White Boy Book 1: The Owen Thomas Story

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Chapter Fifteen

While everyone was in Paris enjoying the trip, Charlotte thought she would get together with Victoria to discuss how things were going on her end. Charlotte still wanted Isaias and Victoria to be a couple, but at this point, she already knew the chance of that was very slim.

While her son was off gallivanting in Paris, she decided she would invite Victoria to her house for lunch regardless of what the servants would tell Isaias when he got back. Charlotte was the parent, and she still had control of all of the money. If Isaias didn’t like it, so what. She would fire the insubordinate servant and replace them with a new one.

Frederick served them watercress sandwiches and tea. Charlotte sipped her tea, and watched Victoria take a bite of her sandwich.

“So, how’s it going?” Charlotte asked.

“As well as expected. Jason is winning Isaias over with every meeting.”

“Is there any chance that you can get in there and break Isaias and Whitney up?”

“Not a chance in hell that’s going to happen,” Victoria said shaking her head.

Charlotte tapped her fingers gently on the table, taking another sip of her tea before she asked, “So tell me about your date you brought to the wedding.”

Smiling nervously, “A friend of mine. His name is Heath.”

“Is it serious?”

“Is what serious?”

“The two of you.”

“No. Just dating.”

“I see,” Charlotte said, taking a bite of her sandwich. She waited until Victoria sipped her tea to continue. “Victoria, I don’t know whom you think you’re talking to, but I see more than you obviously want me to. What is that ring on your finger?”

Rolling her eyes, “Okay, okay. We’re engaged.”

“Thought so. Are you finally over Isaias?”

“It was a long fight,” Victoria sighed. “Honestly, I was tired after graduation. Heath asked me, and I said yes.”

Charlotte now knowing that Victoria only wanted to be married asked, “So what’s stopping you from getting married right away?”

“I want Isaias and Whitney to be comfortable in married life first. After all, when Heath and I go on our honeymoon, I would like Jason to be with his father while we are gone.”

“I see,” Charlotte said her mind on fire. “Have you ever thought about Jason staying with me or your parents?”

“I have, but you have him almost as much as my parents do. You all deserve a break, and Isaias deserves some time to get to know his son.”

Charlotte was curious. Victoria wasn’t saying anything out of line, but it still didn’t feel right. “So when they get home, what’s the plan?”

Taking a sip of her tea, Victoria replied, “I give them a couple of weeks to get settled. Heath and I get married, go on our honeymoon, and Jason is his.”

“How nice of you to think of Isaias,” Charlotte said.

This caught Victoria off guard. “What do you mean?”

“I mean, you broke his heart and still had his child. You are still looking out for his best interest even though he has no interest in you.”

Victoria sighed. “Truth is I will always love him. But you can’t force someone to love you if they don’t want to. Jason is now my only connection to my first love. I plan on taking advantage of it.”

Charlotte nodded. “How does Heath feel about this?”

“He doesn’t mind. He told me he only wants to spend most of his time with me.” Victoria was lying through her teeth at that point, but she couldn’t help it. She knew Charlotte was smart and could see through almost anything. “He’s fine with it.”

“You’re not planning to abandon Jason are you? Because if that is your choice. I will gladly take him in right now.”

Afraid of the small powerful woman, Victoria shook her head. “No. Not at all. Heath and I only want Isaias to get to know his son. Heath loves him. He’s an extremely sweet child.”

“Yes. That, he is.”

Victoria quickly changed the subject. If she went on talking about Jason, she might accidentally reveal her plan. “So what’s going on with the business?” She asked, eating the last of her sandwich.

“It’s fine. I’ve told the board I will be stepping down soon. They know Isaias will be stepping in. I will be there for a while as his advisor. After that I change the conditions of my will to include Jason, and then I can go back to the life I enjoy.”

“Wonderful.”

Charlotte and Victoria continued their lunch. As they were talking, Charlotte was observing Victoria’s actions quite closely. Charlotte was almost as good as Owen was, when it came down to reading people.

Charlotte saw what Whitney saw at the reception. She knew it was possible that Jason was not her grandson, yet she still loved him. If Victoria didn’t want to take care of her child, that was fine with her. Knowing her current situation with Isaias, she would have to handle this news gently.

Charlotte still didn’t care for Whitney for the obvious reasons, but maybe Victoria wasn’t such a good choice for Isaias after all. Perhaps Charlotte would learn to accept her new daughter in law for who she was and not the color of her skin. Whitney would turn out to be her best ally in convincing Isaias of the truth, if Victoria wasn’t being honest about Jason.

In the three weeks that Isaias and Whitney were gone, Charlotte made it a point to spend as much time with Victoria and Heath as she possibly could. By the time Isaias was to return, Charlotte had made up her mind that she would accept Whitney, to get back into her son’s good graces. She would tell the both of them what she believed to be the truth about Jason, and after that she would let the chips fall where they may.

The trip to Paris had come to an end, and everyone returned home. Isaias remembered what his mother asked, and went to see her upon his return. Charlotte was at home waiting for Whitney and Isaias to arrive. She decided she would apologize to Whitney and tell her, her true feelings. She was busy reading when Frederick came in.

“Mr. Isaias and Miss Whitney have arrived Mrs. Reynolds.”

“Thank you, Frederick. Please show them in here.”

Moments later, Isaias and Whitney walked into the library. Charlotte made a point to welcome Whitney home first. She walked to her and gave her a big hug.

“Welcome home.”

“Okay mother. What’s going’ on?” Isaias asked, with a confused look on his face.

Charlotte smiles a devious smile and replied, “Welcome home, Isaias.”

“Thank you, mother. Are you going to answer my question? What’s going on?”

She ignored him. “Isaias dear, I want to talk to Whitney alone. Do you mind?”

Isaias still wanted to know what his mother was up to, but realized she wasn’t going to tell him. He stood there for a moment and stared. “No,” he finally replied. “Go right ahead. I’ll be upstairs.”

The two women watched as Isaias left the library. Charlotte closed the door behind him.

“Whitney, I wanted to apologize to you.”

“For what?”

“For not giving you a chance. I’m sorry I couldn’t see how much you and Isaias really love each other.”

Not knowing what Charlotte was up to Whitney was cautious in her question. “So are you saying that you’re sorry because you were rude to me? Or because you need Isaias in your life. Now that you know I’m first in his life you’re willing to compromise.”

Charlotte wanted lash out at Whitney for her apparent rudeness, but she wasn’t going to get to the truth if she did.

“Okay look,” Charlotte sighed. “I will be the first to admit you weren’t my first choice. I’ve never in my life associated with black people other than servants. I’m willing to give you a chance though.”

Whitney smirked. “Because of Isaias.”

“Yes, and because I know you’re a smart woman.”

Still not sure where Charlotte was going, Whitney shrugged. “So I have a degree from a science university so what.”

“I’m not sure if Jason is my grandson,” Charlotte said not wanting to argue with Whitney.

“What?”

Charlotte picked up her glass of tea and took a sip. “I know you know feel it too.”

“How?”

“Oh I’m sorry dear. I forgot my manners. Would you like something?”

“No. How did you know I feel the same as you?”

“The reception. I was watching Isaias and Jason together. When I looked at them, I saw none of my son in that precious boy. Mostly Victoria, but none of Isaias. As I was watching Isaias interact with Jason, I was also watching you.”

“Me? Why?”

“I wanted to know if you would be able to love my son and accept his. But instead, I saw confusion and concern in your eyes. It was then you and I saw the same thing at almost the same time.”

“So now we both feel what Isaias isn’t willing to accept.”

“You’ve already spoken to him?”

“Of course. He’s been hurt enough. I wasn’t going to allow it to happen again.”

“What did he say?”

“He accused me of being jealous. So I stayed away from him until he agreed to get proof.”

“This happened in Paris?”

“Yes.”

“Well I can only assume that you got through to him.”

“For the moment.”

“So what is he planning? Did he say?”

“He told me he would start with you and not stop until he had the truth.”

“I see.”

“What else do you know?” Whitney asked.

“I’ve talked to Victoria face to face…” Charlotte went on to tell Whitney what she and Victoria discussed. “…Do you believe me?”

Whitney nodded. “I do.”

Charlotte sighed. “I’m glad. So what do we do now? How do we get Isaias to believe us?”

“First, we have to start getting along. We will never be able to convince Isaias of anything if he doesn’t believe we like each other.”

Charlotte frowned. “Like is a strong word at this point don’t you think?”

Whitney rolled her eyes. “Okay. So we convince him that we can get along. That is if you really want too. We both want the same outcome in all of this. But after this is over, if you are going to continue to dislike me for no other reason than prejudice then I can’t do it.”

“I know the two of you love each other very much. Now an innocent sweet little boy is involved. I think I can get to know you as a person if it will get Isaias to see the truth.”

“Do you mean that?”

Charlotte nodded.

Whitney looked away from Charlotte for a moment, and was quiet for a while. She decided to let Charlotte in on a little bit of her past.

“Both of my parents were killed by a prejudice cop.”

Surprised, Charlotte replied. “I didn’t know.”

Whitney looked Charlotte in the eyes and continued. “They were coming home from dinner. The officer said they fit the descriptions of a couple wanted for series of burglaries in town. My parents were innocent. The couple that was running around loose was in their twenties. My parents were in their forties.

“A bigot with a gun decided my parents were the guilty ones that night. So he pulled them over, shot both of them, and planted a gun in the car. He almost got away with it. If it hadn’t been for a weapon missing from the evidence locker, he would have gotten away.

“It destroyed my brother. Up until that point, he trusted and liked white people. After my parents were killed, he turned prejudice himself. The cop was sent to jail, but it didn’t matter to my brother. He believed all white people hated black people and they only existed to wipe out the black race.”

Charlotte was beyond curious at this point. “How is it that he stood up with Isaias?”

“Bishop came out here while we were still in school, and somehow after four hours, they bonded. I have no idea how, but as time went on, they became closer. Now the two of them are friends, and Bishop is back to his old self.”

“That’s incredible. How old were you when your parents died?”

“Thirteen. Bishop was twenty. If it hadn’t been for me, I think he would have done something drastic. It was his love for me that saved him from the death penalty.”

“I wish Isaias had a younger sibling to look after,” Charlotte said quietly.

“Why didn’t you have anymore children?”

“Isaias was my miracle. Neither one of us should be here. The doctors told me I shouldn’t get pregnant. Charles needed and heir, and as his wife, I wanted to give him one. I waited three months to tell him I was pregnant. That way he couldn’t make me give up the baby.

“It was a hard pregnancy. When it was time for Isaias to arrive, they had to revive me from death twice. Charles was furious with me for risking my life. But I made it and so did my son. My doctor tied my tubes after that. Since I knew Isaias would be my only child, I protected him all of his life. And yes, I’m still doing it.”

“Well that explains a lot. So how is it that you dislike black people so much?”

“My story is similar to yours, but it will have to wait until you and I are away from the house. I don’t want Isaias or any of my staff to know about it. It is a secret that my husband only knew after we were married. It is the reason Frederick is the only black person on my staff. Of all of them, I know that he truly has my best interest at heart.”

“I can’t wait to hear it.”

“We can go have lunch tomorrow and I’ll tell you. But for now, we talk to Isaias.”

“Okay. Would you like me to go get him?”

“No. That is what the staff is for dear. This is what I want you to do. Come over here and push this button. This button will call Frederick to come to you. When he gets here, tell him you need to talk to Isaias.”

“I don’t know if I can. I’ll feel better if I go and get him myself.”

“Unacceptable.”

“Unacceptable? Why?”

“You’re a rich woman now, Whitney. Like it or not this is how it works in my house. Now be a good girl, come over here, and do what I asked you to do.”

Moments later, the door opened, and Frederick appeared in the doorway of the library.”

“Would you like something Mrs. Reynolds?”

“No Frederick, I didn’t call for you. Whitney did.”

“What can I do for you Miss Whitney?”

“I need to talk to my husband. Can you ask him to come down here please?”

“Certainly Miss. I will have Isaac retrieve him for you.”

“Thank you, Frederick.”

Frederick turned and went on with his duty.

“Now Whitney dear was that so hard? You’re a pro after your first try,” Charlotte smiled and tapped Whitney on the leg.

“I don’t know if I will ever get used to that.”

“Nonsense dear. It’s the same as asking one of your friends to do something. The only difference is that your staff is paid to do what they do. Believe me they are not in the least bit disturbed by you telling them what to do.

“By the way, have you and Isaias decided where you were going to live?”

“No. We haven’t had a chance to discuss it yet.”

“Where are you now?”

“At the Thomas house.”

“With Nadia and Richard?”

“No. Owen and Desiree.”

“Oh, I’m sure that is temporary. When you think you are ready to trust me, you’re more than welcome to move in here if you like.”

Before Whitney could answer, Isaias stepped into the library.

“You wanted to see me Whitney?”

“Yes honey. Your mother and I want to talk to you about something. Close the door, and have a seat.”

Isaias closed the door and sat in the chair between his wife and his mother. “What’s this about?”

“Jason,” Charlotte said without hesitation.

“Funny you should bring him up. I was going to talk to you about him later. So what about him?”

“Whitney and I have talked and neither one of us believe for one second that he is your son.”

Isaias felt betrayed. “So Whitney, did you poison my mother’s mind too?”

Whitney opened her mouth to yell at her husband, and Charlotte interrupted. “She did no such thing. I was just as convinced as she was that Jason was my grandson until Victoria showed up at the wedding with Heath.”

“Your mother saw the exact same thing I did.”

Anger began seething from his pores. “Are you asking me to give him up? Because if you are, I’m not doing it.”

Charlotte sighed. “Isaias listen. If Jason isn’t your son, you can’t keep him.”

“I’m sure Victoria will let you see him honey, but we don’t think he’s your son,” Whitney said trying to keep Isaias calm.

Isaias sat between the two women in his life and pursed his lips for a moment before he spoke. Convinced that Jason was his son, he loved him. But what if his mother and Whitney were right? “So how do we prove it?”

“Any ideas Whitney?” Charlotte asked.

“Besides coming right out and asking for a DNA test, nothing comes to mind.”

Still highly frustrated and confused, Isaias asked, “Well, why would Victoria do this?”

“It’s my fault,” Charlotte admitted. “I wanted to see you get back together with Victoria remember? So I helped her. Only then, I was sure that Jason was my blood.”

“But now that we are almost sure that he isn’t the question is, what is she really up to?” Whitney asked.

“She knows that there is no one in the world that will ever separate me from you,” Isaias declared.

“I know that. So what else could it be?”

Charlotte then realized something she said in her last conversation with Victoria.

She uncharacteristically smacked herself in the forehead. “Oh I’m so stupid.”

“What is it mother?”

“Not long before you got back from Paris, I had lunch with Victoria. We were talking about what her plans were. She told me she had given up trying to break the two of you up. We were talking about the arrangement that she wants when they go on their honeymoon.”

Shocked, Isaias asked, “Victoria’s getting married? Did she say that?”

“Yes she did.”

“Okay, what arrangement?”

“She’s going to bring Jason to you while she is gone for how ever long so that the two of you can bond.”

“Okay so?”

“Right after she saw that I was okay with it, she immediately asked about the business.”

Whitney was just as confused as Isaias. “What did that have to do with anything?”

“That’s where I got careless. I told her my plans for the business, and I did mention putting Jason in my will.”

Isaias smacked the arm of the chair he was sitting in. “Money. That’s it.”

Still confused, Whitney said, “That doesn’t make sense. Isn’t she an heiress?”

Charlotte shook her head. “Not to the entire estate. Victoria’s older brother will inherit most everything. And when he has children, they will benefit from that wealth. Victoria will probably get one of the properties, and an allowance, but that’s it. Therefore there is nothing for her children.”

“So she figured that a baby would bring us back together, and she will then be an heiress to my estate, and Jason would benefit from that.”

Whitney sat back in her chair. “I have to admit she’s crafty.”

“No. Actually, I’m the crafty one. All of this happened because I helped her. Oh, son I’m so sorry. I never would have put you through this had I just known the truth. Every single move that’s she’s made she did because I coached her.”

“It’s not too late to fix things,” Whitney stated.

“Just think if I’d never met Heath, I would’ve gone on thinking Jason was my blood,” Charlotte said apologetically.

“You have Whitney to thank for that,” Isaias said. “I wanted to invite you and Victoria to the wedding. I wasn’t mad anymore, and I would have never been able to live with myself if you were banned from my wedding. But I couldn’t disrespect Whitney. She said it would be okay. If she had said no, none of us would have ever known.” Isaias paused for a moment and suddenly thought of something else. “Oh man, now that I think about it, she was setting me up too. Do you remember when we first met Jason in the park?

Whitney nodded. “Yeah.”

“Well while you and Jason were playing, Vic and I were talking about him. I don’t think she intended to say it, but she told me that when Jason was older, if he wanted to come live with me he could.”

“Why didn’t you say anything?”

“Because I knew you wouldn’t reject the idea if you thought Jason was my son.”

Whitney also remembered that she might have been set up as well. “I bet that’s what that whole getting to be my friend thing was about as well.”

Charlotte shook her head. “Actually, that was my idea. But she did manage to pull it off.”

Whitney shook her head. “No she didn’t. She wasn’t very convincing, and I told Isaias not to trust her. I got along with Victoria because that’s what Isaias wanted. I never trusted her for one second.”

“So once she thought you were in place, she altered the plan. I never knew Heath existed. Her parents must also be in on this, because when I would go to see them, they would never mention that Victoria had a boyfriend, but there was no way that they couldn’t know he existed.”

Anger now more evident in his eyes, Isaias asked, “So what’s the plan now mother? You got us all in this, how do we get out?”

“Relax Isaias. Remember, Jason is innocent in all of this. We don’t want to hurt him.”

“There’s no way around it,” Whitney began. “Besides he’s young, and doesn’t quite understand things yet.”

“How do you think he’s going to react when he finds out he can’t come spend time with his nana anymore?” Charlotte said.

Isaias rolled his eyes. “Oh mother, he will heal.”

Turning sharply to her husband. “But what about you? How soon will it take you to heal? You’ve only known him for a short time, and you are just as close to him as your mother is.”

“Time will take care of that.”

“So do we confront her with a DNA test or what?” Whitney asked.

Charlotte suddenly had one of her best ideas to date. “No. The pawns will play the masters game. But what the master doesn’t know is that the pawns are better at the master’s game, than the master.”

Enjoying the fact that she was on Charlotte’s team this time, Whitney smiled. “I like it. What do we do?”

Charlotte, in her best element, began barking orders. “Find out when the honeymoon is going to be. Isaias that will be your job. All of the planning in the world will be for nothing if she manages to get Jason the house. Whitney, you are going throw your first dinner party. When we find out the day they are planning to leave, we start the working on the guest list. Isaias I know what you’re thinking, and no, I won’t leave you in the dark. I’m planning to get her to confess, and then we get to humiliate her.

“The humiliation is going to be the best part for me. Not only will Victoria humiliate herself, she will drag her backstabbing parents into it as well, and that will make me happy.”

“How do you know exactly what will happen mother?”

Charlotte smiled and tapped Isaias on the leg. “Don’t you worry about that son? You just do your part.”

“What’s the occasion?” Whitney asked.

“We’re rich dear. We don’t need an occasion to have a party. That’s what we do. Come on Whitney, I know you’re a bright young woman, but you’re a little slow on the uptake sometimes, so try to keep up okay? Oh and one more thing. No one, I mean absolutely no one is to know what we are planning. If reactions are going to be genuine, then only the three of us are to know what is actually going on.”

The next day, Charlotte was ready to get on with her brilliant plan. She allowed Isaias and Whitney to enjoy each other for most of the morning. She had some business to take care of, but after it was finished, it was time for lunch. Charlotte personally went to her son’s room, and knocked on the door.

Isaias rolled over and groggily said, “Yes?”

“It’s your mother dear. Can I come in?”

“One moment mother.”

Both Whitney and Isaias got out of bed and put on their robes.

“Come on in mother.”

Charlotte was as chipper as she’d been in a long time. “Good afternoon, my happy lovebirds. Are we ready to shake things up in this crazy town?”

Isaias looked at Whitney and smiled. “I’m as ready as you are.”

“Well good. Call Victoria and tell her you would like to see her. Get over there and get that date for me. Whitney, you and I are going to have lunch so we can talk some more. So children come on, get moving. Things to do, lives to destroy!”

“Mother,” Isaias said dryly.

Charlotte put her hand to her mouth. “Oh I’m sorry. Did I say that aloud? I guess I did. Well hurry up. Whitney I expect to see you downstairs in the foyer in thirty minutes. Come on! Hop to it!” And she turned and left the room.

Whitney turned to Isaias. “Is she always this happy in the morning?”

“No, not generally. Only when she’s excited about something.”

“Okay good. I don’t think I’d be able to live here if she was that happy every morning.”

Isaias leaned in and kissed Whitney on the cheek. “I love you. Now get going. You know how long it takes you to do your hair.”

Isaias and Whitney showered and left the house in different directions. Charlotte chose one of her favorite teahouses to take Whitney to lunch. They sat down, and Charlotte immediately got on with her story.

“My family was from the south. We were wealthy thanks to years of tobacco farming. So by the shear nature of my family history, I should think black people beneath me. Growing up, my mother made sure to tell me that all black women were whores, and black men were dangerous. After years of listening to her, I eventually believed, and felt it in my heart. So I began living my life as such.

“I was just turning sixteen. There was a boy by the name of Gregory Elliott. I liked him, and he liked me. We would often go out to the tobacco field and make out. We never had sex, because girls of my social status and upbringing waited until we were married.

“One day Gregory decided that he was going to take my virginity whether I was ready or not. So we snuck out to the tobacco field for our usual make out session. It was there that he attempted to rape me. I screamed and yelled, and it seemed that no one heard me, and no one was going to help me. The next thing I knew, Frederick came out of nowhere. He struggled with Gregory, and made sure I was okay. We went to his room and took care of my cuts and bruises. Afterwards he sent me to my room, and said that everything would be fine.

“Even though we never spoke of it again, we had a special relationship from that point on. When Charles and I were seriously thinking about marriage, I wanted Frederick to come and live with us. My parents resisted. Frederick was my father’s valet, and first footman in our house, so they couldn’t really afford to let him go, but they really wanted me to marry Charles. I told them that I would not marry him unless Frederick could come with me. They had no choice. Our marriage was going to benefit both families.

“So after our honeymoon, Frederick came to live with Charles and me. He has been my best friend and my savior for years. No one but Charles ever knew that. And now you know. You cannot ever tell Isaias or talk to Frederick about it. Understand me?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“Now as far as my dislike towards black people goes. I still believed what my mother told me all of those years ago. By being wealthy, it was easy for me to keep to certain circles.”

“So did you teach Isaias what your mother taught you?”

“I tried. That is why I was shocked when he showed up at Nadia’s party with you.”

“No, I saw your face. You were appalled.”

Charlotte nodded. “Thinking back on it, maybe I was. But it wasn’t fair to you. I see that now.”

“Why should I believe that you suddenly like me?”

“Weren’t you listening to me earlier? I have just told you a secret that only two other people in the world knew about. One knows the secret because he was there. The other knew it because he was my husband. Doesn’t that say something to you dear?”

“I suppose it does. Can I ask you something? So was your husband’s family in the tobacco business as well?”

“Actually they were. Ever hear of CJ Reynolds?”

“You’re kidding. Not the makers of ALD cigarettes.”

“The same. He was Charles’s grandfather.”

“So your family grew the tobacco, and your husband’s family manufactured the finished product.”

“Yes. My family eventually became manufacturers as well.”

“What’s your maiden name?”

“Morris.”

“Oh no way. Andrew Morris?”

“My grandfather.”

“What a legacy.”

“Charles however didn’t want our children to be around cigarettes. So he chose to start his own business.”

“Atomic Steelworks.”

“Yes. Well I’m not going to bore you with all of the details of that right now. You will hear it when I sit the both of you down and start on your education.”

“Both of us?”

“Yes, Whitney. It is your duty to know what your husband does for a living, so that if something happens to him before your children are ready to take over, you can step in and keep it going.”

“You mean one day I could be like you?”

Charlotte nodded. “Yes, but you don’t want to be like me. Trust me. You want Isaias to live a long and happy life so that you never have to work. This way you can enjoy being spoiled and pampered wherever you go. People will go out of their way to help you, and you will always get star treatment. Now doesn’t that sound like fun?”

“I guess so.”

“Well you will soon find out. As soon as you throw this dinner party, you will be the talk of the town. Because rich people around here are generally nosy, soon, everyone will want to have you at their house for dinner.”

“I’m nobody. Why would they want to invite me?”

“You stopped being nobody the day you married Isaias.”

“I don’t understand.”

Charlotte rolled her eyes. “As brainy as you are, you really don’t have a clue, do you?”

Whitney shook her head. “No.”

“For instance if Atomic Steel comes up at the spa, you and or Isaias being the topic of conversation, you will be invited to a function just so your host can find out what’s going on.”

Whitney frowned. “I don’t know if I like that.”

“Don’t worry, Whitney dear. With Nadia and me, coaching both you and Desiree, you will be old pros inside a year. Now let’s get back and see if Isaias has our information. If so, then we start on the guest list.”

Isaias went to see Victoria as his mother instructed. He sat in his truck and thought about the task he was supposed to take care of. Could he do it and not destroy his mother’s plan? He didn’t know. But he had to try if he was going to get to the truth. With one car in the driveway, he was aware that only one of them was at home. Hopefully, it was Victoria.

Isaias got out of his truck and knocked on the door. To his relief, Victoria answered it.

“Hello Isaias,” Victoria said, smiling.

“Hello Vic. Can I come in?”

“Sure.” She stepped back and allowed Isaias to enter. “We’re alone. Heath’s at work. Jason is at my mother’s house.”

Isaias nodded. “Good. I just have a few questions to ask you that I couldn’t ask over the phone.”

“Okay honey, go ahead.”

“First, how long have you and Heath been dating and why you didn’t tell me?”

Victoria shrugged. “I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want to hurt your feelings. And it’s been almost a year now.”

Jealous, Isaias almost blew his cover. “You didn’t want to hurt my feelings? What in the hell is that supposed to mean? Oh, you know what never mind. I didn’t come here to argue with you.”

“Okay then.”

Isaias calmed down and asked his next question. “How’s Jason?”

“He’s fine. I can bring him by your mother’s house if you want to see him.”

Thinking of his busy schedule, Isaias replied. “We’ll see. I am going to be quite busy for a few days. Speaking of my mother, she mentioned that she had lunch with you not long before I got back from Paris.”

Victoria clicked her teeth. “I thought you said that I could see your mother on occasion.”

Isaias nodded. “That’s fine. I’m not angry. But she told me that you were getting married.”

Victoria stood with an extremely proud smile on her face and replied, “Yes, Isaias I am. Heath asked to marry me, I said yes.”

Not wanting to be jealous, he had no real reason to be, he hesitated. Did he still love Victoria? No. He went on with his mother’s plan. “Oh, I see. So when’s the wedding?”

“Three weeks.”

“Honeymoon?”

“Bora, Bora.”

“Nice,” Isaias said, genuinely approving of her choice. He then continued on with business. “My mother also told me Jason was going to be staying with me while you’re gone.”

“I was going to discuss that with you after the invitations went out.”

“How long will you be gone? I do have several things going on in my life now, Vic.”

“We’ll be gone for two weeks.”

Isaias nodded. “Thanks. Now I can plan work and rehearsal around Jason’s visit.” Isaias was silent for a moment. He wanted to be sure his little boy was being taken care of so he asked the question. “So how does Heath treat Jason? I mean is he nice to him? Does he play with him?”

“Of course.”

Isaias’ next question never should have left his mouth. “What does Jason call him?”

“You’re worried that Heath is trying to take Jason from you.”

Isaias rolled his eyes. “Answer the question, Vic. And don’t lie to me.”

Victoria paused for a long time and attempted to think of a quick lie, but none of them would sound like the truth, so she answered. “Daddy.”

Isaias exploded. “What!”

Victoria clicked her teeth. “Oh come on Isaias, what was I supposed to do?”

“Do about what!” Isaias yelled.

“Jason asked me why Heath was coming to live with us, and I told him that he was going to be my husband. Then he looked at me with those beautiful eyes and asked, so does that mean he’s going to be my daddy? And without thinking, I told him yes.”

Isaias punched her sofa and Victoria backed away. She’d seen him angry when they were a lot younger, but this was a new adult anger, and it scared her.

“Victoria Lynn Tyler you have got to start using your head! Now you’ve gone and got my son thinking he has two fathers! I’m his father, got that? Me!”

“I’m sorry Isaias it just slipped out,” Victoria said apologetically.

Isaias sighed. “Okay Vic, okay. I’m sorry I yelled at you. I know it must have been hard for you all of this time without me. I’m sorry. Forgive me?”

“I didn’t mean to hurt you, Isaias. I still want your friendship. It’s important for us to be friends for Jason’s sake.”

“You’re right. Well, I have to go. Oh before I forget. Whitney is going to throw her first formal dinner party. I don’t know the details but I do know that you and Heath are on the guest list.”

“Tell her thank you for thinking of us.”

“I will. You should get a formal invitation soon.”

“I look forward to it.”

“Goodbye, Vic.”

“Tell Whitney I said hello.”

Isaias nodded and left her house. The whole way back to his mother’s house, he was thinking about how stupid he was. Victoria duped him again, and this time it was serious. With his short visit, he was now almost sure that Jason wasn’t his son, but Heath’s. After the dinner party was over with, he would never see or talk to her ever again. He would be sure Owen did the same.

He pulled up to the driveway, leapt from the driver’s seat, and went into the house. Isaac greeted him.

“Good evening, sir.”

“Please park my truck for me, Isaac.” Isaias didn’t wait on a response. He immediately went to the library where he was sure to find at least his mother. Sure enough, she was there with Whitney sharing a glass of wine. Isaias closed the doors behind him and stormed to his favorite chair in the library. Isaias didn’t say anything, but his anger radiated from his body.

Almost afraid to say anything, Whitney asked, “How’d it go honey?”

Isaias was very short. “They are getting married in three weeks. October first is when they are leaving for their honeymoon, and they will be gone for two weeks.”

Charlotte smiled in spite of her son’s obvious anger. “Good job, Isaias.”

Isaias rested his elbow on one of the arms of the chair and then put his chin in his hand. “Well I don’t feel so good about it.”

“What happened?”

“Well, I figured I’d play it up so she wouldn’t suspect anything. I asked one question I never should’ve asked her, but I had to know. This would be the proof I needed to be sure. I asked her what Jason calls Heath. Do you know what that underhanded low life bitch told me?”

Charlotte took a sip of wine. “Isaias no need for such language.”

Isaias was too upset to be bothered with his mother’s correction. “Daddy. She let my son call her boyfriend or fiancé daddy. She had me believing Jason was my son. How could she do this to me?”

“Oh honey I’m sorry,” Whitney said, gently touching her husband’s leg.

“It’s all right Whitney. When this is over, I will be happy to be rid of her for good. Then we can start on our own family.”

Surprised, Charlotte asked, “So soon?”

Isaias raised his head and snapped, “You want grandchildren don’t you mother?”

“Yes, but-”

“I want three. A son to take over for me, and two wonderful and beautiful daughters like my wife and my mother. They will not call me father. I want them to call me daddy. No wait. Dad. That’s even better.”

“I realize you’re upset dear, but isn’t that going a bit too far?” Charlotte asked, raising an eyebrow.

“They will know to call me father in public mother no need to worry. And to top it all off, I will make sure that Owen never speaks to her again. The friendship I shared with that woman for thirteen years is over. Well if my part in this is finished for now, I think I’m gonna go lie down. Excuse me.”

Isaias got up and stormed out of the room leaving the doors open when left. Whitney and Charlotte looked at each other, surprised.

“Should I go after him?” Whitney asked.

“No. Leave him be. He’ll be fine. Besides we have things to take care of.”

Isaias made it to his room before the tears came. Victoria would get every bit of what she deserved for all of the lies she told over the last four years. She would get what she deserved for all of the pain and anguish she has caused. Isaias was determined now to make her life a living hell. He hadn’t had to do his angry ritual in a while, so he started. When he got to the phone call, for the first time in four years he didn’t call Victoria. Instead, he called Smoke.

“Talk to me man,” Smoke said, having no idea what was going on.

“Hey what’s up?” Isaias said quietly.

“Nothing.” Smoke paused only for a second and heard a familiar sound. “Hey, is that Miles in the background?” He knew Isaias only listened to Miles Davis when he was extremely angry about something.

“She lied to me,” Isaias said taking a sip of his drink.

Smoke sighed. “Aw man you’ve got to be kidding me. Ya’ll just get married, and you’re fighting already?”

“Not Whitney, man. Vic.”

“What did she do?”

“You have to swear on Brenda’s life that you will not utter a word to anyone. What I’m about to tell you can’t get out. Owen doesn’t know what I’m about to tell you, and he can’t know right now.”

“Okay, so what’s up?”

Isaias told Smoke the entire story. He left out the part about the dinner party.

“You’re shitting me man,” Smoke said in disbelief. “No way.”

“Yes. Yes she did.”

“Evil.”

“I know.” Talking about it was not making Isaias feel any better. “Man I gotta go. I can’t talk about it anymore. Instead of calming down, I’m getting angrier. I’ll talk to you later. And remember no one can know. Not even Brenda.”

“I swear I won’t tell a soul.”

Isaias hung up the phone. His anger was growing just thinking about it. He started punching the walls. He managed to punch a hole in the wall and break his hand just as Whitney was coming in the door.

“Aww shit!” Isaias yelled in pain.

Whitney panicked. “Honey what happened?”

“I think I broke my hand.”

Whitney looked at the fist-sized hole in the wall. “And the house. Your mother is going to have a fit.”

In agony Isaias asked, “Can we go to the hospital now?”

“Certainly. Come on honey let’s get going. Isaac! Isaac!”

Isaac made it to the room in a panic. “Yes Miss, what is it?”

“Mr. Isaias has broken his hand. I need you to bring his truck around for me please.”

Concerned for his master, Isaac ran to the carport and brought the car to the front of the house, and by the time he got out, Whitney was coming out of the front door with Isaias gently cradling his hand.

“Thank you, Isaac. Please tell Bella there are repairs to be made in our room, and inform Mrs. Reynolds where we have gone.”

“Yes Miss.” Isaac turned to do as Whitney asked.

“Oh Whitney, I’m sorry,” Isaias said.

“You can apologize after we get you fixed.”

Whitney sped off in the direction of the hospital. Three hours later, they came back to the house in not so much of a hurry. Charlotte met them at the door.

“Are you all right, Isaias?”

“I’m fine mother.”

“How did you break your hand?”

Not wanting to inform Charlotte that her house was damaged, Whitney turned her attention to Isaias. “He’s on painkillers that are due to take effect any minute. Let’s get him in bed first.”

“I’m fine. I can go alone,” Isaias protested.

Whitney shook her head. “No, you can’t. Come on.”

They went upstairs, and Charlotte followed them. Whitney helped Isaias to the bed, and made him lie down. Charlotte watched as Whitney made sure Isaias was comfortable. She looked slightly to her left and saw the fist sized hole in her wall. Then she knew how her son broke his hand. She was upset. It was not so much the wall she was upset about, but the hole in the six hundred dollar a panel antique French wall paper that made her want to scream.

“Isaias how could you to this?” she asked walking over to the wall and stroking it.

“I’m sorry mother, I was angry.”

She turned to her son and said, “You do realize I can no longer get this wallpaper, now the whole room will have to be redone.

“It’s no big deal mother. We can just hang a picture over it.”

Charlotte looked at the waist high whole again. “Was this a punch to the gut? Seriously, Isaias, we can’t hang a picture this low. I hope you feel better, because I don’t. This is going to cost a fortune.”

“Well can it wait at least until I’m better?”

“No. I can’t have construction being done on the house when Whitney is about to have her debut. I will have to start on this tomorrow. In the meantime, you can both go home. When you return, this room will be totally redone. Whitney do you have a unisex color you like?”

“Burgundy. Why?”

“You will be the mistress of this house one day. I’m sure that you will want to decorate it the way you see fit. Since your husband decided to put a hole in my antique wall paper, I will allow you to change this room to your liking now.”

“I love this room no need to change the furniture. We just need new wallpaper.”

“Well I’m glad you want to stay with the theme. We will change the pictures, the carpet, and the wallpaper, how’s that?”

“Perfect.”

“We will also order new mattresses for your bed, and new linens and curtains.”

“Okay great.”

“I will leave you to take care of Isaias now. In the meantime, I will get my interior decorator over here, and the three of us can redecorate this room, today. It’s going to take at least a week before we can get the mattresses delivered.”

Again, Isaias protested. “Mother, I don’t need new mattresses. These are fine.”

“You stay out of this mister,” Charlotte snapped. “It’s your fault that we have to do anything at all. Whitney, when Isaias goes to sleep join me in the library. We have to get going on the guest list, and the menu. We’ll work on that until my decorator arrives.”

“Yes ma’am.”

Charlotte closed the door behind her as she shouted through the house. “Bella! Get Geneva on the phone!”

“Wow,” Whitney said in disbelief.

“She loves this house.”

“I understand, but to redecorate the entire room for a little hole?”

“That’s my mother.”

When Isaias when to sleep, Whitney returned to the library. When she walked in, she found Charlotte studying swatches with a very colorful, yet strange woman. She could only assume it was Charlotte’s interior decorator.

Charlotte looked up for a moment to find Whitney standing in the room. “Oh you’re here. Good. Geneva, this is my daughter in law, Whitney.”

“I’d heard Isaias had gotten married. Congratulations dearie, he’s a fantastic catch.”

“Thank you,” Whitney said without moving from the spot she stood in.

“Well come on now, Whitney,” Charlotte began. “We have to get going. Geneva already has some fantastic ideas for your room.”

Still unable to grasp the idea of spending money for no reason, Whitney asked, “Can’t we just order some more blue wallpaper? No need to go through all of this trouble for a little hole.”

She spoke rapidly. “Whitney, it’s about time we redecorated Isaias’ room anyway. It’s been that way for ten years. Time for a new look.”

Whitney shook her head. “No, new wallpaper will be just fine, really.”

Geneva sat with her mouth hanging open, and wondered where this girl came from. She obviously didn’t come from money.

Charlotte intervened. “She really is a bright girl. A little slow on the uptake sometimes, but still bright.”

Geneva closed her mouth to speak. “I see. Whitney dear, interior decorating is more than just making things look good together. It’s a form of art. If we can’t get the same color wallpaper, we would have to change the entire room anyway. So let’s just do it now. Charlotte tells me you like burgundy.”

Whitney nodded. “Yes.”

Geneva put her chin in her hand. “Hmm. Not a lot of burgundy in early French design. So how about we do the walls in a rose, and the carpet burgundy.”

“That’s fine with me.”

Geneva smiled and glanced at Charlotte. “I like this girl. She’s easy to work with.”

Charlotte smirked. “No experience yet dear. But I will get her trained, and you won’t be saying that later on.”

“Don’t change her Charlotte dear,” Geneva said tapping Charlotte on the shoulder. “She’s a decorator’s dream.”

Whitney suddenly found herself pulled into the art form herself. “I would like a little gold in there also. It will accent both colors perfectly.”

Geneva again smiled. “Nice. You have good taste.”

“Thank you,” Whitney said relishing in the compliment.

They had everything picked out in an hour, and Geneva was on her way out to get everything started.

“Okay, I will have the carpet and mattresses ordered today. I happen to have the wallpaper in one of my stock rooms in France, so it will only have to ship. That leaves the linens, curtains, and pictures. Leave those to me. I will have that room brand spanking new in three weeks.”

Charlotte shook her head. “Geneva dear, Whitney is about to have her debut. I won’t have her guests smelling glue and metal. You will have to work faster than that.”

“I understand. It will be hard, but I’ll have it done in two weeks. How’s that?”

“Work a miracle for us. I know you can do it.”

Charlotte was one of Geneva’s oldest clients, and knew exactly what Charlotte was saying to her. Geneva quickly packed up her things and turned to Whitney. “It was wonderful to meet you Whitney. Keep Isaias happy. His mother is my oldest client.”

“I will.”

Geneva went out of the door. Charlotte and Whitney returned to the library.

“I’m hungry. Aren’t you?” Charlotte said.

“A little.”

“Well what do you say to some sandwiches and tea?”

“Sounds good.”

Determined to get Whitney trained, Charlotte replied, “Well, get it for us dear.”

Whitney clicked her teeth and rolled her eyes in protest. “Oh come on Mrs. Reynolds do I have to?”

“First off, stop calling me that to my face. Things are different between us now. I’m mother or Charlotte. Either will do. And yes, you have to. You had no problems telling Isaac what to do when Isaias was hurt. Come on now get us some food.”

Whitney pushed Frederick’s call button and within a few moments, he appeared.

“What can I do for you Mrs. Reynolds?”

“Miss Whitney has a request.”

“What is it Miss Whitney?”

“We’re a little hungry.”

“What would you like Miss?”

“Some finger sandwiches and tea.”

“Anything else?”

“No.”

“I will have that prepared for you shortly Miss.”

“Thank you Frederick that will be all.”

Frederick disappeared again.

Charlotte sat in her chair with her legs crossed and smiled widely. “Are you sure you’re not comfortable with telling others what to do? Because I would swear you’ve done it before.”

“I still don’t like it,” Whitney smirked.

“Soon it will be second nature, and you won’t even think about it.”

Changing the subject, “Perhaps I should go check on Isaias?” Whitney suggested.

“No. We have to get the guest list and the menu prepared. Tomorrow we go to the printers to get the invitations ready. I hope that there will be no mistakes. We have very little time to plan, and still so much to do.”

“What’s the big deal? It’s just a dinner.”

“It is not just a dinner. We are getting you prepared to present you to society. Proper etiquette says that the invitations should have gone out three weeks ago. You will already be criticized for that. So everything else will have to be perfect. Have you given your guest list any thought at all?”

Hesitant in her thinking, Whitney replied, “Well, Owen and Desiree for sure.”

Charlotte rolled her eyes, leaned forward, and tapped Whitney on the leg. “The word is party dearie. Party. Come on let me have it.”

“James and his girlfriend Odile.”

“James? James Thomas?”

“Yes.”

“I didn’t realize you knew him.”

“We met in Paris. I liked him a lot.”

“His girlfriend, this Odile woman, who is she? What’s she like?”

“She’s French model and fashion designer. Very beautiful, outgoing, and also a very nice person.”

“Okay, good.” Charlotte said, and paused for a moment. “Wait. Do the Thomas boys get along now? I happen to know they haven’t gotten along in years.”

“As far as I can tell, yes.”

Trusting her daughter in law to be a good judge of character, Charlotte moved on. “Okay, go on.”

“Heath and Victoria obviously.”

“Obviously. Anyone else?”

“No, that’s it.”

“Fine. I will fill the remaining chairs. Myself and Michael Reher, Benjamin and Margaux Dixon.”

Not familiar with any of these names, Whitney asked, “Who are they?”

“Michael Reher is the C.O.O. of Atomic Steel. He will be a good man for you to meet. He will be my escort. Benjamin and Margaux Dixon are the shining stars of the society pages. Margaux a writer for The Pinnacle and Benjamin is her photographer husband. They were at your wedding.”

“Is it really necessary for them to come?”

“How else is the world going to know what you have to offer?”

“Fine. No pictures though.”

“That’s fine with me. I hate it when Ben carries his equipment around with him. It’s distracting. Twelve for dinner. How’s ten courses sound to you?”

Whitney’s eyes widened. “I didn’t know there was such a thing.”

“The more courses there are, the better the conversation. So what do you think? Is ten to many? Not enough?”

“Ten is fine, I guess.”

“Ten it is. Now let’s go to the kitchen and talk to Ester. We can plan the food.”

“Now?”

“What else do you have to do dear?”

“I wanted to go check on Isaias.”

Charlotte smirked. “Isaias is fine. Being a high society wife not only means that you make yourself look good, but also you keep your husband looking good. Isaias is sleeping like a baby. I promise. Come on now. Let’s get finished so we will have everything ready for the printers tomorrow. After that, you can pamper him until your hearts content. Let’s get moving Whitney. Come on.”

“Ester,” Charlotte began, “this is for Whitney’s debut. If you have any problems at all coming up with anything, I need to know about it five days before dinner.”

“Yes ma’am.”

“So, what do we have?”

Ester ran down the list of food on the menu so Charlotte could make sure everything was right. Charlotte nodded her head. “Good. How does that sound to you Whitney?”

Whitney shrugged. “Hell, I don’t even know what most of it is. I’m sure it will all be delicious.”

Charlotte stared at Whitney and couldn’t believe it. How could she not know anything about the food on the menu? Charlotte then remembered Whitney didn’t come from her world.

“What? Why are you looking at me like that?” Whitney asked.

“I see we have a lot more work to do. Thank you, Ester. Will you please have Isaac set up a ten-course place setting at the dinning room table for Whitney?”

“But you said we would be finished, and I could go check on Isaias,” Whitney whined.

“You’ve never seen ten courses, so we have to practice ten courses. I however will allow you to go check on him for a minute.”

“Mrs. Reynolds I-”

Charlotte held up her finger. “Mother or Charlotte.”

“Charlotte, I can’t keep this up. I’m dead tired. Can’t I please go lie down?”

Charlotte raised an eyebrow. “So this has been about you the whole time.”

“Mostly yes.”

Charlotte slapped her hand on the kitchen counter. “If we had six weeks to do this, then I would have no problem. But you will shine, and be your husband’s pride when it is time to do so. I will let you rest for thirty minutes. Then afterwards it is time for a little training. Now go see Isaias. Lie next to him, kiss on him, talk to him, and rest yourself. Go on now. I’ll see you back down here in thirty minutes.”

Whitney went upstairs, slightly upset that she may have disappointed her mother in law. She didn’t lie to her. She was tired.

As she lay on the bed, Isaias woke up. He rolled over and gave her a sleepy smile. “Hello beautiful. Come to join me?”

Whitney let out a disappointing sigh. “Only for a while. I have to be back downstairs in thirty minutes so I can learn how to properly eat a ten course meal.”

Isaias propped himself up on his good arm and asked, “What are you talking about?”

“The dinner. Your mother is a slave driver. I haven’t had a moment’s peace since we came from the hospital.”

Isaias stroked her cheek with his cast. “Poor baby. She’s only trying to make you look good.”

“Correction. She’s helping me make you look good.”

“Oh honey, it will be over soon. Afterwards we can go on and live our lives the way we want to live it, okay?”

“Okay baby.”

“Speaking of babies, you wanna try to make one right now?”

“I would love to but the social slave driver won’t let me.”

“All right. Do you want me to help you? I’ve eaten up to twelve courses in my lifetime I’m pretty good at it.”

“Would you? It would certainly make me feel more comfortable.”

Isaias smiled sweetly. “Okay honey. Let me kiss you for a while, and we’ll go beat the battle of ten course meal.”

“I love you.”

“I know babe. I love you too.”

Thirty minutes later, Isaias and Whitney went downstairs. They found Charlotte sitting at the table waiting. She was surprised to see her son.

“Oh Isaias good I’m glad you’re awake. How’s your hand dear does it hurt?”

“No mother.”

“Wonderful. Now you can help me, help Whitney.”

“Okay, where would you like to start?”

“How about we go from the greeting of the guests to sitting down.”

“Sounds good.”

“I will have Frederick assist us in a moment. I want the two of you to go to the doorway of the library. This is where your guests will mingle during the cocktail hour. Frederick and I will be your guests. Whitney, you will be to Isaias’ left the entire night. That includes greeting the guests and having conversation here in the library. He will escort you everywhere.”

“Why?”

“Because if you are at a formal event with an escort, you will be with him the entire evening. He won’t leave you alone unless he has to leave the table for some reason. Don’t ask me why that’s just how it is.”

Charlotte, Whitney, Isaias, and Frederick went through the motions of greeting people formally. Next was the practice of casual conversation during cocktails before dinner.

“Okay now we will go into the library until it’s time for dinner,” Charlotte said. “Isaias, the both of you go over by the window. I want you to engage your imaginary guests in conversation. Frederick, please announce dinner.

Isaias and Whitney moved over by the window. Whitney stood on Isaias’ right.

Isaias leaned down and whispered, “Wrong side honey.”

“Oh,” Whitney replied and moved to his left and pretended to talk.

Frederick stepped to the library door. “Mr. Isaias, Miss Whitney, dinner is served.”

Charlotte gave her instructions from that point. “Whitney, I want you to take Isaias’ arm, and you will lead the rest of your guests to the dining room.”

“I suppose there is a proper way to do that too?”

Charlotte nodded. “Yes there is.”

Charlotte explained where Whitney was to place her hand as she walked next to Isaias. She did exactly as instructed, and Charlotte was pleased. They made their way to the dining room where an additional place was set for Isaias.

“Oh good. Now Isaias can eat with you. Probably the hardest part of the meal will be sitting down and getting up.” Whitney glanced at the table and saw a ridiculous amount of china, glasses, and silverware. Seeing the look on her face, Charlotte commented. “I know the table is a bit daunting, but let’s get you seated first.”

Whitney nodded.

Charlotte explained exactly and to the letter how this feat was supposed to be performed. She expected her daughter in law to get it right the first time. Whitney tried to sit before the chair touched her knees. Isaias let go of the chair and she was to far from the table.

“No. Allow the chair to touch your knees. If you don’t do this, you may end up on your butt. You don’t want to do that with the press here. Again.”

This time Whitney did it perfectly.

“Good.”

Satisfied Charlotte explained how the napkins worked. Whitney was less than pleased. She showed this by rolling her eyes. “Oh you’re kidding.”

“No,” Charlotte said seriously. Isaias will pick up your napkin with his right hand, take it by a corner, and shake it open beneath the table to the right of his chair. Then he will lay it on your lap, and you can adjust it.”

“Oh my goodness,” Whitney said, rolling her eyes again.

“You will remain a lady the entire time. Our escorts are here to assist us.”

“Okay.”

Charlotte went on explaining napkin etiquette. Whitney was beginning to become overwhelmed with the attention her new mother in law was giving her. Not believing that there were so many rules to eating a formal dinner, Whitney tried to turn the attention away from her. “Honey, are you okay with doing all of this?”

“Baby I’ve done this a lot. Mother trained me, just like you. It’s is no problem.”

“Focus Whitney,” Charlotte said sternly. “I guarantee Margaux will have no problems pointing out your faults to the public. She’s a very important woman to have here. She can make or break your social status.”

“I thought she was your friend.”

“She’s everyone’s friend when it comes time to writing about a wedding, a debutante ball, or any social event of the like. Everyone wants to look good. But she will absolutely fry you if she is offended in any way.”

Whitney glanced at Isaias. “Damn.”

Isaias smiled. “No pressure baby. Margaux is a pushover. You just have to follow the rules, and you will be fine. That’s all mother is trying to tell you. Perfection is the key.”

“Okay, okay.”

“So no more questions,” Charlotte said. “Wait until we’re finished and you can ask all the questions you like. So let’s move on. Let’s get up from the table.”

Charlotte gave Whitney directions on how to get up from the table. Whitney followed her directions to the letter and did it right the first time. Charlotte thought it might have been a fluke so she made her do it again. When she repeated her first actions, Charlotte was satisfied.

“Fantastic. Okay now that you know how to arrive and leave the table, it’s time to get on with eating. I will go through this course-by-course until you get it. Basic rule is outside in. The staff will fill the glasses according to the course, so don’t worry about that.”

For the next hour, Charlotte and Isaias helped Whitney understand the nuances of eating a ten-course meal. By the time they were finished, Isaias was tired, Whitney was frustrated, and Charlotte was angry.

“Whitney come on girl, you can do this. I happen to know Victoria has trouble with the silver past seven courses. You do want to look better than her right?”

Putting her head in her hand, arm propped on the table, Whitney sighed. “I can’t do this. It’s too much to remember.”

Charlotte glared at her daughter in law determined not to let her leave until she went through the meal without any mistakes.

“You will not make my son look bad. You will get this before the dinner!”

“Mother, calm down. It’s only her first day. We have plenty of time to practice. I’ll help her. She’ll be ready. Can we please take a break? We’ve been at this a while.”

Realizing that she may have been pushing just a bit too hard, Charlotte backed down. “I’m sorry Whitney. I know it’s a lot, but you can do it. I just don’t want you to look bad in front of Victoria that’s all. We want her to look like the dumb ass.”

“I don’t mean to disappoint you. I’m trying, really, but I’m exhausted.”

“Okay. Isaias, her training is now on your head. But know this. She will bring honor to our family. I will not be embarrassed. We are doing this so Victoria will be embarrassed understand?”

“Yes mother.”

“You can now go and create some grandchildren for me.” Charlotte, exhausted and angry stood up. “Bella!”

Moments later, Bella, Charlotte’s housekeeper appeared in the dining room.

“Yes Mrs. Reynolds?”

“Clean this room, and have Ester get started on dinner. Will the two of you be joining me Isaias?”

“Of course mother.”

“See you then.” Charlotte stormed out of the dining room. Isaias and Whitney breathed a sigh of relief.

Within the next few days, the construction started on the bedroom, Isaias and Whitney went back to the house by the lake, and the invitations to the dinner went out.

Victoria knew what was to be expected, so she prepared Heath the same way Whitney was being prepared. Owen got the invite in the mail and he asked his mother to help Desiree.

A week before the dinner everyone was ready. Tired of the wealthy social scene, Owen needed some time with friends who were just regular people. So he invited the band to his house.

Owen and Smoke sat on the patio drinking beer when Owen decided to tell Smoke what had been on his mind for a while.

“Smoke I’ve been thinking. Between Isaias and me, we can move all of you to Napa. That way when it’s time for us to rehearse, you don’t have to come so far. There is more than enough room for at least you and Brenda to move in this house.”

Smoke appreciated the gesture, but was concerned about other things. “What about work? Shit, we do still have day jobs.”

“I was thinking you and Brenda can live here rent free for a while. Kenny, Jeff, and Alex can fend for themselves.”

Smoke shook his head. “Man, you know Brenda’s a nurse. There is no way in hell she’ll stop working. If she’s not helping somebody, she’ll go crazy.”

“Okay, okay so you figure it out between the both of you. When you decide to move, you’re welcome here.”

Smoke sat and waited on Owen to say something else. He expected him to add something to his previous comment. When he didn’t, he spoke up.

“Owen, I don’t feel right leaving the fellas out.”

Owen sighed. “Okay, so we will have a meeting, and let everyone decide what they want to do. I am willing to pay rent for six months for everyone except you, and I already told you why. After that I can’t help.”

“Agreed.”

Moments later, the rest of the band joined them outside. All of them as curious as the next, but Jeff asked the question. “Okay, what in the hell are you two sneaky mother fuckers up to?”

Owen smiled. “Talking band business that’s all.”

Before Owen could get on with his planned business, Isaias thought it was time for him to let Owen in on his secret.

“Hey Owen, I need to talk to you in private.”

A little bewildered, Owen replied, “All right.”

They stepped inside of the house and closed the patio door behind them.

“What’s up?” Owen asked.

“You got the invitation to dinner right?”

“Yeah.”

“Well there is more to this debut dinner than meets the eye.”

“Really?”

“I had to keep you in the dark but since it is only a week away, I can tell you now. You asked what happened to my hand.”

“You said you broke it.”

“Obviously. Vic made me do it.”

“How?”

Isaias told Owen the story.

Feeling the same way he was on graduation day, Owen said, “Oh man I’m sorry. She was dirty for holding the boy away from you all this time, but to find out he isn’t yours?”

“I don’t want you to associate with her anymore,” Isaias quietly said.

“You didn’t even have to say that. I was finished with her ass after she sprung Jason on you in the first place.”

“So I know you’re as pissed as I am. Okay maybe not as pissed, but close. Between Whitney, my mother, and I, we are going to attempt to get her to confess in front of Margaux Dixon.”

Owen chuckled. “You’re gonna take her down like that? You realize that you are going to ruin her parent’s reputation as well.”

“It was my mother’s idea. I’m just going with it. It will be worth it in the end. Vic won’t have shit, while my black wife and mulatto children have everything.”

“What do you need me to do?”

“Come to dinner, be the perfect gentleman, and follow my lead.”

“No problem. I got your back.”

“Whitney and my mother, you are the only one who knows what is going to happen at the dinner table. Mother wants all reactions to be genuine, so I can’t tell you anymore, and you can’t tell Desi.”

“Got it. A few hours at the table with Vicki won’t be hard.”

“Owen, you know you’re the best friend I’ve ever had in my life. We understand each other, and I never want that to change.”

“All right man. I hate when you get all sentimental and shit. You know I love you like a brother, and we are the only ones that can break the bond. No worries I have your back.”

“Knew you when.”

“Knew you since we were ten.”

“Let’s go get drunk.”

They went back outside and continued their discussion

“There’s nothing keeping me from moving,” Jeff said.

Alex shook his head and smirked. “Me neither. If Michelle doesn’t want to move then to hell with her.”

Smoke was shocked to here Alex say something like that. “Shhh. Don’t let her hear you say that.”

“I don’t care. I’m serious man. I can’t mess with a babe that isn’t about my music. None of us has a career. Hell, we can get jobs anywhere. We all know you and Brenda are gonna get married, so you are really the only one with the problem.”

Isaias nodded. “He has a point.”

“I can help Brenda get a job at one of the hospitals out here. Just let me know what you all want to do. I can put you up for a while, and then you are on your own.”

Knowing he could convince his fiancée to move for the sake of his pending career, Smoke smiled. “Let’s do it.”

Everyone raised their glasses and shouted, “Napa!”

Owen, rather pleased that he got what he wanted, smiled, took a sip of his beer and quietly said, “Napa.”

The morning of Whitney’s debut had finally arrived. Isaias and Whitney finished making love, and were attempting to go back to sleep when Nigel knocked on the door.

Isaias kissed his wife, smiled, and asked, “Who is it?”

Nigel didn’t dare open the door. He spoke from the other side. “Your mother called Mr. Isaias. She said that you and Miss Whitney are to come to her house immediately.”

“Thank you Nigel,” Isaias said.

“You’re welcome sir.”

Whitney rolled over on her back, disappointed that she was going to have to get out of bed. “I will be so glad when this is over. It will be nice to sleep in for a change.”

Isaias sat up. “I’m with you. Come on baby,” Isaias said, standing up. “We can shower at mother’s house. Let’s go see what’s so important.”

They arrived at Charlotte’s house and smelled breakfast already cooking. Isaias’ usual, Eggs Benedict, and Whitney’s now favorite, the Denver omelet.

Whitney’s stomach growled as the smell of fresh eggs lingered throughout the house. She placed her hand on her stomach and giggled because she was aware of how loud it really was.

Isaias turned to her. “Hungry?”

Nodding, “Yeah.”

Isaias smiled at her. “Me too.”

They made their way to the dining room where they were certain Charlotte was waiting for them. And there she was looking quite lovely for mid morning in her white linen suit and hair gently pulled away from her face.

She sat with her legs crossed and inspected her son and his wife as they entered the dining room.

“Good morning children,” Charlotte said, smiling slightly.

Isaias smiled, thinking of Ester’s cooking, and Whitney replied, “Good morning.”

“Well from the looks of both of you, neither one of you have showered. So please go and at least wash your hands and face. We have lots to do today.”

When they returned to the dining room, they practiced sitting to show Charlotte that Whitney was ready.

“Very good. You have done well Whitney. I’m proud of you. So what do you think of your room?”

“I-”

Charlotte held her hand up to stop him from talking.

“I wasn’t talking to you, Isaias.”

“It’s beautiful,” Whitney said.

“I’m glad you like it. Geneva did a wonderful job.”

“I think so too,” Isaias agreed.

Charlotte focused on her daughter-in-law at the moment. Nothing Isaias would say would even register in her brain.

“Okay now. Whitney, I know you wanted to choose your own gown, so I picked out several in black, white, and red.”

“What is the best color to wear for a debut?” Whitney asked.

“White. It signals purity,” Charlotte replied.

“And the other two colors? What would they say about me?”

“Black says you are very secure. Red can say two different things. You can be confident and outgoing, or you can be a man-eater. Ladies hold on to your husbands here I come. But, I’m the only man-eater in this house.”

“So no red.” Whitney said, disappointed.

“Although you do look beautiful in it, no red.”

She turned to her husband and asked, “What do you think Isaias?”

“I think black would be best for you. You are a little to old for white.”

Not letting her mother in law dictate everything about the evening, Whitney replied, “Well after I look at them I’ll decide.”

“Let Isaias know what color you choose so he knows which vest and tie to wear.”

“All right.”

Charlotte then looked closer at her son. “Isaias, you are going to have to do something with that wild hair of yours. Get a haircut, or something. Whitney will not look like she’s married to a caveman.”

Isaias ran his fingers through his wild shoulder length hair and agreed. “Yes mother.”

“I realize it’s early, children, but here is how the evening will begin. Promptly at four, we will all start to get ready. Whitney, you will have someone to help you with your hair and nails, while Isaias is getting the same treatment. Isaias won’t take as long as you, so he can relax a bit before he gets dressed. By the time your hair is done and your nails are dry it should be close to six. I want you both in the library no later than five forty-five. That will give me a chance to look at you, and make sure you are drop dead gorgeous for this event. Your first guests to arrive will be Margaux and Ben.”

Surprised that Charlotte knew this, Whitney asked, “How do you know?”

Tilting her head to one side, “She’s a journalist dear. She has to be here to see everyone come in. How else can she report on the entire evening if she wasn’t here to see it all? She will be here at six on the nose. Everyone else should be here no later than six fifteen. Dinner starts at seven. If the evening goes the way we want, by ten, Victoria will leave angry and humiliated, and we can continue the party after dinner.”

“And if things go haywire?” Isaias asked.

“Then the three of us will be angry and humiliated. Margaux tells the truth in every article she writes. Or at least about me she does. If the evening goes bad because of one of us, she will definitely say so. So let’s try to keep things under control.

“Isaias I know your temper. No swearing, and even though you may get angry, please do not yell. Calmly excuse yourself from the table, and please don’t punch anymore of my walls. Whitney, remember you are a lady, and you will remain so. You will be polite and charming the entire time. You are a beautiful socialite of Napa Valley. The wife of steel mogul, Isaias Reynolds. Remember, in this society you will always keep Isaias looking good in everything you do.”

“I’ll remember.”

“Isaias, after this is over with, we can get on with making you the president of the company.”

“Great.”

“One last thing and I will let you do whatever you need to do,” Charlotte said pausing to think of the right words to say. Whitney and Isaias waited on baited breath. “I know that you two haven’t decided where you are going to live, but I will say again, you can live here if you like. Even if things go bad tonight, I just wanted to say that it has been good to have the both of you here even if it is overnight on occasion. When you go back to Thomas House, I will miss you.”

Isaias smirked. “Oh, mother please. We’re only a few miles away.”

“Son, you’ve been gone a long time. I’ve missed having you around everyday. But it’s up to you what you want to do.”

“We’ll think about it.”

What Isaias really meant, is that he would think about it. After what his mother has put him through over the last four years, he certainly had reservations about staying under her roof again. If he stayed away, she would have no idea what he was doing in his personal life, unless he decided to tell her.

A genuine smile crept upon her lips. “All right. The both of you are excused.”

Isaias turned to leave the dining room. Whitney wasn’t ready to leave.

“I’ll be up in a minute honey okay?”

“What’s the matter?”

“Nothing. I just want to talk to your mother for a minute.”

Isaias, curious, didn’t ask. “All right.” And he left the room.

Whitney was feeling a bit sentimental at the time. “Charlotte, I just wanted to say thank you.”

“For what dear?”

“For helping us. I know we didn’t get off on the right foot when you first met me, but I think that’s changed now. If I didn’t know better, I would think you really do like me.”

Charlotte certain that at this time she did indeed like her daughter in law, wanted to know what Whitney thought. “Do you want me to like you, Whitney?”

Shrugging her shoulders. “Well, yeah.”

Charlotte grinned. “Well I do. Do you like me?”

Charlotte was fishing. She really did enjoy the company of her daughter in law, but she was mostly curious about Whitney’s feelings towards her.

“Yes.”

“Why?”

Not having a legitimate reason, Whitney threw out the first thing that came to mind. “Because of what you were willing to do for Isaias.”

Charlotte didn’t believe a word that escaped her mouth. “That sounds more like respect than like. Come on girl tell me.”

Whitney hesitated only for a moment. “I love your sense of style. I like the fact that you are not afraid to speak your mind.”

Still not convinced. “Still sounds like respect, but it’s a start. What do I like about you?”

Amused that her mother in law was paying her so much attention. “What?”

Gazing at her daughter in law only to make her squirm with anticipation, Charlotte gave her a few moments. When she thought Whitney suffered enough, she said, “You really love Isaias. You stood up for yourself even though you knew I didn’t like you. You’re a sweet, beautiful, caring, young woman who knows what she wants. You just don’t always know how to get there. You’re a good listener, and you’re very smart.”

Surprised. “Wow all of that?”

“I’m glad that I could amuse you. Yes, Whitney, all of that.” Charlotte continued to look at her lovely daughter in law and thought that maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to have a daughter in law that was not white. She would accept a black woman into her house, regardless of what her neighbors would say. When it really came down to it, she didn’t have a choice. At that point, it was not about her happiness, but her son’s.

“Whitney, can you do me a favor?”

“Anything.”

“Call me mother. I would like that.”

Not certain if Charlotte meant it, Whitney asked, “And when we are in public?”

Charlotte nodded. “Mother.”

Smiling as if she had just gotten away with murder, Whitney simply replied, “Thanks mother.”

“Now go on. You don’t want to keep Isaias waiting.”

Whitney smiled, and walked out of the dining room. She was so excited that she had finally gotten through to Charlotte that she couldn’t wait to tell Isaias. She burst in the room, and Isaias was lying on the bed reading a book.

“Honey, I have something to tell you.”

“You’re pregnant?” Isaias asked, not knowing what Whitney could possibly have on her mind.

“No, something better.”

Isaias closed his book after placing the bookmark. “What could be better than that?”

“Your mother just called me, daughter.”

“No way.”

“Wait, wait, it gets better. Guess what I can call her, even in public?”

Isaias knew where she was going. “Teacher?”

“Mother.”

“Mother? Are you serious?” Whitney nodded. Isaias pulled her close for a good hug. “Baby I’m so happy for you! Congratulations, you wore the dragon lady down. She loves a girl that she can teach, and they will actually listen. She forgot all about the color of your skin and saw what was inside. That’s quite a feat. Good job.”

“I think we should celebrate.”

“How?”

“How about some of that hot butt naked nasty sex?”

“We don’t want to exhaust ourselves baby. How about just some butt naked sex?”

“That will do Mr. Reynolds. That will do.”

Isaias kissed Whitney, and they made love most of the morning. Charlotte was surprised at herself. Whitney was not supposed to wear her down the way she did, but it happened. She figured that maybe on occasion it is worth looking inside of those who are different from you. You just might find gold.


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