Triplets, May, April and June, each blonde with skin like porcelain, played on the front porch of a renovated Victorian house. A Clinchburg landmark, the house was owned by local business owners, Sonny and Rainey Yeardley.
Rainey was outside with her young daughters watching them dress and undress a myriad of wild-haired Barbie dolls with their mismatched clothing. She lazily rocked back and forth on the porch swing nursing her newborn son, August. Sonny, leaving for work, kissed his wife on the cheek and stroked his son’s downy head. He blew kisses to each of his daughters, then walked the two blocks to his store.
It was an idyllic scene.
Their next door neighbor, Ethel McKellen, out walking her Shih Tzu, Pooky, waved to the genial family. As they continued on, Ethel mentioned to Pooky how sweet they all were.
Sonny, the owner and face of Regal Sleep Emporium, was a hometown celebrity. Insomniacs knew his perpetually rosy-cheeked face from his late-night infomercials on local channel 67. Dressed as a life-sized chess piece, Sonny extolled the benefits of buying a Sleep Number or memory foam mattress from him.
Around the town square, at Java Joe’s coffee shop, and Pearl’s Diner, townspeople referred to Sonny in the pejorative as, “Your Majesty.” Heedless of the insult, it was a moniker he relished and played up by “bestowing” royal favors. These came in the form of home decor discount coupons for accent pillows or bedroom accessories.
His Highness Sonny also enjoyed having a rotating harem of what he called, “royal courtesans.” These tainted ladies took advantage of Sonny’s straying ways and didn’t care if Rainey knew about them, despite Sonny’s belief that he was being discreet.
Amongst her closest friends at her Mommy and Me weekly play date, Rainey referred to Sonny’s ladies as wenches. She only confessed to her best friend, Stella, that she too had taken a consort of her own, Storm Chessor.
“Sounds like the King is about to be dethroned,” Stella said when Rainey told her.
Storm was Sonny’s rival for most successful Clinchburg businessman. His Chessor’s Comfort Country, located conveniently on the east side of the town square, diagonally opposite of the Emporium, was Sonny’s biggest competitor since adding bedroom furnishing to his inventory last fall. Prior to the change in stock, Chessor was known throughout the southern region for his great deals on living room sofa sets. The bedding addition was only coincidental to the onset of his liaison with Mrs. Yeardley.
Rainey had just laid little August down for his morning nap when she heard the first sirens. Hurrying out to the porch, where the girls were still playing, she craned her neck, trying to see down the street to the square. The Emporium was visible from the Yeardley’s house.
Black smoke was billowing up from the store roof as several hose trucks from Fire Station 5 blocked traffic from entering the roundabout. Rainey hurriedly ushered the triplets into the house. Taking one last look at the conflagration, she followed the girls inside.
Sending the girls upstairs to their room, Rainey waited for the knock to come to her door. She rubbed at her eyes, pinched her cheeks, and added a little sprinkle of tap water on her face to complete the look of a distraught wife.
Rainey managed a few tears when Sheriff Cox and Deputy Weaver arrived. They regretted to inform her that her beloved husband, Sonny, had succumbed to smoke inhalation while valiantly leading customers and employees from his burning store.
Preliminary investigations indicated faulting wiring in the air conditioning was to blame for the fire. The blaze began in the ceiling and raced through the duct work. The fire department was able to contain the fire to the Emporium, saving the surrounding businesses from similar devastation.
As if on cue, Rainey seemed to swoon, Sheriff Cox deftly caught her before she fell to the floor.
“I told him to get that AC fixed,” Rainey wailed. “But he insisted on renovating this house for me and the children.”
Sheriff Cox asked Rainey if there was anyone he could call to come be with her in this time of great sorrow.
“My friend, Stella,” Rainey said between sniffs. “She is like a sister to me, not having any extended family of my own in Clinchburg.”
Deputy Weaver took the squad car back to the square to fetch Stella from The Clip and Curl, her beauty shop located around the corner from Comfort Country. He and the sheriff quietly let themselves out of the Yeardley house later, leaving the women alone to grieve.
“Have you told the kids yet?” Stella set a kettle of water on the stove to boil.
“Not yet,” Rainey said. “I need to choose my words carefully first.”
“Storm already knows,” Stella set out cups with tea bag strings hanging over the sides.
“I’m sure he does,” Rainey said putting emphasis on the word “he.”
“You’ll have to wait a while, you know,” Stella said.
“We have been careful up till now,” Rainey said spooning sugar into her cup. “We can wait a little longer before going public.”
“Are you the least bit sad Sonny’s gone?” Stella poured hot water into their cups. “If he’d been my philandering husband, I’d be happy he’s dead”
“You have no idea,” Rainey said, smiling behind a petite, well-manicured hand. “I am sofa-king happy,”