Katie was standing by the front door, shaking slightly at the idea of seeing Senator Crawley. Ruby took her hand, giving her a much needed anchor, and Katie smiled gratefully at him.
“You can do this, sugar. We’re all behind you.” Katie nodded as the front door opened. Cash came in first, followed by five men and two women, the men in black suits, the women in black pencil skirts with black blazers.
‘Lawyers,’ Katie thought, mentally rolling her eyes. ‘Someone really needs to force them to watch Legally Blonde. It’s not a crime to wear color.’
A bodyguard Katie recognized came in next. He gave the interior a quick, but thorough, sweep, then nodded to someone behind him. Senator Thomas Crawley entered the house, his face a blank mask, perfected after years of politics. Rocky and Hank were the last two to enter, closing the door behind them. Before it shut, Katie saw that the hands were still on the front porch, armed, and the Senator’s security had moved to the bottom of the porch. Each one had a hand inside their jacket, which Katie knew meant they were gripping the gun in their shoulder holster.
‘Yet another disaster waiting to happen. I could really use a lot less excitement in my life.’
The Senator glanced around, taking in the kitchen, dining and living rooms. Katie knew the house looked nothing like the Crawley’s mega-mansions, but she wouldn’t trade Skyheart for any of his soulless homes. Senator Crawley’s eyes finally landed on Katie and he gave her a fake, insincere politician’s smile. His salt and pepper hair was perfectly styled and he wore a bespoke suit with a dark blue tie.
“My darling Katherine,” he said, taking a step towards Katie. She immediately moved back, while Ruby, Rocky, Cash, and Hank surrounded Katie, giving her a protective wall. The Senator’s mask slipped for a moment as his lip curled with disdain, but he quickly regained his composure. He took another step forward and an obviously fake sad expression appeared on his face.
“My dear,” he said, trying to sound hurt, “is this really necessary? We are family after all.”
“I’m pretty sure family doesn’t come to call with an army of lawyers, Senator Crawley,” Katie said.
“An unfortunate necessity, my dear. Your relationship with my son has become...complicated.”
Ruby snorted with disbelief that this man had the audacity to call Katie’s relationship with Damien “complicated”. Both Cash and Hank balled up their fists in anger, but Katie laid a gentle hand of each of their shoulders. They relaxed slightly, but kept their guard up. The Senator watched this interaction with interest, obviously trying to learn as much as possible about Katie’s relationships with the workers on the ranch.
“Why are you here, Senator?” Katie asked bluntly. “I don’t particularly want to play the game where we both say something polite and mundane that actually has important subtext.”
“Right to the heart of the matter. I’ve always admired your frankness, my dear.”
“No, you haven’t. I was told multiple times if I ever spoke to the press, I was to be as vague and noncommittal as possible.”
Senator Crawley’s mouth pursed like he just tasted something sour. He wasn’t used to his son’s mousy, broken down wife talking back. After the first few months of their marriage, Katie had become quiet and always agreeable to avoid making Damien angry. Clearly, that girl was gone. In her place stood a confident, self-assured young woman who was no longer going to be used as a doormat or punching bag.
“I see,” Senator Crawley said tensely. “I had hoped we could have a civil conversation about the future and where the family goes from here.”
“Family?!” Rocky burst out. “How dare you call yourself this beautiful angel’s family?”
“It’s okay, Rocky,” Katie said.
“No, it sure as hell isn’t!” Rocky said, still glaring at the Senator. “This-this dirty piece of scum comes into our home and dares to call himself your family?”
“My dear man, I am Katherine’s father-in-law. Who on earth are you?”
Before Rocky could respond, Katie stepped around her protective circle to stand a few feet from the Senator. The guys moved around so they were standing behind Katie and at her sides, still silently supporting her and giving her strength.
“These people, everyone on this ranch, they are my family,” Katie stated. “Not you. Not Damien. Your family has never cared about me, Senator. You saw me as a useful commodity and when your son broke me too many times, I was no longer useful and therefore no longer needed. But I am needed here. More importantly, I’m wanted. I’m loved and appreciated and supported. I was never given any of those things by your family.”
Senator Crawley’s eyes narrowed in anger, but his voice still maintained that pleasant, Southern cadence that made him so popular with the voters.
“I’m honestly not sure where this is coming from, Katherine. We welcomed you into our home, made you a part of the team, and cared about you. Why would you say you aren’t our family?”
“Oh, for God’s sake, cut the bullshit,” Cash said, exasperated. “You may not remember how to have a real conversation anymore, but we sure as hell do. So either say what you wanna say or get the hell out!”
“Young man, I will not be spoken to with such blatant disrespect!” Senator Crawley snapped. “Do you have any idea who I am? Apologize at once!”
There was a long pause, then the residents of Skyheart burst into laughter. The Senator’s face was starting to turn red with anger and one of his lawyers wisely stepped in before the Senator said or did something he might regret.
“Now, excuse me, please,” the middle-aged man said, trying to be heard over the laughter. “Please, excuse me, can the laughter stop? It’s making it very difficult to talk to each other.”
Everyone tried to calm down, but when someone would start chuckling, it would set everyone else off. It took almost five minutes for the Skyheart family to settle down.
“Thank you,” the lawyer said, obviously frustrated. “Now, we really need to sit down with Mrs. Crawley and-”.
“Beauchamp,” Cash said, cutting the lawyer off.
“I beg your pardon?”
“Katie’s last name isn’t Crawley, it’s Beauchamp,” said Cash, crossing his arms over his large chest. “She knew at the very beginning being a Crawley would be nothing but bad.”
“My dear young man,” started the Senator, causing Ruby to audibly groan. The Senator paused briefly, flexing his jaw, before continuing. “I don’t know where you’re getting your information, but that young woman’s name is Katherine Crawley.”
“No, it’s not,” Katie said. “I went by Katie Crawley because Damien insisted, but I never legally changed my name. I’m not a Crawley.”
There was a sudden huddle of all of the Senator’s lawyers. Katie could hear certain phrases being loudly whispered, mainly “All the paperwork says Crawley” and “she’s probably lying”. Katie just rolled her eyes. She didn’t care if they refused to believe her. She didn’t change her name and everyone from the IRS to Social Security knew it.
“Ignore them, angel,” Cash said quietly. “It’s not like you were gonna sign anything but divorce papers anyway.”
“How long until your lawyers get here so we can run away?” Katie asked. Cash checked his watch.
“Three hours or so.”
“Ugh, this is so ridiculous!” Ruby exclaimed. “I mean, this Senator is clearly insane, but a bunch of lawyers trying to force Katie into signing god knows what is absurd. They have to know she won’t go along with it.”
“The old me would have,” Katie said quietly, feeling ashamed. “If Senator Crawley had dropped a stack of papers in front of me and told me to sign them, I would have done it.”
“That’s not you anymore, angel,” Cash said comfortingly, running his hand up and down Katie’s back. “And he’s finally starting to realize that.” Cash sighed, shaking his head, then stepped forward. “Look, Katie already told you what she wants. A divorce. Nothing else. So unless you’re gonna give that to her, we have three hours to kill until our lawyers get here.
“I beg your pardon?” the Senator asked incredulously. “Your lawyers? My dear young man, with all due respect-”.
“Whatever you’re about to say, don’t,” Cash cut him off. “‘Cause I know for a fact it wouldn’t have been respectful. So. Divorce?” Senator Crawley was grinding his teeth together, his face set in a scowl.
“I demand to speak to Katherine,” he said. “Alone.”
“Well, then, I guess we have nothing to talk about for three hours,” Katie said directly. The Senator took in a deep breath, which Katie recognized as the sign he was about to scream and demand everybody obey him. It’s how he acted away from the press, when he terrorized his family with his anger and threats. However, Ruby smoothly walked forward, looking completely at ease wearing black skinny jeans with white hearts on them, sparkly sneakers, and a bright pink sweater topped with a sparkly purple scarf. The Senator looked utterly horrified, which didn’t faze Ruby in the slightest.
“As I am a gentleman, I am obliged to offer you something to eat or drink. You are also welcome to make yourselves comfortable in the living room or dining room. However, I feel I should tell you that you’re an absolute piece of shit and anyone willing to work for you is either a greedy idiot or has no morals or ethics.”
Absolute silence greeted this speech, with everyone’s mouths hanging open. Then Rocky began to laugh.
“Well, hell, kid, that’s one way of doing things!”
“So? Drinks? Food?” Ruby politely asked. Senator Crawley and his lawyers looked at a complete loss, glancing at each other in confusion. “Well, I’ll set out pitchers of water and hot cider. I’ll also put out finger food. Feel free to take what you want.”
Ruby glided into the kitchen, followed by a still chuckling Rocky. Katie touched Cash’s shoulder.
“Can I talk to you in the office?” she whispered in his ear.
Cash glanced at the Senator and his lawyers, who all still seemed baffled by what was happening. Cash nodded and placed his hand on Katie’s lower back, guiding her out of the room.