THE GARDENS RESTAURANT
do you honestly think this is the proper place for such a scene?" Charles
asked as he softened his voice and leaned closer to her.
"Apparently, you have no
problem making a fool out of yourself in public, so why should I?"
Mary crossed her arms across her chest and glared at him. "How dare
you have the unmitigated gall to show your face in public in the company of
this...of this trash!"
"Now, wait a
minute!" Annabelle's face began to burn and her grin was now
completely wiped from her face. She made an effort to stand and face Mary
at eye level, but Charles gently placed his hand on her leg and held her
back. Annabelle took a deep breath, bit her tongue, and remained seated.
"Mary, I know you can't
understand everything that's happened between me and Francis," Charles
began tentatively as he carefully chose his words. "However, that is
between me and Francis. It has nothing to do with you."
"She's my daughter!
Anything that has to do with her has to do with me! Charles, I used to
think of you like my own son. I held you in as high a regard as I held my
late husband. How could you think of doing a thing like this to
Francis...to your wife? First, you rip her heart out and make her the
focus of horrible comments and stares, and now you've got the indecency of being
seen in public with your trashy mistress! I used to think you had
class! Now, I see that when you lie down with dogs you'll surely wake up
Annabelle's teeth gritted as
she clinched the linen table cloth tightly in her fists. She had never
allowed anyone to talk to her like Mary was, and she wasn't about to start
now. "You listen to me, Mary Albany," she began as she slammed
her fist down onto the table.
"No, Annabelle, you'll
sit there and be quiet!" Charles interrupted as he glared at her.
Slowly he turned to his mother-in-law and took a deep breath which allowed him
time to collect his thoughts. "Mary, you know I've always thought the
world of you. You also know that I've always loved Francis with all of my
finish!" He was beginning to grow angry, but fought to keep his
emotions in check. "I have most certainly made mistakes. I have
lost the most important thing in this world to me. I know what I've done
is wrong and I know I can't change what I've done. However, launching a
verbal attack on Annabelle when she is not to blame in this entire mess is
wrong! I am entirely to blame for everything that's happened!"
Annabelle slowly leaned back
into her chair and began to relax. She tried to maintain a cool exterior
as she smiled inwardly to herself. Charles was actually defending her!
"All of this has made me
realize how wrong I am for Francis. I am only capable of bringing her more
pain and heartache and I could not bear that." Charles paused for a
moment and looked down at the wedding ring that still resided on his hand.
"Francis is better off without me and I am determined to see that she is
"You know, Charles,"
Mary began as she leaned in to him. "For once, I agree with
you." And with those words still echoing in the air, she turned and