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Copyright 2013 Camille Leone This story is a work of fiction.

All names, characters, places and incidents are invented by the author or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any similarity to actual persons or events is purely coincidental. All rights are reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in form or by any means without the prior written consent of the author.

Chapter One
1968
Something wasn’t right. Although the guests mingling in the salon of top country singer Dory Cartwright’s palatial home were too plastered to notice, Simone Westwood Burr felt it, and she could see it. But then, why would this mostly white, wealthy crowd even care when the black waiters started whispering among themselves, many of them pointing her way? Hiding in a corner she’d staked out earlier in the evening, resting her swollen feet and her growing belly, Simone had to admit Dory’s home put all others to shame. The winding staircase was a dead ringer for the one in Gone with the Wind, complete with plush, velvet runners. Confederate memorabilia greeted Simone’s wandering gaze no matter where she looked, from the decorated rebel general with whiskers as distinguished as his uniform, scowling down at her on a far wall, to the numerous busts on pedestals and Civil War muskets and swords decorating the living room. There was even a full replica of a Confederate uniform on a headless dummy, as well as the flag Old Glory draped in welcome over the pillared entryway. She’d overhead a few partygoers say that Dory’s collection was the finest in all the south. “Ma’am?” Simone sat up, wondering if she’d fallen asleep. She gave the waiter a smile but he was all business, taking away her glass in workman-like fashion, wiping down the table where her coaster had been, reserving his brightest smile for the few people who looked over at them. And he had light eyes. They were so light she could swear they were blue. It was such a shock she wondered if it was possible that the child she carried could have blue eyes, just like his or her Uncle Eli. When the waiter bent down to flick at an imaginary crumb on the floor, he whispered, “Miss Dory sent me to fetch you, so that you can be with your husband.” They traded stares. With her heart pounding so hard, she swore he could hear it. “Johnny. . . he’s-he’s okay?” Someone walked by and the waiter straightened up, the intrusion making him give a practiced, patented smile. “Hello, nice to see you again sir. Can I get you anything?”

Instead of acknowledging the waiter, the man glared down at her. Unlike some of the other guests, he didn’t try to make nice with small talk. As far as Simone was concerned he’d just come over to get a closer look at the young black woman who dared to call herself Mrs. Johnny Burr. His stare took in her slick bangs and bouffant, psychedelic rainbow colored gown, and that she was most definitely pregnant. The waiter blew out a relieved breath when the man retreated into the crowd. His smile faded once they were alone again. “I’m gonna help you up, and we’ll walk outta here like we’re just having a conversation.” True to his word, he took one of her forearms as she used the other to push herself off the couch. It was like swimming in a bowl of Gelatin. The more he pulled, the deeper she sunk into the cushions. Gritting his teeth, he counted off and gave a mighty tug. Once she was on her feet, they weaved through the crowd, averting the curious stares of those watching. The closer they got to that rebel general’s portrait the more Simone’s apprehension grew. “Yeah, if you stare back at my great-grand pappy’s painting too long, it’ll make ya sick,” the waiter joked. “Ole Marion ‘Iron Gut’ Holliwell tries to intimidate all us colored folk. Only he never liked to admit his fondness for black puddin’.” Simone gave him a weak smile. He said his name was Morgan, and as they escaped he kept nodding and pretending as if he were showing her where the powder room was located. Instead he took her to a door just off the kitchen, into a pantry that was as large as her parent’s living room. Dory Cartwright was conferring with a few of her waiters. One man was holding his back, and the others looked as if they’d been in a fight. She didn’t have to guess who they’d tangled with. “Where’s my husband?” Simone demanded, noticing bruises and bloody noses on several men. “Why isn’t he here?” “We got him locked up good and tight in the underground cooler,” Dory said. She was a singer known more for her duets with some of country music’s top male artists than her own hits. With reddish blonde hair and sparkling brown eyes, Dory liked wearing tight dresses, high heels and lots of hairpieces. Her sky high hairdos were as humorously talked about as her larger than life, southern belle persona. “Why is my husband locked in your cooler?” Simone asked, in a voice brittle with edge.

“Ain’t nothin’ in there that can hurt him,” Dory hurriedly explained, her three story cake of a chignon wobbling precariously, like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. “I don’t use it for wine no how. I’ll take you to see him. Morgan, get one of my minks to put over her. It’s as chilly as a polar bear’s ass down there.” Morgan readied himself for a sprint, stopping long enough to ask, “Your stole or your full coat Miss Cartwright?” “Now Morgan, you know that stole is just a shoulder wrap, so it won’t do nothin’ to ward off the cold in that cellar. I swear, sometimes I think I should a kept your brother on instead of you. If it wasn’t for your beautiful bedroom eyes, I probably would’ve.” Dory winked at Simone, showing she was just kidding, placing a tender arm around girl’s shoulders to steer them both away from prying eyes. And ears. “Sugar, Johnny’s had way too much to drink. He started saying things I don’t think you want no one else to hear, not with that crowd out there. It’s best to let ‘em think he’s still meeting with me. I already gave one reporter a cover story on how I’m gonna do a duet with him on my next album. I threw ‘em off the hunt by sayin’ we needed to confer about it in my drawing room. But they’re like blood hounds, they can sniff out a lie. Cause with the way your man charmed the Grand Ole Opry crowd and then fell apart this evening, this sort of thing can end his career, right here and now.” There was nothing Simone could do except agree. But if Dory didn’t already know about the public’s reaction over Johnny’s marriage to her, then she sure wasn’t gonna spell it out. And she couldn’t defend how rowdy he’d gotten after downing drink after drink during the party. Instead of the quiet calm he’d exhibited in the limo on the way over he’d become combative and moody, demanding to know if anyone had said something to her, loudly announcing that if they didn’t stop staring, he’d bust a few heads. “Don’t you fret none. I told them scandal hungry vultures to get to steppin’,” Dory said. “And don’t nobody mess with Dory Cartwright after she says skedaddle. Besides that, I got the band playing good and loud, so nobody can hear a thing in the front room.” The waiter named Morgan returned, huffing and trying to catch his breath as he handed a floor length sable mink to Dory, who covered Simone’s shoulders and pulled the separate pieces together as if she were swaddling a babe. “Morgan, you and them other boys, y’all come along too. Lift up her hem so she doesn’t fall.”

Obediently, one man picked up the left side and another quietly picked up the right. Simone followed Dory’s bright as a beacon hair down one long hall until they reached a cellar door that led to a number of wooden steps. Morgan caught her arm, making sure she didn’t tumble face first down the darkened stairs. “I was too cheap to put in an elevator. Guess it’s just because I’m still a poor country girl at heart,” Dory explained, as they all lowered their heads in order to fit through a cubby hole of a maze.

A man guarding the wine cellar door jumped to attention when he saw Dory coming. He was younger and heavier, and he clutched a garden tool as if he needed it to defend himself. “How’s he doing?” Dory asked, keeping her voice low. “He was quiet for spell Miss Dory. First I thought he’d gone to sleep. But he was tryin’ to fool me into opening the door. So y’all might wanna cover your ears.” Simone ignored Dory’s suggestion to keep back. She leaned into the door, pressing her ear against the wood, hoping Johnny could sense she was near. “Johnny? Johnny I’m here. Me and the baby. We love you.” What she got back caused her to stumble away and catch her heel on the silk insides on the stole. The door rumbled in response and a siren of a wail rose up, choked off by a sobbing cough. Ragged and reedy with strain, Johnny kept begging for someone to save him “Mister Please!!! Mister, don’t leave me here! Take me with you!” That wasn’t her husband. Behind that door was some wounded soul making warbled cries and almost unintelligible pleas in a child’s voice. “Johnny, its Simone. I’m here. I’m here for you.” “Help me, please help me . . . make him stop-” She looked back at Dory and at the men. Collectively, they dropped their eyes. She knew a little bit about the kind of pain Johnny was in, remembering how she felt when Aunt Laverne spoiled her sweet sixteen gathering by destroying her innocence. But this was something different. It was something evil that he’d gone through, and the memory of that act wouldn’t let go until it destroyed him.

“Let my husband out,” she commanded, addressing the man holding the weapon. When he didn’t respond, she turned to Dory. “I want you to let Johnny out of there. Now.” “We can’t do that,” Dory said. “It took six of my boys to corral your man the first time. Gus just about threw his back out wrestling with him. And . . .” “And what?” Dory sighed, nodding towards Morgan for a further explanation. The man stepped forward, his face deeply contoured by the overhead light. “He’s been calling us lots of names.” Morgan cleared his throat and pursed his lips, then finally came out with the rest of it. “I know you married him, but he’s referred to us being Negroes a bunch of times. Only he didn’t use that word, if you know what I mean. We . . . I wouldn’t want you to hear that, not with you being pregnant and all-” Simone fought to collect herself, resting against the door to keep upright. “He’s never called me that. Not even once. NEVER. So if you’re not letting him out, I need to be in there with him” “But-” “I know my husband. And I know what he’s gone through. We practically grew up together. So Morgan?” The man’s eyes narrowed at her saying his first name. Maybe it was because she wasn’t Dory, and only his employer could call him that. Or maybe it was because he didn’t take kindly to her marrying someone like Johnny. Someone who fit the bill of the bigots he’d dealt with all his life. “Please believe me when I say he’s suffered enough.” Morgan shook his head, stepping back to wait for Dory’s command. “Please,” Simone whispered. “Please let me see my husband.” Dory smiled at her. “That’s my girl. I knew you had it in ya. Morgan, send one of these boys to get me another stole. You’ve done enough running for one night. Hurry up now, cuz I’m going in with her.” As they waited, Dory wanted assurance that she was alright. She had Simone sit on the chair the man guarding the door vacated. “Babies can feel when their momma’s upset. You don’t wanna think bad thoughts when you’re carrying a child, cuz it’ll carry over to them.” That’s what Mama said, Simone thought. The more Dory Cartwright spoke, the more she used little facial tics to emphasize her statements. As they talked, she reminded Simone of her mother. And right about now, she needed Mama’s . . . she needed her adoptive mother’s God fearing strength and guidance.

When the door was unbolted and slowly opened, they all tensed, expecting Johnny to rush out and attack them. “Where the hell is he?” Dory whispered. “He’s in a corner,” Simone said. “Most kids hide in a corner.” “What?” They didn’t understand, but how could they? A roaring drunk had been subdued, an angry young man who was throwing out racial slurs. But now they were seeing another side. And the story of his anger, of his disappointment with any black man wearing a uniform came spilling out. Johnny grabbed the pant leg of one of the men, thanking him for coming back, crying because someone had finally heard his plea. “I found him!” one of the waiters announced. “It’s like she said. He’s over here huddled against this corner.” Following the voice of the male who’d spotted Johnny, Simone attempted to bend down to let her husband see her face, momentarily forgetting that her size made that highly difficult. Morgan had a hold of her elbow, helping her bend low enough to cup his face. “Johnny? I’m here, baby. I love you.” He lifted his head, viewing her through tired, red rimmed eyes. There was dried blood on his chin and his knuckles were scraped raw. Johnny looked past her, staring hard at Dory. “Mom?” “Oh sweetie.” Dory seemed to hold her breath, not exhaling until Johnny called to her again, saying a word she hadn’t heard in years. “Mom?” Johnny tried to rise by sliding up the wall. Morgan helped Simone back away, as Johnny’s voice became even more childlike. “I’ll be a good boy now Mom. Don’t lock me up, don’t keep me in the basement.” Dory opened her arms wide, and Johnny began weeping. All Simone remembered was Dory swatting, laying Johnny’s head upon her lap, stroking his hair, promising him everything would be just fine. Simone watched them, her heart heavy, the baby’s kicks insistent and agitated. “I . . . I should go . . . the baby-” she stuttered. The other men parted, letting Morgan escort her back upstairs. As they entered the kitchen most of the other cooking staff were gathered around a long table. One worker with thick salt and pepper hair captured in a net simply shook her head in disbelief, while a few women dressed in black and white uniforms expressed dismay and sorrow. Their chatter made Simone stop in her

tracks. She stood in the middle of the room, unwilling to walk back where she came and unable to go any further. Their eyes condemned her for marrying outside her race. And to somebody like Johnny. “He was attacked,” she announced, without hesitation. Because they needed to know. And she wanted them to know. “It happened when he was a boy. There was a black porter . . . only he was ordered out by the man. And that’s why-that’s why . . .” She was falling forward until steady arms rushed to her side, and Morgan cradled her against his chest. “He’s in good hands with Miss Dory, and we’ll be sure to look after him.” The woman wearing the large hair net approached them with sadness in her eyes and a nervous smile. “Are you planning on staying the night, like Miss Dory said? You don’t want to leave him here. This house is cursed.” “Shut up Ella,” Morgan ordered. “She’s been through enough.” Ella’s eyes snapped up to meet Morgan’s, and she wasn’t backing down. “We all know what’s going on here. Soon as I saw that boy I knew. He’s close enough to be Miss Dory’s son come back to life, and she’s been praying for a second chance.” Through a fog of tears, Simone pulled away from Morgan. “What are you talking about?” “Ella,” Morgan warned. “This don’t have nothin’ to do with her.” “I was here, you weren’t. And I remember how Miss Dory’s boy changed. He was happy and healthy. And then something bad happened. I didn’t say anything until it was too late. I sat here and watched that boy destroy himself. I’m not staying on to witness another.” Simone looked from Ella to Morgan. “Dory has a son?” Morgan’s stare burned into Ella’s but she refused to stop talking. “That’s right, she did. Won’t nobody admit it, but I put everything together, what with Miss Dory always on the road.” “Now you’ve gone and done it. Shit, didn’t I tell you?” Morgan cursed. “Miss Dory had a son. So what? And he’d be about her husband’s age. But that’s as far as the resemblance goes.” Dread replaced hurt, but Simone had to know, so she continued to press. “But what happened to him?” “I’m through telling tales, especially since he’s dead,” Ella said, her voice breaking up with emotion. “He hung himself, right before he turned fifteen, a long time ago.” Her eyes rose to the heavens. “And I’m the one who found that child’s body.”

Chapter Two

For the first time in a long while, Simone was sleeping in a full bed, the kind that one of Dory’s maid’s said she needed to rest in because of the baby, and because of who she was. The day staff taking care of Dory Cartwright’s home were younger, and as a result they knew she was one half of the hit making Pop duo Westwood and Burr. The girl assigned to her named Tess peppered Simone with questions. “When are y’all gonna make another record?” Simone stared at the food on her tray. Everything was encased in silver, from her tea cup to the grits and eggs on a gleaming plate. There was even a little silver bell she could ring if she wanted service. “I’m not really in a position to sing any time soon. I just wanna relax and have my little girl.” “Oh I bet she’ll be pretty, like you. Only she’ll have good hair, like your husband.” Good hair? That was something she’d heard when her first pregnancy ended tragically. Mama said her little girl had good hair after viewing the body. “He’s not really a racist, is he?” Tess seemed genuinely confused. “It’s too bad, because he’s so fine. Riley said he was, but Morgan said naw, after Ella called everybody together-” Simone didn’t answer, trying to think her way through this. Johnny’s drunken tirade had spread through the staff grapevine, especially the hateful words he’d used. Morgan and Ella were older, like her parents. They still used “colored” and “Negro” to describe themselves. But Tess was younger, and Riley was probably younger too. For her generation, it didn’t matter what the reason. If Johnny called one of them the wrong thing, then he’d forever be branded a bigot. “What exactly did Ella say?” “She said we ought not to be getting into your business. She said you need your rest, and to stop gossiping, because your man was out of his head, especially after he came down yesterday and told everybody how sorry he was. He even agreed to sign my album of yours. And he didn’t get mad when I said I’d rather have your autograph instead. And Eli’s. He said he’d be sure to tell his brother how much I like his singing. That white boy’s got soul.” Tess’ well intentioned way of limiting the damage made Simone smile. “Johnny woke up yesterday?”

“Yes Ma’am.” “He was able to get up in the morning, even after the party?” Tess opened her mouth, then snapped it shut, then opened it again. “Miss Simone, that big party was two days ago. You’ve been asleep this whole time.” Oh God. Oh God no. When she woke up, she thought it was the next day. Shoving her tray aside, Simone touched her stomach, searching to make sure it was still full and round. “Our baby-” “Your baby’s fine. Miss Dory had the doctor here. And your husband was sitting right there in that chair, all night long. He didn’t leave until Miss Dory threatened to put him in the wine cellar again, only this time without any alcohol.” “Whe-where’s Johnny now?” “They’ve all gone fishing.” “They who?” “Morgan came back in this morning, some of the other staff went . . . and your husband. Oh, and my boss, Miss Dory decided to go too. She cancelled all her meetings and even her studio time to stay here.” “Tess, do you know what the doctor said? Can I get up and walk around?” “I’m supposed to make sure you stay in bed, and to bring you whatever you’d like.” Folding her arms over her stomach, Simone observed Tess watching her reaction. “Okay, I’ll stay in bed. Only, I’ll like to use the phone.” *****

She’d forgotten all about the time difference between the US and England. The last thing Simone wanted to do was catch Eli coming in from a night out or to interrupt his sleep. With a few more hours to wait her mind wandered, her thoughts turning to home, and when Johnny picked her up after her extended stay in New York, almost seven months ago. It was a trip that changed her life, because she’d decided to quit show business to become a full time wife and mother. Delivering the news to her singing partner, Eli Burr was one of the hardest things she’d ever had to do.

When her plane landed in Milburne’s airport, Simone could see how the place had changed. More girls were wearing mini-skirts and exaggerated false eyelashes, and the guys had hair down to their shoulders. She stopped to sign a few autographs until Johnny just about growled at the growing crowd, announcing that they needed to go. There were a few squeals of recognition from the females who realized her husband as the infamous Johnny Burr, the man who’d stolen his brother’s singing partner right from under him, in more ways than one. Some even hoped to get a glimpse of Eli, but Simone explained that he was still in New York. As they made their way to Johnny’s truck, people shouted her name. She smiled and waved before they finally got on the road. There was an even bigger change awaiting her in Standard. About a mile before town a large billboard proclaimed Standard the home of The Burr Brothers, with an early photo of the two. Her name and likeness were nowhere to be found. And vandals had painted nigger lover on Johnny’s face. She leaned back on the headrest, hoping to catch a nap before seeing her family. “Home sweet home.” Johnny’s voice was quietly serious. “We can’t go back to Standard as a married couple.” It took a moment to sink in before she peppered him with all kinds of questions. He didn’t interrupt, letting her go on about how unfair it all was and that her father would see to it that they’d be together. “You should know that your dad was the one who told me about it,” he finally said, gripping the steering wheel so tight his knuckles were white. That sinking feeling in her stomach was only part of it. When he caught her wiping her eyes, pulling over on the road was mandatory. No amount of blinking would stop the angry tears falling from her eyes, like a soft summer rain. “Why didn’t you say something about this when I called?” she asked. “I didn’t want to worry you.” “You didn’t want-” Her words ended abruptly. Getting mad at him wouldn’t change anything, especially since they were in this together. “I figure we can stay in a motel close to town, until we decide what to do,” he said, staring straight ahead. “You can take the truck and visit your folks if you want.” “But where will you be?” “Probably in the room. I might hook up with Marshall to record a few new tunes.”

“Why don’t you come with me?” “We can’t be together in public, not in Standard. The Klan’s been making some threats, and your Dad’s afraid they might act on ‘em.” “I’m not afraid.” He gave a rueful smile, shaking his shaggy, bowl cut hair. “Your Dad told me you’d say that. So he wanted me to tell you that if it’s not you, then some innocent person might get hurt. And he didn’t think you’d want that.” It was worse than she’d imagined. “But why? We’re not hurting anyone. I thought with that other couple getting their marriage upheld, I thought the Loving case applied to everyone like us.” He turned to face her so quickly, she jumped. Green eyes bored into her startled brown ones. “Simone, what do you want me to say? Damn it all to hell, I don’t know why this is happening. They call it miscegenation, and they say we broke the dag gone law when we got married. So the Standard city council is obligated to follow the law. You think they give a shit about a court case in another state? Here’s the deal. If we step one foot in Standard together, both of us will be arrested and hauled off to jail.” Gravel crunched under the tires as he pulled into the parking lot of a small, dingy looking motel. Once they entered the room, the dry, warm air outside was replaced with stifling mugginess. Johnny had set up a couple of fans that greeted them as soon as the door opened, but that wouldn’t be enough, especially not with the sun beating down on their section of the motel. The place was painted various shades of peach and beige. It was the kind of place no maid had touched in days, because the management couldn’t afford to hire one full time. “You tired?” he asked, closing the door with his boot heel as he set her luggage down. “Uh-huh.” Stripping off her dashiki inspired shirt, she was just about to wiggle out of her jeans when she caught him staring hard. “Is something wrong?” “I was just wondering . . . if you might wanna . . .” He ducked his head, his voice all but a mumble as his mop of chestnut colored hair fell forward. “But if you’re too tired, if you need to get some sleep for the baby’s sake-” Instead of answering Simone unzipped her bell bottoms, letting the fabric slide downward and pool around her ankles. Stepping out of them, she bent over to give him a good view of her butt as she gathered the jeans off the floor. She wiggled out of her panties slowly, getting horny

just watching how hard he grew watching her undress. After so many weeks apart, foreplay was the least of her concerns. Excluding the first few times they’d fumbled into lovemaking, Johnny always took his time. And today was no different. He came up behind her, his hands sliding down her breasts, cupping and squeezing them, passing a thumb lightly over her nipples. Twisting her head to meet his lips, Simone’s shoulders fell back to give him greater access to her neck and every part of her that he wanted to explore. His touch was more insistent as it traveled past her hips, finding what lay between her legs. The friction of his jeans against her backside, the tips of his fingers swirling and rubbing against the most sensitive part of her. Lord Almighty, but those long fingers of his were driving her crazy! But when had they landed on the bed? Probably around the same time he’d practically torn off his own jeans, only he still had one leg stuck in his pants while they were busy grunting and whimpering, skin slapping against skin, kissing with fervor, the room filling with the sounds of them having sex without regard to who was on the other side of the wall listening. When he pulled out to flip Simone on her knees, she loudly protested their separation. To make up for it, he spread her legs even further apart as he continued to pound, gripping the front of her thighs to use as leverage. Hanging on to the edge of the bed, Simone met his thrusts with the force of her own, especially since she didn’t want to land on the floor. At one point she almost did, but Johnny grabbed her by the waist and hauled her back. That’s when she spotted a copy of The New York Post on the carpet. Splashed across the front page was a photo of her, Eli and Joe “Willie” Namath, the gregarious quarterback of the New York Jets. They were laughing and walking into Bachelors III, a Manhattan nightclub owned by the star football player. Surprise and guilt made her words come out as heaving breaths. “Nothing. Happened.”

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