General Fiction posted June 10, 2014 Chapters:  ...8 9 -10- 11... 


Exceptional
This work has reached the exceptional level
Sarah lets loose her feelings to Paul

A chapter in the book Enough to Miss Christmas

Speaking Up

by Fridayauthor




Background
Sarah has feelings for Paul but his wealth makes their lives worlds apart. Two children complicate matters further. Sarah is appalled at the sheltered life daughter Karen is leading.
       CHAPTER TEN
      
            Karen used her own key to let us in. She went directly upstairs, leaving me to fend for myself in the empty hall. Mrs. Waterman, the cook, heard our entrance and emerged from the kitchen. She was surprised to find me alone. She wore a coat and was about to leave, but instead she led me to the room where I’d first met Timmy and Karen.
      
            “Karen went upstairs,” I said before she asked. I extended my hand and introduced myself.
      
            “I was just going to hop by the hospital to see Mrs. Doberchek before cooking dinner. Mr. North and Timmy are due home from the hospital. I’ll wait until they get here.”
      
            “No, you go ahead. I’ll be fine.”
      
            “Oh, no. That wouldn’t be proper.” She began taking off her coat. “Will you be staying the night?  I’m sorry things are so confusing with Mrs. Doberchek’s absence. May I get you a cup of tea or something to drink?”
      
            I understood shooing her out would be a gaff in the social-etiquette bible, but her hovering made me nervous. Karen’s hasty departure already deepened my troubled state of mind. The sound of an automobile in the drive interrupted us. We both stood at the front door as a three-vehicle convoy pulled up. Paul emerged from the first limo while two white-clad figures alighted from the middle vehicle of the parade. The growing group was joined by Thatcher Wright and the chauffeur who opened the limo trunk and withdrew a wheelchair. Timmy climbed out of the back seat of the limo with Paul’s assistance. As I moved to meet father and son, Karen who had silently returned, passed me and joined the pair. In deference to the family, I stood back as happy greetings were exchanged.
      
            As Timmy was wheeled by me, his head swathed in bandage, he looked up and smiled. “I got a bad bump,” he said. “And stitches too.”
      
            I patted his shoulder. “Yes, you did brave guy.”  He beamed.
      
            Paul kissed my cheek, thanking me, and saying he’d be down in a few minutes. The group ascended the stairs with Paul carrying Timmy and the chauffeur lugging the wheelchair. Only Thatcher and Mrs. Brewster remained behind. She hurried away, excusing herself to make coffee. I glared at Thatcher Wright, not sure what to say.
      
            “Were the clothes adequate, Mrs. Blanding?” he asked with a smile.
      
            I ignored his question. “Why didn’t you tell Paul I asked to stay at a hotel?  He thinks I slept here in the house.” The smile vanished, causing me to feel a tad sorry for my blunt accusation, but I’d lost patience playing games. I was determined to clear the slate of dishonesty regardless of the repercussions.
      
            He stammered. “Karen asked me to. I didn’t see the harm.”
      
            “Well, I do! Whether it’s lying or misleading, it’s wrong and it puts me in an awkward position.”
      
            “I know what you mean, Ma’am.” Thatcher said. “I find myself in similar circumstances more often than I like.”
      
            “Karen’s a twelve-year-old child! Why would you go along with such nonsense?”
      
            He glanced up the stairs confirming we were alone. “She lost her mother and she feels a need to protect her father; to be brave for him. I tend to cut her some slack and go along with her requests . . .”
        
            “To lie?”
      
            “I’m sorry if it created a problem for you. I’ll make it right. I’ll talk to Mr. North.”
      
            “Don’t. Let it play out. If there’s a problem, it rests with Karen. She knows my thinking on the matter.”
      
            Thatcher looked concerned. “Will you be speaking to Mr. North?”
      
            “I’ll be telling him the truth, unlike a lot of people around here. And I’ll be returning to the hotel.”  I looked up to see Paul descending the stairs, alone. The look on his face told me he sensed our less than friendly exchange.
      
            “Is there a problem?” he asked.
      
            I brushed his question aside before Thatcher could respond. “Thatcher is arranging a hotel for me. I hope you don’t mind.”
      
            There was a surprised look on Paul’s face, than a smile. “No, no problem.  Maybe that is a good idea.” The glint in his eye said he thought my decision was randy. I was far too irritated to harbor such mischievous thoughts.
       
            “I’ll get right on that, Mrs. Blanding.” Thatcher was more than happy to bail out but turned to Paul before leaving. “Don’t forget, the agency is sending over two prospective women to take up Mrs. D’s duties. They’ll be here at seven.”
      
            Paul read my mind. Less than twenty-four hours ago the poor woman was healthy and functioning and now they were interviewing her replacement! Were they going to pre-book the funeral as well?
      
            Paul answered my look. “It’s only temporary but even if she pulls through, she’ll be out of action for a long time. The kids need someone. So does the household. I’m no damned good at running the place.”
      
            “You don’t have to make excuses to me, Paul. I know the last twenty-four hours have been tough. I’ll go with Thatcher and let you do what has to be done.”
       
            “Like hell you will! I’m not deserting you again,” he said startling me.  He turned to Thatcher. “Call my cell phone when you have Sarah’s hotel set up and call the employment agency. Tell them to postpone any interviews until at least nine o’clock. If that’s not satisfactory, we’ll call someone else. Sarah and I are going to dinner.”
      
            I considered protesting but instead asked, “What about Timmy?”
      
            “Karen is with him and there are two nurses who’ll stick around as long as needed. You’re my priority now.” He took my arm and led me out the door.
      
            “Sarah,” he said, once we were in the car. “I can’t believe I’ve ignored you for twenty-four hours and sloughed you off to babysit. You can’t know how badly that makes me feel.”
      
            “Don’t be so hard on yourself. Matters seem to be settling down.” I wasn’t sure where this conversation would lead but I was thankful to be out of that house. Perhaps now I could think straight.
        
            Paul pulled into a small roadside restaurant. I wondered if this was a favorite local place he shared with his wife. We took a back table in the bar area. It was early, only four o’clock, and the help was setting up for the evening dinners.
       
            “I need a drink.” Paul said. “Maybe a few.” We waited while the bar tender donned his apron. We both ordered manhattans. “I’ve been thinking about us constantly but tell me about your day,” he added.
        
            While I needed a clear head, I needed a drink too. I took a long sip of my cocktail and breathed deeply. I answered his question with one of my own. “Did you ask Karen how our time together went?”
      
            “She said you did some shopping. That was about it. She was anxious to talk to Timmy. Was there a problem?”
      
            “Karen is a wonderful child and we had a ball, for the most part. We shopped and poked around and chatted. Your daughter is highly intelligent and I love her company. It’s difficult to tell if the feeling is shared. I think you best ask her.”
      
            “There’s no reason she wouldn’t think the world of you. I certainly do.” He took my hand and his touch felt natural. I tried not to think of the minefield of obstacles strewn in our path.
      
            “Let’s talk about us,” he said with a smile.
      
            I didn’t return his smile. “Let’s talk about Karen instead,” I said.
      
            Paul’s smile evaporated like ice in July. “Something happened. What did she do?”
      
            “It’s not Karen’s fault.”
      
            “Then what is it?”
      
            I swallowed a gulp of my manhattan. “She’s a marvelous complex girl but I feel heartbroken for her.”
       
            Paul nodded his head in agreement. “She lost her mother.”
      
            “It’s much more than that. Why in the Lord’s name does she lead such an incredibly sheltered life? God, Paul! She’s reading Latin and classics and had never been to a mall! She’s twelve years old! She’s never bought her own clothes, can’t watch television and can’t have a computer! Her sole exercise is running on a treadmill and she apparently has no friends and no social intercourse outside the home. There’s no woman figure in whom she can confide. God knows how she learned about menstruation!”
      
            “When that time comes. . .”

            “It’s already here, Paul!”
      
            “There were nurses with Carol, I thought . . .”
      
            “That’s only part of it. Karen’s life isn’t close to normal, by any one’s definition. God knows, I don’t have a clue how the super-rich are supposed to raise their kids but rich or poor, this child is living in a serious void and has major issues. There, I said it. Send me home if you want to. I know I have no business telling you or anyone how to raise their kids but when I spot a problem festering I can’t help not yelling about it.” Paul was stunned and I was close to tears.
       
            “I don’t know what to say.” I waited. “She never complains. When she wants something, I don’t deny her. Granted, I left it all up to Carol when she was alive. The isolation was important to my wife. It was how she was raised. After she became ill, the care givers and help followed her lead. Mrs. Doberchek is there for her.”
      
            I waved him off. “Don’t go there. I don’t want to hear your wife’s philosophy about raising children. We promised each other not to bring up the past and I’m sticking to it. I just can’t keep my mouth shut and see a beautiful child like Karen grow up a social hermit.”
      
              “I know the kids should get out in the world but the isolation was Carol’s way. After her death, I didn’t want to rock the boat too fast. I love my children. I’d do anything for them.”
      
            “And they’ll do anything for you,” I muttered, including telling you their life is all roses when it sucks.” I looked him in the eye. “Or maybe Timmy and Karen are so cloistered they don’t even know what they’re missing! Is this how you were raised? God knows, I wasn’t! We were allowed to get in trouble and roll in the dirt and have fun and make our own decisions and learn a little about life before we were shoved out of the nest. We had chores and responsibilities and we worked for what got. What will Karen do when she has to interact with other children her age?  How will she act around boys?  How will either Karen or Timmy learn right from wrong?  Do they have a morality teacher who comes in twice a week between Greek and opera, after their personal trainer?  As far as I can see, their education is left to a retired nun and a grumpy old woman. What’s the theory?  Keep them in the castle so the dragons won’t get them on the other side of the moat?”
      
            “I want to do things differently but it’s difficult to find a start; knowing what to change.”
      
            “Change everything! Start by talking to them, honestly. You’re not so stupid you don’t realize Karen has a remarkable capacity for bending the truth when it suits her. Call her to task for it and explain the difference between pretending and lying and tell her lying doesn’t solve a damn thing. Don’t just let her dishonesty slide.”
      
            “Did she lie about something? I’m sorry, since her mother died . . .”
      
            “So how long is that honeymoon going to last? Karen has a life ahead of her and she best get started.”
      
            “Maybe I don’t really know my kids, or how to raise them. My own experience certainly sucked. It wasn’t a whole lot different from theirs in most ways. Neither was their mother’s.”
      
            “So how did you turn out to be so world-wise and sociable?” I asked a tad too harshly.
      
            “I snuck out, did stuff on my own and learned. I didn’t give a shit what anyone said, especially my parents. I spent two years on my own as a runaway teenager before they hired a detective to drag me home.”
      
            “See?” I said. “That’s the clue. You didn’t love your parents the way Karen loves you. You didn’t care a rat’s ass about pleasing them the way your daughter loves you and is fanatical about pleasing dad.”
      
            “I don’t want to expose my kids to what I went through!”
      
            “You’re smart enough to know there’s a middle ground, Paul.”
      
            “You don’t pull any punches, do you?”
      
            “Not when it comes to children. Just talk to them, Paul, and raise them yourself. Stop abdicating responsibility to hired help who don’t have a nickel in your children’s future.”
       
             I took a deep breath. “I need another drink.”
      
            When the next round was served and half finished, Paul looked me in the eye. “You know how much I want you to help. You could move up north, move in here; anything, but I won’t even ask because I know you wouldn’t do it.”
      
            “You better believe it! It’s your job, not mine,” I answered taking his hand. “I really care for you, Paul; maybe I even love you . . . there, I said it, but I despise the life all of you are leading; I hate everything I’ve seen about it.”
      
            “I don’t give a whit about all those trappings. I only live that way because it’s all I’ve ever known. It was dumped on me.”
      
              “I have no business asking you to change and don’t expect you to, but I’d never have a moment’s happiness with all that crap surrounding me. Where does that leave us? I don’t have a clue. I want to make us work as a couple but I can’t begin to guess how that could possibly happen. I’ll have dinner with you and talk to you and let you drive me to the hotel. Will I sleep with you?  Not tonight. Not after the day we’ve both had.”
      
            “What about tomorrow?” he asked. “And the next day?”
      
             “If you lend me a car, I’ll drive down and see my mother tomorrow as long as I’m so close. I’ll pray she’ll be the person who recognizes me but if she doesn’t, I’ll understand. Then I’ll go back to my shitty job and do some thinking. The next day, and the one after? I don’t know, Paul. I just don’t know. No, I’m not saying I’ll never see you again. The next three weeks are tanked for both of us because of our schedules. After that, I just don’t know.”
       
            Nor did I know what to expect for a response, but Paul just asked if he could continue to telephone me each night. “Those conversations made my day. I love talking to you.”
       
            This guy could take some hard punches. Out spoken foul mouthed Sarah Blanding had swung from the floor and he wasn’t down yet. We had a memorable dinner and proved we could enjoy each other’s company in spite of all that transpired, especially the accusations I’d so imprudently put forth. I had at least two more manhattans, and Paul seemed to keep up with me. Once again I was quite drunk but I was so mixed up in my feelings I didn’t care. I gave him a hard time about the expense of flying me back Sunday night on the private jet and he agreed to purchase a conventional ticket.
      
            Thankfully, and prudently, a car picked us up for the trip to the hotel as neither of us was in shape to drive. I remember kissing Paul while standing on the sidewalk, in the lobby and at the elevator. In spite of my earlier commitment, I have no doubt I would have dragged him into my room had he allowed me. However, either his liquor capacity or common sense exceeded mine because I slept alone. Once again I was absent pajamas which I’d forgotten in my shopping activities, but I was beginning to get used to sleeping naked and alone.
 


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Enough to Miss Christmas is a family love story, about sisters, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, parents and children. But mostly it tells the story of a stepmom and a precocious young lady and how they bonded in spite of overwhelming odds.
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