THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM -
want a word with you!" Annabelle growled as she violently grabbed
arm. "How dare you show your face here! You are not
daughter!" Mary Albany spat and grabbed Annabelle's hand to push her
away. "Can't you have one night without making some sort of
scene? Are you that low class?"
old woman, if anyone is responsible for a scene here, it's her!"
Annabelle's eyes blazed with anger as she glared at Francis. She only took
them away to momentarily glance in Fred
Rutherford's direction as if to ask him
what he was thinking by bringing her to her party.
will have you know that we were invited," Mary said through clinched
Maggie wanted their mother
here! She is here for them!"
I am not getting into this with you," Francis muttered in hushed
tones as she glanced around the room and saw all of the eyes that were on them
and witnessing the scene. "This is neither the time nor the
place. Do you really want to make a spectacle of yourself in front of
all of Charles' family and friends?"
Annabelle took a cautious step
backwards and inhaled deeply in an attempt to ease her rage. As she bit
her lip nervously, she realized that all eyes were on her. They
were watching her with scorn and contempt as if to say "how dare you treat
Francis like that?". Poor, sainted Francis...the thought burned
inside her head. How dare she show her face and attempt to steal her place
in the spotlight that she'd fought so hard to achieve? How dare she try to
ruin what had become the happiest night of her life? Well, she refused to
let that happen! She refused to allow that pathetic woman to
destroy the last chance she might ever have at joy and security.
"Come with me,"
Annabelle muttered with venom as she grabbed Francis' hand. "We're
not having this discussion out here in public."
"You are not
having this discussion at all!" Mary interjected as she reached out
to pushed Annabelle away.
"Mother, I can take care
of myself," Francis spoke up defiantly as she threw her shoulders back with
a newfound strength. "In fact, there are a few things that I would
like to say to Mrs. Lake in private."
Mary stood in shock. Did
Francis really know what she was asking? Did she know what she was getting
herself into? Finally realizing that a showdown with Annabelle was
something that her daughter needed to do, she nodded in support and turned to
grab Fred by the arm and lead him away.
With a steely determination,
Francis followed Annabelle across the ballroom and towards the empty
lounge. Annabelle smirked at the irony that what could be her final
victory over Francis would take place in the exact spot where all of her plans
were first set into motion.
As the doors of the lounge
closed behind them, they turned to face each other, each prepared for what could
be an emotional face off.
"Leave this party!"
Annabelle finally spoke as she stood with her hands on her hips. "You
do not belong here!"
"No!" Francis spat
angrily. "You are the one who doesn't belong. You
schemed and connived and pushed your way into Charles life and into the middle
of my marriage. You pulled every possible trick in the book to get your
hooks into him!"
"And it worked,"
Annabelle smiled slyly. "Of course, I did put forth some
effort to turn Charles' attention my way. Just a little effort, of
course. It didn't take much to distract him from his pitiful, boring
"You might have wormed
your way into his life and into the middle of our marriage, but you will never
take the place I have in his heart." Francis kept her hands, balled
into fists, down by her side as she felt her anger and rage build.
"You will just be a low class distraction for him. He will never
feel about you the way he feels...felt...about me."
Annabelle let out a wicked laugh. "Then how would you explain
this?" She quickly lifted her hand to wave her new engagement ring in
front of Francis' face that was now filled with shock and fear. "Do
you know what this is? Do you? This is an
"Your dear husband, the
man who you seem to think will never be able to replace you in his heart, gave
this to me tonight." A victorious smiled crept across her lips.
"He gave it to me when he asked me to marry him. Of course, I
said yes." She inhaled deeply as she savored the moment and watched
all of the color drain from her rival's face.
Annabelle," Francis spat as she struggled to hold back her tears.
"And if you think that he's never going to see that, you're blind as
"No, you're the
one who's blind." Annabelle let out a wicked cackle that echoed
through the emptiness of the lounge. "You're a pathetic, washed up
mess. You couldn't even hold onto your husband! You couldn't even
keep him interested enough in you so he had to turn to me for
affection. You are a cold a bitter woman. Why any man would want to
be saddled with you for so many years, I don't know. The only hold you've
ever had on him was your children. That's the only part of you he
was ever interested in!"
Francis recoiled from the
bitter attack. She refused to believe what Annabelle had said.
Surely Charles had stayed with her for so many years because he loved her.
It couldn't just have been because of the children. But...but what
if it were true? What if he had stopped loving her years ago
and had only stayed out of pity and loyalty to his family until he just couldn't
take it anymore? Overcome with emotion, Francis broke down into tears and
ran from the room. She just couldn't take Annabelle's "truths" and
the possibility that they were accurate. As she ran out of the
lounge, her eyes, blurry from her tears, couldn't have seen Stephanie standing
there with her mouth hanging open in utter shock.
how could you?" Stephanie spoke up as she stormed into the room.
"How could you be so cruel and heartless to her? You know how
difficult this has all been for her!"
Annabelle sighed as she rolled her eyes. "Don't tell me you're going
to climb up onto your high horse again and tell me what a horrible person you
think I am!"
"I'm not saying you're
horrible," Stephanie muttered softly, rather embarrassed because of the
scene she'd witnessed. "What I'm saying is that what you've done
is horrible...what you're still doing is horrible."
"Not horrible for
me." Annabelle casually lit a cigarette and inhaled deeply.
"That woman has to see that whatever pathetic attempts she makes to hold
onto Charles are a waste of her time. He loves me, not her!
Stephanie, Charles proposed marriage to me! He wants to marry
me! He wants me, not her."
"He only wants you
because he thinks that he's destroyed the life that he had with her. This
entire relationship you have with him, this entire marriage you have planned, is
going to be based on a lie!"
"Don't you ever
let me hear you say that again!" Annabelle snapped as she balled her hands
into fists. "Don't you ever talk about what I told you about
that night at the engagement party! Why, if someone were to ever hear you
talking about that, my life would be ruined!"
"Well, of course you're
scared of the truth," Stephanie said coldly, "considering your entire existence
is based on a lie! I hate what you're doing to Mrs. Callison. What
the hell has she ever done to you? I...I don't even know you
anymore! You've become bitter and cruel and...and I hope I never
wind up like you!"
Shocked and mortified by her
daughter's emotional attack, Annabelle reached back and slapped her across the
face. "Don't you ever....ever talk to me like that
again! I am your mother! Everything I've ever done in my
entire life has been for you! I've given up and sacrificed more for your well-being
and safety than you'll ever know! I...I..." Her voice
trailed off when she realized that she was about to say more than needed to be
Meanwhile, Stephanie stood in
silence as tears began to stream down her face which still stung from the
physical and emotional impact of her mother's slap. Her body trembled with
anger and pain, but, suddenly, her eyes were opened. She'd been used and
manipulated by her mother for years. She'd had her love and loyalty taken
and used against her. Well, no more! Stephanie was
done! As she seethed with anger, she spun on her heel and stormed toward
the doors of the lounge.
Annabelle called out as her daughter walked away from her.
"Stephanie, you come back here this instant! I am not done
"But I'm done with
you," Stephanie muttered bitterly. As she burst through the
doors of the lounge and back out into the main ballroom, she had one purpose in
mind. She had to find Francis Callison. There were a few things that
she wanted...needed...to say.