J. Patrick Lemarr
LUCY:An UNDERNEATH Prequel
LUCY:An UNDERNEATH Prequel
J. Patrick Lemarr
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UNDERNEATH and LUCY: AN UNDERNEATH PREQUEL Copyright 2012 J. Patrick Lemarr. All rights reserved. Nopart of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever, without written permission except in the case of briefquotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
Lucy Abernathy took a long, smooth sip of her iced tea, praying to whatever godsmight be listening that it would turn into a whiskey sour as it touched her lips. Lunching with hermother often drove her to imbibe, most especially when Madge Abernathy (of the PhiladelphiaAbernathys, Madge would often announce) was two cocktails into her tiresome tirade. The lobstersalad on Lucys plate remained untouched as she waited for her mother to steer the S.S.Uncomfortable Conversation from the choppy waters of the Bay of Wasted Talents toward thecrystal clear shores of her other favorite subject.
I ran into Mark Fitzsimmons the other day, Madge offered. He was havingdinner at La Moyen withwell, I shouldnt say. Marks a high profile attorney, after all, so you canimagine the sorts of clients he works with.
Mediocre, Lucy said, pushing her plate to the side.
The best and brightest this state has to offer, Madge insisted. If I mentionedwho was with him, you would understand my discretion.
No, Mother, I was pointing out that la moyen is French for mediocre or average.I dont care enough about Mark or his clientele to join that part of the conversation. It just struckme as odd that anyone would choose to eat at a restaurant called La Moyen. The owner mustvethought it was clever.
Well, he asked about you, Madge said. I think he still misses you.
The owner of La Moyen?
Why must you play these games, Lucy? Why cant we just have a civilizedconversation over lunch like other mothers and daughters?
Theres nothing civilized about trying to pawn your daughter off to a man shefinds repellant, Mother, nor is it the height of civility to carry with you some mental laundry list ofways I have disappointed you. Daddy would never
Youre father was a dreamer, God rest his soul. If he hadnt married someonewho knew how to climb the social ladder, he never wouldve made that first million. Madge tookanother sip of her martini before continuing. I dont ask for much, Lucille, but I cannot remainsilent as I watch you throw your life away in thatpoverty farmwhen I know you could have somuch more.
You mean we could have so much more, dont you, Mother? Are you finding itdifficult to maintain your status among upper crust widows with your ever-dwindling fortune?
Is this you trying to hurt me, Lucy? Is that what this is?
Youd have to have a heart for that, Lucy thought. But she didnt say it.
Im not trying to hurt anyone, Mother, she replied. That poverty farm is aschool like any other. And, like other schools, it has a great need for teachers who can impact itsstudents. I do what I do for the kids, not the paycheck. Im sorry if that disappoints you, butexpensive lunches and verbal assaults will never change that.
Honestly! Madge said. She sighed and dabbed her lips with her napkin. You actas though its wrong for me to want the best for you.
No. Its wrong for you to assume you know whats best for me, Lucy countered.I love you, Mother, and that will never change, but these conversations are pointless and mayeventually be enough to drive me away.
The waiter placed the bill on the table and asked if he should take Lucysuntouched plate and box it up for her to take home. When she declined, he left them to theirconversation. Madge, however, remained silent for a few moments as she swallowed down the lastof her drink. Lucy, likewise, said nothing as she dug through her purse for her wallet.
Lunch is on me, dear, Madge said. I invited you. As always.
No, Mother, this is my treat, Lucy said, producing a virgin credit card from theconfines of her handbag. If Im adult enough to stand up to you, the least I can do is buy you ameal.
She gave her mother a weak smile, but Madge didnt seem to notice.
You knowI miss your father, in spite of what you might think, Madge said,her eyes never leaving the olive in her glass. I may have pushed him to grow his business, but itwould never have happened if he wasnt so extraordinarily talented. People wanted whatever he wasselling, Lucy. They flocked to him like children around the ice cream truck. I can see that same talentin youthat same natural ability with people.
Yeah, thats me all over today, Lucy mumbled.
You and I are just different animals, her mother continued. You have muchmore of your father in you, which I admire, dear. Just because things are not easy between usdoesnt mean I cant see your amazing potential.
Potential that Im wasting as a teacher?
Maybe. Maybe not. Perhaps Im just too set in my ways to properly assess suchthings.
Perhaps they arent yours to assess, Lucy added.
Madge sighed once more.
The waiter returned to take Lucys credit card. A moment later, he was back for hersignature. She couldnt afford the upscale restaurant and her mother damn well knew it, but Lucywas enjoying the warm flame of her defiance and was in no hurry for it to be quenched. She was,however, in a rush to leave her mother in the rearview mirror.
Look, I still have a few errands to run before I head back to Melville, she said,signing the receipt. Will you be okay getting a cab, or should I drop you home first?
Ill have the matre d call for a service, Madge said softly. I was thinking ofvisiting your Aunt Elaine this afternoon.
Yeah, well tell her I said to keep on truckin, would you?
The drive back to Melville had been painfully slow due to a three car pileup onInterstate 76 just outside Chesterbrook. It had grown latenearly time for dinnerbut Lucysstomach was still sour from her mothers derision. Melville was less than 10 miles ahead when sheremembered the dive bar on the outskirts of town. It was a place for the miners to go and blow offa little steam after a long shift, but they would likely serve alcohol to anyone who could afford it anddamn, but that whiskey sour has been on my mind since I left the restaurant, she thought.
Clutterbucks was more old west saloon than chic modern disco, but its lotwas nearly full as Lucy parked her Pacer and made her way inside. A miner sat on the hood of histruck, nursing a Coors. She gave him a smile, he gave her a nod and then she was inside, awash in atorrent of country music and coal black workers of the Underneathwhich was how locals oftenreferred to the mines. She brushed past the crowd and ordered her drink at the bar.
I dont get much call for mixed drinks, the bear of a bartender said. Just straightliquor for men aiming to forget that deep down dark.
Is it always this busy? she shouted above the music.
You bet, he replied. Especially the first few shifts after payroll.
He finished mixing her drink and placed it on a dirty coaster. Its none of mybusiness, maam, but some of these men get a bit ornery once their livers get nice and lubricated. Itmight be for the best if you finish your drink and head on home.
Lucy felt that fire in her belly spring to life once more. The bartenders assumptionof her weakness was nearly as offensive as it was unnecessary. Miners were good men, strong intheir values and work ethic. It was one of the main reasons she had settled in Melville as opposed tothe other districts that had scrambled to bring a Temple graduate into the fold. She couldve calledthe bartender on his outdated, sexist leanings, but she had come to relax and have a drink and shewould do just that.
Before she could thank him for his concern, another man approached the barthe miner who had given her the nod outside. He slid a five dollar bill to the bartender before Lucycould even reach for her purse.
Stop trying to the scare the little lady, he told the bartender. Most nights we
Stop trying to the scare the little lady, he told the bartender. Most nights wehave to be content to stare at your ugly mug, Bert. Its a real treat to have someone around prettyenough to brighten up this dump. Her drinks on meand any others she orders, too. Ill keep theboys off her back. They know if they mess with me, Ive got plenty of other folks that could dotheir jobs.
The bartender took the bill and nodded. Im just trying to look out for the lady,Cyrus.
I know, Bert, he said. Thats mighty Christian of ya, too.
The man turned his attention to Lucy and offered her a kind smile. Bert wasntaiming to scare you, Miss. We just dont get many decent ladies to step foot in here. You mustveneeded that drink something fierce.
Lucy chuckled. I had lunch with my mother this afternoon and it drove me todrink. How sad is that?
Well, I would guess that would depend on the sort of mother you have, theminer said. Some really know how to get under your skin. Mine sure as hell did.
He offered her his hand. My names Cyrus. I work down at the Charlton lease.
Lucy, she said, shaking his hand. I teach school here in town.
Well, pardon me if this strikes you as forward, Miss Lucy, but I never had aschool teacher anywhere near as pretty as you.
No, maam. Most that I can recall had granny moustaches and humps on theirbacks.
Lucy hadnt realized how badly she nee