VI. THE LAST FEW CALLS
Lea was next. Lea had turned to acting as well, but she preferred the stage. She had always been a natural, so it was no shock to the others when she became successful. She had it all; the looks, the voice, and the ability to lose herself in the role.
Maggie smiled. It was nice that they were all finding some of the success they deserved.
As Maggie chatted with her, she found her very much overjoyed to hear from her. They talked for an hour, and set a time to visit. So much seemed to be happening. As Maggie hung up; she got ready for the next call. But first, she needed to use the restroom. Looking at the clock, she noticed that it was almost noon. Connie had been gone for an awful long time. She hoped nothing had happened to him.
After a short break, she returned to placing her calls. The next on her list was Consuela Gomez. This Cuban beauty had been another prize that men seemed to want to fight over. And Consuela let them. She was content to enjoy their petty fights.
It had taken Consuela to break through Rosa’s trauma. Through her help, the girls learned what they’d feared all along. After that, Rosa freely rambled on about the things she’d seen. Soon, they knew everything. The only one who didn’t was Maggie. But how would they tell her?
These memories ran through Consuela’s mind as she talked to Maggie. The memories were sharply poignant and full of pain. Not one of her friends had ever gotten over the fact that they owed Maggie more than they could ever repay. This guilt, fuelled by the secrets they all shared, drove the girls to do anything for their former mistress.
Even if it meant opening up another cathouse, they’d do it. They loved Maggie. They wanted to give her back the family she was deprived of so long ago. Hell, they wanted the family they’d been deprived of. So they clung to Maggie. Sisters in eternity, they hoped.
The conversation seemed to last for a short eternity. But, when it had ended, Maggie knew that the Cuban would be there for her. As she dialed the number for Philicia, she began to get a mental picture of them all as a group. A smile snuck onto her face. Oh how she longed for some of those days. How they all had so much fun.
After talking to Philicia, Maggie called the last woman on the ‘Tulsa’ list…Daria Kendel. She was the last of the group. The oldest, she’d taken on more of a motherly aspect toward the others after Maggie left. Perhaps, she had been meant to be their leader. But, as things go, Cat and Tabby ultimately led in the decision-making.
It seemed odd that Maggie had only been able to find a mere handful of the original townspeople. She found that fact very odd. What had happened to the rest? Where had they gone?
VII. THE CHICAGO LIST
Maggie had just a few more calls to make before she was finished. Of all her friends, these were the closest friends she’d ever had. These were the friends she’d made on purpose. they’d been there for her through her last few ups and downs. They’d been the most hurt when she pushed them away.
At the top of this list was Hellena. She’d been her first and greatest friend. They’d been like sisters before Maggie’s illness had forced her to make a decision that she’d regretted ever since. She never truly wanted to push any of them away…least of all, Hellena. With some hesitation, Maggie picked up the phone and began dialing. At once, the phone was lifted at the other end.
“Hello?” came the familiar voice of her old friend and onetime business partner, “Hellena, here.”
“Hellena, this is Maggie,” she heard herself saying, “can you spare some time?”
“Sure, Maggs,” came Hellena’s surprising answer, “what do you need?”
“Hellena,” Maggie continued, “Connie asked me to marry him…and I said yes. We would both like you to come to our wedding.”
“I would love to, Maggs,” came another surprising reply, “you know I can never refuse an offer from my best friend. You have always meant the world to me. Do you want your sons and daughter to be there?”
“Yes,” Maggie answered, “I would love to see them. I may even have them come back into my home and become what I should’ve been all along…mommy.”
“You sure that you’re up to that task?” Hellena inquired, “I mean, your illness won’t interfere, will it?”
“No,” Maggie answered, “but I am willing to take the risks. Besides, Connie could use some inquisitive minds to distract him from me once in a while. His constant attention to my every need gets overbearing sometimes…and if he had someone else to take up some of his attention, it would ease on some of the tension around here.”
“Ah,” Hellena replied, thoughtfully, “you really do love him. He’s a very lucky man to have you. Then, of course, we have all been very lucky to have been a part of your life and to have you in ours. By the way, does this mean you’ll be coming back to work?”
“If you really need me,” Maggie answered, “it may be what I need to beat this damned disease.”
Their conversation seemed to drag on for hours. Maggie gave Hellena details pertaining to the where’s and when’s of the wedding, and Hellena brought Maggie up to speed on how the business was doing. She seemed happy when Maggie agreed to return to work, and Maggie was thrilled with the idea of returning to her office. When the conversation was over, Maggie hung up the phone relieved and optimistic. She had not lost her best friend over a silly notion she’d had years before, when her condition had begun to worsen.
Next to be called was Brian Hart. Again, she hesitated, but pushed her fear aside and dialed his number.
“Hello?” his harsh, raspy voice inquired at the other end.
“Brian?” she started, “it’s Maggie. Can you find a way to come to my wedding?”
“Sure, Maggs. No prob. When and where?”
Maggie proceeded to give him all the details as he took them down. He allowed how her becoming a recluse had saddened him and the others, but revealed that none of her friends had become bitter towards her because of it. Instead, they had all secretly resolved to remain there for her whenever she needed them. He went so far as to tell her that all would readily agree to be at the wedding and that he would help get in touch with the rest. She thanked him and said good-bye, hanging up in tears of joy.
She couldn’t believe all that she’d found in her task. The Tulsa group all loved her even though she felt that they should hate her. The Akron group had remained her friends even though she’d fallen out of communication with them. Even her friends here in Chicago had remained loyal despite the fact that she’d done everything in her power to run them off in a time when she was feeling sorry for herself. She couldn’t bring herself to believe it. It was beyond her.
Pulling herself out of her thoughts, she looked at the list. Only three names remained: Cozy, her uncle Lazarus, and his daughter. It was only a matter of time before any of them reappeared. She just hoped that it wouldn’t be too late to invite them to the wedding. And that hope was all she had to keep her afloat right now where her family was concerned.