By Nan D. Arnold
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Are the wives in Merry Acres so very merry?
When Husbands start dying, seemingly by accident, and the secrets
behind these deaths have so marred the gloss of happily-ever-after,
can murder be only a gold wedding band away? Or is there something
else causing Merry Acres to be anything but merry.
Everyone, regardless of their feelings for Augusta, stood and clapped. The dancers bowed. Augusta disappeared, but not before glancing my way with what looked to me like a cruel smile. The music changed to "Orchids in the Moonlight." Daniel held out his gloved hand for me.
I strode to him, seeing nothing but Daniel. Old wounds re-opened. My pulse raced as I recalled his affair with Rhonda. I took my position in his arms and muttered, "So, how often were you…uh…waltzing with Augusta behind my back?"
He looked aghast, then quickly readjusted his expression for the onlookers with a fake smile. He said, "Exactly the mood for a tango."
"This wasn't exactly planned, Georgiana. Dixie couldn't come to half the practice sessions. I'm happy, however, despite your mood, if it goaded you into dancing in public."
Hyper-aware, I felt the beat of his heart as we performed what was essentially a rough sex act to music, in public. "You didn't answer me about how much time you spent with Augusta."
He twirled me out, then reeled me in. I sneered at him, digging my index fingernail along his cheek but not deep enough to draw blood. I heard every musical note over the voice in my head screaming, bastard, bastard, bastard.
He entreated, "Augusta was kind enough to fill in for Dixie Metcalf. It was the only way I knew to make you show these gals what you could do on the dance floor. We practiced waltz steps a couple of times. Nothing else."
The music ended. "Liar." My eyes raked his face more sharply than my nail had.
His eyes pleaded, but I gave no mercy. The ovation brought me to the present. I tried to remove my hand enclosed in Daniel's, but he would not relinquish it. Stuck together, we bowed as I bestowed upon the BILL members a stare ten times colder than Augusta's had been.
Ripping my hand from Daniel's, I stalked to my chair, grabbed my purse, and started to leave the room. I was too hurt and angry to cry. Humiliated in public, again.
Alarmed at the turn of events, Lourdes looked over at Janet and signed a slicing move against her neck. She mouthed, "End it."
Janet dashed behind the screen and turned off the music.
I tracked toward the double-door entryway like a train, but Lourdes ran after me. "Don't be angry. Please, Georgiana, listen. Dixie couldn't come today. There's nothing between Daniel and Augusta." She blurted, "It's not like her and Mendez." Lourdes' hands flew to her mouth. "God, forget I said that."
I stopped and took a much-needed breath. "Interesting. Homicide just crossed my own mind. Maybe Mrs. Mendez once felt the same way."
Lourdes went pale.
Another BILL member meowed. "Watch out. Rumor has it Augusta's affairs start in the men's card room then move to the bedroom. Maybe this time, she stopped off on the dance floor."
"Shut up," Lourdes snapped. "Drink your wine and keep those comments to yourself. Besides, the men's card room is off limits to women, just as ours is to men."
I searched Lourdes' face. "Yes, that's true, isn't it?" I grabbed the lifeline of a shaky truth.
"Sure it is. Now, you go over there and make up with your husband who only did us a favor."
Before I acted on Lourdes' suggestion, the social director rushed in, practically knocking us aside. A uniformed police officer followed.
Sharon scanned the room and zoomed toward Becca Bernstein, indicating Mrs. Bernstein should follow her behind the screen. Standing just outside the screen, the officer said something.
Becca came out from the screened area, went white, and swayed.
Daniel, the only other man present, rushed over in their direction. "What's wrong?" He brought over a chair and the officer helped Becca into it.
Sharon wrung her hands.
"No, you're wrong. It's a mistake." Becca wailed in decibels that would put a commercial airliner's jet engine to shame. "Benny would have called me if anything was wrong. He always carries his cell phone when he jogs. My Benny's not dead, I tell you. He can't be. Certainly not from any god-damned heart attack."