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

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Chapter 40

New Years Eve. December, 2001.

The wedding guests returned to Jamie Stewart’s beach front mansion to discover an amazing transformation. All of the wedding decorations had been replaced by New Years Eve banners, balloons, ribbons, and a blizzard of other paraphernalia. A large wooden dance floor had been placed in front of the gazebo. Mini bars had been erected in all of the most convenient locations. Extremely attractive young women, dressed in red mini-skirts and tight white T-shirts, carried trays of filled champagne glasses. A nine piece rock and roll band, featuring songs from the sixties and seventies, occupied the gazebo. A cloudless, star-filled sky embraced the gathering. The male members of the wedding party, including the groom, had exchanged their tuxedos for more comfortable khaki slacks and multi-colored shirts. The female members, except Christine, had changed into white cotton skirts and pink blouses, all matching. Christine wore a pink skirt with a white blouse.

Kerri, still escorting Steve’s mother, entered the mansion and was immediately surrounded by a large crowd of admirers, all anxious to meet her and ask questions about the traumatic events of September eleventh. Monty Kaplan, still mesmerized by her beauty, was first in line. While she appreciated the adulation, her priority was to talk to Steve, to wish him well, and to thank him for his kind words.

Jennifer Adams, thrust into an incurable snit as a result of her washroom confrontation with Christine, occupied a bar stool at the massive tiki bar which had been erected beside the gazebo. She inhaled martinis almost as fast as the bar tender could prepare them.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” the shaggy haired band leader shouted into his microphone. “You guessed it. It’s time for the first dance. I need Christine and Steve to report to the dance floor, on the double. We’re gonna make you two fall in love, all over again.” To the delight of everyone, the newlyweds hurried to the dance floor and danced to hoots, whistles, and Bryan Adams’ ‘Everything I do.’

Kerri sipped her wine and watched the dance while a wave of sadness or envy, she wasn’t sure which, invaded her mind. In spite of being besieged by admirers, she was alone with no partner, with nothing to look forward to but her impending war with Enerco and the Iacardi shareholders. Steve Monteith was in the arms of his new wife, with nothing to look forward to but a honeymoon, a love child, and a life full of love and happiness.

Shortly after the music stopped, Steve leaned close to Christine’s ear. “What’s going on with Jennifer?” he asked.

“What are you talking about?” she asked, pretending not to know the answer.

“She’s been alone at the bar ever since we got here. I haven’t been counting, but I think she’s working on her fourth martini.”

Christine glanced at Jennifer, then turned to face Steve. “She’s upset because I didn’t ask her to be my maid of honor.”

“I can live without you for a little while. I think you should talk to her. See if you can convince her to slow down.”

Christine shook her head. Jennifer Adams was the last person on earth she wanted to talk to. “Steve, this is the happiest day of my life. I’m not interested in playing nursemaid to an immature friend. I just don’t want any negative vibes. Jennifer’s a big girl. She can handle a hangover.”

“Then I’ll talk to her. I think she’s about one martini away from the floor.” He turned and headed for Jennifer. As Christine watched him go, apprehension caused a cold sweat to bathe her forehead.

“Mind if I join you?” Steve asked as he sat on the stool next to Jennifer’s.

She turned and stared at him, eyes reddened, pupils dilated, mascara smeared. “Be my guest,” she slurred.

Steve pointed to her martini. “Don’t you think you should cool it a bit? Those things are lethal.”

Jennifer made a poor attempt to smile. “You’re a beautiful man, Steve Monteith, but you just married the wrong girl.”

“Why?” Steve asked, stunned by her comment.

“You think she’s pregnant, but she’s not.”

“I think you should explain that,” he said, now astounded.

“She cancelled her weekend with you a month ago. She lied to you when she told you her work load was ‘off the Richter Scale.’ That might have been true, but it wasn’t the reason she cancelled. She cancelled because she had an appointment on Saturday, December first, at Women’s Care Clinic, on Lawrence Avenue in Toronto. The appointment was to terminate her pregnancy. I was with her for that appointment. I drove her there and drove her home. I’m telling you because she didn’t have the guts to do it herself, and because I think she owed you that honesty.”

“Why did she do it? Did she tell you?”

“Yup. She said the timing was all wrong. Obviously, becoming a partner in Anderson, McPherson and White was more important to her than having your child.”

Steve felt his knees weaken. A loathing nausea invaded the pit of his stomach. Jennifer’s news had hurt him. Christine had deceived him. His nausea quickly morphed into anger. “Thanks, Jennifer,” he said, then turned to leave. He stopped and again pointed to her martini. “Remember what I said. Those things are lethal.”

Christine had not moved. She had watched the whole conversation from where Steve left her, wishing she could stop it and dreading the consequences. She could see a significant change in Steve’s expression as she watched him leave Jennifer and return to her. “Was I right?” she asked.

“I don’t know. We didn’t talk about why you didn’t ask her to be maid of honor.” His lips tightened. “Take your shoes off. Let’s go for a walk on the beach. We need to talk.”

“What about?”

He squatted to take his own shoes off. “Just take you shoes off, Christine. I’ll tell you when we get to the beach”

Both carried their shoes and walked in silence until they reached the water’s edge, then Steve turned to face Christine. “Are you pregnant?” he asked, his hazel eyes unblinking.

“Of course I am. Why would you ask?”

“Because I wanted to give you one last chance to tell the truth,” he said, the vows of love and trust ringing like an empty bell in his head. The respect he held for Christine had been replaced by contempt. “When were you going to tell me?” he asked, anguish and disappointment pounding on his brain.

Christine was trapped. She had made a colossal mistake. There was no answer, no matter how well she crafted it, capable of extracting her from her nightmare. She covered her face and wept. Her response had clearly validated Jennifer Adam’s story.

“Our marriage is over, Christine. I’ll leave it up to you to make the necessary apologies. You’re very good at making up stories. Please don’t try to contact me.” He left his shoes and Christine on the beach, then marched on his bare feet back to join the party. He summoned the five members of his wedding party: Tom MacDonald, Peter Mitchell, Monty Kaplan, and Ian and Michael Monteith.

He asked them to step away from the crowd to ensure that only they would hear what he had to say. “Gentlemen, I hate to tell you this, but I can’t continue this marriage,” he said, shocking all of them. “I’m about to make an announcement to that effect. It isn’t going to make me very popular. Before I make that announcement, I want to thank all of you for everything you’ve done for me, and to apologize to you for the way it’s turned out.” He faced his two brothers. “I’ll be leaving right after my announcement, so I want both of you to make sure mom is looked after. I want you to see that she has a ride back to her hotel, and that she gets to the airport tomorrow.”

Both brothers nodded, still shocked.

“What the hell happened?” Tom MacDonald asked.

“She had an abortion and didn’t tell me about it,” Steve replied with tears in his eyes. He hugged each of the five, then turned and headed for the gazebo. “Mind if I borrow this?” he asked the band leader, then relieved him of his microphone. His hands shook as he held it to his lips. “Please forgive me for interrupting,” he said, instantly terminating all conversations. “What I have to say is painful, more painful than anything I’ve said in my entire life... Christine and I will not be continuing our marriage... I could explain the reason to you, but out of consideration for Christine, I’ll call it an irreconcilable difference... I’m leaving now, but before I do, I want to thank all of you for your kindness, and to apologize for what has become an inconvenient moment, for all of us.” He handed the microphone back to an astonished band leader, then hurried back to the beach, picked up his shoes, and without another word to Christine, he left her, alone and still sobbing on the beach. She had deceived him, broken a trust, and robbed him of a child. He might one day forgive her, but never again respect her. The cold lonely ten mile walk back to the Ritz-Carlton gave him a chance to clear his head and to contemplate his limited and wounded future.

Steve entered the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton to find Jamie Stewart waiting for him. He did not look happy. Still dressed in his expensive tuxedo, he hurried to confront Steve. “I hope you’re satisfied with yourself,” he spat, his brown eyes burning with outrage. “Your little performance tonight succeeded in ruining my daughter’s life and embarrassing me in front of some of my closest friends. I guess it didn’t occur to you that I spent over three hundred thousand dollars on a wedding that you managed to flush down the toilet.”

“Have you talked to Christine?” Steve asked struggling to remain calm.

“Of course I did, you impudent shit! She was the first person I talked to after that infantile stunt you pulled.”

“And what did she tell you?”

“The same thing she told you. She said you went crazy when she told you she lost her child. What the hell’s the matter with you? Don’t you have any balls? You promised to love Christine in sickness and health, then the minute something goes wrong, you decide to run away and hide. You disgust me, son. You were right when you told Christine you’re not worthy of her. You’re not even close. In fact, you’re in way over your head... Tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going to bust your social climbing ass. I’m going to give you thirty days to pay me five million. If you don’t, you can give me the keys to your fucking cottage.”

“Did she tell you how she lost her child?”

Jamie nodded. “She said she had a miscarriage.”

It was clear to Steve that Christine had lied to her father. To save herself and her father from the ultimate embarrassment, she had fabricated another story. He knew that by Jamie’s proclamation he was doomed to be impoverished. But that didn’t matter any more. He had to live with himself, not Christine. “Your a nice man, Jamie. I have no quarrel with you, but I do with Christine. She’s not an honest woman. She proved that tonight.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Have a chat with Jennifer Adams. She’ll answer that question,” Steve said, then turned and headed for the elevator.

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