The following week, early Monday morning, Charlotte knocked on her son’s door.
“Isaias, are you awake?”
“I’m getting ready to shower. I’ll be out in about twenty minute’s mother.”
“Fine. Don’t waste your time with anything that’s unnecessary. You’re not going on a date.”
Twenty-five minutes later, Isaias stepped into his mother’s favorite room and asked, “How do I look?”
Charlotte couldn’t believe her eyes. She’d seen her son dressed for weddings, cotillions, and fancy dinners, but she had never seen her grown up son in a suit ready to go to work. She was very proud of him at that moment.
“You look good. Come on. Let’s go.”
Isaias went to the office for the first time, to meet his staff and the board of directors. Charlotte took him from office to office introducing her as her son, and then called a meeting. Once everyone of any importance had taken their seats, Charlotte stood.
“I would like to thank you all for taking time to come to this short but very important meeting.” Charlotte said, and she moved on with grace, never allowing any of the people who worked for her to wonder. “As of today, I resign my position as president and CEO of Atomic Steelworks.”
A confused mumbling started in the room. Charlotte immediately put that to bed.
“I know this comes as a surprise to some of you, but it has to be done. My late husband didn’t intend on leaving the company for me to run. He was supposed to live long enough to let his son take over for him. So, now that all of his personal matters have been taken care of, that can happen. Ladies and gentlemen, I have the pleasure to introduce to you the new president and CEO of Atomic Steelworks, my son, Isaias Reynolds.”
Though none of them had ever met him, they stood and clapped, giving Charlotte her respect above anything else.
“I will be around every now and then to see how things are going. I will now step into my new seat as Chairman of the Board, so I will still have some say so on what goes on around here. With that said, I give you, Isaias.”
Charlotte sat down. Isaias was just a tad overwhelmed. He was used to being in front of screaming fans, but this was something different.
“Good afternoon everyone. Thank you for such a warm welcome. I have to say that I’m excited to be here today. I will do my best to fill my parent’s shoes, and hopefully one day, out grow them.
“In the beginning, there won’t be any changes, so you can come to work like you do everyday, and not have to worry about anything. When I learn my new position, there may be some things that will change as I see fit. I don’t expect that they will affect any of you, so please don’t focus on that. Just concentrate on what you do, and continue to do a good job. Without you, Atomic Steelworks would be nowhere.
“I, like my mother, will have an open door policy. So if you need to see me about anything, all you have to do is knock. With that said, I will let you all get back to work. Thank you.”
As everyone in the room left, they shook Isaias’ hand and welcomed him. To him, it felt weird, but still it felt good. When everyone was gone, Michael and Charlotte needed to talk to Isaias, so Michael closed the door.
He looked at them not knowing what to expect.
“What’s going on you two?”
“Have a seat Isaias,” Michael said.
Isaias sat down in the closest chair and said, “Okay now I’m worried. Are we broke?”
Michael chuckled. “No, nothing like that. We wanted to talk to you about a personal matter.”
Michael grabbed Charlotte around the waist and pulled her close. It was weird to Isaias to see his mother in someone other than his father’s arms.
“Honey,” Charlotte began, “you know Michael, and I have known each other for a long time. I would have never been able to come in here and do what I did, if I didn’t have help. Your father has been gone for a long time, and I just wanted to know if it was okay if I moved on.”
Really confused at this point, “What?”
Michael smiled at Isaias warmly. “What your mother is trying to say is we love each other, and have for quite some time. Just so you know, neither one of us disrespected your father. Charles was a good man.”
“Well that’s good to hear,” Isaias said, relieved.
“So now that you are in charge of the business, your mother is now free to get married again. We wanted to know if that was okay with you.”
Thinking of all the things his mother has done to him, and many other’s over the past years Isaias couldn’t disagree. He was happy his mother would have something else to occupy her time besides him and his wife.
“Of course it’s okay.”
Charlotte grinned. “I’m happy to hear that. Thank you son.”
After the Victoria fiasco, Isaias and Whitney decided to move back into his childhood home for a couple of reasons. Isaias was always more comfortable being in his own bed. He didn’t have anything to hide from his mother anymore, and Charlotte had accepted his wife. There was no reason for him to live anywhere else.
Now, new testosterone threatened to take over. Isaias had to know if he was going to have to give up his man of the house status.
“So are you moving into the house?” Isaias asked Michael.
“That was not my plan, no.”
Charlotte gave her son a charming smile and said, “After we get married, I will be going to live with Michael. That means you will be the master of the house.”
Isaias nodded, relieved that he would not have competition. Then something else dawned on him that he hadn’t thought about before. “Are you taking Frederick with you?”
“That’s something your mother and I debated about a long time. I know what Frederick means to her, but I also have a butler who has been with me for years. There can only be one head of the house, and Emilio is it in my house. So, Frederick is not coming.”
Charlotte gently touched Isaias on the shoulder. “He will be a great help for Whitney around the house.”
Isaias knew what Frederick meant to his mother. He knew if she left, it was going to destroy him. “Does he know?”
“No, and it is my responsibility to tell him,” Charlotte said. “So I don’t want you to breathe a word of this.”
In his own way, Isaias disagreed. “It’s gonna break his heart mother. He’s your best friend.”
“I know that dear, but he will understand. I can’t be a widow for the rest of my life. I’m still young.”
Against his better judgment, Isaias replied, “Okay, I won’t tell him.”
A smile crept across Charlotte’s face, and she was relieved. “Thank you dear. Well I’m going home. Michael, don’t be to rough on him his first day.”
Charlotte kissed both her men on the cheek. “See the both of you later. Michael, you’re welcome to come to dinner tonight if you like.”
“Thank you honey.”
Charlotte blew a kiss and waved. “Bye.”
Charlotte was long gone, leaving the two men to stare at each other. Isaias still not comfortable with his mother’s latest fantasy, he couldn’t trust Michael fully. He believed that his mother hadn’t cheated on his father, while he was well, but what about when he got sick? Is this why his mother all of a sudden sometimes was cruel to his father? Had another man shown her interest? Was he a gold digger? Was he after his mother only because he knew she inherited a lot of money? Isaias wasn’t sure, but the look on his face after his mother left the room let Michael know exactly what was on his mind.
“This is a surprise.”
“I’m not after your mother’s money, Isaias. I have my own money.”
“No thanks to my father.”
“How old are you Isaias, like what, twenty-five?”
“Twenty-three. I’m pretty smart, and do things rather quickly.”
“Sorry. Didn’t mean to insult you. My point is I knew your father long before you were born. He brought me into this company and mentored me. Eventually we became friends. I respected your father, and did not go anywhere near your mother while he was alive. Even when he got sick, and I knew he was going to die, I stayed away from her, because I didn’t want him to die thinking bad things about her, even though I loved her.”
“So you never touched her.”
Michael shook his head. “No. Never.”
“So after my father died, the two of you got together. How long before there was dirt on his face that you went after her?”
“At least a year.”
Isaias sat and absorbed Michael’s words. It was a moment before he spoke. “So this is the real reason she was in a hurry to get me married. She wanted me take over so she could marry you.”
Michael didn’t deny it. “Every word is true.”
“Does she love you?”
“If she didn’t she would have turned me down flat. You know your mother is a very strong, brutally honest woman.”
“Yes she is, but she always respects the man she loves. At least that is the way it was with my father. You are the man in your relationship, why not put your foot down, and move in with her?”
“That’s not what I wanted. I wanted her to let go of the past without forgetting about it. I don’t want to be the one that takes your father’s place. If I moved into his former residence, I felt like that’s what I would be doing.”
Isaias had everything he needed. “I don’t know much about you, but if my mother trusts you then, okay.”
Michael smiled. “Young man, over the course of the next year, you are going to get so sick of me, you will wish you never met me. Come on. I will show you to your office, and introduce you to your assistant.”
Later on that evening, Isaias came home to find his wife and his mother in the library talking. He explained that he had a wonderful first day and Michael didn’t work him too hard.
“Whitney, how about we go and see Owen and Desi.”
“Maybe we’ll go out to dinner.”
“Sounds great. You call and I’ll go get ready.”
Proud of her husband, Whitney smiled. “I’ll be right up.”
“So, you and Isaias seem rather comfortable in this house are you going to live here permanently?”
Knowing Isaias wanted to be the one to tell his mother himself, Whitney replied, “We haven’t talked about it in a couple of weeks, but maybe we’ll talk about it tonight.”
“Great, enjoy your dinner.”
“Thank you mother, we will.”
Whitney made her phone call, and went upstairs to change her clothes.
Isaias surprised her by grabbing her around the waist and gently kissing her. “Hey beautiful. I missed you today.”
“So how was it really?”
“Work was great.”
“Will you let me know if you need some help?”
“I will, and it might be sooner than you think.”
“Promise me that you will not say a word to anyone.”
“Okay, I promise.”
“Michael Reher and my mother are getting married.”
“Unbelievable. Margaux saw that at dinner.”
“She’s a damn good journalist. It’s was she does.”
“So is he moving in here?”
“Nope. She is moving in with him, and she’s leaving Frederick here.”
“That doesn’t seem so unusual. Why wouldn’t she leave him here? This is where he works.”
“They’re best friends. Frederick used to work for my grandparents. When my father and mother got married, my mother insisted that Frederick come to California with her. So yes, it’s a little weird that he’s not going with her.”
Whitney shrugged already knowing the story. “Well honey, they can still be friends, it’s not like she’s forbidden see him or anything.”
“You’re right. I just think that it’s a little bizarre that’s all.”
“You know, come to think of it, mother asked again if we’re going to live here.”
“So what do you think? Are you sure you wanna live in this house?”
Whitney smiled. “Why not? We’re gonna have lots of babies right? They will have plenty of room.”
“Great. We’ll let mother know on our way out.”
Three days later, Charlotte had given the entire staff a few days off. Isaias was at work, and Whitney was gone to hang out with Desiree and Nadia. As Frederick was walking past the library to leave, he stopped at the door and saw Charlotte sitting there reading a book. He didn’t go in, but he did want to let her know he was leaving.
“You sure you gonna be okay by yourself?”
“Sure. Ester left me all the food I could eat, and I still do know how to run the dishwasher.”
Frederick smiled at her. “Okay. I’ll be going then.”
Charlotte closed her book. “Hey, come on in here. I have to talk to you.”
As he walked closer to her, he saw the same sadness on her face as he did five years prior. “What’s the matter? I haven’t seen you look like this since Charles died.”
“I have some news Frederick. Have a seat,” she said, patting the cushion next to her.
Frederick sat down and waited for the news. With the look on her face, it couldn’t be good.
“First I wanted to tell you that I told Whitney what happened to me when I was sixteen.”
Frederick’s mouth fell agape. “Charlotte.”
Patting him on the leg, “Relax. I didn’t tell her the whole story. She knows not to ask you about it, and she will not tell Isaias.”
“So you didn’t tell her how we really feel about each other.”
Charlotte shook her head. “No. She knows that you are my best friend, and I trust you with my life. That’s all I told her.”
“That’s a relief. So what is it that you wanted to tell me?”
Charlotte couldn’t stand to look him in his eyes and say what she had to say. She turned away from him and quietly said, “I’ll be leaving this house soon.”
Surprised that she would leave the house she loved so much, he asked, “Does this mean you’re leaving the house to Isaias and Whitney?”
“Yes, I’m leaving the house to my children, but there is something else.” Charlotte sighed and held back tears.
“Where are we moving to?” Frederick asked.
Charlotte sighed and looked at Frederick. “I don’t know how to tell you this, so I’ll just say it. Michael Reher asked me to marry him.”
Frederick rolled his eyes and held back his sudden anger. He stood up and said, “And you said yes.”
“Frederick I’m sorry. You know how it is in this society.”
“Charlotte, that’s no excuse. Do you love him?”
Frederick’s anger seethed slowly from his pores. “So what’s going to happen to us?”
Sorry she even told him she rolled her eyes and sighed. “Frederick I can’t be a widow forever. I have to get married again.”
Frederick walked the room angry, but he understood to a point. “Charlotte we’ve loved each other for thirty years. I’ve had to watch you be with Charles all of that time, and I know you didn’t really love him. Please don’t do this to me again.”
“I know what you are feeling, but you can’t go with me this time.”
Charlotte didn’t have it in her heart to tell him that Michael had his own butler, and his services would not be needed, so she told him something that would possibly appeal to him.
“Because Isaias and Whitney are going to need you. Who else can teach them all they need to know if I’m not here?”
Frederick paused for a long time pacing the room as he held his silence. He had nothing to say except, “I understand. Will I see you again?”
Not wanting to leave without letting her know he still loved her, he leaned in and gently kissed Charlotte on the lips.
She accepted his kiss only for a moment, and then turned away sharply. “Frederick, don’t do this, please. It’s hard enough.”
Frederick backed away. “For years you have been with me when you could. You cheated on your husband, and no one but us has ever known that. Don’t leave me for someone else and not give me what I’m due. I haven’t held you in my arms in a long time. Please Charlotte. There’s no one here but us. Let me make love to you one last time.”
Charlotte still couldn’t look at him. She hung her head, legs drawn as close to her body as she could get them. Frederick took this as an open invitation. He forced her to look him in the eyes and he kissed her. Charlotte didn’t resist.
Knowing that he shouldn’t make love to her in the library, he picked her up and carried her to his room. There, he touched her the way she liked to be touched, and eventually made love to her. When they were finished, Charlotte got up, and began getting dressed. Frederick lay in his bed and watched the love of his life prepare to leave him. He wasn’t ready for her go.
“Charlotte, please don’t marry him. I know you love me. Marry me instead.”
“Frederick I can’t marry you and still live in Napa.”
He was hurt, but he understood. “Well okay then. Take this with you when you leave. Know that I have loved you since I first laid eyes on you. I beat that boy to death for you. I will always love you and be here for you Charlotte.”
Without turning to him she replied, “I know. Now get up and get out of here. This is your day off, and you need some time away from here.”
Defeated, he replied, “Yes ma’am.”
Charlotte left Frederick’s room, took a shower, and went back to the library to continue with her book. She however wasn’t able to read through the tears. So instead, she sat there and cried. For the first time in her life, she decided to move on without her best friend, and perhaps, that wasn’t the best choice.
Three months after Michael and Charlotte got married Charlotte discovered that she truly wasn’t happy. Mentally she was cheating on her new husband with her former butler. This is not the woman Charlotte was. She decided she had to get out of the relationship with Michael, and be the woman she desired to be.
That woman was the wife of Frederick Hall. Her best friend and lover of thirty years. No one knew their relationship was more than it seemed. Charlotte made up her mind to get out of her loveless marriage, but she needed some help. She happened to be at the office one day, when she decided suddenly that she needed to talk to Frederick. Charlotte went to Michael’s office to discover him and Isaias working hard.
“There are my two handsome men. What are you working on?”
Looking up Isaias said, “Michael and I are going over production reports. Do you need something?”
“No. I just came in to tell you that I’m finished for the day, and I’m leaving. Maybe I’ll go to the spa or something.”
“Maybe Whitney would like to go with you. She was just moaning to me this morning on how bored she was.”
“Okay then, I’ll stop by and pick her up.”
“See you later mother.”
Charlotte saw that Isaias was very busy, and it reminded her of her dead husband, when he was working in Michael’s office. “Isaias, I see that you are becoming like your father every day. Michael, don’t turn him into another Charles okay?”
Before Michael could answer, “I know I have other responsibilities mother. It’s okay.”
Seeing Isaias so serious about his work, made her proud. “Just so you’re aware. I’ll see the two of you later. Perhaps we can get together for dinner.
“Eight, your house?”
“Sure, just let Whitney know so she’s not surprised when you show up. Mother, we’re really rather busy. I’ll see you tonight, okay?”
“See you boys later.”
Charlotte left the office and drove to her former residence. Every time she drove into the driveway, she missed her old house more and more. More than that, she missed the people that lived there.
When she arrived, Whitney was not at home, but she was out with Smoke’s fiancée, Brenda. She walked in and saw Bella dusting in the library.
Charlotte smiled and quietly spoke. “Hello Bella.”
Bella turned and was quite surprised. “Hello Mrs. Reynolds.”
“Bella, I’m Mrs. Reher, now.”
“I’m sorry. Mrs. Reher. How have you been?”
“I have been well. Where is Mrs. Reynolds?”
“She went out with one of her friends.”
Charlotte shrugged. “Oh too bad. I was going to treat her to a spa day.” Charlotte noticed that Bella’s uniform was different. “Bella, would you gather all of the staff? I would like to talk to all of you.”
Minutes later, the entire household staff was in the library. Charlotte looked at all of their faces, and the longer she looked at them, the more she wanted to come home.
“Well I just thought I would get you all together, have a look at you, and ask how things were going?”
“All is well ma’am.”
“Frederick you never have disappointed me, but I know you will tell me what I want and need to hear. I want a real answer. Isaac, what’s going on?”
Frederick knew she was really there to speak with him, so he patiently waited.
“Mr. Hall was telling the truth ma’am. Everything is fine. Miss Whitney treats us well.”
Charlotte corrected him. “But she’s not Miss Whitney anymore right?”
“Correct ma’am. I’m sorry. Mrs. Reynolds.”
“I see she changed your uniforms. How do you like them?”
“They’re nice, but not as comfortable.” Frederick said.
“Well she’s the lady of the house now, so you know you all have to do what she says.”
Charlotte tilted her head and sniffed. “I smell carpet glue. What’s going on?”
“Mrs. Reynolds has allowed us to redecorate our room’s ma’am.” Frederick stated.
“The staff’s rooms?”
“Yes ma’am. She said we could change them if we liked. So some of the staff is redecorating their rooms.”
“Is Geneva doing this?”
“No ma’am. Mrs. Reynolds hired her own decorator.”
Charlotte shrugged. “Well I guess I can’t complain. I did give her permission to do this.”
“Mrs. Reher. If I may be so bold and speak for the entire staff.”
“Go ahead Bella.”
“Although Mrs. Reynolds is a fine lady, I just wanted to say that we miss you very much.”
This made Charlotte smile. “Well thank you. Bella. I miss all of you too. I’m glad that we were able to have this little chat. It was good to see all of you. Now I would like to speak to Frederick alone. You can all get back to your duties. Please close the door when you leave.”
The last staff member out of the door closed it when they left. Frederick was able to relax a bit. Even though she was married to someone else, he still loved her.
Charlotte was curious about what was going on in the house, and she knew that the man she loved would tell her the truth. “Frederick, what’s really going on around here?”
“The staff misses you terribly. Whitney isn’t you. Bella was right, she is a fine lady, but she’s a bit to lenient sometimes.”
“Well, you know not everyone has it in them to be like me.”
“So, how are you doing?”
Charlotte looked Frederick in the eyes, and he saw her sadness. Only for a moment, she thought she was going to cry.
“I’m not happy. I miss all of you.”
“What do I do?”
“Take a vacation. Perhaps with a good friend of yours. San Francisco maybe?”
Frederick shrugged. “Well, you’ve only been married three months. Perhaps you should give him more time. If things don’t work out in say three more months, then take your vacation.”
“I guess I can do that. Take a break, and get away.”
“Yes.” Frederick nodded.
“Do you have any idea what my friend and I will do there?”
“Not a clue. Relaxing is the most important thing though.”
Charlotte nodded. “Perhaps you’re right. I’ll think about it. If you have any ideas on what we will do, give me a call.”
“I’ll do that.”
They stood and stared at each other for a moment missing each other’s touch. Frederick couldn’t help himself. He put his hand behind her head, pulled her close, and gave her a chaste kiss on the lips.
Charlotte looked up at him and mouthed, “I love you.”
Frederick nodded in agreement, and let her leave him again.
Three months later, Charlotte was ready to go on her vacation, and she wasn’t going to tell her husband what she was going to do. Early one morning she got out of bed, and took a shower. When she came out of the bathroom, Michael rolled over.
“Where are you going at this hour dear?”
“It’s not that early Michael. It’s six o’clock.”
“So where are you going?”
“I’m going to an art show in Sacramento,” Charlotte lied. “I thought that I would go into the office before I went out of town.”
“Sacramento? That’s a bit far to go for an art show isn’t it?”
“I have a chance to get some new art for your study.”
“What’s wrong with my study?”
“Honey, that room is terrible. Since you won’t let me redecorate, I have to try and work with what is there.”
“Is Emilio taking you?”
“No darling, I can drive myself.”
“When will you be home?”
“I should be home by dinner. What time are you coming into the office?”
“Eight as usual.”
“All right see you there.”
Charlotte kissed Michael goodbye and walked out of the door. When she got in her car, she headed straight for her former residence. She went in and left a letter in her favorite chair in the library. She then got in her car and drove away. When Isaias got into the office, Michael came in to see him.
“Good morning boss.”
“Hey Michael. What’s going on?”
“I thought today, we could go over the quarterly financials.”
Michael sat a folder full of paper down on Isaias’ desk, and then asked, “Have you seen your mother this morning?”
“I didn’t know she was coming in today.”
“She said she was coming in for a while, and then she was going to Sacramento for an art show.”
“Maybe she’s come and gone already.”
Just then, Isaias’ cell phone rang.
“Honey you have to come home, you have to come home right now, I can’t take this, the staff is asking me questions I don’t know the answer to. Please, hurry.
“Okay, I’ll be right there.”
“What’s the matter?” Micheal asked.
“Whitney’s not well. I have to go.”
“Would you like me to go with you?”
“No. Stay here. If mother calls, tell her to call the house.”
Isaias drove home as fast as he could. He had no idea what Whitney was talking about on the phone, but he was worried something serious was going on. If the staff was in an uproar, and Whitney couldn’t control them, it was definitely something serious.
Isaias was in a panic when he walked into the front door. “Whitney! Where are you?”
“I’m in the dining room baby!” She called out so he could hear her.
Isaias opened the door. “What’s going on?”
Whitney immediately began to cry uncontrollably. “He’s gone!”
Isaias held Whitney by both of her arms and tried to get her to look at him. “What? Whitney, calm down and tell me what’s going on.”
Whitney nodded and took a deep breath. With tears still running down her cheeks, she began to explain the morning’s events.
“Bella came and woke me up after you left. She said she went to clean Frederick’s room and his bed hadn’t been slept in.”
Isaias stood straight up. “What?”
“I don’t know!” Whitney shouted.
“Did you call mother?”
Whitney nodded. “No answer.”
Isaias began pacing the room, and ran his hand through his hair. “She’s gonna lose it.”
Whitney began to panic all over again. “What do we do baby? Where did he go? Why did he leave us? I was good to him, I promise. I never said anything bad to him, so why would he just up and leave?”
Just then, Bella came into the dining room. “Mr. Reynolds sir, excuse me for interrupting.”
“What is it Bella?”
“I found this envelope in the library. It is addressed to you and Mrs. Reynolds.”
“Give it to me.” Isaias took the envelope and examined it. “It’s mother’s handwriting. Bella, could you please leave us alone? Please tell the rest of the staff not to bother us.”
Isaias sat next to Whitney and opened the envelope. He began to read it aloud.
My dearest children,
I have some news for you. I would have preferred to tell you in person, but there was no time. By the time you are reading this, you will have discovered Frederick is gone. No need to worry. He is with me.
Isaias, you know Frederick and I are close, and have been for years. Whitney, I told you a story about me Isaias doesn’t even know about. Truth is I didn’t tell you the whole story. But I told you the story to let you know I trusted you. Now it’s time for truth.
I married Michael out of necessity. I don’t love him. Isaias, I cared about your father deeply, but our marriage was an arranged marriage. There has only been one man in my life that I’ve loved. I’ve loved him every since I was a teenager.
In case you are wondering, yes it is Frederick. Seeing the two of you together made me realize something. Love doesn’t have a color or a social status. However, at the same time, I don’t want to destroy your lives with what I’m going to do.
Michael is a sweet man and very smart. I’m going to divorce him. Thank God for prenuptial agreements. You don’t have to worry about the house, the business, or anything else. Michael gets nothing of what Charles built, so the two of you are safe.
I told Michael that I was going to Sacramento, but I’m in San Francisco. I will tell the both of you more when you get here. We are at the Ritz. Get here as soon as you can. Love, Mother.
Whitney was in tears. She couldn’t believe what was happening. Isaias was extremely confused. He had to know what story his mother told Whitney.
He glared at her and asked, “What story is she talking about?”
Whitney was not about to betray Charlotte’s trust, even if it meant lying to her husband. It took her too long to get Charlotte to accept her. Whitney chose not to answer.
She stood up from her chair and turned to leave the dining room. “Honey we have to go. Come on let’s go.”
Isaias grabbed her by the arm and pulled her towards him. “No Whitney, you have to tell me.”
Whitney hung her head. “I can’t baby I’m sorry. I swore to her that I would never tell you.”
Isaias put his hand under her chin and raised her head. “Whitney, please tell me.”
Whitney cried harder. “I can’t baby. Please don’t make me. Let’s just go.”
Isaias sighed. “If you’re this upset, it must be bad. All right, come on.”
They met up with Charlotte at the Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco. Isaias was concerned about his mother. She has never been so reckless in her life. Something made her behave this way, and he had to know what it was.
After they read the letter, they arrived in San Francisco an hour and a half later. Isaias knocked on the door, and Charlotte opened it.
She moved back and let them in. “Welcome children. I knew that you would come.”
Still confused, Isaias asked, “Mother what’s going on?”
Charlotte sat next to Frederick. “I can’t live a lie anymore Isaias. I just can’t.”
Still not knowing what his mother was talking about, he began to get angry. “So you couldn’t talk to us about it? You just ran away?”
“It had to be this way. If I didn’t do it like this, I never would have.”
“It’s my fault,” Frederick said. “I talked her into it. I just couldn’t bear the fact that she was going into another loveless marriage because society said she should.”
“Frederick, we were always close when I was growing up. Why didn’t you say something to me?”
“Isaias, I couldn’t tell you. What happened between your mother and I was certainly taboo. It was taboo then, and it still is today.”
“I still don’t know what that is. What did happen between you? In your letter, you said that you told Whitney a story. Why her and not me?”
“I had to show Whitney that we shared some common ground. I however didn’t tell her the whole story.”
Isaias threw his hands in the air. “So what is the whole story mother? I need to know so I can try to understand what is going on.”
Frederick looked at Charlotte, and she nodded. He then began the story. “Many years ago when your mother was still a teenager, she was dating a boy behind her parents back. I knew what was going on, but Charlotte didn’t know I knew. So whenever this boy was around, I watched the two of them when I could. They would go to the tobacco fields and make out. Your grandmother would have died if she knew what was going on.
“I was a young man of twenty three years old then. I had been in your family’s employ for five years. I watched your mother grow from a bizarre looking little girl to a beautiful young woman. I fell in love with her. I dared not speak my mind to anyone. No one could know that I secretly loved a young white woman. It just didn’t happen.”
“I wasn’t aware of Frederick’s feelings until one day this particular boy tried to rape me.” Charlotte added.
Isaias was shocked. “What?”
“I kept saying no, and he didn’t listen.”
Frederick continued with the rest of the story. “It was late, and your mother had snuck out to the fields. This night I didn’t know they were there. I just happen to be walking the grounds that night getting some fresh air, when I thought heard a scream. I wasn’t sure, but then I heard it again. I ran to the fields and started calling her name loud enough for her to hear me and not disturb the entire farm. It was dark and it was hard to find her. Then I finally did. I told Charlotte to run to my room and close the door. What happened next shouldn’t have happened but it did. How dare this young punk try to defile a beautiful young woman such as your mother? How dare he put his hands on the woman that I loved? Anger took over, and I beat him to death.”
“You killed him?” Isaias asked in shock.
“I did. I dragged his body to the nearby river, pulled him as far out as I could, and let him go. By the time he was found, there was no evidence linking myself or the family to his death.”
Whitney put her hand to her mouth. “Oh my God.”
“I didn’t know until later what Frederick had done. I was grateful to Frederick for saving me. We had a special friendship from that moment on. When Charles finally proposed to me, I was insistent that Frederick come to California with us. There was no way I was going to leave him there to possibly one day be found out and put in jail.”
“I was happy to be with your mother. She kept me safe from harm, and my love for her grew.”
In the back of Isaias’ mind, something ugly was brewing. He had to know. “Did you ever cheat on father?”
Keeping her life long secret, she lied. “No. Frederick and I just kept our feelings buried, and moved on with life. Your father only saw us as good friends.”
“This is a mess. Mother do you realize what a scandal this could be for the company?”
“This is why you have to get rid of Michael.”
“You want me to fire him?”
Charlotte nodded. “Yes.”
“But I’m still learning. He is a great help to me.”
“You have to do it before I file for divorce. This way the company name won’t be dragged into what I’m going to do.”
Isaias sighed. “Mother I can’t do it.’
His mother disagreed. “Yes, you can. If I didn’t think you were ready to be the boss, I never would have left.”
“When we get back home, what do I tell him?”
“Nothing. I told him I would be back by dinner. I obviously am not going to show up. Before the dinner bell rings, I will have called him, and given him the news. So don’t worry about that. I do know that first thing in the morning, he will confront you. That is when you fire him for insubordination, and that will be the end of it.”
“I can’t believe this is happening,” Whitney said, thinking about her relationship with Isaias in its early stage. She couldn’t believe that it was so easy with Charlotte and Frederick. “So what are the two of you going to do?”
Frederick smiled. “I’m going to do what I should have done as soon as Charles died. I’m going to marry her.”
Isaias, hit with another blow to the head. “So you mean to tell me that the entire time I was away at school, the two of you have been together?”
Charlotte nodded. “Yes. When I gave the staff time off, I made everyone leave the house. Frederick would come back at least an hour later, and we could then express our love for each other.”
Still frustrated at the whole situation, Isaias had many questions. “Why didn’t you tell me? How could you keep this from me? Why did you try to push Victoria and me back together? Why did you do all of this to me?”
“When I discovered Whitney was black, I had to be sure you weren’t dating her to spite me. How better to do that than push your old girlfriend in your face every chance I got. I knew Victoria still had feelings for you, so it was easy to do. So, when you pushed back at your graduation, I knew you really loved Whitney. But I had to be sure.”
“But what about Jason?” Whitney asked.
“I still love that little boy. I don’t care if he really isn’t my grandson. When Victoria told me she was pregnant with Isaias’ child, I was fine with it. At that time, the two of you hadn’t met. I was only waiting for Isaias to graduate from school, and I had the entire wedding already planned out. Then Victoria told me about you. I realized I was no different from Isaias. I too was also in love with a man who was not like me. But like I said, I had to know if he really loved you.”
“So, what is the plan?” Isaias asked, still angry.
“I will come back to the house in a couple of days, and continue working.” Frederick said.
“What about you mother?” Whitney asked.
“I will move back into the house, and we will go on. When the divorce is final, Frederick and I get married, and we all live together like a family.”
Whitney was happy that just by the nature of her race, she indirectly was able to educate someone. This made her smile. “Good for you.”
“Now that you know what is going on, get back, and comfort the staff. They are lost without Frederick. Bella is in charge until we return. Understand?”
Feeling a bit insecure, deep down, Whitney wasn’t happy to hear that her mother in law was going to move back into what was now her house. “Mother, you know I love you, but are you going to take over the house when you return?”
“Absolutely not. It’s my time to step down and enjoy my freedom. Once I left, you became the lady of the house. From now on, what you say goes. I promise not to interfere.”
Taking Charlotte at her word, she was relieved. “Thank you.”
Confident that she’d calmed them down, Charlotte said, “Now children get back home and take care of business. It’s time for me to call Michael, and I don’t want you here while I do. I’ll be home in a couple of days, and we can move on.”
Hoping his mother knew what she was doing; his anger subsided long enough to express himself. He walked to his mother and gave her a hug. “I love you.”
Whitney hugged Frederick. “Welcome to the family, Frederick.”
“Thank you, Whitney.”
When the children were gone, Frederick took Charlotte in his arms and kissed her deeply. She allowed him to love her for an hour before she called Michael.
She stroked his cheek as she lay next to him. “Are you absolutely sure you want to marry me?”
“Of course. Don’t be afraid of the unknown honey. We will be happy.”
Confident in Frederick’s words, she got out of bed and wrapped her robe around her body. “All right.”
She walked to the phone and called her husband. Michael was in a panic.
“Charlotte honey, where are you? You should’ve been home by now.”
Charlotte sighed. “I’m not coming home, Michael.”
“What do you mean you’re not coming home?”
“I’m leaving you.”
“Leaving me? Why? Where are you? Can’t we talk about this in person?”
Charlotte closed her eyes and thought about Michael’s pain. “I will be back in town in a couple of days. We can talk then.”
Frantic, and not understanding what was going on, he said. “Charlotte I thought you loved me. Why are you leaving me?”
“Because I’m in love with someone else, and I don’t think it would be fair to you if I cheated on you.”
“Where are you? You are calling from a San Francisco area code. Are you in Sacramento or not?”
“I’ll be home in a couple of days. Goodbye, Michael.” Charlotte hung up the phone and turned to Frederick who was still in bed waiting on her to return. “He’s panicking.”
“Is that bad?”
“Sort of. But he’ll go to work tomorrow and confront Isaias. That is when Isaias will fire him. After that, I’m not sure what will happen to him. But it doesn’t matter.”
Charlotte got back into the bed and stroked Frederick’s cheek.
“So, do we have a big wedding? Or do we just go to the justice of the peace?”
She shook her head. “Neither. I think a small ceremony in my garden will work best. We invite Nadia, and her family. Maybe some people from the office, and that’s it.”
Frederick was looking forward to his entrance into society, and would have loved to have a huge wedding. “Why don’t you want to do a big wedding?”
“Because they take forever to plan. I would rather spend the time that it takes to plan one, being your wife.”
Frederick smiled, happy to have the love of his life in his arms after thirty years he looked at her and said, “I love you, Charlotte.”
“I love you, too.”
The following day, Michael was still upset about the phone call he got the night before. Knowing how close Charlotte was to her son, he was certain Isaias knew what Charlotte was up too. First thing in the morning, Michael burst into Isaias’ office, and interrupted a meeting.”
“Hey, can I talk to you for a moment?”
Seeing the look on his face, Isaias knew his mother made her phone call. “Not right now, Michael. I’m in the middle of a meeting.”
Not giving up, Michael replied, “It’s about your mother.”
“What about her?”
“It’s a family matter.”
Isaias knew what his mother told him to do, so he mentally prepared for it and excused himself. “Will you all excuse me for a minute?”
Isaias followed Michael into his office. “What’s going on? Is mother all right?”
“I’m not sure. Do you know where she is?”
“I would assume she’s at home. She’s not here. Why?”
“She didn’t come home yesterday. Around seven, she called me and told me that she was leaving me.”
Pretending not to know Isaias asked, “Why?”
“She said she was in love with someone else. Who is it Isaias? I know you know.”
Isaias prepped himself for Michael’s firing. He knew he had to be ruthless and unkind. Those two things were new to him. “I’m sorry Michael but I don’t. But I do know that you can’t work here anymore.”
“What? Isaias I’ve been at this company for years.”
Isaias shook his head. “I’m aware of that, but I’m sorry, I have to let you go.”
“You realize that I don’t really have to give you a reason. But because you were so close to my father, and are married to my mother, I’ll tell you. I’m firing you because you interrupted my meeting.”
“You can’t do this! Only the board has the power to fire me!” Michael yelled.
Isaias smiled, knowing he had him between the legs. “With your soon to be ex-wife leading the pack, do you really think it will be that hard? I will give you time to clean out your office.”
Not giving up. “There’s more to this isn’t it? What is it Isaias? Why are you really firing me?” Michael asked loudly.
“I’m sorry Michael. If you need a real answer, only my mother can provide that. Now clean out your office, and please leave my building. I have to get back to my meeting. I’ll have maintenance bring you up some boxes.”
Isaias turned and left Michael’s office, and Micheal sat down in his chair and buried his head in his hands.
Two days later, Charlotte and Frederick came back to town. Frederick thought it best to tell the staff right away about what was going on. The two of them walked into the door, and Bella was on her way to the dining room when she heard them come in. She quickly turned around and greeted them.
She was very excited to see them. “Oh my goodness Mr. Hall! Mrs. Reher! It’s so good to see you. Everyone has been so worried about the two of you. Where have you been?”
Frederick accustomed to being in charge of the staff, ignored Bella’s question. “It’s good to be back. Are Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds here?”
“Yes. They’re sleeping.”
“Bella, gather the entire house into the library. Including Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds.”
Five minutes later the whole house was in the library. All were glad to see Frederick back home.
Frederick looked around the room. Though he was only gone for a few days, he’d missed his staff. He was prepared to give them the answers to the questions they would certainly ask.
“I’m glad to see you all here. I know you have many questions about where we have been.”
Charlotte couldn’t help but remind the staff of their place. “Now first I just wanted to say that this goes no where. If I’m out getting my hair done, and I get treated any different, or I hear someone talking behind my back, I’ll replace each and every one of you.”
Though Whitney was the lady of the house, none of them doubted Charlotte’s words.
“Yes ma’am,” they said in unison.
“Good. Tell them Frederick.”
“A long time ago, I fell in love with a young girl. She grew up, got married, yet I still loved her, and longed to be with her. I never made any advances toward her until recently. Long story short, Charlotte, and I are going to get married.”
The staff gasped.
“It’s true,” Charlotte started. “I have loved Frederick for a very long time. I married Mr. Reynolds because my parents thought it would be a good thing. I married him out of necessity. It was wrong to do so. Frederick convinced me to marry him. Therefore, that’s just what I’m going to do.”
In shock, the staff had nothing to say. Bella, being a very good friend to Frederick replied, “Congratulations Mr. Hall.”
“Thank you, Bella.”
Her curiosity was not her own when she asked, “Are you still going to be in charge of the staff?”
“As a manager? No. We thought that there had to be a perfect person out there to take my position. But before we make our decision, we have to talk to Isaias and Whitney first. After all, they are the master and mistress of this house now.”
Bella wasn’t finished. “Second question. Are you moving back in the house Mrs. Reher?”
Charlotte nodded. “Absolutely. Are there any more questions?” No one said a word, and Charlotte was happy. “Good. Whitney and Isaias you stay. The rest of you can go back to your duties now.”
At ten, Ester knew she should begin to plan her lunch menu. She looked at Whitney and asked, “Mrs. Reynolds, what time is lunch?’
“Eleven thirty as usual Ester. I’ll have some of your fantastic southern fried chicken with rice and green beans. Please set places for mother and Frederick, and close the door behind you when you leave.”
Ester left the room.
“I’m glad to see you,” Isaias said. “I was beginning to think you weren’t coming back.”
“I wouldn’t do that. Could you imagine the rumors that would fly if I weren’t at the next board meeting or something like that? I wouldn’t do that to you honey.”
“So what do you want to talk to us about?”
“Frederick and I were thinking. We have the perfect person to take over for him, but we can’t ask without your permission.”
“Who is it?”
“Isaac,” Frederick said.
“He was my choice as well.”
“Wonderful,” Charlotte smiled.
“And when the divorce is final, we can all be a family,” Frederick beamed.
“Oh speaking of that. Michael has been terminated,” Isaias said plainly.
“I suppose I’d better go and explain things to him. He was a dear friend of your father. I’d hate for something bad to happen to him.”
Whitney wasn’t about to let Charlotte leave without showing her that she can run the house just as well as she could. “Mother can you wait until after lunch? That will give us more time to talk about your plans.”
Almost offended that Whitney would even suggest it, Charlotte was impressed with her insistence. “Why certainly dear.”
As soon as lunch was finished, Charlotte made her way to her current residence to check on her husband.
“Michael, are you here?” She yelled loudly putting her things down near the front door. Michael didn’t answer. She called to him again. “Michael!”
Emilio, Michael’s butler, greeted Charlotte in the foyer. “Good afternoon Mrs. Reher. Did you have a good trip?”
“Yes, I did Emilio, thank you. Have you seen my husband?”
“Yes ma’am. He’s in his study. He hasn’t come out of there in two days.”
Charlotte pretended to be concerned. “Is he okay?”
“I honestly don’t know ma’am. Every time I try to check on him, he yells at me to leave him alone.”
Her pretense suddenly became real to her. She didn’t want anything to happen to Michael, she just didn’t want to be married to him anymore. “Have you tried today?”
“Not yet ma’am.”
Charlotte smiled and put her hand on Emilio’s shoulder. She knew he had been Michael’s butler for several years, and was genuinely concerned for him. “I’ll get the master out of there. No worries. Now go about your duties.”
“Yes ma’am.” Emilio lowered his eyes, and walked away from Charlotte. She walked down the hall past the library and knocked on the door to Michael’s study. He didn’t answer, so she went in.
A sorry state he was. He was passed out at his desk, still dressed as if he’d been to work. She waited to see if he would look up when she walked into the room, and he didn’t. She said, “Michael darling, I’m home.”
He didn’t stir. She walked over to him and gave him a little shake in order to wake him up.
“Michael darling wake up. I’m back.”
Michael looked up with squinted eyes. “Charlotte?”
“Yes. I’m back dear, wake up. It’s the middle of the day.” Charlotte moved to one of the two windows in his office and opened his curtains wide.
Michael grimaced. “Oh damn woman, close those back.”
She crossed her arms in front of her body and said, “No. I want you alert for our little chat.”
Michael sat up and rubbed his eyes. “We have nothing to talk about. You have obviously made up your mind that you’re leaving me, and I no longer have a job to go to. So what is there to talk about, really?”
Charlotte suddenly smelled alcohol, in Michael’s direction.
“Have you been drinking?” She asked. She knew her husband liked the occasional glass of wine, but she’d never actually seen him drunk.
Michael nodded. “Yep.”
“Are you drunk now?”
Michael smirked. “I’ve been drunk for two days, so what.”
Everything about his attitude told Charlotte that he was very angry with her and didn’t want to hear a word she had to say. “Well if you don’t want to talk to me, can you at least listen?”
Slouched over his desk, he slapped both hands down at the same time. “Charlotte, I thought you loved me. If you didn’t love me, why did you marry me?”
Not ashamed in the least, Charlotte answered his question. “Honestly there are a few reasons,” she said sitting in a chair across the room and crossing her legs.
“I just want to know one good one.”
“I married you because I was tired of being alone. I was ashamed to admit that I was in love with someone that didn’t fit societies mold.”
Michael shrugged his shoulders and nodded his head. “So, you’re in love with someone else. Did you cheat on me?”
“Who is it?”
Charlotte paused for a moment and gave him what he wanted even though she knew it was going to make him angry. “Frederick.”
Michael glared at her for a moment to make sure he understood what she said. When he processed her answer, he yelled, “Your butler!”
Never raising his voice at her before, Charlotte was startled, and a bit afraid. “Yes Michael. Calm down.”
He slapped his hand on the desk and stood up. If he was indeed intoxicated when Charlotte entered the room, he sobered up in record time. “You chose a black butler over me?” He yelled at the top of his voice.
Charlotte hung her head. Not ashamed of being in love with Frederick, but ashamed in how she handled the situation. “It’s a long story.”
“Shorten it,” he said, leaning against his desk, crossing his arms and legs. He waited patiently for her answer.
“I’ve loved him since I was only a young girl. I loved him even before Charles and I were married.”
“Did you cheat on Charles?” Michael asked continuing to glare at his wife.
“No,” Charlotte lied.
“Good. At least I know that you aren’t the type to sleep around.” Michael went silent and continued to stare at her.
Charlotte realized that not only was she about to lose her husband, she was about to lose a close friend. Charlotte and Michael had known each other for twenty years. Charlotte didn’t like knowing she might lose him. Not realizing it, something juvenile managed to escape her lips. “Can we still be friends?”
Looking at her, thinking about how beautiful she was, even at that moment, Michael didn’t know if he had it in him to call her a friend. Because of her, he would have to start over. He loved her but didn’t know if a friend would have destroyed his career.
“I don’t know. You made Isaias fire me, didn’t you?”
“I didn’t think it would be good for the company if our personal lives got wound up in it.”
Michael smirked and let out a short chuckle.
“I can help you get another job at another steel company if you like,” Charlotte said, suddenly feeling guilty.
Michael shook his head. “No thank you. I’m still a man. I can find my own job.”
Regretting coming home to see him in person, Charlotte said, “I hope you understand why I’m doing this.”
Michael moved back to his chair behind his desk and sat down. “I don’t. But since I can’t stop you, and right now, I really don’t know if I want too, what choice do I have?”
Relieved that he didn’t resort to any kind of violence, Charlotte was ready to leave. “I’ll have Isaac come and pack my things.”
“No,” Michael shook his head. “Emilio will do it for you. I will let you know when they are ready. Now Charlotte if you don’t mind. I just want to sit here and not have to look at the cause of my pain. So do you mind leaving?”
Charlotte stood and smoothed out her skirt. “Not at all.”
“Thank you. Oh yes, and leave my key.” Charlotte took the key off her key ring, and laid it on the coffee table. “Now go.”
Charlotte left and wondered if she had done the right thing. Maybe she went about it the wrong way. Maybe she should have waited until after the divorce, and politely ask him to find another job. Michael hated her, and she really didn’t want to lose his friendship. Maybe with time, he would come around, and realize that she did what was best for him.