Sunbonnets are the New Black

Day breaks on Ruby’s special day, that magical day all girls dream of and plan for and think about, that happy day when they enter into a marriage-in-name-only with their maternal half-brother. It’s beautiful. Pearl even stays quietly in her bed for longer than usual, perhaps because she can sense her mother’s swirling guilt and tension. Ruby spends some time remembering what Grandmere Catherine wanted for Ruby’s big day (what, not marrying Paul?) and Ruby daydreams a little bit about some high fantasy version of what she thinks a wedding day should be like. This daydream goes on for a page and a half. Not surprisingly, when Daydream Bride Ruby (now with Baby Daughter Pearl!) reaches her dream groom, it’s Beau. Well, yeah, Ruby. Ruby gets herself out of her daydream and listens to Pearl cry, remembering that she’s not just marrying Paul for herself, but also so that Pearl will have a future. Because getting her money from Daphne or selling more paintings or trying to get in touch with Beau or something other than marrying Paul couldn’t do the same thing. Not that I’m judging you, Ruby.

We're totally judging you, Ruby.

Yeah, yeah we are. Anyhoo, Ruby gets dressed in a pink cotton dress with a square collar (sassy) and figures that it’s probably prudent not to wear the locket that Beau gave her to her wedding, so she puts it into Grandmere’s chest. She dresses Pearl in bright pink (see! with matching Baby Pearl!) and brushes her own hair out, ties it back with a ribbon, and wears one of Grandmere’s old sunbonnets.

Wait.

A pale pink dress, a hair ribbon, and a sunbonnet? Ruby, that’s not a wedding ensemble, that’s Holly Hobbie cosplay. (Yes, I Googled that, and no, I didn’t find anything. And I would have said Strawberry Shortcake, but she wears more of a mob cap. Wow, this is a long and weird aside.) Can I suggest that you buy a damn hat, because it’s what, 1965? You can find one. She goes outside with Pearl to wait for Paul. He shows up shortly thereafter with his hair wet and slicked back, in a blue suit. Oh lord.

As they drive to see the priest who has agreed to marry them (with the story that Paul is Pearl’s father and is finally stepping up), it’s raining slightly, so Paul has the windshield wipers going. Ruby thinks that they look like two fingers wagging at them disapprovingly, and in the rhythm Ruby hears the word “Shame” over and over again. Well this is cheerful stuff. Paul, naturally, babbles on talking about the house and their upcoming life together. Seems that the house is ready for them to move into, but he wants them to go to New Orleans for a few days so that Ruby can buy the best of everything for the house. He also wants her to set her studio as soon as possible and to interview nannies for Pearl. Ruby’s not sure she wants to hire a nanny, but Paul insists. The mistress of Cypress Woods should have all sorts of servants, and in fact he’s already hired a few! He even handily knows all of their racial heritages and religious practices. There’s their new butler, James Humble, who is a quadroon; their maid Holly Mixon, who is half Haitian and half Choctaw Indian; and their cook, Letty Brown, who practices voodoo! Jesus, Paul. What kind of interviewing process have you got? Ugh.

So they go to the chapel and they get illegally maaaaarried. Turns out that Paul hasn’t told his parents yet (shocker) and that just amps up Ruby’s nervousness. Oh and she pretends she’s marrying Beau. Nice. They head to Cypress Woods, where Paul shows Ruby her brand new Mercedes convertible and introduces her to the servants. Ruby wonders if maybe, just maybe, things are gonna turn out okay. (SPOILER ALERT: No.) They notice that there’s white powder sprinkled on the steps of the house and Letty tells them that she did it, for protection. Ruby tells her about Grandmere Catherine being a traiteur, and Letty is duly impressed. She says that makes Ruby a holy child, but Ruby quickly denies it. In the meantime, Paul has gone and told his family about the wedding. His sisters (who don’t know the truth) are excited, but his parents were obviously not. They’ll all be over for dinner the next day, though. Yay?

Ruby goes over with some men to get the things she wants from the shack. She reminisces about her former life for a few pages and goes back to Cypress Woods. Paul has lots of plans for their days to come: landscaping, shopping, decorating, and he tells them that they “don’t have time to feel sorry for themselves”. It’s not really self-pity, Paul. It’s more of an, oh I don’t know, a YOU’RE SIBLINGS WHO JUST GOT MARRIED TO EACH OTHER situation. Different. All of a sudden…surprise! It’s Paul’s sisters, Toby and Jeanne, come for an early visit! Jeanne is all bouncy and happy, while Toby is sharper and has more questions, like why Paul and Ruby didn’t get married as soon as she found out she was pregnant and when, by the way, did they even have a chance to make her? THANK YOU, TOBY. Ruby declines to answer and Paul soon shoos his sisters away.

At dinner that night he discusses all the decorating he wants to do, and tells Ruby that she should get help from his mother, since she’s so classy and refined. Ruby’s kind of like “Hello, artist?” but sort of agrees. They turn in for the night in their suites-with-a-connecting door. (Paul’s idea, I’m sure) Paul comes in to see if Ruby’s all tucked in and asks permission to kiss her goodnight, which she grants. He tries to get the mouth, but she turns her face away.  The next morning, Paul leaves for the cannery and Ruby is visited after breakfast by Octavious Tate. Booooo. Basically, he figures that what’s done is done, but he just asks that Ruby maintain the illusion that Paul is Gladys’ son whenever Gladys is around. We will learn that Gladys is REALLY into illusions. Ruby agrees and Octavious leaves. Paul calls to tell Ruby that he’s sending over a nice older English lady to be interviewed for the nanny job. LORD can we get some Gisselle in this soon? This house stuff is booooring. The nanny is named Mrs. Flemming, she looks like Grandmere somewhat, her daughter lives in England, blah blah blah she’s hired. And now the Tates come to dinner!

Octavious is nervous and Gladys is a bitch who ignores Pearl (much to her daughters’ confusion) and is cold to Ruby. She doesn’t want to help with the decorating at first, but is persuaded to by Paul. Gladys and Ruby go on a tour of the house. She immediately turns on Ruby, demanding to know how she could marry Paul. She pulls the “Gabrielle Landry cursed my husband” card and whines about how Paul has always loved her the best and told her everything and now he knows she’s not his real mother. Ruby says that Paul still loves Gladys like his real mother, and that she will never do anything to deliberately come between Paul and Gladys. Gladys seems more amused by this idea than anything and grudgingly begins to tell Ruby how to decorate and where to shop in New Orleans. Dream mother-in-law!

Soon enough Paul, Ruby, Mrs. Flemming, and Pearl head to New Orleans. With the nanny and Pearl installed at the hotel, Paul and Ruby go on a shopping spree and to a fancy dinner. Paul and Ruby are sharing a room (with two beds) but Paul lurks around and watches her in her slip and it’s weird. Damn it, Paul. After more shopping the next day, Paul suggests that Ruby go and see Daphne. Though she really doesn’t want to, Ruby takes the streetcar and heads to the Dumas house in the Garden District. Ruby starts to panic as she gets closer, as she realizes that everything has changed since she was last there. She stops across the street and looks at the house for a while, when Daphne comes home and enters the house. Just seeing Daphne from afar is too much for Ruby and she hurries back to the hotel and tells Paul that she wants to go home early. Ruby doesn’t really calm down until they reach Cypress Woods, and she realizes that she feels safe there. For now.

Okay! Back in the saddle again. In the next exciting episode: Ruby gives Jeanne sex advice, GISSELLE, the long-awaited Confederate role-playing, and somebody dies! It’s action-packed and it’s coming up soon!

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9 Comments Add yours

  1. Tashina says:

    Ah, I loved how this fancy-ass “studied under the best chefs” cook of theirs won’t work without powder on the stairs. Yep, I’m sure all the best chefs she worked with were fine with the trainee slapping hoodoo on the porch. They probably let her butcher the chickens herself on a special altar in the broom closet.

    If Ruby truly wanted to live with Paul as brother and sister, she probably shouldn’t have married him. I mean, are tongues gonna wave that much harder for a couple living in sin than a married couple that turns out to be related?

    1. Megan says:

      I just cannot understand what Ruby’s motivation is supposed to be. Loneliness? Deal with it. Money? We know, for a fact, that Ruby has a highly marketable skill that she’s made good money at in the past. She really can’t get one of Grandmere’s friends to watch Pearl for a few hours a day so that she can paint? She can’t meet with Dominique and say, “Hey look, can I get an advance on three paintings of alligators? I need to feed my kid.”? Lord.

      I really wonder how many cooks Paul interviewed before he found Letty. Did he ask them all about voodoo?

      1. Tashina says:

        Nah, he figured it out when she showed up to the interview with chicken bones tied in her hair and shook a rattlesnake at him.

        “Say, by chance, do you practice voodoo?”

  2. Jenna says:

    Looking back now, it really amuses me how V.C. Andrews had some extremely misguided white guilt.

    1. Megan says:

      I feel like maybe, just maybe, it’s meant to remind us that we’re in the ’60s, since none of the clothing, language, cars, or culture is otherwise telling us so.

      1. Leah says:

        AN seems to take a perverse relish in pointing it out ad nauseam, though.

  3. Megan says:

    I never understand why WordPress sets up comments the way that they do.

    Leah: That’s very true. It’s gotten to a point where I debate mentioning it, to be honest.

    Tashina: “Why yes, yes I do.” “The job is yours!”

  4. silfert says:

    I think there’s a deleted scene in which Paul places a “Help Wanted” ad in the paper.

    “Wanted: classy staff to serve VERY close family. Ethnically exploitable background a must. Voodoo practitioners welcome!”

    1. Megan says:

      This is solid gold.

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