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Splendor in the Glass
I left Charlotte, North Carolina, to become an S.O.B. I now live south of Broad in the beautiful, historic city of Charleston, South Carolina. My new hometown boasts so many churches that it is fondly referred to as the Holy City, and it is no secret that God lives here—south of Broad, of course. Just blocks from my house is the Battery, where the Ashley and Cooper rivers meet to form the Atlantic Ocean. Everywhere I turn I see historic buildings and lush semitropical gardens. There is no need for me to ever travel again. After all, I am here.
My business is here, as well. The Den of Antiquity, which was a successful antique store up in Charlotte, now has a sister store on prestigious King Street, slightly north of Broad. I never dreamed sales would be this good. I can barely keep up with demand, and find myself in need of a shop assistant.
My two best friends, Rob Goldburg and Bob Steuben, are also antique dealers from Charlotte. They moved here a month after I did, and bought a shop on King Street adjacent to mine. They have the same problem—more business than they can handle. We are not complaining, mind you. We all knew we were moving to heaven, but not necessarily to the land of silk and money. It seems too good to be true.
In fact, the last six months have been a virtual fairy tale. It began when I married the man of my dreams, Greg Washburn. He was an investigator with the Charlotte police force, but retired from that position to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a shrimp boat captain here in the Charleston area. Judging by the perpetual grin on Greg's handsome face, he is deliriouslyhappy.
Even my mother, Mozella Wiggins, is happy. She adores Greg and loves Charleston. This is fortunate because Mama lives with us now at Number 7 Squiggle Lane, and, trust me, a miserable mama is not someone with whom you want to spend time. In addition to Greg and me, my petite progenitress has her new church—Grace Episcopal on Wentworth Street—to keep her spirits up. Within days of moving here, Mama had her membership transferred and had volunteered for every committee. I see less of her now that we live together than I ever did before.
Last, but not least, my cat, Dmitri, approves of our new address. How could he not? Half of the second story piazza is warm and sunny, while the other half offers him a bird's-eye view of—well, birds. The mockingbird nest in the magnolia is just out of reach. Mama and papa birds seem to know this, and while they keep up a steady stream of chatter whenever my ten-pound bundle of joy is outside, they have yet to dive-bomb him. On his part, Dmitri has never been happier.
In addition to wealth and happiness, we all have our health, which, according to that old Geritol commercial, means we have just about everything. I won't contest that. I, too, should be walking around with a goofy grin on my face. And I am happy, I'm just not delirious.
Alas, I realize that much as I love my adopted city, I can never be considered a real Charlestonian. Even if I live to be a hundred-which means I would have lived here over fifty years. My children's children, assuming they were born here, would be natives of Charleston, but they would not be real Charlestonians. Three hundred years from now their descendants might lay claim to that title. Might.
Don't get me wrong. Not everyone in Charleston—even those fortunate enough to live south of Broad—can claim colonial antecedents. In recent years numerous natives have moved to the cheaper 'burbs, making way for an influx of the wealthy. What began as a trickle became a flood as property taxes soared in keeping with rising real estate values. Today the historic district south of Broad contains the fifth highest concentration of wealth in the nation.
Like me, these new citizens of Charleston—many of them retired doctors and lawyers—only become real Charlestonians when they travel, and then only to folks who don't know better. They may lead happy and productive lives, and quite likely rub shoulders with the real McCoy at the theater, or in restaurants, but they will forever be outsiders. And no doubt, like me, many of them gaze longingly into ancient windows, wishing with all their hearts that they were inside. Truly inside. Imagine my great joy, then, when I received an embossed invitation to tea from Mrs. Amelia Shadbark, Charleston's most distinguished citizen.
"It's pronounced 'Shay-bark,'" I said.
My friend C. J., who was visiting from Charlotte the day the missive arrived, wrinkled her button nose. "Why, that's just silly, Abby. What happened to the D?"
"This is Charleston, dear. It doesn't have to make sense to us. The family has pronounced it that way for three hundred years. That's all that matters."
C. J.—her friends lovingly refer to her as Calamity Jane—fingered the heavy paper as if it were the Holy Grail. Still, I held my breath. More often than not, C. J. lives up to her name.
"Abby, who will mind your shop while you're away?"
"I'll close early, dear."
"But won't you lose some business?"
"Undoubtedly. But this tea is my entrée into Charleston society. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
She nodded. "Abby, it says here that you can bring a guest. Who is it going to be? Your mama?"
"Mama's at a church retreat. in the mountains. She doesn't get back from Kanuga until the following day."
C.J.'s eyes glittered. "Then who are you going to take?"Splendor in the Glass. Copyright © by Tamar Myers. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.