: It happened suddenly.
Tunie Dufour was sitting downstairs in the living room watching the 6 o'clock Eyewitness News on WWL. The report was 15 seconds away from starting when Harold Amos suddenly appeared in the loft, shouting,
"Woman! You've got some explainin' to do. Now."
Tunie's lips purse into a tight, nearly perfect circle. She's never responded to idle commands from men. But then again, there hasn't been a man in her life like Harold since her late husband died in 1975.
So...what else is there to do but trek upstairs?
Making her way up the incredibly narrow staircase encased in the matching barge boards taken from the last Dutch-African emigre ship to made port in New Orleans, she meets Harold on the landing with a traditionally distrustful sneer.
"Woman," Harold exhales with ferocity. "I've seen the worst of humanity. I've seen horror, terror, starvation, want, greed, and evil in my time."
Tunie adjusts herself so as to not give the appearance of impertinence. She's spent a few years with this man. She knows when he is serious. Intentionally crossing her hands in front of herself, she widens her eyes and looks to him with the closest approximation of innocence she can muster. She didn't grow up with her sisters and brothers for nothing.
"But." Harold intones with the ferocity of a Piney Woods preacher. "I. Have never. Seen anything. Like. This!"
At the word "this" Harold pulls an aged binder from behind his back. Tunie knows in a heartbeat what he is holding. and it fills her nearly to overflowing with the curious mixture of pride and shame that only a native New Orleanian can fully understand. She bolts for the kitchen, her only thought a full glass of her treasured muscadine wine.
A slight grin crosses his thin, wizened lips. With the alacrity of a man a quarter of his age (a situation which causes him a world of disgust,) he goes after her. He clutches the ornately-inscribed leather book as if his life depended upon it. Reaching the bottom a step and a half behind her. Harold lands on the linoleum-clad hardwood floor and nearly shouts,
"Petunia! What have I found in the book?"
Tunie freezes. She is taken over with alternating feeling of rage, familiarity, violation, consummation, and revenge. None of which particularly appeal to her. Still. He's crossed a line. He's gone someplace he shouldn't have. He's--
"I found your scrapbooks in the attic while I was putting up the digital antenna."
Tunie bristles, half expecting what she's gotten in the past.
Damn it. Why does he always, ALWAYS have the exact right answer??
"You......why?" he asks, blinking back his emotions. "Why would...I mean...why not?"
Tunie doesn't know what to say. She has never known what do to in this situation. Her siblings had always denigrated her for being so forward. Yet the friends she made were so incredibly supportive. Tunie intentionally freezes her face. She's learned over the years to keep her emotions to herself.
"Petunia, I'm talking to you!" Harold bellows like the musician that he is; easily heard over a twelve-piece combo. Next door, Jerry and Patrick rouse for a moment from their reverie on the davenport.
They will realize in a fortnight when Tunie relays the story that they felt the sound through the ground and floorboards.
"FINE!" she caws, throwing herself against the upstairs railing, trying her best to look like Dorothy Dandridge. "I...I wa...s hoping. YES! Hoping! That you would...deeeeee.... cipher my...ah...uhm--intentions.