No Steel, Please
As an ode to one of my favorite Southern movies, I wrote this little scene which takes place after Chapter 22 in Bright-Eyed and Bushy-Tailed.
The Characters are my own, but the situation is similar to one scene in Steel Magnolias. In no way do I claim the quotes here. They are the products of Robert Harling’s screen adapted play, Steel Magnolias.
This story will never be printed and is only available for the entertainment of our readers.
Magnolias: Please, no steel.
Taking a deep draw off the liquor, I prepared myself for what this group of girls had to say. I got the distinct feeling I was here for more than one reason. Jenny seemed to be leading the charge.
“Grace, we have brought you here to have a conversation. A confrontation of sorts, but I need you to swear that you won’t dust any of us for what we are about to say,” Jenny said.
I rolled my eyes. “Whatever. No dusting,” I said, taking another sip.
“You know I love you more than my luggage, but you gotta go home and fuck Levi,” Jenny said.
The other women in the room giggled including Chaz. In my entire life, I’d never had many girlfriends. I didn’t like women, and in general, they didn’t like me. However, Jenny was amazing. We were so much alike. Maybe that was what father saw in me that hurt him so much.
Wendy, who was married to an ex of mine, had turned out to be a reliable source and a woman of her word. I loved that. I also loved that she didn’t take any shit off Fordele.
Riley had drawn my ire about Levi, but if I was completely honest, a small part of me wanted Levi. Or perhaps, I just didn’t want anyone else to have him. However, she had been good for my brother. I supposed they had found some common ground in being the rejected children of the monarchs.
Kady, who had also dated Levi, had made herself into the perfect girlfriend and daughter. She took diligent care of her father, and despite our past, I believed that at heart, she was a good person. She also made Caleb very happy, so there had to be some redemption for her.
Betty was my oldest friend in Shady Grove. We had disagreements along the way, but I adored her like an older aunt or something. Plus, she was hilarious.
Chaz, who was technically not a girl, but one of us nonetheless had listened to me yammer on about things while he cut or styled my hair which didn’t need that kind of attention. However, I never came to the salon for a style. I came for the light-hearted company. It also made me happy that his daughter was now making my knight a very happy man.
“That is the plan,” I said.
“That’s not good enough,” Betty replied.
“What do you mean?” I asked, trying not to be frustrated.
“What we mean is that you’ve had ample opportunities, but you haven’t. What’s the hang-up?” Wendy asked.
“There is no hang-up. I love him. We are fine,” I insisted.
“You are crazy, Grace! How have the two of you not hooked up yet?” Kady pushed.
“Look. You guys are my, well, sort of my friends, but how dare you come in here and ask these things. It’s private!” I said as Chaz began to massage my shoulders to calm me down.
“Grace, we are here to help,” Jenny said, taking back over the conversation.
“It’s not like we are avoiding it,” I huffed.
“He’s not,” Jenny said. She sat down in a chair in front of me. “What is stopping you?”
I couldn’t believe I was going to actually talk to them about this. I took another sip of the glass, emptying it. Chaz took it from me.
“Things keep coming up. Stuff in town. Squirrels. We have 3 kids in the house and 2 brownies! We have tried,” I tried to explain. “I love him. That’s all that matters.”
Jenny looked over to Wendy who nodded her head. “She needs to hear it,” Betty added to the unspoken conversation.
“Hear what? I’m leaving.” I started to get up, but Chaz pushed me back into the seat.
“You promised no dusting,” he reminded me.
“There has been no time that the two of you could share an intimate moment or two? Don’t lie,” Jenny said.
“Fairy,” I replied.
“Fairy Queen,” she countered.
“I still can’t lie.”
“No, but you can manipulate the truth and omit information. Why? Because I’m one hundred percent sure it isn’t him,” Jenny said.
“What are you implying?” I asked.
“If it were time, as you say, then I’d say I’d rather have 30 minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special,” Riley said.
“I had something special. Twice. This is the third time. We just haven’t swapped gravy yet. No big deal,” I said.
Before I could continue, the door to the salon opened and Mrs. Frist stepped inside. “Am I late?” she asked.
“Who invited her?” Kady snarled.
“I did,” Jenny replied.
“She’s crazy!” Kady continued.
“I’m not crazy, Kadance Lynn Rayburn! I’ve just been in a very bad mood for 400 years!” Mrs. Frist replied. “Go ahead. I’m just here for the entertainment.”
“What the fuck?” I mumbled. I heard Chaz giggle behind me.
“Why don’t we just go ahead and invite Stephanie?” Kady asked.
“I don’t trust her. I don’t trust anyone that does their own hair,” Chaz said.
“You are just bitter that she never got her hair done here,” Betty scolded him. “She had her hair done by one of those big wigs in Tuscaloosa.”
Chaz sighed. “Please don’t remind me. I’m still hurt on the inside.”
I put my head in my hand. I wasn’t sure what this angle was, but it bothered me. Jenny was searching for something specific out of me while everyone else seemed to be here for the entertainment, too.
“What is the point?” I asked.
The attention turned back to me. “That’s what I want to know, Grace. I suspect you have two hang-ups about Levi, and you aren’t leaving this room without talking about it.”
That was it. I was done. I refused to be manipulated that way. Pulling cold winter power to me, I prepared to skip, but suddenly the walls of the entire salon were covered in spider webs. I felt the power cut off to me. I had what I had stored in my tattoo, but I wasn’t sure it would be enough to get past the magical webs.
I snarled at Mrs. Frist. “So, they brought you here to keep me inside?”
She smiled. I’d never seen the woman smile before in my entire time in Shady Grove. “Why, yes, Grace. That is exactly why I am here.”
“Damn, Frist, you are downright chipper today. Did you run over a small pixie on the way?” Kady asked. Riley stifled a laugh beside her.
“Shut up, Kady Lynn,” Mrs. Frist responded.
“I don’t deserve him,” I blurted out. The room got very quiet. Chaz stopped rubbing my shoulders and let go.
Jenny smiled, but it was crooked. It was a pity smile.
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” Betty said.
“I’ve had my chances. I’ve opened my legs for more men than I ever care to admit. He’s young and innocent…”
“He’s not innocent,” Riley interrupted.
“Not at all,” Kady added.
“You know what I mean. He’s not corrupted by being a fairy,” I tried to explain. “He deserves better.”
“I agree,” Jenny said, leaning back in her chair. “But love is rarely about what’s best for you. It’s about an attraction. A trust. A companionship beyond friends. A lot of times those can be the best and worst things of life.”
I took a deep breath to gain my composure.
Betty continued the pep talk. “He is a wonderful person, and I say, if he wants you, then damn it to hell, have him!”
I gritted my teeth and my nostrils flared.
“Say it, Grace,” Jenny prodded.
“We are no longer friends,” I huffed.
“Okay,” she replied flatly. “But you will say it.”
I felt the overwhelming urge to tell the truth. Then it hit me. I was the only one that had a drink.
“You brewed Truthshine.”
“I did. Mine’s brown,” she said. “Good, yeah?”
I mumbled that it was. I knew now what she was trying to prove. I knew exactly what I needed to say out loud. It was what Betty meant by I needed to hear it. I needed to hear myself say it.
“I’m scared,” I said.
Chaz squeaked behind me. Jenny crooked smiled again. Betty put her hand over her mouth as a tear drifted down her cheek. Wendy, Riley, and Kady held hands quickly chanting a spell of calm. Mrs. Frist just stared at me.
“Why are you scared?” Jenny asked.
“Cohen died because of me. Dylan died because of me. Levi deserves better,” I said.
“Do you know how ridiculous that sounds?” Jenny asked.
“Ridiculous! I’m not ridiculous!”
“Cohen chose his death. Dylan chose his death. How dare you make it your fault! Don’t remove their nobility to serve your own excuses, fear, and pity party,” Jenny barked.
I stood up and yelled, “Pity party. Is that what you think this is? You called me in here to berate me. I should have known all of you here would be a set-up!”
She stood up and yelled in my face. “You have got a lot of nerve to yell at me after everything that Tennyson has done for you. Everything this town has done for you. You are still an ungrateful, little brat.”
I promised not to dust, but I was going to slap a bitch. Before I raised my hand to hit her, Betty grabbed Mrs. Frist, shoved Jenny out of the way, and said, “Here hit Frist! Knock her lights out!”
“Betty, have you lost your mind?” Wendy asked.
Mrs. Frist tried to jerk away from Betty, but she was much stronger than she looked. “Let go of me!” she hissed.
“Go ahead, Grace! If you wanna hit something, hit Frist. She loves knockin’ knees!” Betty exclaimed.
Mrs. Frist continued to struggle with her, but she was clearly embarrassed. Betty let her go, and she stomped to the front door.
“You have lost your ever-lovin’ mind, Betty Stallworth! Luther should be keeping you in a bottle!” Mrs. Frist shouted before she burst out of the door in a tizzy.
“You missed your chance, Grace,” Betty said with a huge grin.
I started laughing and couldn’t stop. It wasn’t long before all of us were cackling like a bunch of witches.
“We could have made t-shirts. I whacked Kathrine Frist in Shady Grove!” Betty continued.
The laughter faded, and I stared at Jenny. “It’s true. I don’t deserve him, and I fear for his life. I fear for what I would become without him.”
“Levi knows all these things, and for some reason, he still loves you,” Jenny said with a smile.
“We won’t let you slip Grace. Levi is your love, but we are all your family,” Betty said.
“All of you?” I asked looking at Kady and Riley.
“All of us,” Riley confirmed. “And we are going to be family anyway. Whether you like it or not.”
“Finley proposed?” I asked.
“He did, and I said, yes, but we are going to wait to be married,” she said.
“Don’t wait. Whatever you do. Don’t wait,” I said.
Her eyes widened. “I didn’t expect you to say that.”
“If you love him, don’t wait,” I repeated.
“Thank you, Grace. That means a lot,” she said.
“I didn’t say I approved,” I said then chuckled.
“That’s the Grace I know,” she said. “The kind of person I’d want to have as a sister. Not like the others. I was headed down that path, but you and your brother kept me from slipping. I don’t want to be a part of the hatred summer has for winter. Maybe this bond between the two worlds will lead to many more in the future.”
“That would require your mother’s death,” I said.
“So be it,” Riley replied. “I blame her for my father’s death. I blame her for everything.”
“Welcome to the family,” I said.