Muriel McCracken had left everyone and everything behind.
Well, not everyone.
She had every intention of waiting for Eddie to get out of the Penn. But she left her family, her country, her brand new Cadillac (Madame Bozell had told her that her car would be too large for the narrow roads of Europe) and the Condo she had bought in Beverly Hills after she received her Publisher’s Clearing House money.
She had hired Madame Arthuretta Bozell and her Ladyfingers lifestyle make over service to teach her the things she needed to know as a lady of extraordinary means.
She took with her to France, a brand new look, her decorator-magazine subscriptions, some new manners…thanks to Madam Bozell’s Guide to Elegant and Proper Behavior and Presentation, a big fat book called a thesaurus,
nearly 20 million dollars…less Eddie’s legal fees…and a brand new name.
She had decided she’d become a socialite, while she waited for Eddie’s release. Muriel decided to rename herself as Countess Sara Haggener…in memory of her beloved Grandmother, Sarah Mae Haggener.
She bought herself a brand new Mercedes, convertible sports car as soon as she arrived in France and christened it with the name “Sadie”. She and Sadie conversed quite often together, since she had known no one else in all of Europe to talk to.
She wrote Eddie often. He loved reading about her new life and he had told her that he was looking forward to meeting her friend “Sadie”.
Eddie, too, had always liked those Mercedes sports cars.
As soon as she arrived in the South of France, she had checked into the Negresco Hotel in Nice. Madame Bozell had recommended it, telling her that many famous people stayed there.
When she arrived to check in, she had burst out laughing. It looked exactly like the birthday cake that Eddie had ordered for her for her 40th birthday, over ten years ago.
But the hotel had been a wonderful place to start a new life. Oodles of celebrity-types passed through on their vacations and it was just across the street from the beach. It wasn’t the best beach in the world, because it was full of rocks and no sand…but it was different. On the private part of the beach, they had those mattresses and umbrellas…uhm…parasols…you could rent and have cute beach boys serve you food and drinks and things.
Just the kind of treatment a Countess was looking for.
Muriel…uh…Countess Haggener…created a story for the people she would undoubtedly soon be meeting.
Since she was from Atlanta…well…from near Atlanta…and still had her southern accent, she would tell people that she was from a rich, old, Southern family. She would claim to be a member of the D.A.R…the Daughters of the American Revolution…that she had read about in one her high society magazines.
She would tell them that she had been married to an English Count.
Since Madame Bozell had hired those people who taught Muriel how to sail (since she had heard that rich people did this sort of thing), she would say that her husband died tragically 10 years ago in a boating accident near Newport Road Island.
She had read about Newport, in one of those lifestyle magazines that Madame Bozell had told her to buy.
Countess Haggener decided that she should start looking for a house…a villa, they call it in France…for herself and Eddie.
She made an appointment with a real estate broker in St. Jean Cap Ferrat, as Arthuretta Bozell had suggested, to explore the possibilities.
_ _ _ _
On the morning of her appointment with her Real Estate broker, she decided to take a stroll around the neighborhood near her hotel and in the Old Town…la vi-eille ville…la vieille ville of Nice, to acquaint herself with her new surroundings.
The pedestrian street…the rue Pi-e-tonne…la rue Pietonne, was lined with cafes and fancy designer dress shops mixed in with discount boutiques.
Many of the people in the outdoor restaurants sat eating what looked like
She had studied the travel magazines that Madame Bozell had told her to buy. So when she arrived at the big plaza area off the boulevard Jean Medecin, she stood there with her mouth open. It looked more like the pictures she saw of Italian cities than what she’d expect from a French one.
When she descended the steps of la Vieille Ville, she almost bolted back to her hotel.
A teeming mass of foreigners assaulted her view. All those old, narrow streets, mixed in with newly paved ones. The stores were lined up next to each other looking more like those pictures of cities she saw in the magazines of North Africa. Fancy French restaurants mixed in with small foreign cafes selling some kind of meat…vertically…rotating on a spit. An then there were those weird-looking pancakes…all broken up…people eating them with black
As she continued walking, gradually picking up speed, she had begun to wonder how she looked to others walking among this mass of people, as she noticed that the sound of American voices rose above all the others.
She scrutinized those she recognized as Americans.
To her, they looked like pale, gawdy, trinkets in a…in a…Middle Eastern schlock shop as Eddie would probably say.
When she arrived at the plaza called, Place Garibaldi, she looked around at all the cafes linked together there around the traffic circle and gasped!
Little old matrons in little fur jackets…eating Crawdaddys! Roughed up looking people eating Crawdaddys! Back packers eating Crawdaddys! Even small dogs eating Crawdaddys!
What kind of a place was this?
She didn’t feel that this was at all the kind of place for a Countess to live.
She leaned against the traffic light post next to her, to look at her map and get her bearings. She would take another route back to her hotel. She needed to breathe. She had begun to feel suffocated by it all.
She would take the route back along the beach.
_ _ _
Available in Hardcover, Trade Paperback and Kindle!
(the author: photo by Allan Tyson)