THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM

Jillian StokesThe Grand Sunset Room"I hope I'm not late," Jillian said as she hurried to join her fiancÚ and his family.  "I-I got tied up with something."

"Honey, we were beginning to worry about you."  Reginald handed her a glass of champagne and watched as she sipped it slowly.

"Mother Callison, Father Callison, Trevor, Maggie, I'm so sorry to be late."

"That's alright, Jillian."  Francis gently patted her on the shoulder.  "We were just worried that something had happened to you.  I know how you like to make an entrance, but this was a little severe."

"Oh, I know.  I just forgot something and had to run out for a bit."  Jillian found her explanation met with curious glances from her future in-laws.

Reginald Callison"Well, that doesn't matter now that you're here."  Reginald turned his ear toward the orchestra and smiled as he easily recognized the tune.  "Jillian, would you care to dance?  They are playing our song."

"Yes, they are!"  Her face lit up as she took his hand.  "I'd love to dance with you, Reginald."  Soon, other couples began to join them on the dance floor including Trevor and Grace.

"And I think I'm gonna go say 'hi' to Patterson," Maggie spoke up as she began to walk away.  Francis turned to glare at her daughter.

"I don't think that's wise considering what he and Lorraine have done to Trevor."

"Momma!  You heard Trevor.  Patterson had nothing to do with it.  Whatever happened was all Trevor's fault."  Maggie stuck out her lower lip and frowned at her mother's stubbornness.  "And I'm gonna go talk to him whether you like it or not!"  Francis gasped at Maggie's boldness as her daughter stormed away.


Stephanie LakeAs Reginald and Jillian glided around the dance floor, Stephanie's eyes followed them closely.  Her temperature began to rise as she thought that it should be her on his arm and not that prissy witch.  As she watched them, Douglas watched her and noted the visible tension that the site of the happy couple brought.

"Reginald and Jillian are so perfect together," Douglas finally spoke.  "I hope that I can find a love as strong as that someday."

"Well, you just better hope that you're not gullible enough to fall for some snotty society brat!  That Jillian Stokes makes me sick.  She thinks she has everything!  She thinks she's better than everyone else.  Well, she's not!  She's just like the rest of us.  I don't know where she gets off with her high and mighty act!"

Douglas pulled away from Stephanie, shocked by her blatant display of animosity.  Quietly, he began to wonder where the attack was coming from.  He'd never know Stephanie to have such a vicious side.  He'd always seen her as such a sweet girl, but he found this new aspect of her personality quite unsettling.

Douglas Davis"Stephanie, where is this dislike of Jillian coming from?" he questioned as he gently grabbed her arm to draw her attention from the dance floor.  "I've never known you to act this way."

"I...um...well," she stammered when she realized she'd let her true feelings get the better of her.  "It's just that girls like that were always the ones who looked down on me when I first came to Albanyville.  No matter how popular I became, there were always a few of them who refused to let me forget that I didn't have a father and that I didn't come from some nice upper-class home.  No matter what success I had in school, there was always someone who tried to bring me down.  I always hated them for that.  Jillian reminds me of those horrible girls."

Douglas looked at her with tender eyes and took her in his arms.  He thought of his own youth and the difficulties he'd experienced because of his family and knew exactly where she was coming from.  Stephanie rested her head on his shoulder and began to enjoy the comfort that his embrace brought.  It wasn't long, however, before her eyes again focused on the object of her affection and she realized that she had to put her plans into motion before it was too late.


Jillian StokesReginald Callison"Oh, Reginald, that was wonderful," Jillian sighed as she held on to his arm while he led her from the dance floor.  "I think I must be the luckiest girl in the world to have found you."

"And I the luckiest man."  He gently lifted her chin so that their eyes met and he kissed her tenderly.

"Jillian!" came the booming voice from behind him.

 She quickly whirled around to see her parents watching them.

"Now, when are you going to introduce your family to the man that's going to make you his wife?" Nelson asked as he looked at her sternly. 

Jillian's eyes darted from her father to Reginald and back again.  This was the moment she'd been nervous about for months.  She took a deep breath and prayed everyone got along.


THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM

The Grand Sunset RoomReginald Callison"Mr. Stokes, I'm so glad to finally meet you."  Reginald extended his hand to his future father-in-law.  Nelson responded by grasping his hand firmly as he closely examined Reginald.  "Jillian has told me so much about you and her mother."

"That's odd," Nelson grumbled.  "She's barely mentioned a word to me about you."

Reginald swallowed hard when he realized Nelson Stokes would be a harder sell than he'd previously thought.  "Where are your sisters, dear?" he asked as he turned to Jillian.

"We're right here, silly," Judith spoke up as she strolled over to him and kissed him lightly on the cheek.  "Why, Jillian, he's every bit as handsome as you said!"  She looked around and threw Mark a stern glance before speaking again.  "And this is my husband Mark Linford."

"So nice to meet you."  Reginald attempted to offer him his hand, but was met with a cool indifference by Mark.  He swallowed hard again and felt his palms begin to get clammy.

Jillian Stokes"Honey, this is my mother...and this is my other sister Janet."  Jillian did her best to keep the conversation light, but the tension in the air was palpable.  Matters didn't seem to improve once Charles and Francis joined to group with their own introductions.

"It's so good to finally meet all of you."  Leticia smiled as she, too, inspected her daughter's future family.  "We were beginning to think that Jillian just made all of you up."

Jillian shot her mother a stern glance.  Things were not going as well as she'd hoped.

"I'm so glad we've gotten this chance to meet, too."  Francis smiled genuinely.  "We have so much to discuss concerning the plans for the wedding."

Leticia Stokes"Oh, don't worry about that," Leticia interrupted.  "We've already got the church booked in Manhattan.  It's going to be a lovely affair."

"Manhattan?"

"Oh, yes, of course!"  Leticia's excitement began to grow.  "It's only fitting that a lady of Jillian's status be married in one of the largest churches in the city.  There are so many prominent social figures that will want to attend.  There's the governor, the mayor, and Vice-President Garner.  You know he's a very close personal friend of the family."

Jillian watched as Francis' face fell.  This was not going well...not well at all!


Patterson MonroeMaggie Callison"Hi, Patterson," Maggie grinned as she played with the lace on her pale blue dress.

"Well, hi, squirt," he laughed in response as he gave her a big hug.

"I am not a squirt!"  Maggie made a face and then frowned.  Silently she began to wonder if anyone would ever see her as more than a child.  "I'm gonna be a sophomore when school starts."

"Yes, I know.  Gee, you've grown up so quickly.  You're almost a woman, now."

Maggie made another face.  "Not 'almost', Patterson!  I am a woman!"  She made another face, but quickly found herself watching his cerulean eyes.  She sighed to herself when she thought about how handsome he was.  He wasn't that much older than her, but the years seemed like decades.  One day, though, she knew she' be old enough to....

"Hi, Maggie," Lorraine broke in as she moved over next to Patterson.  "Your mother and Jillian must be very proud.  This party is a glorious success."

"Mother doesn't think you should be here," Maggie blurted out.  "She says you're responsible for hurting Trevor."

Lorraine Blake"B-but, I'm not the one to blame!"  Lorraine began to feel her temper rise.  "I gave Trevor everything I had, but it wasn't enough!  He threw everything all away!"

Patterson cautiously put his hands on her shoulders to calm her down.

"Trevor made sure he informed Mother of the truth.  He told her everything was his fault.  He said you were completely blameless."  Maggie watched Patterson comfort Lorraine and felt herself grow jealous.  She thought about how wonderful it must feel to have him comfort her like that.

"H-he did?"

"Yep.  Don't worry.  Momma's bark is much worse than her bite."  Maggie smiled at both of them before looking around to see where the rest of her family was.  "Well, I guess I better get back.  It was nice seeing both of you."

Lorraine watched Maggie move back through the crowd.  Her mind whirled with a million thoughts as she began to wonder why it seemed that Maggie had deliberately tried to upset her.


Francis Callison"This wedding is not going to take place in Manhattan!" Francis asserted as she rested her hands on her hips.  "The Callisons are probably the most known family in Albanyville and this town expects a Callison wedding to take place here!"

"I can understand your concerns, Francis," Leticia stated calmly, "but this is a Stokes wedding as well.  Albanyville is a nice little town and all, but can you expect a girl of Jillian's breeding to want to marry here?  New York has so much more to offer.  Weddings are, after all, primarily for the bride."

"If it's a money thing, we are more than willing to pay the bill for an Albanyville wedding!"

Leticia Stokes"Francis, dear, money is not the problem."

Jillian folded her arms across her chest and looked pleadingly at Reginald.  She had been afraid something like this would happen.

"And we've got Michaud our designer already at work on the dress," Judith broke in.  "He's the one who designed all the gowns for my wedding."

"Such that they were," Mark muttered under his breath.  Judith threw him an angry look in response.

Charles Callison"Charles, I'm sure you and your wife can see our point of view."  Nelson put his arm around Leticia and they both looked intently at Charles and Francis.  "This is going to be a Manhattan wedding!  There's no use discussing it further."

"Now, wait a minute!"  Jillian had heard enough.  She was through being discussed as if she weren't even in the room.  "This is my wedding....not yours!  I want to get married in Albanyville.  I want to get married at Good Hope."

Nelson Stokes"Oh, that's nonsense!"  Nelson's voice rose as he stubbornly began to argue the point.

"It's my wedding!  I've made so many friends since I've been here.  I will be married in Albanyville!"

"Friends?"  Leticia let out a thin laugh.  "You mean like that awful young man you went out with last year?  The one that sent you running home in tears?  Dan...um...Dean...um...Don something or other."

Jillian froze in her tracks.  Surely her mother wasn't going to blurt out what she knew about her relationship with Dane!


THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM

Jillian StokesThe Grand Sunset Room"Mother, I'm am not going to stand here and let you tell me where I'm going to have my wedding!" Jillian interrupted.  "It's my wedding and I'll have it as I please.  The way you all insist on behaving here is embarrassing!  How dare you act so arrogant towards Reginald's family."

"Jillian, that will be quite enough."  Nelson's eyes burned with anger at his daughter's reprimand.  "I would think that your mother and I raised you better than to speak to us this way.  Is that what life in Albanyville has taught you?  How to be rude and disrespectful?"

"What has life in Manhattan taught you?  How to be snotty and superior?"  Jillian turned to run away, but Reginald grabbed her arm and held her back.

"Honey, it's alright.  We can decide on all the details of our wedding later."  He carefully stroked her shoulders and she fell into his arms for support.  "I'm sure we can work something out that's satisfactory for both of our families."

Reginald Callison"Jillian, dear, we didn't mean to upset you so."  Leticia twisted her long strand of pearls nervously and watched her daughter begin to sob softly in Reginald's arms.  "I-It's just we've waited for this moment for so long.  We only want the best for you.  I-I'm sorry.  We'll have the wedding any way you like it.  If you want it here in Albanyville, so be it!  I'm sure Francis and I can work together on the details."

"I would like that," Francis said softly as she held on to Charles.

"I-I need to be alone."  Jillian again began to turn away, but stopped to look at Reginald.  "I love you with all my heart.  I need to get some air."

"I understand.  You go pull yourself together and I'll see you in a bit."  As he watched her slowly walk away, he began to worry about  what kind of family he was really marrying into.


Stephanie Lake"There you are!" Stephanie said as she approached Dane while he leaned against the bar.  "Where's Sara?"

"She's off 'fixing her face' as she put it."  He took another swig of his scotch and soda.  "So, when's this big plan of yours gonna get started?  I'm ready to get this show on the road."

"Patience, Dane, patience."  She slowly strummed her fingers along the edge of the bar as she caught her reflection in a mirror.  She tilted her head slightly to allow the light to play off her features.  She could look so innocent when she had to.  "By the time this night is over, you will have Jillian and I will have Reginald.  We can't rush this.  It's all in the timing."

"Is this anything like your last big plan?  Remember, the one where you spilled the beans about you and Reggie?"  Dane's eyes narrowed as he looked at her doubtfully.  "That one didn't work so well, did it?  All it got you was a sound slap across the face."

Stephanie flinched uncomfortably at the mention of the embarrassment she'd suffered at Jillian's hand.  True, she hadn't completely thought out that plan, but this time was different.  Tonight, she had every word, every move, and every moment choreographed.  This plan would work.

"So, did you come up with this idea all on your own?"

"Actually, no.  Most of this was my mother's idea."

Dane Manchester"Why am I not surprised.  You and your mother sure are a piece of work."  Dane took another drink.  "Kind of like Lizzie Borden and daughter.  Where is the merry widow anyway?"

Stephanie shot him a angry look.  "She's busy taking care of her own matters," she said through clinched teeth.  "And I'll thank you not to talk about her like that!  You have no idea what kind of woman she truly is.  You don't know everything that's she's gone through in her life for me!"

"Yeah, okay."  Dane's voice drifted off as he turned in time to see a still visibly upset Jillian walk out onto the balcony.  He smiled slyly to himself.  "Well, Steph, I think it's time you put your plan into gear.  I just saw the perfect opportunity to start mine."


Jillian StokesJillian looked out into the night sky as she rested her elbows on the balcony's railing.  The soft June breeze blew through her flaxen hair.  As she thought about her family and the horrible scene that they'd caused, she reached for a tissue to wipe her tears, but was even more upset when she found none.  Suddenly, and handkerchief was offered to her from behind.

"Looks like you need this," Dane said softly.  "You okay?"

"What do you want?" she questioned sternly as she snatched the handkerchief away.  She quickly dried her eyes and regained her composure.  "How did you get in here, anyway?  Did you crash my engagement party to torture me?  This was by invitation only!"

"And I got an invitation."  He smiled at her and took back his handkerchief.  "I'm with SaraAnnabelle got her an invitation."

"I'll make sure I double check the guest list for the wedding."  Jillian's voice was now cool as ice as she turned her back to Dane.  "I suppose you wouldn't have the decency to leave."

Dane Manchester"And miss the party of the year?  Never!"  He let out a hearty laugh.  He watched the moonlight reflect off her hair and slowly extended her hand to touch it.  Jillian flinched and quickly pulled away.

"Dane, don't!"  She folded her arms across her chest defensively.  "You need to leave!"

"And miss all this?"  He spun her around and stroked her cheek.  He looked into her crystal blue eyes and pulled her to him.  As he pressed his lips against hers, she fought to push him away, but his grip was too strong.  Suddenly, she yanked an arm free and slapped him across the face.  A stunned Dane held his jaw and slowly turned away.  Through the large French doors, he looked to see if Stephanie had begun to set her plan into motion.