Alexandra "Allie" Johnson was born in Oxford, Mississippi, on January 30, 1963. Her father, Robert, was a high-ranking member of the University of Mississippi business school faculty, and her mother, Lydia, was a nurse.
As a child, Allie was determined to have the best lemonade stand in the neighborhood. It would be years before she learned the term "market share," but young Allie was trying to get the most of it.
Allie was bright, but her good grades came more from her jaw-clenching resolve than innate brilliance. She studied hard, sat in the front of the class, and eagerly awaited the release of report cards.
By the time Allie reached high school, she was known as vivacious and strong-willed. Although not naturally the most athletic girl in school, she still worked her way to being the cheerleading team captain.
Allie had always dated casually, rarely seeing someone more than just a few dates, until she met Quentin Lamar. The son of one of Oxford's most prestigious families, Quentin was good-looking, intelligent, and just quirky enough to be interesting. Allie and Quentin were soon spending all their spare time together.
After high school, Allie attended the Mississippi University for Women, and Quentin attended Ole Miss. Quentin often drove down to Columbus to see her, and they dreamed of the day when they could be together full-time.
Immediately after graduating from The W, Allie and Quentin got engaged, and she began planning the wedding as he started law school. Allie paid a great deal of attention to not only the looks of the wedding flowers but also the smells. She wanted her wedding guests to be hit with a wall of fragrance when they walked into the church.
The young couple settled down as Quentin's legal practice began to take off. Allie set up their home and then started looking for things to do. She had always been intrigued by business, and that, paired with her interest in fragrances and makeup, led her to start Lamar Cosmetics.
Allie's drive propelled the company to such impressive growth that Quentin quit his legal practice and joined her in running the business. Between their inheritances and the Lamar Cosmetics income, Allie and Quentin were able to move into a big house on North Lamar Boulevard.
But almost as soon as they moved in, Quentin became troubled. He began going days and even weeks without sleep. He refused to shower, and he wandered the halls in the old house, yelling at imaginary Union soldiers.
Allie's determination kept Lamar Cosmetics growing while Quentin deteriorated at home. When Allie became pregnant during one of Quentin's brief periods of lucidity, she thought fatherhood might settle him down. But instead, the new presence was even more of a torment than the imaginary blue-coated pillagers.
Allie wasn't surprised when Quentin took his own life, but she was determined that her son never know his father's despair. She poured everything into the success of Lamar Cosmetics and raising her son. For a long time, Allie succeeded. Bill grew up intelligent and well-liked, and Lamar Cosmetics exceeded expectations.
When Bill became inseparable from a local beauty pageant contestant named Barbara, Allie disapproved of the relationship because it took away from Bill's focus on his future as the head of Lamar Cosmetics. But she allowed Bill this dalliance and hoped it would be just a high school crush, forgotten by the first fall of college.
By the time Bill was ready to graduate from high school, Lamar Cosmetics had begun to falter. Allie's frustration mounted because, for the first time in her life, working more hours didn't get the job done. She had to lay off employees and reduce operations.
And even more frustrating, her son didn't seem to care. Bill put in many hours at the company and did what he could, but he also left for school in Europe. Although he worked hard by anyone else's standards, for Allie, it seemed like he wasn't dedicated enough.
In a last-ditch effort to save what little remained of the company, Allie decided to sponsor a beauty pageant in conjunction with the Yoknapatawpha County Literature Festival. The pageant was well underway when Allie was surprised to learn her son was coming home to Oxford.