We Are Gathered Here – Part 1








Saturday 10th December

5 am

Park Avenue


As Maisha opened her eyes, she saw Ama sleeping on the spare bed in her room, oblivious to her sister stirring.  The young woman lay still for a few minutes, and then got up, putting on a dressing gown over her pyjamas and quietly walking into the corridor.


She was surprised to see a light on in the kitchen, and walked cautiously down, a determined expression on her face.  She did not know how someone had evaded or disabled the security system, but they had made a grievous error…


So when she opened the door, and saw Shirley sitting at the breakfast bar with a mug of coffee in her hands, she was relieved, saying “I saw the light – not able to sleep Mum?”


“What makes you say that Maisha?”


“I remember Carina and Aunt Juliette saying they were up early on that special day as well.  Is the coffee fresh?”


“Yes,” Shirley said with a smile as her daughter poured herself a cup, then they both looked to the door as Ama came in.  “Did we wake you, Ama?”


“No Aunt Shirley,” she said with a smile, “like you, I think I am too excited to sleep any more today.  When are the others starting to arrive?”


“I am expecting Abigail at about eight thirty, and Kylie to come with Rose at about nine.”


“Ah,” Maisha said with a smile, “then I suspect we are not the only early risers.”


“Oh – who else?”


“A small group in West Central Park, for one thing…”


Shirley thought for a moment, then nodded as she said “indeed.  Well, I may as well prepare some breakfast…”



5.30 am

West Central Park


Penny stood against the wall of the small studio, watching as Helen led her three charges in an early morning exercise routine.  All were dressed in leotards, all moved with fluidity and grace.  It still amazed her, the change in all three – especially Beverley as she matched Marina and Kylie move for move.


Shaking her head, she slipped noiselessly out and headed for the kitchen, where Cathy Lu was making a fresh pot of coffee.


“A little early for you, I suspect Penny,” she said quietly as she handed a mug over.


“Well, this is a major day for all of them, so I anticipated the early start.  But waking at four to come here?”


“With their studio, it made sense, especially given the time of year – and Kylie has to be at Madame’s apartment for nine, so this was the only opportunity that allows them to do this today.”


“Indeed,” Penny said as she took a sip from the mug.  “I saw your report on Bev, and I am astonished at her progress.  I don’t think Tracy will recognise her later.”


“Oh I hear Tracy has developed as well,” Cathy said with a smile.  “A most formidable team is being built there as well.”


“True – but this is a weekend to not discuss work and assignments, true?”


“Very true…”





“Hey,” Katy said as she walked into the kitchen, “have you actually been to bed, Mom?”


“Yes, I have had some sleep – Adam is still in there,” Janice Carter said with a smile.  “I thought, given your grandmother and Veronica will be here at seven, I’d get some breakfast done first.”


“Why did they go for a morning ceremony anyway?”


“Their choice – I imagine Caroline is up and about as well.  Even with Sharon in tow, she has a lot to do this morning…”



6 am

The Village


Caroline looked out of the apartment window, the mug of coffee in her hand as she looked at the clear blue sky.


“Well, I’m glad she has a good day for the ceremony,” she said to herself before she went back to the kitchen, and took the muffin she had been toasting out of the toaster.


Her cell phone ringing caught her attention, as she picked it up and said “hello?”


“Morning Boss – sorry if I woke you up?”


“No, you’re good George,” Caroline said with a smile, “how are things progressing?”


“I’m at the hotel now, waiting to meet the duty manager.  Sharon’s going to join me after that, and we’ll do a double check round here.”


“You’ve reviewed the guest list?”


“I have – we know who to watch carefully.  Guess we should just be glad we don’t have to do a Godfather scenario this afternoon.”


“Tell me about it.”  Caroline took a sip from her mug, before saying “right – I’ll meet you at the church at ten.  Think you’ve got time to get into the bib and tucker before then?”


“How long have you known me, Dom?”


“True – because your niece will want a dance.”


“Fair point…”



7.30 am

Park Avenue


“Well, I see people got an early start here,” Sandy said as she came in with Madeline.


“We did indeed Aunt Sandra,” Maisha said with a smile, “would you like some coffee?”


“Why not – where is the star of the day?”


“Mum?  She is in her study,” Maisha said as she headed to the kitchen, Maddie knocking on the den door before she opened it and looked in.  Shirley looked up from her seat, wearing an old jumper and leggings, as Maddie said “yeah – recognise that look.”


“So do I,” Sandy said, “I saw it in the summer in LA, and I’m seeing it now in the winter in NY.  So, come on – how are you feeling?”


“Giddy, excited, petrified,” Shirley said with a smile.


“Yeah, that sounds about right,” Maddie said as she sat down, “you know I can recommend a remedy a friend gave to me?”


“There are impressionable young woman here, you know,” Shirley laughed as Ama opened the door, and Maisha carried in the coffee on a tray.


“Really? Where?”


“Your aunts are trying to get me to drink champagne already, Maisha – what do you say?”


“I say you have a bottle chilling in the icebox already, Mum,” Masha said with a smile, "but that is for when you are ready, and Uncle John has arrived.”


“Damn – just have to cope with coffee then,” Shirley said with a smile.


The de Ros Mansion


“Good morning, your Honor,” Edith said as she saw Brooke coming to the table, “may I say you look better this morning?”


“Well, I feel better than I have in a long time,” Brooke said with a smile, “and perhaps I am turning a corner.”


“Perhaps,” Diana said with a smile as Abigail came in.  “So you are happy to come to the wedding with us?”


“Of course, but temptation…”


“Which is why you have been placed on a table with us, the Boyds – and Kylie and Rose,” Abby said, “none of us are going to be drinking anything stronger than tea today.”


“Although I understand Miss Rose does like her tea strong,” Edith said as she brought some pancakes in.


“So you will join us at the church, Cherie?”


“Indeed Mama,” Abby said as she wiped her chin, “Rose, Kylie and I will take a car there once we are done.”


“So how do you truly feel, Brooke?”


“Truly – terrified I may give in…”


“Which is why Karen is coming early to take you to a meeting – Ken will join you both with John at the church…”


The Astoria Waldorf


John walked to the door of the suite as he heard the knock, opening in and allowing the waiter to bring in the breakfast trolley.


“thank you, Sir,” he said with a smile as John signed the chitty and he left the room – only to admit Luke Heller and Jack Linklater, both casually dressed but also carrying two suit bags.


“The man of the moment – how are you feeling,” Jack asked as Luke closed the door.


“Petrified – I wasn’t this bad the first time…”


“You were a soldier then,” Luke said as he poured coffee into three cups.


“Soldiers are allowed to be afraid, you know,” John said with a smile as he accepted the cup.


“I know – but this was meant to be,” Luke said quietly, “you, Shirley and Maisha are three very different people, but you complement each other and make an amazing family.


“So, drink your coffee, and have some breakfast,” Luke said, “and then we start to get ready…”




“You made it,” Agnes said as she saw Sue and Colin Gresham-Fox came in, Colin wearing a grey suit with a blue shirt, and Sue a grey jacket over a blue dress, her bump showing slightly.


“Later yesterday,” Sue said as she sat slowly down, Colin waiting before he did so, “and we went straight to bed.  So, the wedding day?”


“For Shirley and John, yes.”


“Shelagh sent some documents for you and Donald,” Sue said as she handed a manila envelope over, “and that is the end of my official duties for today.  Looks like a good turnout for the occasion.”


“Indeed – when do you go down to Washington?”


“Tomorrow by train,” Colin said, “we meet them for Sunday lunch.”


“And I am sure Bobbie will fuss over you,” Agnes said with a smile as Donald came in with Laura and Miley.  “Well now – you two get a good sleep.”


“Yes Mum, but I’m hungry now,” Miley said with a smile as they sat down.


“Well, I suggest a good breakfast before we get ready…”




“How are you feeling this morning, Lizzie,” Kits asked as Elizabeth joined her and Eve at the table.


“Not too bad – Mum’s gone to join the others at Aunt Shirley’s place.  Have you spoken to Olga?”


“She just sent a message to say she was up and having breakfast, and she’d see us there.”




“Well, the girls at least appear to be happy,” Paula said as she looked across from the table she, Tamsin and Tom were seated at.


“True – and they can feel the stare of Mrs Gresham-Fox on them as well.”  Looking round, Tamsin said “or they would if she was here.  Wonder where she has gone to?”




Yuri Markov checked his tie was correctly knotted before he knocked on the suite door.




As it was opened, he nodded to the guard and walked in, saying “good morning, Mr Byushin – you wished to see me.”


“I did,” Oleg Byushin said as he sat at the table, and indicated the seat next to him, “sit, eat.”


“Thank you,” Yuri said as he slowly sat down.  “Is there a particular task you wish me to undertake?”


“There is – I understand your wife and daughter are in the city?”


“I believe they are the guests of Their Serene Highnesses, Klaus and Juliette von Furstenheim,” Yuri said as he poured himself a copy.  “They are attending a wedding this weekend.”


“Ah yes – and you are aware of who the bride is?”


“Miss Shirley Xavier?  I know of her, but I have never had the pleasure.  Is she also involved in the NorStar bid?”


“Tangentially – but that is not relevant to why I called you here this morning.”  Oleg wiped his mouth and put his napkin down, before he nodded.


“Then why am I here?”


“Because I need to ask a question on behalf of my contacts,” Oleg said as he stood up.  “Are you loyal to them?”


“I would not be allowed to travel if I did not do their bidding – why do you ask?”


Nodding, Oleg said “so if I told you I was not interested in buying NorStar at all, that I was also following orders?”


Yuri stared at the mobster, before he said “I do not understand…”


“You will, Yuri, you will…”  Oleg turned and looked out of the window as the other man handed Yuri a folder, which he opened and looked at the papers inside, before he looked at Byushin.




“Yes – you have a ten o’clock appointment with him.  That is all.”



The von Furstenheim Apartment



“Good morning,” Olga said as she came into the kitchen, “how is everyone?”


“Vewy excited,” Judith said as she looked over from her seat, while Cari and Annie were feeding the twins their breakfast.


“Did you sleep well,” Juliette said as she looked over.


“I did, thank you – so when is the service?”


“Eleven,” Ingrid said as she handed the teenager a mug of coffee, “plenty of time to get ready…”


8.30 am

Park Avenue


“Thank you,” Ama said into the telephone, “I will receive them when they come up.”


“Have they arrived,” Maisha said as Ama walked to the hallway.


“They have indeed,” Ama said with a smile as she went to the front door.  “Hello Aunt Cat, all of you – Aunt Shirley is currently having a bath, but the others are in the den.”


“I’ll go and join them,” Catriona said as Maisha took her coat and hung it in the closet, “We are planning to use the spare room for getting ready.”


“Well, I’ll go and get ready,” Abby said as she carried her makeup case into the room.


“And as for us darling?”


“My room,” Maisha said, “the rack was safely delivered yesterday.”


“Excellent,” Kylie said as she removed her fox fur.  “Shall we Rose?”


“Indeed,” the older woman said.  “Any chance of a pot of tea?”


“I will take care of it,” Maisha said as she headed for the kitchen.


“By the way, where are Marina and Beverley?”


“Quick meeting before they head to the hotel, Ama darling – so, allow us a few moments, and then you may head to cleanse before Abby begins…”


The Waldorf Astoria


“I’ll be up in a minute,” Kay Cornwall said as her husband headed to the lift, before she made her way towards the banqueting hall.  Looking inside, she smiled as she saw George Simpson standing with a tall dark haired young woman, wearing a tailored trouser suit with a silk roll neck jumper under the jacket.


“That’s the final list of guests, Sharon my dear,” George said as he handed her a file, “don’t think we’re going to have any problems, but…  Mrs Cornwall – curiosity got the better of you?”


“Perhaps,” Kay said as she looked round, “but Caroline seems to have done her usual excellent job.  Will you introduce me?”


“Of course – Sharon Kennedy, Kay Cornwall.  Sharon interned for us last summer, and her family are amongst the guests.  Sharon, Kay works in the Civil Service in London.”


“Pleasure,” Sharon said as she shook her hand, and looked over.  “I see Emma Cromwell and the others have arrived.  I’ll go and talk to them, make sure they are happy.”


“Sounds good,” George said as he looked at his watch, and then to the doorway.  “Excuse me Commander – other duties,” he said as she watched him walk over to the two women.  She recognised Marina Sowkowski, but the blonde was new to her – elegant as Marina, and yet she carried herself in the same way, always watching…


“Oh sorry.”


“No problem,” Kay said as the tall woman passed her, and then she looked at the slip of paper she had placed in her hand.


“Shakespeare’s family secure – will watch later.”




Park Avenue


“I will answer the summons, darlings – none of you are in a position to do so,” Kylie said as she walked slowly to the front door, opening it to see a tall, grey haired man standing there, wearing a morning suit with a grey cravat.  With him was a small woman, her hair grey and her eyes a startling shade of periwinkle blue, wearing a grey coat dress with a pink hat.


“Well now, unless I am very much mistaken, you are Kylie Mitchell,” she said with a smile.


“You have the advantage of me,” Kylie said as Maisha looked round. 


“Uncle John – welcome, Kylie this is John Jacobs and Colette Aldington.”


“Call me Coco,” the smaller woman said as Kylie smiled.


“My apologies – please, come in,” Kylie said as she stood to the side.  “If you would care to come through to the drawing room, I will bring some coffee in.”


“It’s all right Kylie, I will do it – you see to Maisha and Ama,” Shirley said as she came out, her auburn hair carefully arranged on her head as she fastened her dressing gown round her.


“You look positively radiant,” John said with a smile, “come, let us talk…”


“Who was it, Kylie,” Maddie asked as she walked back into the bedroom.


“The Father of the Bride, I believe darling.  Now – Ama, it is time…”


“I can see the excitement in your eyes,” John said as he sipped from the mug, “what do you think your husband to be is doing?”


“Right now,” Shirley said with a smile, “panicking…”



St Martha’s Church


As Alex walked out of the vestry, he smiled as he heard the organist practice.


“Judy – I did not realise you were back?”


“Shirley asked specifically if I would play,” Judy McNally said as she stopped playing and turned round, “but I need to get the feel of this organ again.”


Alex smiled as she saw David Fitzstuart shake his head, before he said “well, I will let you return to your practice.”


“Thank you,” Judy said as she turned round, Alex walking down the central aisle as he saw Caroline coming in, wearing a blue dress with a white jacket.



9.30 am

Off 5th Avenue


Karen smiled as she saw Diana and Brooke walking towards her, Diana elegant in a silver fur coat over a blue coat dress, Brooke wearing a black greatcoat over a grey trouser suit, a black roll neck sweater under the jacket.


“Hey,” she said as they came over to her, “how are you feeling?”


“Scared,” Brooke said quietly, “but from what you and Selina have said, this is an important part of the program.”


“It is – Diana, you do not have to come in if you do not want to.”


“No – it is important I do this as well,” Diana said as Karen nodded.


“Okay then – come with me,” Karen said as they walked down the sidewalk, and then into a community hall.  As Brooke looked round, she saw the circle of chairs, and the coffee machine to one side, a group of people standing round in groups of two and three and talking quietly.


“Let’s get a cup,” Karen said as they made their way to the side tables, Brooke holding herself before she took a cup from Karen.


“So what happens now,” she said as she looked round.


“We drink, and then we come together,” Karen said, “don’t worry, just say whatever you want to say.”


“Can we come together please?”


Brooke looked at the grey haired woman who was standing in front of one of the chairs, the others coming over as Diana stood to the side, watching Brooke and Karen as they sat down.


“Welcome, everyone,” the woman said, “as you know, this is a safe place, nobody here is judging, nothing said here leaves these four walls.  Let us recite the Serenity Prayer.”


They all closed their eyes, Brooke included, as some of them spoke.


God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.


“Amen,” Brooke whispered as she looked round the ring.  They were people, just like her, men, women…


“So, I see some new faces,” the women said, “and some old friends, as well as the regulars.  If you are here for the first time, can you raise your hand please?”


Brooke was surprised to see her hand go up, as the woman said “welcome – do not feel you have to say anything, just listen.  Does anyone want to share?”


“I will.”


Brooke looked to her side as Karen said “hello, my name is Karen, and I am an alcoholic.”


“Hello Karen?”


“Today – today I am attending the wedding of a friend, with other friends, and there are others like me who will be there.  I have taken strength from being with those people, and their love and support – and I will do so again today.”


Others nodded as a second voice said “may I speak?”


“Of course.”


“Hello,” she said in a faltering voice, “my name is Brooke, and…  I’m an alcoholic.”


“Hello Brooke.”


“This is so scary – it’s the first time I’ve said that in public,” Brooke said quietly, “I’ve been – well, drying out for the last couple of weeks, because I was helped to face up to the fact I was using alcohol as a fuel, more than a crutch.


“And I realised I could not do that anymore.  I don’t know if that resonates with anyone here?”


There was low mumbling and head nodding as she looked round,


“Well – Karen has been one of those who helped me, as well as my friend Diana.  They have shown me people do care about me – problems and all – and I guess…


“I guess I need to face up to who I am, and find a different way of doing things.  I can’t do this alone though – I do need help.”


“And that is what we are here for – welcome, Brooke,” the woman said as the room clapped, Diana smiling as she joined in…


10 am

The Astoria Waldorf


“Are you girls nearly ready,” Agnes said as she looked into the second bedroom of the suite.


“Almost – just sorting some tights out,” Laura called back as Mandy shook her head.


“It has been quite a year, darling – for all of you,” she said as she sipped her tea.


“I know – maybe I am starting to believe this is not a dream,” the redhead replied as she sat down and pulled on her black boots.  “Is Will with Donald?”


“He is – so Christmas, have you settled on where you are going yet?”


“We have – it will be in the flat,” Agnes said, “we want our first Christmas as a family to be something special for all of us.  Hogmanay, on the other hand – Up to Ardray, and it gives us a chance to sit in Oban for one of the readings of the banns.”


“And find out exactly what Shelagh may have planned?”


“Well, more like nipping in the bud any plans my sister may have.”


“Aggie, seriously?”





“While I have you here,” Tamsin said as she sat with Paula, Eve and Kit, “we have a matter of import to discuss, wedding related?”


“MUM!  John and I are not even…”


“I was referring,” Tamsin said with a sigh and a side glance, “to my sister.  We need to make sure she has an appropriate send off.”


“And what exactly do you have in mind – and does it need to involve others?”


“Oh yes – but let me outline the basics…”



The von Furstenheim Apartment


“Are you nearly ready Olga,” Tatiana asked as she put on her cream leather gloves.  The model was wearing a cream jersey dress with matching heels.


“I am Mama,” Olga said as she looked over, standing up and letting the blue pleated skirt fall down to cover her knees.  The skirt was matched by the fitted jacket and heels, with a white camisole underneath.


“Fine – then let us join the others,” Tatiana said as they left the bedroom and walked down to the main room.  Judith smiled as she saw them coming down, and then both of them looked at Klaus.


“Military uniform?”


“Indeed – John wore dress uniform at our wedding, so I return the favour,” Klaus said as he adjusted the sash over his Furstenheim Jaegers uniform.


“And is Juliette doing the same,” Tatiana asked with a raised eyebrow.


“No, this time I am not – but you were at our wedding anyway,” Juliette said as she came in, Ingrid holding Judith’s hand.  All three were wearing light blue coat dresses.


“Rudi and Mags are just getting ready, Grappy,” Judith said with a smile as Cari and Annie came in with the twins in their seats.  While Mags was in a yellow dress, Rudi was wearing a blue shirt and pants with a waistcoat, a little bow tie at his neck.



The Waldorf Astoria


“I was beginning to wonder if you were ever going to show up,” Lily said as she watched Tracy and Louise walk into the lobby.


“Well, it was a rather late arrival last night darling,” Louise drawled as she adjusted the sleeves of her jacket.  All three had decided, in deference to the weather, to wear trouser suits with jumpers.


“So who are we meeting here,” Tracy said as she looked round.


“Well, Kylie is otherwise occupied, so she sent us to make sure you all got to the church on time – Tracy, my darling, it is so good to see you again.”


“Beverley?  Darling you look amazing!”


“I feel amazing, thank you Louise,” Beverley said as she joined them with Marina.  “And I am especially glad to see all of you.”


Tracy shook her head and smiled as she said “what the heck happened to you?”


“The same as Marina and Kylie,” Beverley said with a smile.  “So, shall we all head to the church together?”




“I don’t think I’ve seen you this nervous since the christening,” Luke said as he watched his lover pacing the floor.


“Hmm?  Oh this isn’t nerves about the ceremony,” Jack said quietly, “this is nerves about what he is going to say after I have given my speech.  As for the man of the moment…”


“I’m ready,” John said as he came out, adjusting the top button on his mess dress.  “Shall we?”







Yuri Markov swallowed as he approached the double doors, adjusting his tie before he knocked three times.


As the doors opened, he saw the two men standing there, smartly dressed and obviously armed, both nodding as he walked in and saw the man sitting at the table.  “Comrade President,” he said as he recognised him, “I am honoured that you would ask me to call on you today, but I was unaware you were even in the country.”


“That is because I am not – officially,” the man said as Yuri stood there, “but I heard that you had to represent that buffoon Byushin in court yesterday.”  He smiled as he saw the hesitation in Yuri’s face, wiping his mouth as he said “do not panic, Markov – I am fully aware of his predilections, and how ill considered his reactions can be.”


“I am in no position to pass comment one way or the other, Comrade President…”


“Your humility does you credit – but we have a problem to discuss.  Two, if truth be told – your loyalty has been brought into question, Markov.”


“My loyalty is to you and to Mother Russia,” Yuri said as he stood to attention, “and has been since I was recruited.  Has my work displeased you?”


“No – but we do know you have been in contact recently with Prince Klaus of Furstenheim.”


“He is an old friend, and he contacted me to see what I knew of the proposed takeover of NorStar – on which subject, Comrade President, My client says he is not interested in the agency?”


“No, he is not – it is an excuse to get him and certain other people in position to deal with problems – including you, Markov.”


“Me – may I ask why?”


“You will discover why later – for now, go.  But remain where you can be contacted.”


10.30 am

Park Avenue


Coco and John smiled as the door opened, allowing Maisha and Ama to come in.  The two teenagers were now wearing long royal blue dresses that came to their knees, with capped sleeves and matching opera gloves, their hair up and with a band of small flowers in it.


“You both look amazing,” John said with a smile, “but it is cold out…”


“Which is why they will have these,” Rose said as she came in and fastened a long hooded cape over the shoulders of each of them, the hood down their backs, so that their arms were covered.  “April has the posies and bouquet at the church.”


“And the matrons of honour?”


“Here,” Maddie said as she, Sandra and Cat came in.  They were also wearing royal blue dresses, but their skirts came to the floor and they had long sleeves, hooked over the middle finger of each hand.  Rose then fastened a cape over each of them as well, as Maddie said “well, this is something I never thought I would do again.”


“John, Kylie wishes you to join her and Shirley in the bedroom, while I check if the cars are here.”


“Of course – Coco?”


“I’ll be going with the girls,” the diminutive woman said as she stood up, “I will see you there.”


John smiled as he left the room and knocked on the door.


“May I come in?”


“Of course, darling,” Kylie said as she opened the door, John looking at Shirley and saying “Oh my…”


“I think we’re done,” Abby said as she closed the box.  “Kylie, are the cars here?”


“They are,” Rose said as she looked in.


“Then we go,” she said as she stood up, and smiled.  “Good luck, Madame.”


“Thank you,” Shirley said as she looked at John.







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