Although Cat assured Tee that the pregnancy could easily be taken care of with several potions she just happened to have on hand, Tee furiously refused to consider aborting the child. Tee was positive the Judge would be glad about the child. Cat, on the other hand, didn’t believe that for a minute. “Why do you think they pay us good money?” Cat asked her young and still somewhat too gullible protégée. “They expect us to take care of problems like that. Besides it’s only been five months. He gonna think you did this on purpose.”
Again, Cat was wrong. Harrison Cadieux was excited about his baby. When he heard the news he immediately got out of his seat, wrapped Tee in a big hug and swung her around as he yelled, “Well, I’ll be damned! We’re having a baby!” His joy was a genuine as the tenderness he showed the girl after that, sitting with Tee in his lap as he rubbed her abdomen.
It pleased him very much to know he had fathered a child—his first. After all he was 36 years old and in a few years he’d be too old to be interested in all the things a father does with a young child. So, news that he was to become a father was reason for the Judge to celebrate, to shout with joy, to grin proudly like the silly young fool he wasn’t. And, all this he did right in front of Cat. And why not? He knew the baby was his. He knew that none of the girls at Cat’s Place would ever dare tell a soul. Somewhere in the deep recesses of his soul he knew that if he was to ever demonstrate the joy he felt, it could only be done at that moment and in that place—Cat’s Place. Only inside of Cat’s Place did he have the freedom to love Tee as he really did.
Cat, who had been in the room to give Tee moral support while she broke the news to the Judge, quietly slipped out. She didn’t leave to allow them privacy. She left because she couldn’t stand the sight of them, of the love and thoughtfulness Cadieux was showing the girl. In the privacy of her own room, Cat drank glass after glass of whiskey and cried as she cursed the white man whose feelings for another colored woman made her so very unhappy. She drank, cried, cursed and fought with herself not to remember when she was the object of his affections—when she willingly fell into his arms and listened to the lovely poetry he liked to recite or the fact that he was an excellent lover as well as an amusing conversationalist.
After that day, the Judge came to Cat’s even more often. He began to lavish even more gifts on Tee and Spencer, providing a layette for the new baby and making plans to renovate the attic so that Tee could have her own separate room from her children. Cat hated it all! She hated to see the boy from the flower shop drive up because she knew the Judge had sent Tee some more flowers. Although she tried hard, Cat couldn’t seem to join in all the exclaiming the girls did over the baby clothes the Judge had some women in town make. Cat watched all of this in silence, but it almost caused her to have a nervous breakdown. An uncontrollable anger and hurt began to take over her otherwise good-natured soul. “Well, no one will ever know what he means to me,” Cat promised herself. But remembering hurt like hell.
While Cat did not feel any particular animosity toward Tee, she was terribly hurt that the Judge felt he could come back into her house and make it over to fit his purpose. It wasn’t enough that he allowed himself the pleasure of becoming smitten by another woman, but to plan to enjoy the relationship right in her own establishment…as if it was the most natural and wonderful thing in the world and everyone should join in and help him celebrate—why it was damn insulting! But Cat was first and foremost a good business woman. As any good business person would have no objections to having their establishment improved upon for free, although it costs Cat a great deal emotionally, she consented to the renovations. While she pretended to pay no attention to all the workmen and the continuous hammering and sawing that went on day after day, the whole episode was sending Cat over the edge.
But when the Judge’s people finished, the entire attic had been transformed into a comfortable three bedroom apartment that was better decorated than any other room in the house. The improvement part didn’t bother Cat. It did, however, irritate her to no end that Cadieux would be enjoying all that luxury right under her roof. She didn’t ever want to be involved, in any way, in anything that contributed to his happiness and/or comfort. So, Cat made up her mind that some how she was going to put an end to it.
February 26, 1968 – Shreveport, LA.
Knowing all that she knew about men, Cat knew there was only one way to get the Judge out of their lives. She knew he would never give Tee up because it was the right thing to do or he’d have done that by now. She knew he could never be convinced that Tee couldn’t make the adjustment of being a mother to a slew of bi-racial children, as Cat was sure this was only the beginning of what would become the Judge’s “other family.” And she knew that he really wouldn’t care who found out about it—that kind of thing was common in the South, although no self-respecting person ever discussed it out in the open. But Cat didn’t care. She was going to put a stop to it no matter what and she refused to feel bad about what she had to do.
“Harrison Cadieux knows better,” Cat said to herself, that drunken other part of herself. “He’s twice the girl’s age and taking advantage of her and the fact that she’s alone.” Cat strengthened her resolve by thinking of the Judge as a spoiled white man, who has used his good looks, charm and money to cover a multitude of sin all of his life. And then she sat down and wrote the Judge’s wife an anonymous letter. It read:
It’s important for a woman to know where her husband spends his Thursday
evenings. Important to his wife, his children, his career and reputation as a
Southern white gentleman.
A month before the baby was due, at the end of April, Judge Cadieux stopped visiting Tee. The gifts kept coming, but without his presence the gifts became only things. Tee had stopped dancing for the clients several months before, almost as soon as she discovered she was pregnant, although she continued to sing the fiery love songs which had made her even more popular. But a week after the Judge stopped coming she refused to do even that.
Tee’s depression was monumental. She didn’t want to do anything. A very long and lonesome feeling took over her mind and not even the presence of Spencer, as dear as he was to his mama, could make her do anything but look out of her third floor window and long for a man she could never have. Cat didn’t try to make her work and she made a point of giving Tee a lot of space—hoping the girl would come to her senses and get over her infatuation with the man.
Tee didn’t even think about getting over the Judge. She only grew desperate. By the end of the fourth week of the Judge’s absence, Tee was so desperate that she begged Jesse to drive her into town to visit the Judge in his courtroom. Jesse, who in his own way was also in love with Tee and never able to deny her anything, agreed to take her. He told Tee that he, however, would have to be the one to go into the courthouse and that he would ask the Judge to come down and speak with her. With compassion shining out of his eyes, Jesse told Tee he couldn’t have her embarrassing herself by going into “the man’s work place looking for him.”
So, Tee sat in the car behind the courthouse and waited patiently for Jesse to return with her lover. After more than an hour, she came to terms with the fact that he wasn’t coming. Only Jesse walked down the alley to where the car was parked, a Jesse who walked slowly with his hat pulled down to cover his wet eyes.
“Baby,” he said, and Tee could hear the tears in his voice as he spoke, “things don’t change. White men can’t love niggar women, no matter what they say when they gets you alone. There’s rules against that sort of thing.”
“In other words,” said Tee, the tone of her voice flat and bitter, “he don’t want me no more.” She vowed never to mention Judge Cadieux’s name again, and a tear ran down Jesse’s face at the thought of how much she was hurting. It seemed a shame that she had to suffer so much mental anguish right before she was due to suffer an untold amount of physical pain. But, Cat said it was the kindest thing they could do for her—to convince her that Harrison Cadieux was best left alone. He was married. He was white. His love for her had to be hidden—always.
“It’s past time he left her alone,” Cat had told Jesse. Like any man in love Jesse didn’t want to see Tee with any other man and he had willingly gone along with Cat’s scheme. Jesse never went into the Courthouse, not at all. He walked around the corner of the building and bought a carryout coffee and a newspaper, and waited for what he thought would be the amount of time it would have taken him to get in to see the Judge.
May 31, 1968 – Shreveport, LA.
Tee gave birth to a baby girl that same June night in 19. It didn’t matter to Cat that the labor pains started early in the evening—she immediately shut the place down, closed the doors and forgot about the night’s profits. The only person allowed in was the doctor. The baby was received into the house in much the same way that Spencer had been taken in.
“Little Harriet Joy” was welcomed by everyone—Cat, Jesse, big brother Spencer and the girls. Everyone stood at the foot of Tee’s bed, watching her hold the plump little girl.
“How big you think she is?” Jesse asked the doctor. The doctor stood cleaning his instruments while everyone greeted Joy.
Doc Stemple removed his glasses and began to clean them with a cloth as he spoke. “Well, without a scale I can’t be one-hundred percent accurate, but I venture we looking at a good ten pound baby. You can’t see a rib on her.”
They all laughed and gasped with amazement. Tee wasn’t surprised. She knew it had been a big baby coming out of her. Many of the girls had remarked beforehand that the baby would be big because Tee had been so big from eating so much.
“Ya see,” said Willie Sue. “It was all them steaks you kept wolfing down that Judge Cadieux sent over. See what that got ya.” She received several frowns for that remark. It almost choked Jesse, but went over the head of dear Tee—the eternal optimist.
“Yeah,” replied Tee. “Red meat made me a fine, strong and healthy little gal. I declare she’s the prettiest thing I ever did see!”
“Get the brownie camera,” Cat called out, “Somebody get the brownie and let’s get some proof that we got the most beautiful baby every born.”
Everyone launched into a tirade about the baby’s fine looks, but that was okay. Willie Sue had accomplished her goal. She wanted the doctor, a 40-some year old white man, to know that this was Judge Cadieux’s baby. And the doctor did understand the implication, as did Cat—who made herself a promise she was going to get Willie Sue for that. While anyone could tell it was a bi-racial child, because of the blonde fuzz on her head and the only color on her body being the tint in her cheeks, the doctor never would know whose child it was unless he was told. Most of the town’s white male population had been through Cat’s Place at one time or another. But Judge Cadieux had sent steaks to the girl, the knowledge of which made the old doctor smile.
“Why not?” thought the doctor, thinking of the newborn’s mother. “Teola’s the prettiest thing I’ve seen around these parts.”
Even after the struggles of childbirth Tee glowed. The doctor likened her exotic good looks to those of a gypsy—a gypsy with skin darkened by the sun. Yes, Doctor Stemple could see how that might be the case here. There was a lot of cross-breeding going on in Louisana. The doctor remembered how the niggers were doing a lot of mating with the Indians and producing off-spring that resembled Teola. “So he’s taken to paying and feeding the girl,” thought Doctor Stemple, with a chuckle to himself. “That mean he’s serious.” Doctor Stemple made a mental note to tell Judge Cadieux about what a fine job Teola did bringing his little daughter into the world.
Old Doc Stemple wasn’t the first or the only person to tell him what a splendid job Tee did birthing their daughter. The first person to tell him the baby was born was his wife—Suzanna Cadieux. When he stopped by Suzanna’s room to say goodnight, she told him, “Oh, and cook says that nigger whore you like sleeping with had the baby this evening. She says it’s a fine, big healthy baby girl. Hope you wanted a girl, ‘cause that’s what you got.”
The Judge’s “friend” at the house even gave him a snapshot of Spencer holding the baby. That snapshot became Harrison Cadieux’s most priced possession. He looked at it the first thing every morning and several times during the day. And, if he was alone in the evening, while he drank his daily two-fingers of scotch, he would pull the picture out of the wallet where he kept it and sit it where he could sip his drink and look at it. It hardly seemed fair, but that snapshot—and the tidbits of information the Judge’s informant provided about Tee and his daughter—was all that Harrison enjoyed about his life.
Harrison Jamerson Cadieux, a man who made serious, life-impacting decisions every day and all day long, could not decide what he wanted the most: to get to know his little girl or to hold her mama in his arms again.
The three chapters of “Private Dancer”
appearing here at Author’s Den represents the beginning of the love story that took place between Tee and Harrison. Their story gets even better! And, the ending? You’ll never quess…but you will be satisfied with and moved by how everything turns out for the ill-fated couple. See more of their story at: www.sistercircles.org