The Banty House Page 1

Author: Carolyn Brown

Genres: Romance , Fiction

Chapter One

Change is a good thing.

Kate Carson wished she had the person who had first said that by the throat. She’d choke them until their face turned blue and then slap them for being that color. She didn’t like change. First her little town had lost its post office, and then the saloon was blown away by a tornado and the cotton mill went out of business. All that had happened in the past fifty years, and just two weeks ago, her hairdresser had up and dropped graveyard-dead.

They hadn’t had a bit of forewarning, and now the Carson sisters had to drive almost three miles to the Hondo Cut and Curl just to get their hair fixed on Thursday mornings. Used to be they only had to walk one block down Main Street, turn left, and their beauty shop was right there in the garage beside the second house on the right. They’d figured Estelle, their old hairdresser, would outlive them all, being as how she was only sixty-five and the youngest of the Carson sisters was more than a decade older than that.

Next thing would be that God Himself wasn’t interested in sticking around Rooster, Texas, either, and He’d send a tornado to wipe out the only church left in town. Kate muttered about that idea as she put on her best sweater that cool April morning and crossed the dogtrot from the house to the garage to get the car backed out so they could go drive to Hondo. Lord only knew that she couldn’t let Betsy or Connie drive their mama’s car. Connie would get to daydreaming and drive them through a barbwire fence. Betsy drove like a bat set loose from the bowels of hell. She wouldn’t only drive them through the fence; she’d kill a cow or two in the process.

Kate remembered the first time she had gotten behind the wheel of the turquoise 1958 Lincoln. Her mama had brought it home from the dealership down in Hondo, and she’d let each of the girls have a turn at driving it around the block. She told them that she had picked out that color because it reminded her of Easter, which was the very next Sunday.

“And here we are sixty-two years later,” Kate said as she started the engine. “Easter is this coming Sunday, and this old girl”—she patted the steering wheel—“still runs like a jewel.” She looked up toward the pale-blue sky with no clouds in sight. “You done good, Mama, when you bought this car.”

Betsy came out of the big two-story house first and crawled into the back seat. “I hate seat belts, and I still say that having the damn things installed has ruined the value of Mama’s car.”

“We didn’t have much choice after the third time the cops pulled you over for speeding and we had no seat belts so he doubled the fine,” Betsy replied.

Connie opened the passenger door and slid into the wide bench seat next to Kate. “Cops are everywhere these days. Don’t know why they can’t stay on the highways where they belong, and leave the farm roads alone. Next thing you know they’ll be camping out at the edge of Rooster.”

“I doubt that.” Kate put the car in gear and made a right-hand turn onto Main Street. “We’re pretty much all that’s left of Rooster, and they know we’ve got seat belts now. Besides, no one needs to be scared, because you don’t drive anymore, Connie.”

“I would if you hadn’t let my license expire,” Connie fumed.

“Don’t fuss at me. You can always get it back if you take the test,” Kate reminded her for the hundredth time.

“If this damn seat belt wasn’t holdin’ me down, I’d reach over this seat and slap you silly,” Connie told her.

Kate turned on the radio and found the classic country music station they all liked. Every time Connie said something else, she jacked up the volume a little more. Pretty soon they were all wiggling their shoulders to Johnny Cash’s deep voice singing “Folsom Prison Blues.”

By the time Patsy Cline had finished “Walkin’ After Midnight,” Kate had parked the car in front of the new hairdresser they’d chosen. Of course, it had taken two hours of discussion before they’d decided to give her a try. Connie had had to get out her gemstones and toss them around on the table, and Betsy had had to call the woman and talk to her for thirty minutes. It was a wonder that Lucy hadn’t hung up the phone when Betsy asked her age, weight, and marital status.

Her younger sisters wasted no time getting out of the car, across the gravel parking lot, and into the beauty shop. Everything had always been a contest for the two of them, except in what each of them called their area of expertise. Betsy made the best jellies and jams in Medina County, and Connie never met a speck of dust she couldn’t conquer, so she took care of the house. Betsy hated to clean, and Connie, bless her heart, couldn’t boil water without setting off one of those newfangled smoke alarms. Kate made sure that she had locked the car and then followed her sisters into the beauty shop.

“There you are.” Lucy, a short, round woman with a lot of salt in her dark-brown hair, smiled when Kate came into the shop. “Since Connie got here first, I’ll get her shampooed and under the dryer.”

Connie stuck her tongue out at Betsy and sat down in the chair. “You’re gettin’ slow.”

“I let you win so you wouldn’t pout like a baby,” Betsy shot back at her.

Lucy wrapped a plastic cape around Connie’s neck and asked, “Are y’all ready for Easter?”

“We’ve got our new dresses and white gloves all ready, and we’ll get our ham when we do our shopping after we get our hair done. I wouldn’t be caught dead in the grocery store lookin’ like I do now.” Connie leaned her head back. “Betsy might need her roots touched up. I can see a gray peeking out.”

Lucy glanced over at the middle sister. “I’ll check her out.”

“Well, go ahead and do what needs doin’ anyway. I don’t want them showin’ for our Easter picture,” Connie said.

“Y’all take an Easter picture, do you?” Lucy wet Connie’s hair and then worked shampoo into it.

“Have every year for our whole lives,” Kate answered. “Mama started it the Easter after I was born. She made me a little pink dress and a cute bonnet. I was only three weeks old that year. The next year, Betsy was a few weeks old and she wore that same dress and bonnet, and when I was two, Connie wore it. Mama had all of us a year apart. She said it was like raisin’ triplets, so once a year, she dressed us like that.”

“Until I was a teenager, I lived in their outgrown clothes,” Connie sighed. “Except for Easter, and then we all got new dresses.”

“And they were exactly the same,” Betsy said. “Mama thought it was cute to dress us alike, but we did get different hats.”

“So every year”—Kate sat down and picked up a magazine—“we buy identical dresses and hats of our choice, and we have our picture made for the Easter photo album.”

“That’s adorable,” Lucy said. “I wish I had a sister or two and we had a tradition like that.”

Kate had two sisters that she’d gladly give Lucy if she’d just take them off her hands.

Ginger Andrews picked up the small suitcase containing all her belongings and stepped off the bus in Hondo, Texas. Other nineteen-year-old girls might be scared out of their wits to be in a strange town without a single penny to their name, but this wasn’t Ginger’s first rodeo. Different town and different street, but living on the streets was all the same. She’d survived for the past year, and she’d live through this experience, too. She sat down on a bench and put a hand on her very pregnant stomach. She just hoped that she at least found a shelter before the baby came.

She caught a whiff of hair spray and permanent solution and turned to see that she was sitting in front of a beauty shop. Her reflection in the window showed her stringy blonde hair and gaunt cheeks, which left no doubt that she was a homeless kid. What little pride and dignity she’d had a couple of weeks ago was gone in her time on the road, and the only thing she had left was the baby. She’d vowed from the day the pregnancy test had come up positive that she’d be a good mother and that her child would never go into the system.

“Well, hello there.” An older gray-haired woman sat down beside her and lit up a cigarette. “They won’t let me smoke in the beauty shop, so I have to come out here for my nicotine fix. You waitin’ on a bus?”

“No, ma’am.” Ginger pulled her frayed denim jacket tight around her protruding belly.

“Someone goin’ to pick you up, then?” The woman took a long drag on her cigarette, and turned her head to blow the smoke away from Ginger. “I’m Connie Carson. What’s your name?”

“No one is pickin’ me up, and my name is Ginger Andrews, ma’am.” Most folks wouldn’t even sit down beside someone who might be homeless.

“Then what are you doin’ sittin’ on a bench here in Hondo?” Connie asked.

“Just restin’ up a minute before I get out on the highway to try to hitch a ride.” Ginger told the truth. “I’ve run out of money.”


Next page