cousin rochelle

by Sheherazade Budreau

I’m Shaherazade Budreau and I’m going to tell you what Faith told me and Susie Applegate about how Rochelle was born and how she died and some of the stuff in between.
 
    Faith said Rochelle was born early in the morning. Two o’clock. She said she was looking at the clock at just that moment. Rochelle was easy being born and that always seemed ironical to Faith how a child could get into this world so easy and go out so hard.
 
    People were already talking about who the daddy might be long before Rochelle was born even though Faith just wouldn’t say. She didn’t tell anyone not even her parents or her brother Tim or her sister Susan. The only one she told, the one she thought she could trust was her best friend, Geena McCoy.
 
    Charlie disappeared from room 17 at the Restin’ Easy Motel in the night of the very day Rochelle was born. He never saw his little baby. Faith said, “I thought he wanted to see her. I thought that’s why he kept hanging around Germaine. Like he just couldn’t leave. Maybe he thought there’d be some miracle. Maybe we both thought so.”
 
    Faith said she could never make herself believe that something happened to Charlie. She just figured he went back South and forgot about her and the baby. “I thought that for a long time. It was what I needed to think. I had to live in this county, among these people.” She didn’t think about singing anymore. At least up on stage. Not often. She was busy taking care of baby Rochelle. She stayed out in the country on the farm, mostly helping with the harvest and planting of her step-daddy McKinley Hedrick’s crops. They grew mint, potatoes and alfalfa. Weren’t too many growing honeydew back then. McKinley had most of his fields in hemp during the war, but all that changed after the war.
 
    I don’t know why it changed, I wasn’t really listening to that part cause Faith wasn’t talking about Rochelle or Uncle Charlie. So I interrupted her, I know it’s rude and Mama would have had a fit. I asked her how people in Germaine treated Rochelle, her being mixed race and all that. Faith said there were some didn’t treat her good. Not that the adults said things to her or did mean things, they just pretty much ignored her. “I know there was plenty of talk behind our backs. Some of it just because Rochelle was illegitimate. That was a big enough deal back in those days. I know she took her share of taunting from other children. Most of that ended though when she became the Trustee.”
 
    Faith said The Daughters of Germaine (that’s a strange little group in Germaine that has secrets and stuff) anointed her. That’s the word Faith used “anointed”. That meant Rochelle had a special position in Germaine. After that most people respected her to her face even if they didn’t like it that her daddy was a black man.
 
    But the thing that broke Rochelle’s heart, that sent her out on that highway driving like a bat out of Hell was that it was one thing to have respect, to be the Trustee of Germaine–it was quite another to be accepted as the mother of Vernon Van Bibber’s grandbaby. “They told me they wanted to get married, her and Isaac Van Bibber. I asked them what Vernon thought of it. Isaac said he didn’t care what his father thought. Probably he didn’t, but in the end it mattered to Rochelle. I’m not saying she killed herself, she was just angry. That’s what she did when she got angry, she drove like hell. This time there was a semi coming where she didn’t expect it. They say her car was over the line just a little bit enough to clip the semi and that sent her car spinning end over end out into the desert.”
 
    Susie told me later that Rochelle died on graduation day. She got her high school diploma in the afternoon and she was dead before midnight. Something happened that evening, but all Faith said was that Isaac told her his father was to blame and he was going to enlist in the army because he couldn’t think what else to do. She said that Isaac went to Viet Nam and he never came back. “He wasn’t killed and he wasn’t MIA. He just didn’t come back to Germaine. Anyway, that’s what my mother told me. I don’t know, I left Germaine and this is the first I’ve been back.”
 
    When Susie and me were walking back to her place, she told me that room 17 where Charlie stayed is the same room where the incident happened that caused the Arlingtons to disappear. Those are the folks that owned the motel before the Patel’s. If you’ve been reading Susie’s blog you know that they disappeared into the witness protection program after someone was murdered at the Restin’ Easy. Susie said that the Arlingtons always rented out that room last because they were tired of people waking them up in the middle of the night yelling at them that the room was haunted and demanding another room or their money back.

About Sheherazade Budreau

Library intern at the Wilbur County Library and seventh grade student at the Germaine Van Bibber Middle School.
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