Welcome to The Miller House
Don Lehman, 2018


Cover Index
Chapter 01
Chapter 02
Chapter 03
Chapter 04
Chapter 05
Chapter 06
Chapter 07
Chapter 08
Chapter 09
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21

Chapter Three

Francis wanted Aaron to be happy and resolved to be a good wife when he returned. She tried to look her best every day. She set her alarm for 6am, bathed, sat in front of a full length mirror and brushed her hair, applied her makeup and thought about her life. Could she be content living this way? Maybe she could join a club and make new friends. She was a wife now and so far, her husband was seldom home. When he was home, he was drinking and demanding and physically rough. She didn’t want to admit it but part of her knew that she may had made a terrible mistake. She had been swept off her feet by his apparent wealth which she now questioned - was this house really his - hers? She had been flattered by the attention of an older man, seduced by the fancy restaurants and clubs and the clothes he had purchased for her. Now here she was in a lovely old house, alone. Why did she long for him and at the same time, fear him?

When he did appear he seemed to be in a good mood. It was late afternoon, Francis heard the car and was waiting at the door. He came in, dropped his suit case and grabbed her at the waist, lifted her off the floor and did a quick spin. He was laughing! Let me look at you, sweetheart! You are the prettiest girl in all of South Carolina and I think I’ve seen them all! She fixed him a big supper and put a candle on the table. After supper his mood darkened and he was quiet. He opened a bottle of whiskey and drank shots, Francis had a glass of wine, stayed close to him, touching his arm. She asked about his trip. He just told her he had been to Savannah and the air was so heavy, he couldn’t breath there. She told him that she was lonely when he was gone and asked if he would take her with him. He just said, “Sweetheart, that would never work! I’ve got to be moving morning to night.” She reminded him about the good times they had in Baltimore and he was silent. Later when they were ready for bed, she bathed, brushed out her blond hair, touched up her make up and put on a black negligee. When she walked into the bedroom he was on the bed, fully dressed and appeared to be sleeping. He rolled over, looked at her and laughed! Take that thing off sweetheart, I want to see you naked! His words stung but she did as she was told and climbed in to bed under the sheets. He pulled the sheets back, opened his clothes and took her without undressing. He fell asleep on top of her. He was heavy and smelled of sweat and booze. She slowly turned, rolling him over. If he woke up, he didn’t say anything but sometime in the night he undressed.

The next morning he was quiet. Francis had no idea what a horror she was facing. After fixing a big breakfast she worked in the kitchen and he went out to the garage, then heard him working on something in the basement and later she saw him outside trimming some bushes. When he came in at lunch, he came up behind her and put his arms around her. She asked if he had a good morning and he just sort of grunted but kissed her on the back of her neck. While they were eating he suggested that they get dressed up and go out on the town! She did not know the town and had only been to the grocery store and for a few short walks while he was gone. The thought of going out to a fine restaurant and maybe dancing gave her hope that things would again be like they were before they were married. The way they were back in Baltimore! She reached out and took his hand and said, “yes, let’s go out and have fun!”

That evening, it felt great to be dressed to go out. She stopped for a moment as she left to bedroom, looking at herself. She liked what she saw, her hair draped at her shoulders, looked more sophisticated than the ponytail style she normally used. She looked at Aaron in a pin stripped suit and a new white shirt. His salmon colored, pocket handkerchief matched his wide tie. He was waiting with a drink in his hand looking rich and proud. He whistled low when she walked out in her tight black dress and red heels. The black dress was something Aaron had helped her choose back in Baltimore and the red shoes she had since her senior year in high school but had only worn a few times. The heels placed her a smidge taller than Aaron. She knew that, as a couple, they looked terrific. He finished his drink in one last gulp and they walked out to his car that was parked along the street. She had not been in the car since they arrived in Greenville, three weeks before.

Francis was curious about this town. She only knew what she read in the papers that she picked up at the grocery store. She saw ads for restaurants and wondered how Greenville compared to Baltimore. Apparently, Shoeless Joe Jackson was the local celebrity who now was retired and owned a liquor store. The paper was mostly filled with world news about the threat of war and local news about politics and the textile mills. Aaron obviously knew the town and all the best restaurants and night spots.

Reporters for the Greenville Daily News learned that the evening started at The Downtowner where Aaron Pallone ordered a thick steak and beer, then salmon and a glass of white wine for his young bride. Other patrons reported that Aaron appeared to be in a happy mood, calling out to people he knew. He had just married the beautiful young girl from Baltimore. His bride was quiet and reserved throughout the meal. After they finished their dinner, they lingered, while Aaron had several more beers. Leaving the restaurant at around nine o’clock the couple reappeared at The Wild Boar Tavern at around nine-twenty. The place was crowded when Aaron came in with his “child bride.” She stayed by him as he greeted his cronies, buying drinks and talking loudly. He did not dote on his wife, in fact, he did not even introduce her to his acquaintances. Later in the evening as the crowd thinned Aaron was seen dancing with his wife. Then she sat alone at a table and waited while he continued to drink at the bar. It was reported that he danced with several other woman, ignoring his young wife.

At one point Aaron came to Francis and asked why she was just sitting there. She told him she was tired, she didn’t know anyone and that she wanted to go home. She was mostly angry that he was ignoring her but she didn’t want to give him that. He looked disgusted and turned away.

By midnight most of the couples had left and the men who were at the bar looked inebriated. One man stumbled to her table and said, “Hey, you’re a real doll, come on and dance with me, Aaron won’t mind.” Then he laughed and looked around the room. She tried to smile and refuse but the man grabbed her by the arm and pulled her out of her chair. He held her close. Aaron was there in a flash pulling her away. His face twisted by anger and alcohol. Francis knew that he was drunk and that it was unfair for him to blame her. His hands grabbing at her upper arms, his words slurred as he muttered, “you whore, you slut!” She was crying and repeated, “I want to go home, I just want to go home.” A group of men surrounded them as Francis was trying to pull away from Aaron. Suddenly, his crude accusations and his acts of cruelty since their arrival in Greenville, consumed her and she began shouting, “you pig, you pig, leave me alone, you pig.” Those were the only words she had and they seemed to rise from somewhere in her gut. Then she was choking. Aaron had his hands at her throat and Francis could not breath. Her legs buckled and her arms were flailing! There was noise and confusion. Men were shouting at Aaron and pulling at him. Suddenly, she felt someone grab her right wrist and place a small revolver in her hand. Francis had never held a gun, but she instantly knew what it was. Her hand grasped the weapon. In the struggle to free herself there was a loud crack! Aaron staggered backwards, then fell. Blood was shooting from his neck. Francis collapsed and men were calling for help . She didn’t try to get up. She just laid there on the tavern floor, waiting. She waited in a state of surreality.

It seemed like moments later the room was filled with emergency people and there were policemen. The walls were flashing bright white and red. One of the policemen lifted Francis into a sitting position and handcuffed her. He picked up the gun and placed it into a bag. Men who witnessed the event seemed to be sobering up and were giving wildly differing stories. One, well dressed gentleman suggested to the police that Francis had not actually killed her husband, but it could have been someone else who did it, then put the gun in her hand without being noticed. “After all,” he said, “there was so much confusion.” Francis was arrested and charged with manslaughter. No one admitted to providing the gun and Francis could not say where it came from. All she kept saying was, “Someone put a gun in my hand and the gun went off.” A lawyer showed up at the jail and bail was arranged.

The reporters knew that it was a story made to sell newspapers, “Local man killed by beautiful young bride, from Baltimore.” She was the “Killer Bride,” mysteriously ensconced in the big, old Victorian house.

Francis was attempting to understand what had happened and how her life had gone so far off track. She didn’t know what to expect. There were meetings with her lawyer and the police. The newspaper stories described her in ways that were sensational and bizarre. When the trial was over, she was acquitted of the manslaughter charge and was legally free. Most people agreed that it was a case of self defense but she was still an outsider who came to Greenville and after a few weeks of marriage, killed her husband. She was young, alone and, as a result, she sentenced herself to what amounted to house arrest.

  Chapter 04