Preston?” Naomi Jackson
cautiously knocked on the slightly open sliding doors that lead in from
the foyer. “I hope I’m
not… botherin’ you, but….”
“No, Naomi, it’s quite all right,”
Joyce Preston sighed. “Come
in, come in and close the door behind you.
There are a few things we need to talk about.”
“That’s why I’m here, Mrs.
Preston.” Naomi fidgeted
and shifted her weight from one foot to the other.
She could immediately tell that Joyce Preston was in a very dour
and no-nonsense mood. “I
think we got trouble.”
What kind of trouble?” Joyce
stepped closer to Naomi, eager to hear what had gotten the girl so
“You remember Ruby – my
girl?” Naomi began hesitantly. “Well,
she’s… she’s been pokin’ her nose in where it don’t belong and
“What kind of questions?
Girl, spit it out. What
the devil are you talking about?”
“She’s been askin’ questions about
me… my baby… what we’re really
“Well, you didn’t tell you anything
did you?” Joyce’s eyes
grew wide with panic. She
knew she couldn’t have all her plans ruined by Naomi running off at
course I didn’t tell her! What
kinda fool do you think I am anyway?”
“Well… What did you do?
What did you say?” Joyce
moved even closer, anxiously hanging on every word.
“I warned her that she best say outta
my business,” Naomi replied matter-of-factly.
“I threatened her that she’d regret it if she messed this job
up for me.”
Simply Wonderful,” Joyce muttered in annoyance as she again
began to pace around the room while her head filled with new thoughts
and concerns. “Not only do
I have my errant son-in-law to think about, now I’ve got this… this
meddlesome girl to contend with!”
She paused and tapped her chin with her index finger as she sank
deep into thought. “This
girl – is she the one who barged in here the other day asking all
those questions and making all those accusations.”
Yes, that’s her! Ruby
Thomas – my brother’s girl and a thorn in my side.
She can’t keep her nose outta my business!”
“Simply wonderful,” Joyce grumbled.
“As if I didn’t have enough to deal with since that two-faced
son-in-law of mine has decided to go turncoat on me.”
“Mr. Manchester?” Naomi gasped.
“But I… I thought he was supposed to be helpin’ us convince
your daughter to sign over that money.
You said that he was on our side and….”
now don’t you worry about that. You
leave my son-in-law to me.” Joyce
continued pacing around the room as the gears inside her head began to
work overtime. “I had a
feeling that boy would try to stab me in the back, so I’ve already
taken steps to insure that he keeps in step.
Now, as for your little problem….
I’m sure you’re familiar with the old saying ‘keep your
friends close, but keep your enemies closer?’”
“I… I think so, Mrs. Preston.”
Naomi paused and cocked her head to the side as she thought about
the phrase. “But I…
I’m not sure I understand what you’re gettin’ at.”
“Must I spell everything out for you,
girl?” Joyce snapped. “What
I want you to do is make friends with this Ruby girl.
From what you’ve said, she wants to be friends with you because
she’s fond of your brother. Well,
let her. Confide in her –
at least a little about nothing important – and then get her to
confide in you. She’s
digging so hard into your affairs because you keep pushing back at her.
Stop. Be nice to her.
Get her to like you.”
“Ah, I think I see what you’re
getting’ at,” Naomi nodded.
“And while you’re at it, I want you
to find out everything you can about her.”
Joyce smiled slyly as a plan quickly began to formulate.
“Then you tell me everything she’s told you.
Leave the rest to me. By
the time I’m finished, that girl will have so much upheaval going on
in her own life, whatever is going on in yours – and consequently mine
– will be the furthest thing from her mind.”