Disclaimers: I’m still trying to keep that promise to
keep the chapters coming. I’ve been racking my brain to get this story out and…you
guessed it, all situations and charters are mine all mine. © August 2007.
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Claire and Dominique ushered a completely abashed and some what angered Becca into a part of the mansion which was unfamiliar to the young woman. The girls were talking incessantly, but their words didn’t penetrate Becca’s racing mind.
Jean Claude’s malicious outburst ricocheted through her head like white hot projectiles. Her ire heightened with every thought of how he spewed his venom not only on her but her friends.
Who the hell does he think he is insulting me and my friends that way?
I haven’t been myself since I got here. If I had I would’ve torn Jean Claude a new asshole. But I didn’t say anything, not one word, which coupled with the fact that I suddenly have the hots for Victoria is proof positive that I’m half bubble off level.
I don’t like the way this place makes me feel. I haven’t since we first drove down that driveway. One moment I feel like I’m in some freaking foreign country and then the next moment I feel like I’ve come home at last. What’s up with that?
While Becca’s mind was still reeling with all these conflicting thoughts she could feel her body sink into luxurious softness. Her nostrils picked up the scent of fine leather.
As she was becoming more cognizant of her surroundings Becca noted that her cousins had seated her on a plush leather sofa in, for lack of a better description, what seemed to be a media room. The sofa Becca was seated on was overstuffed deep chocolate brown leather which matched two other easy chairs that were in the room. Both chairs were accompanied by matching overstuffed ottomans.
Here the past clashed violently with the present. I Pods, cd players, Bose speakers, stereo components littered much of the shelving units. There were also old fashioned victorallas and gramophones prominently displayed within the room along with their cylinders and flat vinyl disks of varying sizes.
A state of the art projector was solidly affixed to the ceiling which pointed to an ornately decorated sideboard which, Becca surmised, housed a retractable screen. Its dichotomy sat on another shelf. A large heavy looking shiny, brass stereoscope accompanied with at least two dozen slides.
Becca could feel a body pressed to her own. Dominique draped her arm over Becca’s shoulders while Claire, who sat directly across from her on the coffee table, patted her hands.
It took a few more moments of the cousins’ prattle for Becca to realize that the two young women were still talking to her. “What was that?” Becca asked slowly rising from thoughts.
“We were sayin,’” Claire repeated in her smooth southern accent, “not to pay any mind to a thing Jean Claude has to say.”
“That’s right.” Dominique spoke up with an equally charming southern drawl. “He thinks he’s cock of the walk.”
“Thinks is the operative word,” Claire continued, “Everyone knows he’s not all that, including Madam.”
“He can’t control you and he knows it. That’s why he feels threatened,” Dominique added.
“Control me?” Becca asked, “Why would he want to control me?”
“Well not necessarily you as much as your relationship with Madam,” Dominique clarified.
“I don’t have a relationship with Madam.” Becca was becoming more and more confused as this conversation continued. “The only relationship I have with Madam is by accident of birth.”
“In his mind he sees you as and intruder,” Claire explained.
“That doesn’t make sense, how could I be a threat? Besides we’re only here for a few days. Hell, when you come right down to it, the only reason we’re here at all is because of that freak storm that almost killed us.”
“I’m sure he wishes that storm had killed you,” Dominique muttered.
Becca could feel a cold chill run up her back. This couldn’t be real. None of it could. She felt like she was in an episode of Dynasty gone wrong. “Dominique, you can’t be serious.” Becca’s voice faltered slightly.
“I’m as serious as I can be. This will sound vulgar, but when you come right down to it, it’s all about the money.” Dominique blushed ever so slightly.
“The inheritance is all that he thinks about,” Claire spat.
“What about the two of you?” Becca asked, “I mean you’re both living here too. I don’t mean to be insulting, but it seems to me that y’all could be wearing the same colors as Jean Claude.” Becca didn’t know who she could trust.
Claire looked like she was going to explode physically onto Becca, but Dominique held up one hand which stopped the tempest even if only momentarily.
“Girl,” Dominique paused dramatically, “those are fighting words around hea’. I can understand how all this can look to an outsider.” Dominique cleared her throat, her own anger obvious but controlled. “But that appearance couldn’t be farther from the truth. As Madam has told us over and over, ‘With wealth, prosperity, and station come great responsibility. So we’re here not only to learn our responsibilities, but also to learn how to safely navigate through the danger filled waters of politician, deviants, hacks, and swindlers.
“Madam is an absolute font of knowledge on anything you could think of, and it’s a privilege to learn from her. Besides she knows where all the bodies are buried,” Claire teased, a slight grin playing around her lips. “She also has the best sense of humor of anyone I know young or old. I just love that old woman.”
“That would be the difference between us and Jean Claude. We would hang around her if she lived in a shack with packed mud for floors and only had 25 cents to her name. We love Madam and always have,” Dominique added. “We both have substantial trusts we don’t need or want Madam’s money.”
“We want her to live forever,” Claire murmured.
“So does everyone else in this house,” Dominique added, “With the exception of Jean Claude.”
“Everyone in the house?” Becca asked.
“Yes, everyone.” Dominique continued. “Madam treats everyone in this house as family. Doesn’t matter if you are blood related or an employee, you are her family.”
“Of course, Madam is a patron of the arts and has her pet charities, but she also believes benevolence begins at home,” Clare began.
“In her quiet anonymous way she finds out what a loved one’s dreams are and does what she can to make their dreams, their goals a reality,” Dominique said.
“How does she do that?” Becca asked.
Dominique shrugged. “No one is quite sure and Madam would die rather than admit she had anything to do with anyone’s success.”
“That’s why Lucy was all over Jean Claude at brunch. She knows that Madam has everything to do with any success he’s ever had,” Claire added.
“Then what is Jean Claude’s story?” Becca asked somewhat more calmly.
“No one is really sura’,” Dominique answered.
“Well we did see him now and again when we were all growing up,” Claire began.
“He seemed normal enough at the time,” Dominique added.
“As the years went by he became everything Daddy hoped for, wouldn’t you say so, Dom?”
“Yeah, you’re right.”
“And what was his father hoping for?” Becca asked.
“Well, Jean Claude is handsome, smart, was always at the top of his class. He’s pompous but he’s also charismatic, politically savvy…” Claire described her cousin.
Dominique continued when Claire paused, “He seemed to be well on his way to being the next Senator DuShont, but something happened and his Daddy sent him here to Madam.”
“Or hid him hea’,” Clare growled.
“We don’t know that for sure.” Dominique glared at her sister.
“We do know. We just don’t know why,” Clare answered.
“But what does any of this have to do with me?” Becca asked wide eyed.
“Why, you’re the daughter of the golden child.” Dominique grinned.
Becca’s jaw went slack. She looked from one smiling woman to the other. “Golden child?”
“You don’t know?” Claire asked. She looked from Becca to Dominique. “She doesn’t know?”
“She doesn’t know,” Dominique repeated in awe.
“What don’t I know?” Becca almost shouted.
Claire changed her seat from the coffee table to the other side of Becca. Both women began talking very fast. Dominique started, “Don’t you know that your Daddy was Madam’s favorite?”
“That’s true. She loved him best out of all the grand children,” Claire explained,
“He was kind,” Dominique said.
“And smart,” Clare chimed in.
“And handsome,” Dominique sighed.
“Always respectful.” Clare leaned forward.
“Very affectionate,” Dominique continued.
“That was very unusual,” Clare clarified, “in his family.”
“Considering his Momma.” Dominique also frowned.
“Cold fish that woman,,”’ Claire continued her distaste for this mysterious woman evident to Becca.
“She bein’ a lot like Jean Claude.” Dominique compared the two with an equal amount of distaste.
“Worse from what I hear,” Claire expanded.
Becca was getting dizzy from looking from one girl to the other as they gushed family secrets. She rose from the comfy couch and sat on the coffee table to reduce the strain to her senses.
“Slow down. What are you two talking about?” Both women opened their mouths, but Becca held up one finger. “Just one of you.”
Claire and Dominique looked at each other for a moment before with a wave of her hand, Claire yielded the floor to Dominique. Dominique took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Ok, obviously your Daddy hasn’t told you anything about this family, has he?”
Becca shook her head. “No. Neither he nor Mom talks about this side of the family.”
“Little wonder,” Claire snarled and rolled her eyes before she flopped back into the cushions of the sofa.
“Hush now.” Dominique looked from Claire to Becca. “Well as we said, your Daddy was the favored child of Madam. Everything he did that made him Madam’s favorite also made him the bain of his own Momma’s existence.”
“Why?” Becca asked.
“Because all that woman was ever interested in was wealth, power, and appearances. Her family line stretched almost as far back as the DuShont’s with as much or more wealth, but her family never acquired the notoriety or political power. So by marrying a DuShont, she had the power her family lacked. She insinuated herself into every fund raiser, every cotillion, every tea, basically every function that included anyone that she felt was anybody.” Dominique paused for a moment before continuing. “Not to say she wasn’t charming, intelligent or attractive in her own right, because she was. And even though a lot of doors were opened because of her own lineage it didn’t compare with the size of the welcome mat that was rolled out when she became a DuShont. She took every opportunity she could get whether given or contrived. Then when she had pushed her husband as high as she felt he would get she did what any good southern woman would do.”
“What was that?” Becca asked.
“She started having babies,” Claire said as if it was the most natural progression of events in the world. With lilting voice she continued, “Sons preferably. But there is really no controlling that is there?”
“No, I suppose not,” Becca answered.
“Nonetheless she did have sons,” Dominique continued, “But none of her sons shined as brightly as your Daddy.”
“That’s the second time you’ve said that. What was so special about my Dad?” Becca asked.
“Well, darlin’. He’s your Daddy, didn’t you ever notice how special he is?” Claire asked.
“Of course I think he’s totally awesome, but he’s my Dad,” Becca answered.
Dominique and Claire looked at each other for a moment. A silent decision was made between the two and Claire continued the tale. “Because he had that je ne sais quoi. It was that certain something that made him special and put him head and shoulders above his brothers and sisters.”
“If that’s so, if he was so special, then why did his mother despise him?” Becca asked
“For the same reason Madam loved him, he wanted nothing to do with the family business of money grubbing and power brokering. He was kind and generous which was totally not the norm in his family. He grew into his own man …”
“Much to his mother’s horror.” Clare frowned at Dominique. “What?”
Clare turned and continued, “She’s right he grew into his own man so you can imagine how livid his Momma was when he enlisted in the military right after graduating college.”
“Where, as you know, he flourished,” Claire continued. “I think that got under his Momma’s skin most of all.”
“Why?” Becca asked, “Wasn’t she proud of how well he did for himself?”
“No, because once she cut him off financially she expected him to come crawling back but he never did. Then he married a Yankee and not even a rich one to boot. After that she never spoke to him again.”
Becca looked from one young woman to the other, her mind working a mile a minute. So many things were being revealed. Becca, in just a few minutes, had learned so much about her Dad and his family that she could have never even guessed. Her father had never spoken of his side of the family except to make the occasional snide comment.
“You’ve got to be kidding me. None of this could possibly be real. It all sounds so sordid, like some bad soap opera,” Becca commented still unable to believe what she was hearing.
“Southern gentility has always been a clever cover for all those sordid little family secrets and scandals. It’s been that way for hundreds of years,” Claire explained so seriously that Becca didn’t question anything the cousins had told her.
Her dark eyebrows knit together. “Did Madam ever look for him?” Becca asked.
“I believe Madam did keep up with him and his career,” Dominique set her lips in a slight frown, “But I’m not sure if she ever crossed that line that her daughter-in-law had drawn in the sand concerning your Daddy. Even if she felt her daughter-in-law was wrong she would respect her edicts when it came to this situation. Interfering in private family matters is just not done.”
“But if she never interfered, why did she let my friends and I come here?” Becca asked.
Claire shrugged before entering the conversation. “Perhaps because she never did agree with her daughter-in-law. Maybe, posthumously, there is no longer a social boundary.”
Dominique frowned in thought. She looked up at Becca. “Haven’t you been to B.D. before?”
Becca shook her head no. Claire looked over at her sister. “What are you talking about?”
“Wait, hear me out. Becca, think about it. Doesn’t any of this seem familiar to you?”
“Dom, have you lost your mind? She’s never been here.”
“Claire, I think you were too small to rememba’, but I think she was here at least once,” Dominique explained.
Becca’s brow furrowed. “To be honest, I’m not sure.”
“Maybe, if you want all the answers, you should go to Madam.” Dominique smiled gently.
Becca smiled in return. “Maybe you’re right.” The young woman rose from the coffee table and exited the room in search of answers.
“Well young lady.” Dr. Vance smiled. “That ankle is much better. Obviously you’ve been stayin’ off of it just as I prescribed.”
“She’s been staying off it alright,” Skylar affirmed as she slid Jessie into an antique opera chair.
Dr. Vance winked at Skylar remembering how the tall woman carried the smaller woman into the room. “Good. But now I want you to start putting some weight on it. While using the crutches, of course.”
“I will Doctor,” Jessie answered.
“Don’t forget to ice it three times a day.”
“I’ll be sure she does it,” Skylar offered.
“You do that, Skylar. Now where’s that tall blonde girl?” Doctor Vance asked.
“Right here,” Shannon said as she and Victoria walked into the Morning Room. “How’s our patient doctor?”
“I’m much better.” Jessie grinned.
“Excellent!” Shannon exclaimed.
“Guess my services will no longer be needed,” Victoria commented trying valiantly to broaden the half-hearted smile that was on her face.
“Oh your services will always be needed,” Jessie teased with a wiggle of her eyebrows.
Everyone chuckled while Victoria’s face color changed from slight pink to bright red. For the fist time the tall woman wasn’t humiliated but for a change, joined in the fun by laughing at herself. It felt good not to be so serious about everything.
Maybe Shannon is right. It’s time to stop worrying about what everyone else thinks of me or thinks I should or shouldn’t do. It’s time for me to be me. I’m turning a new page, walking down a lane less traveled and it feels very good.
“So tall blonde girl,” Dr. Vance said.
“Yes, Shannon. You’re the one going to med school right?”
“Rrrr…ight.” Shannon stumbled over her answer knowing full well she had not been accepted to a medical school.
Seeing the tall woman’s hesitation Dr. Vance paused for a moment before asking, “Why don’t you come with me on my rounds? You can save me from the Widow Mason.” Dr. Vance’s dark eyes twinkled with mischief. “If you come along you can see what real doctorin’ is before they spoil you at that fancy school.”
“That would be great. We aren’t doing anything, are we?” She looked at all those gathered in the small antique decorated room.
Everyone shook their heads no until Skylar interjected, “Well maybe the rest don’t have plans,” the tall woman leaned over the back of the chair and enveloped the smaller woman in her arm, “but we do, little one.”
“Really?” Jessie beamed.
“Yes we do. We’re going to spend all day at the Jazz festival.” Skylar smiled.
“Sounds great.” Jessie smiled brightly.
Shannon looked over at Victoria as she quietly shrank from the room. Before she could say anything to the tall brunette the doctor had gathered his black bag and slapped Shannon on the shoulder. “Well let’s get going, time’s a’wastin’.”
“Ok then Dr. Vance, I’m all yours,” Shannon mumbled absently as she followed the gray headed doctor out of the room.
To be continued part 12.
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