Chapter Six: The Morning After
Every afternoon she waited for him; at the wake of the singing nightingale. When the waters turned gold, and purple, and a redish brown in the placid lake. She would wait patiently by the window, anticipating the moment when his car would make a turn in their driveway, and then; she would get up from her chair carefully holding her belly and whispering “daddy’s home”, and she would rush out the doors and into the porch and meet him halfway with a big hug and a kiss.
Annabelle opened her eyes and for a moment remained still. It was a dream, she thought and was thankful for it. Although if she was to be honest, it was more like a nightmare. She shook her head trying to erase the image of a beloved husband Aaron out of her mind.
She pinched her cheeks hard until she cried and when she was able to touch base with reality she noticed it wasn’t her bed where she was laying. Annabelle quickly got up and took a turn around the room.
“Strange” she said, “I don’t remember coming in here last night”. By the rustic cavernous structure of it she was sure to be in a man’s room, and if her memories of the night before didn’t fail her, she feared this was exactly the last room she would ever want to wake up in. She heard the door nob turn and as she was making her way back to the bed in an attempt to hide under the covers he greeted her, loud and clear:
Annabelle turned to face Aaron who was – strangely – looking extremely handsome. This was not how she remembered him. What was happening? Was the dream reality? She looked down at her belly and exhaled,
Annabelle couldn’t help but stare at him; the firmness of his jaw, the softness in his eyes; his sincere smile. She noticed with regret she had been staring too long, and quickly gathered her thoughts,
There was a stillness in the room so familiar to her. The way he had turned his back to her, and how he was now seated, as if there was nothing else to say out of all the infinite possible variations of conversation that could take place on a morning greeting. It was exactly like being back home, and that almost like-dead silence that took power whenever in the presence of her parents.
Annabelle took a deep breath and proceeded to state her concerns as neutral as possible. An argument with Aaron was the last thing she wanted.
He shrugged his shoulders. “I carried you. Of course.” He was expecting her to throw a tantrum, act like she didn’t like it, like the thought of being carried by a handsome, strong man was not romantic. Like all girls would act thinking it was cute and becoming when in reality they were dying of happiness.
It made him unease, to think he had such a horrible effect on her; moreover, to think she had such a strong effect on him. And he didn’t like that feeling. “What?” He asked with no real intention of knowing.
Relieved, Aaron stood up. “Well, you should. Grandma and Clare are waiting for you.”
As he walked away he remembered why he had come to greet her in the first place, and he started to think it had been a huge mistake on his part. He turned around and said: “we didn’t sleep together if that’s what you were wondering.”
“Darling!” Said Patricia planting two kisses on Annabelle’s cheeks, and patting her back she scrutinized her with deep concern. “Are you alright?” She asked in earnest worry. “Did you not get a good night sleep? Was the bed too uncomfortable? I’ll have them change it immediately.”
“Grandma!! How can any of our beds be uncomfortable? We live in the country not the middle ages.” Patricia looked at Clare with an expression of wonder, as if suddenly a very complicated matter had become the simplest of things.
Annabelle, still shaken by her early meeting with Aaron and coming to the realization that she had slept in his room… all night… hopefully without him like he had said, turned to Patricia and forced a smile,
“Oh dear, yes! Your mother… My sweet cousin must be at home by now.” Annabelle gave her a bewildered look, and she quickly added, “I mean, your home. In Sunset Valley.”
“She went home?” Patricia and Clare nodded in unison, and Annabelle felt her heart shrinking, and she wondered about this feeling in a moment of self absorption. Could the heart really be physically shrinking? If not, why did everyone think it would be?
Patricia rubbed her arms in that elderly fashion of hers, and patted her cheeks. Just like her grandma would do, or no, her grandma would probably kiss her forehead and tell her to move on because life was too beautiful to waste with worries.
Patricia hurried to calm her down, “oh dear, no. No, no, no. No tears. You worry about nothing. Your mother thought it would be best to leave you here for the night. She said there was something very important she needed to attend to in Sunset Valley, and was afraid your presence there will only complicate things more. See? Nothing to worry about.”
Annabelle nodded, she was sure Patricia was talking about the situation between her parents. Was it her mother’s plan to leave her there with the Mellarks of Riverview all along? But then she remembered the words of her mother before going to the hospital: “wait for me here Annabelle; do not move from this house you hear me? I will come back to get you…”
There. Even her father had agreed to her staying with the Mellarks of Riverview. Something was definitely happening with her family. She had to somehow return home. And looking out the window, at the vast space of white glimmering under the sunlight, Annabelle felt, no. She knew her chances of that happening were almost non existent.
Patricia grabbed her hands and pulled her gently forward. “Come dear, we’ll be taking our breakfast inside today, with the lovely Lidia. I’m afraid Milka is too indispose to make any appearances this morning. Between you and I.” She stole a glance from Clare, “I mean, between us three ladies; I’m positive Milka will be indispose for more than one morning. Seeing sweet Lidia at our table will drive her nuts. Literally.”
Annabelle started to follow Patricia and Clare, but heard nothing of what was said. Her mind still trying to make sense of all the recent events that had befallen her since her mother brought up the subject of marriage on that ill afternoon.
“Yep. Joshua and Lidia still have to get married under the eyes of God.” Winked Clare and then whispered as if it was top secret, “we are of the baptist church you know.”
That night at the hospital Camille had received a called from her husband, it had been more of a confirmation of what she had already feared; the child would be recognized as his own and he would present him in front of the board members as the sole heir to the CEO’s position, and… she was not going to let that happen.
For Camille it was not about financial gain. Nor status among society, and if she was going to be completely honest with herself, what had her circle of friends done for any member of her family? Nothing. Those people only cared about the superficialities. No, none of it was important to her. It was more to do with her pride as a woman and as a wife; ever since her marriage to Riggo there had been the matter of her inability to conceived a son, and Olivia’s very own child looming above her entire existence as the wife of Riggo Mellark. If she had not been able to give birth to a son for the Mellarks of Sunset Valley, she still had a winning card and that was the promise she had made to a man she once loved before Riggo had come into her life, and his promise to her of uniting their children in marriage.
All she needed now was to convince her husband that the children’s union was a promising one, and that they would have a happy marriage together. After all, Aaron Mellark had kept his father’s wishes alive by studying medicine and accepting to be united with Annabelle. If he was like his father, as they said he was, she was sure he would be a good husband to Annabelle.
Of course it would take more than that to convince Riggo. She had tried talking about it to him and it had been for nothing. Memories of their argument the night before chocked her. Of all the times they had argued, this had been by far the worse of them all. Yes, she was going to need an ally. Someone strong enough to make him understand he was making a mistake by bringing a stranger into their family. Someone with not only the strength to convince him, but the power to stop him if all else failed. And there was only one person that could do that.