Loralee: The Dimestore Novella
Chapter One, A Name Like Loralee
Originally published on October 26, 2011
Loralee had no illusions about herself. Her fingers caressed the edges of the jade rose around her neck, a beautifully carved stone, remembering the day he’d given it to her, before Malcolm, before Henry.
Jeans, maybe a skirt, high heels, a shirt that was too tight or too young for her, tossed to the floor, tangled up with a pair of cowboy boots and some piece of flannel off the back of another hand. Henry had been different, whether he’d known it or not. There were moments with Henry when she had been able to convince herself that it was real, that it was love.
Some women are loved for who they are. Some women are loved for who their lovers imagine them to be. Loralee had long known that to most men, she was one of those blank slate girls, and then, perhaps even more so as a woman, the kind that men paint their own ideas on. Don’t tell me anything about you, honey, you’re too pretty to be real. With a name like Loralee, perhaps it was to be expected.
The one advantage to looking like she did was that at forty-five, she could still pass for thirty-nine, on a good day, even thirty-five, and still get the good- looking men. Henry wasn’t just handsome, he was devastating.
Sitting on the edge of the bed with her back to him as he reached out, the ache inside her was palpable. Lying down again, her head against his chest, he wrapped his arms around her, covering her breasts. A shiver trembled through her, betraying some deeper need. Henry pulled the quilt around them both. She knew this was the last time. He had taken up with a girl in town, and despite his protests to the contrary, Loralee believed it had become a serious relationship.
Henry Wellsy was thirty-seven years old. He worked for her husband on their ranch. Tall and tan, his arms sculpted by long days working in the sun, the dark brown hair that fell into his face, sometimes hiding his strange, dark, eyes, his quiet manner, making him seem both intense and mysterious. He had watched her from the first day, peering up at her from under the brim of his hat. Malcolm had looked the other way. Why did anyone bother to be married? Malcolm spent his weekends in Houston, with Donna, in a high-rise that Loralee let herself forget the location of. Before Donna, it had been Suzanne. Malcolm had his lovers, and Loralee had hers. It was their children that kept them together, for the sake of the family. It was the ranch, the business, it was the money. Henry was different from the first day.
She was weeding under the roses, sweat trickling down the back of her neck. He walked up behind her, asked where the keys to one of the trucks were. It was an old game, it was how the old hands sent the new ones to her. They’d tell the new man to take the truck without telling him where the keys were, then they’d disappear so he’d have to find the lady of the house to ask. She hadn’t turned around to look at him. “They’re inside the bunkhouse, cabinet next to the sink, rabbit’s foot key chain.”
“Be still.” Henry had said it to her with complete authority, her body tensed. He touched her shoulder. “Okay, you can move.” He was smashing something under his boot. “Black widow. It was there on your shoulder. Were you under the roses?”
Loralee jumped up the way you do when something scary is on you. “Good Christ!” She started brushing at her arms, at the back of her neck.
“I don’t think there’s any more of them.” He smiled at her, caught her off guard. “I’m Henry Wellsy. I won’t shake your hand, Mrs. Montgomery.” He was covered in dirt.
“I’m Loralee. Mrs. Montgomery fires people.” She smiled back at him. She tried to steady her legs at the trembling that traveled up her thighs, she’d been bent to the flower bed for too long.
“I’ll try to remember that.” He tipped his hat and walked away.
Loralee walked in the other direction, toward her garden cottage and the privacy of the bathroom wherein she locked the door, sat down on the cold tile and cried. Twenty years at the ranch and all this one had done was be nice to her. He smiled at her, managed not to say “fuck” within earshot of her, yet, and there was she was on the floor, a wreck. Something about his eyes, they were darker than they should have been somehow, not brown, but a strange, darkly green color. He unnerved her, saved her from a spider. She was humiliated if only by her own loneliness and need.
Her last love affair had gone badly. Her dalliances were a no-secret secret, Paul, however, had been a braggart. She had been a fool not to realize it. Scorey Timmons had fired Paul, finally, without consulting her. When she demanded an explanation, his face had turned beet-red. In a firm tone of protest, all Scorey had said was, “Ma’am…” and held up his hand for her to stop. Loralee had known then what had happened. Paul had talked about her.
“I’m sorry, Scorey.” She’d turned to walk away then stopped herself. “Thank you.” She said to him, with her back still to him. Tears streaming down her face, she’d gone into the house and stayed there for several days. Putting Scorey into that kind of situation, it wasn’t how things got done. Loralee had kept to herself since then, having felt awful about embarrassing Scorey. She’d been made aware of her own selfishness. There hadn’t been anyone in a long time, and then, Henry.
Chapter Two, Coming Soon…