THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM -
I see everyone's here," Charles smiled as he walked up to
Jillian as they stood next to Trevor and
Grace. "I hope you forgive
my tardiness. I was...detained."
"Yes, I'm sure you
were," Trevor Callison remarked coldly as he shot Annabelle a hateful
look. "Father, is all of this really necessary? Do we really
have to announce our family's dirty laundry to the public?"
"We have to do the
right thing." Charles' jaw tightened. Surely, they weren't
going to have the same argument that they'd been having for months.
"Publicly accepting Burt into our family is the right thing."
you mind explaining how making this family thing a birthday party for Stephanie
figures into this 'right thing' idea of yours?" Reginald glared at
Annabelle. He know that Stephanie's
roll in the evening was the result of her handiwork. Was there anything
she wouldn't do to push her and her daughter's way into their family?
"I do not have to
justify any decision of mine with you!" Charles shouted angrily
as a sense of embarrassment over not having told them of Stephanie's inclusion
washed over him. Would they never get past his relationship with
Annabelle? Why couldn't they accept his attempts to supply their family
with some sense of normalcy?
Charles looked at each of his
sons individually. Reginald had always been the strong minded one while
Trevor was the more introspective and artistic one. They both reminded him
of the two different sides of himself. Therefore, he could clearly see
where their opposition and resentment were coming from. Like him, they
were devoutly loyal to their family and their family name. They
were also devoutly loyal to their mother. Charles, himself, had been just
as loyal until.... Well, he tried not to think about that
anymore. There was no sense in dwelling on the mistakes of the past.
He just had to accept the things that he'd done and work to move forward, just
like it was time to move forward with his family's obligations to Burt.
"Just don't go out of
your way to ruin this night," Charles warned sternly.
Finally, after a long moment
where he kept his eyes locked on them to emphasize his point, he turned to the
crowd of guests that had been invited to share in the welcoming of Burt Lamont
into the family.
"May I have everyone's
attention, please!" He spoke up as he tried to put aside his concerns for
his sons and focus on the true reasons behind the evening. He took a glass
of Champaign and a knife from a nearby waiter and tapped his glass lightly to
silence the chatter in the room. As the orchestra stopped, he motioned for
Burt to join him.
and gentlemen, I'm sure that you all know why we're gathered here tonight,"
he began as Burt stood at his side. "Two months ago, our family
received a great shock when we learned that our ranks had grown by one. If
that new member had been a newborn infant, we would have rejoiced beyond
reason. Why, then, should we rejoice with any less exuberance with the
discovery of a long lost infant, now grown into adulthood? For that
reason, I am proud to finally present to you, our friends and family, Burt
Lamont, the son of my late brother Landon. I hope you'll all give him as
warm a welcome into our family as we have."
The thunderous applause that
rose from the crowd was nearly deafening and caused Burt to lower his head with
a mixture of emotion, gratefulness, and embarrassment over the big to do.
As he nodded his "thank yous" to the crowd, Charles carefully shot a
cautionary look to his sons who reluctantly joined in the ovation.
if the conductor would strike up the orchestra," Charles continued, "I
hope you'll join Burt and Janet on the dance floor. Let's make this a
grand evening that we'll never forget!"
Burt walked over and took Janet's arm to lead her into a dance, Annabelle
quickly joined Charles at his side.
"Oh, Charles, that was
beautiful," she cooed as she grabbed his arm and cozied up next to him.
"I'm so glad you thought
so," he smiled slyly. "In fact, I have one more thing to say to
make this evening complete."
"What would that
be?" she asked with a note of curiosity. "Should I have the
orchestra stop so that you can...."
"No, Annabelle, darling,
what I have to say is just for you." His expression took on a serious
tone as he looked deeply into her eyes. "Darling, I know that our
relationship has been far from conventional. You also know that, no
matter happens, Francis will still hold a dear place in my heart."
She winced slightly at the
mention of his wife's name.
"However, you've grown to
become very special to me. In spite of everything that's happened, you've
become someone I rely on a great deal; and, for that, I love you...."
"Oh, Charles!" she
"That's why I want to ask
you this...." He paused for a moment and reached deep into his pocket
to pull out a tiny box which she eyed in excited disbelief. Flipping the
lid open, he spoke again. "Annabelle Lake, after the divorce is
final, will you marry me?"