With all the fucking going on between Jay and Beth, inevitably their families noticed. At the Brooke apartment, Eudora Brooke cautioned her grandson. She knew Beth came from a very different background than anything Jay was familiar with, and she also had the unhappy history of Jay’s mother, Camilla, as a warning. But seeing them together almost cancelled any uneasiness she felt about the relationship. Meanwhile, Sarah Prentice tried to ignore what she suspected was going on between Beth and Jay. She knew such a relationship would never be accepted in the circles in which she moved, but more importantly, she had experience of the biases and the temper of her father-in-law, and did not want to see that in action.
Then, something entirely unexpected happened. Forrest died.
Forrest had a wild temper. When he let it rip, he could be entirely taken up in one of his frenzies, and pay attention to nothing else. Such was the case on the afternoon of Thursday, March 5. Although Forrest was a corporate lawyer, on occasion he had to actually appear in court. On this occasion, his opponent was a black lawyer. Forrest’s case was unusually weak, as his client had in fact violated the terms of his contract. But Forrest got emotionally involved when his biases were engaged, seeing a black man accusing his client of breach of contract. Forrest became so emotional that he called his opponent some very unprofessional names in court, and was called down by the judge. Not only that, but he lost the case.
As he was leaving the court house, seething at having been bested by a black lawyer, Forrest saw his opponent across the street, approaching a parking garage. He yelled at him, again using racial slurs. The black lawyer saw Forrest, and responded by giving him the finger. This so enraged Forrest that he dashed out into the street, heading for the other man. He never made it. He ran right in front of an on-coming vehicle, which hit him with full force. Forrest was in excruciating pain, with multiple injuries. He was transported to Clifton General, as he was in no condition to insist on anything more exclusive, and they were downtown. But his injuries were too much. Forrest died on the operating table. Forrest Prentice was 74 years old, having been born on 6 August 1940.
The driver of the vehicle which struck Forrest was entirely exonerated. There were many witnesses to what happened, including the racial slurs hurled across the street before Forrest rushed to his death. The funeral was handled by a socially prominent home, with burial in the family plot in City Cemetery. In keeping with his wishes, there was no church service, but everything done at the mortuary. Beth, and even Sarah, looked more relieved than devastated by the loss. Jay carefully stayed away.
Harding Forrest Prentice left a will which was just as irascible as his life. It was administered by Gilbert Winslow, a member of the same firm of Grice, Prentice, and Billingsly, who had been chosen by Forrest in 2010. Gil was willing to sit and listen to the old bigot spout off as much as he liked. It was a new will, drawn up after the death of Braxton. There was a good deal of verbiage, expressing the prejudices of Forrest against blacks, Catholics, and gays, amid which he expressly disinherited his son Bob, and barred his Catholic daughter-in-law from any share in the inheritance. He expressed the hope that his only living descendant, Elizabeth Caroline Prentice, would come to her senses once freed from the insidious coils of the Vatican, and return to the Protestant faith of her father. Forrest left legacies to several racist groups, including the local expression of the KKK, but the bulk of his inheritance was to go to his granddaughter. As Beth by this time was definitely past her eighteenth birthday and a legal adult, she could enter into her inheritance as soon as probate was granted.
Even Gil Winslow was embarrassed by the language and the terms of this will, but he followed through, and shepherded it through probate. There was much antipathy towards both the language and the bequests, but there was nothing really questionable about it from a legal perspective. Hence, before the spring semester was out, probate had been granted, and Beth found herself in easy financial circumstances.
Beth felt bad about Uncle Bob being cut out, and about the treatment of her mother as well. She grew closer to both during these days, and promised both that she would accommodate any need they might have. But both Robert Prentice and Sarah were familiar with Forrest, and not really surprised at the terms of his will. They thanked Beth, but declined to ask for anything at this time, other than a few personal items from the senior Prentice house.
Sarah inherited her grandfather’s house in Balaclava, but did not feel comfortable there. She enticed Jay to join her there saying she needed to exorcize the evil spirits which haunted the memory of her grandfather. She and Jay spent many hours fucking in the master bedroom, specifically with the goal of countering the spirit of Forrest (among other things). Forrest had a cleaning service which sent in a worker twice each week, and Beth retained that for the time being, but most of the time she and Jay had the place to themselves. She was able to get Jay to move out of his grandmother’s apartment by offering to provide a gift to Eudora Brooke which would help her with the rent, and compensate for the loss of Jay’s assistance.
One of the things which Beth and Jay did at the Balaclava house, in addition to lots of sex, was go through Forrest’s papers. As students of history, they knew better than to simply discard anything, no matter how offensive. So they made a pile of papers and artifacts which reflected Forrest’s obsession with race and the Civil War. Once probate was granted, all this would be donated to the Madison County Historical Society, and open to the public. Beth said the more embarrassing it was the better, as part of the exorcizing process. Representatives of some of Forrest’s organizations protested, and attempted to claim possession, but they were denied. After probate, the Historical Society mounted a display during the summer based primarily on the materials from Forrest’s estate, entitled “The Face of Bias.” Included in the display was an account of Forrest’s death. It attracted large crowds.
Something else discovered by going through Forrest’s papers was a deed to a property in the Old University Neighborhood. It seems this was the Prentice home from before the move to Balaclava in the 1950s. The young couple drove by, and took a good look around. It looked kind of shabby, with definite need for upkeep and repair, but it also looked solid and respectable. The papers indicated that a property management company located downtown was handling it, so they went on to talk to the people there. They were not pleased. The management people gave the impression they did not believe Jay and Beth when they said she was the new owner, and then told them the property in question was in poor condition, and should be torn down. They did admit that it was rented out to students and other transients, and barely brought in enough to pay the taxes and the company’s management fees, which seemed high. Knowing that Brandon Dowling lived in the Neighborhood, and owned other property there, they went to talk to him about it. Brandon sent them on to Sandy Todd as the person most knowledgeable about conditions in the Neighborhood. Sandy was delighted to talk with them about their property. She talked about the Old University Neighborhood Preservation and restoration Association (OUNPRA) and the efforts to restore the Neighborhood to single family dwellings. She also advised them to seek the services of Williams Property Management, who had offices in the Emporium on the Pike. There, they were treated much better, and were told about options, including having Harvey Brothers Construction restore the house. Cindy Todd, a realtor, took the two youngsters around to several homes which had been restored by Harvey Brothers, or were in the process, showing them before and after photographs of both outside and inside. After that tour, a phone call put them in touch with David Harvey, Sr., the head of Harvey Brothers Construction, who lived in the Charmant, not far away. David met them at the property on Walnut, and gave a preliminary assessment. He promised to go through the property thoroughly once he had legal access, which would have to be obtained from the courts, as neither the renters nor the present management company were cooperative. But he assured them that most properties in the Neighborhood could be restored to single family status without massive alterations. By Memorial Day, Jay and Beth had decided to make the move themselves, and to have Harvey Brothers do the restoration.
Another, and most significant, discovery among the papers of the late Forrest Prentice was a single sheet of paper on which there was a typed paragraph in which the signatory promised to allow her son’s birth certificate to be changed, promised never to call him by the name Prentice, and never to tell anyone he was the son of a member of the Prentice family. In return, she was promised $10,000. The paper was signed by Camilla Brooke, witnessed by two persons unknown to Jay or Beth, and notarized. Along with this paper was a bank slip noting the withdrawal of $10,000 from the account of H. Forrest Prentice. This seemed to close any question about the paternity of Jay, or the veracity of the account given by his grandmother. But it raised another issue, namely the future relationship between the two youngsters.
The discovery of the paper confirming Eudora Brooke’s account of the birth of her grandson came on Saturday, March 28. That date was significant because on that same date Beth got a report from the Health Center on campus which confirmed her suspicion that she was pregnant. It seems that her irregular attention to her contraceptives back during spring break had this consequence. She was at first reluctant to share this information with Jay, uncertain of his reaction, especially now that it was almost beyond question that they were half-siblings.
The next day was Palm Sunday. Jay and Beth attended Mass at St. Martin de Porres, along with Jay’s grandmother and Aunt Melissa. In his sermon that Sunday, Father Todd managed to insert a comment about the fickleness of the crowds, and the reliability of Jesus. He told his listeners that they must be reliable and trustworthy like Jesus, as it was on this basis that love was sustained. That affected Beth greatly. After Mass, the younger couple took Grandmother Brooke and Aunt Melissa out for Sunday dinner, during which Jay noticed that Beth was restless. And so, after dropping the ladies off at their apartment, when they headed back to the house in Balaclava Jay put it to her.
“Something is bothering you. What’s up?”
Beth took a deep breath. “There’s something I need to tell you. But not yet. First, make love to me.”
“I’m always ready to do that,” Jay responded with a grin and a hard-on.
And so, the first order of business back at the house was taken care of in the master bedroom. Not knowing what was bothering Beth, Jay determined to put her in as good a mood as possible, and so he did a great job, bring her off again and again. Only after all that, as they were lying next to each other in sated bliss, did Jay return to his earlier question.
“Okay, now what’s up?”
Beth hesitated. “I know I told you I was on protection and all, and I did not plan this. Really I didn’t,” she began, but then broke down crying.
Jay took her in his arms. “Are you trying to tell me what I think you are. Are you pregnant?”
“That’s wonderful!” he exclaimed. He kissed her over and over, and then began to make out with her again, resulting in another round of very satisfying sex, which convinced Beth that Jay really was pleased with her announcement.
“I was so unsure, especially after finding that paper which proved you really are my brother,” she said.
“Just a piece of paper,” Jay declared. “What we have is more important.”
“This is going to be rough on my mom. You know how conscious she is of what people will say. An unmarried mother is one thing, but an unmarried mother of a mulatto child is something even worse,” Beth giggled.
“Not mulatto,” Jay inserted.
“Our child is not a mulatto. A mulatto is half and half. I’m a mulatto. I think a child who is a quarter black is called a quadroon,” Jay replied. He had picked this up from his class in colonial Virginia, where he was especially attentive to stories about slavery in those times.
Beth laughed. “I like it. Quadroon. It sounds like fun.”
“It was,” Jay grinned.
As they expected, Eudora Brooke gave the two an exasperated look, and told Beth she was in for a hard time of it. Then she kissed her. But Sarah Prentice took it much harder. She moaned and groaned about what people would think. In a snit, Beth stalked out, and told her she would not tell anyone they were related.
Being related had another consequence in Beth’s mind. She did not feel comfortable with what her grandfather said about her mother or her Uncle Bob in his will, but she was even less comfortable about the statement that she was his only living descendant. She was now certain that Jay was also a grandchild of H. Forrest Prentice. After pondering this for some time, she told Jay he ought to get half of everything. He refused, saying it would only create problems with the inheritance and in the family. Let the will be probated as it stands, he advised. “What you do with it afterwards is then up to you,” he pointed out. But Beth continued to return to the injustice of the inheritance from time to time.
After a while, along with finding that she was pregnant, these complaints came to form some kind of scheme in Jay’s mind. On the Wednesday of Holy Week, Beth was going on more than usual about how unfair it was for her to received all her grandfather’s estate.
“I have a possible solution to that problem,” Jay told her.
“It’s called community property,” he said.
“What are you talking about?” she demanded.
“Well, if we were married, whatever was yours would also be mine,” Jay grinned.
“Married? We can’t get married, idiot. You’re my brother,” Beth proclaimed.
“Oh really? Unless I am greatly mistaken, your birth certificate says you are the daughter of Braxton Prentice and Sarah Greene, whereas mine says I am the son of Camilla Brooke and an unknown, or at least unnamed, father. I don’t see any impediment to marriage there,” Jay pointed out.
Beth stood stock still. She pondered this. She gave Jay a searching look. “Jay Brooke, are you proposing to me?”
“Kind of looks like it,” he grinned.
That resulted in another round of sex.
On Thursday, they went to see the priest at St. Polycarp, Beth’s home parish in Balaclava. The pastor there was now Father Richard Anderson, who insisted on being called Father Rick. He had created problems in every parish where he had been assigned by attacking the assumptions of his congregation without providing reasonable alternatives, and by supporting every left-wing cause, regardless of whether it was compatible with Catholic theology. When Jay and Beth approached him about a wedding, he was delighted. He wanted a mixed race wedding in order to be in-your-face with many in his congregation. He talked about a great extravaganza, which would make all the papers. He also informed them that the diocese required three months of marriage counseling prior to a wedding, so they should not count on anything before July, and preferably later. He seemed to want Beth as pregnant as possible as she walked down the aisle. That, too, would be in the face of many in the congregation, including Sarah Prentice.
Beth and Jay found this a very unsatisfactory interview. After leaving Father Rick, they discussed the situation. Eventually, Jay said, “Well, everything else is irregular. It doesn’t have to be a church wedding. We can have a civil ceremony right away, and later, if we want, we can have a church blessing.”
“That,” Beth declared, “is a perfect solution. To hell with Father Rick and his extravaganza. We’ll do it our way.”
And so it was, Beth and Jay began to make plans. They explained the situation to both families. Both Eudora Brooke and Sarah Prentice were pleased that the kids were talking marriage, and not just living together. Sarah, in particular, was also very grateful that they had rejected Father Rick’s plans to scandalize the St. Polycarp congregation. They agreed to cooperate in putting on a quiet civil ceremony.
The next issue which arose was their name. Beth mentioned that, now that they knew for certain that Jay was the son of Braxton Prentice, he had every right to the name Prentice. He laughed. “You seem to think that I want to be a Prentice. Beth, my love, the only Prentice for whom I have any respect is you. Besides, if we’re going to pretend that we’re not related for purposes of this marriage, it doesn’t make much sense for me to begin calling myself Prentice, now does it? Do you object to being Mrs. Brooke?”
“Jay, I would love to be Mrs. Brooke. But you really must learn to get along with my mother, and also my Uncle Bob, so you will have more than one Prentice to respect,” she told him.
As a consequence, they spent more time with Sarah and with Uncle Bob, and they all became more comfortable with each other. Considering his name, Jay decided he wanted to continue to be called Jay, but he would officially adopt the name on his original birth certificate, Joshua Prentice Brooke. In this way, the Prentice connection would be acknowledged. Beth, of course, would simply add the name Brooke to her existing Elizabeth Caroline Prentice.
They were married in a civil ceremony on the Friday prior to commencement at the University, and after their final exams, May 15. Leon Luttrell acted as best man for his cousin, with Clarence Brooke, Brandon Dowling, and Robert Prentice as groomsmen. Beth asked several friends from school, but included Anne Nicole Luttrell among her bridesmaids. Sarah Prentice gave away her daughter. Eudora Brooke and Aunt Melissa were in the audience. Following the reception, which Brandon hosted at Whispering Hills, as Madison Country Club where Sarah belonged would be impossible, the newly weds departed on their honeymoon, which was a week at the Hotel Ortega in San Juan, recommended by Brandon.
Mr. and Mrs. Joshua P. Brooke were now pretty settled. They were expecting their first child in the first week of December. They are planning their new home in the old Prentice home on Walnut Street in the Neighborhood, which David Harvey promised would be ready before Christmas. All the property, the stocks and bonds, etc., which were part of the Prentice inheritance were put in both their names. And, even before the move to Walnut Street, Eudora Brooke and Aunt Melissa moved in with Jay and Beth, and the weekly cleaning service, at their insistence, was discontinued. Eudora said she got bored doing nothing. And when the baby came, they would take care of that as well. Both Jay and Beth completed the semester at school with a 4.0 record.