“Dear all, we are gathered here today to celebrate the nuptials between Christine Alexandre Richards and Rudy Sinclair. If anyone has any objection as to why these two individuals should not be joined in Holy Matrimony, please speak up now or forever hold your peace,” the priest said solemnly. He was inexplicably dressed in a red jumpsuit and had on make up. In fact, he looked very much like RuPaul if Christine was not mistaken. Still, it was her wedding day and she was ecstatic.
“I object,” the voice said. Again and again and again; that voice always objected. No matter what other details of the wedding changed, that one remained the same.
Slowly, even though she tried to stop herself doing it, Christine turned around. It felt like one of those slow motion scenes in movies when something horrible is going to happen. The heroine is only ever in time to turn around with a scream and shout “No” in that slow motion voice that sounded like a nineties tape recorder when the tape stuck. The woman was always standing there dressed head to toe in yellow…yellow; such a festive color to choose to go around breaking up people’s weddings…and their hearts. She was a white woman, taller than average and curvy. In fact her ass was just about the curviest thing Christine had ever seen…and she’d grown up in an African American neighborhood so she should know. She wore high yellow heels, they were almost golden in fact and her toes were gaily painted blue. She had on a hat…with a veil. The veil just barely covered her blue eyes and her red lined smiling lips were staring cruelly and mercilessly at Christine as she voiced her objection. When she was sure she had everyone’s attention in the room she sauntered over to the altar and slipped her hand through Rudy’s. He seemed to be frozen to the spot and didn’t object.
“You can’t marry him because he’s already mine,” the woman said with a triumphant smile.
It was always at this point that Christine startled awake in a cold sweat; the dream that wasn’t a dream not fading conveniently but echoing as if continuing in some other dimension close by.
“Rudy,” she would whisper in despair and then get out of bed to go rinse her face and get herself a glass of water.
“Bad dream?” her grandmother would ask, coming out of her room when Christine did. Christine would shrug like it was nothing and go to the kitchen. Her grandmother would follow and begin heating some milk for hot chocolate.
“You don’t have to do that,” Christine would say.
“I know,” her grandmother would reply, eyes on the milk to make sure it didn’t boil over.
Max Lestrange was in the front row, sitting next to his beautiful model date, he was pretty sure her name was Kendal but he wasn’t a hundred percent positive of that. They were here to watch the big fight as guests of the mayor of Las Vegas. Max was good friends with her husband. He had been like a father figure to him as he learned the ropes of being an attorney at law and in turn Max had supported him when he and then his wife, had run for office. The press was out in force because the match was a big deal between the defending champion and his closest contender. Max was trying to enjoy himself but it had been a strange day; perhaps he was getting old because all he wanted to do was lie down. The wine he’d taken with dinner was making him dizzy and not in a good way and the room was hot in spite of the air conditioning. He could feel the sweat on his forehead and his upper lip. He really was not liking himself today and wished he could just excuse himself and go lie down. The match was starting though and servers were coming around with more champagne. Maybe that would make him feel better. He took a glass and downed it at once, more for the cold wetness than the taste but it did not make him feel better at all. In fact, if he was honest it made him feel queasy and nauseous. He was afraid he would have to excuse himself soon if things did not settle down on their own. Kendal or Kim or whatever her name was leaned toward him with a smile, murmuring something about how exciting it was. Max murmured something suitable in reply and then leaned over to speak with the mayor.
“Carolyn, I have to excuse myself,” he said standing up. fighting the wave of dizziness that assailed him. He really needed to lie down.
“Oh, what’s up?” Carolyn asked.
Max opened his mouth to reply but then the world was replaced with darkness and he knew no more.
He woke to a beeping sound and the feel of a cool breeze on his buttocks. He had difficulty opening his eyes, they seemed welded shut…that or he had no eyes any longer.
“Hallo,” he croaked still trying valiantly to open his eyes. “Anybody there?”
“Mr. Lestrange sir, you’re awake,” the voice of his housekeeper said sounding relieved. “I’ll get the nurse.”
“Martha wait,” he said sharply and felt her stop moving. “What’s wrong with my eyes?”
“Oh, they applied some sort of paste over them, I think to stop them fluttering…you were convulsing sir. Anyway, I’ll get the nurse,” Martha said.
Max waited impatiently for someone to come and tell him what was going on with him. He continued to try and open his eyes. He thought of wiping the paste off with his hands but when he tried to move them, he felt a pinprick of pain and a pulling sensation he didn’t like so he ceased to do that forthwith.
“Ah, Mr. Lestrange, welcome back to the land of the living,” a low male voice said to him, sounding too familiar for someone he’d never met.
“And you are?” he asked coldly.
“I’m doctor Schofield, your physician,” the voice said.
“I see,” Max replied. “And what exactly is wrong with me?”
“We’re not sure yet,” the doctor replied breezily.
“Could you remove this paste so I can open my eyes?” Max asked irritably.
“Of course. Nurse?” the doctor’s voice said. After a moment, Max felt a cool cloth wiping him gently around his eyes. He could feel whatever was holding his eyes closed loosen its hold and suddenly he could see again, his eyes were open and he was staring at Martha, his black housekeeper for nigh on fifteen years now, and a young man with black hair and vivid blue eyes who was wearing a white lab coat. He was also smiling at him as if he couldn’t be more pleased with himself. Max hated him on sight.
“So you don’t know what’s wrong with me, why am I here?” he asked coldly.
Dr. Schofield’s smile faltered a bit but it came back, almost at full wattage. “We’re running tests. Your temperature was elevated very high when you came in. So much so that you were convulsing. You almost went into shock but we pulled you back. Your white blood cell count is also elevated which means you’re sporting an infection of some kind. Hopefully once the blood work comes back we’ll know more.”
Max stared into the middle distance. “I see,” he said. “My doctor’s name is Carlyle Benson; I’m sure my housekeeper’s told you. Would you kindly summon him?”
“Your housekeeper did inform us of your doctor’s name and the fact that you would want him – but he is not affiliated with this hospital and so-“
“Then move me to a facility with which he is affiliated,” Max interrupted.
That at least wiped the smile off Dr. Schofield’s face. “Mr. Lestrange you have to know that you are very weak right now and not in any position to be moved,” he said in a more subdued tone than he’d been hitherto using. “It would not behoove you to try and do so. At least wait until you’re stronger.”
Max glared at him, wanting to punch him in the face but truly feeling too weak to move. He hated it, this weakness; and it scared the hell out of him. What had happened to him?
“Have you checked my system for drugs?” he asked.
“It’s one of the tests requested,” Dr. Schofield said. “If you can be just a little patient we should know in an hour or two what ails you.”
“An hour or two?” Max exclaimed in disbelief.
“We ordered extensive tests sir,” Dr. Schofield said.
Max just glared at him, wanting to get out of bed, possibly hit something; preferably the good doctor. But he just lay back in defeat and stared at the ceiling.
“Martha, did you bring my bed clothes?” he asked.
“Yes sir, right here,” Martha said placing a pair of pajamas on the bedside table where Max could see them.
“Can I at least change out of this mortifying gown?” Max asked the doctor.
Dr. Schofield opened his mouth to explain hospital policy but then closed it again. This level of politics was above his pay grade. “Sure,” he said and walked out of the room together with the nurse so that Max could change. As soon as they were alone, Max relaxed.
“Martha what happened?” he asked.
“You collapsed at the fight sir,” Martha begun at once. “The casino called an ambulance and the mayor called me. They had already brought you here to this hospital by the time I could get here. I called Dr. Benson and he arrived to check on you but they only allowed him in as a professional courtesy but they said he could not treat you because of that affiliation thing. He said to call him as soon as you woke. I’ve already sent him a text.”
“Good girl. Anything else?” Max asked.
Martha shook her head. “Everything is under control sir. Whitby is handling the press, Constantine has informed the board of what is happening.”
“What’s he telling the press?” Max wanted to know.
“No information at this time,” Martha said.
Max nodded. “That might not be the best strategy for the stocks. Ask him to change that to a bad case of the flu.”
“Yes sir,” Martha said taking out her phone to text Whitby.
“Where is Andrea?” Max asked.
“She’s taking care of canceling or rescheduling appointments sir. She should be here this afternoon.”
“Right. Good.” Max said.
“Also, your mother called,” Martha said tentatively.
Max was silent, staring at the ceiling.
“She…wanted to know how serious it was,” Martha said.
Max turned to look at her. “What did you tell her Martha?” he demanded.
Martha shrugged her ample shoulders. “I told her the doctors didn’t know. She asked me to keep her informed.”
Max’s eyes narrowed and Martha hastened to add, “I said I would tell you to get in touch.”
Max’s brow cleared and he snorted, “She probably was hoping I’d cop it and she’d have a chance at inheriting everything.”
“Yes sir,” Martha said obediently.
Max looked around the room, his frown returning.
“I have some things for you in the car, your robe, slippers, laptop, some flowers to brighten the room and your throw rug for the floor,” Martha said seeing the frown. Max nodded his approval.
“Great, bring them in. Especially the laptop,” he said.
Martha nodded and left as Max lay back.
“Hey gra, how are you?” Christine called as she heard her grandmother come in. She looked at the clock tick tick ticking away in the hall. Ten pm. Late even by her grandmother’s standards. That Mr. Lestrange worked her too hard.
“I’m good, how are you?” Martha replied.
“Wonderful. We got a new intern at work today. Eager to please, good looking…I hate him,” Christine replied.
Martha laughed shaking her head. “What am I going to do with you Chris?”
“Stop calling me by a boy’s name?” Christine asked. “Anyway, why are you home so late? Another dinner party?”
Martha stopped massaging her feet to look up at Christine in surprise. “Mr. Lestrange is in the hospital Chris, show some compassion.”
“What? What happened?” Christine asked moving to help her grandmother with her other shoe.
“The doctors say it’s some kind of infection. I don’t have the details. I’m not kin,” Martha said.
Christine snorted, “You’re as much kin as any that man has.”
Martha did not disagree.
“So…? Is he gonna be okay or are you out of a job?”
Martha glared at her. “You are so unfeeling at times girl.”
“I’m not…I just…I don’t think Max appreciates you as much as he should,” she said.
Martha smiled. “Girl you know nothing. Now go get me a cuppa tea and stop bitchin,” she said making Christine laugh as she went.
Strings had been pulled and Dr. Benson had been given a temporary pass to treat his patient, Max Lestrange in the hospital. The tests were back and Dr. Schofield and Dr. Benson stood before him to explain the results.
“Your blood work showed elevated levels of white blood cells which would seem to indicate an infection. We did differential testing to narrow down the source of the infection and we’re pretty sure it’s some form of prostatitis. We still need to do further tests, including a biopsy, to narrow down the possibilities,” Dr. Benson said.
“Biopsy…isn’t that to find cancer?” Max asked concentrating on making his face impassive.
“Yes. It’s just to cover all bases. You’re thirty eight years old and that’s still below the high risk age for prostate cancer but we can’t ignore the possibility,” Dr. Schofield replied.
Max studied them and then nodded. “Okay then…when?”
“Tomorrow morning,” Dr. Schofield said.
“What does it entail?” Max asked tensing just a little bit.
“The procedure we’re going to do is known as a trans-rectal biopsy,” Dr. Benson said. “It means we’ll be accessing your prostate through your rectum. The procedure will be done right in this room. A nurse will be by early to give you an enema.”
“Enema?” Max repeated in horror.
“It’s necessary,” Dr. Benson replied.
Dr. Benson turned to the nurse motioning her forward. “Nurse Marcus here has a consent form for you to sign, feel free to read it over and if you have any questions I’m around.”
“Thank you,” Max said taking the form and trying to read. His vision was blurry however so he picked up his phone and hit speed dial two.
“Clarence? I need you to come tell me if I should sign this consent form or not,” he said into the receiver.
“I’m at the administration wing facilitating your move to somewhere where we can control the environment better. I’ll be there in ten minutes,” Clarence said.
“Okay,” Max said and hung up. There was movement at the door and he looked up to behold a fairly tall woman the color of café au lait, her honey eyes regarding him with cool curiosity. She’d tied her curly black hair in a pony tail with the ends exploding all over the place like a squirm of wriggling worms; only much better looking. Her cupid’s bow mouth was pursed in disapproval like it always was when she looked at him. She had on some sort of dark lipstick and she was dressed for work in blue coveralls.
“Hey Chris,” Max said.
Her frown got even worse. “Don’t call me that,” she said.
“Come to see if I’m dying?” Max asked with a mouth twist of his own.
“Oh you wish you were that important to me. Gra sent me to bring you lunch.”
“Kind of you to go out of your way like this,” Max said still in that baiting tone.
“Actually, there is a faulty transformer I need to look at nearby. The hospital is on my way. So you want your lunch or not?”
Max shrugged. “Hey, you’re the one lurking in the doorway.”
Christine stepped into the room proffering a small square bag. She placed it on the table and unzipped it, unloading a plate piled with greens and covered with transparent foil. She put the plate on his bed table and then extracted another plate arranged with fish fingers and baked potato. Lastly, there was a container of sauce.
“Looks good,” Max said. “I don’t suppose there’s any wine in there.”
Christine just glared at him and then extracted a bottle of sparkling water. “That’s all you get,” she said sternly.
Max pouted like a baby. “Why?” he wailed.
Christine just ignored him and turned to leave.
“Hey Chris?” Max said. Christine turned around to glare at him.
“Thanks for the delivery,” he said.
Christine said nothing, just resumed her walk out of his room.
The examination was not as horrible as Max imagined it would be, but the pain of having his intergluteal cleft penetrated was exacerbated by his mother calling his phone right after. Andrea, his personal assistant, usually fielded all calls from France just in case his mother was using someone else’s phone but she wasn’t here right now and Max had thought it was Martha…or Christine. So he hadn’t glanced at the caller ID before picking up. His mind might have been on the throbbing sensation emanating from his ass and maybe worried about the fact that bleeding was said to be a possible side effect of the procedure.
“Max mon cher,” his mother’s voice spread like a noxious cloud inside his head.
“Maman, what can I do for you?” Max replied.
“Je voulais juste voir comment vous faisiez mon cherie,” Claire Lestrange said. She wasn’t even French; she’d moved to France when she married Oscar Lestrange but she was originally from the Mid West. Max had gone to school in France, he’d spent only holidays in America until he joined Harvard University to pursue law and yet he didn’t keep dropping French words into his conversations like his mother did. He found her to be an extremely pretentious twat. Perhaps because she was little better than white trash before Oscar picked her up at a county fair one day and fancied himself in love with her. The honeymoon had lasted only long enough to produce one child and then Oscar and Claire Lestrange had gone their separate ways. Not too far though…Oscar wouldn’t grant her full custody and Claire was not about to let go of that child support.
“I am doing well thank you for asking Maman, however I’m very tired and I need my rest so I will talk to you another time,” he said hanging up before she could come up with the real reason for her call which probably involved some sob story about how she needed more money. Now that his father was dead, Max was in charge of his vast fortune in real estate and automotive parts. The latter had began as a passion of Oscar’s and had grown into a multi million dollar enterprise with an exclusive Formula One contract. That was in addition to his own businesses in America that mostly consisted of making deals and getting in on the ground floor of profitable ventures. His investment in the Fast and Furious franchise for example had netted him a pretty penny plus his company provided the parts for all the cars.
He’d said he was tired just to get rid of his mother but Max found himself drifting off to sleep soon after that phone call. He guessed this…whatever it was…was really taking it out of him.
“It might be cancer,” Dr. Benson said looking solemn. “It might be just a severe case of prostatis. We have to be prepared-“
“Is it going to kill me Carlyle?” Max interrupted.
Dr. Benson sighed. “No. You’re in excellent health and this type of cancer is curable. But we’re jumping the gun here; the disease is not confirmed. The results of the biopsy are not out.”
“What does the treatment entail?” Max asked ignoring the disclaimers.
“It varies from watching the situation to aggressive radiotherapy,” Carlyle said.
“I vote for the latter,” Max said at once.
“We have to wait for the results Max,” Carlyle said with a tired sigh.
“What are the repercussions of treatment. Haven’t I heard something about impotence?”
Carlyle took a seat and crossed his legs. “Yes, impotence is a possible side effect, as well as sterility. There are also other effects and hence why we need to be sure before we go further,” he said sternly.
“Hey Carlyle, while we are waiting for results would it be possible for me to go home?” Max asked.
Dr. Benson thought about it. “I suppose Martha can watch over you just as well if not better than the nurses here. You cannot stay alone, she will have to board with you while you’re invalid,” he said.
Max rolled his eyes but nodded his acquiescence.
Martha entered Max’s room to bring in his laundry. It was early morning and he was still buried deep in the covers. Martha was relieved to see it. She’d left him pacing in his study when she finally gave up the ghost and retired to bed at 2am. Dr. Benson had said she should monitor him, make sure he got plenty of rest and enough to eat but there was only so much she could do. She could hardly order him to bed even though she was tempted to do just that last night. She knew he was worried about the disease he might have and what it might mean for his life. There was very little she could do about it except be around if he needed her.
She deposited his laundry in the closet and then returned to the kitchen to put the coffee on. Max still lived in the same apartment he’d acquired when he came to Boston to attend Harvard University. It was located in an old building between Fuller Avenue and Thorndike Street, in a Classical Revival apartment building which had five stories. The entrance is elegantly framed by paired and fluted Corinthian columns. Cast stone covered the walls of the first and second floors while the upper floors were faced with tan brick. Max’s apartment was on the fifth floor and it spanned the entire length of the building so he was able to enjoy both sunlight and sunset through the huge bay windows. The East wing had a breakfast nook situated right next to the windows and that was where Martha set up his breakfast. The intercom went off and Martha hastened to answer before it awakened Max.
“Yes? Who is it?” she asked a bit curtly.
“Gra, it’s me,” Christine said, her voice sounding tinny and far away through the intercom. Martha pressed the button to let her in to the building and then called downstairs to the concierge to let her come up. She was waiting at the door when the elevator stopped at their floor.
“What’s wrong?” she asked tensely.
Christine smiled. “Why do you think anything’s wrong?” she asked walking into the spacious foyer and placing her coat on the priceless seventeenth century table like it was a fifty dollar coat rack. Martha moved to pick up the coat and hang it up in the closet near the door, there for just such a purpose.
“You don’t just show up at my work unless there’s a problem,” Martha said turning around to face Christine.
“That’s because you usually come home at night. I haven’t seen you for two days,” Christine said in a tone that could be construed as whining if one were being picky.
“You’re a big girl Chris, you don’t need to see me everyday,” Martha said with a snort, leading the way to the kitchen.
“Usually grandmothers say the opposite thing,” Christine replied and then putting on a high whiny soprano she continued. “You never call me; I don’t see you anymore,” she said before returning her voice to the normal tenor that it was. “That’s what you’re supposed to say.”
“Well I see you a lot more than never; seeing as we live together so that would just be stupid wouldn’t it?” she said opening the kitchen door and strolling toward the coffee pot. She didn’t turn around to see if Christine was following.
“Christine,” a deep voice called from down the hall.
Christine turned around to see Max walking toward her in his pajamas and the most comfortable pair of house slippers she’d ever seen. He was looking right at her as he walked and she paused to wait for him.
“Hello Max, you’re looking better than the last time I saw you,” she said coolly.
“Huh, so it was you who rang? I thought perhaps Andrea had gotten past the Gestapo at the gate and gained entry,” he glanced at Martha as he said Gestapo.
“Nope, just lil ol’ me,” Christine said trailing in her grandmother’s wake to the kitchen but not wanting to enter until Max took himself off somewhere else. She did not want to be caught in a three way discussion with her grandma’s boss. That would just be awkward.
“How kind of you to come see how I’m doing,” Max said.
Christine raised an eyebrow. “Now why would you think that’s why I came?” she asked.
Max shrugged. “I don’t know, I just figure that beneath all the veiled hostility is a heart that beats wildly for me,” he grinned as he said it anticipating her ire. She just glared at him though, swirled past him and into the kitchen.
“Gra your charge has awoken,” she declared knowing that Max had followed behind her.
“Good morning Max; are you ready for your breakfast?” Martha asked.
“Only if the pair of you will join me,” Max said quite charmingly.
Martha was already nodding her agreement so Christine couldn’t exactly tell him where he could put his invitation but only because she was very well bred.
They sat down to a fruity breakfast; after Max had consumed his customary cup of coffee, Martha handed him a vegetable smoothie to cleanse his palate. He grimaced over it and insisted that if he had to have one then so did Christine.
“How old are you? Five?” Christine snorted as her grandmother placed another smoothie firmly on her place mat.
“Isn’t that how old you usually say I am anyway?” Max said with a grin. “Anyway, jokes aside I need to speak with you both and there is no time like the present.”
Christine opened her mouth to point out that she was not his employee and therefore did not need to hear his directives or whatever but her grandmother narrowed her eyes at her and she shut her mouth.
“I might have prostate cancer,” Max began and Christine’s urge to be a nuisance instantly faded away. It was just a reflex anyway after all these years.
“I’m sorry,” she said. Her grandmother said nothing.
“The doctors have advised me on treatment and my prognosis, which is fairly good. However, after treatment, I might end up sterile or impotent…maybe both,” he said looking down at his smoothie.
“Ouch,” Christine said.
“Yes, well I don’t tell you this for your sympathy. Martha you know that I want children,” he said. Martha nodded her head.
“Well that desire hasn’t changed but my ability to have them soon might…” his voice trailed away uncertainly.
“What do you need from us?” Christine asked briskly.
“I grew up with the worst mother, both of you know that. I don’t want to subject my child to that. But I also don’t want to condemn them to having no mother at all.”
“Uh huh?” Christine said brow furrowing in confusion. She could see why Max had wanted to talk this over with Martha, after all, she’d literally been the only mother figure he’d ever known. But why her?
“I also…well finding the right surrogate in my position is not an easy thing but last night I thought about something which I wanted to run by you,” Max was looking at Christine as he said this and she did not know why.
“Go ahead,” she said.
“Will you carry my child?” he asked.
Christine dropped her glass of smoothie…although that might not totally have been by accident.
“What?” she asked.
“Hear me out,” Max said hands spread placatingly.
“I am,” Christine replied calmly.
Max opened his mouth, and then closed it again. He took a deep breath and started again, “You and Rudy-“
“Don’t talk about Rudy,” Christine cut in curtly.
“Okay then, all I meant to say was I know he hurt you badly and you haven’t gotten involved with anyone else since,” he hastened to speak as she opened her mouth to protest. “I’m just saying that you…and I are both damaged goods; we’re both protecting ourselves from hurt and disappointment but we both want to have a family. I know you do because you told me.”
“What has this got to do with-“ Christine bit out, her face thunderous and glowing with emotion.
“You could have a child, with me. I’m not asking for happily ever after here. I’m just saying this is one dream we both have that we could fulfill for each other.”
“You’ve lost your mind,” Christine said, glancing at her oddly quiet grandmother, surprised that she hadn’t jumped in here.
“No I haven’t. But I will lose my ability to have children pretty soon,” he said.
“You don’t know that. You’re not even sure it’s cancer,” Christine protested.
“Am I going to wait until they put the results in my hand and tell me we have to go into surgery fast before I do what needs to be done? What if there is no time after they find out what’s wrong? I gotta do this while the getting’s good otherwise I might not have another chance.”
“But what if it turns out that what you have is perfectly treatable and curable without taking away your ability to have children? What then?”
“I still want to have kids. I know you’ll make a good mother simply because your grandmother is a great mother. I’d still want it to be you.”
“But what if I don’t want to be the mother of your children?” Christine asked. There was a lump in her throat that she didn’t know why it was there.
“Rudy is no longer available Chris,” Max said, a tad cruelly in Christine’s opinion.
“Don’t call me that,” she said.
“Will you at least think about it?” he asked.
Christine sighed and looked at her grandmother, waiting for some clue as to how to proceed. Her grandma looked impassively back, leaving the decision entirely to her.
“I will try to think about,” she said at last.
“Thank you Christine,” Max said standing up to leave the table. He bent forward and planted a kiss on her cheek and then went around the table to do the same for her grandma. Christine was royally confused.
“So you’re just going to sit there and not say anything?” she asked her grandma when Max’s footsteps had stopped echoing in the hallway. He must have reached his bedroom.
Martha shrugged, “You know I try not to come between you kids. Your fights are always too brutal for me.”
“This isn’t a fight and we’re not kids. What Max is suggesting is far from kiddish…even if it is to do with kids. And it’s madness. You know this. Why didn’t you speak up? He’d have listened to you,” Christine said chidingly.
Martha studied her. “If you think that, why didn’t you just say no?” she asked impassively.
Christine widened her eyes at her, “Are you kidding me? Of course I didn’t say no. He could have cancer!” she exclaimed.
“Yes. But whether or not that is true, if you think the idea is madness then you should shoot it down. You say you’re not kids, but you still want your gra to tell you what to do…”
“That is not fair,” Christine frowned at her.
“You can’t have your cake and eat it Chris; either this is madness in which case you need to shut it down, or else it’s an idea worth considering in which case it’s your decision.”
Christine glared at her. “I really hate that you’re so wise,” she grumbled.
Martha smiled and stood up to head back to the kitchen. “I’ll pack you a nice lunch. Why don’t you head to the sunroom, it’s gorgeous this time of day. Perfect for thinking,” she said.
Christine made a face at her behind her back but then stood, went to the side board to pour herself some coffee and then headed to the sunroom to think.
She thought about her relationship with Rudy; they had met on the first day of college at MIT; they were the only two black students in the Electrical Engineering Freshman class and so they naturally gravitated toward each other. The stress of college and their natural competitiveness might have torn them apart instead it made them closer. Unlike Christine’s humble roots however, Rudy came from a well off New York family who, if not outwardly hostile, were still ambivalent about having her in his life. Christine had hoped that once they got to know her…especially after Rudy proposed, that they would soften up.
It was Max who had dropped the truth bombs on her. He’d told her that they would never accept her, that she would never be good enough for the likes of them, that Rudy would break her heart…she’d hated him for it. And hated him even more when every one of his predictions came true. Rudy left her at the altar for a white woman. He hadn’t so much as tried to fight for her against his family. Christine had wanted to stay and fight but Max had whisked her off to an island on the Caribbean with her grandmother. They kept her there for three weeks, plying her with alcohol and good advice; trying to get her over the bump. All she’d wanted to do was leave, to run to New York and Rudy; to make him see that they were meant to be. But there was no way off the island except Max’s private plane – and that was not available to her until Max said so. She had cried and pleaded and begged but neither Max nor her grandmother listened to her. They just plied her with more drinks and more soothing words while she felt like she might go crazy if she didn’t move.
Once the turmoil in her head calmed down a little though, she decided that the best strategy to ensure she got off the island was to pretend to be better. She tried to smile; she toasted to her Rudy-free future, she audibly made plans to move on. The more she did these things, the more relaxed Max and her grandmother became. After a week of visibly relaxing she said she should get back. She had her last semester of college to attend and she needed to prepare for that. Rudy would still be in her class; she would have to deal with that and not let it affect her grades. She’d worked too hard to achieve her dreams to let this little snafu trip her up. Martha and Max cheered her on, promised they would do anything they could to make life better. Max even offered to get Rudy expelled…though she was eighty per cent sure that had been a joke.
They left the island that week and once they got back Christine made no sudden moves, just got on with the business of returning gifts – even though her grandmother offered to do it – and writing thank you notes to anyone who had been of help to her or sent her a gift. Once she was through with that, she made preparations to go back to school. It was her last semester and most of the work was done. Her project was almost complete and she was on the fast track to graduating as an electrical engineer. Rudy would not be able to avoid her in school; she would make him see the error of his ways. Christine was still young at the time, only twenty three; she’d thought there was a chance for them. In spite of everything he’d done to her, she still thought she could turn things around.
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