Mamaw was pleased that despite Dora’s having her own house on Sullivan’s she still thought of the bedroom she’d slept in at Sea Breeze as hers. “Of course.” After a quick glance at the main house’s porch revealed Girard was already in the house, Mamaw led Dora to the bathroom in the cottage.
Dora dumped her bag onto the small marble bathroom counter and immediately began pulling out a brush, her makeup bag, hair spray. She grabbed the brush and began working on her shoulder-length hair with a vengeance.
“Let me.” Mamaw took the brush from her hand.
Dora sighed. “Thank you. I just washed it and it’s out of control.”
Mamaw began stroking the blond hair.
“Mamaw, why did I get such thin, unruly hair? Carson’s hair is so thick she can barely get a comb through it, and Harper’s hair falls like silk.”
It was true, Mamaw thought. Poor Dora’s hair was thin and flyaway. But she had other assets. “We all want what the other person has. When Carson was young, she cried because she wanted to have your blond hair. And Harper buys the best hair products. You might ask her about them. But you, Dora, have the most beautiful skin. Peaches and cream. I doubt you’ll have a wrinkle even at my age. Remember, hair can always be managed. But once your skin goes . . . Would you like me to put it up? In a twist like mine?”
A relieved smile eased across Dora’s face. “I would.”
As Mamaw brushed and styled Dora’s hair, she noticed the pensive expression on Dora’s face.
“Is everything all right?”
Dora skipped a beat. “Not really.”
Mamaw could tell that was a difficult admission for Dora. She was so proud and she’d worked so hard in the past year to get over the divorce. “Do you want to talk about it?”
“I’m starting my new job but no one seems interested in that.”
Mamaw lowered her hand. “Of course we’re interested,” she said, surprised. She placed her hands on Dora’s shoulders and lowered to look at Dora through the mirror. “Congratulations! Honey, this is a big step for you.”
“I didn’t want to take the spotlight off the brides.”
“You couldn’t and wouldn’t. There will be plenty of spotlight on the brides. You have your moments to celebrate, too. I’m so proud of you.”
“Thanks,” Dora said with a short laugh, mollified. Then she shrugged lightly. “Mamaw?”
Mamaw heard a tone in Dora’s voice that she hadn’t since the night before Dora’s own wedding. The voice was childlike, tinged with fear. Mamaw gave Dora her full attention. “Yes, Eudora?”
“I’m a little nervous about starting the new job. I passed the exam with high marks. But everyone knows I got the job at Cassell Real Estate because of Devlin. They’re going to be watching me like hawks, just waiting for me to slip up. And what if I do? I don’t want to embarrass Devlin. Or have him see me in a lesser light. Do you think it was a mistake to work for him?”
“No, Dora, I don’t. Everyone is nervous before they start any new job. You’re facing a new world with its own set of rules, peopled with new characters, some of them nice, others not so nice. You just have to walk in the door with your head held high and do your very best. That’s all anyone can ask of you. And let me tell you a thing about Devlin Cassell. He built that business himself. That’s his name on the stationery. Don’t think for one minute he’s only hiring you because he loves you. If he didn’t think you would make a great real estate agent, he would come up with a million different jobs for you. He’s too savvy a businessman to risk his company.”
Dora sighed with relief. “You’re right. That’s his baby.”
“It sure is.” Mamaw began to brush Dora’s hair again.
“But even if I do okay, I’m still worried I won’t bring in enough commission, especially the first few months. It’s hard to get started and make contacts.”
“I know what to do! I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before. I’ll throw you a nice little party and invite all my friends. Get the word out that you’re an agent. People like to know who they’re dealing with when they sell something as important and emotional as one’s house. You’re a Muir, dear. Our name means something in these parts.”
“Would you, Mamaw? That would be amazing.”
“The hens and chicks will start clucking, don’t you worry.” Mamaw paused. “You have money problems, child?”
Dora looked at her hands. “Things are kind of tight now and the bills are stacking up. Mamaw, sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and start thinking of all the bills I’ve got to pay and I can’t go back to sleep. I swear, I’m a breath away from long nights with a bottle of whiskey.”
“What about Cal’s alimony and child support? I thought that would help carry you through.”
“It’s supposed to, but he’s been late. Says he can’t manage it with the house payments and improvements.”
Mamaw felt like a bull seeing red. She jabbed the hairbrush into the air. “You tell that no-count skinflint that you’re going to call your lawyer if he doesn’t assume his responsibilities. ASAP. And you call, hear?”
“You should call him. He’s afraid of you.”
“As well he should be. He’s no gentleman, letting you take on all the worry for Nate. That man’s tighter than a gnat’s behind.”
Dora laughed at the truth in it. “Amen.” Then she looked at Mamaw with a wry grin. “I don’t believe I’ve ever heard you so riled before.”
“When it comes to my babies, my claws come out. Still”—Mamaw regained her composure—“we can say what we will here when we’re alone. But for Nate’s sake, when you see Cal, you can offer him a sweet tea and a smile, but do not put up with that man’s bull honkey.”
Mamaw paused as her mind went to a different man. “Have you told Devlin about your money problems?”
“I did not,” Dora answered firmly. “I’m not talking to Devlin about money matters. Or anything else much these days.”
“We had words. He’s not coming tonight.”