KERRI'S WAR (Volume 3 of The King Trilogy)

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Chapter 26

Toronto. Saturday, November 3.

It was the hottest social ticket in town. If you received one, you were in. If you didn’t, well, you need to adjust your social strategy. The cream of Toronto society trampled one another to suck up to Jamie Stewart, Christine’s father, all of them anxious be included in the guest list for his annual Guy Fawkes party, the mother of all of the city’s deep pocket bashes. By assigning limousines to each of his invitees, Stewart had made it possible for them to attend his party and get smashed with impunity. Among the numerous highlights of the evening was a gigantic bonfire, an essential ingredient of any Guy Fawkes party, in an architecturally designed pit adjacent to his swimming pool. Officially, Guy Fawkes night was on Monday, November fifth, but Monday night cocktail parties were far less appealing than those on Saturday. The dress code was casual.

The event was in commemoration of the saving of the King of England on November 5, 1605. James I, the new King and successor to Elizabeth I, was intolerant of English Catholics. To adjust his attitude, thirteen co-conspirators determined that violence was necessary. Their Gunpowder Plot involved the storing of thirty-six barrels of gunpowder in a cellar beneath the House of Lords. Guy Fawkes, one of the conspirators, was found guarding the gunpowder. He was tortured and executed. Throughout the country, bonfires were lit that evening to celebrate the safety of the King. The event is celebrated each year by burning effigies of Guy Fawkes in bonfires.

Steve took a pass on the limousine offer by his future father in law. Instead, he arrived in his dilapidated green Ford half-ton pickup, raising the eyebrows of numerous well-healed guests. He did accept the casual dress code offer and wore black corduroys and a bulky white sweater. He parked in front of the fifth of five garage doors and hurried inside the Stewart mansion, expecting Christine to rush into his arms. She was nowhere in sight.

Jamie Stewart, carrying a huge tumbler of scotch and wearing a Guy Fawkes mask, approached him and shook his hand. His latest squeeze, Vicky Anchutz, a social climbing buxom young blond wearing white clutch-me-tights, white pumps, and a yellow pull-over, stood at his side. “Glad you could make it, Steve,” Jamie bellowed. “Christine’s out at the pool. She’s not feeling well.”

“Anything serious?” Steve asked, his expression showing genuine concern.

Jamie pointed in the direction of the pool. “Go see her. She’ll tell you.”

Filled with apprehension, Steve muscled his way past numerous guests and made his way to the fabulously sculptured swimming pool. He found Christine, sitting alone on a deck chair and wrapped in a heavy grey blanket. A half finished glass of iced tea sat on the small table beside her.

He dragged a wrought iron chair to her side, sat on it, then leaned over and kissed her forehead. “Hi, stranger. Your dad said you’re not feeling well. What’s wrong?’

“Christine faced Steve with a forced smile. “I’m pregnant.”

Her news hit Steve like a bolt of lightning. “You’re joking,” he said, hoping she was.

She shook her head, lips tight. “I wish I was, but my doctor says I’m not.”

“How long have you known?”

“I’ve suspected for a month, known for three hours. I went to see Doctor Mendes this afternoon. She said there’s no doubt.”

“How could this happen. You’ve been on the pill forever.”

Tears flooded Christine’s reddened eyes. “It’s my own stupid fault. I got slack and missed too many days.”

Steve’s emotions rocketed into overdrive, vacillating between disappointment and joy. He stared at the darkening sky, silently considering the implications of Christine’s condition. Two words had ended any thought of continuing his adventure with Kerri King, ended any thought of postponing his marriage. His near fanatical respect for responsibility forced him to choose the only proper course of action. “You wanna get hitched?” he asked with his irresistible smile.

“Absolutely not!” she replied without hesitation. “Not under these circumstances. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life living with a man who married me because he had to.”

“I don’t have to marry you, Christine. I want to marry you.”

“Bullshit, Montieth! You told me last weekend that you’re not ready. You said you still haven’t figured out what to do with your mother, you still had a ton of work to do on your cottage, and you don’t have any money. What’s changed?”

“I’ll tell you what’s changed. You and I are going to have a child.” His hazel eyes fixed on Christine. “I won’t let you go through this alone,” he promised.

“Where the hell would we live? I’m not going to give up my career and shack up in Muskoka for the winter.”

“You don’t have to. We can both keep doing what we’re doing and cohabitate, my place or yours. It won’t be perfect, but I promise I’ll be there for you, whenever you need me. We can work out the details together.”

Christine returned Steve’s stare, her brown eyes still tearing. His words and the strength of his conviction had tranquillized her. “I love you, Steve Monteith. You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me... Let’s have a big one, in Florida, on New Years Eve.”

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