Truth and Consequences

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday 17th April
Goldman Sachs
1 pm

 

George sat at his desk and scratched his head, pondering over his own thoughts.  Any way he did the maths on the situation, two and two came up five when it came to the household his ex-wife ran.   The little things the children said meant nothing maybe to a child's brain, but to an adult they seemed to add up to the fact that Sandy – Alexandra Vanessa Richmond, debutante of the year 1998 and famed interior designer - was having an affair with the Nanny?

It was little things like little George and Dandy saying that Mommy and Heather hugged a lot when there was nobody else about. Or that they sometimes heard Heather in mommy's room late at night when they woke up to go to the toilet.  Or that Mommy had bought Heather and her sister an amazing dress to wear to the Fashion for Food event, without telling them.

 

As he said, little things, but add them all up and another question came to his mind.


Could Alexandra be a Lesbian?

“George?”

 

He looked up to see his secretary standing outside.

 

“Allison just rang – her parents have dropped her and Jennifer off at the Hamptons, and they’re going to stay there until you drive up tonight.  And your ex-wife rang – she said she’ll get there by lunchtime tomorrow.”

 

“Great – thanks Rowena.  Get Ted on the line for me in ten minutes will you?”

 

“Sure thing,” she said as she turned and walked away, and George started to scribble on the pad in front of him – and then put the pen down.

 

Sandy in love with Heather?  Well, it couldn't be ruled out he decided. He knew their divorce had been very rough on Sandy, and it wasn't as though Heather wasn't attractive.

Come to think of it, Heather being in love with Sandy might explain why a Yale graduate was happy to stay in a job as a humble servant.  He had recognised as soon as he met her how intelligent she was, and always, always wondered why she stayed.  Oh he was grateful – the kids loved her – but still…

In some ways George was happy for them, though he was also revolted by the idea of the two of them sharing the bed he had once shared with Sandy. He wondered if it was his inadequacies as a husband that had maybe turned Sandy down this path?

Anyway he had no proof - and he wasn't sure he wanted any.  Part of him said he should maybe hire a private detective and have someone investigate, but he was also frightened in a way what the answer might be.

 

Something in him wanted to let sleeping dogs lie, but somewhere else a voice was asking "I wonder if Sandy's mother knows?"

 

If Heather was Sandy's lover then George did know who would know. That tight little grouping of Juliette, Diana and their children. George had always rather envied Sandy her friends, while also resenting them. Their oh so precious closeness and their penchant for keeping each other’s secrets made them both wonderful friends to each other and the despair of those not lucky enough to be included in the enchanted circle.

 

As he sat at his desk, the more he thought about it, the more he realised that must be true.  His mind flashed back to when he was trying to find Sandy to tell her about the birth, and in the end had to ask Juliette.  She said she and Heather were on a business trip - was that what they really were doing?

 

Still, he had to admire their loyalty - and they had been there for Sandy when he had left her.  He knew just how much pain he had caused, and in a way he was glad they stood by her.

No - he had to know the truth, not so much to cause trouble, but to be certain in his own mind.  This weekend would provide the perfect opportunity - if he could do it without Vanessa hearing.  Of one thing he was certain - her mother would almost literally explode...

And then it occurred to him - a beautiful, elegant situation.  The one man he knew could act as a go-between if things came out.

"Rowena," he said as he picked up his phone, "get me St Martha's office - I wish to speak to Father Richmond."

 

George knew he had the perfect weapon to tempt Father Richmond down to the Hampton's, six bottles of Lafitte-Rothschild 1982 would draw the good father like a magnet.

 

Friday 18th April
8 am
The Richmond Mansion

 

“Come on you two – we need to get moving!”

 

“Coming Mommy,” Alexandra called out as she ran down the stairs and out of the door, jumping into the back of the car as Heather put the last of the suitcases in the back.  Closing the boot, she made sure they were strapped in before she and Joanne climbed in behind them, Sandy locking the door before she got behind the wheel and started the engine.

 

“Right – two hours and we’ll be at Daddy’s place,” she said as she made her way onto Madison Avenue, heading towards Marcus Garvey park.  The two younger children started to watch a DVD as Joanne said “Have you ever been out here?”

 

“Nope – I think it’s the first time we’ve been invited with the children,” she said as Sandy turned right onto Dr Martin Luthor King Jr Boulevard, and then south on the I-278.

 

“First time I’ve been invited as well,” Sandy called out as they headed down the road, “George bought the place after we separated, and the Manchester house became kinds sorta off limits to him.”

 

“It’s right by the beach and has a big house for boats.” Little George said as the car crossed the Robert Kennedy bridge and made its way east.  They passed through the city, and then past the La Guardia airport. 

 

“Look Jo – planes coming in,” George said, smiling as Jo looked out of the window with him.  Alexandra was too busy watching her cartoons to pay much attention.

 

“And let’s leave the city behind,” Sandy called out to a chair as she looped round onto the I-495 and headed east again.  The scene changed gradually from blocks of apartments to residential suburbs, and then parks and green fields.

 

“Wow,” Joanne said as the houses became grander, “so this is where the other posh people go!”

 

“It has certain charms,” Sandy said.  The Hamptons were not her favourite place, but as the road went on and on even Alexandra started to say “How much longer?”

 

“There’s an outlet mall here,” Heather said as they turned off the Long Island Expressway, “let’s take a comfort break.”

 

“Good idea,” Jo said as Sandy pulled in and parked in front of a Starbucks.   The group got out and went in, Heather taking the kids to the toilet while Jo went with Sandy to order drinks.

 

“Heather talked to me about London,” she said as they found a table.

 

“You know we’ve deferred the decision,” Sandy said as she looked to the entrance.

 

“Yeah – I just wish you didn’t have to decide between here and there,” Jo said as she sipped her cold drink.

 

“So do I – there you are, all better now?” she said as the others returned…

 

A short while later, Sandy turned left onto the Northville Turnpike, passing a forest on the left as the other passengers played a game of I-Spy.  The scenery changed to farmland, and then she turned right.

 

“WE’RE GETTING CLOSER!!!”  The kids started to point out some of the buildings they passed as Sandy drove along, past the Palmer vineyards .  Jo looked out of the window and sighed as they past farm after farm.

 

“Are you sure, guys,” she said as they passed what seemed like the hundredth farm.

 

Finally, after what seemed an eternity they entered East Merion, and Sandy whistled as the kids looked at the north shore to their left.

 

“Finally!”  After another wood lined road, they passed the Island Golf and Country Club, and a little while later she turned right onto Old Orchard Road.  A left onto North Lane, and through more tree lined roads, until they turned onto Huckleberry Hill Road.

 

“THERE IT IS!” the children shouted as they finally pulled in front of a large wooden house.  George came out to meet them, hugging his children as they jumped out of the car.

 

“Hey – long drive,” he said as he hugged and kissed them, then greeted the others.  “Lunch is ready,” he said as he opened the door, “and Allison can’t wait to see you.  Come in, come in…”

 

1.30 pm
Conde Nast Publishers

 

Juliette stopped in the lobby of the building and took the brown paper package from the hands of the receptionist.

 

“Darling, I know what you are saying, and I agree – Cari and I are going to head up to the summer house as soon as it gets too hot down here, and as soon as our doctors say it would be best for them both?”

 

“Excellent,” Diana said as she stood, watching the doors close, “because I think her giving birth in a relaxed, friendly atmosphere is best.  Has she agreed to the home birth plan?”

 

“Not yet, but there’s time,” Juliette said as she opened the envelope and took out the prints.  “Ah,” she said quietly as she looked at them, “I think I need to make a phone call.”

 

“Who to?”

 

“Antonio,” she said as she showed Diana the picture of Cari and Abby kissing in Carnaby Street.  Diana looked at them, and then said quietly “I am going to take great pleasure in ripping his head from his little neck and feeding it to the swamp creatures…”

 

“I don’t think he sent these – he would have dropped a cryptic hint.  I think someone else has them.”

 

“So why send them to you?”

 

“That is the question,” Juliette said as she put them back and closed the envelope, “and the person asking it may come to regret it.  Say nothing to Abby until I make some enquiries.”

 

As the elevator doors opened, both Juliette and Diana were stopped in their tracks by the combined presence of Anna Mitchell, standing in her fawn pants suit, Missy Auerbach in a black dress and jacket, and Mary Thomas, her short frame in a Laura Ashley dress with a grey cardigan over the top.

 

“Oh joy,” Juliette said as she looked at the three of them, “what occasion would bring the three of you together?”

 

“Ah’m so glad ye asked that lassie,” a familiar voice said from the other side of the room, as Fiona Mackenzie came into view.  “We’ve had a wee idea and I fink ye’re gonna love it.”

 

“Juliette, darling,” Diana said quietly “why am I suddenly very afraid?”

 

“You and me both,” Juliette said as Fiona and Mary ushered them into a conference room, the door closing as the staff carried on with their work – only to stop when a very loud string of French came from the other side of the door.

 

 

2.30 pm
East Merion

 

“Allison, she is absolutely beautiful,” Joanne said as she stroked the cheek of the tiny girl, lying sleeping in her crib.  Little George and Alexandra were watching, entranced as Sandy helped to take the dishes back to the kitchen.

 

“Where did Heather go,” Allison said as she looked up.

 

“Not sure – you stay here and I’ll go and find her,” George said as he left the room, and went up the long staircase.  He could hear singing from the room he had set up bunk beds in, and approached quietly.

 

George stood in the doorway, smiling as he watched Heather unpack the clothes of the two kids and hang them up or put them carefully away.

"I would have made them unpack," he said as Heather put the shorts into one drawer, and underwear into another.

"They wanted to go and see their new sister," Heather said as she closed the drawer.  "Besides, I put their clothes away at home - it's part of the job description."

"And you do the job very well," George said.  "The way Sandy talks about you at times, you're a combination of Mary Poppins, Marge Simpson and their teacher."

Heather smiled as she looked at George.  "I don't know - I just do the best job I can."

"Well, all I know is Sandy would be lost without you - in every way."

Heather stopped and looked at George.  "I'm sorry, I don't quite know what you mean."

George smiled as he said "I mean you saved her, and I'm grateful - the kids love their mother and it would be  a tragedy if they lost her"

"Then I hope nothing happens to cause that."

Heather was looking closely at George, wondering if he suspected or even knew.  "Well, I need to find the kids," he finally said as he turned round.  "Keep up the good work, Heather."

 

As he walked off, Heather watched him, shaking her head before she went to unpack the things for her and Jo…

 

 2.30 pm
Conde Nast

 

As they came out of the meeting room, Juliette and Diana both had a look of mild panic on their faces.

"It's official, darling," Diana said as she shook her head, "Mary has gone mad."

"Maybe," Juliette said with a smile, "but you have to admit it's an idea, and the girls will be more than happy to take part."

"It's not the girls I have doubts about - it's me."

Juliette put her arm round her old friend's shoulders.  "Don't worry, Diana - one more for old time's sake?  We might even get Sandy roped in."

"We'll see - I'll see you later, and we can tell the girls then."  Juliette watched as Diana headed for the exit, and then turned to walk into her office.  As she went in, she said "Janine - a word please?"

"Coming Miss Huntingdown," a voice with a California accent called out as Julia sat down.  A few minutes later a twenty two year old woman came in, carrying a mug of coffee.  She was wearing a red roll necked sweater and darker red leather skirt, with red heels.  Her blonde hair was platted into two pigtails that fell down her back.

"Black, no sugar," she said as she put the mug down.

"thank you Janine," Juliette said as she sat back, "any messages?"

"On your desk."

"thanks - oh by the way a package was handed to me downstairs.  Did you know anything about it?"

Janine shook her head.  "it must have come when I went out to lunch - the desk was unmanned when I got back."

"Very well - call down and see if they have a note of who delivered it please.  Or at least a log of when."

"Yes Miss Hunting..."

"And Janine - it's Juliette, please?"

Janine nodded as she returned to her desk, leaving Juliette shaking her head.

 

 

4 pm
East Merion.

 

“I thought we could all go to the country club tonight – my treat.”

 

“Sounds good,” Sandy said, “when do we all leave?”

 

“Ah – I was going to ask Heather and Joanne if they minded watching the kids.”

 

“No problem,” Heather said with a smile, before she whispered to Sandy “Can you cope with just the three of you?”

 

“I will,” Sandy whispered, “if…”  Her train of thought was interrupted by a new arrival, as the front door opened.

 

“Uncle Alex?  What are you doing out here?”

 

Heather watched as Sandy embraced the tall, grey haired man who had just come into the lobby of George’s house.  He was wearing a grey sports jacket, black pants and an open necked black shirt, and easily stood over Sandy.

 

“Well, George seemed to think I could be a calming influence on you, though why on earth he would think that I have no idea.  Besides, I so rarely get to see the kids, given how busy my own flock keeps me.  I know it’s a busy weekend, but Patrick can deal with them this Sunday.”

 

“Who is that,” Joanne said as she came up behind Heather, looking at the new arrival.

 

“Heather, my dear, it has been far too long,” he then said as he walked over and embraced her, giving her a kiss on the forehead as well.  “How are you?”

 

“I’m fine, thank you,” Heather said with a smile.  “I just realised it has been so long, you haven’t met Jo yet.”

 

“Jo?  Ah – so this is your amazing sister,” he said as he offered Joanne a hand.  “Father Alexander Richmond – a pleasure to meet you.”

 

“Father Richmond?  You’re a priest?”

 

“Twenty four seven – even if I don’t wear the… Oh my Lord, look at both of you.”

 

He swept George and Sandy off their feet as they ran up to him, and gave them both a kiss.  “Excuse me – I must find out all the gossip from them,” he said as he put them both on his shoulders and carried them to the main room.

 

“Your uncle is a parish priest?  Which Parish?”

 

“St. Martha’s.”

 

“You are kidding me – that’s where Judy McNally plays the organ!”

 

“Small world, sis,” Heather said as she put her arm round Jo’s shoulders, “small world.  He was on a year’s sabbatical in Italy when you joined us – he must have got back – two months ago?”

 

“Something like that – he’s been kept busy since then.  What I want to know is, why did George invite him?”

 

Father Alexander Richmond still had the look of the All American offensive tackle he'd been at Notre Dame under coach Parseghian.   A detour via Vietnam though had ruled out any temptation to play in the NFL, and on his return he'd entered Georgetown University to study for the priesthood.

That he'd been a football star even as long ago as the sixties roused a special awe among especially his younger parishioners. That he still played a viciously tough brand of touch football, against kids young enough to be his grandchildren cemented their respect.

 

Sandy adored her uncle, he embodied so much of what she had expected from a man, and she guessed it wasn't George's fault he hadn't quite measured up.

Her uncle had taken her late father’s place at her coming out balls, immaculate in white tie and tails. he'd danced superbly, and she'd overheard the disappointed whispers from her girlfriend’s mothers that such a man had chosen the priesthood.

 

But that was what made him such a popular priest – he really was a people man, and all who knew him praised him for that.  He was like a living embodiment of Paul’s call – to the Jews, he was a Jew, to the Gentiles a Gentile.  To the  traditionalists, he taught sound biblical doctrine, but he was a liberal, and an outspoken critic of some of the less savoury aspects of the church that had come to light.  The chances of Cardinal Richmond were long past – and he and his flock were the better for it.

 

“Sandy?”

 

She shook her head as she felt Heather’s hand on her shoulder.  “Sorry – it’s just I can’t figure out why George asked him – unless…”

 

“Good evening, Miss Alexandra.”

 

“Oh boy,” Sandy said to herself as she turned and saw John carrying in a case, followed by her mother.  “Not dressing for dinner, Alexandra darling,” Vanessa said as she looked at her daughter.

 

“I’ll go and talk to their cook about our tea,” Heather said with a smile…

 

“So darling,” Vanessa said as John headed up the stairs, “Shall we go and join the others – is my darling brother in law here already?”

 

“Why do I have the feeling George has invited a peacemaker?” Jo whispered into Heather’s ear as they walked off.

 

“I think this is going to get very messy and very interesting,” Heather said quietly.

 

“Why?”

 

“Because I think George suspects something – and Sandy’s Mom has been very strange ever since Sandy mentioned the possible move to her.  Have you ever had a boil lanced?”

 

“Can’t say I ever have – why?”

 

“Because when you do, it sometimes comes out better, but by the Goddess the mess will fly without something to catch it.”

 

“Heather, you’re speaking in riddles again.”

 

“Sorry number one son,” she said with a laugh as they headed to the kitchen.

 

 

 

7 pm
The Huntingdown Apartment

 

Carina and Abby were sitting in Cari’s room, comparing their diaries over the next few weeks.

 

“So I’ve got the shoot Sunday for the hat company – where are you going to be?” Abby said as she looked at her best friend.

 

“Talking to Judy about college – we need to go up next week to have a look at the rooms that we’re being allocated.  Given my – situation – the college has proposed we take one of the postgraduate suites and Mom’s agreed to pick up the extra cost.”

 

“Still, it beats having to endure Fifth Avenue today and tomorrow – I hate the Easter Parade.”

 

“Oh yeah – I’d forgotten about your feelings on the holiday.  Pity Jo’s out in the Hamptons, or I’d suggest we all go somewhere together.  Hey – movies tomorrow?”

 

“I’d like that, but I’ve got too much to do,” Cari said as Juliette put her head round the door.

 

“Dinner’s ready – and Diana and I need to talk to you about something.”

 

The two girls looked at each other, and then followed Juliette down the stairs, to where Diana was already seated at the table.  As they joined her, she took a sip from her glass of wine and said “Have you told them yet?”

 

“Told us what?” Carina said as she picked up her fork and put some of the pasta molinere into her mouth.

 

“Diana and I were bushwhacked at the office today by Mary and Anne,” Juliette said with a smile.

 

“Come on Mom, Mary and Anne love you, they wouldn’t…”

 

“And Missy.”

 

“Missy as well?”  Abby raised an eyebrow at that piece of news.  “she wasn’t checking up on me for Sunday was she?”

 

“Nope, my dear Abigail – as much as it may pain you to hear me say this, all four of them were after me and your mother.”

 

“Four?”

 

“Four – Fiona was there as well?”

 

Carina and Abigail looked at each other.  “The gang of four?  What did they want?”

 

“Well,” Diana said as she put her fork down and wiped her chin, “they wanted to inform us that Complete Style was going to do a mother and daughter special in October, and they had the perfect idea for the models for the article.”

 

“Oh – who?”

 

“Guess?” Juliette said as she put her fork down and looked round the table.  Carina and Abby looked at their mothers, before Cari said “Oh no, you’re not suggesting…”

 

“I’m not – they are.  It would be at the end of next month, in our homes.”

 

“So, do you think you can stand a day working with your mothers?”

 

 

 

 

10 pm
The Hamptons

 

“They’re finally asleep,” Jo said as she walked onto the balcony, taking a seat next to Heather as they looked out over the river.

 

“Good,” Heather said as she picked up a drink, “the excitement of the day was getting to them.  How’s little Jennifer?”

 

“Sleeping in her crib,” Jo replied as she put the baby monitor down between them.  “It’s so quiet out here, isn’t it?”

 

Heather nodded.  “George has said he’s going to take us out onto the water in his boat tomorrow – want to come with Sandy and me?”

 

“Nah – I thought I’d head into the town here and have a look round.  I think I’m fairly safe in doing that.”

 

“Heather – has Vanessa been a bit cold to you recently?”

 

“Not especially,” Heather said with a sigh, “but she’s upset about the idea we might move soon.  Why do you ask?”

 

“I’m not sure – she just looked a bit strangely at you before they left tonight.  But hey – I may just be a bit paranoid about that at the moment.”

 

Heather nodded silently as they looked out over the water, until they heard the baby start crying.

 

“Feed time again,” Heather said as she stood up, and went back into the house.  Jo lay back in the recliner, feeling the cool breeze in her face as the night stars shone down.

 

“Do not gaze toward the heavens and observe the sun, the moon, the stars—the entire array of the sky—with the intent to worship and serve what the LORD your God gave every nation.”

 

Jo opened her eyes and saw Alex Richmond sitting in the seat next to her.

 

“Deuteronomy – I saw you sleeping out here, and I thought walking you so you could come in was preferable to a chill.  It still gets very cold out here at night-time.”

 

“I’m sorry,” she said as she sat up, “I was just relaxing for a moment and then…”

 

“It’s all right Jo – can I call you Jo?  We got back a little while ago, and I left it to the last possible minute to wake you.  Sandy went off to see the young ones anyway.  Want some hot chocolate?  I think there may be some still around.”

 

“Sure,” Jo said as she followed him into the kitchen, and sat at the table as he heated some milk up.

 

“So how are Carina and Abigail?  I haven’t seen them for some time – well, outside of the magazines my housekeeper reads.”

 

“They’re fine – I take it you know about Carina?”

 

“Yes, I do,” he said as he poured some chocolate into two mugs and brought them over, handing one to her.  “I need to remember to get a present for her and the baby in the near future.”

 

“Funny – I thought you would frown on that sort of thing.”

 

Alex held his mug in his large hands and looked at her.  “Jo, there is a very simple saying in life I try to live to – hate the sin, love the sinner.  I don’t know, and frankly I don’t really care what happened – it’s the here and now and how we support Carina that is far more important than any form of condemnation.”

 

“Besides,” he said with a smile, “I’m in no position to judge someone.  I’ve done some hurtful things in my time as well.”

 

Jo looked at the big man as he drank the warm milk.  “You’re certainly not like the priests I’ve met in the past.”

 

Alex looked forward, before he said "Jo I saw…. and did things when I was in Vietnam that made me fully realize the fact that, in the correct circumstances, even the best of God's children have the capacity to act in the most savage and horrific ways.”


“I carried a bible and a rifle with me and did the best that I could to comfort and protect the platoon that I commanded."

The father looked up to the heavens.

"Between us we broke all of God's commandments probably, especially Thou Shalt not Kill, but the world gives soldiers in wartime a pass on their actions."

"A pass?"

"Yes Jo, in the name of a greeter good we excuse soldiers from our normal moral codes; it’s only when we return them to civilian life we expect them to de-programme themselves and to start living by the commandments and rules again."

"Well that makes sense.  After all, a war is about fighting for what is right."

Alex smiled and shook his head.  "It might make sense Jo, but it doesn't make life easy. I work a lot with veterans who are and have found adjusting to so called ‘normal life’ a lot more difficult than they thought it would be. With my own insights and experiences, I know that they don't need me ramming my faith down their throats. They need understanding as they find their feet."

Father Richmond took a deep breath.

"Pray God you never need experience this Jo, but when you have killed a man it changes your perspective forever….. To this day I see the faces of those I killed in Vietnam - my country called me a hero, gave me a medal for bravery, but all I remember is the shame I felt later at the ecstatic high the act of killing my enemies had given me.”

"I found comfort in my bible, but when I came on it was still a close run thing in my mind as to whether I'd enter the priesthood or the mafia."

Jo laughed assuming the priest was joking.

"No I'm being serious Jo,” Alex said quietly.  “The thrill of what I had done in Vietnam was very real in my mind, it would have only taken one misstep for me to slip off the path…. Luckily I had a most remarkable teacher at Georgetown, a Jesuit priest called Father Andrew Carey, he taught me that priests are not super heroes fighting on the side of God, they are ordinary men, with a faith it’s true, but whose mission is really to interpret life in its complexities for others."

"He sounds a wonderful man."

"He was, it was he who taught me not to judge the human book by its cover, and that without forgiveness of that within us that is evil, how can we expect to nurture that which is within us that is good?"

Jo looked thoughtful. "Father, can we talk more this weekend?"

 

“I’ll make a deal with you Jo – if you promise to stop calling me Father and start calling me Alex, then I’ll be happy to talk again this weekend.”

 

“Okay, Fa…   Alex.”

 

“Good,” he said with a smile, “because by and large, we’re a fairly sorry bunch.  Jack says much the same thing.”

 

“Jack?”

 

“The Reverend Jack Delaney, my respected opposite number in the Episcopalian church.  Now, drink up – tomorrow, as the film said, is another day.”

 

Saturday 19th April
The Hamptons
9.30 am

Sandy, Heather and Vanessa were sitting on the deck, watching George as he and Alex took the kids down to the boat.

 

“Not interested in a trip on the river today, Mother,” Sandy said as she drank her coffee.

 

“Not really,” she said as Jo popped onto the deck.

 

“John is going to drive me into town – see you all later.”

 

“Hang on,” Allison said as she stood up, “I need to ask him to pick up something.”

 

“Heather, dear, will you make sure the children have the cards ready for tomorrow please when they return?”

 

Heather nodded as she watched them disappear into the boat shed.  “Of course, Vanessa,” she said as she stood up, and went back into the house.

 

“Have you come to a decision about what we talked about before?”

 

“I’ve decided to think it over,” Sandy said quietly, “Why?”

 

“Because I think it would be a very bad move,” Vanessa said quietly, “and so does George.”

 

“So you’ve spoken to him about it?  Thank you for informing me.”  Sandy stood up and walked into the house, as Vanessa called out “Alexandra, darling…”

 

Walking into the library, Sandy sat in a long couch, picking up a book to read as Heather sorted out some Easter cards.

 

 

11 am

 

Heather and Sandy had their noses in books, trying not to look at each other as they heard the footsteps.

 

"Sandy, do you know a woman called Pussy van Roon?" Allison entered the room where she and Heather sat reading, an envelope in her hand.

Sandy put her book down and looked at Allison.  "I know some of the van Roon's of course, but not one called "Pussy"…."

"Her real name's Patricia," Heather said with a laugh, "And yes I know Pussy."

Allison and Sandy looked quickly at her and she realized how that had come out.

"Pussy…. sorry…. Pat had the next room to mine at college."

"Oh well I guess this message is for you Heather." Allison sniffed as she passed Heather the written note.

"Oh my," Heather inhaled as she read the note. "Pussy…. sorry Pat, I will get that right, heard I was up here - and she's inviting me and ‘A N Other’ to a party her parents are holding tonight"


"The van Roon's are inviting you?" Allison could barely conceal her jealousy that a mere nanny was getting invites to events she'd have killed to get into.

Heather caught the look and the tone of her voice, and looked down, saying "I guess I’d better phone her back and decline."

"Why?" Sandy said while looking daggers at Allison. "You are old college friends - it's natural she invites you."


"And if people ask me what I do, then I guess I just smile and say, I'm the nanny….”  Heather stood up, her voice rising.  “The sort of people that go to parties like this aren't going to be impressed that the hired help are on the guest list.   Besides I'm lacking two other key ingredients, something to wear, and an A N OTHER. No better I ring Pussy and say no.”

Heather rushed to the door, practically running out before her tears came.  Sandy looked at Allison, shaking her head and getting up to follow as Allison said "Was it something I said?"

 

"Could be," was her reply as she walked out of the room, looking both ways as John came out from the kitchen.

 

"Heather just went upstairs, crying - what happened?"

 

"Tell you later," was all she said as she went up the staircase and knocked on Heather's door.

 

"Go away - I don't want to be seen like this."

 

"You don't get rid of me that easily," Sandy said as she opened the door and came in.  Heather was looking out of her window, her face to the glass.

 

"Sandy, it hurts - it hurts so much that we can't say anything."

 

"I know, I know," Sandy said as she walked over and placed her hand on Heather's shoulder.  "It doesn’t help that Allison behaved in such an appalling way towards you."

 

Drying her eyes, Heather said "You know what's really funny?  Pat - Pussy got that name for exactly the reason you're thinking.  We used to joke about it all the time, how many people just did not get it."

 

"Listen - you're going to that party and you're not going alone."

 

"Don't be stupid - I wasn't joking about not having a dress, and who would go with me?"

 

"Do you really have to ask?"

 

Heather looked into Sandy's eyes and then hugged her tightly, before they kissed - unaware of someone watching them from the door.

 

“It’ll be all right, Heather,” Sandy said as she held her lover’s head in her hands, “we’re going to get through this.  Now, you are not to call her and decline, is that understood?”

 

“All right, Sandy,” Heather said with a nod before she pressed her lips against her lover’s.

 

“Good – now clean yourself up.  The kids are due back any minute, and you have your instructions from my mother.”

 

“Aye aye, Captain,” Heather said with a mock salute, as she went to the bathroom.

 

Little Sandy ran down the stairs and started looking for her brother, eventually going to the kitchen.  "Hey," George said as he came in, Alex by his side, "Did you find Mommy?"

"Yeah - she was with Heather."

"Good - did you tell her what you had done," Alex said as he took off his boots.

"I'll tell her later - they were cuddling each other.  I think Heather was upset."

"Oh - any idea what it may have been?"

Sandy looked at her father, before saying "No – but it must have been really bad.  Mommy was giving her kisses and telling her it would be all right."

She ran back out to find little George, as the two men looked at each other.

"George," Alex said as he sat down, "This may be a good moment to tell me why you really invited me up - apart from trying the wine."

 

 

 

11 am
Front Street, Greenport

 

 Joanne was making her way slowly along the street, looking in some of the shop windows, and admiring the goods inside.  It was a different world for her, very different from New York, and certainly from Greenwich.

 

As she passed a green, she saw a café next to the Blue Duck bakery, and called in, ordering a coffee and Danish as she sat at one of the tables.  She sat there for a few minutes, watching the world go by and enjoying being herself, when she caught something out of the corner of her eye.

 

It was hardly worth noticing, if truth be told, but the blue Lincoln that drove by was one she had seen a few times that day.  It worried her – enough that she left some money on the table, and walked down the street a couple of blocks, stopping at the Greenport theatre to see what was playing.

 

In the reflection in the glass doors, she saw the Lincoln drive by, and recognised the driver in an instant.  She showed no sign of that, as she turned and walked back up the street.  As she passed the florist, she saw John inside, talking to the girl at the counter, and decided to join him.

 

“Ah, there you are Joanne,” John said as he turned round, “Ready to head back?”

 

“I think so,” she said quietly, “but can we stay and look at these flowers a few minutes?”

 

John could see the worry in his face, so he said “Of course,” going over to join her.  “what’s wrong,” he whispered as he looked at a bunch of roses.

 

“Do you see that car outside – Blue Lincoln?”

 

John looked out of the side of his eye out of the window, and nodded.  “What about him?”

 

“I know this sounds funny, but I think he’s been following me.”

 

John nodded and walked across the store, looking out of the corner as he did so.  A few moments later, he walked to the counter and chatted to the girl, walking back over as she slipped into the back.

 

“Wonderful thing about towns like this, Miss Joanne,” John said quietly, ”people look out for others.”  They watched as a car from the sheriff’s office pulled up outside, and two officers walked up to the car.

 

“Shall we head back for lunch?” he said quietly as he escorted Jo to the rear entrance…

 

 

1.30 pm
Huckleberry Hill Road.

 

“Jo, will you take us down to the beach this afternoon?”

 

“Of course I will,” Jo said as she pushed her plate away.  “Upstairs and change before we go though.”

 

“Alex, would you like to visit the cellar with me?”

 

“Of course,” Alex said to George, “If you ladies will excuse us…”

 

“Go,” Sandy said with a smile, “you enjoy your wine, I have some things to discuss with Mother.”

 

“If Jo is taking the children, I may go and sit in the garden,” Heather said as she stood up and walked out, Allison watching her intently.  She knew Heather was far more important to Sandy than others thought, but she hadn’t figured out how yet.

 

 

 

“Here it is,” George said as he took a bottle from the racks in the cellar, “The Lafitte-Rothschild 92.”  He took a corkscrew from his pocket and pulled the cork, pouring two glasses and handing one to Alex.

 

“Bless you, my son,” Alex said with a smile as he sniffed the bouquet, and then took a sip.  “So, what is so important to you that this is the price for my advice, George?”

 

“Look,” George said as he leaned against the wall, and looked at the glass, “I could be totally wrong, and this may sound as if I am seeing things that are not there, but…”

 

“When you tell the truth, justice is done, but lies lead to injustice.  Proverbs – and the next verse is Thoughtless words can wound as deeply as any sword, but wisely spoken words can heal.  I trust you take my meaning, George.”

 

The younger man nodded slowly as he said “Sandy – do you believe she is happy?”

 

Alex sipped his wine, before saying “Yes – I know the divorce was a difficult time for her, but she has managed to find her focus again.  I believe you should thank her friends for that.”

 

“I do – but,” George said quietly, “do you think she has found someone special?”

 

“You mean has she a lover?  Yes – I believe she has,” Alex said quietly.  “I suspect so, at any rate, and I ask you to consider your next words very carefully.”

 

George nodded, and sipped his wine before he said “If she has, then she has not told her mother, and I suspect it is because it would cause great trouble if Vanessa found out.”

 

“Because of who that person Sandy loves is?”

 

George nodded quietly as Alex put his glass down.  “I have heard the same things you have, George, and seen some of the same things as well.  Let me ask you a simple and direct question – do you think she deserves to be happy?”

 

“Yes – yes I think she does.”

 

“A wise thing to say,” Alex said quietly.  “To answer my own question, you asked me here in case there were difficulties, correct?”

 

George had the good sense to nod quietly, as Alex put his hand on his shoulder.  “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone, George – but your foresight is appropriate.  I will talk to Sandy, and in return try to minimise any potential trouble.  Vanessa is a good woman, but has a very restricted view of the world.  Perhaps she can be talked to without the anticipated explosion”

 

“But is it right?  The children…”

 

“Need to have a loving father and mother, George, so take advice from someone totally unqualified – have them first in your thoughts.  Come – or they will think we have opened a second bottle…”

 

 

“Good afternoon Miss,” the maid said as she opened the door.

 

“Hi – I’m looking for Heather Smith,” Allison heard the woman say as she walked past.  She stopped and looked at her – long white frock coat with a pair of old pants and an off white blouse, with a white scarf hanging loosely round her neck, and white boots.  By contrast, her hair was a mass of red, curled and unkempt.

 

“I’m Allison Graham, can I help you?”

 

“Hi – I’m Patricia van Roon,” she said as she held out a hand, “I wanted to see Heather if that is all right?”

 

“Sure – I think she’s in the garden.  If you will come this way…”

 

“Hey Pussy!” Heather exclaimed as the tall, quirky looking redhead came into the garden. “Long time no see.”

 

“Hey Heather.” Pussy gave her old friend a peck on the cheek and collapsed into the recliner beside her. “Nice digs, I’ve never been here before.”

 

“My employer’s ex’s place.  He invited us to see his new baby - I’m here with my employer, the kids and my sister.”

 

“Ouch!”  Pussy put her head back and laughed quietly.  “I bet that makes for a comfortable atmosphere.”

 

Heather smiled.  “Everyone is on their best behaviour and trying so hard not to say the wrong thing…. You can literally cut the tension with a knife.”

 

“I bet.”  Pussy closed her eyes and stayed silent for a moment, before she said “You didn’t call back.”

 

“Puss - you do know I’m a simple, humble nanny don’t you?”

 

“I’d head on the grapevine Tee.  I always thought you would make a success of anything – even looking after kids.”

 

Heather grinned at the use of her old college nickname.

 

“So you think your folks want someone else’s nanny as a guest at one of their parties?”

 

“Tee my folks have always adored you…. You could be a down and out, and if you were still in the neighbourhood they’d want to know how you were doing.”

 

Heather wriggled in her seat uncomfortably. “I heard you’d been living in Germany Puss?” she tried to change the subject.

 

“Yep…. Been doing some bits in Heidelberg.”

 

Heather shook her head knowing full well that Patricia’s ‘bits’ were a doctorate in Physics at the world-renowned German university.

 

“So you coming to the party or not?” Pussy steered back to the original topic.

 

 

From the door, Allison stood appraising Patricia. With her red hair curling and frizzing in all directions, she looked to Allison's eyes a mess. Coming from a new money family, Allison was not secure enough in her own identity to realize that families like the van Roon's, who'd been Wealthy New Yorkers since the city was called New Amsterdam, placed little value on the external, and were secure enough in their position to value what was inside a person most.

Working in the business she was in, Allison could make a pretty good guess at the value of the scientists trust fund, and she could not comprehend why a woman worth about 200 million dollars was first a physicist of all things, but so democratic in her friendships.

Allison's father had instilled in her the motto “always be nice to those who can help you”. The unspoken down side of course being “ignore those that can't.”  In her mind, Vanessa and Sandy could help her – well, Sandy had already given her so much, but she needed the contacts they had.  Heather?  A cute girl, and smart, but not worth her attention save for the way the children adored her.

“My goodness, is that Patricia van Roon?  I didn’t know she was back in the country?”

 

Allison turned to see Vanessa standing there, watching intently.

 

 

 

 

Heather looked at her fiend for a moment, before she said "Slight lack of clothing, Pussy.   Posh frocks don't come cheap, especially on a nanny's salary."

 

"Did it say posh frock?"

 

Heather shook her head as Pussy put her hand on her knee.  "Tee, for goodness sake, it's a barbecue party - you're fine just the way you are."

 

"Still, I don't want to go on my own..."

 

"the A N OTHER bit?  You're not going to tell me a cutie like you isn't seeing someone?"

 

Pussy watched as Heather started to blush, before she said "I knew it - so who has got the light of little Heather Smith's eye, eh?  I hope they're dreamy."

 

"Oh yes, it's dreamy, but it's - complicated."

 

"Now why doesn't that surprise me," Pussy said as she looked round the place, "Just tell me it's not the guy who owns this place."

 

"No - dear Goddess, definitely not him," Heather said with a smile.

 

"Then who?"

 

Heather looked round, and then said "If I tell you, nobody else must know."

 

"Come on, Tee - spill."

 

"It's not my employer's ex - it's my employer."

 

Pussy looked at Heather, and then a smile broke out on her face.  "Oh, now that is a sweet thing.  Tell me more."

 

“Well – it’s a long story, but basically we both hit rock bottom and found each other.  I guess we saw ourselves in each other, and it just grew from there.”

 

“Ah, love at first sight.”

 

“You could say that,” Heather said as she looked at Pussy, “and it was.  Sandy is the one true one for me – and I can never tell anyone about it, because it might ruin her.”

 

 “You mean it might ruin her mother, Tee.  If you heard what my parents say about her…”

 

“She is in the building, you know.  Anyway, I’ve been offered a job in London, and we’re thinking about setting up home together there.  It’s just too damned difficult having to hide it here…”

 

“I can understand that,” Pussy said, “Being in Germany allows me a bit more latitude – not that my parents would mind anyway.”

 

“What’s her name?”

 

“That obvious?”

 

“The ring on your finger is.”

 

Pussy raised her left hand and laughed.  “I forget,” she eventually said, “her name’s Frieda, she’s a research associate in my department.  You can meet her tonight when you and Sandy come.”

 

“I haven’t said yes yet.”

 

“You haven’t said no either,” Pussy said as she got up and looked to the door.  “And who is this approaching us now?”

 

“The woman in question,” Heather said as she got up.  "Sandy this is Doctor Patricia van Roon…. Pat this is my employer Ms Alexandra Richmond."

"Call me Pussy, everyone does," the redhead extended her hand.

"Sandy."

"Okay Sandy it is."

Sandy smiled, she'd already taken to this slightly odd woman with the dancing, laughing eyes.

 

“I was telling Heather I look forward to seeing you both tonight, and no arguments,” Pussy said as she looked at them.  “Seven o’clock, dress casually.  See you Tee.”  She waved as she walked off, the other two women watching her.

 

“Tee?”

 

“I’ll explain it one day.” Heather giggled.

 

“As I said, a remarkable woman.  We’d better go and tell George and Allison we’ll be out tonight.”

 

The two women walked towards the house, not seeing Allison come out from the other side of the garden…

 

“Are you going to introduce me, Alexandra?” Vanessa said as Sandy was walking Pussy to the front door.

 

“Of course.  Patricia, this is my mother Vanessa Richmond.  Mother, Pat van Roon.”

 

“The pleasure is mine,” Pussy said as she shook Vanessa’s hand.  “You were at college with my mother, I believe.  She said if you were here, you and your husband should come tonight as well.”

 

“I am a widow,” Vanessa said quietly, “but perhaps my brother in law may come?”

 

“It’s settled then – seven, dress casual.”

 

As Sandy showed Pussy out, Jo came in from the library, looking at her phone.

 

“Heather, would it be all right if I went out with the Rocherman girls tonight?”

 

“Both of them?  At the same time?  You sure you want to go?”

 

Joanne looked at Heather, before saying “All the kids call this neutral territory.  So, can I go?”

 

“George,” Heather said as he and Alex emerged from the cellar, “We seem to have glut of party invites.  Will it be all right if you and Allison watch the children tonight?”

 

“Sure,” George said, ignoring Allison’s glare.

 

“Great – don’t be late back,” Heather said to Jo, who went off to get ready.

 

 

4 pm
The Huntingdown Apartment

 

Juliette looked at the proofs of the photos Giulia her opposite number at Italian Vogue had sent over of Jeanie's shoot in Rome. They were good, very good in fact.

They had not tried to make the young girl look too much older, just a little makeup and her hair kept simple, the result was that her inner beauty lit up the print.

Jeanie had obviously been practicing to use her chair as a prop and her poses reflected yes she was disabled, but being disabled did not mean she couldn't be a stylish young woman.

Juliette got her magnifying glass off the table to look closely at a picture where Jeanie was in three quarter profile, she recognized that pose head slightly turned to the camera, shy smile, it was one of Abby's. Little Jeanie wasn't above stealing a pose. Juliette laughed, she was learning the modelling game fast.

 

“They look gorgeous,” Carina said as she looked over her mother’s shoulder, “She really is a natural isn’t she?”

 

“Yes she is,” Juliette said with a smile, “I look forward to her coming over.”

 

 

7pm
The van Roon Mansion

 

"Well, here we are Miss Vanessa," John said as he pulled up outside the large doors, stopping and getting out before he opened the door for Vanessa.  She had decided to wear at least a pair of pants as a sop to the casual dress code, but was unsure why Sandy had followed Heather in choosing a vest top and shorts.

 

Alex had opted for a polo shirt and chinos, feeling that was as casual as he could get.  He took Vanessa’s arm as the door opened and Pussy’s parents came out.  Gus van Roon was in an open necked shirt, with a cravat around his neck, pale blue pants and leather shoes, while Pauline van Roon wore a sheer grey over dress on top of a white bikini top and shorts.

 

“Heather, darling,” Gus said as he hugged her and kissed her on both cheeks, “it has been far too long.  And this must be Sandy – welcome, my dear, welcome.  Pauly and Ness have a lot of catching up to do.”

 

“Pauly and Ness,” Sandy said in a surprised tone as she saw her mother blush.

 

“Pauline, my dear, how are you?”

 

“My goodness, is that Alexander Richmond?  The years have been far too good to you, how do you stay so young?”

 

“Clean living and pure thoughts,” he said with a smile, “So where is this party?”

 

“Come through,” Gus said as he took them through the house, and in the back, where a large crowd were already gathered.  Pussy waved at them from a group of other women, as Pauline took Vanessa to one side.

 

“Get a drink, relax – be yourselves,” Gus said with a wink as Alex started to talk to a group of young men who were sitting by the pool.

 

“Tee, Sandy,” Pussy said as she walked over, bringing with her a blonde haired girl wearing a yellow bikini top and a pair of cut off denims.  “This is Frieda.  Frieda, this are the people I was telling you about – Heather and Sandy.”

 

“A pleasure,” she said in perfect English, “I’m so glad you could come tonight.  Puss here has told me some stories of your time in college.  Tell me, what does it mean to play Hunt the Weiner?”

 

Sandy looked at Pussy and Heather, who collapsed in a fit of giggles.  “Come on,” Pussy eventually said, “Let’s go and get a drink – the DJ will be starting up soon…

 

 

7.30 pm
The Graham Mansion

 

“I’ll see you all later – behave for your father, you two.”

 

“We will,” Little Sandy and George said as they watched Jo go out of the front door, wearing a blue denim skirt and a white blouse.  As she opened the door, she saw the Rocherman twins sitting in a jeep, both wearing vest tops and shorts over black leggings.

 

“Hey Ally, Hey Nell.” Joanne called out her greetings as she climbed into Ally’s jeep. “Thanks for the rescue call guys, there is no one in the group my age, and they are all doing their own thing tonight, I was getting SO bored.”

 

Ally giggled, “Yeah up here it can get that way, this is a resort for ‘grown ups…’”

 

“Or so our folks are always telling us.” Nell finished her twin’s sentence.

 

“Oh and this is also ‘neutral’ territory.” Ally looked at her twin, “Up here we aren’t Angels, we aren’t Nuns, and we are all just teenagers facing a common enemy….”

 

“Our parents.” Nell said as they drove back onto the main road.

 

“So what’s the plan ladies?”

 

“Well we know a beach front place that a lot of the guys who go away to boarding school hang out in.” Nell answered Jo.

 

“Fresh meat.”

 

“Ally Rocherman…. I am SHOCKED!” Jo shouted as she laughed.

 

“Well the boys go to day schools in the city, you get sick of seeing them round all the time…”

 

“And Ally wants to meet someone who hasn’t had his hand in her panties in the last 12 months….”

 

The jeep spun slightly out of control and on the sand at the edge of the road as Ally tried to punch her sister on the arm.

 

“Girls!” Joanna shouted at the top of her lungs as the jeep came to a stop.

 

“That was uncalled for Nell.” Ally snarled at her sister.

 

“It was a joke.”

 

“Well it wasn’t very funny.”

 

“You know very well I’ve only dated three guys all school year.”

 

“All of whom you slept….”

 

“Girls!” Joanne tried to intervene in the sibling fight. “Look we are out to have a great time TONIGHT, not argue over things in the past.”

 

“I Know,” Ally said as she shook her head.

 

“We’re sorry,” Nell looked round and smiled.

 

“Okay so let’s get going…BOYS AWAIT...WOOHOOO!” Joanne let out a cry as they got under way again.

 

After they’d gone about a mile, Ally glanced in the rear mirror.

 

“What you looking at sis?”

 

“I could swear there’s a car back there following us, he pulled up when we did, re-started when we did, and now he’s still back there.”

 

Joanne glanced back. “Which car?”

 

“The old green truck…. See it?” Ally asked.

 

Jo glanced back; there certainly was a truck back there.

 

“Well if he’s following us he’s followed us where we are going,” Ally said as she pulled up in front of a building that proclaimed itself to be “The Beach Shack”.

 

Each girl routinely reached in her purse and started repairing her makeup. Jo used her mirror to confirm the truck had pulled up and parked about 100 yards back.

 

“Okay we look gorgeous girls, let’s go find ourselves some company.” Nell giggled as each of the girls climbed out of the jeep.

 

Inside the bar Jo quickly cast her eyes round. She saw the odd familiar face and it was pretty obvious that this was a hangout for teenagers and those just outside the age group.

 

It was always hard to judge ages in a room like this, with makeup on girls looked older, while in jeans and polo’s guys looked younger.

 

“Hey Jo” a girl from school called out as she pulled a boy after her towards the dance floor.  Jo smiled and waved in return as she watched the teenagers dancing, and being teenagers.

 

“So what are the rules Ally? Do we go look for guys, or do they come look for us?”

 

Ally glanced round, “More guys in then girls tonight….”

 

“Let them find you.” Nell finished the sentence.  “Come on – I need a drink.”

 

“Are they serving booze?” Jo asked in surprise as she glanced towards the bar.

 

“Yeah….Why?” Nell asked.

 

“Duhhhh because it’s against the law to sell booze to minors.”

 

“The local police turn a blind eye.” Ally whispered. “The kids that come in here, their parents could give the cops a lot of hassle, so the bar staff watch carefully - no one gets too blotto, no one drives home drunk.”

 

“Works very well all round.” Nell commented.

 

After a few minutes of pushing through the crowd the girls finally made it to the bar.

 

“Beer everyone?” Ally asked.

 

“Suits me.” Joanne reflected this was the first time she’d had beer without need to present a forged ID.

 

“Coors Light Ladies” The big, tall, handsome, and obviously gay barman asked.

 

“Yep Johnny” Nell spoke as the other two girls nodded.  “This is Jo – she goes to the same school as Ally.”

 

“Hey Jo – needing to get out from under the feet of the oldsters?”

 

“Oh yeah,” Jo said as she picked up her bottle, “I certainly did…”

 

 

8.30 pm
The Graham Mansion

 

“How long does little Jennifer sleep for,” Sandy said as Allison sat down on the couch.  The two children were washed and in their pyjamas, listening to George reading a bedtime story.

 

“As long as she needs to, but I have some bottles ready for her,” Allison said quietly. 

 

“Can we have a bedtime cuddle?  Mommy and Heather always give us one, but they’re not here, so…”

 

“Of course you can,” Allison said as the two children hugged her, and then George took them by the hands.

 

“You don’t hug like Mommy and Heather, but I like it,” Sandy said as she yawned. 

 

“Well, I’ll try to hug you more tightly next time.”

 

“I meant you and Daddy don’t hug like Mommy and Heather,” Sandy said George nodding as their father hustled them out of the room, leaving Allison with her thoughts.

 

 

8.30 pm
The van Roon Mansion

 

Sitting at a pool side table, Vanessa picked at her food, still trying to comprehended what she was seeing.  She had thought they were mostly young couples, and they were, so she was ready for the boys to dance with the girls.  She was even prepared for a little close dancing.

 

Well, there was certainly a lot of that, as she watched Heather dancing with her arms round her old college friend’s neck, looking very comfortable in her old friend’s arms, laughing and giggling as if it was the most natural thing in the world.

 

Vanessa was frankly shocked, she'd heard rumours that the van Roon girl was that way inclined, but it shocked her to see Heather obviously enjoying it so much.  What’s more, Sandy was sitting with some more of the girls, laughing and joking.

Vanessa glanced round, there were other female couples dancing, even men dancing together. Frankly she couldn't believe her eyes.

 

“Something wrong with the food, Ness?” Pauline said as she sat next to her.

 

“Hmmm – no, the food is excellent, I was just watching your daughter with my grandchildren’s nanny.”

 

“Tee and Pussy?  Well, they are very old and very dear friends,” Pauline said with a smile.

 

“But don’t you think the way they are dancing is a little – inappropriate?”

 

“They’re having fun, Ness – remember when we were at college?  I seem to recall the time when you had this herbal cigarette and…”

 

“Alexander,” Vanessa said as he walked over, “What do you think of the dancing?”

 

“I think they could teach me a thing or two,” Alex said with a laugh.  “Why – not enjoying yourself, my dear?”

 

“I am,” Vanessa said with a smile as Sandy got up to dance with some of the other girls, Heather and Pussy joining them as Pauline went to speak to some other guests.

 

“No you’re not,” Alex said as he sat down, “so come on, what’s bothering you?”

 

“It’s just – is Pat van Roon a Lesbian?”

 

“Oh a direct question – I’d forgotten how good you are at those.”  Alex took a sip of his drink and said “If she is, does it matter?”

 

“Well, no, of course it doesn’t,” Vanessa said with a blush, “but the way she and Heather were dancing, I can’t help wondering…”

 

Alex put his glass down and looked at his sister-in-law.  “Answer me these questions please.  Does she do a good job with the kids?”

 

“Yes, of course she does – they adore her.”

 

“Has Sandy said anything to suggest she is unhappy with her work?”

 

“No, Alexandra has not.”

 

“And finally,” Alex said as he looked at her, “if you found out she had a partner, and it was a woman, would you have any problems with her continuing to work as the children’s nanny if Sandy said she was happy for her to continue?”

 

“Well, if Sandy was happy, then of course…”

 

“Good – Vanessa, if the children and being looked after and cared for, that is the important thing.  Heather is a good woman, and loves the kids – accept and live with that.  Now, get up – you need to dance!”

 

8.30
The Beach Shack, Sound Road

 

Away from the bar the girls pushed their way to an unoccupied table.  “Damn that’s a crowd scene.” Jo moaned as she sipped her beer.

 

“Yeah.” Nell glanced round like she was looking for someone.

 

“He’s not here yet Nell.”

 

“Who isn’t” Jo asked.

 

“My twin has a thing for a guy called Steve Thompson…. A BIG thing!” Ally laughed as she said “if he doesn’t show up tonight poor Nell’s whole evening will be ruined.”

 

“Sounds serious?”

 

“It is….”

 

“No it isn’t” Nell intervened, “It’s just he’s nice, he’s handsome….”

 

“He’s six four and hung like a horse.” Ally laughed.

 

“Okay I get the picture,” Joanne laughed.  “Like Abby and The House, is it?”

 

“Except I don’t think House is getting into Abs’ panties.” Ally giggled as Nell glared at her.

 

"I've always wondered why you girls are at different schools?" Jo asked as she glanced at the kids dancing.

"Our parents thought we needed to establish our individualism." answered Nell.

"But you still finish each other’s sentences." Jo laughed.

"She may be a Nun, but she's still my sister.” Ally hugged her sibling, looking over her shoulder as she said "Here comes Steve Nell…."

"I saw…"

 

“Hey there,” Nell said as she stood up and hugged the new arrival, Jo looking him up and down in an approving way.

 

“Steve, this is Joanne Smith.  Jo, Steve Thompson.”

 

“Nice to meet you,” Steve said as he put his drink down.  “You girls dancing?”

 

“You betcha,” Nell said, Ally getting up. 

 

“I’m just going to…” Jo was about to say she was going to stay at the table, but then she shook her head and said “Nope – let’s dance.”

 

She got up and joined the other three on the dance floor, smiling as they moved with the music, her cares slipping away…

 

“Ohhh Ohhh” Steve looked over his shoulder from where he was dancing with the three girls.

 

“What is it?” Jo followed his eye line.  In the doorway of the shack stood six young men, obviously a group, who looked completely out of place among the rest of the patrons. They looked less well dressed even in casual terms, their appearance was wrong totally.

 

“Locals,” Steve whispered in Jo’s ear, “just pray to God they aren’t here to start any trouble.”

 

Jo and the others watched as the crowd parted to let the strangers get to the bar. It was like a scene from a bad western movie.

 

At the bar the head barman stood with a baseball bat in his hand.

 

“We want no trouble fellas,” he said, as he pounded the bat on the bar top to make his point.

 

“Hey Johnny we just wan’ some beers, we aint lookin’ for trouble.”

 

“For guys who don’t go looking for trouble, you sure seem to find a lot of it.” Johnny put his bat back behind the bar.  “Beers – but the first sign of trouble…. and you pay.”

 

For about 15 minutes the local roughs stood at the bar chugging beers and turning to eye up some of the girls in the room.  Jo’s senses and her experiences in such situations gained in confrontations between Greenwich High, and local private school kids, was that the moment one of the local greasers made an unwelcome move on a preppie girl, all hell was gonna break loose.

 

“Steve,” Nell said as she gripped his arm, “I don’t like this.  Will there be trouble?”

 

“Hopefully not, but if there is, we get out of here as quickly as…”

 

At that moment Holly Berryman of course chose to arrive. Holly was a Nun, but she was also Carina’s only real rival for the title of most beautiful preppie girl in New York.

 

The local boys, seeing Holly in a corset, tight jeans, and stiletto heeled boots, were standing there panting like dogs.  As Holly greeted some friends and tried to get to their table, one of the local boys tried to grab her and drag onto the dance floor.

 

Suddenly the room fell silent.

 

“Hey Babe…. Wanna dance?” the local asked.

 

Holly, who was as chronically short-sighted as Carina, reached into her purse for her glasses. Putting them on, she looked the townie boy up and down.

 

“Not in a million years.” Holly removed her glasses and slipped them back in her bag.

 

“I said…. WANNA DANCE?” He grabbed Holly by the arm.

 

“And I said NO WAY!” Holly wriggled her arm free.

 

“The lady said No Way Jose,” Steve stood up from the girl’s table. “Leave the lady alone please.”

 

“Fuckin’ tight ass Bitch!” The townie called out as Holly slowly joined her friends. “YOU come up here and think you are too good for the likes of us.”

 

“She is too good for the likes of you.” Another of the boys came over and stood next to Steve.  Jo recognized the guy as a football player who played alongside  The House at Harker.

 

“Says who?” One of the townies who also looked as though he played a bit of football poked the Harker boy in the chest.

 

“GUYS!!” Johnny the barman yelled as he reached for his baseball bat.

 

It was too late, as the townie football player took a swing at the Harker guy.

 

“WHAMMM” his fist caught the Preppy footballer full in the face, drawing blood as it smashed his nose.

 

From then it was a free fight for young and old, as the locals proved just how tough they were in a fistfight with all the preppie boys.

 

Jo admired their spunk. But she knew two things would inevitably happen, first that the larger number of preppies would win, but secondly and most importantly the cops would arrive ANY SECOND.

 

“We have to get out of here – now,” she said to Steve.  Quickly the two of them rounded up the twins and gingerly headed for the exit, round the edge of the scrimmage.

 

“Got your keys handy,” Jo said as they reached the outside.

 

“Right her,” Ally said as they climbed into the jeep and drove off, not seeing the Mustang that drove after them – and the green truck that followed behind that.  As the hit the North Road, they saw two police cars heading the other way.

 

9.15 pm
The Graham Mansion.

 

“They’re asleep,” George said as he handed Allison a glass of wine.  “Nice to have the house quiet.”

 

“Yes – it is,” Allison said as she nursed her glass.

 

“I know that look, what’s wrong?”

 

Allison ran her hand through her long hair and said “It’s nothing, George, it’s just…”

 

“Just what?”

 

“How did a little slip of a nothing like Heather Smith get to know someone like Patricia van Roon?”

 

“Well, they were at Yale together, remember – Heather s a very bright and intelligent young woman.”

 

“I’m sure she is,” Allison said as she sipped her wine, “but what does she have apart from her mind?  The good fortune to have a post as the nanny to your children, and nothing else to commend her to society.”

 

“Do I detect a hint of jealousy my dear?  Wishing you were there instead of them?”

 

“Yes.”

 

The directness of the reply took George by surprise.  He was seeing a side of his wife he did not particularly like.

 

“Still, she was a godsend for Sandy as well as for the children.”

 

“Yes, I can see Sandy is very fond of her,” Allison said with a frown.  “Perhaps a little too fond?”

 

“What do you mean by that?”

 

“Nothing – she and that van Roon girl were very cosy and giggly this afternoon.  Do you know she is a lesbian?”

 

“Heather?”

 

“NO – Pat van Roon.”

 

“What on earth makes you think that?”

 

“Just the way she talks, the way she acts – you can tell you know?  Still, she and Heather were…”

 

“Allison,” George said as he put his glass down, “Whatever Miss van Roon may have as a sexual preference is no concern of ours.  Honestly…”

 

“I think Heather’s a lesbian as well.”

 

George looked at Allison as she said “I overheard their conversation earlier – she said she had a special someone, and it wasn’t a man.”

 

“That s none of our concern,” George said quietly.

 

“But George…”

 

“I said it is none of our concern Allison,” George said as he stood up, “and I do not wish to discuss it any further.  I’m going to take a shower.”

 

Allison looked at George as he walked off, wondering what nerve she had touched…

 

9.45 pm
Inlet Pond Country Park

 

“Hey – what the hell are they doing,” Ally said as the Mustang swung in front of her jeep, slamming the brakes on and making her come to a halt.

 

“I don’t like this at all,” Nell said as the car doors opened, and three local boys got out, looking at them.  “Can you reverse, Ally?”

 

“Ally?”

 

Jo looked at her friend, who was staring straight ahead, her hands gripping the wheel tightly.  “Dammit – we need to end this,” she said under her breath.

 

“Let me talk to them,” Steve said as he removed his seat belt.

 

“This isn’t the time to go all macho Steve – you don’t know if they’re armed or what they’re capable of,” Jo pleaded with the boy.

 

“No you stay in the car girls, I can deal with these idiots on my own.”

 

“And pigs might fly,” Jo thought to herself as Steve got out and walked into the headlights.

 

Jo quickly assessed their three pursuers. The small one looked mean, but a decent blow would take him down, the other two were bigger, but neither moved as though he was used to fighting. She could take all three she knew.

 

Steve stood his ground as they approached.

 

“Was there something you guys wanted?”

 

“Only to see if the pretty ladies were interested in coming dance with us.” The shorter kid spoke with a strong Mexican accent.

 

“Yeah is eet fair, tres ladies, uno hombre.” One of the others said in very broken English.

 

“I’m going to say this VERY slowly so you can understand.” Steve paused…. FUCK…. OFF….. ASSHOLES!”

 

As he finished one of the bigger Mexican threw a punch that landed flush on Steve’s jaw knocking him out cold.

 

“Oh our hero” Jo rolled her eyes.  “Nell, stay in the car with Ally, and don’t interfere.”

 

“What are you going to do,” Nell said as she looked at Jo.

 

“Something I haven’t done in a long time,” Jo said quietly as she opened the door.

 

As she climbed out of the car she was glad she’d picked up Spanish from the Mexican kids at Greenwich High. “Ahora los chicos podemos hacerlo las buenas o las malas. Es tu elección?”

 

“Hey this bitch speaks our language,” the little one grinned.  “I like her – she’s mine.  You two can have the twins.”

 

Jo smiled, looking at them in turn.  “Nos dejan en paz y no te haré daño.”

“De ninguna ‘Déjanos’ perra, le damos las órdenes” one of the taller ones called out as all three advanced forward.  Jo watched them carefully, sizing up the three of them as they came towards her.

 

“What on earth is she doing,” Ally whispered as they encircled her.

 

“No digas que no te lo advertí,” Jo said with a smile, as she made her decision. 

“Shut up bitch,” the smaller man said as he tried to grab her arm, only to squeal in pain as she grabbed his arm instead, pulled him forward and kneed him in the groin.  As she crumpled to the ground, she brought her knee up into his chin, sending him backwards as he fell flat on his back.

 

“Perra - para que nos hará daño,” the tall Mexican to the left of her said as he ran forward, his hand raised.  Jo smiled as she ducked to avoid his swing, and then grabbed his arm, twisting it behind his back and driving her knee into the back of his leg.  As he fell to the ground, she delivered two blows to the side of his body, driving the air out of him

 

She could also hear the running footsteps behind her, so she rolled and watched as the third man brought the branch down on his companion’s head, knocking him senseless.  He looked on, unsure of what to do next, as Jo ran up to him and tackled him to the ground, forcing him to lie face down in the ground as she hooked her arm round his neck, pulling it back until she felt him weaken.  Letting him go, she checked his pulse before letting his head fall to the ground, and then stood up, walking over to check the other two.

 

“No es tan grande ahora, estás,” Jo said as she kicked all three of them, and then looked to the jeep.  “Nell, does Ally have any electrical tape in the jeep.”

 

“Where… Where on earth did you learn to do that,” Ally and Nell said as they got out of the car.

 

“Small town life,” Jo said.  “now, got any electrical or duct tape?”

 

“I’ve got some in the tool kit at the back,” Ally said, opening the rear door and tossing the black roll to Jo.

 

“You two see if our protector is all right,” she said as she walked back over, and pulled the arms of the first lad behind his back.

 

“Wha… What happened,” Steve said as she shook his head, pushing himself up from the ground.  “Are you girls all right?”

 

“Yeah – Jo stopped them,” Nell said as Jo pulled the second of the boys over to the side of the road, and went back to the smaller of the three.

 

Taping his wrists and ankles, she then took him to join the others, and then went back, tossing the empty roll to Ally as she said “Someone will find them eventually.  That was fun – I’m really glad you invited me out now.”

 

“How did you…”

 

“Boxing lessons,” Jo said as she glanced down the road.  She could just about make out the outline of the truck further down the road.

 

“Nell – there’s another vehicle down there.  How well do you know these roads?”

 

“Like the back of my hand,” she said.

 

“Good, get me back to the house and lose the other car at the same time?”

 

“You steer, I drive,” Ally said, shaking her head.  “Just wait until I tell the girls about this…”

 

Jo looked back down the road, wondering who the hell was in the other car, but shook her head and climbed in the back, saying to Steve “If anyone asks, you did that.  I don’t think the world is ready for them to know about my fighting skills, all right?”

 

“Got it,” Steve said, happy to take the credit as Ally gunned her Wrangler Renegade and drove along North Road, heading in the opposite direction from East Marion, west through the Hamptons.  Looking back, Jo saw the green vehicle following the headlights blazing.

 

“Any ideas how to lose them?”

 

“Well, I was going to take the scenic route back anyway, tempting though it would have been to pass whoever that is,” Ally said as the wind blew through her hair, “but what we need, Nell, is the local tour.”

 

“Gotcha,” Nell said as the road became Middle Road, “Go for about two miles, until you see a Ford dealer, Lincoln motors.  Hang a left just before it.”

 

“Got it,” Ally said as she watched the road, and then turned a sharp left at the dealer onto Horton Road.  Speeding down the residential road, Steve turned and said “No good – still following.”

 

“Not done yet – left and second left, sis.”

 

“You got it sis,” Ally said as she turned onto the main road, then took the second left.

 

“T-junction!”

 

“Right – takes us past Southold station.  Then left, over the line, and right again.”

 

“On here,” Ally called out as she turned onto Hummel Road.

 

“The car’s still behind us,” Jo called out.  Nell said nothing as she looked along the railway line.

 

“No problem – right and over the line again – and step on it!”

 

Ally turned a sharp left, the tyres squealing as she did so, and went south on Boisseau Avenue, crossing the train line as they all heard the approaching train.

 

Looking back, they saw the lights of the car following them, and then the sound of a train siren as a coal train came along the line.

 

“Ally, fast as you can, left along Main Road, pull in at the North Fork, and kill the engine.”

 

Ally sped along the road, pulling into the car park and then stopping the jeeps as she turned the lights off. The foursome sat, not breathing as they watched the green vehicle drive past, not seeing them in the gloom.

 

“Nell,” Steve finally said, “How on earth did you know to do that?”

 

“Clean living – and hours cycling round here as kids,” Nell said as she opened an ice box, and took out four cans, passing them round.  “How long do you want to give him?”

 

“Let’s have a drink – see if he comes back.  Then we’ll go back through Greenport – I can drop you off in town Steve, then take Jo back.”

 

“Hey Nell,” Jo said as she raised her can, “good work.”

 

“No problem – but do me a favour.  Don’t tell anyone – come Monday, I’m a Nun, Ally is an Angel.”

 

“On one condition – we need a truce for a few weeks, or both groups could be in big trouble.  Take the message back, will you?”

 

“Will do,” Nell said as she drained her can.  “Come on Ally – take it nice and slow.”

 

“As you wish,” Ally said with a smile as she started the jeep, and headed towards Hashamomuck pond, the night pierced  by her headlights.

 

 

Sunday 20th April
St Agnes Roman Catholic Church, Greenport
11 am

The church stood as the procession came in, Father Murray coming at the end as he turned and looked at the packed congregation.

 

“In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.”

 

“Amen.”

 

As he blessed the congregation, Sandy gave little George and little sandy a hug.  She was wearing a cream satin dress with matching jacket, black gloves, heels, and large hat.  Heather stood on the other side of George, in a blue suit over a cream blouse. navy gloves, pumps, and hat.


Joanne stood beside her in a simple dark green dress with white gloves, shoes and hat.

She started to look round the church, as in the pew in front of her Vanessa sat down in her white frock coat and hat.  Allison was wearing a pale yellow jacket and skirt with matching hat, while George looked uncomfortable in his suit, shirt and tie.  As she expected, Alex was completely relaxed, in a dark jacket and slacks, his white collar the only sign of his vocation.

 

As a passage from Isaiah was read out, she glanced to one side and waves discretely to Ally and Nell, who smiled back in return.  The Easter story was read, and as Father Murray started to preach on the Suffering of Christ she turned to look at the rest of the congregation.

 

One man, with a balding head, was sat at the back of the congregation, but as soon as Joanne saw him she turned her head back again.

 

“Heather?”

 

“What is it?”

 

“Use you make up mirror – centre of the back row.”

 

Heather took her mirror out and took a discrete look, before she put her mirror away.

 "Is he ever going to give up?" Heather whispered in her sister’s ear.

"Goddess I hope so, he's beginning to frazzle my nerves."

"He certainly has a fixation."

"Nine to five it was him in the green pickup last night following me and the twins."

"What?" Heather’s slightly louder voice attracted a couple of glances. "You didn't say someone else followed you last night."

"Sorry."

"Damn I need to talk to Sandy later….maybe ring Juliette."

 

Sandy glanced over as the priest said “Let us say together the creed.”

 

As the congregation recited the article of faith, Heather gripped her sister’s hand and gave it a little squeeze.

 

“Let us offer up our prayers to the Lord,” Father Murray said, and the congregation sat, or knelt, their eyes closed in silent prayer.

 

“Holy father,” Vanessa thought to herself, “Hear me in my confusion.  What I saw yesterday, at the party, has shocked me to the core.  I do not understand how a woman can love another woman, or a man another man, and not be condemned in your sight.  Yet, I feel so wrong in condemning them.  The priest commends us to love one another, and accept others, and yet it seems so against what I have been taught.

 

“Help me to accept, help me to love, help me to be more like Alex…”

 

George knelt beside her in silent prayer.

 

“Father, Holy Father, I am so confused.  Your son lived amongst those others called sinners, and he accepted them.  He did not judge, or condemn, he loved them.  And yet I struggle so much with what I think of Sandy.

 

“Lord, you teach it is wrong for a man to lie with another man, but I’ve looked, and it says nothing about a woman lying with a woman.  I still want Sandy to be happy, but is it right that she has that happiness with Heather?  Is it wrong of me to condemn them, when I may have made her become this person, this happy, laughing person behind me?

 

“And am I in sin for even thinking I should condemn her for that?  Help me Father…”

 

Sandy looked either side of her, as the children knelt with their hands together, and thought to herself, “God, if you’re out there, answer me this.  Is it so bad that I love Heather?  Is it right that I have to hide my feelings, feel so much pain, so much hurt, for something that is so beautiful and perfect?  You say we must love one another, and yet I fear so much telling anyone about us.  I even have to lie to my own children, and that can never be right.

 

“My uncle will tell me to look to you, to seek answers in you, but if you are a god who loves, why cannot you allow me to love as I desire…”

 

“What do I do?  I cannot live a lie anymore,” Heather thought to herself.  “If it means I have to move, to be the person I should be, to celebrate the person I want to spend my life with, then I will move with her, but I know it will cause so much pain.  I wish I could know what to do.”

 

Joanne had only one thought in her mind.  “I don’t want him to be there, I want him to just go away, make him go away…”

 

The good father blessed the elements of the Eucharist, and then broke the bread, and blessed the wine.  The occupants of the front pews stood and came forward, directed by the ushers one by one to step forward and receive the bread and wine.

 

Little Sandy and Little George knelt and were blessed as the others took the wafer and the wine. They walked back and sat down. Joanne bowing her head as everyone else passed, not looking up until Father Murray said “Let us sing our closing hymn, There is a Green Hill.”

 

The final blessing given, Father Murray walked out, the procession following as Alex turned and said “It’s all right kids – hard part over.  We’ll go home and have lunch, and then you can ditch the clothes and run round the garden.  Deal?”

 

The two children smiled and nodded as Allison said “I hope it does not take us too long to leave – are you all right Joanne dear?  You seem a little pale.”

 

“I’m just a bit hot, that’s all – Heather, do you mind if I sit here for a few minutes?”

 

“I’ll sit with you,” Heather said as she sat with Joanne. 

 

Sandy looked round the emptying chapel, and caught a glimpse of the balding man looking at them.  “Uncle Alex, can you and mother take the children back with George and Allison?  I’ll bring Heather and Joanne back with me.”

 

“Of course,” Alex said with a smile, “although I must have a word with Father Murray first.  Professional courtesy and all that.”

 

“Could you ask John to step in first?  I need him to collect something for me.”

 

As they walked out, Sandy sat at the other side of Joanne from Heather.   Nothing was said until John came in.

 

“John, did you see him?”

 

“I did Miss..  Sandy.  Joe Markham, I believe his name was.  I talked briefly with him, and he said he was visiting for a few days for the holiday.”

 

“Did you happen to see what he was driving?”

 

“Yes – a grey Corvette.”

 

“Thank you John – we’ll be out in a few minutes.”  As John left, Sandy said “right – what’s happened to you this weekend Jo?”

 

 

12 noon
St Patrick’s Cathedral

 

The congregation filed out and down the large stone steps, as Diana and Juliette stood up, putting on their kid leather gloves.  Diana wore a white fitted jacket and skirt with a matching camisole, and white heels, her hat shading her eyes.  Juliette wore a silver grey coat dress and shoes, her silk hat perched on her blonde hair with a little veil over the front.

 

“Well, as services go, I’ve suffered worse,” Abby said as she looked round in her light blue jacket and pants, the collar of her white blouse over the jacket lapels and a straw hat with a matching ribbon around it.  Carina was wearing a black jumper and skirt, with short leather boots.

 

“When do you have to be at the shoot?”

 

“3 o’clock,” Abby said as she looked at her watch, “so we have time to go and grab some lunch.  Where would be good?”

 

“I have reservations at The Modern,” Diana said calmly, “my treat, so shall we…”

 

“Not that way, you don’t.”

 

Juliette saw Mary Thomas walking down the transept towards them.

 

“Why not?”

 

“Too much press out there looking for the killer shot.  This way – the side exit.  I’ll get a cab to take you.”

 

“But it’s five minutes…”

 

“Abby, darling, take one step out there and it’ll be five hours.  Trust me on this,” Mary said as she ushered them to the side door.

 

The Graham Mansion
1 pm

 

“Sorry about that,” Joanne said as the three women walked back in, “I guess it just got a little too hot for me.  I could do with a cold drink.”

 

“Come on out to the garden,” Alex said as he took her arm, “we’re having some lemonade out there while lunch is being prepared.  Sandy, will you and Heather join us?  The others already out there.”

 

“I’ll be along in a minute,” Heather said, “I need to make a phone call, confirm a delivery for tomorrow of some supplies.”

 

“A nanny’s life is never her own,” Alex said with a smile as Sandy followed them out.  George and Allison looked at her while Joanne went to play with the children.

 

“There you are,” George said as Sandy removed her hat, and he passed her a glass, “what kept you?”

 

“This and that – thank you,” Sandy said as she took a sip.  “Something smells good in the kitchen.”

 

“Roast leg of lamb with rosemary, garlic and honey,” Allison said.  “Sandy, darling, Vanessa was saying you had an interesting time last night.”

 

“Well, I enjoyed myself, but I’m not sure mother felt the same way.  Did you enjoy yourself, Uncle Alex?”

 

“My dear, I can enjoy myself anywhere – the collar is like a get in free pass to any occasion,” he said with a laugh.  “Come on Vanessa – was it that bad?”

 

Vanessa looked up and smiled, a weak smile.  “No, no it wasn’t,” she said.  “Alexandra, darling, could I see you inside – in private?”

 

Alex looked at Vanessa, before saying “I think you may be better allowing her to finish her drink, and have a seat, Vanessa…”

 

“Forgive me, Alexander, but I need to talk to my daughter, in private,” Vanessa said as she took Sandy’s arm and guided her into the house.

 

“All right, mother,” Sandy said as they sat down next to each other, “What’s on your mind?”

 

Vanessa sat forward, her hands clasped together below she said "Darling, can I say that I found Patricia's friends yesterday… ummmmm… a little disturbing."


"In what way Mother?" Sandy said as she crossed her legs.

Vanessa at least had the grace to look embarrassed as she said "Well in that so many of them were…. ummmmm."

"So obviously gay or lesbian?"

"Yes." the older woman shook her head.

"Well Mother,” Sandy said quietly, “there are an awful lot of people who aren't straight."

"Yes I know…. ummmm…… it was one particular person worried me….. ummmm…..”  Vanessa took her daughter’s hands and said “Darling, is Heather perchance a Lesbian?"


Sandy took a quick breath as a thousand thoughts ran through her head. "Should she tell her?" or "Should she deny it?" or "Should she just confirm Heather was?” or "Should she stall and play for time?"

 

“Darling?”

 

“Yes, she is a lesbian Mother.  Do you have a problem with that?”

 

Vanessa looked directly into her daughter’s eyes, before she said “No, not as such, but do you really think knowing this she is the best person to look after your children?”

 

Taking a deep breath, Sandy said “Mother, I knew she was a lesbian within two days of hiring her, and I have never judged her or regretted that decision.”

 

“But darling…”

 

“Mother, has she given you any reason to worry before?”

 

“No – you sound just like Alexander?”

 

“Must be more than just a name,” Alex said as he stood in the doorway.  “Sandy, my dear, I think it is time you were honest with both of us, and with yourself.”

 

“Alexander, what are you say…”  Vanessa stopped and looked at Sandy, and then stood up.  “No,” she whispered, before she walked quickly out of the room.  Sandy stood up, but Alex stopped her, saying “No – let me talk to her before you do.  I need to make a confession first to her – and to you.”

 

As he walked out, Jo came in.  “What happened – your mother looks like her world may just have fallen in.”

 

“Joanne, find Heather – quickly,” Sandy whispered as she went to the drinks cabinet, “the bovine excrement just hit the rapidly spinning object.”

 

Jo took one look at Sandy, seeing how pale she was, and went to find Heather.

 

“Vanessa, are you…”

 

Allison watched the older woman as she walked towards the boat house, and then saw Alex following behind her, a worried look on his face.

 

“George, what’s happened,” she said as George watched them walking down.

 

“I’m not sure,” he said quietly “I’m not sure at all…”

 

As Alex entered the boat house, he saw Vanessa looking out through the open doors onto the river, her arms by her side.

 

“Vanessa, talk to me please,” he said as he sat on the bench that ran along the wall, and patted on the space next to him.  Vanessa turned and looked at him, before saying “Did you know?”

 

“No,” he said quietly, “at least I didn’t know until this weekend.  I watched them last night as well, and saw how happy they were, how relaxed, and it confirmed something I had thought since the previous evening.”

 

“Where did I go wrong, Alexander? Where did I fail to see what is happening…”

 

“Ness,” Alex said as he put his hand on his sister-in-law’s, “you didn’t see because they tried their best to keep it hidden, mainly I suspect because of what you would say.  I had promised George…”

 

“George?  George knew?  Good God, Alex, am I really the last to know?”

 

“No you’re not – and George does not know for certain.  When we talked yesterday, he had come to suspect that Sandy had a lover, and that that lover was indeed another woman, but he did not know for certain.  I had hoped to talk to Sandy and then to you, but – well, I’m afraid you managed to pre-empt that with your usual poise and grace.”

 

Vanessa managed a small smile, as Alex handed her his handkerchief, watching as she dried her eyes.  “But why Alex? I mean – she never looked as if she was a lesbian.”

 

“How would you have known by looking at her?  Suppose I was to tell you that George was a warlock – would you know it from looking at him?  Or if I was to tell you that Allison is a snob?”

 

“Allison is a snob,” Vanessa said, laughing as she did so.  “But she is my daughter, Alex, I should have known.”

 

“Vanessa,” Alex said as he patted her hand, “you are a good, kind and loving woman, but you are also a very conservative woman.  Let me put it this way – do you remember that last debutante’s ball?”

 

Vanessa nodded.  “All the young men were looking at her, all the single women were looking at you – and some of the mothers as well.”

 

“Indeed,” Alex said with a smile.  “Ness, that young girl has grown up into a fine woman, who is raising two wonderful children on her own, and has recovered from the depths of despair.  She has rebuilt herself, Ness, and is a stronger woman for it.”

 

Vanessa looked at him, and said “but surely, Alexander, a man in your position has to condemn her for this.”

 

“Let him who is without sin cast the first stone,” Alexander said quietly.  “If the Lord I serve can find it in his heart to accept everyone, than I must strive to do so as well, whatever I may think of their faults.  Besides, she is my niece – I could no more condemn her than you.”

 

“You’re a better person than I am, Alexander Richmond.”

 

“I’m not so sure about that,” Alex said quietly, “I need to ask your forgiveness for not speaking to you sooner.  Can you forgive me for that?”

 

Vanessa slowly nodded, before she said “So, my darling Alexandra loves a woman – what do I do now?”

 

“Why should you so anything different than being a loving and kind mother and grandmother, Ness?”

 

“But the society she keeps…”

 

“Did you see how proud Gus and Pauline were last night of Patricia?”

 

Vanessa nodded slowly as Alex said “Perhaps you should talk to them – ask their advice, but you need to talk to someone else first.”  He looked out of the boat doors, and then said “actually, you need to talk to two people.”

 

Vanessa nodded, before whispering “But what do I say to her – to them?”

 

“Tell them…  Tell them what is in your heart.  Be honest with them, tell them your fears, let them tell you theirs.  Then you can face them together.  But do me a favour?”

 

“Of course.”

 

“Let me talk to them for five minutes first please,” Alex said as he took Vanessa’s arm.  “You come and play with the grandchildren for a few minutes – I suspect Jo could use a break.”

“Heather?”

 

Hearing the tremor in Jo's voice, Heather turned round and said “I’ll talk to you when we get back tonight, Juli – meet us at the mansion?”  Ending the call, she looked at her sister and said “what’s wrong?”

 

“Sandy needs you – now.  Something’s happened.”

 

Heather literally ran down the stairs two at a time before running into the room where Sandy was sitting.  “She knows!” Sandy half cried, half wailed, as Heather came rushing into the room.

 

“Who knows?...... What do they know?” Heather stood bemused for a second.

 

“Mother knows…. “  Sandy started to sob, great loud sobs.

 

“Oh Goddess.” Heather gulped as she went and cuddled her lover. “How?”

 

“She worked out you were Les after seeing you at Pussy’s party.” Sandy sobbed a little.

 

“There there my love.”

 

“And well she was questioning me about you….” Sandy let out a wail, “And I sort of let it out about me too.”

 

“Oh dearest Artemis!” Heather swore.

 

“Well she flew out of here with Alex trying to tell her something…. And then I just started crying.”

 

For a couple of minutes the two lovers cuddled as Sandy’s tears flowed.

 

“I didn’t mean to it just sort of popped out….”

 

“I know.” Heather pulled her lover even closer.

 

“Are you angry?” Sandy looked concerned as she looked deep into Heather’s eyes.

 

“To be honest darling….. No”

 

Sandy’s tears eased a fraction.

 

“It had to come out sometime. We couldn’t go on living this lie any longer.”

 

“I know but…. “

 

“No buts, it might not have been great timing, but it was the right thing to do lover.”

 

Sandy snuggled for a second. She was terrified by her own action in telling her mother, but Heather’s calm attitude was reassuring. It felt good just holding each other close, for now not concerned that anyone might come in the room and see them. Suddenly, though, a dark thought entered Sandy’s mind.

 

“Oh Goddess what are we going to tell George and Allison?” The words came flying out of Sandy’s mouth.

 

“What do you want to tell them lover?”

 

“Oh I don’t know…. “

 

“The genie is out of the bottle lover, we can’t put it back in.”

 

“That’s true,” a masculine voice said calmly from the doorway.

 

Sandy visibly made the effort to calm herself down, straightening up, brushing away her tears, and composing herself.

 

“How much of that did you hear George?” she asked bluntly.

 

“Most of it.”

 

“Should I go?” Heather for the first time looked panicked.

 

“No Heather, I guess from now on I have to get used to the fact you are a couple.” George took a breath. “Stay please.”

 

George surveyed the scene. Surprisingly the sight of his ex-wife and the nanny holding hands and looking just like the lovers they were wasn’t upsetting him. He had thought it might, but their love for each other was so touching and obvious, he actually felt very touched.

 

For at least 90 seconds no one said a thing, the tension in the air crackling in intensity.

 

Finally Sandy could stand it no more, “Oh for the Goddesses sake…. Say something George.”

 

“I’m not sure what to say…. “

 

“Are you going to try use this to take the children?” Sandy asked the most important question in her mind.

 

George swallowed. “No…. I thought about it when I first suspected…. “

 

“You suspected?” Sandy interrupted.

 

“For a while.” George smiled. “You forgot that kids see most things and repeat everything.”

 

“Oh!” Heather let out a little gasp.

 

“What they were telling me about hearing Heather in your bedroom late at night, that you cuddled and hugged a lot...”

 

“… Only made sense if we were involved with each other.” Sandy finished the sentence.

 

George again smiled “At first I think I was angry that you two had deceived me, but the more I thought about it the more obvious it was that you made each other very, very, happy. That sort of changed my thinking.”

 

“Thank you George.” Sandy smiled slightly.

 

“And well I invited Alex down for the weekend hoping he could both give me some wise advice, and to facilitate, I hoped, the truth coming out…. “

 

“You arranged for Pussy’s party?” Heather asked in amazement.

 

“No,” George chuckled, “that was just the most fortuitous of coincidences. It was the perfect way to finally quell any doubts in my mind.”

 

“And was my uncle’s advice worth six bottles of your best vintage wine?” Sandy asked slightly slyly.

 

George laughed. “It was a high price to pay…. But yes I think it was worth it, and seeing the two of you together like this puts a lot of things straight in my head.”

 

“Straight?” Heather started laughing at the little pun.

 

For a second, both George and Sandy looked perplexed until they both fell in with the joke.

 

“Okay maybe a slightly bad choice of word.” George laughed.

 

Sandy suddenly realized inside she’d not seen George smile like this in years.

 

“George,” she said quietly, “you know my being a lesbian was never a factor in our marriage?”

 

“I know Sandy….. If I hadn’t been stupid with Allison we’d probably be a relatively happy couple still….”

 

“Stupid!” A strident female voice was heard from the doorway.

 

George turned slowly to see Allison standing there, her arms folded and a look of thunder in his face.

 

"Yes, I was stupid," he said quietly, "Stupid to think I could have my cake and eat it too.  Stupid to have lied to the woman I loved, and to the woman I love.  Stupid not to have had the courage to make the choice there and then."

 

Heather and Sandy watched as George walked over and held Allison.

 

"Darling, Sandy is my past, you are my future.  We have the children to link us, but I chose you over her - and I paid the price in terms of how it affected her.  But you are the mother of my other child, and I will never seek to do anything to hurt you.  You have nothing to fear - except for when I say stupid things like I just did."

 

Allison looked over his shoulder, and said quietly "And what about - them?"

 

“I’d like to talk to them for a minute, if that is all right?”

 

Allison looked at Alex, standing in the doorway, before she said “I’ll see if lunch is nearly ready,” her frosty manner clear to all of them as she walked out.  Alex put his hand on George’s shoulder, and said quietly “Would you give us a few minutes, please?”

 

George nodded, saying “the children need to come in and wash up,” as he left.  Alex sat opposite Sandy and Heather, smiling as he looked at them.

 

After a few moments, Sandy said “Uncle Alex, whatever it is you are going to say, just say it.”

 

“All right then,” he said as he leaned forward and clasped his hands together, “Well done, both of you.”

 

Sandy and Heather looked at each other, and then back at Alex.  “No condemnation?  No sending into the pit of eternal torment?”

 

“Not my job,” Alex said quietly, “but your mother…”

 

“Oh no,” Sandy said as she put her hand to her mouth.

 

“… May need a little more time to come round,” Alex said quietly.  “Look, the main thing is this – you don’t have to hide any more.  At the very least, I’m not going to change my opinion of you, but I do need to ask your forgiveness.  I wanted to talk to you earlier, but never got the chance.  If I had, I could have headed Vanessa off.”

 

“It’s not your fault, Uncle Alex – I was just so scared of what she might do.”

 

“Give her time my child, give her time,” Alex said as he stood up.  “Just tell me you will explain to little George and Sandy – and no more midnight sneaking around.  You’re not too big to put over my knee, you know.”

 

“Uncle Alex, will you come to dinner one night this week?”

 

“Let me see what I have been landed with during my absence,” he said as Jo came in.  “Lunch is ready – if you two are,” she said quietly.

 

“Oh yes – we’re more than ready,” Sandy said as she took Heather’s hand, and they made their way to the dining room.

 

 

2 pm
The Modern Restaurant

 

“What did Heather want?” Diana asked as Juliette looked at her phone.

 

“It appears there has been someone following them this weekend – and Joe Markham has been seen in the same area.”

 

Diana and Carina looked at each other, making Abby suspicious as she watched them.

 

“All right – what aren’t you telling me?” Juliette said as she caught the same look.

 

“Well…”

 

“Miss Huntingdown – how nice to see you again.”

 

“Agent Carter,” Juliette said as she stood up and shook Janice’s hand, “Soaking up some culture?”

 

“My mother, actually,” she said as she glanced to a table a short distance away, “but I thought I would come and say hello.  How are you, Carina?”

 

“Growing,” Cari said as she looked at Agent Carter.

 

“Well, I won’t interrupt you any further,” Janice said as she turned away, then looked back.  “Oh by the way, did you see the news a few weeks ago?  Looks like the Pussycat Gang are back, or at least some of them.”

 

“Well, good luck apprehending them,” Juliette said with a smile, before looking at her watch.  “We need to get going – we can catch a cab outside.”

 

As they walked out, Diana whispered “Cari and I ran into Joe Markham in Greenwich – he did not look a very composed and rational man.”

 

“I see,” Juliette nodded, only for all three to jump as Cari’s phone went off.

 

“I know, I know,” she said as she looked at the caller, and then answered it.

 

“Hey Jo, what’s…

 

“Oh my goddess, are you sure?  No, no, I understand.  We’ll meet you when you get back tonight.  We’ll be waiting for you.  Good luck.”

 

As she ended the call, Diana said “What happened?”

 

“Vanessa knows.”

 

“Vanessa knows many things, darling, but...”

 

“No – Vanessa KNOWS.  About Sandy and Heather.”

 

The four of them looked at each other, before Abby said “Worry about it later – I need to get to the parade.”  She hailed a cab, all four climbing in before it set off.

 

 

 

3 pm
The Graham Mansion

 

“This lamb,” Alex said as he put his knife and fork down, “was truly fantastic, Allison.  I suggest you pass on my compliments to the cook.”

 

“I’ll be sure to tell him,” Allison said, her wine glass in her hand as she stared at Sandy.  Heather and Joanne were talking to the children, trying to make sure they did not realise just how tense the adults were.

 

“May  I refill your glass, Vanessa,” George said as he held the bottle over her glass.  Vanessa nodded, watching as the wine poured in, the deep red catching her eye.

 

“So when do you have to head back, George,” Alex said in a jovial way.

 

“I’ll be staying here for the week,” George said quietly, “spending time with Allison and Jennifer.  It’s important that I am here for them now.”

 

“Yes it is,” Allison said frostily.  “I want us to be here to get used to the idea of a new child.  To build our family.”

 

Sandy looked at Allison, and then said “We will leave at five, I think – we need to be back in time for the children to go to bed and be up for school in the morning.”

 

The maid brought through plates of fruit salad for the children, as the cook brought a large gateau out.  George stood up and started to cut slices as Vanessa said “May I talk to you when we are finished, Sandy – you and Heather?”

 

“Of course – Jo, would you mind helping little George and Sandy prepare for the trip back,” Sandy said.

 

“Sure – we can make a game of it.  Thank you George,” she said as she accepted a plate. 

 

“So tell me Heather,” Allison said as she looked at the young woman, “Any plans to change your career now?”

 

“I am perfectly happy as the nanny, Allison,” Heather said with a smile.

 

“But I had heard you were thinking to…”

 

“George, Sandy,” George said quickly as he looked at the children, “Have you enjoyed this weekend?”

 

“Yes Daddy,” little Sandy said, “and Jennifer is really cute.  Can we see her again soon?”

 

“Of course you can, darling.  I’ll talk to Mommy and see when she can bring you round.”

 

“No,” Allison said shortly, “you can collect them and bring them over, George.”

 

“Allison, what exactly do you mean by that?”

 

“I think you know,” Allison said quietly as she looked at Sandy and Heather.

 

“Right,” George said quietly, “Allison, perhaps I could have a word with you.  In private?”

 

Allison stared at her husband, before she stood up, laying her napkin on the table before she followed him out.  Alex watched them, before he said “Jo, let’s take the kids up to their room and get packed.  Will you ladies excuse us?”

 

“Of course,” Vanessa said as Alex and Jo took the children out.  “why don’t we take our coffee outside,” she said as she heard George and Allison raising their voices.

 

“Good idea,” Sandy said as she and Heather stood up and took their cups, following Vanessa out to the patio.  Sitting round the table, they looked at Vanessa as she slowly sipped her coffee.

 

Eventually, she looked at Sandy and said “Am I really such an ogre that you could not tell me Sandy?”

 

“No – no you’re not mother, but I was afraid of what you might say.”

 

“Well,” Vanessa said quietly, “I cannot say I totally approve, but as Alex said, you are still a beautiful and loving daughter and mother.  I just need to get used to the idea, I suppose.”

 

“Mother,” Sandy said as he put her hand on Heather’s, “nothing has changed, and nothing need change.”

 

“Tell me – this move you talked about to England.  Was part of it because you felt you could not tell me?”

 

“It was more that I did not want to hurt you,” Sandy said with a little smile.  “But we have deferred the decision.  Heather will do some work part time here for the moment.”

 

“I see I have a lot to learn,” Vanessa said quietly.  “Forgive me, darling, but I need to ask some questions, and they may be a little – blunt.”

 

“Go ahead,” Sandy said, “I can guess what’s coming…”

 

“Will you be – oh what’s that phrase – coming out of the wardrobe?”

 

“It’s coming out of the closet,” Heather said, “and for my part, only to my friends.”

 

“It will be the same for me,” Sandy said quietly, “I do not want this to be something that is like a bad television movie.  The only difference is we will tell the children.  I don’t think it’s fair to hide it from them.”

 

“So will Heather also be their mother?”

 

“No,” Heather said quietly, “I am their nanny.  I am also Sandy’s partner.  The two are enough for me.”

 

“So you will not marry?”

 

“I’ve had one marriage – that’s enough for any lifetime,” Sandy said quietly.  “So don’t worry mother – the family fortune is safe from Heather and Joanne.”

 

“Actually, that wasn’t what I was thinking of,” Vanessa said quietly.  “I was thinking of where you would marry if you chose to do so…”

 

“MOTHER!”

 

“Sorry, Sandy,” Vanessa said, “but the look on your face…”  She stood up with Sandy, Heather watching as they hugged each other.

 

“I’m not a bad woman, Heather,” Vanessa said with a smile, “so forgive me if I come over that way sometimes.”

 

“Nothing to forgive,” Heather said quietly. 

 

“So does Joanne start calling me mother as well?”

 

“I don’t think she will,” Sandy said with a smile, “but we can ask her…”

 

 

3.30 pm
Fifth Avenue

 

“Judy Garland would be turning in her grave,” Diana said as two women walked past them wearing towering creations on their heads as they smiled at the watching crowd.

 

“Not to mention Fred Astaire,” Juliette said as a man walked past, in a silver grey suit and a trilby with a flower garland round the brim.  “It’s amazing how this event brings out the extroverts even more than usual.”

 

Fifth Avenue was lined with crowds, watching the annual Easter Sunday parade, as immortalised in the film.  Up and down the street all sorts of people were walking – two elderly couples with their heads lined with yellow daffodils; a mother with her two little girls, wearing bunny ears on headbands and dressed in white onesies; One older woman with an overturned basket that had a model carousel no top, her friend wearing a beanie with a windmill on it…

 

“This,” Carina said as she watched them walking down the street, “is why I hate this tradition.  Remember when you brought me here as a six year old, mom?”

 

Juliette smiled and nodded.  “Oh yes – you were wearing that blue frilly dress, and I had on the Versace white dress.  What was the hat you wore?”

 

“A white bonnet with a large daisy on it.”

 

“Oh yes,” Diana said, “I remember it now.  Abby was wearing the cutest yellow sun dress.”

 

“Look how she has grown up now,” Juliette said as they watched Abby walk by, wearing a yellow strapless dress with a large white hat, before she stopped and posed for the fashion photographer following her.  She then agreed to pose with a few passers-by, before she was hurried off to change both her outfit and her hat.

 

“So what exactly did Jo say to you,” Juliette asked.

 

“Only that Vanessa had found out that Sandy and Heather were a couple, and that she would explain it all later,” Cari said as Abby re-appeared, this time in a pale blue pants suit with a fascinator made of lace and feathers perched on her blonde hair.

 

“That is what passes for a hat,” Diana said with a raised eyebrow as she looked at Juliette.

 

“Remind me to take you to Ascot some day,” Juliette said with a smile, as Abby put her arms round two elderly gentlemen wearing top hats and morning dress, and smiled into the camera with them.

 

“But we need to be there when they get back tonight,” Diana said as she watched her daughter at work, smiling and waving as she started to walk down the street, the photographer following.

 

“Oh yes,” Cari said quietly, “I wonder what’s happening now…”

 

“Tony.” Juliette called out to the photographer, “can we get Abby into the vintage outfit now?”

 

“Yeah I think we’ve done all we can with this one.”

 

Abby rushed to do her next change as Carina and the two Moms stood watching the carnival like parade in front of them.

 

“I sometimes know I was born out of time.” Diana mused. “Most people today have no style, no elegance.”

 

“Well some people don’t…. WOW!” Carina let out a gasp as Abby reappeared looking like an illustration of an Edwardian belle by Charles Dana Gibson.

 

“Oh Abby!” her mother exclaimed, “Darling you look AMAZING.”

 

“Now that is how you SHOULD dress for the Easter Parade.” Juliette smiled.

 

“This corset will KILL me.” Abby complained as she tried to pose for the photographer.

 

“Abby darling you can do better than that….” Tony the photographer complained.

 

“Give her the parasol.” Juliette called out. “Try posing with that Abby.”

 

“Oh that’s good, that is SO GOOD.” The photographer danced round Abby as she posed with the parasol. “Work it darling.”

 

“Now that’s why we pay your daughter the big bucks darling.” Juliette whispered to Diana as Abby started to find her stride, turning, twirling, incredible poses one after the other.

 

“I can see.” Diana paused a second. “All that time I couldn’t see it, but she really was born to model.”

 

“Don’t worry I missed it too.” Juliette said quietly. “Mary really does have the eye for girls though.”

 

“So how do you think the revelations about Sandy and Heather will play out darling?”

 

Juliette shook her head. “Darling Diana I really don’t have a clue.”

 

3.30 pm
The Graham Mansion

 

“I’m sorry, George, I know she is the mother of your children, and I love having them around, but I want nothing to do with her, and I do not want her in our apartment.”

 

George was staring at Allison, seeing a side of her he really did not like.  Her eyes were blazing with anger, and she stood with her arms folded, almost defying him to say something to contradict her.

 

“Whether you like it or not, Allison,” he finally said, “she IS the mother of my children, and I will not accept a blanket ban of her from my house.  There are times when she or Heather need to come and collect Sandy and George.”

 

“Then it has to be when I’m not there,” Allison nearly screamed, “because I want nothing to do with her or the little lesbian tramp she has ensnared.”

 

“Her name, Allison, is Heather – I would ask you to remember and use that.”

 

“Who does she think she is anyway – a little nothing acting with a van Roon as if she is her equal.”

 

“Have you actually listened to yourself,” George shouted back as Alex came into the room.

 

“Erm – the children were asking why Daddy was arguing with Allison.  What would you like me to tell them?”

 

George looked at his wife, before saying “I’m sorry, Alex – I didn’t realise I had raised my voice so much.”

 

“You know,” Alex said as he closed the door, “you have every right to tell me to mind my own business, and tell me to get out, but can I say something to both of you?”

 

George looked at Allison, who shrugged her shoulders and sat down.  As he sat next to her, Alex sat opposite and looked at both of them.

 

“Hell of a weekend right?  I think we discovered a lot of things we didn’t think about before, true?”

 

“Bit of an understatement,” Allison said quietly.  “After all, I wasn’t expecting to find out the ex-wife of my husband was a lesbian, and the nanny was her lover.”

 

“And why does that upset you Allison?  It’s still Sandy and Heather – all that has changed is they have finally been honest with others.”

 

“He has a point, Alli,” George said quietly, “are you mad at them for hiding this, or are you mad at me for saying nothing?”

 

Allison  looked down at the floor, before saying “but how does this affect me at work?  I mean,  if she comes out publically, it affects me as well!”

 

“Only if you let it,” Alex said quietly.  “Look, this is a shock for all of us – but Vanessa is willing to accept them as they are.  Will you at least agree to see them off when they go as their hosts for the weekend?”

 

“And after that?”

 

“After that, take it one day at a time.  But right now you both need to do two things.  First, you need to say sorry to each other – there have been a few hurtful things said on both sides.”

 

George and Allison looked at each other, before George said “Look, I’m sorry I didn’t tell you what I knew, Allison.  But she is the mother of my children – two of them – and you are the mother of the other.  Like it or not, you will have to learn to get on.”

 

Allison looked at George, and then said “I’m sorry I got so upset.  I think we both need to go and talk to the children before they go.”

 

“I’ll take that for now,” George said as he hugged Allison, and then took her hand, leading her out of the room as Alex stood up, and looked out of the window, watching Sandy and Heather as they sat with Joanne.

 

“So do I start calling you Mom as well,” Joanne said with a laugh.

 

“Nope – nothing had changed in that respect,” Heather said with a laugh.

 

“Well,” Sandy said, “I think a couple of things can change.  For one thing, Heather, it’s about time I started paying you for your work when you act as my design adviser.  If you don’t mind doing that as well as being the nanny.”

 

“I would do it anyway, lover,” Heather said as she leaned over and placed her lips on Sandy’s.

 

“Ewww – I’m watching,” Jo said with a laugh.

 

“I also think we can increase your allowance a little bit,” Sandy said as she looked at her.  “not much, but a little.  You can’t be in the same league as Abby and Cari, but you’ll see the difference.”

 

“Are you sure,” Jo said as she looked at Sandy.

 

“You’re part of the family, Jo – I think it’s only right we reflect that, but there will be a price – a bit more babysitting, things like that.”

 

“Can I rope the others in on it as well?”

 

“Given you virtually live in my kitchen anyway, I don’t see a problem with that,” Sandy said with a smile, before she looked at her watch.  “And we are out of time – Heather, can you find the children, and Jo, can you get their bags?”

 

Alex watched as Joanne walked back into the house, and walked out to intercept her.

 

“I’m sorry we didn’t get a chance to talk more this weekend, Joanne,” he said as he met her in the hallway, “perhaps we can talk when I come to dinner next week?”

 

“Thanks, Alex, I’d like that,” Joanne said as she went to the stairs, only to stop when Alex said “How are you?”

 

“I’m sorry?”

 

“Today, with all that’s come out, nobody has bothered to ask you what you think, and how you feel.  So I am asking.”

 

“I’m happy for them – and glad I can talk about it.  I’ve known for so long.”

 

“Ah yes,” Alex said with a smile, “The wisdom of youth.  I’ll see you during the week, my dear.”

 

“I’ll look forward to it,” she said as she ran up the stairs, Alex smiling as he watched her.

 

4.30 pm
Fifth Avenue

 

"Hello Fiona." Juliette said as she answered the call on her cell phone.


"Say Hi," Carina called out as she and Diana tried to help Abby into a horse drawn carriage in her Gibson Girl outfit.

"Carina says Hi…. yeah Abby is working…. what can I do for you?"

Juliette listened intently trying to decipher the Scotswoman's broad accent.

"Yes…. Yes…. Did you ask Anna and Mary?…. Well I'm fine with it…. Okay see you soon."

"What did Fiona want?" Diana asked.

"She wanted to know if I thought we should use Barbara and Jeanie for the mother daughter shoot."

"That's not too bad an idea…." Diana thought for a moment. "Barbara is not unattractive, they'd probably be excellent."

"Someone better tell John the news." Cari beamed. "It will be nice seeing Jeanie again.  Also means they can start to sort out residence permits and other stuff.”

 

“There is that,” Juliette said as Abby finally got seated, Tony climbing in beside her as the carriage set off.

 

 

5 pm
The Graham Mansion

 

“All right you two – say goodbye to Grandma and Uncle Alex – we need to be on our way.”

 

“Bye, Grandma.  Bye, Unca Alex,” little George and Sandy said as they climbed into the back of the car, Jo sitting with them.

 

“Let me know what night you want to come to dinner,” Sandy said to Alex, before hugging him and Vanessa.  She got into the passenger seat, Heather behind the wheel, and as they moved off Allison and George waved at them from the garden.

 

“Well, that was a different weekend,” Sandy said as they went along the road.  “Sandy, George, there’s something Mummy needs to say to you.”

 

“What’s that Mummy,” Sandy said as she looked up from her seat.

 

“We know you’ve heard and seen me and Heather cuddling from time to time – it means we love each other as much as we both love you, all right?”

 

“We know, Mummy,” George said as Jo started the DVD player.

 

“Good – so you don’t mind if we do it a bit more often?”

 

“Of course not – so long as you share them with us,” Sandy said, “can we watch the film now?”

 

“Of course you can, darlings,” Sandy said as she smiled at Heather.

 

“Listen, kids – we’re going to drive back a slightly different way, through the town we went to church in this morning.  All right?”

 

Jo looked at the two women, before Sandy said “Just in case the man you saw followed us out here – with luck, he’ll be waiting on the North Road, so we’re going to go the other way.”

 

The road took them along the south side of the Hamptons, past the Long Island Aquarium and then north until they re-joined the I-25A and followed the winding road back.  Jo and the other looked back from time to time, but there was no clear sign of a car following them.

 

As they pulled in for a rest stop in Huntington, on Main Street, they were surprised to find Diana sitting in the bar, looking at a menu.

 

“Bang on time,” she said as she hugged the kids.  “Sandy called earlier – she said you may feel happier with a second pair of eyes for the journey home.”

 

“How did it go today,” Sandy said as they found a booth.

 

“Interesting,” Diana said, “but by the sound of things, not as interesting as you three…”

 

 

9 pm
The Richmond Mansion

 

“And we’re home,” Heather said as they pulled up outside the mansion, Diana stopping behind them.

 

“Hey there you two,” Carina and Abigail said as they came out of the front door, “You’ve had a long journey, haven’t you?  We’ve got a hot bath run for you, then milk and cookies, and we’ll read you a bedtime story, all right?”

 

“Go on,” Heather said, “I’ll bring your bags in, and we’ll sort them in the morning.”  Little Sandy and George ran into the house as Joanne and Heather brought the bags, Juliette waiting inside and embracing Sandy and Heather as they came in.

 

“how are you,” she said as she looked at both of them.

 

“Tired – more tired than I have felt in a long time,” Sandy said.  “But at least it’s out there now, and we can take it from there.”

 

“What about you,” Juliette said as she looked at Joanne.

 

“I’ll talk about it later – I want to go and help them with the children first,” she said as she went up the stairs.

 

“She got really scared over the weekend – there was some trouble last night, and then the business with Markham…”

 

“Let’s get the bags sorted out,” Diana said as she came in, “and the children to bed.  We can talk about it after that.”

 

 

 

“They’re fast asleep,” Joanne said as the three girls came back in, “really really tired.”  Sitting down on the couch, she picked up the mug of hot chocolate and took a long slip.”

 

“So you met Father Alex,” Carina said as she sat next to Juliette, “What did you make of him?”

 

“Interesting man – very different from the priests I have known in the past.  I guess because he’s lived in the real world.  I guess he said something to you two?”

 

“What he said, roughly translated,” Sandy replied, “was well done, and don’t look back.  He even started to talk Mother round, which was a minor miracle in itself.”

 

“But not Allison?”

 

“It would take something more to talk her round – like the business end of a Tommy the Fish special,” Sandy said with a snort.  “But George was a good man to make sure Uncle Alex was there.  When he comes round to dinner, he’ll have something to say, I’m sure.”

 

“I like Father Richmond,” Diana said quietly, “A real man of the people.  Still, I must say I am glad you can now be more open about things.”

 

“So,” Carina said as she put her mug down, “what was this trouble last night?”

 

“Oh basically your average townie versus preppie crap.” Jo paused for a moment. “Me, Ally, Nell, and Steve, Nell’s boyfriend split from this club when some locals started a riot by hitting on Holly Berryman.”

 

“That I heard about.” Abby joined in, “girls were tweeting about it like crazy.  Apparently it ended in a technical win for the preppies, but honours even with the police.”

 

“Well,” Joanne said as she smiled at Abby, “we escaped in the twins’ Jeep before the cops arrived, only to find three more locals following us.”

 

“And?” Juliette asked.

 

“Well one good punch and down went Steve, so I had to clean the mess up.”

 

“Nell and Ally have told half of New York.” Abby giggled.  “You’re already been suggested for Tokyo 2020.”

 

“So nothing in that action that really would disturb us?” Juliette asked another question.

“No, that was just dumb ass teenage Saturday night crap… It was the other car following us that annoyed and worried me.”

 

“Another car.” Diana asked.

 

“Yeah a green truck… Nell managed to give him the slip after the fight with the Mexicano boys, but I’ll lay you odds it was my Dad again.”

 

“We spotted him in church and John had a word with him.” Heather broke her silence.

 

“Claimed he was on vacation.” Sandy snuggled up to Heather as she spoke.

 

“Well anyway he’s starting to drive me CRAZY!” Joanne looked round with a pained expression. “Everyone else accepts Megan Markham got killed by the Pussycat gang, why can’t he?”

 

“Well, if we are being honest he’s a father who loves his… “ Juliette never got to finish her sentence.

 

“Crap!” Jo exploded, “he never gave a shit about me other then I was besmirching both his name and damaging his standing with the bank.”

 

“Well he’s a major league pain in the ass now.” Abby observed.

 

Jo nodded, “I almost want to whack him, he’s getting on my nerves so bad.”

 

“I can do it for you.” Carina offered.

 

“Darling it’s not like pulling a tooth.” Juliette thought for a second. “He gets whacked, people start asking maybe he was on to something.”

 

“Juliette’s right.” Diana agreed.

 

“So I have to put up with him stalking me?”

 

“Yeah, Jo’s entitled to a life.” Heather smiled. “Especially now as with my raise I can finally afford to buy her a car.”

 

“You can?” Jo leapt up to hug her sister and Sandy. “Thank you both so much!”

 

“It still doesn’t solve the Joe problem though.” Juliette brought the conversation back on topic.

 

“I could apply for a court order on Jo’s behalf. Get a restraining order, that should keep him away.” Heather added.

 

“But we don’t want anyone looking too close at Jo’s history.” Carina reminded everyone.

 

“If he’s going to follow me to school, when I’m out shopping, when I’m out on a date, he will literally drive me nutso.”

 

“Calm down Jo.” Juliette spoke authoratively. “I’m sure there is a solution.”

 

“Well I wish I could think of one.” Joanne sat back down.

 

“My offer to pop him is still good.” Carina looked at the others.

 

“No.” each woman said simultaneously.

 

“I think the restraining order is our only course of action.” Diana looked at Jo.

 

“I agree.” Juliette added. “I’m very reluctant to do it, but it might be our only course of action.”

 

“And while we collect the evidence he’s following me….”

 

“You may just have to grin and bear it.” Abby put an arm round her friend.

 

“He might just give up.” Sandy said optimistically.

 

“And pigs might… “ Jo retorted.

 

“Well, in the meantime watch out for him, and if you have any concerns, call one of us or John, and we’ll make sure we come,” Juliette said as she put her mug down.  “For now, however, we need to get going.  Tomorrow is a school day, remember?”

 

 

 

 

Monday 21st April
3.30 pm
St Angela’s Academy.

 

“Cari, wait up!”

 

Carina and Abigail stopped and turned as Judy McNally came running up.

 

“Just thought you might like to know,” she panted, “Jo is up for Deputy Head Girl next year.  Can you keep it to yourself for now, though – Tennant will make the announcement on Wednesday.”

 

“What announcement,” Joanne said as she joined them.

 

“Nothing for you to worry about,” Abby said as she put her arm round Jo’s shoulder.  “Come on – I’ll buy the sodas.”

 

The four girls walked down the street, not noticing the grey car that set off and followed them down.

 

As they approached the café, Jo looked across the road at the bookshop.  “I’ll meet you three in there,” she said as she walked over, “I want to get a copy of that Jack Kerouac book.”

 

“Sure you don’t want us to come with you,” Cari asked.

 

“Nah – I’ll be five minutes tops,” she said as she walked across the road, the other three entering the café.

 

“Four cokes,” Judy said as they sat in a window booth, watching across the road as a grey car parked outside.  A few minutes later, they saw Jo come out, as a grey van stopped opposite them blocking their view, and then set off once again at speed.

 

The three girls stared at the empty pavement, then at each other, before they jumped up and ran out of the café, looking at the van as it sped into the distance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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