Chapter 4: New life
“So, my dear mysterious friend, where are we headed this morning? What quest are we on that requires such lavish duds?” Margo asked as she closed the car door and reached for the passenger seat belt.
“You’ll see when we get there,” Cassie replied as she backed out of Margo’s driveway. She smiled to herself, pleased that Margo had dressed as directed during their phone call the previous evening—old clothes, including long pants, long sleeve shirt, and boots of some sort, nothing with a high heel. “No quest. I’ve already discovered the hidden treasure.”
“Have you now? I’m intrigued. Is he tall, dark, and handsome?”
“No. It is old, run-down, and in need of repairs.”
Margo chuckled. “Sounds just like my date Saturday night.”
Cassie laughed. “Well, Blanche Devereaux, if you’d quit picking them up at the local nursing home.”
“Very funny. I do so identify with dear Blanche, though. We’re both misunderstood southern women who share the same urges. Of course, I’m much younger and much more beautiful.” Margo brushed her hair back with the tips of her fingers as she spoke.
“Yes. Same lines and all. Frankly, my dear, you, just like Blanche, are full of it. Need I remind you that you’re from Wisconsin?”
Margo gave a dismissive wave with her hand. “Whatever. So, where are we headed? Where is this treasure?”
“Vacherie? There’s nothing there but a bunch of plantation homes along River Road.”
Cassie flashed Margo a smile. “That’s right.”
“Please tell me we’re not touring plantation homes today. I’ve seen them all dozens of times. And no way am I touring Oak Alley dressed like this.”
“You haven’t seen this one. And your clothes are perfect for touring it,” Cassie replied as she drove across the Mississippi River by way of the Sunshine Bridge. When she reached the end of the bridge, she turned left onto Highway 18 (River Road) toward Vacherie.
When she finally turned down a dirt road, drove a short distance down it, and then stopped, putting the car in park and turning off the motor, Margo turned to her and said, “What the hell? What is this?”
“What does it look like?”
“Like an old, dilapidated, abandoned house.”
“And that’s pretty much what it is. Come on, let’s get out and look. Watch where you walk. The grass and weeds are pretty grown up around here.”
“That, my dear, is the understatement of the year!”
The two ladies stepped out of the car and met in front of it. “Come on, Margo,” Cassie said, waving her to follow.
Margo balked. “I’m not taking another step, Cassie Monroe, until you tell me what is going on. Why are we here, and why did you want me to see this rundown dump?”
“It’s not a rundown dump. It’s an old plantation home that someone abandoned years ago. I want to give it a new life. I want to buy it and have it restored. I want to turn it into a Bed and Breakfast.”
Margo looked at Cassie as if she had said she wanted to live on Mars.
“Are you out of your mind? That is the craziest thing I’ve ever heard come out of your mouth!”
“Well, I don’t think it’s crazy,” Cassie replied. “And I expected you to be at least a bit more supportive of the idea.”
“Hon, how could I possibly support this?” Margo pointed to the abandoned mansion as she spoke.
“Because you’re supposed to be my friend!” Cassie shouted as she held back tears.
“I am your friend, and that’s exactly why I’m telling you this is ridiculous. Why would you even want to do something like this?”
“It’s time to move on with my life. I want a project, something to do, a direction.”
“Well, I admit it’s time to get on with your life, but this is not the answer.”
“Then what is?”
“There are hundreds of other things to do. Travel, take a cruise, read a book. Hell, write a book!”
“Travel. Right,” Cassie replied, rolling her eyes at Margo’s suggestion. “That’s the solution. Should I let our dear friend Melanie plan it for me? Think she’ll give me a discount rate for screwing my husband behind my back all those years?”
Margo took in a deep breath, then exhaled. “That’s what this is all about, isn’t it?”
“You feel a connection to this place and therefore want to save it. It was abandoned by its owner just as you were by Phillip.”
“Is it, Cassie?”
“Even if that were true, and I’m not admitting that it is, what difference would it make? And what good would it be for me to travel, to take a cruise? No matter how long I was gone, I would still come back to the same pathetic life I left. If I can save this place, give it a new life, and give myself a new life at the same time, what is wrong with that? I have the money, Margo, thanks to Aunt Sissy, and I’ve done the research. It is a good project and one I have given a great deal of thought. I want to do it, but I need your support. As my friend.”
Margo shook her head as she turned and stared at the old mansion. Finally turning back to Cassie, she replied, “Okay. Let’s have that tour. But first, explain one thing. You had Aunt Sissy’s mansion. If you wanted a project, why not turn it into a Bed and Breakfast? It seems like it would have been a good location, on the east side of town.”
“Because Aunt Sissy’s mansion didn’t need saving. This one does.”