HOME - LIVING ROOM
stood at Charles' side in silence as she carefully looked at his family.
The tension in the air was thick and she was quick to notice.
"Well, isn't anyone going
to say 'Hello, Annabelle, so good to see you'?" she asked as she eyed them
each carefully. She suddenly realized that it would be a much more
difficult evening than she'd originally thought.
after much too long of a period of silence, Jillian Stokes cleared her throat
carefully. "Good evening, Annabelle," she said as she called
upon everything she'd learned at finishing school. "You're looking
lovely this evening." She approached her cautiously and extended her
hand in a display of cordiality, hoping that the others would follow suit.
Jillian knew that an effort had to be made to placate both Charles and
Annabelle or the night would surely be a total disaster.
"Why, thank you,
Jillian!" Annabelle smiled as she eyed her with a mixture of surprise
and apprehension. "I saw this at Lerner's and thought it would be
just the perfect thing to wear to an event as important as this."
Trevor Callison grumbled under his breath to Reginald. "To her,
Overhearing his comment,
Davis gave him a cautionary look and a sharp pinch on the arm. The pain,
of which, made him wince and he fought the urge to cry out in surprise.
Catching a glimpse of the
exchange between Reginald, Trevor, and Grace, Annabelle gave them a curious look
as they all stood with their hands clasped in front of them in an attempt to
where's..." Annabelle said as she tried to exude as much charm as
possible. Suddenly Maggie Callison stepped into the room.
"Ah! There she is! And how is the prettiest Callison of
eyes grew wide from the shock of the comment and quickly looked to her older
brothers for some kind of hint as to what was going on. "I...I'm
fine," she muttered as she attempted to avoid Annabelle's gaze.
"I swear, you're looking
more and more like your father everyday!"
"I am not!"
Maggie snapped angrily. "I look like my Nana! You do
remember my Nana, don't you? She's my mother's mother!"
Annabelle froze slightly as
she bit her tongue and suppressed an urge to make a stinging retort.
Finally, she took a deep breath. "I most certainly do remember
your grandmother. She's a fine woman." She's also pushy,
overly opinionated, and rude! she thought.
Maggie rolled her eyes and let
out a heavy sigh. Who in the world did Annabelle think she was
fooling? Maggie was way too smart to be conned over to her side with a few
words of cheap flattery and condescension.
Maggie," Grace spoke up as she tapped the young girl on the shoulder.
"M-maybe you can come with me and we can see if Hannah needs any help
getting things set up for dinner."
"Oh, all right,"
Maggie sighed before a slight smile covered her face. "It would give
me a chance to tell you about what we've been studying in Biology class."
"Oh, really? What's
that?" Grace looked at her curiously. Maggie was clearly up to
"We've been studying
spiders!" Maggie smirked slightly and shot a wicked looked at
Annabelle. "Have you heard of the black widow?"
Charles snapped angrily.
"She kills all of her
"I...I think that's
enough science class for today," Grace muttered, both aghast and amused by
the comment. "Now, let's go see what Hannah is up to."
With a sharp tug on Maggie's hand, Grace quickly pulled her from the room.
"Well, children today
sure are spirited," Annabelle laughed as she did her best to ignore
Maggie's comment. "That girl, she's...she's...as sharp as a tack,
isn't she?" Silently, she began to wonder if it would be possible to
put the youngest Callison up for adoption after her wedding to Charles.
"I think I'm going to be
ill," Reginald muttered to Jillian who did her best to hide a laugh.
"Let's just make it
through tonight." She replied as she kept her fake smile on public display.
Annabelle spoke up with a smile as she walked over to him. "I thought
that you'd like to know that Stephanie is just doing wonderfully at
school. Why, she's even thinking about becoming a journalism
major!" A blatant lie.
quickly looked from Annabelle to Jillian and noticed his fiancée's face flush
"Yes! Isn't that splendid?
I'm sure that all of the time you spent with her must have had something
to do with that!"
"Oh, my, it's getting a
little stuffy in here," Jillian spoke up as she began to fan herself.
"Darling, would you care to join me outside? The air in here is
starting to get a little stale."
"I thought you'd never
ask!" Reginald exclaimed as he took her hand and quickly led her past
Annabelle and out the front door.
"I honestly can't
understand what your father hopes to accomplish with this dinner," Jillian
said once she and Reginald were outside, away from the thick clouds of
tension. "Surely he doesn't think that everyone is going to fall in
love with that woman tonight!"
"These days, I have no
clue about what Father is thinking," Reginald sighed as he leaned up
against one of the columns on the front porch. "He's completely
blinded by her!" He glanced over at her and noticed her staring off
into space. "I...I'm sorry I brought you to all of this. You're
getting to see my family at their worst."
"Well, actually, this is
taking my mind off of...other things."
"I know. I
know." He wrapped his arms around her tightly and pulled her
close. "I just can't believe that there's no trace of Janet.
Where in the world could she have disappeared to?"
"I wish I knew,"
Jillian muttered. "I...I'm just so worried about her, what with
everything that she's already been through."
"Are you sure she
didn't go home? Back to New York?"
"That's doubtful. Mother hasn't said anything about her being there and I just can't tell her that
I've lost my sister!" She began to wring her hands in worry.
Janet just had to be okay. Jillian didn't know what she'd do
if anything happened to her.