THE PRESIDENTIAL ARMS BALLROOM -
hope you two have been getting acquainted," Dane smiled warmly as he left
his father's side and rejoined his mother and wife. "There's nothing
I want more than to have my two favorite ladies become the best of
"Well, Dane, dear, let's not rush things."
Olivia patted her son gently on the shoulder. "But Sara and I have
been getting to know one another." She turned her attention towards
her new daughter-in-law. "You know, dear, my son really shocked us
when he sprung the news of this marriage on us. You see, we didn't even
know that he'd been seeing anyone seriously." She paused for a
moment. "Well, not since that lovely Stokes
girl, at least.
Dane, you said that she got married? Oh, how horrible that must have been
"It...um...wasn't quite that bad, Mother."
He looked away, uncomfortable with the topic of conversation. "But
Sara is a wonderful young woman and the most devoted wife a man could hope to
have. I'm sure you'll see that."
"Oh, I'm sure we will, dear." Olivia
reached over and touched Sara lightly on the cheek. "You are a very
pretty young girl. I can see how someone like my son would be interested
in you. So, did you and your father have a good talk?" She turned her
focus back to her son.
"We talked, yes," Dane nodded. "I'm
not sure how good it was, though."
"Dane, don't tell me that you upset him
again?" Olivia shook her head in disappointment. "Why must
you always do that?"
"Mother, please. Not here. Not now."
should I leave you and your mother alone to talk?" Sara spoke up. In
truth, being around her in-laws had made her quite uneasy. She felt like
they'd been sizing her up from the moment they'd met. In fact, she was
certain that it had to be close to what livestock had to undergo before being
sold at auction. Sara desperately wanted to slip away to escape the
prying, inquisitive eyes of Olivia Manchester.
"Perhaps that would be a good idea," Olivia
nodded and then casually looked around. "Where did your mother go,
dear?" When she finally spotted Joyce, her tone grew much colder --
Joyce was standing off to the side and chatting with Dane's father.
"Oh, there she is. It looks like she's found my husband. Sara,
dear, go join them and keep her company while I discuss a few things with my
"Y-yes, ma'am," Sara nodded, grateful for the
chance to escape, but still not quite certain whether involving herself in a
conversation with her mother and Dane's father would be any easier. She
went over and gave Dane a quick peck on the cheek and then quietly excused herself.
Once Sara was at a safe distance, Olivia and Dane
continued with their talk.
"I'm sure you know that this marriage has been very
upsetting for your father." Olivia took her son by the arm and slowly
led him through the crowd, nodding politely in recognition of various campaign
contributors along the way. "I mean, the way it happened so
suddenly. It took us all by surprise."
"Mother, I'm well aware of that," Dane
confessed. "After all, how could I not be considering that he cut me
out of the family and out of the will as soon as he found out."
"Perhaps he reacted a little harshly," she conceded.
"But he only did it for your benefit. He just wanted you to understand
that, by taking a wife, you were becoming your own man and you had to stand on
your own two feet without any help from us. I'm sure you realize that we
can't continue to coddle you for your entire life."
"I know that, Mother."
"And, besides, we had to be certain that girl's
intentions were honorable. We had to see whether she had any interest in
you outside of whatever money she might get her hands on through your eventual inheritance."
Olivia paused and let out a thin laugh. "But, I suppose that's
neither here nor there now that you two have inherited her step-father's
estate. That could actually turn out to be a good thing."
"What do you mean?" he asked curiously.
money does tend to make a person a little more socially acceptable and I'm sure
your father's advisors can work with her background and current situation to
make her appealing to voters."
"Why would Sara have to be appealing to voters?"
"Your father might be the one running for public
office, but a vote for your father is like a vote for our entire family -- each
and every single one of us. We all have to maintain the proper image in
the public's eye. Now, that means you can't do anything that might put a
black mark on your father's name."
"Mother, you know that I'd never...."
"Intentionally, no," she sighed. "But
you have to admit that you can be...well...rather rambunctious. I'm just
trying to give you a bit of advice." She stopped and looked at her son
curiously. "So, Dane, dear, what were you and your father talking
"Nothing really," he muttered. "Just
about Sara and the marriage and some political stuff."
"He looked a little upset. I just
"Like you said, my marriage to Sara was sort of
upsetting for him."
"Why must you always do your best to get under your
father's skin?" Olivia shook her head in disappointment.
"You know that he's only wanted the best for you -- the best schools, the
best social and professional opportunities. If you could have only gotten
into Harvard then none of this would have happened."
"Mother, you know that I didn't have the grades to
get accepted to Harvard." His jaw tightened. This was a
conversation that they'd had hundreds of times in the past and he really didn't
feel up to revisiting it. "Besides, Albanyville University is very
"I'm sure it is," she conceded again, "but it
doesn't have the name recognition or prestige of Harvard. Your brother
went to Harvard."
"Yes, I know."
"And he never manages to upset your father like you
do. Of course, he's had his moments just like any boy growing into
manhood, but he's never gone out of his way to do things like you seem to
where is Grant tonight?" Dane asked pointedly. "After all, Sara
and I made it here to show our support for Father. I would have suspected
that the wonderful Grant Manchester would have been here, as well."
"Well, Grant's a very busy man," she
explained. "He'd planned on being here, but got called away on business
at the last minute. Your father understands."
"I'm sure he does," Dane muttered.
"He always understands about Grant."
"Oh, look! I see the governor's
wife." Olivia lifted her arm and waved. "Do excuse
me. I need to go speak with her." Before leaving, she paused
and looked at him with concern. "Please try to be on your best
behavior. The press are everywhere tonight."
As Olivia walked away, Dane let out a long sigh.
Nothing had changed between him and his parents. They were exactly like
they'd always been. Deep down, he realized that they were exactly like
they always would be. Perhaps staying far away from them in the future was the best thing
for everyone involved.