a Second Chance Novella
“They may look harmless standing there all cute in their tan orthopedic shoes, but it’s a farce.” Ruby told Rachel, shaking her head. “Harmless fun. I’ll throw those words back in your face when we’re bailing them out of a Las Vegas jail. With blue-hair women named Thelma and Louise hanging out with your crazy aunt, we’re destined for trouble.” Ruby sighed and tapped her way over the slick marble floor on three-inch narrow heels to the women she was just talking about. She was in a hurry to get to the threesome who were now blowing kisses to the concierge standing behind his desk.”
Las Vegas, Present Day
The Excelsior Hotel and Casino, a 1960s Las Vegas Strip landmark, was pure luxury with the over-the-top shimmer that was expected from this town. Rachel Bienvenu stood in its elegant, cream-colored marble and dark walnut lobby, forcing her attention to shift from the grandeur to three of her four travel companions. Her mother, Ruby, the fourth of their group, was at the check-in desk, leaving her to keep an eye on the others, and rightly so. They were prone to wander. To get lost. To get into trouble.
These three feisty women hadn’t noticed the exquisite flower arrangements in four-foot marble vases surrounding them. They hadn’t noticed the glistening gold-and-silver-tiled dome above them inscribed with a mosaic banner that read “Excelsior!” with three words beneath it – Onward. Upward. Higher. They hadn’t noticed those beautiful things or the rest of the amazing décor because they were focused on plotting their activities for the next four days.
As their chaperone, Rachel wasn’t too concerned with their plans; they had limitations and they’d be easy to spot. They intended to wear a different matching pink top each day —today was a solid bubblegum pink shell and cardigan — and they intended to wear their homemade, bedazzled white sashes, now hanging askew across their chests. The shiny silver, plastic, and cheap rhinestone tiaras on their freshly styled heads would also make them easy to find in a crowd.
Yes, they’d stand out against the sophisticated color palette of the Excelsior. Rachel would bet that there wasn’t another group of matching pink blouse-sparkling sash-and-tiara-wearing blue-haired, eighty-plus-year-old ladies there.
“What happens at a Vegas bachelorette party, stayzin Vegas,”
Tante Izzy, the ringleader of the group, cheered.
Her excitement didn’t make her Cajun accent heavier; it was always that way. “Dis is goin’ to be da best bachelorette party ever!” They started to high-five each other, their old bones not allowing their hands to reach quite as high as they once had. “Thank you, Thelma, for getting married. . . again.”
Rachel pulled her phone from the back pocket of her skinny jeans and took a few candid photos of the ladies. She was glad she’d decided to wear her comfortable turquoise peasant blouse that was both stylish with the bold, exposed zippers over the slanted chest pockets and easy to move in because of the free-flowing fabric. She’d been doing a lot of moving, helping with luggage, and herding the wandering ladies. Her choice of comfy d’Orsay pointed-toe, cognac leather flats proved to be right too. Her feet didn’t ache keeping up with these ladies who had an abundance of energy, spirit, and joie de vivre.
She was concerned about their fearlessness though. As a 911 operator in their small hometown of Cane, Louisiana, she’d witnessed the failed results of their fearless attempts more than once. It was why she’d volunteered to come to Las Vegas for eighty-two-year-old Thelma Breaux’s bachelorette party. The bridesmaids, Louise Guidry and Rachel’s great aunt, Tante Izzy Bienvenu, had overambitious ideas as to how they would celebrate the end of Thelma’s single life.
“Watch out, Vegas, here we come. Ayeee,” Tante Izzy shouted,and a hush fell over the raucous lobby full of once noisy guests. A few even froze mid-stride until they realized the old lady was celebrating and not having a seizure. A slender man with salt and pepper hair gave Tante Izzy a thumbs-up and she reciprocated with a thumbs-up of her own.
“Her declaration was more wishful thinking than warning,” Rachel told her mother, Ruby, who had returned to stand next to her reapplying the reddish-orange lipstick that exactly matched her hair and jean jacket.
“I wouldn’t be so sure,” her mother said on a sigh. “Look at Tante Izzy smiling at that handsome man who looks like he could be on the cover ofGQ magazine…and the others, checking out that Excelsior employee walking past them. Dear Lord, did Thelma just whistle at him? I had no idea she could do that with dentures.”
Rachel laughed. “Harmless fun.”
“They may look harmless standing there all cute in their tan orthopedic shoes, but it’s a farce.” She shook her head. “Harmless fun. I’ll throw those words back in your face when we are bailing them out of a Las Vegas jail. With women named Thelma and Louise hanging out with your crazy aunt, we are destined for trouble.” Ruby groaned and tapped her way over the slick marble floor on three-inch narrow heels to the women she was just talking about. Rachel followed her mother who was in a hurry to get to the threesome who were now blowing kisses to the concierge standing behind his walnut and gold inlay desk.
“Ne pas le faire.”Telling them don’t do that, even in their first language, Cajun French, hadno impacton them whatsoever.
“Don’t you mess dis up fer us,” Thelma said. “I’m about to get a date witdat man over dere.”
“Oh, no you won’t,” Ruby scolded. “You’re engaged. Besides, he’s young enough to be your grandson.”
“And I’m old enough to be his mistress.”
“Lordy,” Ruby sighed. “We have to wait another hour for our suite. Let’s go to the coffee shop and regroup.”
“An hour?” Tante Izzy opened her black, red, and white sequin tote bag decorated with an appliqué of all four queens from a deck of cards. She handed Ruby two nickels. “Occupy you’self. Go play da slots. Or go movie-star huntin’ like youz like to do. Meet us back here when the room is ready.”
Ruby looked at the two nickels in her palm, then turned to Rachel and waved her in closer. “Even if this could occupy my time for an hour,” she told Tante Izzy. “I’m not letting you three flirts out of my sight. That’s why I am on the wagon and not movie-star hunting during this trip. I mean it. Even if George Clooney walks directly up to me.”
“Youz momma is all huffy because of da man-on-pause,” Tante Izzy told her grand-niece. “When youz get dat, youz get all sweaty and moody. And worst, youz take a pause on da man.”
“She needs a prescription for hair-moans,” Thelma said to Louise, who was now sitting on her walker. Louise smiled, but didn’t answer. Thelma grabbed her friend’s ear. “I knew it. Youz ain’t wearin’ hearin’ aids.”
Louise swatted her hand away. “I bathe every day. I use baby powder too.”
“Aid. Aid,” Thelma shouted. “Not bathe.” She turned to Tante Izzy. “I refuse to share a room with someone who cain’t hear. I’m roomin’ withyou.”
“But you snore. Dat’s why you are roomin’ wit Louise. She won’t hear it.”
“You got dat right,” Louise said, although she clearly didn’t know what everyone was talking about. Then she pointed to a man who was walking by, wearing faded jeans and a form-fitting black T-shirt. Tante Izzy and Thelma started blowing kisses to him, but he didn’t notice. He stopped at the closest blackjack table and took a seat. “Nice derrière.” Louise’s voice seemed to echo off the marble floors and bounce off the heavily veined marble columns. Everyone — other than the man her comment was aimed at — turned and looked at her.
“I think he’s hard of hearing too,” Rachel said, and laughed.
“Or wisely ignoring the catcalls coming from a blue-hair lady with a walker,” Ruby added.
“Norman Landry?” Tante Izzy said, more to herself than anyone else.
Thelma’s head jerked to the man at the blackjack table. “It does look like Norman,” she agreed, pulling off her wire-framed glasses. “He hasn’t left Cane since his daughter-in-law died from breast cancer.”
“Yes he has. I heard he visited his grandson in prison,” Ruby said.
“Norman must’ve dyed his hair. Look at dat pretty dark color,”
Thelma said. “Not dat I minded his white hair. He’s a handsome man.”
“Shame on you,” Tante Izzy scolded. “Youz is engaged to Pete. He’zgot white hair too. Only a dozen of ‘em, but dey’zwhite.”
Rachel looked at the man they were talking about. She knew Norman Landry. She knew Norman Landry’s son, Raymond too. But, she knew Raymond’s son, Dante, best. Her heart started to thud. Man, she hadn’t seen Dante since he left Cane the day after his high-school graduation. She’d heard he ended up in prison for robbing some big corporation about five years later. She didn’t know the details of the theft nor did she know if he was still in prison.
She preferred to think of him as the badass rebel without a cause who drove fast cars with his music too loud and who’d stolen her heart when she was a sophomore in high school. Dante had stolen it with a single act he didn’t even know she’d witnessed.
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