|Beckett and Fr. Kevin meet for an early morning run...and a bit of terse conversation|
Beckett left the flat for his morning run not knowing for sure whether Kevin would actually show up. They had gotten in the habit of meeting three times a week, and though he hated to admit it, he had begun to look forward to the priest's company. There was a good chance that this particular dawn, he might find himself snubbed. When Kevin left Maureen's apartment the night before, he was undoubtedly upset over their teasing about his "stripper girlfriend", and Beckett figured he might still be angry.
As it turned out, his worries were unfounded. Rounding the corner of 23rd and Elm, he could see Fr. Kevin stretching his long legs in front of the church's main doors, and was relieved. Today was sure to be stressful enough without adding her brother's displeasure to the litany of problems that needed to be overcome. He came to a stop in front of Holy Family, and waited for the priest to finish warming up. "Glad you decided to run this morning, Kev. I like the competition."
Fr. Kevin looked at him coolly, "Why wouldn't I be here?"
"Well, it's just that you left in somewhat of a huff last night. I hoped you weren't still upset. We were only teasing. Didn't mean anything by it. You know how Maureen gets when she's the center of attention. Tends to embellish."
"You don't need to explain my sister to me, Sheriff. I am well aware of how she is. The question is... are you?"
His frosty tone, and use of the title "Sheriff" rather than his name, clued Beckett to the fact that his future brother in law was, in fact, still pissed. For every one's sake, he decided to tread lightly. He was counting on Kevin's help in getting through this afternoon's meeting, and if it required him to play nicely, than so be it. "Look, I want to apologize for laughing the way I did. I sure as hell wouldn't appreciate my brothers telling tales about when I was a kid. Your relationship with that girl is no one's business."
In the early morning light, it was easy to see the flush of pink that spread from under the collar of his t-shirt, and gathered around his ears. "First of all, there was no 'relationship'. And secondly, I don't want to talk about it. Period." He put his hands on his hips, and scowled at Beckett. "Frankly, I would think you'd have enough to worry about in your own little world, instead of focusing on silly crap from my childhood. I don't suspect Maureen will be Miss Compliance during your legal maneuvering, and adding my brother Patrick to the mix won't help."
It was Beckett's turn to be defensive, and his face lost any of the cheerfulness he was trying to convey. "You do understand that a pre-nup is as much for your sister's security as mine. As well as the baby she's carrying. It's the logical and prudent thing to do."
"I'm not arguing with you, Sheriff. And I do believe you have her best interests at heart. But we both know that Maureen will see it in a whole different light. Your demand for a contract before marrying her will be viewed as a nod toward future failure, something her pride will never allow. Plus, the dreamer in her will find it lacking the 'happily ever after' romance she's surely fantasizing about."
His frustration showing, Beckett kicked at an odd stone, banking it off the grotto bench with a loud ping. "She'll just have to act like mature adult. This is a necessary evil. I have to protect both Maureen, and my interest in the family company. If something were to happen to me... suddenly, I need to know that things are in order. I've talked with Maureen at length about the whole process. It's not like she's going into this blind. Plus, your brother Patrick is representing her. If anyone is able to look after her best interests, it's her own brother."
Taking a final stretch, Fr. Kevin straightened up. "I hope you have your best game face on, Sheriff Beckett. I know both of them, up close and personal, and you my friend, are in for a rough afternoon." And without another word, the priest was off, running at full speed, and leaving the other man to chase after him.
There was no way Patrick was going into this unprepared, so Maureen was not surprised to see a long, black limo pull up in front of Schiller's Deli. Normally, he'd just take the train in like everyone else, but today's duty called for full pomp and circumstances, and he was determined to set the tone from the very start.
Stacking the last of the cantaloupes in place, Maureen O'Kenney pulled off the shop apron, and hung it on a hook behind the counter. She had been dreading this day for the past three weeks, and now that it had arrived, her anxiety grew to a whole new level. She and Ted had discussed this whole pre-nup thing to death, and any argument she presented, he countered with a better one. Frankly, it was that way with everything. He'd patiently listen to her concerns, then calmly dismiss them, and do exactly what he pleased. And so it was with his demand for this pre-nuptial agreement. It made their whole relationship sound more like a business merger rather than a marriage, and the idea of preparing for it's eventual demise appeared to her as bad karma.
Dragging her feet, she knew that her brother was probably growing annoyed waiting for her to join him in the limo, but she sure as hell wasn't going to any lawyer's office dressed in her work clothes, and smelling like salami. Giving Mrs. Schiller notice that she was leaving for the afternoon, she headed upstairs to do a quick make over. It took her several minutes of switching and swapping before finally deciding on a soft, green jersey knit dress, and pair of matching Loubouton stilettos that were a splurge memento from the doomed Boston trip. Running a comb through her curls, and adding a swipe of lipstick, she did a turn in front of the vanity mirror, and was satisfied with what she saw. If nothing else, she looked good. Very good.
Careful on the stairs in her heels, she opted to take the side door out the back, rather than walk through the deli, and subject herself to a lengthy conversation with her employers. They were lovely people, but surely didn't understand the meaning of "I'm in a hurry." The chauffeur was patiently waiting for her, and rushed to open the passenger door. She slid into the car, next to Patrick, who was busy on the phone, and didn't acknowledge her presence.
Once finished with his conversation, he tucked the cell in his suit pocket, and turned toward her. "You're late. I've been sitting in this damn car for almost 25 minutes."
Working to keep the little girl whine out of her voice, (the one that always seemed to surface in her oldest brother's presence) she explained. "Sorry, Patrick. I...I needed to change out of my work clothes. I wasn't sure what one wore to this sort of thing."
He gave her the once over, and to her surprise, nodded in agreement. "You look fine. Very nice, in fact."
As he wasn't known to hand out compliments, she blushed at his words. "Thanks, Pat. I'm really nervous."
He grunted in reply. "It'll be fine, Red. Nothing unusual, Pretty routine, in fact. Just keep your mouth closed, and let me do the talking. I expect that Ted's guy will advise him to keep it to the bare bones, and I'd be surprised if some negotiating wasn't required. But I'll get you the best deal possible. Trust me."
At his words, Maureen's face fell. "I hate the way you make it sound, Patrick. It's so...so corporate. This is supposed to be my wedding. Not some damn business deal. I don't want his money. It's his. Not mine. And it doesn't matter one little bit to me." He didn't look convinced, so she tried another tactic. One she unwisely didn't think through before speaking. "This is just so unnecessary. You and Eileen didn't write a pre-nup before you got married. You were just in love." As the words left her tongue, she instantly wanted to grab them back. Discussion about his estranged wife was a sore topic with her brother.
He narrowed his eyes, winding up for a heavy duty lecture. "When Eileen and I got engaged, we didn't have a pot to piss in, or a window to throw it out of! A pre-nup isn't necessary when you've got nothing to lose. But I'll tell you one damn thing. I wish I had one now. She, and that shyster WASP lawyer she's hired, will undoubtedly take me to the cleaners. It'll be a frickn' nightmare." Angry at his missing wife, and not caring if he hurt Maureen's feelings in the process, he continued "Besides, Eileen wasn't knocked up when we got married. A baby adds a whole new layer to this negotiation, so for once in your life, start acting like a grown-up, and think about your child's future."
Sitting next to him, Maureen blanched at the harshness of his words. Somehow, she hadn't even thought about the fact that they'd be discussing the pregnancy. About her screw-up. In a room with strangers. With her older brother sitting next to her, disapproval rolling off of him in waves. And Ted. Her Ted. Staring at her from across some lawyer's conference table. She suddenly felt too warm. Sweaty. Trapped. As they pulled up in front of the hotel, the same one booked for their wedding reception in two weeks, she wondered if she could possibly make a run for it in four inch stilettos.
Because Beckett's lawyer was from New York, and Patrick was there from Boston, and neither had an office in Dollyville, a small conference room had been rented at the Park West Hotel for the afternoon's meeting. Beckett arrived early, impatient for the whole thing to be done and over with. He had been fielding calls all week from James Harron about details in the contract, and he was fully aware that his attorney and he were not in agreement over several issues. But there was no way he was ever going to leave her, and the child, without a substantial nest egg, and protected from the clutches of his conniving, crazy family. There was always the chance that an assignment would go bad, and for his own piece of mind, it was imperative that he knew safe guards were in place. Today would be the first step in setting those plans in motion.
He could hear voices outside the door, and turned in time to see Patrick O'Kenney enter the room, followed by his fiancee. She looked beautiful, but alarmingly pale. He could tell by the way she clutched her handbag, white knuckled, that she was scared silly, and totally out of her element. And although he knew it was highly inappropriate, considering the setting and situation, he found her fear deliciously appealing. She caught his eye, and in that moment, must have deduced exactly what it was he was thinking, as she quickly looked away, her cheeks changing from ivory porcelain to cotton candy pink. She sat stiffly upright in her chair, hands folded primly in her lap, her legs tightly crossed at the ankles.
There was much posturing and handshaking amongst the attorneys, a request for some refreshments, and a round of general chit chat before they got down to actual business. The first half of the agreement was cut and dry, the standard items agreed upon by both parties. It was the first time Beckett had seen Patrick in lawyer mode, and he was surprisingly impressed. The man was shrewd and calculating, and completely professional, despite the fact it was his own sister they were discussing. As counsel for both sides debated back and forth over dispersal of common property in the case of adultery and divorce, Beckett watched as his bride became more and more openly agitated. She wrung her hands, and bit on her lower lip so vigorously, it was swollen and red. When asked a question, her voice came out slightly above a whisper, and his attorney had to ask her several times to speak up, and repeat her answer.
It took nearly an hour and a half to eventually come to terms on such incidentals as alimony and child support, should they become necessary, and gratefully, the agreement was finally ready for signing and witnessing. Taking the offered pen, Beckett signed first, then slid the paper and pen across the table towards Maureen. She stared at the pages in front of her, fingers tightly laced, making no effort to pick up the pen. Patiently, the three men waited for her to make a move, with Patrick eventually resorting to verbal prodding.
"Go ahead, Maureen. You can sign right there under Ted's name." When she didn't respond, he leaned in and whispered, "It's fine, Red. A very generous offer. You're good to go."
Without any discussion, explanation, or warning, Maureen suddenly pulled the diamond and
emerald ring off her left hand, and placed it on top of the pre-nup. She looked at Ted, her eyes full of apprehension and confusion. "I'm sorry. I just can't do this." She quickly stood, and dashed out the door, her ankles wobbling on tall heels in flight.
Embarrassed, Patrick got up to follow her. "I'm sorry, gentlemen. She's been under a lot of stress. The whole bombing episode, you know. Plus the pregnancy makes her a bit emotional. I'll have her back shortly."
Before the elder O'Kenney could even leave the room, a very disgruntled Beckett scooped up the engagement ring, and was out the door in hot pursuit of his reluctant bride, leaving both attorneys scratching their heads over the awkward, and inconvenient, turn of events.
|The brunette in the red bikini|
Several pairs of eyes watched as the brunette made her way across the concrete pool deck, and settled herself into a chaise in the usual spot. Today she was in fire engine red, a tiny French cut bikini that did little to hide her treasures. This grand arrival every day at 2 PM was a ritual, and the regulars could set their clocks by her appearance. As was her custom, she pulled a corked bottle, then a single wine glass from her bag, and proceeded to slowly pour the jewel colored liquid, filling the crystal goblet half way, then setting both on the small table next to her.
The lone life guard had long given up insisting that glass items were not allowed in the pool area. The first time she appeared, he had attempted a polite conversation about the association's rules regarding breakable items on the deck. But in his youth and naivete, he was soon dismissed with a confident smile, and a look that left him both dizzy and tongue-tied. From that day forward, she greeted him with a wink and a wave, and he, in return, pretended not to see her blatant disregard for protocol.
There was no doubt about it. She charged the atmosphere around the condo's pool like a live electrical wire, and male attendance on the deck consistently increased every afternoon as the hands on the clock moved toward 2. The seniors in the building returned to their air conditioned comfort, and the moms and toddlers gathered up water wings and floaties, and headed inside for afternoon naps, leaving the woman alone with her admiring audience. She ran a hand through her dark hair, and leaned back in the chaise, allowing everyone an enticing view. Satisfied she was properly presented, she pulled a stack of newspapers from the matching bag on the ground next to her, and began her weekly perusal.
Although most of the news across the globe was readily available on the net, she enjoyed the soothing routine of flipping through the printed pages, casually eyeing the want ads, reading the silly advice columns, and working through the daily word puzzles. This weekly experience kept her in tune with the various key locations in her life in a way a web search could not, and she especially looked forward to certain editions more than others. Thus it was with the Hello Dolly, a small, local rag from Dollyville, Massechuseutts. It had been a hassle procuring a copy of such an obscure newspaper here on the Gulf coast, but perusing the mundane existence of the life and people she left behind was an addiction she hadn't been able to shake.
It seemed like just any other normal week in the slow moving town of Dollyville. There had been a small grease fire at the Dandy-Lion Pub, but the owner expected to re-open later that week. The library was planning a series of guest speakers on retirement investments, and Boy Scout Troop 465 was hosting a ceremony, and pancake breakfast, in celebration of the upcoming Memorial Day holiday. She quickly glossed over the other articles, and headed toward the Around Town section, the closest thing the newspaper had to a society gossip column. Finding the section in it's usual spot, she was shocked to see Teddy's smiling face staring up at her from the page, his arm tucked around the small form of that insipid red head. The priest's sister, whose name she always forgot. Mary, or Maura, or something like that.
Taking a sip of wine from the glass, she quickly scanned the article, her brain refusing to comprehend what her eyes were reading.
Local Sheriff To Wed Boston Woman
"Wedding bells will soon be ringing for Dollyville's popular Sheriff Ted Beckett, and Miss Maureen O'Kenney, formally of Boston's South End neighborhood. The happy couple will tie the knot on Saturday, June 8th, 2013, at Holy Family Church, 2301 West Elm Street, at 2:00 PM, with the bride's brother, Fr. Patrick O'Kenney, Pastor, officiating. An evening reception will follow at the Park West Hotel, in Dollyville's business district.
Get those hankies ready, ladies. Dollyville is losing one of it's most desirable bachelors. Besides being one of this state's hottest law men, Beckett is also heir to one of the East Coast's largest retail conglomerates, the "Henny's Pennies" Super Stores. New to our area, Miss O'Kenney holds a Master's Degree in Social Work from Boston College, and is currently employed by Schiller's Deli, 2509 West Elm Street. Join me in wishing the lucky bride, and her handsome groom, a very happily ever after."
For a moment, Cassie Donaghue, aka Cassie McKreedy, Cassandra Phelan, Cassie Ann Spenser, and a whole myriad of similar aliases, sat there stunned, too shaken to react. Then, with a snarl of anger and frustration, she flung the entire newspaper to her right, knocking over both the bottle and the goblet, which hit the stone pavement with a ringing crash.
From his perch high above the pool, the life guard sighed. Shattered glass was a pain in the ass to clean off the rough surface of the deck. It meant several hours of extra work, and the pool would need to be closed to all visitors until it was safely completed. But, on the bright side, it momentarily gave him the advantage of a closer look, and the possibility of offering his personal aid to the obviously distressed hottie in the teeny, red bikini.Copyright 2013 Victoria T. Rocus
|Shattered glass...and shattered plans|
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