THE LAKE APARTMENT - LIVING ROOM
took several deep breaths as she quickly tried to weigh her options. She
couldn't have a crazed and incensed Fred running to
Charles and blabbing
everything that he knew. That would ruin everything!
"Look, I can't have you shooting your
mouth off about everything, but I don't see what you hope to get from me.
I'm just a secretary! I live in this tiny, two bedroom apartment. I
don't have any money! Not until I can get Charles to divorce that wretched
wife of his so that we can be married! I don't know how you expect me to
pay for your silence."
with that rather unsettling piece of truth, Fred let go of her arm and took a
step back. How could he get any money out of her if she didn't have any to
start with? He covered his mouth with his hand as he tried to evaluate the
situation he'd gotten himself into. If he couldn't get the money from
Annabelle, how in the world would he be able to give his creditors the payment
that they'd demanded?
"Now, Fred," she cooed softly as
she decided on a change of tactics. "I'm sure we could work something
out that would be satisfactory to both of us. Something much more
pleasurable than this nastiness that you've insisted on dishing out today."
Annabelle slowly approached him and lifted
her hand to gently caress his check while she faked a look of longing in her
eyes. "We did have quite an
enjoyable time that night, didn't we?"
Suddenly, Fred's eyes landed on the rather
majestic and expensive looking ring that resided on Annabelle's hand. It
wasn't the first time he'd seen it, but, until now, he'd hardly made note of
it. In fact, now that he thought about it, she never seemed to be without
"How about that?" he asked as he
grabbed her hand away from his cheek and held it up in front of her face.
"That looks to be quite a pricey piece of jewelry for a lowly
secretary! A gift from you beloved Charles, I take it?"
"No!" she said firmly before
snatching her hand away. "This ring is not from Charles. It's
"He is...was...my husband. My
late husband." She held her hand close to her chest and covered it
with her other hand as if to hide the ring from Fred.
"He must have meant a lot to you if
you still wear his ring." Though he was talking to her, he never took
her eyes off of her hand or the ring.
"Stephen Lake was the sorriest excuse
for a human being that ever walked the face of this earth!"
Annabelle's eyes burned with fury as she was forced to remember the fear and
anguish that her marriage had brought her. "If it wasn't one stupid
scheme on his part, it was another! I'm lucky that I managed to get
Stephanie out of all of that alive!"
Fred eyed her curiously. There was
clearly no love lost for the late Mr. Lake, but the fact that she still wore his
ring baffled him. "If he was as horrible as you claim, why did you
stay married to him? Why do you still have that ring?"
"Truthfully, at one time, I loved him
very much. I was young and foolish and naive!" She quickly
turned away from him to hide the pain that her memories had brought.
"He was a charming cad and I fell for every word he said, hook, line, and
sinker. That man could sell dirt in the middle of a dust bowl! What
he couldn't do was hold on to his money. As fast as he would scam money,
he'd lose it on some foolish investment. We never had a dime! That
man was always into something shady and he wasn't capable of not bringing the
trouble he made home. I wanted to leave him! I tried to leave him,
but Stephanie loved him so much. I just couldn't do it. I couldn't
break my daughters heart and have her hate me for deserting her father."
Fred's eyes grew wide in response to
Annabelle's tale. For a split second, in spite of himself, he began to
feel sorry for her...for her pain and her heartbreak. A quick glimpse of
her ring as it caught the light returned him to his senses.
"The ring! What about the
"This ring was the only thing of value
that man ever gave me. It was right before..." Her voice
trailed off as she paused to take a deep breath and clinch her teeth in anguish
over a memory that was nearly too painful too bear. "It was right
before he left us."
"Before he died?"
"Yes!" She spun around to
face him with a fierce look in her eyes that nearly chilled Fred to the
core. "It was right before he died. I wear this ring to remind
me of what kind of trouble and heartache a man can cause. I wear it to
remind me to never allow myself to be fooled by a man again!"
"Annabelle, that was years
ago." His melted heart quickly began to ice over as he remembered his
true motive for his visit. "Give me that ring!"
"Can't you see that holding onto that
ring and holding on to the past is going to destroy any chance you have of ever
having a future with Charles? If you hold on to that ring, you'll lose
everything you've ever wanted. Is it worth it?"
She quickly glanced down at the ring and
thought about what he'd said. "No," she finally muttered as she
pulled the ring off of her finger and threw it at him. "Take the damn
thing! If I ever have to be reminded of that bastard I married, it will be
With a gleam in his eye, Fred held the ring
up to the light and inspected it. "You made the right decision,"
he smiled victoriously.
"Now, get out!"
With unbelievable glee, he strode quickly
out the door leaving her shaken and distraught. Mere moments later, she
jumped with a start at the ringing of the doorbell.
"What?" she snapped as she flung
the door open only to find Charles on the other side.
maybe I should try that again." He eyed her carefully and was quick
to notice the intense emotional state she was in. "Annabelle, are you
all right? What's wrong?"
"Oh, um, it's nothing," she tried
to cover. "I...um...just found myself thinking about things from a
long time ago and got myself upset."
"Are you sure?" He walked
into the living room, still keeping his eyes on her every step of the way.
"Y-yes, I'm fine," she
muttered. "Just...just hold me, please."
Charles pulled her into his arms and held
her tightly. As the strength of his arms encircled her, she closed her
eyes and began to feel the tension slip from her body as the security that he
brought her began to take hold. She opened her eyes again, slightly, and
caught sight of her now naked hand and again thought of Stephen. Oh, how
different he and Charles were. Charles was nothing like Stephen
Lake. Nothing at all!