Graduation day was upon them, and most were extremely excited about it. Owen would graduate, marry, get his inheritance, and Nadia would be rid of the man she despised for so many years. Victoria and Charlotte were excited because they would be able to finally let their four year secret be known to Isaias. Whitney was happy because the drama she endured over the last year and a half was almost over. Isaias wasn’t sure if he was happy or not. He was in a band with his best friend, and they were on their way to becoming famous, and yet he could always go another way. He could marry his beloved Whitney, and go on to be a steel mogul like his father. The relationship between Whitney and Victoria had gone the way he’d hoped. They appeared to be friends. That meant he could have his cake and eat it too.
The day before graduation, Isaias had made up his mind. Owen was in the kitchen making a snack. Isaias thought this would be a good time to tell him his plans.
“Hey man can I talk to you?”
“Sure man what’s up?” Owen asked, putting his sandwich together.
“This is it. We’re finally finished. I never thought we would get here.”
“Me neither. Have you thought about what you want to do?”
“As a matter of fact, I have. I love being a part of what we started man, but I think I love Whitney more.”
Taking a bite of his sandwich, Owen asked, “Are you saying what I think you’re saying?”
“Yeah, I think I am.”
“Your mother won’t approve.”
“I don’t care. It’s about time she accepted that I am a grown man and can make decisions without her.”
“Okay then, grown man. I suggest you tell your mother after the ceremony. That way she won’t make a scene, and upset everyone.”
“I agree,” Isaias said. He paused for a moment then continued. “As much as I hate to say it, when should we start auditioning new drummers?”
“You sure about this?”
“Well in that case, we can start auditions as soon as you’re ready.”
“I’m gonna miss playing with you.”
“Come on man, don’t start getting all sappy, and shit. We’re friends for life. We can play whenever you want. You just have to do what’s best for you.”
“I’m gonna miss it.”
“What? Me talking shit between songs? Please. Whitney is a wonderful woman, and I’m happy for you.”
Isaias had made his decision. Whitney was the most important thing in his life, and he wanted a life by her side. He decided he would ask her to marry him.
Graduation day finally arrived, and for Owen, it had a bizarre feel. He felt like something unexpected was going to happen, and he didn’t like it. Besides the fact that he was graduating from college, something about this day seemed different. The ceremony was at eleven in the morning. They woke up early, and had their last breakfast together.
“Well, here we are,” Owen said. “No more pencils, no more books, no more teachers’ dirty looks! We are about to start our lives without each other.”
“No way,” Whitney said. “You all know how I feel about you. We’re in this for a lifetime. You are my best friends and I love you.”
“Can we really stay this close?” Desiree asked. “I mean the band is doing so well. There will be tours and shit like that. Isaias and Owen will be all over the country, and eventually all over the world. We won’t see each other every day.”
Isaias glanced at Owen and then replied, “Actually Desi, there are different plans in the works.”
“What different plans?”
Owen smiled. “Whenever you’re ready, Isaias.”
Isaias got up from his chair and knelt next to Whitney. She had it in her head that she and Isaias would eventually go their separate ways, but Isaias was about to change her mind.
“Whitney, every since I laid my eyes on you I knew I had to have you. Once I did, I told myself that I would never let you go. You are everything to me, and you will always be. I don’t know what your plans were after we graduated. Perhaps you were going to leave me. But know that I would chase you all around the world because we were meant to be.”
“Any day now, Isaias,” Owen said, plainly.
Isaias pulled the ring from his pocket and held Whitney’s hand. “I love you with all of my heart, Whitney. I want to share all I am with you for the rest of my life. Will you marry me?”
Whitney looked down at the huge diamond ring between Isaias’ fingers. All she had to do was say yes, and she would be on her way to true happiness. For some reason, she couldn’t say yes right away.
“Isaias, are you serious?”
Isaias grinned as wide as he could. “Why wouldn’t I be? There is something about you. Something that I will never be able to let go of. I have more love for you than I ever did for Victoria. So what do you say? You wanna give up all of this excitement, and become my wife? It will mean a lot of socializing, and a lot of organizing, but you’re very smart, and mentally stable. I think you can handle it.”
Whitney smiled and let out a small noise of joy. Tears began streaming down her face, and all she could think about was how happy she was. She reached for Isaias and hugged him so hard, it knocked him off balance and they both went tumbling to the floor.
Isaias began kissing her. And they forgot all about Owen and Desiree. They sat there watching the two lovebirds on the floor, and suddenly Desiree had an idea.
“Oh my. Perhaps we should change our plans honey.”
“Well, assuming this long drawn out proposal is a yes, I want us to get married on the same day. That way Whitney and I can irritate the hell out of both of you on our anniversary.”
“Desi, you’ve changed our wedding date three times already. You’re going to drive my poor mother crazy.”
“Nadia loves me. I can have anything I want where she is concerned. Besides. Anything to upset her precious schedule. One day she will learn that you are my man, and I now come first in your life.”
“Okay, okay. But this is it. If you want a big wedding, I suggest you not change your mind again.”
“I promise honey.” Desiree looked down at her friends still kissing and asked, “So, when do you two want to do this?”
Isaias stopped the kiss. “I suppose I can take that as a yes.”
Whitney smiled with tears still in her eyes. “Yes.”
Isaias stood up, helped her up, and put the ring on her finger. They then sat down to join in the conversation.
“No thanks, Desi. I don’t need a big wedding. I will go to the justice of the peace and declare my love for this woman in front of strangers.”
Whitney shook her head. “No baby. I want to do this. We will get married in July.”
Owen frowned. “July? It’s so damn hot. How about September?”
“July. A day before the fourth. That way, I’ll always see fireworks in my future.”
Desiree patted Owen on the hand. “The third of July it is then baby. Is that okay with you?”
“By now you know I don’t care. I just want to marry you.”
Desiree smiled. “That’s a beautiful idea, Whitney. The third of July. Congratulations to the both of you. I knew it would happen.”
They finished their breakfast, prepared for the ceremony and arrived on time. There were five hundred students in the graduating class that year, so the ceremony was average length. When they called Isaias’ name, the entire student body cheered and clapped. When they called Owen’s name, half of the auditorium gave him a standing ovation. He turned and blew a kiss to his mother, and accepted his degree. Once the ceremony was over, the graduating class waited in the hallway for their family and friends. Nadia and Charlotte were looking for their sons to congratulate them. Nadia spotted Owen, looking around for her.
“Owen! Over here dear!”
They went to greet both Charlotte and Nadia.
Nadia smiled, proud her son was finally finished with school, and he could come home. “I’m so proud of all of you. Now I suppose it’s on to graduate school for you Desiree?”
Owen shook his head. “No mother. There won’t be time for that. We want to take some time off first. Together and alone.”
“Well, she’s brilliant dear. Don’t you think so?”
“That she is. But she’s going to be Mrs. Owen Thomas first then we’ll talk about graduate school later.”
“Well okay, if that’s what you want. I want to say I never knew you were so popular.”
“It’s the band mother. They know me for my music, and my charming wit.”
Nadia clicked her teeth, rolled her eyes, and tapped her son on the chest.
Charlotte was just as proud of Isaias as Nadia was Owen.
“Congratulations honey. You too, Whitney. I’m so proud of the both of you.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Reynolds. You look beautiful today.”
“Why thank you dear so do you. Isaias you’re almost there. All you have to do now is get married, and I can step down and enjoy life again.”
“Where’s Victoria?” Whitney asked.
“I did see her earlier, I don’t know.” Charlotte looked around the room trying to see over the many heads. She spotted her. “Oh, there she is. Victoria dear we’re over here!”
Victoria walked up to Isaias and gave him a hug. She then hugged Whitney.
“I’m proud of you. My friends have degrees from one of the most prestigious school in the nation.”
Charlotte smiled, happy at the thought Whitney wouldn’t be around much longer. “You shouldn’t have trouble finding a job now, Whitney.”
Isaias looked at Owen, and Owen nodded.
“Mother, she’s not going to need one.”
“Don’t be silly dear. Of course she is. How else is she going to support herself?”
“She’s not going to have to work, because I’m going to support her.”
“What? Well that’s silly dear. You know you can’t take over the business unless-”
Isaias pulled Whitney close. “That’s right mother. We’re getting married.”
Whitney nodded. “Yes ma’am.”
Charlotte didn’t say another word. She fainted on the spot. Isaias tended to his mother until the paramedics arrived to resuscitate her. When she came to, she had to hear it again.
Nadia handed Charlotte some water. “Are you okay dear?”
“I’m fine. I could have sworn I heard Isaias say that he and Whitney were getting married.”
Nadia nodded. “You did.”
Charlotte stomped her foot like a small child. She was not above embarrassing herself to make herself heard. “Oh for Christ’s sake! This can’t happen! What about our reputation! What about my grandson!”
Everyone’s mouth flew open. Isaias slowly turned toward Victoria, and she nodded her head. Then he looked at Whitney. The shock in her eyes quickly turned to sadness. She pulled the ring off her finger, put it in Isaias’ hand, and walked away. He immediately went after her not waiting for an explanation from Victoria.
“Grandson?” Nadia asked.
“Grandson. His name is Jason Bernard Tyler, and he is three years old.”
“Three years old?” Owen chimed. “Well that would mean he was born long before Isaias and Whitney met. Crap, I have to catch them.”
Desiree shook her head. “No honey, I’ll go.”
Desiree ran after her friends. Owen’s surprise was quickly turning to anger.
“Vicki, why did you wait all of this time to tell him?”
“I wouldn’t let her,” Charlotte said. “I knew if Isaias knew he had a child, he would quit school. That meant that even if he did get married, I would still be in charge of the business.”
“So what you’re really saying is that you were waiting until he graduated, and then he could marry Vicki.”
“That’s right. The two of them are destined to be together. They always have been there for each other. Victoria was the only logical choice.”
Owen turned his attention back to Victoria. “Vicki I don’t want to hear what she has to say, I want to know what you have to say about this.”
“She loves Isaias, and they belong together as husband and wife,” Charlotte said.
Owen turned to Charlotte and gave her a look that could have easily killed her. “I want to hear Vicki tell me.”
Victoria nodded. “She’s right. I’ve loved Isaias all of this time. I broke up with him so we could have a happy future.”
Owen closed his eyes and sighed heavily. “Mother, please forgive me for what I’m going to say. But this bitch is off her damn rocker! Both of them!”
Charlotte was appalled. “Excuse me?”
“Selfish, crazy bitches the both of you! How in the hell could you keep Isaias from his child all of this time? Don’t you think he deserved to know he was a father? Neither of you cared about him. It was all about you. Vicki, had you not broke up with him in the first place, none of this would have happened.” Owen turned to Charlotte. “And you, his mother. The woman that gave him life is putting her needs before her own son. Where is the boy?”
“With my parents.”
“Your parents were in on this too? Fuck, I can’t believe this! Mother, please don’t tell me you knew about this as well.”
“No son. I’m just as surprised as you.”
“Thank God!” Owen exclaimed, throwing his hands up. “I am so happy Isaias has talent, and he has me. When he hears about what the two of you have done to him, he won’t want a part of either one of you.”
“Owen,” Nadia started, “you can’t tell him.”
“Mother, you’re more than welcome to tell him if you like.”
“He’s throwing away everything.”
“I honestly don’t think he will care. The one and only thing he cares about in the world right now is Whitney. Thanks to these two, he has to explain himself for something he knew nothing about. Shit the woman already thinks the world is against her because she is a black woman dating a white man. Just think of what Isaias had to go through to be with the one, and I do mean the only one, he loves.”
Victoria had never seen Owen so angry. “I wanted to tell him Owen, honest.”
“You think I’m gonna forgive you just because you said that? No way. The three of us have been friends for over half our lives. We have done things that would make our parents cringe if they even knew. You call yourself his friend. You say you love him. Well you shouldn’t have held his child away from him. No matter the consequences. You should have told him. Excuse me mother.” Owen walked away mumbling under his breath. “Selfish, crazy bitches!”
Owen went to be alone and cool off a bit. He found a seat in a quiet corner and sat there. Meanwhile, Isaias had caught up to Whitney. The tears were streaming down her face faster than she could wipe them away.
She stopped on a dime and turned to face him. “I never should have trusted you! I never should have dated you! I should have stayed with Russell! At least with him I knew where we stood! There were no other women! There was no drama! He loved me! I mean he really loved me! I never should have left him!”
Isaias looked around at all the people that were beginning to stare. “Calm down honey. People are watching.”
“I don’t care Isaias! I don’t care about you! I don’t care about anything! I want you to get away from me and I want you out of my life!”
“Whitney for goodness sake, lower your voice,” Isaias said firmly.
Whitney tilted her head to one side. “Why? So everyone will think I’m a lady? Well I’m not!” she yelled.
Isaias frowned. “Fine. You wanna yell at me go ahead.”
“Why in the hell didn’t you tell me you had a child? Why didn’t you tell me! Why again are you hiding shit from me! Tell me Isaias, why! Victoria pretended to be my friend so she could get close to you and sleep with you! That’s right isn’t it? Tell me! That’s the reason! You still love her! Well if you love her that much go on and be with her! I don’t want you anymore!”
Isaias’ heart was suddenly crushed. Only hours before, she’d accepted his proposal. “You don’t mean that. I know you love me.”
“A lot of good that has done me. Loving you. A rich white man that only wanted a trophy on his arm. You have ruined my future Isaias Reynolds. Ruined it!”
Desiree then made her way to the two of them. She grabbed Whitney by her arm.
“Whitney, calm down.”
Whitney pulled away from her. “I don’t wanna calm down! How would you feel if you found out that Owen had a baby by some other woman! Tell me how you would feel!”
“Probably just like you. But calm down and hear me out. The both of you.”
“What is it?” Isaias asked.
“The baby isn’t quite a baby anymore. He’s three years old.”
“Three. That means that Victoria got pregnant long before you two even met.”
“That means that the last time I was with her, she got pregnant.”
“When was that?” Whitney asked.
“Two months after I left home.”
“That sounds about right,” Desiree confirmed.
“You mean to tell me that I’ve had a son all this time and she didn’t tell me?”
Desiree nodded. “That would be why you didn’t see her for months after you had been together. By the time you met Whitney, your son was well on his way to being potty trained.”
Whitney suddenly felt guilty. “Oh baby, forgive me.”
Isaias pulled her close and hugged her. “It’s all right honey. Always remember, that I love you no matter what. I’ll chase you until the end of the earth, because we belong together. You hear me?”
Whitney nodded. “Yeah. I’m sorry honey, I really am.”
“You still gonna marry me?”
“I’m glad. Now, it’s time for me to get some answers. I want you to stay here. Desi, stay with her. I’ll be back.”
“I want to go with you.”
“No. Please just stay here. I’ll be back.”
Isaias stormed off in search of the woman that deceived him. Owen saw him and called out to him.
“Isaias wait up!”
Isaias didn’t stop walking. “I’m gonna kill her.”
“More?” Isaias asked as he abruptly stopped.
“Vicki only held this from you, because your mother didn’t let her tell you.”
Isaias threw his head back in frustration. “Oh you have got to be kidding me!”
“No. Vicki only wanted to marry you, and your mother is ready to retire. They didn’t tell you because everything depended on you graduating.”
“My mother knew I’d drop out of school if I knew.”
“That’s right. Vicki had your son because she knew there was no way you could turn her down for marriage if she had your child.”
Isaias began moving again. “Now I’m going to kill the both of them.”
“Don’t make a scene.”
“Whitney has already made a scene. She is pissed.”
“Do you blame her? Come on man just calmly go over there and don’t let them know that you know.”
“We don’t have to audition new drummers now man. I’m staying in the band. I will take over the business and still be a part of what we started.”
“Do me a favor. Go and get Whitney and Desi for me. Meet me outside the main doors in ten minutes.”
“What are you gonna do?”
“I don’t know, but I have to get away from the two of them for a while.”
“You know my mother has planned a party for us at the lake.”
“We can still do that. But I can guarantee that neither Victoria nor my mother will be there.”
Isaias did his best to hide his anger. He found his mother and Victoria where he left them. Isaias looked at Victoria and was ready to speak when his mother beat him to it.
“Oh. I’m glad to see that you came to your senses.”
Isaias was confused. “Excuse me?”
“You can’t marry Whitney.”
“Shut up mother. Vic, tell me what happened.”
“A couple of months after you left home I came to see you. Do you remember that?”
“A couple of weeks later, I discovered that I was pregnant. I didn’t know what to do so I went to see your mother. She told me that I couldn’t tell you because you would drop out of school, and risk losing everything. So I didn’t tell you.”
“Is that true mother?”
“Yes it is.”
“So now what? I have a son. What happens now?”
“You get to know your son of course, and when you’re ready, you get married,” Charlotte said thinking Isaias was gonna fall in line.
“Is that all? Get to know him and then get married.”
Charlotte nodded. “Yes.”
Isaias turned his attention to Victoria. “Vic, what did your parents say about all of this?”
“They were disappointed at first, but then I told them what would happen if I told you about Jason. Then they agreed to keep the secret.”
Isaias shook his head. “I can’t believe it. You two have cooked up a good one this time. Well I tell you what. We will take it one-step at a time. I’ll meet my son, and then I will decide what I’m going to do next. I need a drink.”
“What about the party?” Nadia asked. “You have two hundred guests waiting for you at the house.”
“I’ll be there. I just need to be with people who really care about me right now. Mother, Victoria, I suggest you both go home. You are not welcome at my graduation party.”
Charlotte was surprised. “But Isaias honey I-”
Isaias pointed at his mother. “You are not welcome,” he said firmly and stormed toward the front door where he was going to meet up with his friends. When he got outside, they were waiting.
“Well, what did she say?” Owen asked.
“They both told me the same story they told you.”
“At least they didn’t lie about it.”
“So what do you all say? Let’s go home and shower, have a drink, and go to our party.”
“Sounds good to me. What about you Whitney?”
Isaias gazed at her. “You aren’t still mad at me are you?”
“No honey I’m not. You didn’t know. Question is, are you angry with me?”
“You know I’m not.”
“I just feel bad about the things I said. I didn’t mean it. I just wanted to hurt you.”
“I know that. That’s why I’m not angry.”
Whitney reached out and hugged him. “I’m glad honey.”
“I’m sorry Bishop couldn’t be here to see you graduate. I know he really wanted to be here.”
“Well, he just couldn’t get away. I’m sure he’ll be able to make it for our wedding.”
Owen was happy everything was fine between the two of them, but he was ready to go. “So are we going to stand here chatting, or are we going to go get ready?”
Isaias gave Whitney a chaste kiss and smiled. “Let’s go.”
Just then, Owen heard a familiar voice call him from a distance. When he turned around, he couldn’t believe his eyes. It was his father, and some unknown black woman.
Isaias watched as Richard and Grace walked toward them. “You gonna talk to him?”
Owen nodded. “Yeah. You go ahead. I’ll see you at the house.”
Isaias, Whitney, and Desiree left. Owen waited on his father to approach him. As he got closer, he could see his father was smiling, holding this strange woman’s hand. Richard stopped in front of his son and held out his hand to shake it.
Owen looked at his father’s out stretched hand, and chose not to shake it.
“What are you doing here? I don’t remember inviting you.”
“Your mother invited me.”
“Well you are my son. I didn’t want to miss this. She knows that.”
There was a long silence between the two of them. Grace decided to introduce herself.
“Nice to finally meet you, Owen,” she said smiling.
“And you are?”
Richard continued with the introduction. “This is Grace.”
Owen couldn’t believe it. “No way. A black woman?”
“Now you know why you didn’t meet her before now.”
“So why now?”
“I’m getting older, and I’m tired of hiding her. I don’t care anymore.”
“Does mother know she’s here?”
“Actually yes. She met her just before I saw you.”
“And she said?”
“Your mother smiled and shook Grace’s hand nicely. Your mother is a lady after all.”
“So what happens now? The three of you live at the house happily ever after?”
“No, and now is not the time to talk about it. You and I can talk about it later.”
“No we can’t. You know I don’t want anything to do with you or your other woman.”
“Owen, please. I don’t want to fight with you.”
“So why did you bring her in my face?”
“I wanted to apologize. I’m sorry for what happened the last time I saw you.”
“Too late for that.”
“I still love you, and I’m not perfect. You are my son, and you deserve everything your brother does. I want to make you and James partners.”
“I don’t want anything from you.”
“Hear me out. You and James will have an equal share of everything. That means you split everything down the middle fifty-fifty.”
Owen shook his head. “I don’t want anything to do with the wine business.”
“Well, too bad. You’re going to have it. I’m a wealthy man with two sons. Whether you like it or not, you are an heir to my fortune just like James. You don’t have to do anything. James and I talked about it. We will hire someone to run your half of the business until you are ready.”
“I really don’t care, and I’ll never be ready.”
Richard knew his son was stubborn, and continued. “When we do the interviews can you be there? We won’t hire anyone you think is shady. Then you can go on writing your music, and touring all over the world if you like. Just know if the music business doesn’t work out, you will have something to fall back on.”
“I won’t have to learn anything, or do anything?”
“Not if you don’t want to. The person we hire will report directly to me. I will protect your half of the business until you are ready. When you’re ready, you can have your position back.”
“Father, you misunderstand. I won’t have to learn anything or do anything, because I’ll never be ready.”
Grace hated standing by while the two of them argued like gentlemen. “Owen, we all get older, and seek stability. All your father is doing is preparing you for the future.”
“Does my future include you?”
“It doesn’t have to. But know that I love your father, and he loves me. Maybe one day we will get married. But I will never come between you and your mother. And if the both you and your father are blessed, you will get to know each other again. Perhaps you will forgive him in time, and be the son to him you once were.”
Owen not wanting to be rude replied, “Perhaps.”
Richard smiled. “I will let you go. I don’t want to keep you from your party.”
“Thanks,” Owen said as he turned to walk away.
“I’ll see you there, and we can talk more,” Richard said before Owen got to far from him.
Owen turned around. “You’re coming to the party?”
“Hell yeah, I paid for it. I want to give you a chance to get to know the person I’ve become. I’ve changed. And I know you have too. See you at the party son.”
Two hours later, the four of them show up ready to celebrate their graduation to official adulthood. When the limo pulled up, to their surprise, Nadia was leading the pack. She had fifty or more people in the front of the house waiting to greet them. As the door opened, everyone clapped and cheered. Owen was the first to get out of the limo followed by Desiree, Isaias, and finally Whitney. They smiled and waved at the crowd.
Owen smiled. “Hello everyone! Thank you all for coming! Eat, drink, and drink some more! My father is paying!” The crowd got louder. “I promise we will have at least two words with every one of you. For now, I have to talk to our wonderful hostess. Will you all excuse me?”
Everyone cheered and eventually moved to the garden. Owen waited until there were few people in the front of the house as possible to have a word with his mother.
She smirked. “Owen, no private moments today. I threw this party so you could socialize with your guests.”
“Just for a second I promise.”
“What is it now?”
“First, thank you, mother. You know I always appreciate whatever you do for me. Second, why is my father here and why is his whore with him?”
Nadia rolled her eyes. “Owen, you are my son. This party is for you and your friends. The differences you and your father share have nothing to do with that. I want you to forget that he is here with his mistress, and enjoy the party. We spent a hell of a lot of money on this one, and it will be a waste if you aren’t having fun. So please just be the center of attention for once. We can talk later.”
Owen held out his arm for Desiree, and she took it. Owen attempted to make his way to the garden, but Desiree held fast.
She looked at her soon to be mother in law, smiled, and said, “By the way Nadia dear, the wedding date has changed again. The third of July is when we are going to do it, and it is going to be a double ceremony.”
“Yes. Isaias and Whitney are still getting married, and we want to do this together.”
Nadia pursed her lips. “Whatever you say, Desiree.”
Owen smiled at his mother. “Well you said you loved her for her honesty. How much more honest can you get than that?”
They made their way into the garden, and greeted all of their guests one by one. Owen was avoiding his father the whole time. Eventually he would have to talk to him, or it would look bad in front of the guests.
Isaias was asked repeatedly where his charming mother was, and he simply said that she couldn’t make it. He was still angry, and Whitney felt it every time someone mentioned it. She however was happy. She was going to marry the man she loved, and there was no one that could stop her.
Two hours into the party, Nadia stopped the music. “Can I have everyone’s attention? Attention please! I have a surprise for Whitney.”
Whitney turned around in surprise. “For me?”
“Yes dear. Isaias, the blindfold please.”
Nadia continued as Isaias blindfolded Whitney. “Everyone, as you already know this is Whitney. She is a very special person in my son’s life, and he means everything to me. Knowing how close he is to his friends, I’ve tried to do something special for all of them today. Whitney was the hardest one, because I don’t know her very well. It wasn’t easy, but I did some probing, and I found the perfect gift.”
Whitney stood waiting on her surprise. Then she heard a familiar voice.
“You think you could graduate without me?” her brother asked.
“Bishop?” Whitney asked, pulling off her blindfold.
Bishop smiled. “I brought a cheese steak.”
Her mouth flew open as she hugged her brother around his neck.
“Congratulations, baby girl.”
“Oh I’m so glad you’re here. I thought you weren’t going to be able to come.”
“I couldn’t at first. But thanks to Nadia and Isaias, I’m here for you.”
Whitney was so happy, she grinned. “Thank you, Mrs. Thomas.”
Nadia smiled back. “You’re welcome.”
Without letting go of his waist, Whitney turned to the many people around her. “Everyone, this is my brother, Bishop.”
Bishop chuckled and looked at Isaias. “This shit is crazy. Since when does a hug deserve a standing ovation?”
Isaias chuckled as well. “Get used to it.”
“Let me talk to you alone for a minute, and I’ll tell you.”
“Certainly,” he said. He gave Whitney another hug, “I’m so proud of you,” and kissed her on the cheek.
The two men went off in a corner to attempt to get some privacy.
“How you been man?” Bishop asked.
“So what did you want to talk to me about?”
“What are you doing on the third of July?”
“How the hell should I know? That’s still two months away.”
“Plan your vacation now.”
“Come on man you’re not serious. I wouldn’t have been able to get out here now if it weren’t for Owen’s mother.”
“Plan on being gone for at least three weeks.”
Bishop shook his head. “There is no way I can be gone from work for three weeks. You know I have a very demanding position. I can’t leave my assistants for three weeks. The place would fall apart.”
“If you have any trouble, just tell your supervisor that you are going to make a call to the head office. Tell him you know the owners.”
“He’d never believe me.”
“If you say it with conviction, he may doubt you for a second, but he will eventually believe you.”
“Naw Isaias, I can’t do that. That would be a lie. I don’t lie to anyone.”
“Okay, okay. Plan on that vacation though. Have you ever been to Jamaica?”
“Isaias would you please tell me what the fuck is going on, and how you are so sure that this will work?”
Isaias chuckled. “Okay, okay. Remember a few months ago when your company was acquired?”
“Yeah. That’s happened a lot since I’ve been there. Although this time, there were no layoffs.”
“That’s because that’s not what we do.”
Bishop’s mouth fell open in surprise. “You’re kidding. You’re Atomic Steel?”
Isaias nodded. “I will be. My mother is running the company for now. I have one more thing to take care of, and then I will be in charge.”
“No way. When?”
“When I marry your sister.”
“I love her, and she will not get away from me. I’ve gone through hell to get her, and that is something that I wouldn’t do for just any woman. I’m going to marry her and take over my family business.”
Bishop shook his head in disbelief. “And to think I was worried about her when she came out here.”
Isaias only grinned. “I have her now. No need to worry.”
“My sister married to a steel mogul.”
“Not unless I have your blessing.”
“Of course. Marry her. She couldn’t have chosen a better man.”
“I’m glad you approve. Now, there is one other matter that I have to talk to you about. Seeing as Owen and I are getting married on the same day, we can’t be each other’s best men. So will you stand up with me?”
“Aw man, no doubt.”
“I’m glad. Thanks Bishop.”
“Can I bring my girl?”
“Whomever you like. Just be sure you tell Nadia how many you will be bringing.”
“I will.” Bishop smiled to himself and shook his head.
“What’s so funny?”
“Nothing. I was just thinking. My sister, married to the boss. I wish my parents were alive to see this.”
Isaias was happy to have Bishop on his side, and he had nothing else to worry about. Owen however was dealing with his own demons.
“So tell me again mother. Why is Grace here?”
“If I want to get away from your father, I have to play nice, and so do you. He’s going to give you half of what is his.”
Owen shook his head. “I don’t want it. If it means that he’s gonna continue to be able to hurt you, I don’t want it.”
“Take it. He may not be the best of men, but he is your father. If this is what we have to do to get away, take it.”
“Just as long as you know we don’t need it. If things go the way I planned, I will sign a huge record deal soon. You will still be a wealthy woman, but without all of the stress and pressure. You will have the opportunity to meet and join a new circle. One that is not so damn stuffy. You will learn how to have fun without being phony. Society pages will no longer matter.
“But if you are concerned about headlines, I’ve got one. Vigneron Richard Thomas to Get Divorce. If that one doesn’t suit you then how about, Son of Vigneron Richard Thomas makes it Big in Jazz. We have the power to control our own reputation. If money matters most to you, then I will do what he wants. I will accept my destiny and go into the wine business. I however don’t wish to do that. All I want is for you to be happy and safe.”
“If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times. Your father means nothing to me anymore, but he is your father. Accept his faults and don’t worry about me. I promise I won’t be homeless when we finally break up.”
“I want to be sure of that myself. Where is he?”
Nadia pointed towards one of the tents. “Over there.”
“Please excuse me mother.”
Owen walked in the direction of his father. Richard and Grace where talking to another couple when Owen made his way to him.
Richard looked up to find his youngest staring at him. “Owen.”
“I’d like you to meet Mr. and Mrs. Ignatius Dauchot. They are here on business, and I invited them to the party so they could meet you.”
Owen was surprised. “The owner of Blood Red Wines?”
“Oui,” Ignatius said.
Owen shook Ignatius’ hand. “How do you do Mr. and Mrs. Dauchot?”
“Richard has told us a lot about you, Owen.”
Owen glanced at his father. “All good I hope.”
“But of course.”
Ready to get on with his plans to talk to his father, Owen politely excused his guests. “It was a pleasure meeting you, but I would like to speak with my father now. I haven’t had a chance to talk to him all evening.”
“But of course. Come along dear.”
Owen watched the Dauchots until they were out of earshot. Then he spoke his mind.
“Really, father? The owner of Blood Red? You know his company is synonymous with gothic blood rituals, and most things that are pure evil. Why are you hanging out with him?”
“I thought you didn’t want anything to do with the wine business?”
“I don’t, but he’s bad news. Even I know that.”
“If you must know, I plan on forcing him to sell. Now I know you didn’t come over here to talk about the business, what’s up?”
“Okay, tell me. Where is my mother going to live when you go your separate ways?”
“Hasn’t she told you?”
“Would I be here asking if she had?”
“She’s not going anywhere. She gets the house.”
“And the staff?”
“The staff too. I’m moving out.”
“In with Grace I would assume.”
Grace shook her head. “Richard bought a new house. That’s where we’re going to live.”
“And what about this house?”
“You know I don’t sell my real property son. I thought you might like to live here. That is if you want to. Or, you can move in with your mother if you wish. Whatever you want. This house is yours if you want it.”
Owen was shocked that his father would offer him something that he himself loved more than any of his other properties.
“Let’s just call it a graduation present. You’ve always loved this place. I’m assuming Desiree likes it too.”
“Yeah. She does.”
“All right then it’s settled. When you have time we will take care of the paperwork.”
Not knowing what else to say, “Thank you, Father.”
“You’re welcome. Have you given more thought to what I asked you earlier?”
“Actually I have. I just want you to know that my music and Desiree come before anything else.”
“Okay, I’ll do it.”
“Wonderful. Thank you, son. Well I guess it’s time for us to do some more mingling. Grace hasn’t met everyone yet. We’ll talk later.”
Richard and Grace stood, and were about to walk away. “Oh yes. I forgot to say congratulations.”
“No you didn’t.”
“Not about school son. About Desiree. I think she will make you a wonderful wife.”
“Ta-Ta Owen,” Grace said cheerfully.
Owen sat down and tried to take in the conversation that just took place. In the meantime, his friends found him.
“What’s with the look?” Isaias asked.
“He gave me the house.”
“What house? This house?” Desiree asked.
“Really baby? We’re gonna live here?”
“I haven’t decided yet.”
“Oh honey, come on. It’s so beautiful here.”
“I haven’t decided yet Desiree,” Owen said firmly.
“All right, you don’t have to get mad at me.”
Whitney had a thought and looked up at Isaias. “That brings up a good point. Where are we going to live Isaias?”
“I thought we’d move in with mother.”
Whitney shook her head. “Oh no. I’m not going to live with her.”
“Only for a little while. She will be on her best behavior while we’re there. And besides the house is so big, you never have to see her if you don’t want to.”
“I have a better idea,” Owen said. “How about the two of you stay with me and Desi for awhile, wherever that may be. Isaias and I have may have many new things that will be coming at us extremely fast, and I don’t want to have to look for him when I need him.”
Isaias agreed. “He’s right. Between the wedding, my taking over the business, and touring, it’s a lot.”
“There’s more. What do you say we change where we honeymoon?” Owen asked.
Having her heart set on Jamaica, Desiree spoke up. “What? Why?”
“We can go to France instead,” Owen said plainly.
Whitney was confused. “France?”
Isaias jumped on the confused bandwagon. “Yeah I’ll say it too. France?”
“I have to learn a little about the wine business.”
“Baby, I thought you didn’t want anything to do with that or your father?”
“Things have recently changed, and I have to do this.”
“No you don’t. You have your music.”
“And I still will have my music. But my father has made me an equal partner in the family business, and I have to learn a little bit don’t I?”
Remembering Owen and James’ sibling rivalry, this also took him by surprise. “You and James? Share?”
“Yeah. I know he didn’t like it, but what could he say. When Richard Thomas puts his foot down, that’s it.”
“I see. Well I guess we can go to France for our honeymoon. What do you think Whitney?”
Whitney smiled. “We’ll do it for Owen.”
Desiree sighed. “I would have preferred Jamaica, but all right honey.”
“Good. I’m glad you all agree.”
“Oh,” Isaias said suddenly remembering. “I had better find Bishop. I told him we were going to Jamaica.”
“You invited him on our honeymoon?” Whitney asked.
“Yeah. I thought it would be nice for you to spend some time with him. You don’t get to see him that often.”
“I agree,” Owen said. “Besides, I like Bishop. He’s cool. I don’t mind if he comes along.”
“It’s settled then. However, I know there is something else that isn’t. It would seem that we aren’t quite drunk enough. It’s not official if you don’t get drunk at your graduation party.”
Desiree smiled. “Let’s do it. The wild child hasn’t made an appearance in a long time.”
“Ha! I’m with you girlfriend. Let’s go.”
The two women walked away hooting and hollering. Isaias and Owen watched as they made their way to the nearest bar.
“Well there they go,” Isaias began. “Would you have ever thought that we would end up with those two?”
“Not in a million years. Well come on man. Screw this champagne. Let’s go get some cognac.”
“Don’t get too drunk. You know what happened the last time.”
Owen chuckled. “I’ll be good.”
Isaias slapped his friend on the back. “Let’s go.”
Owen and Isaias hooted and hollered as well, and they continued to enjoy themselves. At the end of the night, not a one of them could say goodbye to their guests.
The following day, Charlotte and Victoria were at her house having breakfast. Charlotte no longer cared if Victoria came to see her, since her son was so angry with her.
“Charlotte, Isaias is going to be upset that I’m here.”
“Do you really think he cares? Right now, he can’t stand either one of us. Now there is no chance he will marry you at all.”
“But he still wants to get to know Jason. That’s all we have left. After all that was our goal.”
“No. You were supposed to be his wife. Not Whitney. I can’t stand it. That little black whore with my son.”
“That’s not fair Charlotte. You haven’t gotten a chance to get to know her. She’s a good person.”
“I don’t want to get to know her.”
“Well if you ever want to earn back the trust and love of your son, you had better try.”
“Oh! Victoria you are right. You are so right. I only wish he had chosen you. I had so many plans for the two of you. Now they are all gone out of the window.”
“That’s okay. Just so long as my son gets what is rightfully his, everything will be fine.”
“You again are correct. It really is all about Jason isn’t it?”
“Yes it is.”
“So when are you going to let Jason meet his father?”
“I was thinking, before they get married.”
Charlotte put her hand to her chin. “I wonder when that is.”
“Do you think we’ll be invited?”
“Of course. I’m his mother.”
“Well if I had to judge from yesterday? I don’t think that either one of us will be there.”
Charlotte sighed. “You may be right.”