Thank you to all who granted me support through this crazy and fabulous month of writing. I must say I’ve been haunted by these characters for quite some time, like a nagging but delicious preoccupation. I found them ready on day one to tell me all. But I had to coax their motives and secrets with patience. I am proud of the whole crew, they showed up like most of my characters, in tatters, stubbornly rooted in their respective pain. In the end, wow, in the end, they made me weep in a joyous relief for each of them.
Perhaps you’d like to read one more teaser? It’s really been a blast pulling these snippets out of the fray, thinking about what might be enticing for you all. But no judgement please. This novel is still early in the game. [If you missed the first two installments, you may want to check my earlier November post before reading this one]. This final piece is comes towards the end:
Sure it was Mrs. Sherman’s plan all along, but until Frances had returned from Mexico, every angel wrapped in tissue paper and boxed back in the attic, the boys living under heavy restrictions put on them, Valerie in active therapy, and both a new lawyer and newer physician in place, the plan was on hold.
It was all agreed that the second phase of Mrs. Hendrick’s rehab could happen at home if everyone was diligent about her care. By late March the routines were all underway, but there would be a sticky meeting with the sons to get over first. She decided the meeting would happen in the house, during a luncheon, and that the girls would join them afterwards in the den for coffee and pie. The date set, all agreed, and Frances and I enlisted to serve. No more prying eyes were needed on her two sons, who had garnered headlines and TV soundbites, played and replayed: the rich boys who had a long past of curves balls and outrunning trouble.
Their father had his driver bring them, as stipulated in the agreement. There was to be no friends, no booze, no rehashing of that infamous night’s tragedy either. The luncheon was to be just a visit between mother and sons, but before the court date. Anglea’s parents were also made of historical fortunes and hadn’t lost a game whether in the court or in the courtroom. Their youngest daughter’s tragic death wasn’t going to be a place to start that practice.
Mrs. Hendricks did more and more on her own since her return from rehab. Waking was by alarm now, and she and both daughters took their breakfast in the dining room by 7:45 sharp. Beth usually grabbed a coffee and then left for the office, but the other two would eat and chat and start their day with a list of small goals they could accomplish outside of therapy. There would be walking the grounds, reading the paper, letter writing, whatever might lead them to a small sense of accomplishment. One this Saturday both daughters were up and out for a tennis match at the club when their father’s limo pulled up the drive and their brothers stepped out. Neither had been back to their mother’s home in months, their lives restricted by the outcome of that night.
Mrs. Hendricks asked I stay in the kitchen, help Frances there, but not show my face if at all possible. No one wanted a trigger which might lead to a bottle for her or a violent outbreak by her sons.
We all heard the car pull up and park down back by the garage. As the driver normally did, he entered the kitchen door right after the boys had walked into the front door. Their mother greeted them in the foyer, and gesturing with one hand ushered them into the dinning room. She had asked Frances to set the table with her mother’s china, the blue Wedgwood that had always been a treat for the boys when they were young, as they made up vivid stories about the wildlife and forest scenes on the platters and plates. The luncheon, Mrs. Hendrick’s insisted would start with salad, and then they would help themselves to sandwich makings set along the sideboard. Frances would come in twice, once to bring in lemonade, another favorite from their youth, and then coffee as she served the lemon meringue pie. Mrs. Hendricks insisted that the meal be the best combination of their best memories, or at least, what she hoped would be their best.
“You are looking well,” Michael was the first to say. His mother was looking more than well in actuality. She was ten pounds lighter, sober and coherent before one o’clock, wearing half the makeup as she had been, and actually able to address the two of them, a feat that could not have happened much sooner than it was unfolding, and all what Michael had forgotten possible in his mother.
Chuck seemed far more reluctant to offer her much encouragement. In fact, his first real sentence was to complain that there was no wine on the table. He continued, “Father would never hold a luncheon without offering his guests wine,” all said in his hushed but digging undertones. He did not generate goodwill cheaply.
But Michael did not want the conversation sidetracked so quickly, “Oh this is fine,” and right on cue Frances opened the door with the pitcher of lemonade.
“Welcome home Master Chuck, and Master Michael,” her face widening to a natural smile, for even though she was no stranger to their corruption, she helped them dearly in her heart. Michael was on his feet immediately, giving her a kiss on the cheek and taking the heavy pitcher from her.
“Oh dear Francis, you will have to tell us all about your trip home, was it just wonderful? Sit, join us,” Michael insisted and pulled out the chair next to his.
But with a quick “No bueno, oh no no, I have much preparation for your dessert, you sit. Enjoy your mother, yes, enjoy,” and with that Frances vanished back into the kitchen.
“Sit down Michael,” snapped Chuck. “Who are you trying to impress? Mother here? Why, she doesn’t think very highly of you at all, so don’t bother now… Isn’t that right mother? You have just about forgotten your sons, haven’t you?” He was leaning toward her with that same scowl that he taunted all his prey with, and she felt already his edge cut deep. She had hopped to escape the luncheon without a conflict or a raised voice, but ten minutes after their arrival she wanted to drink herself back to stillness. Blackout. Escape was a hard route to let go of, she reminded herself.
Frances had me listening by the door and she whipped meringue. I was to let her know if all went to ruin. There was a Plan B, of course. But no one wanted to enact that.
She was motioning for me to get closer, to be sure that “Senorita Hendricks is bueno, si? Her eyes focusing on the peaks of meringue and then up towards me. The whole time the chauffeur laid down the 10 rows and picked up with alacrity. He knew how to make himself invisible, especially in this kitchen, at the table playing solitaire or out back having a smoke, regardless, what this family did outside his vehicle was none of his business, at least that’s the way he wanted it to stay. He liked driving the old man, but the boys, he’d rather keep his distance from those two, and this night, with all the commotion, that was a given. But Mr. Hendricks trusted him with his life, and that wasn’t a trust he took lightly.
The luncheon had gone quiet. Perhaps Chuck had rethought lashing out at his mother, at least that is what we in the kitchen still hoped for. With the pie in the oven, Frances relieved me of my door duty, while I got the coffee ready to bring in to the trio in the den for dessert. We both looked out the window when another car pulled in, and both looked a bit surprised when we saw James at the back door.
Reaching small but lofty goals, that’s what keeps me feeling alive. Smiling still, and so grateful.