are you okay?" Dr. Fred Rutherford asked as he reached across the table and
Callison's hand firmly. "You're not having second
thoughts about all of this, are you?"
"I...I'm not sure,"
Francis confessed as she lowered her head with embarrassment. "Do I
really have the right to end my marriage after so many years? People just
aren't supposed to get divorced."
"You are completely
justified in wanting a divorce from Charles!" he said with reassuring
earnestness. "That man betrayed your wedding vows. He's the one
who ended your marriage, not you."
looked at him carefully as she thought about what he'd said. True, Charles
had been the one to destroy their marriage with his tawdry affair with Annabelle
Lake, but could she really turn her back on him and all of the love that she
still held for him?
"Look, Francis, this is
something you have to do." Fred nodded as he spoke as if to reinforce
his statements. "You can't allow yourself to be put in a position
where you can be made a fool of again."
"I...I know you're
right," she muttered half-heartedly. "That's why I agreed to
meet with your attorney...why I finally filed those divorce papers. I just
couldn't bear it if I allowed Charles to hurt me again."
"You're doing the right
thing." Fred gave her hand another reassuring squeeze.
if it isn't Francis Callison!" Leticia Stokes exclaimed as she quickly
approached the table. "I've been meaning to phone you for days to go
over the plans for Reginald and
gasped, rather surprised by the sudden appearance of her son's future
mother-in-law. "What are you doing here in Albanyville? I was
certain that after that disastrous party, you'd never want to set foot in this
town again. Well, at least until the wedding."
"To be honest, that had
been my intention," she confessed with a little embarrassment.
"But, as I'm sure you know, all of my girls are here, now. It just
tears out my heart to have to be separated from them for so long."
"Oh, I most definitely
understand. I just don't know what I'd do if the boys or Maggie ever
decided to move away." Francis glanced over at Fred and gasped
slightly when she realized that she hadn't made proper introductions.
"Oh, my! You must think I'm so rude. Leticia, this is my
friend, Dr. Fred Rutherford."
"Nice to meet you, Dr.
Rutherford," Leticia smiled warmly. "I'm Leticia Stokes.
My daughter Jillian is engaged to marry Francis' son Reginald."
"Oh, yes, of
course!" Fred smiled in response.
"So, Leticia, where's Nelson? Don't tell me he let you make this trip all by
yourself." Francis looked at her curiously as she remembered that
great disdain that Nelson Stokes had had for the city of Albanyville and its
actually..." Leticia looked away briefly, quite flustered and
uncomfortable with the question regarding her husband. "Actually,
Nelson is back in Manhattan."
"Oh, I'm sure he'll be
joining you soon. Especially if you plan on staying here in town for a
while," Francis commented.
won't." Leticia again glanced away, unnerved by Francis' innocent
wrong?" Francis asked as she reached up to take her hand. "Is
something wrong with Nelson?"
"Francis, dear, I've left
my husband," Leticia stated firmly. "We're getting
divorced. I just couldn't...couldn't deal with his heavy handed approach
to me and the girls any longer. I just couldn't take it."
"Oh, dear, I'm so
sorry." Francis' eyes met Leticia's as they shared a common
bond...two woman at the end of marriages. Two women who had lives in
sudden upheaval. "I...I know what you're going through."
"Yes, Jillian told me
that you and Charles were having...well, problems."
understatement." Francis lowered her head to hide the pain that
seemed to be permanently etched on her face.
Meanwhile, as Leticia and
Francis commiserated over their failed marriages, Fred sat in silence, lost in
thought. Leticia Stokes was divorcing Nelson Stokes, a wealthy Manhattan
businessman. Surely she would snare a divorce settlement even grander than
Francis would. As he eyed them carefully, he began to wonder which one
would see her divorce finalized first.