THE MONROE HOME - KITCHEN
how's that dinner coming?" Mrs. Oliver asked as she poked her head into the
kitchen. "I've got two boys out here who are practically starving to
"It's almost ready," Stephanie Monroe replied
coolly without even turning around from the stove. "Just a few more
"I think that's what you said ten minutes ago."
"I said it's almost ready," Stephanie repeated,
her jaw tightening. "But if you keep sticking your head in here and
interrupting me, I'm never going to get it done."
"I just wanted to see if you needed any help."
"I don't need your help." Stephanie
gripped the edge of the counter firmly in an attempt to relieve the tension that
the housekeeper's intrusions were causing. "I thought I made that
very clear to you earlier."
got to keep stirring!" Mrs. Oliver blurted out, racing over to the stove
and snatching the spoon out of Stephanie's hands. "If you don't keep
stirring, it's going to stick and burn and then dinner's going to be
Stephanie took several steps back and exhaled
slowly. As she ground her teeth, she glared at Mrs. Oliver.
"I'm not going to burn it!"
"Do you see this?" Mrs. Oliver asked, lifting a
small spoonful up in front of Stephanie's eyes. "Do you see this
faint, brown crust I scraped off the edge? It was already starting to
burn!" She turned back around, returned the spoon to the pot, and
began to stir again, pausing only long enough to glance up at the clock on the
wall. "Yes, just a few more minutes and it's going to be
perfect. See, I told you that you needed my help. Why, what would've
happened if I hadn't been here?"
"I'm sure you're going to tell me."
"I most certainly am! If I hadn't been here,
you would have systematically ruined dinner. Stephanie, dear, you need
"What I need is some air," she grumbled angrily
and turned to storm out of the kitchen.
"But you've got to help finish dinner! It's
"Looks to me like you've already taken care of
everything," Stephanie snapped as she threw the door open.
"Finish it yourself!"
"Stephanie, honey, what's wrong?" Patterson Monroe jumped up off the sofa and hurried over to his wife. Her
tone and expression immediately let him know that she was not happy.
"That...that...woman! That's what's
Her bottom lip began to quiver as he took her into his
loving arms to comfort her.
"She has to criticize and correct every single
thing I do! Nothing is good enough for her!"
"Sweetheart, you can't let yourself get worked up
like this," he said softly, rubbing her back gently as he held her in his
arms. "Mrs. Oliver is only trying to help."
"Help? Help?" She pulled away from
him and blinked repeatedly, not quite sure she could believe the words she was
hearing. "She's trying to take over! She's trying to take
control of my home -- our home!"
"Steph, she's been the only consistent woman in this
since my parents died. She's been the one in charge of the day to day
running of this house. Surely you can understand that, with you here, the
roles are going to change and it's going to be a big adjustment for her -- for
all of us, actually."
"I know that, Paddy," she pouted, her heightened
emotion starting to ease. "But it's my home now. I'm the woman
of the house. She's just the housekeeper."
"She just wants to help if you'll let
her." He looked down into her eyes and carefully brushed away the
beginnings of a tear with his thumb.
wanna eat Fanny's cookin' anyway," Todd Monroe spoke up in a grumble from
across the room. "Fanny can't cook like Ollie."
"Todd, that'll be enough," Patterson cautioned
sternly. "Stephanie's a little upset at the moment and you being rude
isn't going to help matters any."
"Don't like Fanny," Todd grumbled again under
"See! Do you see what I'm up against?" She
asked, her voice beginning to rise. "Mrs. Oliver hates me! Todd
hates me! Everyone in my own home hates me!"
"Honey, I think you're forgetting the most important
person in this house -- me. I don't hate you. I love you. I'm
always going to love you."
"Oh, brother," Todd grumbled again.
"Todd!" Patterson snapped, his patience wearing
thin. "Look, why don't you go upstairs and play with your toy cars
for a while until dinner's finished so that Stephanie and I can have some time
"Too hungry to play."
Todd stomped up the stairs, Patterson inhaled deeply. Why did something
simple like a family dinner always seem to bring out so much tension?
Finally, with the young boy out of sight, Patterson walked over to his desk and
picked up an envelope and handed it to Stephanie.
"This came in the mail today. I think it might
lift your spirits a bit."
"What is it?" She took it from him and
eyed it curiously for a moment before opening it. As she slid out the
enclosed card and read it carefully, her eyes widened with surprise and
excitement. "An invitation? An engraved invitation?"
"Yes," Patterson laughed. "It's for
the Ladies Auxiliary's Fourth of July Ball fundraiser for the new children's
ward. We've been invited."
"But...why? Why us?"
"Honey, my father was chief of staff at the hospital
for a long, long time. He's still very respected by everyone there and
there's a medical scholarship in his name." He took her hand and led
her over to the sofa so that they could take a seat. "After he died,
everyone at the hospital pretty much adopted me and Todd. I always get
invited to these things. A lot of times I don't go unless I have to, but
"Now's different. I don't have to go, but I
want to go." He looked into her eyes and smiled slyly.
"After all, this is the first formal invitation to an event that we've
received since we've gotten married. This is going to be our official debut
as a married couple in Albanyville society."
Stephanie's mouth hung open, both stunned and excited. "Me -- us --
part of Albanyville society?" As the idea sunk into her head, it was
amazing how quickly her spirits rose, the tension and emotion of her encounter
with Mrs. Oliver slipping away.
"Well, as much a part of it as a medical student and
his new wife can be," he laughed. "A new wife who, I should add,
is also an up-and-coming radio actress." He stopped, grabbed her hand
tightly, and looked her directly in the eyes. "Now, this is what I
want you to do. This is going to be a formal affair and I want you to go
to Lerner's and buy yourself and brand new gown. My wife is going to be
the most beautiful woman at that ball and I want you to make every other woman
there green with envy."
"A...new evening gown?" Stephanie gasped with
excitement. "Oh, Paddy! Oh, I love you!" She threw
her arms around him and hugged him tightly.
Patterson couldn't help but chuckle because of how quickly
and drastically her mood had changed -- just like he'd known it would.
Yes, he loved her dearly and only wanted what would make her happy. This
ball was going to be the highlight of the social season and he wanted the night
to be perfect for her in every way.