"Well, I'll Be John Brown"

Real stories about folks who have blessed my life with the joy and fulfillment of laughter. Long may they live.

Location: Atlanta, Georgia, United States

A Southern Boy - Born In Alabama, Reared In Georgia, and Matriculated, Married & Initiated Into Manhood In Tennessee.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

"Autumn Belle - Chapter 11"

George Decker scratched his head and said to Autumn Belle, "Well, I have already told you WAY more about Beau than I have about anybody else who works here...If you want to know anything else about him, maybe you are talking to the wrong man." Autumn protested, "Oh no, Mr. Decker, I don't think he would ever tell me as much about himself as you would." Shaking his head, George replied, "Miss Hamilton, I am beginning to think that I was right about you." Autumn leaned forward and asked, "Exactly what does THAT mean?" "Well," he said, "I thought this interview was about ME...MY life...MY business...MY family...But now, all you seem interested in is Beau...Tell me that I am wrong!"

The jig was up. It was time to come clean. Autumn put her pen and pad down on the table and explained in detail her reasons for wanting to know so much about Mr. Decker's cook. Why was this decorated war hero a cook in a restaurant? Why wasn't he in the Secret Service or something? How does he account for his sudden and uninvited appearance at her debutante party? Why would he send her the bouquet of flowers? How did he know about the traffic ticket she was given by the State Trooper? How could he have so embarrassingly pulled her out of line when she came back to the Silver Skillet for lunch that day? And, where did he get off continuing to refer to her as, "Missy?"

Autumn strongly pleaded her case. She felt deserving of answers and explanations to these questions. This mysterious young man had suddenly marched into her life, made overtures that no stranger should make, and yet seemed to know much more about her than she did about him. Autumn pleaded, "If you were in my shoes, Mr. Decker, or if you were my father, wouldn't you be more than a little curious about all of this?"

George Decker smiled, slid his hands across the table and clasped Autumn's hands in his own. "OK," he said, "I will tell you what I know, but you CANNOT share with him that I told you these things...He is a very private person...I am only doing it because I think that you two kids might just need a little shove in each other's direction...So, here goes."

Mr. Decker explained that Beau worked for him because he loved to cook. He loved it so much, in fact, that owning his own gourmet restaurant at some point in the future was one of his life's dreams. He planned to come home to Atlanta and begin that process just as soon as his Navy days were done. When Beau came home on extended leave to be his Mom's caregiver, she would not allow him to sit every day at the foot of her bed - waiting for her to die. She insisted that he find something else to do during the day. She was being cared for by an in-home nurse, and argued that she did not need Beau in the house all day long.

He then came to Mr. Decker and asked if he could work for him, as an opportunity to gain restaurant experience and sharpen his culinary skills. "That's why he is my cook," affirmed Mr. Decker, "he is outstanding." "Why, he singlehandedly prepared the meal that you just enjoyed...And the dessert too...The rose on the platter was his touch as well" he said.

Autumn was suddenly VERY impressed.

Mr. Decker then revealed that Beau had actually been part of the staff of chefs that prepared the food for Autumn Belle's debutante ball. He had personally been in charge of several items on the menu including dessert. Autumn stopped him abruptly and declared, "But I SAW him as he was leaving the party...He was dressed in a dinner jacket...He wasn't dressed in a chef's outfit...How do you explain that?"

George Decker paused, took a long swallow of coffee, sat his cup down on the table and continued.

Beau had wanted to meet Autumn for a very long time. On one of his early trips home on break from the Naval Academy, he had attended a Woodward Academy football game with a childhood buddy of his. He saw Autumn that night for the first time, and was immediately taken with her. "He told me later that he couldn't take his eyes off of you the whole night," said Mr. Decker. The next day Beau began trying to find out more about her. He never approached Autumn directly, however, because he knew she was much younger than him. He suspected that her parents would not approve.

After graduation, his Naval service took him far away from Atlanta for a long period of time. He never forgot her, though. His leave to come home for his mother's care just happened to coincide with the time of Autumn's debutante ball. One morning at the Silver Skillet he read a short article in the newspaper about Autumn's party. He immediately went to Mr. Decker - asking if he knew Autumn's family.

One thing led to another.

George Decker began his match-making effort by calling Autumn's father and asking if Beau could accompany him as a guest at the ball. When Rhett Hamilton agreed, Beau then asked permission to help do some of the cooking as well. It was arranged that Beau would work with the culinary staff during the early stages of the ball, then shower and change in time to mingle with the guests. His hope was that somehow, someway he could be introduced to Autumn. He was fresh out of the kitchen and the showers, and on his way to find Mr. Decker to try and arrange that introduction, when Autumn accidentally stumbled into him and spilled her drink in his face.

As Mr. Decker was revealing these things, Autumn's mouth flew open wide with amazement. She looked like a young child on Christmas morning. She could not believe that all of this was going on behind the scenes. Beau was no longer offensive to her, but now seemed so very sweet and genuine. She patted her chest and took several deep breaths - trying desperately not to show signs of being totally overcome with shock and surprise.

Mr. Decker, however, was not through.

"When Beau saw you here in the parking lot this morning, he came in the door as excited as I have ever seen a young man in all my days, " Decker said, "and he immediately began preparing you a special breakfast....Then when you left so abruptly, he was heartbroken...He thought that maybe he had been the cause of you leaving...That's why he sent the flowers...That, and a call from one of his best friends who is a State Trooper...The one who stopped you on the interstate this morning...When Beau found out that you had gotten a ticket, he went across the street and ordered you those flowers...He felt SO bad!"

Autumn could not believe what she was hearing. It was almost like a fairy tale.

"Then, when he saw you out there in the lunch line, he couldn't bear to let you get away again...That's why he had me bring you in here...So he could cook lunch for you...Including the lemon icebox pie dessert...Which he found out from someone in your family was your all-time favorite...I'm telling you, Miss Hamilton...This young man has it bad for you...He has for a long time now...Reminds me of me and my Louise when we first met...Beau is an exceptional young fellow...He's going to make a name for himself in this town someday...And he'll make a darn fine husband too...If I were you, Miss Hamilton, I would go home tonight and think seriously about all of this," Mr. Decker concluded.

Autumn Belle could barely muster the words to reply. She thanked George Decker for his time, the interview, and all the revelations about Beau. As he walked her to her car, he repeated something he had said earlier. "Miss Hamilton," he advised, as he opened her car door, "please don't let on to him that I told you all of this...He's like a son to me...But, doggone it, he's just so shy...I knew that he would never tell you all of this himself...I knew I would have to step in and be the one..."

As the Jaguar door closed shut, Autumn cranked the engine and lowered the driver side window. "By the way," he said, "before you go, you need to know one more thing." Mr. Decker squeezed her arm and said, "The reason he calls you, 'Missy'...Well, that was his father's pet name for Beau's mother...Maybe he says that to you because you remind him of her...Or, maybe you remind him of how much his Daddy always loved his Mama...I don't know...Just guessing."

George Decker grinned and advised, "Don't be afraid of him, honey...You could do a lot worse."

With those words, George Decker patted her arm said goodbye. He turned and went back inside the Silver Skillet. Autumn took a handkerchief from her purse and boo-hooed. She had completely misjudged Beau Jackson. She sat with her car running for a long time as she stared teary-eyed into the instrument panel. What was she going to do now? Nothing like this had ever happened to her before. Should she go to Beau and tell him what she knew? Or should she just play it cool and see if he would make the next move?

For the first time in her life, Autumn Belle Hamilton had been utterly swept off her feet. She was totally confused. So consumed was she in her thoughts that the drive back to Alpharetta never even registered in her consciousness. She and the Jaguar were on auto-pilot the entire way. In some ways she was as lost as a little girl in a crowded department store.

The only thing she was sure of was that no one could have EVER made her believe that something like this would happen in her life.

It had truly been a day to remember - one she would tell her grandchildren about in years to come.