It is questionable whether Aunt Lottie was really mean or just a harried woman with a houseful near to bursting when she had to take responsibility for Neeley. It couldn’t have been an easy time for her, Uncle Jep or the grieving child. Having Uncle Jep take Neeley’s side against her, hardened Aunt Lottie further. She often hissed at her, “I’ll tend to you later!”
Neeley’s attempts to avoid Aunt Lottie were hopeless since she had to work along side her while enduring jabs about “yore sorry mama.” While living with Ma,she never gave Cassie a lot of thought, but now the oppressive shadow of Aunt Lottie’s contempt for her mother was a heavy burden for a young child. It was very confusing to mourn Ma knowing she had a mother “out there somewhere.” Why didn’t she live with her mother? Uncle Jep changed the subject when she asked him.
Cassie took Neeley for a few weeks or months when she had a stable home. She’d remarried and had two boys, so Neeley did get to spend some time with her mother and two young brothers. These times meant the world to Neeley since her attention-hungry little brothers adored her. On her arrival, her mother showered her with love and affection before eventually succumbing to a mood swing and becoming neglectful of herself and the children. Eventually, there would be a violent fight with her husband and the children would be dispatched to various relatives with a domestic split. Neeley always landed back at Uncle Jep’s, the odd child out once again.
Neeley was becoming a young Amazon, over six feet tall and powerfully built. With the hard life she faced, she’d need her strength to be able to hold her own. Neeley never spent enough time in school to be a good student. At the age of sixteen, she realized she was pregnant. No knight in shining armor showed up to marry her. Soon after her baby was born, she married Eddie Malone, a twenty-six-year-old divorced man who was a friend of Uncle Jep. Love was never mentioned, but there was the promise of a home. She hadn’t had a home since she was nine.