As Greenlee's treasurer, Teddy had grown well to do himself. He'd opened a restaurant that bore his name, and acquired a small hotel for blacks, the Belmont. It was actually a front for gambling, which took place in a back room called the Bucket of Blood. Teddy acquired a Jewish partner, along with a piece of the Crawfords. Then he got involved in the career of John Henry Lewis, a black world-champion boxer whom Greenlee managed.
For Lena, who felt increasingly victimized, her father seemed dazzlingly free-spirited. He laughed at authority and spouted hard-boiled pearls of wisdom: "Ask for no mercy and give less," "Don't trust no bush that quivers." In this brief attempt at fatherhood, he schooled his daughter well on surmounting the hard-knock Negro existence. "Because he knew how loathsome life was, he taught me a lot," said Horne in the late eighties. "He gave me all the street knowledge I needed to survive."
But with his toughness came an inability to show much love, a family trait he passed on to his daughter. No amount of bluster or expensive gifts—including a fur coat—could disguise the fact that he'd deserted her. In 1986, Horne told writer Glenn Plaskin that the father she'd adored had never hugged or kissed her. Instead he, like Edna, teased her with affection, then snatched it away. Suddenly Teddy's visit to Fort Valley was over. He drove off, leaving her to wonder what she'd done wrong. Later she contemplated another sad legacy he'd left her, "a willingness to accept the fact that some of the greatest things just couldn't happen for me." Foremost among them was the comfort of knowing that people she cared about would stay.
At least Fort Valley had brought her some stability, as had the love of Frank and Frankye. Lena didn't welcome the letter that Edna sent her in the spring of 1928. Its familiar promise—that soon they'd be together for keeps—brought only dread; now Edna seemed like a stranger to her, and not to be trusted.
Soon her mother arrived with a friend, known to Lena as "Aunt Lucille." Excitedly, Edna told Lena she'd found a house in Atlanta. The cost would be covered by a wealthy beau of hers from Miami, where Edna was again spending a lot of time. According to The Hornes, Edna's flame had agreed to foot the bill as long as this new house wasn't in Florida; apparently he didn't want a little girl around.
Lena said a reluctant good-bye to Frank and Frankye and departed with her mother and "aunt." Before they left Fort Valley, Lucille insisted they stay with a relative of hers who lived in town. Lena found him fat and repulsive. But Edna and Lucille saw no harm in going off and leaving eleven-year-old Lena in his care. She recalled the consequences in her second memoir. "Back in Macon, those good women had told me: 'Don't be a bad girl. . . . Don't let a boy touch you.' . . . But you haven't been told whether you're to blame or it's the other person's fault. All you know is that if somebody touches you it's bad." Horne did and said nothing. But many years later Marcia Ann Gillespie, a writer and editor who worked with Horne on an aborted third memoir, could see the scars of that childhood trauma: "So much of her behavior was that of someone who's been abused."