Jenny was almost overcome with emotion and now had to explain a little more to her daughters about their sister. Jenny had told them that she was married before and had children, but left them with the impression that her ex-husband, Larry Max, and her kids lived out of state or at least far from Pleasantview. She didn't want them to know that her only other daughter refused to meet them or to even see Jenny. And she didn't want to tell them why that was. Now she revealed only that their older half-sister was here and wanted to meet them. Loni Faye was very excited but, quieter, shyer Liara naturally didn't say too much.
It was awkward in the beginning. Fortunately, Lonnie was out of the house, even though it was his day off. The five of them talked quietly at first and the girls asked polite questions like what did "Miss Chelsea" and "Mr. Trey" do for a living and where did they live, all the while staring at Chelsea intently. When she assured them she lived only blocks away, Loni Faye exclaimed,
"Oh, that's so cool!" while Liara was holding her approval in reserve; she was the more cautious child.
As time went by the girls and Chelsea began to feel more comfortable as Chelsea asked them about school and what their favorite things were. Trey seemed to get a kick out of Loni Faye and Liara, he smiled and often looked as though he was holding back laughter at the things they said.
It did get a little awkward for a moment when Loni Faye spoke up,
"My gosh, Miss Chelsea! You look just like Momma!"
In quick succession surprise, then pleasure then discomfort came over Chelsea's face, but she recovered quickly and smiled at Loni Faye,
"I guess I do. But won't you call us just Chelsea and Trey?"
Loni Faye looked at her mother for permission. Jenny, of course, had seen and heard all this, but she smoothed it over,
"It's okay to call her by her first name, honey. She is your sister."
She had brought the girls up with the old school Southern manners she herself had learned as a child. Adults were always addressed formally unless they were a member of the family; their first name could be used if proceeded by "Miss", "Miz" or "Mr.".
Chelsea suddenly remembered being taught the same thing by her mother back in the days when Jenny was a stellar wife to Larry Max and a loving mother to Mike, Chelsea, Corky and Andy. Long ago.
On the wall behind Trey there was a large painting of Lonnie holding Liara in his arms with a portrait of Loni Faye in the background and Chelsea had trouble dragging her eyes away. When Lonnie came home Loni Faye rushed up to him and hugged him. He came over and introduced himself, it was obvious that he felt nervous as to how he would be greeted. But it was nearly impossible not to like Lonnie once you got talking with him and Chelsea found it hard to hate him. She still resented her mother, though, and, in Chelsea's mind, the blame for their affair transferred to Jenny now, in toto.
Loni Faye begged Trey and Chelsea to stay for supper. She actually wanted them to stay for her birthday and have cake and ice cream; it was going to be later tonight.
Watching her mother with Lonnie was somewhat painful for Chelsea. She had never actually seen her with any man but Larry Max before. But the girls kept her attention. She helped Liara clear the table and then they played video games.
"Can you stay for my birthday?" Loni Faye asked.
Chelsea dropped her eyes. She'd had a number of birthdays without her mother by her side. Even though she already liked her half-sisters very much she didn't know if she could forgive her mother completely yet for deserting her and then having more children who really did get her attention.
"I--well, Trey and I have to be somewhere. I didn't know it was your birthday of course, or I would have brought you something. I'm sorry, but I hope we'll get to be friends now."
Loni Faye's little face fell and that immediately touched Chelsea's heart. She glanced quickly at Trey who gave her an encouraging look; and she found herself saying,
"I'll tell you what--next weekend you and Liara can come and visit us at our home--if it's okay with your parents. We'll have a cookout and go swimming and it can be like a second birthday for you."
At that both of the girls smiled from ear to ear, then looked at their mother for permission. Jenny nodded eagerly,
"Of course, that would be lovely. I can drop them off whenever you say, Chelsea."
So, on that hopeful note Chelsea and Trey said their goodbyes. Then it was time for Loni Faye's birthday. She made her secret wish and then blew out the candles.
Lonnie's heart lurched when he regarded his teenaged daughter. She looked so grown up all of a sudden. You could get a glimpse of the adult she would be someday.
Once she had her cake, Loni Faye ran upstairs to take a closer look at herself. Then she did something she had never done before except when she took a bath and shampooed her hair before bed. She let her hair down and left it down except for a small section she pull up into a little pony tail at the top of her head. She also couldn't wait to use the new mascara she'd been saving in her top drawer for weeks. Jenny came up to Loni Faye's bedroom and said she had another gift for her; inside the box were a cell phone, hand game, and some perfume. She complimented her daughter on her hair and makeup and said she hoped she'd enjoy her new wardrobe which they'd chosen days before. Then she gave her a hug,
"We're mighty proud of you, Sweetface."
It was now summer and the water wiggler that the girls had received at Christmas was brought out to the side yard. The pool in the back looked inviting, too, but they wanted to enjoy splashing in the fountain first.
When they came in for lunch Lonnie said that Loni Faye might enjoy working part time at the restaurant, if she wanted to, that was, and if her grades didn't suffer. That was an exciting thought to Loni Faye; to work with her father.
Liara announced that she wanted to become a doctor or maybe a vet and the family considered the possibilities of such an event. All pronouncements from their children were given due consideration by Jenny and Lonnie. They were never patronized.
Jenny had been cool toward Lonnie for a couple days after they'd had their disagreement, but she soon thawed. She was just too in love with him to stay distant; and she certainly did not want to cut off her nose to spite her face. That was weeks ago, but way down deep her feelings were still hurt.
A stray kitten showed up after lunch that day, the pound was about to take her away when Liara rescued her. Jenny said she might keep the little thing and Liara named her Tangerina. All afternoon she cared for and played with the energetic and entertaining kitten.
That evening Loni Faye had a visitor, Robby Blackford, her old friend and the boy who was crushing on her although she did not know it. He'd heard she was having her birthday and was anxious to renew their friendship and take it to a new level. Loni Faye introduced him to Lonnie who was friendly, but secretly wished that boys were not showing an interest in Loni Faye so quickly.
After Robby went home, Loni Faye had her turn playing with Tangerina...and was falling in love with her almost as quickly as Liara.
They put food down for her and she almost fell into the bowl she was so hungry and so little. Even Lonnie found the kitten endearing. But Tangerina's favorite spot at night was up in little Liara's room, a little tiny kitten on a huge pet pillow near her bed.
Meanwhile as the weeks went by and Loni Faye grew in loveliness and charm, Jenny kept looking in her mirror and finding small lines around her eyes and mouth. Was that a slight softening around her jawline? Soon she would look noticeably older than Lonnie, she thought. What would she do then?
One by one her previous lovers and boyfriends had married and settled down. Jenny still turned heads when she went downtown, but not as many as she used to and now her ex-husband, Larry Max, was evidently dating various women. She'd never really thought about that and she had to admit she was somewhat jealous. He'd always loved her since they were kids and had not stopped even though she'd hurt him so badly. But now Jenny was afraid he also would find someone special and forget her. She was used to and expected male attention and appreciation, even when she was happily married to Lonnie.
Jenny was well aware that she was vain, but somehow could not seem to help it. She was not beautiful in the classic sense of the word at all; she was more often described as striking or attractive and even more often as sexy or "hot". Her figure had remained trim with all the curves in the right place. What would happen once all that was gone? None of these things might have bothered her so much if she'd been sure she was still the focus of Lonnie's world; that she still had his love and attention. However; she had to compete with the restaurant and even her own daughters for that and sometimes she felt as though she were low man on the totem pole. It was something that worried her all the time. Would he revert to his playboy ways once she looked older? And how would she herself feel when she was no longer young and no longer attractive. She could not seem to see that anyone who had aged could be at all desirable. When she looked older...older than Lonnie...she knew she would feel useless and ugly. So she clung more closely than before to the men she thought were most attracted to her and that meant Lonnie, it meant Larry Max and, occasionally when it came to her attention, it meant any other men she'd dallied with before she married Lonnie. And she was not happy if they rejected her in any way.
She didn't understand how improperly she'd acted with Nicky Ferguson (see Shep Ferguson Family Ch. 11 "Nicky and Allyn" Pt 1 and Pt 2 ), she didn't even remember her behavior except as a vague impression of disagreement with him over what possible subject she couldn't remember. Jenny was ill; ill in her mind, and becoming ill in her soul. And she did not realize it herself.
"Vanity of vanities," says the Preacher, "Vanity of vanities! All is vanity." --Ecclesiastes 1:2 New American Standard
"All is Vanity, by Charles Allan Gilbert (1873-1929) carries on this theme [in Christian teachings vanity is considered an example of pride; one of the seven deadly sins]. An optical illusion, the painting depicts what appears to be a large grinning skull. Upon closer examination, it reveals itself to be a young woman gazing at her reflection in the mirror. In the film The Devil's Advocate, Satan (Al Pacino) claims that vanity is his favorite sin.
Such artistic works served to warn viewers of the ephemeral nature of youthful beauty, as well as the brevity of human life and the inevitability of death."
Next Special Notice blog update: The Lomax and Hammond Family Tree
Next regular blog update: Brian Ottomas Ch. 13 Winter Blues
Jenny-Lomax Hammond Ch. 9 Family Vacation