “What else?”
“Well, I don’t have much of an appetite, and, anyway, everything I put in my mouth comes right back up. And I get so hot and sweaty sometimes that I have to change my clothes.” She wiped her eyes and went on. “The worst thing, though, is that I just can’t keep anything down and I feel so weak I can hardly move.”
“How long has this been going on?”
“I’ve been feeling bad, you know, tired and sicky-feeling, for a good while, but the real throwing up just started last week. And now I think I’m running a fever.”
“Why, Hazel Marie, I wish you’d told me. I knew you’d been looking a little peaked, but I had no idea you were having such a hard time.” To tell the truth, I was upset with myself for not looking after her better. “I want you to stop worrying now, because we’re going to get to the bottom of this.”
“I’m so afraid,” she said as she buried her face in her hands, “so afraid that I’ve got something bad and maybe already given it to Lloyd and to you and everybody else, and I didn’t mean to. It’s just gotten worse and worse, and I’m so sick to my stomach I can hardly stand it.”
“Hazel Marie,” I said, squatting down beside her chair to put my arm around her shoulders. I knew I might never get up again, but she needed comforting. “Hazel Marie, listen to me. I don’t think you’ve given anything to anybody. Now, one more question, if you don’t mind my asking. What about your, you know, your times of the month?”
BOOK: Miss Julia Delivers the Goods
2.62Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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