THE SUNSET HOTEL -
MARY'S PENTHOUSE - LIVING ROOM
Francis Callison called out as she pushed open the front door and stepped into
the apartment. "Mother?
Maggie?" She sat down her
heavy bags and furrowed her brow as she waited for an answer.
"Dorothea?" As she let out a weary sigh, Francis immediately
realized that she was alone.
Leaving her bags in the foyer, she
walked into the living room and sat down on the sofa. For the past few
nights, she'd been staying at the home of her estranged husband, but now she had
decided to return to the penthouse suite that she shared with her mother and
daughter so that she could sort out her feelings.
she and Charles had proclaimed their undying love for one another and he'd asked
her to make her return to the family home a permanent one, Francis still wasn't
completely sure that that would be the best thing. True, she loved
her husband dearly and was committed towards them working through the mistakes
of the past, but she wasn't entirely convinced that picking up and moving back
in so soon after their reunion was the best thing for her at that time. Of
course, the few nights that she had spent in the family home with Charles---with
him sleeping in the guest room, naturally---had proven to be the most enjoyable
and contented nights that she'd had in months. However, it was just too
soon. They'd gone through too much together---and because of each
other---to just expect things to return to normal over night.
As she slumped back onto the sofa,
Francis' head swirled with conflicting thoughts and opinions. She longed
for her family to be whole again. She longed for those blissful days of
contentment that she'd had before Annabelle Lake began to work her wicked
influence in their lives. However, although her heart was leading her
home, her head was telling her to move slowly. She'd just been too hurt by
actions of the past to just dive right back in---no matter how much she
desperately wanted to.
Quickly growing tired of the
loudness of her own thoughts, Francis rose from the sofa and walked across the
room to turn on the radio. Perhaps a good evening drama series or maybe a
musical program would take her mind off of her husband and the troubles in their
lives. Unfortunately, that was not to be.
"And in other Albanyville
news," the announcer's voice came from the radio, "The district
attorney today announced his plans to officially charge Francis Callison in the
murder of Annabelle Lake. Callison---longtime Albanyville resident and
prominent citizen---was arrested just days ago as part of the police's
investigation of the first murder in Albanyville in 30 years. Although the
police refuse to release details about their investigation, the district
attorney reveals that he believes that their case is a strong one and a
conviction is certain. Callison is the wife of..."
"Oh, I...can't listen
to...this," Francis said shakily as she quickly switched off the
radio. Unfortunately, the announcer's words began to echo inside her head.
"A conviction is
Overcome with emotion about the dire
crisis with which she was faced, Francis tried to fight back her tears, but the
stress had become too great and she crumpled to the floor and sobbed.
She'd spent too many long hours trying to be strong---strong for her husband and
strong for her children---but now the dam had broken. She was going to be
tried and convicted for a crime she didn't commit. How could she even consider
reuniting her family only to be pulled away from them again?
The ringing of the doorbell drug
Francis out of her troubled thoughts and she struggled to compose herself before
going to see who her unexpected visitor was. As she rose to her feet, she
took several long breaths in an attempt to calm her nerves and pulled out a
handkerchief so that she could blot her eyes.
"I'm...coming," she called
out as she took another deep breath and headed towards the door.
"I was hoping that I'd find you
here," Fred smiled as she opened the door. "May I...come
"Oh, yes, of course," she
replied with her own weak smile. "Come...on in." She led
him into the living room and motioned for him to have a seat on the sofa before
taking her own seat next to him. "I wasn't...expecting to see you
really sorry for just stopping by like this unannounced," he
explained. "I just haven't had a chance to talk to you for a couple
of days---the hospital keeps me busy, you know---and I wanted to see how you
were holding up. I just took a chance that you'd be here and not...well,
at the house."
"Yes, I just came back here
tonight, in fact." Although she was speaking to Fred, her eyes
remained focused on the radio across the room as the announcer's voice continued
to echo inside her head. "This has all been so...difficult
"Darling, are you okay?"
he asked with much concern as he gently took her into his arms. "You
look as if you're about to cry."
"Oh, I..." she muttered
softly as she tried to choke back her tears. "I just turned on the
radio and heard...I heard a reporter talking about...me."
"Don't you listen to a thing
that those people are trying to say!"
"He...said that...that the
district attorney believes that a conviction is...certain." Francis
paused and inhaled deeply as she tried to calm the queasy feeling that had taken
hold of her stomach. A conviction! She was going to be tried and
convicted of a murder she did not commit!
"Of course the district
attorney said that," Fred tried to reason logically. "He's got
to appear as publicly positive about his case as he can---even if it has more
holes in it than Swiss cheese." He pulled her closer to him and
reached down to give her hand a reassuring squeeze. "No one in their
right mind could possibly think that you murdered Annabelle."
"Do you really think
so?" She looked up at him with eyes filled with uncertainty.
"Oh course I do!"
"I...I'm not so sure," she
sighed and then quickly looked away. "I mean...how can I be convinced
that a jury won't believe that I'm innocent when my own son doesn't?"
"W-what?" His jaw
dropped from shock. "Francis, what the devil are you talking
confessed. "Reginald thinks that I actually killed Annabelle."
"That son of yours is a
fool! Why, he should be hung from the rafters for even thinking such a
thing!" He pulled her even tighter and gently kissed her cheek.
"Don't you let a word that comes out of his mouth upset you. I know
that you didn't kill Annabelle. You couldn't have killed
Annabelle! It's just not...you!"
"Thank you, Fred," Francis
smiled warmly as she found comfort in his arms. "I...I needed to hear
that. I know that...my family supports me, but I guess I just...needed to
hear that from someone who didn't have to say it."
"Darling, I had to say it
because it's true." He looked at her intently and nodded as he spoke
as if to reinforce his statement. "I believe in you 100% and I
completely support you." He paused and took a deep breath.
"I know that this has all been unbelievably difficult for you---beyond
words, actually---but I...well..."
"It's made me realize exactly
how much you mean to me."
"I know what you mean,"
she nodded in agreement. "Difficult times such as this force a person
to realize how much the people closest to them truly mean. You are a dear,
dear friend, Fred."
"A friend?" His face
fell slightly in disappointment. "I...I'd hoped that we'd become more
than just friends, Francis."
"Oh, you know what I
mean," she blushed slightly. As she fought the urge to laugh at her embarrassment,
a warm smile crossed her lips and she sighed softly before looking at him
again. "Thank you, Fred."
"For cheering me up just when I
needed it. Thank you for being so supportive of me." She leaned
over and rested her head on his shoulder.
"Dear, I will always be
supportive of you," he said softly as he began to slowly stroke her hair,
"and I will always stand by you. In fact, I...I..."
"Francis, darling, I love
you," Fred seemed to blurt out. "I love you with all of my
heart. I love you more than I ever thought possible. You are the
most amazing woman than I've ever met in my entire life."
"Oh, Fred, I...I don't know
what to say." Francis slowly pulled away from him, more than a little
taken off guard by his proclamation.
"Don't say anything just
yet." His voice quickly took on a more serious tone as he removed his
arm from her shoulder and reached into his pocket. "I...I wasn't
planning on doing this right now, but...well...you've always had such an effect
on me that...well..."
"W-what are you doing?"
she asked curiously. "What are you trying to say?"
"What I'm trying to say
is," he paused as he pulled the ring out of his pocket and held it out in
front of Francis so that she could see, "Francis, darling, would you make
me the happiest man in the world? Would you marry me?"