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A Woman Scorned

Premiered 1 May 2004 (Beltane)


Chapter 8

Heir Apparent


Dan Sewell Ward


There was reason for Zak to believe that Helen, his latest ex in a long line of exes, was not currently in a wrathful mood. Or at least this is what he fervently hoped inasmuch as he was now on his way to visit her in her mountain retreat. Zak was a bit nervous.

Legend has it that great heroes slew fire-breathing dragons in an era before breath mints were invented. Knights, in an equally bygone era, left all the comforts of home and hearth, endured the slings and arrows of people whose only means of defense were slings and arrows, just in order to find a misplaced grail or two. Or else bring the one true faith to those with opposing but equally singularly true faiths. Later visionaries sailed toward the very edge of the world, and thus risked going over the edge in their quest to gain the cover of National Geographic. More recently, intrepid explorers have braved numbing cold and a frozen death in attempting to reach the South Pole, and several other foreigners now living in the south.

Modern man's answer to these incredible quests was to visit an ex-wife. Particularly one, who instead of having a cute sign on her rear window proclaiming a baby on board, had a sign indicating an ex-husband in the trunk and a necktie caught in the same trunk as conclusive evidence of the sign's integrity. Frozen deaths, slings and arrows, and going over the edge surely seems insignificant by comparison. Fire-breathing dragons, on the other hand... The difficulty of course, was that Zak was making just such a quest. And his ex-wife, Helen, had often been compared to a fire-breathing dragon!

On the one hand, Zak was the complete man of authority. He was quite content with running rampant; doing whatever his motivations motivated him to do without concerning himself with such menial items as other people's feelings and emotions. Wives and lovers were certainly no exception in his history as he had seldom received the kind of negative feedback which might seriously discourage his philandering or force a transformation of his methods. On the other hand...

The wrath of a woman scorned was never a pleasurable activity, even if there were no traumatic after effects levied on Zak's psyche. It was, if anything, something to be avoided. Not necessarily by the simple expedient of not participating in those activities which incurred the wrath of the relevant woman in the first place, but by neglecting to visit the scene where the majority of devastation was being consummated. Frankly, the idea of being faithful in order to avoid a woman's wrath (hopefully to be visited upon others) had about as much appeal as slashing one's throat to avoid acne.

Alternatively, Zak always attempted to manipulate a potentially wrathful woman such that she would be considerably less than a shrew. And in fact, if everything had gone according to one of Zak's more ingenious plans, Helen might be in a very good mood right now. Even happy! And thus Zak's only traumatic episode upon visiting Helen would consist of the round trip along rough, dirt roads, to and from her mountain home.

For in truth, Zak was about as eager to dash off to some mountain retreat as an "Environmental President" to actually embrace nature. Nature maintained her own set of rules, and generally ignored the efforts of men like Zak to impose alternative prescriptions for the behavior of other creatures. Zak, among others, found it very disturbing to discover one could not control all aspects of one's life, particularly when one ventured into the deep forests where in extreme cases a man could be eaten. The problem had always been that in the wilderness, the things that bugged you could not be bought off, hired, fired or removed from view with vagrancy and other man-made laws.

Unlike many of his peers, however, Zak had relinquished more than a few erroneous generalizations with respect to nature in recent years. He had even begun to suspect that man versus nature was not necessarily the kind of competition man was likely to win. Las Vegas odds had, in fact, recently shifted to strongly favoring nature as the ultimate winner, with man the vanquished loser suffering the proverbial agony of defeat. At the same time, however, Zak would have been more than willing to forego the mountain quest to Helen's lair.

'Why would Helen live up here,' Zak wondered. 'Why not in the midst of life, living it to the fullest?' Zak thought about the possibilities until he realized that Helen's primary aim in life was to spend it with a husband. He also recalled that when she couldn't have that, she tended to crawl into her little mountain hole. What bothered Zak was that Helen was currently in her little hole and furthermore had been quite insistent upon Zak's visiting her there. 'Why would that be?' he wondered.

After a moment's thought, with his limousine attempting (and failing) to avoid a series of chug holes interlaced with a washboard running surface, Zak began to unravel Helen's plan. Possibly, in addition to Helen's obvious intent to force Zak through a minor gauntlet in reaching her, Helen might have also been taking pains to ensure that Zak and she would be alone -- specifically without other women around to distract her former husband. Yes, that did have a certain amount of appeal as a reason.

Zak liked women. Not in the sense of respect, but in the sense of their meeting his needs. Helen, on the other hand, did not like women. From her viewpoint, women were all potential competitors or outright threats. Helen would quite gladly have placed all women at the mercy of their husbands on whom the women would be totally emotionally dependent. On this point, Zak and Helen agreed. They disagreed, however, on Helen's insistence that a woman should also be allowed to utterly destroy any female (as well as her offspring) who attempted or succeeded in fooling around with her husband. Zak tended to think that total destruction was a bit harsh. Helen didn't. What fascinated Zak even more though was the fact that a humiliated Helen would blame the other woman and not Zak, who in almost every case was the perpetrator of the infidelity.

The idea that Helen could be so vindictive and destructive against the various females that had attracted Zak at one time or another absolutely fascinated him. It was so completely irrational, illogical, and utterly pointless -- particularly as the accompanying rage and fury did nothing to strike at the source of the problem. It was pointless, of course, only to Zak. For if a woman is utterly dependent upon a husband, no matter what he does, she is unlikely to inflict her wrath on him because she's utterly dependent upon him. In this way the concept is quite logical. Zak simply missed this logical view.

Even more incredible, at least to Zak, was the fact that Helen had always given precedence to him over her own children. Not only had she raised hell with the children of Zak's various females, but Helen had gone to the point of trashing her own children whenever they conflicted with his favor. Helen was anything but maternal; a characteristic that Zak had always assumed was possessed by all females. And inasmuch as Helen regularly disregarded her children, he could not imagine how he would ever understand such behavior.

Abruptly he smiled. If things progressed as planned, he might never have to bother again to try and comprehend Helen Spear Gilan. Better yet, she might even go to the extent of relinquishing the use of his name.

Zak frowned, as the thought of Helen's refusing to revert to her maiden name brought on all the thoughts of the numerous other aspects of marriage which she had refused to relinquish after the final divorce decree. The woman had become a thorough pain in the ass, barging into his corporate offices as if she were still the Queen Bee, calling incessantly in her quest to know every detail of his subsequent life, and planning all manner of activities in his name. The woman simply would not let go! But now, it was time to sever the relationship once and for all! Or at least this was precisely the goal of Zak's plan.

For several moments, his full capacity to make things happen surged forth as he willed: This plan was going to work!!

There was always the possibility, of course, that it might not. An abrupt jolt causing Zak to actually lift off of his seat, reminded him that there were still some things that couldn't be controlled!


Zak had regained his confidence by the time his limousine dodged its final wildlife of the early evening and pulled into the covered carport. Glancing around as he arrived, he noted with a practiced eye the high quality of Helen's mountain home. Excellent, expensive construction combined with a magnificent view, modern electricity from her own generator, appropriate security forces, and prime isolation -- yet with all the luxuries of home. All in all, it was quite impressive.

Inside, Helen's expensive, matronly tastes proliferated. Just the right color schemes -- albeit a trifle conservative -- shiny furniture covered in part with modern fabrics done in an older style, upholstered couch and chairs with an excess of strangely shaped pillows in basically dull colors, and lamps with a consistent theme of glass ceramic and dim light bulbs. Any single piece would have been a marvelous addition to any soup kitchen or shelter for the homeless -- provided, of course, the occupants had no say about it.

From Zak's viewpoint, the overall effect was one of discomfort -- nothing done which might feel good to the human body. He found himself instantly hating the decor even while appreciating the basic home itself. Never having an interest in home decorating, he nonetheless would have immediately called a professional so as to trash everything and start over with virtually any other decorating motif including early Attila the Hun.

Zak groaned a bit as the out-of-uniform maid showed him into the room. Hardly daring to breath in his presence, the alleged maid nevertheless managed to suggest that he sit and make himself at home. Zak smiled slightly, declined the invitation, and walked past a dull black grand piano to the windows where he could at least find comfort in the view. At the same time he was more than ready to stand after the long trip by auto.

Quietly, he began to take a quick sweep of the view, gathering in the general atmosphere. Just as he was starting to look at more detail, he realized that the maid was still standing next to him. For a moment, he thought it a bit strange. Until he realized that the "maid" was one of Helen's daughters! (That would explain the lack of a uniform!) The child was so colorless and terminally adolescent, that Zak might never have suspected her true station in life. Only a faint memory gave any credence that this female might have any part in his life. Actually remembering her name, however, was a bit tougher.

Courageously, he took a stab. "How have you been, Eve?"

She immediately smiled a mousy smile, and replied, "Fine."

"Good." Zak congratulated himself on getting the right name. Frankly he could never tell Eve apart from her sister, Elly -- although Elly was typically doing something, even if only a task of minimal value. But his smile lasted only for a few seconds. Abruptly, it occurred to him that even if he had gotten her name wrong, the girl might have been too intimidated to say anything. Zak shrugged, making the decision not to worry about it one way or the other.

After another prolonged moment the alleged Eve asked, "Can I get you anything to drink?"

"No," he answered pleasantly, deciding this really was, most likely, Eve.

The silence continued until finally she turned toward one of the interior doors and in an obvious moment of being both surprised and impressed, said "Oh!" Very meekly, of course. Just audible enough to distract Zak from the view.

The occasion for Eve's spontaneous show of being awake with a hopelessly restrained enthusiasm was the arrival of Helen herself. Zak turned to see the Grand Entrance, while Eve simply stared, her speaking vocabulary having already been severely strained by her response in seeing her mother.

Zak smiled, returning Helen's smile from across the room. As she approached him in her most regal fashion, he recalled the reasons he had initially been attracted to her. Helen was still the beautiful, stately queen he had married many years ago. She had obviously put on a few pounds on an already ample figure, but her large, beautiful eyes were still as haunting as ever. More importantly, however, her disposition was radiant and all-confident.

The latter detail encouraged him and suggested that if she was feeling good, then his plan was indeed working. On the other hand, he knew he could ask no questions lest he give his complicity in the plan away and thereby potentially ruin everything.

"Hello, Zak," she murmured as she approached with both her hands outstretched at waist level, her palms up in a gesture of not hiding any weapons.

Zak stepped forward, taking her hands for a quick, distant hug. "Helen. I must say you're looking radiant."

"Thank you," she replied, a slight smirk on her lips.

Zak hated it when Helen had a "big secret" and wanted to play cat and mouse with him rather than just tell him what was happening. But today was not the day to risk a quarrel. Not yet, anyway! Instead, he took another tangent. "Nice place you've got here."

"It's something from my parents. I spent a great deal of time growing up here. Whenever I feel in need of a retreat, I always return to where I was happy as a child. Of course," she added, parenthetically, "I've redecorated it rather extensively -- as you can probably tell."

"I can indeed," Zak replied, letting the words slip between his teeth and restraining the urge to call someone to have the interior immediately bulldozed. It was then he noticed that Eve had somehow managed to either exit or melt into the furniture. He glanced down by reflex to see if a spot on the rug had suddenly appeared. When everything looked as before, he looked back up at Helen who, apparently, had not even realized that the girl had been in the room. Briefly he wondered if Helen knew that Eve had met him at the door.

"Why don't we sit and talk," Helen suggested.

"Excellent idea," Zak replied. "I'm certainly curious as to why you've insisted I pay this little visit."

"Did I insist?" Helen demurred immediately, denying by proxy any possibility of such overt, direct, and therefore crude behavior.

"With business what it is and a ton of major projects in the works..."

Helen immediately pooh-poohed the importance of Zak's work in her typical fashion. "Busy, busy, busy! You were always so busy!"

"That's why they call it busi-ness."

"Typical little boy things," Helen said, in her most condescending attitude.

'Ripping out her heart would be fun,' Zak thought, his outward smile fading not even slightly. Aloud he said, playing Helen's game to the fullest, "I take it you've more important things happening?"

Helen glowed. It was precisely the entrance for which she had been looking. "As a matter of fact, things have been exceptionally eventful as of late."

"Your plumbing back up?" Zak grinned, playing his part as well.

She, of course, ignored the clever remark. "In addition to a full social calendar, I've also become involved in a very personal project!"

"You've joined an organization to save the whales!" Zak ventured.

"Save the what?" Helen was momentarily distracted from her brilliant conversational goal.

"The whales," he replied.

Helen took a few seconds while she attempted to fit the last bit of data into her schema. Unable to find an organized part of her mental processes which included saving whales, she dismissed the concept, assuming that Zak was just being cute -- or trying to be. Whereupon she then snorted in a sophisticated, matronly manner, sufficient to alert Zak as to her acute frustration at his irrelevant remarks, and then continued. "The very personal project with which I've become involved also affects you." She paused, to allow the momentous fact to gather his full attention.

Zak was fully aware of where the conversation was leading. However, any hint on his part that he knew anything, would spoil the plan. Consequently, he resorted to acting his part, apparently oblivious to her great secret. "Oh?" he replied, suspicion in his voice.

Helen loved it! His apparent suspicion and therefore his interest was definitely piqued. She, however, had her own role to play and overt enthusiasm was not appropriate. Not yet. She then took one of his hands in both of hers and very earnestly said, "While my news is good news, I fully understand it may not be good news for you." Her sympathy fairly oozed out of her words.

Zak mentally debated as to whether he would laugh out loud or simply throw up. Only years of diplomatic and business training saved him and he remained in character. "What sort of news?" His voice carried a worried tone.

Helen smiled her most genuine smile -- the one often practiced in front of her mirror. "It seems that I am going to be married."

The immediate response for Zak was to celebrate in a fashion typical of the Fourth of July, i.e. blow off enough fireworks to exceed that of several small wars. But he knew that shock and disappointment was what Helen was seeking. He would therefore have to fake stunned shock and enormous emotional trauma -- which is tough to do when you're delighted and thrilled beyond words.

Helen took his momentary lack of response and the expression of his face -- both of which derived from his inability to say anything but "hip, hip, hooray" -- to mean that he was truly shocked, and hurt. He might even be devastated! Helen could only hope for such a reaction. "I know that it's only been a few years since our divorce..."

'For Pete's sake,' he thought, 'it's been over a decade!'

"And for a time," she continued, a sad smile on her face, "I had hoped we would someday be reconciled."

'Fat chance!' he thought.

"But it was necessary for me to get on with my life. I truly hope you understand!"

'Time to get on with this,' he thought. Aloud, he murmured, "Who's the man?" The question was somewhat rhetorical inasmuch as Zak had a dossier a mile long on her future husband. But the question seemed required under the circumstances.

"You may already know of him," Helen answered, proudly. "He's in politics and is fairly well known."

'A complete thief, embezzler, and in deep enough trouble that he would do anything to save his neck,' Zak thought. But his question was limited to, "What's his name?"

"Richard Murphy. He's the governor's Chief of Staff."

"I've heard of him," Zak noted, not willing to admit to anything.

"He's a wonderful man," Helen assured him. "I'm sure you'll like him. The two of you have a lot in common." Helen's sudden enthusiasm was growing faintly sickening.

'What we have in common is mostly the money I'm paying him,' Zak thought. At the same time, Zak realized there were several subjects that had to be covered in this little play and that the sooner one moved from one subject to another, the sooner the play would be over and he could make his exit. His mood still outwardly sober, he asked, "When?"

Helen immediately assumed that a discussion of her future husband might be too painful for her former husband. His question and change in subject was thus understandable. She would be kind. "September. It's the only time we could find an opening."

Zak missed that one. "An opening for what?"

"St. Patrick's is simply not that available for half day weddings!"

His eyebrows went up in genuine astonishment. "St. Patrick's?"

"Of course! One's wedding is so important. Such a sacred moment! It can't be held just anywhere! Besides, it's the only church big enough for the invitation list." Helen was suddenly quite genuine in her feelings.

Zak tried to visualize the immensity of Helen's forthcoming wedding. Flower shops would have their first profitable month in years, innumerable police officers would find a welcome six hours of overtime, social gadflies and gossip columnists would have a field day, and New York City 's operating budget would probably have to add another line item in order to accommodate the upcoming festivities. 'What an incredible waste!' he thought. 'She'll probably spend more on her damn wedding than several foreign countries' combined GNP!'

"You do understand," she prodded, "the need for a sacred wedding?"

Zak had recently become very much aware of the potential sacredness of a wedding of true soulmates, but he strongly suspected that Helen didn't have a clue as to what she thought she was preaching. Instead of belaboring the point, however, he said, "But you're not Catholic! How can...?"

"Richard is," she quickly explained. "Naturally, I will become one myself."

"Why would you want to do that?" Zak blurted out.

Her anger immediately flared. "Because my future husband is Catholic!"

Zak couldn't imagine what difference that made! But he was also pretty certain that Helen would not be able to explain it to him. Communications were not their strong point. Instead he decided to shift into Phase II of his plan, whereby he pretended a certain concern for losing her albeit by misdirection. The wounded man, after all, would likely find all manner of irrelevant points to be raised, and thus hide his true feelings.

"I wouldn't think," he began, "that becoming a Catholic right now would be such a good idea."

Helen was appropriately horrified. "What on earth do you mean!!?"

"With all the scandals and disclosures of gross improprieties," Zak said, "And with Pope Clement being clearly ineffectual..."

Helen continued to be shocked. "What scandals!?"

"The financial wheeling and dealing," he replied, matter of factly. "The possibility of Pope John Paul I having been murdered..."

"That's utter nonsense!" Helen was now offended -- in addition to already being horrified and shocked.

"There are even prophecies that the next Pope will be Peter the Second and that during his reign the Vatican will collapse of its own weight."

Helen added outrage to her repertoire of being offended, horrified and shocked. "I've never heard such monstrous accusations! How can you possibly believe people who would predict such catastrophic happenings!?"

Zak grimaced, recalling the extent of what he had lost when he had bet against the successor of Pope John Paul II taking the name of Pope Clement XV! With the same source of prophecies for the other "accusations", Zak wasn't ready to dismiss anything without a lot of good reason. Still, he thought, Helen was probably not ready for that discussion!

Suddenly, she had a thought. "I know what you're doing! You've just trying to slander Richard because he's a Catholic! Well, I can assure you that the Roman Catholic Church is just as credible as any of the other traditional religious faiths!"

"Oh, I agree," Zak said. "But most of the other traditional faiths are in trouble as well."

"You're incredible!" Helen said. "You're just trying to get my goat!"

"Not really," Zak replied, in a moment of genuine honesty. "It's just that the church and many of the traditional religions have screwed up. When they condemned not only actions as evil, but fantasies as well, they really overdid it.

"What in the world are you talking about!?

"Everybody has a fantasy life, a shadow, a repository of repressed energy. Pretending to be good, to not even so much as have a questionable thought, represses it. Thus you get a split between the ego and the shadow -- a split which requires an enormous amount of energy to just maintain. And the shadow is ninety percent pure gold! It's something to be sought!"

Helen had by now progressed far beyond horrified, shocked, offended, and outraged. She was in totally new territory now. The difficulty was she thought she knew where the new territory was located (but didn't). Suspiciously, she charged, "That sounds satanic!"

"Actually, it's the denial that's satanic, not the shadow," Zak replied, hardly interested in her diversionary thought. "The important thing is to integrate the ego and the shadow in order to become truly whole. That takes a feminist element."

"Feminist?" Helen replied, way, way beyond horrified, etcetera. "How dare you use that word in my house! Those women are... irrational!"

"How else can you unify such apparent opposites as ego and shadow if you don't have the reconciling figure of the feminine? In fact, it's the lack of feminine element that drives society to such extremes! There's been nothing to mitigate the complete split between opposites."

Helen elected to add fury to her other intense feelings. "I can't believe that you, of all people, are saying these things!!"

Zak smiled sheepishly, chuckling to himself. "I can't either." Then he remembered. "But it makes sense. Life is not purely black and white, everything seen in bright sunlight. Life is also the feminine, seeing things in moonlight where all the attributes sort of blend together, where all of life can be seen." When Helen simply stared at him, totally unable to comprehend anything he was saying, he added, "Think of the ego, the rational masculine aspect, being like the sun; it illuminates everything but its light blocks out the stars."

Helen was now in catatonic shock. Rising, she tried to put some distance between her and Zak as if, for example, walking off the edge of her three story deck might be the simplest solution. She began to wander about the room.

Zak decided that Helen was not ready for all this. Heaven knows it had been traumatic enough for him when the ideas were first planted in his psyche! But Helen was still living in the old paradigm. The odds, moreover, were very good she would not make the transition to the new one. Sad, but okay. It was her choice at one time or another. He smiled. Time to give the poor woman a little relief. "So how did this Richard manage to capture your heart?"

It took several minutes before the change of subject matter to something in which Helen was fluent, managed to break through the juxtaposition of horrified, shocked, offended, outraged, and way beyond feelings now defending her mind from externally generated, stray truths. But the subject matter had such appeal that it was unlikely to be denied for too long a time.

"What did you say?" she finally managed to ask.

"How did your fiancé make you fall in love with him?" Zak really didn't care, of course, but inasmuch as the shock treatment had failed to accomplish any healing, perhaps it was time to drop back ten and punt. It was time to fall back to the mundane.

With the content of the question breaking through, Helen abruptly smiled. Her eyes began to glisten again as she glanced off into space, remembering the first moment of her realization of how she felt. "It was when I realized how much he needed me. How much he needed the comfort of a good woman."

Zak obliquely thanked his lucky stars for not having eaten before his arrival.

"Sometimes," she laughed, "he's such a helpless creature. And he's been so lonely since he lost his wife."

'Who, last time I saw her, was running the other way!' Zak thought.

Abruptly, Helen turned to Zak, concerned for his silence. "But he's a very powerful man! Great responsibilities and completely trusted by the Governor!"

'Who's also a moron,' he thought. "Does he have any children?" It seemed a good time to get off the romantic crap.

Helen was briefly uncertain. "I don't think so."

'Probably none who will acknowledge him,' Zak thought. 'Kids often easily forgive their parents for most anything, but there are limitations.' "What about your children?"

Helen was suddenly perplexed with the notion of such irrelevancies. "What about them?"

Zak managed to keep a smile on his face. "Are they going to be in your wedding?"

"Oh!" Helen thought for a moment, the new idea moderately intriguing and obviously of social significance. "I'm afraid Lars is in the hospital. Wounded, I think. But I suppose Eve and Elly will be there." She smiled slightly. "They can be bridesmaids."

Zak frowned to himself, noting her failure to mention her son, Harrison. Zak had never gotten along too well with Harrison , but he had begun to appreciate the man more and more in recent years. Perhaps someday there would be more than respect... As for Lars, Zak's feelings for Helen's acknowledged son had gone through more than one transformation. And with all the changes going on in his life, Zak strongly suspected that his relationship with Lars might change again -- perhaps several times in the coming years.

Helen took the opportunity of Zak's thinking to begin to describe some of the details of the wedding.

Zak smiled, apparently basking in the glow of knowing all about it. His arm moved ever so slightly such that with a very subtle movement he triggered a small transmitter. Within minutes, his chauffeur would be inside informing him of an emergency message on his mobile telephone. Fortunately, Helen was too technologically illiterate to realize that mobile telephones were virtually useless for long distance communications within the mountains. As a result, she bought the ruse and Zak was able to escape with minimum of additional conflagration.

As the limousine pulled away and out onto the unpaved mountain road, Zak leaned back with a marvelous feeling of a job well done, a plan brilliantly executed, and a wistful thought that Helen was going to have some tough times ahead. Hanging onto outdated concepts in the midst of a major paradigm shift, is never recommended.


As Zak smiled, encased within the enclave of his limousine and feeling comfortable with the progression of events, others in distant locations sought to visualize their own futures. One man, in particular, set lotus fashion in a dimly lit room, his eyes closed, trying to see beyond the immediate. The books he had put aside, the data he had already collected and organized in his mind -- it was now time to allow for insight, for confirmation. Within an hour he began to feel confident in his previous thinking. Smiling, he opened his eyes. It was done.

Ever since August twenty first of eighty seven, when five planets had formed that tight conjunction in Leo and the moon had entered Leo as well to trigger them all, he had known that the tide had turned, that Elliott's grand super cycle had been completed and a new one begun! At the time he had entertained ideas of his own place in the scheme of things, perhaps a position of power or authority. But as time had progressed, he had come to know it was not his show. It was not anyone's show!

But he also knew there would be others needing guidance, counsel, and a master teacher -- a teacher such as himself. He might not be in charge, but he would likely be extremely busy. A related thought abruptly caused him to smile as he decided that he had chosen wisely to be born in such interesting times! Particularly now, with the date of the great event, the initiation of all their planning, the beginning of the work to build an entirely new order already underway... The date was now set for the first of many key events.

Virtually on cue, the door opened and a woman came into the room. Without a word she approached him and then sat on the edge of an easy chair, watching him. When he turned to recognize her presence, she smiled and said in a quiet voice. "Zak is returning from the mountains now. Everything appears to be in place."

"Yes," Chirles answered. "As I suspected."

Metese smiled at Chirles' continuing display of intuition. "Do we have a date yet?"

"July twentieth, afternoon," he answered. "About four o'clock ."

Metese's calm demeanor turned to a surprised smile. "That soon?"

"A bit more than eight days," he noted matter of factly. Then he smiled at her. "We could always put it off for a year or so."

She laughed. "No. I don't think so."

Knowingly, Chirles looked at her, trying to appreciate her emotions. "You've waited a very long time for this day. And it's long overdue."

"You're right, of course," she answered. "It's long overdue." Then with her eyes starting to sparkle from the moisture in her eyes, she added, "It's such a fundamental turning point. Not the end, but the beginning of so much more. The time when we can begin to accomplish all the things we've dreamed of, to recover all we've lost."

Chirles, always thinking of loose ends, asked, "What about Tina? Does she suspect anything?"

Metese sobered slightly. Her daughter was an enigma. Torn from her mother almost at birth, she had always been far removed from Metese's dreams and influence. Tina's mother had never been able to provide the nurturing, the guidance, and the teachings that seemed so incredibly important to her. Tina had grown to maturity, never knowing the values and the wisdom her mother might have offered. And now, Metese found herself only guessing at what Tina might or might not do. Her reaction to Metese's... call it a conspiracy, was vitally important to the mother, but she had no idea how her daughter might react. It might yield the beginning of a deep and lasting healing between them. Or it might bring a final, terrifying break! There seemed no way to know before the crucial act was done, now only eight days away!

Chirles watched Metese for several moments, imminently aware of her concern and worry. Gently, he suggested, "Perhaps a meeting with her..."

Metese smiled faintly. "You're right, of course. I've been putting it off. It's just that I didn't fully trust my emotions not to foul all our plans. And as you recall, I'm not the one who is to tell her the complete story."

"Don't worry," he quickly interjected. "The die is firmly cast. We may have minor setbacks, but nothing will ultimately stop what's been set in motion. Even if we changed our minds, we couldn't turn the tide now. It would be like trying to push the river!"

Metese's smile lightened. "Heaven knows, I've tried to do that before." When he looked askance at her, she added, "Push the river, I mean. It's somewhat unprofitable."

"But now," he added confidently, "we stand to gain the world."

She gently corrected him. "You mean: regain the world!"

Chirles almost laughed. "Precisely. Just as you say."

Together they laughed and stood up. Then they hugged one another, sharing a moment of great and glorious expectation.


Chapter Seven The Wilds of New York

Forward to:

Chapter Nine Shaky Ground




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