THE STOKES MANSION -
really was a beautiful service," Dr. Fred Rutherford said softly as he
placed a reassuring hand on Leticia
Stokes' shoulder. "I think that
Nelson would have felt honored."
"That was the most difficult
thing that I've ever had to go through," she replied softly as she stared
at the urn that held her late husband ashes. "I just never
"No one ever expects a tragedy
like this one," he sighed and then sat down next to her on the sofa.
"I just hope you'll let me be here for you during this difficult
"Fred, you don't know how much
your support has meant to me these last few days," she muttered with a weak
smile as she turned to face him before returning her focus to the urn.
"I don't know if I could have made it through the service without
"Your daughters seemed to act
like they didn't want me there." His eyes followed in the direction
of Leticia's gaze until he found himself, too, staring at her husband's
urn. "Of course, under the circumstances, it's understandable."
glad that you were there. I needed you," she replied softly and then
rested her head on his shoulder before taking a long pause. "I...I'm
not sure what I should do with Nelson's ashes. I don't exactly feel
comfortable keeping them here at the house. Maybe...I should check with a mausoleum
in town so that we can inter him."
Albanyville?" Fred quickly pulled away from her and eyed her with
"Well, yes," she
nodded. "After all, our entire family is here, now,
"I'm not sure he would approve
of that." He awkwardly glanced at the urn. "I mean, I
didn't really know him, but he didn't seem to enjoy Albanyville that much.
Do you really think he'd want to make this city is final resting place?"
Leticia paused and bit her lip as
she considered what he was saying. "No, I...guess you do have a
"Wouldn't a mausoleum in New
York be much more appropriate? I mean, he was from New York and I'm sure
that the rest of his family is buried there." Fred nervously glanced
at the urn again. Having Nelson Stokes' remains so close by as a constant
reminder to his widow wasn't something that Fred could enjoy.
"You're right, I guess,"
she sighed. "That would be something that Nelson would have
wanted. It's just..."
"Well, it's going to be so
difficult to have him so far away." She bowed her head in mournful
reverence. "I mean, for the girls. I'm sure that they'd want
him to be close by so that they could at least visit him."
"But this is truly your
call," he reminded. "After all, you are his legal
widow---separated from him when he died or not."
"You're right." She
rose from her seat, picked up the urn, and carefully carried it over to a side
table before setting it down again. "He belongs in New York.
It's what he would have wanted. Surely the girls can understand
"Would you...like for me to
call and make the arrangements for you?"
"No," she replied
softly. "That's something that I need to do for Nelson. I'll
call New York in the morning." She paused and turned to look at
Fred. "You will fly with me to New York, won't you? I...don't
think I could go through this alone."
I'll be right by your side every step of the way," he smiled as he stood
and walked over to take her hand. "I'll be there for you in any way
that I can." He paused and took a deep breath as he tried to
formulate his words carefully. "In fact, I hope that you'll let me
bring you some kind of happiness. I hope that you'll let me turn this
tragic time into something good."
"Good?" Leticia eyed
him with a mixture of shock and offense. "What good could possibly
come out of my husband's death?"
blushed, immediately realizing that he'd chosen the wrong words.
"Maybe I should have phrased that differently. I didn't necessarily
mean to imply that his death was a good thing, but..." C'mon,
Rutherford, take your foot out of your mouth. "Well, I know
you've been unhappy with Nelson for a long time. His treatment of you
brought you great pain and sorrow. He's gone now. It's time for you
to move past that. It's time for you to look towards a brighter
tomorrow." A little soapy, but it'll do.
"I...don't understand what
you're trying to say." She furrowed her brow slightly as she tried to
grasp the meaning behind his words. "Yes, the last few years of my
life with Nelson were difficult, at best, but...well...I don't see how I can
"I'm not saying for you to
forget," Fred smiled warmly as he held her hands and pulled her closer to
him. "All I'm saying is that now is the right time to finally close
that chapter of your life and start a new one---a happier one." He hesitated
for a moment as he gazed down into his eyes. "Let's both begin
a new chapter. While we're in New York, I want you to...marry me."