A short novel dedicated to the Dragon Ladies of Welding

A small town girl finds success – Dedicated to the Dragon Ladies of Welding
As Atari walked toward the factory where she worked she wondered how long it would take her before she would have an opportunity to pursue her true goals in life.  She had been on the job for approximately ten months and the work was rather hectic due to performance and quality control measures which at all times had to be adhered to. One had to lift at least fifty pounds in order to be hired, plus the welds had to be perfect on each part.  She remembered how she had difficulties initially not noticing when a weld was off but the assembly portion was relatively easy except for some difficult jigs.

 

Prior to her starting at the factory where her father worked, she had just completed high school. She realized she would have to tow the line with her new job until she had the funds with which to further her education.  That was the problem when one came from a poor family.  Her mother didn’t seem to believe that a female required schooling.   Her father, although he has worked in the factory over thirty years, was known to be a practicing alcoholic in his spare time.

 

She felt as though he was continually upset that she was not a male and if she had been a male, she would have received sports scholarships which would have allowed her to go to college.  She maintained an honor student grade average in high school but it did not warrant her college being paid for.  Plus since she babysat and did odd jobs to make money from the time she was eleven years of age, it made it difficult to excel.

 

“Hi Atari”, her friend Susan called out as they both made their way toward the factory entrance.  “You didn’t go over to the Rusty Pail last night and most of our gang was there!”

 

“No, I decided to stay at home.  You know, I’ve been designing some new clothing as well as writing a novel relating to one becoming a famous fashion designer” Atari stated.

 

“Well, you just need to go out once and a while because it is crazy to work yourself in a frenzy” Susan indicated.

 

“You know how badly I wish to be a fashion designer.  I can secure an on-line program through the Academy of Art University but I truly would like to study on its campus in San Francisco” Atari stated.

 

“Well I really don’t know why you would want to go that far.  If you went to a school in Illinois it would be closer to Minnesota as well as to New York” Susan stated. “Anyway, Atari, I hate to be blunt but it probably is just a pipe dream.  I know how creative you are but let’s face it, neither one of us have the ability to just move on.  We are lucky we have jobs.  Now I understand you now have to pay rent for your room at your parent’s home as well as assisting with groceries.  You really need to move away from there and get a place of your own or room with someone else.”

 

“Oh Susan, I know it will work out in the end.  I have a dream and I certainly do not wish to work in a factory the rest of my life.  I just need to save a bit of money.  I almost have my car paid for and although it is old, I know that it will get me there.  Once I find a place, then I can probably take some of my courses on-line and some on-campus.  I know I can get grants and loans because of my financial situation.  It will just take a little time” she responded.

 

As Atari and Susan stood in line to clock in, Susan’s guy friend Brad joined them.  Brad and Susan had been dating off and on since high school, but Atari was certain it was a relationship of convenience because he seemed to stray every time Susan wasn’t around.

 

Atari quickly headed toward the welding area where she was to work with the computerized robots, while Susan and Brad left toward the in ATV assembly area where they both worked. She was extremely happy to have been accepted in welding rather than in assembly because the she found it stressful when trying to assemble a vehicle with parts which sometimes cut your hands and made for ugly calluses after they healed from bleeding.    She tried and failed miserably. Now she only had to protect herself from welding burns but she wore protective clothing as well as a cap

 

She remembered how Susan’s fingers bled from screwing in parts initially.  At least with welding, as long as you wore the appropriate clothing, you could usually avoid welding burns and one would not need to develop calluses.  But she tried to stay away from the buffing areas and hoped she would not have to use a buffer.  One of the girls suffered scars on her face because the factory did not provide the appropriate safety shields.  She did not wish to have a similar problem because the lady suffered excruciating pain as well as some scaring from the fiber and glass which embedded under her skin.

 

It was fortunate to have a position since so many others were laid off or couldn’t find a job.  She had a couple of things going for her; she was young and capable, at least in the welding department, and most felt sorry for her family situation.  This was because they knew that although her father was an excellent worker on the job, he was not a great provider.

 

Atari usually purchased second-hand clothing at thrift sales and remade them to resemble new designed clothing.  She rarely had money to spend but was grateful that she could pick up odd and end jobs including cleaning and babysitting to purchase clothing.  Even though her mother did not sew, she had been passed on a sewing machine which was previously her grandmother’s which Atari was allowed to use.

 

She had just assembled the parts to be welded on the first side of the table and did not notice the individuals directly behind her. As she turned to walk toward the other side of the table to assemble the other parts, she ran right into a younger man wearing a navy blue suit, white shirt and tie.  Fortunately he was tall and muscular, because even though Atari was small in comparison, the manner in which she ran into him could have sent him backwards.

 

“What an awkward moment” she thought as she landed right into his arms. She tried to step back but for some reason he seemed to have held her a bit longer than she thought he should have.

 

As he released her and she stepped back, she asked him why he was in front of her working pathway. “Don’t you realize you could have not only hurt me but yourself?” she asked.

 

As he looked at her dumbfounded, Ron Jenkins, her supervisor, introduced him as Kent, one of their newly hired engineers. She was asked whether she was at a point where she could stop working on her existing parts. Ron explained that Kent had devised a new design on some of the component parts.  He wished to have them welded immediately to see whether they would work better than the existing parts because assembly was having difficulty in attaching them to the frame. Ron explained he would be calibrating the computers for the new welds so once Kent reworked the jigs, she would have to make some test welds.

 

Kent still silent, grabbed a screwdriver to change the jigs so that the parts he was holding would fit, leaving Atari just standing there watching the two.

 

She could hear her fellow workers laughing about a “suit” holding Atari in his arms while making kissing gestures.  First of all, no one wears a suit on the factory floor and secondly, Atari was a “hands off” type of girl.  Although most of the men tried to solicit her attention, she virtually ignored everyone.  She did not wish a life like her mother and had decided that she would probably never marry anyone.  She frankly did not trust most men and wished for a future she alone commanded.

 

She almost laughed at the site of Kent’s new look.  He had hung his suit coat over one of the large parts bins, rolled up the sleeves to his white shirt and threw his tie back so that it would not be stuck in the jig as he worked.  She could see where his rolled up white shirt sleeve cuffs already had grease stains.

 

She wondered why Ron would not have warned him that it was necessary to wear a lab coat when coming down to the factory area.  Yet, she was certain that since he had been introduced as a new engineer, this was some sort of initiation on Ron’s part.  Everyone seems to have to go through some type of initiation but the factory people did not have a lot of respect for “suits”.  The suits stayed in their air conditioned offices, while the factory people below worked in the elements with most of the bay doors remaining open for the forklifts.  There were fans placed strategically to remove fumes and the like and to provide some air; but in the winter months, it would be terribly cold and during the summer it sometimes was almost 90 degrees inside.

 

Soon one of the forklift drivers lifted a bin of the new parts to be welded and placed it on top of another bind of current parts.  Since it was too high to just grab some of the parts, Atari started to climb up the bin sides in order to place the new parts into one of the smaller rolling trays. There was no parts man in sight and she felt she had nothing better to do than to get organized for a good run.

 

Kent had completed his calibrations and was ready to grab his jacket lying on the lip of the bin next to bin Atari had climbed above to get her parts.  It was then when the forklift slammed into the bin where Kent’s suit jacket had been, moving all the other bins as a result.  It caused the bin Atari was holding on to with one hand while pulling parts with the other hand to move suddenly.  Losing her balance, she dropped the parts and began to fall toward the concrete floor.  Kent noticing she had lost her balance threw his suit jacket to the floor and quickly caught her in his arms before lowering her down to the floor.

 

Ron seeing the event as it transpired then ran toward the forklift driver delivering obscenities and safety procedure adherence in the same breath.

 

“Are you okay, Atari?” Kent asked.

 

“Yes, I’m fine.  I just didn’t expect the jolt” she said. Looking at his suit jacket which laid on the floor, she exclaimed, “I am so sorry about your jacket. And it’s evident your white shirt is now full of oil, especially when you caught me.  I know the floors haven’t been swept and you probably now have oil on your jacket as well”. She then picked it up and handed it to him.

 

“I’m not worried about a jacket.  I was more worried about you getting hurt.  Well these bins shouldn’t be placed that high.  You should not be getting parts without a sturdy ladder if they are your responsibility.  I’ll speak to Ron about this and make certain this type of thing does not happen again.”

 

“Don’t worry about it Kent.  These types of things happen frequently and let’s face it, you are new and Ron would not appreciate an engineer from the office telling him to do his job.  If you value your new job, it may be best to forget this ever happened and anyway Ron appears to know about it” she said.

 

“Well Atari, although I am new, my last name is Stevens.  I am not telling you this because I feel I have more pull than Ron.  But I have to admit, it appears fate wants you to fall in my arms more than once today.   May I take you out to dinner this evening?  It would be my pleasure” he said.

 

Atari was shocked that a Stevens actually spoke to her, much less to ask her out to dinner.  “He was so quiet but he really has a lot to say, once he gets started” she thought.

 

“I really don’t think that would be a good idea.  We in the factory do not fraternize with those who work in the office. Now that I know you are a Stevens, you most likely would be considered my boss, even though we do not physically work together” she responded.

 

“We?  Does that mean you follow everyone else here?  You cannot make your own decisions” he asked.

 

“No, actually I may not.  When I am on the floor, I follow factory decorum.  If I were to do anything else, things may be more difficult for me than they are now.  Believe, me I have seen this happen” she said.

 

What could I do to change your mind, Atari?  It is only dinner and if you are uncomfortable, you could just meet me at the casino” he said. “Surely you do not follow what other’s say in your own private life?”

 

“No I do not just follow what everyone else does in my private life.  And I do not wish to be rude, but it’s a matter of principle and I do not fit your social status.  Your kind does not mix well with our kind and I need a job.  Furthermore, I am certain you are doing this out of kindness. You are very handsome and I am certain you already have a girlfriend or two.  Thank you for your invitation but it is not possible.”

 

“And, you are stating that this is your final answer.  You won’t even attempt seeing me outside of the factory?” he asked. “By the way I am dating no one.”

 

 

“I have to be back at work tomorrow morning at 4:30 am and I really need to go home this evening and get some sleep.  Again, it’s really not a good idea”, she affirmed.

 

“Okay, I’ll let you off the hook for now as a matter of principle; but, not for long.  There’s a reason for everything and I really want to see you outside of this factory whether or not we are within the same social status, my dear Atari.” He then moved toward Ron to have a private conversation which appeared to be somewhat heated from what she could see.

 

Once Ron returned, Atari ran a few robotic welds and after a couple more calibrations, the welds seemed to be perfected.

 

As Ron and Kent left her area, Atari started her production, deciding to place Kent out of her mind.

 

She had assembled and welded some 200 parts for the day even though she required a computer tech to calibrate better welds at least five times after Ron’s original calibrations. By the time her day had ended she was happy to see Susan waiting for her.

 

“What’s going on, Atari?  The factory is spreading the news on how you have been throwing yourself at the owner’s’ son, Kent” she asked.

 

“That wasn’t the case, Susan and you know me a lot better than that. I don’t throw myself at anyone” she replied. “In fact I did not know he was the owner’s son until much later.  I was just told he was a new engineer” she said.

 

“I know you don’t throw yourself at anyone Atari, but you have to admit he is quite a hunk and you could have changed your mind.  We’ve seen him around with one of the St. Claire girls since he has come into town.  Apparently their families are friends and from what I have heard Gigi St. Claire expects to be married to him someday.  The St. Claire’s have a great deal of wealth and her parents and the Stevens are joined at the hip” Susan explained.

 

“Oh God…. No!  Gigi was an upper classman who enjoyed taunting me because I could not afford what she thought were the correct clothes.  She and her group continually harassed me about everything.  She is the reason I did not even go to the prom.  You have to be kidding me.  Why on earth did he ask me out to dinner if he is nearly engaged” she exclaimed.  “And how is it that everyone else knew he was a Stevens and I did not.”

 

“What do you mean, Atari?  He asked you out to dinner?  When?” Susan asked. “Oh, most of us have known for a couple of weeks but we never expected him down here.”

 

“He asked me out tonight.  But I declined and told him it was not a good idea because he was my boss. Please don’t tell anyone, Susan.  I really do not need people talking for no reason.  It was a forklift incident the second time where he caught me and the first time, I wasn’t looking and he was too close.  It wasn’t my fault” she responded.

 

“I know Atari, but I have to admit you certainly must have stirred up his hormones to have asked you out. That’s not normal for anyone from the Stevens family.  They look down on all of us factory workers.” Susan concluded.

 

 

 

“Well maybe he thought I was an easy mark” said Atari “but he will soon find out that I do not go out with anyone; and I certainly do not wish to go out with him.  He was really trying to place the pressure on me to change my mind” she concluded.

 

***

It had been at least two weeks and Atari had not seen Kent on the factory floor again.  She felt that it was probably for the better since the welding department had been working overtime three out of five days. The extra money was great and as soon as she had an opportunity, she would apply to the Academy and at least start her courses on line. The problem with loans and grants are that the courses usually have to be taken continually or one has to pay the loan back. She had been studying period clothing, fabrics and sewing techniques for some time. Recently she purchased a clothing form so that she could design her own clothing from fabrics she was able to purchase on sale.

 

It seemed as though her parents felt it was a ridiculous career for her to pursue. Her mother told her that it was best she marry and live a life like others in the area.  In fact her mother stated she even heard some of the supervisors wanted to go out with her but she never gave them the time of day. She said “Atari you would be lucky to have someone support you and I understand some of those supervisors have very good positions”. Yet, every time Atari picked up a fashion magazine, she knew the day would come when her own designs would be featured.

 

The factory workers finally stopped talking about her escapades with Kent.  One of the men made certain that she knew that the Stevens and the St. Claire families had taken a trip to the Caribbean where they were basking in the sun.

 

One of the older women who hardly spoke to Atari commented that she expected Gigi St. Claire would be engaged to Kent in the very near future.  Atari thanked her but told her she had no interest in either person so she did not understand the reasoning for her to mention it.  The woman just walked of muttering to herself.

 

Atari had already determined that her co-workers were attempting to tell her that her place was in the factory with factory workers.  She should not to be mixed up with a Stevens.  Anyway, she was happy that she did not have to see him again because she was certain that her rejection of his offer was final in spite of what he had stated.

 

When working in a factory, females get hit on by men continually and at some point, it is rare to believe anything one would tell them. She just couldn’t understand how and why Kent had made an impression on her.

 

Today obviously was not going to be an ordinary day. First she had difficulties with the computer synchronizing the welds. She had run about twenty parts before noticing the welds were uneven. Then the wrong parts were delivered.  Once she finally received the correct parts, the piping did not sit in the jigs correctly and she had to return them to that department for another batch.  When she finally had what she required, all of the buzzers to the factory went off and the supervisors were frantically telling everyone that they were to exit immediately to the back of the building.

 

Apparently there was an oxygen leak in one of the welding areas and they were concerned for everyone’s safety due to the possibility of an explosion.   As Atari made her way out of the building, she heard a voice behind her say “Hi, there beautiful.  Did you miss me? I certainly hope so.”

 

She turned around to see Kent, dressed up in a pair of tight jeans, a fitted tee-shirt and a baseball cap, hiding his eyes with sunglasses.  As he was grinning at her, she asked “Your building may be blowing up and you are asking me whether I missed you?  Are you kidding me?”

 

“I wouldn’t kid you.  I am certain the building will be just fine.  If not, we have insurance.  All the gas mains have been cut off and we have our tech team working on the oxygen problem. Please follow me to the side of the building. I have something important to discuss with you.”

 

No one seemed to notice it was a Stevens who Atari was walking out with.  Kent’s face was covered by sunglasses and the brim of his baseball cap as he led the way to the side of the building with Atari following him a short distance behind.  When they were out of the other’s sight, he stopped and asked her when it may be convenient for her to go out to dinner with him.

 

She told him that she should not have followed him if she had known it was to ask her out.  She again explained that it was impossible for her to go out with him because factory people do not date office executives. “Anyway from what I have heard, you are already engaged to Gigi St. Claire.”

 

“Atari, some of these righteous factory people who are spreading these stories, while telling you the office people are bad, are having affairs with married men in the office. And they dare to spread rumors about you and me. We had to fire two of them last week because they were having sex in the early hours in full sight of the yard. And besides being forbidden, anyone could find them and did. Anyway, I know people have been giving you a bad time about this. It’s unfortunate but it is the way these people operate.”

 

“You don’t know me.  And by now, I am certain you know who my father is, that his off hours are spent at the Rusty Pail and that I have come from an impoverished uneducated family” she answered.   “I am not the type of person your family would like for you to associate with.”

 

A small town girl finds success – Dedicated to the Dragon Ladies of Welding
“My family would adore you.  Are you kidding? I do know about your family situation Atari, but that has nothing to do with my still wanting to know more about you.  I understand you stay by yourself a lot.  From what I have learned you hope to be a fashion designer and are working to save money for school” he explained. “Most tell me that you are one of the most intelligent young women in this town and you are currently writing a book”.

 

“Does that mean you were checking on me?” she asked with a grin.

 

“No, quite the contrary….  Your friend Susan apparently has indicated to Brad that you are a hopeless dreamer about becoming a designer and an author.  That information seemed to have made its way to friends of mine. It’s amazing how fast things spread through 1800 employees.  So when I mentioned your name, they advised me that you were only planning to work here until you had enough money to go to school. I think that is quite admirable. I know you work all the time and I just would like to see you enjoy yourself for once…and preferably with me. I can’t lie.  I am attracted to you and I have not been able to get you out of my mind.”

 

The bell started to ring and Atari knew that it was time to go back into the factory building.  She was shocked at his last comment and was afraid to respond.  She started to move away from him using the bell as an excuse, when he grabbed her hand and gently kissed it.  “Atari, please do the honor of joining me for dinner on Saturday night.  I will pick you up at your home at approximately 5:00 pm. Please wear one of your designer dresses as we will be going out of town to a formal restaurant?  Will that be okay with you? Will you accept?”

 

“Yes, I accept! How could one refuse such an eloquent invitation? Do you have my address?” she asked.

 

“I know where your dad lives and I understand you currently live with your parents. I will find you.  Thank you, Atari, for finally accepting my invitation.  I look forward to seeing you then.”  They each left in their separate directions after he gave her a wink.

 

She really did not know why she had accepted his invitation but somehow she knew it was because she was highly attracted to him.  And it seemed as though the two times she fell into his arms there seemed to be an electrical field holding them together which could not be ignored. Yet she was dedicated to be a designer in spite of others feeling it is just a pipe dream.  She was pleased that Kent seemed supportive of her dream and he was not as forward as some of the men in the plant.  He was pleasing and well mannered as well as one of the hottest men she had seen in a pair of tight jeans and a tee-shirt.

 

As she came running through the door, Susan asked where she had disappeared to.  She explained she just needed some time to herself because she was having a bad day. This was not the first time Atari left to some obscure corner to be alone so Susan did not question the matter further.  Instead she proceeded to let Atari know that Brad asked her out Friday evening for dinner at the local casino; to which Atari congratulated her and said it was about time they were on a real date.

 

As Atari worked at her station, she noticed her supervisor Ron Jenkins was watching her.  Seeing her notice, he then motioned for her to take a break from the next run and talk to him.  As she stood in front of him, he advised her that he knew where she had disappeared to and with whom.  When Atari asked him what he was talking about, he exclaimed abruptly “You know who and what I am talking about.  You feel no one in this plant is good enough for you including me.  Yet, this playboy obviously is getting his way with you.”

 

“Ron, I never felt that you or anyone else was or is beneath me. I elected not to date anyone in the factory because it is usually not a good practice. I also do not chase after the men in the office. Everyone gossips about everything.  With my parent’s situation, personally, I do not believe I really wish to be serious with anyone. I do not intend to stay in this town.  I just wish to have friends”

 

“But you sure followed him out the door today.  What were you doing? Necking?” Ron asked.

“As to Kent getting his way with me, I have refused his invitations for dinner more than once.  I have not seen him for two weeks and today we conversed as friends. That is all that has happened” she said.

 

“Well, Atari, he certainly has you fooled.  Ever since the day he met you with those new parts, he has been inquiring about you.  In fact, the story upstairs is that he refused to join his parents and the St. Claire’s on a recent trip because of you.  I can tell you, Atari, if you do not wise up, he will be the one to hurt you”, Ron warned. “He is known for his hot women and cars and neither matter to him in the end.”

 

“Please do not worry Ron.  I have a dream which most of you do not believe in.  I wish to be a fashion designer and I am not about to give my dream up for anyone. But unlike the rest of you, it is nice to have someone like Kent who believes I may become a fashion designer and who gives me his support.”

 

“But with his money and charm, you most likely will fall for him and then he will drop you like a hot potato, which is his modes’ operandi” Ron warned further.

 

“Ron, what is it that is not understood?  I do not wish nor am I looking for a permanent relationship.  I do not wish for anyone to fall for me because I have commitment issues.  I, myself, do not wish to hurt anyone, especially you, and it is possible.  That is why I will not date someone who may be looking for someone to be with for the rest of their lives” she said.

 

“Then the two of you will be happy shagging each other without a worry” and he stomped off, indicating his anger.

 

Fortunately in the next couple of days, the story of her meeting Kent was not relayed by Ron to any of the other factory workers.   She was tired and looked forward to a quiet evening with her mother, because most likely her father would be at the Rusty Pail.

 

Once she had prepared dinner she started to read some of her fashion magazines.  She had decided to dress elegantly for her date with Kent but was uncertain as to how she would fix her long red hair to match the evening dress she had designed.  She was elated that he asked her to wear one of her designs.

 

***

 

 

It was 4:00 pm and she had just enjoyed a leisurely bath. She cascaded her long red hair to one side with an ornamental barrette. For the first time in weeks she decided to wear makeup.

 

She felt it would be fun to look like a cover girl for once and forget for one evening that she worked in a factory.  The black evening dress she had chosen had a flowing draped skirt and from the waistline, the material criss-crossed over the front of her bodice with a perfect x covering her subtle breasts.  The material then draped over her shoulders into another x on her back. Other than the area of her bust, there were small braided ties holding in the fabric at different intervals to make the material gather and flow and then gather again. The waistline in the front was defined with a large black sequined band which held the bodice material in place. This band decreased in size as it reached the back of her skirt.  She wore a black choker with rhinestones to accentuate her dress.  She also threw on a large flowing shawl made in the same material as her dress.  It was then that the doorbell rang.

 

“Mom, don’t worry, I will get the door” she said as she ran down the stairways.

 

When she opened the doors, she was not sorry that she had chosen a more elegant dress for the evening. She was only concerned because it exposed much of her skin on the sides and in the back.

 

Kent was wearing a black Tux with a black bowtie, over a white pleated shirt. He looked extremely handsome and his cologne was amazing.

 

He stood at the door in what appeared to be shock on his face.  He finally found his voice and gave her a huge grin. “I knew you were beautiful just in ordinary jeans and a shirt but what I see before me is unbelievably amazing.  You are absolutely beautiful.  Is that a dress you designed?

 

Yes, it is one of the dresses I elected to drape.  I hoped you would feel it was appropriate for your plans to dine this evening” she said.

 

“Actually, your look is that of perfection. We have reservations at the casino’s restaurant. Unless we drive toGrand Forks, it’s the most formal restaurant in the area.  Although I had not previously mentioned it to you, a couple of the sales reps and their wives are staying at the Casino hotel.  Since it is good business for one of the Stevens men to take them out, I likewise have invited them to join us.  I hope you do not mind.  As beautiful as you are, I really am anxious for them to meet you.  I have met their wives before and you will get along famously with them” he said.  “You aren’t upset with me are you, Atari?”

 

“Absolutely not Kent; I look forward to meeting your associates and their spouses.  Yet, please do not judge me on my appearances alone. There’s a lot more to me than what you see.”

 

“I certainly am realizing that Atari, even in your manner of speech.  But let’s face it; one becomes so totally engrossed in your beauty that one even forgets how to talk.  Let’s face it.  It happened to me this evening” he said.

 

The balance of the drive became easy after a bit of laughter.  They decided that they would direct at least 20 questions about each other so that his associates would not realize it was their first date.  They found they enjoyed many of the same activities, music and arts.   They found they both had an air of sarcasm which they intimately found enjoyable and humorous to each other.  It was as if they had known each other all of their lives.

 

When they finally reached the casino, he told her to wait while he opened the passenger side door.  As he did and he helped her out of her seat, he asked whether he may kiss her.  She said “Yes” and gracefully fell into his arms and responded delightfully to his lips.  They held each other tight as each caressed the other’s backs and shoulders while engaging in a passionate kiss that lasted for minutes. Finally, he pulled back and said “Beautiful, we can’t go any further or we will never make it into the casino to dine.  Do you mind if I have a cigarette so I can think about something else?”

 

“May I also have one of your cigarettes?  I really don’t smoke that much either but for some reason, I really need one and possibly I may need to pace.”

 

They laughed as they both paced the parking lot smoking cigarettes and laughing at almost nothing at all. Others who walked by them in the parking lot thought they were inebriated.  She then found her lipstick and applied it while looking into the vehicle mirror.  Then he placed his arm around her and escorted her to the dining area where his two reps had just arrived with their wives.

 

One of the wives, Kathy, really took a liking to Atari immediately.  She mentioned that she had previously met Kent’s former lady friend Gigi who had treated her as an inferior.  She mentioned it was the worse evening she and her husband Todd had.

 

Terri also mentioned she had not looked forward to dining with Kent and Gigi.  She had even told her husband Bill that she had a headache and really did not wish to go to dinner. She said she was happy that when Bill persuaded to go, she saw that Kent was escorting someone new.

 

Atari laughed and told Kathy and Terri that she certainly understood.  She explained that she had attended the same high school as Gigi and how she continually was harassed and picked on because her family was not wealthy.

 

Kathy mentioned that Gigi was probably jealous of her because she could not match Atari’s beauty both inside and out.   At that point Atari gave Kathy a huge hug for her appreciative words. It was nice to meet new people who were not from the area.  In Atari belief, it had to be the perfect date and business meeting.

 

Finally everyone retired to the casino to do some serious slot machine gambling. “The casino, as you know is owned by an Indian Tribe and does not have the same high stake betting as the casinos in Las Vegas, but at least it is entertainment” Kent mentioned.

 

It was an opening for Bill and Todd to start telling each other tales about their last visit to the strip while Kentgave Atari a handful of tokens so she could play the slot machines with the ladies.  She wasn’t much of a gambler but accepted the tokens knowing it was what he wished her to do while he still conducted business with the men.

 

She had not gambled previously but loved to play poker so decided she would try a poker slot machine. She was pleased because not only did she still have the original tokens he gave her but she had won an additional $30.00.

 

After his reps and their wives decided to retire, she gave her cashed-in winnings to Kent.  Shocked, he told her to keep the money because he did not expect her to return it since it was part of the evening’s entertainment.  It was at that moment that Ron Jenkins and four of his friends from the factory noticed them.  It was obvious that the five men were totally inebriated but Ron was really horrid.  “You little whore; you are now accepting money for tricks?” he said as the others grinned and made hand, tongue and facial gestures.

 

Kent was ready to take him down when she placed her hand on his chest and shook her head “No”.  She then went up to Ron and asked him who he was calling a whore when he knew she has not dated anyone since her junior year in high school.

 

He said “Because you are going out with a jerk like him who just uses women and he now has just paid you.  You’ll sleep with anyone for money now just to become some fashion dyke”.

 

“You have to be kidding, Ron.  Look at him.  Do you think he would have to pay anyone for sex?  And by the way Ron, he is just returning my winnings which he paid for in the first place.  Secondly, it’s none of your business if I do decide to have sex with Kent.  But finally, and most importantly, he is the owner’s son and I think you owe both of us an apology before you have to feel badly about the situation when you get back to work on Monday.  I know you need the job and I know you surely did not mean what you just said” she told him.

 

Ron then approached Kent and apologized to him and then to Atari as she joined Kent at his side.  He finally admitted to Kent that he was jealous of him because he had wanted to date Atari since she had started at the factory but she had paid no attention to anyone other than him. He also apologized for callingKent a jerk and Atari a whore.

 

Kent was still a bit hot under the collar.  And if he had not been with such an angel, he probably would have decked Ron just for pure enjoyment.

 

Atari could sense his muscles tense and she started to massage his back.  She then whispered “It will be okay.  It will be forgotten on Monday, Right?”  He turned toward her and pulled her next to him.  He kissed her on the forehead, holding her ever so closely in his arms.

 

“Ron, I expect that you will be sober when you return to work on Monday, right? Kent asked. After Ron nodded, he then said “We will forget this evening’s displeasure. I will place it behind me and we will never discuss it again. By the way you are fortunate you have a guardian angel in Atari because I cannot believe that I have not already decked you or considered firing you at the slightest opportunity at work.  Yes, I have been known to be a jerk, but it is not my intent to hurt Atari.  Have good evening gentlemen!”

 

Atari then placed her arms around Kent and her lips searched for his but not for long.  He gave her one of the most passionate kisses she had ever experienced in the middle of the casino floor with many of its patrons clapping.  “Ah beautiful” will you walk out just a little ahead of me until I can get little Kent under control.  You can’t keep doing this to me in public.”  They both then laughed hysterically as they made their way out of the casino doors toward the parking lot.

 

Once they were seated in his Porsche, he told Atari that he needed to talk to her.  He said that Ron was correct and that he had always treated women poorly.  He explained that he was extremely selective and became bored with the relationships within a very short period of time.

 

Atari explained that she had commitment issues, possibility associated with the manner in which her parents lived.  She explained how important education was to her and how she had hoped to be a fashion designer and that was her primary focus.  Since she had only been out of high school for a little over eleven months, she felt it was ridiculous to not take advantage of what the world had to offer.  She was not ready to settle.

 

Kent then said “I love the fact that you have a vision unlike so many of the females in this town who do not have a plan. If I would not have seen one of them for two weeks, after initially asking them out, they would have been hanging on my office door.  Yet, I could see, it did not affect you.  You were not playing games or acting hard-to-get to get some man, especially the owner’s son to take care of their needs. You just are. Many of the women I met in college went there, only to find a man for most part.  That is why I find you refreshing.  I find you to be honest, intelligent and interesting without some unbelievable agenda.”

 

“I appreciate that, Kent, because, as you know, I am naturally attracted to you, but I have commitment issues.  I know that I am very cautious about getting fully involved with anyone…and unfortunately, that also means you Kent, because I am uncertain if I am good partner material.  Especially since I have not yet achieve those things which I wish in the world” she said.

 

“We can take our relationship slowly, Atari and at whatever speed you wish.  Yet, if I may inquire, why is it that you have difficulty in committing?” he asked.

 

“My parents don’t even have a thing to say to each other.  My friends only have other people to talk about or what happens at work.  Outside of work there does not appear to be anything to talk about.  I find that happens when I go out with my friends. There has to be more in life and I will not commit to someone I feel is boring and who I could never love.”

 

“I sensed that in you Atari and surprisingly, I get bored easily with women and obviously have a commitment issue myself.  That is why I wish to take our relationship slowly.  I could easily get wrapped up in you but I want you for more than just a beautiful play thing. I want to explore your mind, your heart and your soul as you should explore everything about me.”

 

“But Kent, this sounds as if we are going a bit fast” Atari mentioned.

 

“Mind you, I do not wish to frighten you because it is sounding like I am making a commitment; but I feel that if we both decide that we are meant for each other, we can pass the test of time while still enjoying each other’s company.   That is why, as difficult as it is to keep my hands off of you after kissing you, I feel that is as far as we should go for a while” he said.  “I wish to know you better and as friends. I know it will not be long before we will be able to support each other’s dreams.”

 

“Thank you Kent for addressing this.  You cannot imagine how relieved I am.  I honestly can admit that I feel something for you that I have not felt with anyone else.  But I am young and I have time.  But, really, we have to stop kissing like that!” she said. “Or perhaps we should not be so agreeable with each other”.

 

“You have that right.  Sometimes I feel this way only hearing your voice, so I guess I have to work on the issue of little Kent. And I apologize if I am so bold but unfortunately I am embarrassed to say my animal instincts are noticeable when I am with you. I can honestly tell you this first date has been the most important one in my life.  I have been known to show animalistic instincts on a first date, but it is usually with someone who provoked the issue and threw themselves at me.  Yet, here I am acting in this manner when there has been no real provocation on your part” he said.

 

I have been more than willing to give myself to you and that even concerns me.  Tonight, I am pleased we were able to discuss these issues and perhaps we can stop each other from going further until we are both ready” she said.

 

“I love you Atari and I have a feeling it will not be long and I will be in-love with you” he said with a look of passion in his eyes..

 

Ooohh, please do not look at me in that way.  You need to take me home before we do something which is not meant to be.  I love you too and we will see where this goes” she said.

 

***

 

 

 

Atari knew that Ron or some of the men he was with had mentioned seeing her and Kent at the Casino. She could tell by the manner in which they looked at her, laughing as though there was some major secret they knew.

 

Although her mother had not inquired as to who she had been dating, her father mentioned how pleased he was that a Stevens had his eye on her. “It would serve the Stevens right for their son to end up marrying my daughter” he said.

 

Apparently the story was all over the Rusty Pail.  But what was more interesting today was that her aunt who she had never met had written a letter to her parents.  She mentioned she would be in town in the following week.  She told them to not be concerned about providing hospitality because she would be staying at the Holiday Inn.  She likewise would be leasing a vehicle for her travel in the area.

 

Her mother had never spoken about her sister except that her sister lived in San Francisco and they were estranged.  Atari wondered if that was why her mother was concerned when she wished to go to school inSan Francisco. Yet she did not even know her aunt’s name and the information had only been relayed to her after the letter was received. She only knew that her aunt’s name was “Madeline from the signature”.

 

Susan arrived at work crying.  Apparently her dinner with Brad on Friday had not gone so well.  The reason he invited her was to tell her that his current girlfriend no longer wished for him to see her.  He had said “I explained to her that we were just friends and had been friends since high school.  Being with you was like being with one of the guys.”

 

Susan said that she then became quite upset because their friendship had always been with benefits.  To tell her this over dinner made her feel as though she had just been used and that was more than she could handle. She told Atari that she had to hold back tears while he just ranted about how sexy his new girlfriend was.  “In fact, his girlfriend came by an hour later to introduce herself” Susan said “and then she decided to join us at the restaurant.  I didn’t know what to do so I made an excuse that I had a text from you and I really had to go.” Susan then started to weep.

 

“Susan, it will not be easy but please pull your self together!  You are very pretty and are young enough to have some fun before settling down. You do not need to be treated like that and obviously he has no respect for you.  If he wished friendship, it should not have been with benefits or he should have told you sooner that he did not feel that way about you” she said.  “And, to say you were like one of the guys, perhaps he is bi-sexual.  I always wondered.”  As Susan then showed a bit of a smile, Atari cautioned her that she really needed to pretend she was happy before the entire plant got wind of the situation.

 

“Anyway, you should be happy.  You found out what type of person he was before your relationship became serious.  At least you are not going through a divorce” Atari stated to which Susan gave her a slight nod in agreement.  Then Atari gave her a hug and held her for a few moments while Susan reached some form of composure.

 

Ron then approached the girls to tell Atari that she needed to go up to the HR office.  He didn’t seem to question why the two women were in each other’s arms hugging each other.  When she asked him why she had to go to the office, he shrugged his shoulders.  From his reaction, he obviously had no idea.  He stated he was just relaying what he was told.

 

When she arrived at the HR office she noticed Carlisle Stevens was standing at the door, speaking to a very well dressed woman.  It appeared they were friends because the conversation was one of enjoyment and laughter.

 

When Carlisle noticed she was approaching, Atari was asked to be seated while he excused himself and escorted the HR person outside of the door so Atari and this female could have a moment alone together.

 

“I know this may seem confusing to you Atari.  First let me introduce myself, I am Madeline Dupree.  I was not expected until next week but I decided to arrive earlier because I did not desire publicity.”

 

“Madeline Dupree?  You design haute couture and own the Dupree House of Fashion in San Francisco? Atari inquired.

 

“Yes that is who I am known professionally as, but I am actually your mother’s sister” she said. “I am here to meet you and to address a further issue with your father and my sister” Madeline stated.

 

“I am curious why you did not refer to yourself as my aunt.  But more importantly, I am curious as to why my mother has never mentioned you by name.  In fact I did not even know my aunt was the famous Madeline Dupree. And may I inquire what issue you have with my father?” she asked.

 

“I can see where this would be extremely perplexing to you.  I am your natural mother, Atari.  Your father who was an upper classman of mine impregnated me.  In fact he and Carlisle Stevens were in the same grade in high school and good friends.  I realized my sister loved your father and I did not.  Our family did not believe in abortions nor did I”, Madeline explained.

 

“Well, why did you not marry my father?” Atari asked.

 

“I desired a career so I did not accept your father’s proposal of marriage.  So my sister and I moved to San Francisco until you were delivered.  Shortly thereafter she married your father and moved back toMinnesota where they introduced you as their child.  I remained in San Francisco where I became a freelance designer and later upon many runway successes, a good friend of mine assisted me in opening my haute couture Dupree House of Fashion.” Madeline stated.

 

“Why are you now telling me this?” asked Atari.  No one would have been the wiser, nor would I have.”

 

“My sister, Adelaide, recently wrote me about your desire to become a fashion designer.  And although I was told never to show up here, by your father, you are now 18 years of age and should know that I am your mother. I allowed full custody of you to your father but in investigating further, I have found how difficult your life has been.  I had not realized that I also had hurt your father and I fear he has not treated Adelaide right.”

 

“But how would you know how mother felt.  You were not here” Atari commented.

 

“I have always been in communication with Adelaide throughout the years.  I thought your father loved her and they both wished to raise you as their own.  I realize I was insensitive but obviously since your father was sleeping with my sister, I assumed he loved Adelaide more.  Now I find that he has become an alcoholic and your mother is not happy either but still loves him.  When I found that you were working in Carlisle’s factory I had to put an end to this.  Do you wish to go to school to become a fashion designer?  I am wondering whether you would you consider moving to San Francisco now?” she inquired.

 

“Yes, I do wish to be a designer.  I have been saving money from my job and I have looked into taking online courses with the Academy of Arts until I can afford to move.  But how can I leave my parent’s house under these circumstances and move with you?  All these years they have raised me and have provided for me and they now need my help” Atari asked.

 

“Provided for you?  Hell, is that what they called it?  My understanding is that you have been providing for your self and are even paying rent since you now are working here.  I have been sending them checks for your support and they have not even provided you with enough money for clothing and personals.  When I found out that your father has pissed away all that money on his drinking problem, I decided that was enough” Madeline stated. “That is why I called Carlisle Stevens.  He filled me in on everything which was happening and if you desire, I wish for you to leave with me in a week for San Francisco.  My attorney is negotiating the terms of your so called release with your father, who really cannot keep you in this town anyway now that you are 18.”

 

Atari sat in the chair appearing to ponder the information she had just been provided.  She then answered, “I definitely wish to go with you but mainly because it is the opportunity I seek.  I have wanted to be a designer since I was a child. Yet this is a bit of a shock for me.  I guess I will thank you Madeline for this opportunity of a lifetime!”

 

“It is for the better, Atari, that you leave with me at once.  Carlisle is the only one who knows, besides your father and Adelaide that I am actually your natural mother. Neither Carlisle’s family nor the others in town know you are my daughter and it has been suggested that we keep it that way” Madeline stated.

 

As Madeline and Atari walked into the lobby, Carlisle approached them.  Ladies, I would like to invite you to our home for dinner.  Madeline, even Sandra has not seen you since you designed that special dress for her in Frisco.  Let’s say, about 7:00 pm…would that be okay?”

 

“Yes Carlisle, I look forward to again seeing Sandra and your son, who I understand has recently moved here” she responded.

 

“Yes, and since you are one of the famous women of the area, I have invited the St. Claire family who are friends of ours also to dine with us. I know you will all get along famously.  By the way, Atari, will you be moving to San Francisco with Madeline?”

 

“Yes Mr. Stevens.  I look forward to the opportunity”.

 

“Well that is excellent news. I have taken the liberty of asking Ms. Wright to complete your exit papers.  I would imagine that you would like to say your goodbyes to your fellow workers in the factory, while I speak with Madeline for a few more minutes.  Your exit papers will then be ready to be signed by the time you return” Carlisle stated. “Let me have Kent first take you the welding office where you can give a formal notice to the manager.”

 

“Ms. Wright, page Kent and fill him in that Atari will need his assistance in her exit. I want him to escort her so that no one questions why she is talking to the other employees while they are working.”

 

“Thank you Mr. Stevens for being so gracious about my apparent lack of notice” Atari said as she awaitedKent’s arrival before exiting the office area toward the factory.”

 

Carlisle told her it was his pleasure as he led Madeline to his office.

 

It was only a few minutes before Kent was seen barreling toward the door where Atari was standing.  “What’s this I hear?   You are leaving us so soon?  We haven’t even had a chance to spend any time together” he exclaimed.

 

“Opportunity has knocked, Kent.  I will be leaving with my aunt Madeline to San Francisco where I will attend school as well as working for her at the Dupree House of Fashion” she responded.

 

“I know how much you have awaited an opportunity such as this and I am happy for you. How wonderful that you have such a successful relative in your life. Now you will not have to work in a factory, which is far too dangerous for someone like you to begin with. Yet, it appears, I will have to make trips now to San Franciscoto check on you so that you do not forget me” he said. “This is the part of fate I am not happy with at this moment.”

 

“Kent, it is probably for the better.  And, I understand Gigi St. Claire is very interested in you and that the two of you have been dating.  Most likely she will be at your house with her parents this evening and I do not wish to spoil anything the two of you have.  Oh, you probably do not know, but Madeline Dupree and I have been invited to your home for dinner this evening” she explained.

 

“Great to know; at least I will accept my parents invitation if I know you will be there.  I know the St. Claire family has always hoped Gigi and I would get together, but frankly, she is not exactly my cup of tea.  She’s a bit spoiled and other than our families carrying a friendship over the years, I do not have the types of feelings for her that would cause me to enter into a permanent relationship. Things would have to change greatly and I do not believe in changing someone to suit me. I just have not addressed the issue with either of my parents or Gigi” he said. “I had not expected to find someone like you and it appears now it has become more urgent that I express my feelings”.

 

“Kent tonight is Madeline’s night and it would probably be best to not discuss anything of this nature with those invited to your home.  In fact, you could change your mind about Gigi, right?”

 

“I rather doubt that beautiful.  I will honor your request but if Gigi hangs all over me again tonight, I want you to understand my feelings for you are real” he said.

 

By this time they were at the welding office where he advised the welding manager that Atari would be leaving. He stated it was his father’s decision that she has an opportunity to say goodbye to her friends.  He further advised him that he would accompany her through the factory so no one would question why she would be stopping production to speak to her co-workers.

 

Their first stop was at Ron’s Jenkins’ station.  After she shocked Ron with the news, Atari walked through the welding department briefly telling everyone that she had given her notice because she would be moving toSan Francisco to pursue her dream as a designer.

 

She also stopped by the assembly area to say goodbye to her friend Susan who began to weep.  Atari told her that she had just paid off her car and she wanted Susan to have it. “Susan, you have depended on everyone else and this would give you a chance to occasionally get out of town” Atari stated.   Susan just held her tight and thanked her after inquiring what she would do for transportation in San Francisco.

 

By this time, the entire factory was spreading the news relating to Atari. Many were wondering what the real reason for her exit was but they all wished her well.  The wishes given were kind and warm felt, especially because Kent had joined her and stood directly beside her at every station.

 

When they came past the forklift area, he asked her to take a walk outside with him.  She obliged and they walked hand and hand to the area where he initially had asked her to dine with him.  It was there that he held her tight and kissed her forehead.  “I personally do not want you to go.  I know this is an opportunity for you but for me it will be hell.  I have nothing to look forward to in this damned town and you know dad wants me to run the factory at some point.  In fact, I will be flying to Japan in a couple of weeks to determine why we cannot resolve some of our problems with the engines the factory there is supplying us.  I really do not know how long that will take”.

 

“It will be fine, Kent. We both have opportunities and I believe in fate.  If we are meant to be together, it will happen.  For now, I am elated that I can make something of myself and have the opportunity for the education I require” she said “I trust there is a reason that we have met and I am certain we will meet again. And when we do I know that I will have more experience in the world to match yours.”

 

“I understand, but I must ask, are those tears in your eyes, beautiful?” he asked.

 

“Yes. I am happy but I am also sad about leaving you before I had the time to really know you.  I do not understand why after all this time, I would have to fall for a man who I cannot be with” she said.

 

As he wiped her tears, he told her that his feelings were mutual but that he would make certain that he would see her as frequently as he could. They held each other closely until it was obvious that they had to make their way back to the office.  Ron had apparently noticed the two in an embrace and Kent knew there wasn’t a thing he could do about it.  Technically Atari no longer was an employee of the factory nor did either one have to answer to a manager.  They walked back through the factory doors, holding hands as they made their way toward the office.

 

Kent left Atari in Ms. Wright’s office while he made his way toward his father’s office. The door was open as he noticed Madeline and Carlisle were having a toast to their renewed friendship.  Kent then closed the door to his father’s office and told them he had something to tell them.

 

“What is it son, did you have a problem with Atari’s exit?” he said.

 

”Yes as a matter of fact I did, but not for the reasons you may think.  Just recently I had met Atari on a personal basis.  We dined with Bill, Todd and their wives at the casino last Saturday and I fear that I am in love with her and I barely have had a chance to know her” he said.

 

Madeline’s eyes became wider as Carlisle stated “I have heard about this through the grapevine and I was wondering when you would mention it.  I wasn’t certain what your actual feelings were until now; but I suspected if Atari was anything like her mother, you were probably enamored with her at first sight” Carlislestated as Madeline started to blush.

 

“Carlisle, please do not say any more” stated Madeline.

 

“Kent then looked at the two of them and said “I assume you are speaking of Ms. Dupree, father and because of the way you are looking at her; let me guess, you have always loved her from the time you met.  Is that correct?” Kent inquired.

 

“Yes, and you need not question me like an attorney son.  Only her father, Adelaide and I knew that Atari was Madeline’s daughter. And since my feelings for Madeline are not something I would wish for you to discuss with your mother, I hope that you will retain this information privately” Carlisle asked.

 

“What’s this?  Atari is your daughter!” he said as he looked at Madeline. Then turning to his father he said “I knew it father! The way in which you are looking at Ms. Dupree, says it all.  I am just thankful that Atari is not my sister, but obviously the two of you have never acted on your feelings.  I have no problem retaining the family secrets and I will do as you ask, father, but understand, I will wish to see Atari occasionally…That is if it is okay with you Ms. Dupree?”

 

“I will welcome you to my home, Kent, if Atari so desires.  Yet, I ask that you honor her desire for a career as a designer.  Will you do that, Kent?”

 

“Yes, Ms. Dupree.  Her desire to be a designer is the reason we have discussed taking our relationship very slowly” Kent explained.

 

“Well this must be serious indeed.  Not to pick on my son but this is the first time I believe I have ever heard him consider a female’s desires before his own” Carlisle stated.

 

“Thanks father for giving me such frank acknowledgment.  Yet you are correct and I do not know why, but Atari has been forever on my mind since the day I met her” Kent stated.

 

“I know why, but I can tell you with the St. Claire’s coming for dinner this evening, you had better keep this between those present here.  You know how your mother keeps forcing you on Gigi and frankly Gigi is not the type of girl I hoped you would end up with.  But I have to keep your mother happy” Carlisle stated.

 

“Not a problem father.  If you have hidden your feelings about Ms. Dupree for all these years, then I can hide my feelings for a night or two about Atari” Kent stated, at which point his father appeared to blush.

 

Madeline then thanked the Stevens men for their assistance and bid them ado until the evening dinner.  She told Kent that he could secure her Nob Hill address and phone information from Carlisle.  Then she went directly to Ms. Wright’s office where she apprised Atari that as soon as the paperwork was completed they would be going directly to see her father and Adelaide.  Her attorney had texted her that the additional paperwork had been signed.

 

Atari’s home was only a few minutes away from the factory parking lot.  As she and Madeline made their way toward the entrance, her father stopped them at the door.  He told Madeline that she was not welcome and that she had ruined his and Adelaide’s life.

 

Madeline became unhinged and told Ken in no uncertain terms that she was accompanying their daughter to secure her belongings. She further asked where all the money she had sent for Atari’s support had gone because it obviously had not been spent on her.  Adelaide began to cry and Atari went toward her to comfort her.  Atari explained that Adelaide was the only mother she had known and she loved her very much.

 

 

Ken became angered and stormed out of the house toward his pickup truck.  He told Adelaide that he was going to the Rusty Pail and wasn’t certain if he would be coming home.

 

As Adelaide continued to cry, Madeline told her that she should leave him and come to San Francisco with Atari. Then Adelaide continued to cry even harder.  “I love him.  I know he always wanted you more.  I was his excuse for getting to you…but I love him and I hoped that someday he would love me.”

 

“Adelaide, you do not have to hope for love after all of these years.  There are others who would love you for who you are, instead of treating you poorly.  I never loved Ken nor did I ever give him such indication.  I am going to set up a fund for you so that when you are tired of this treatment, you will have the money with which to escape.  I am serious my dear sister.  This is not the right way to live and I love you too much to see you in this situation” Madeline stated as she hugged her sister.

 

The females then segregated the items Atari wished to take with her in a separate part of her room.  Madeline made the arrangements for the local moving company to pack the items the following day and have them shipped to her California home by UPS.

 

In the meantime, Atari packed her personal items and clothing in luggage Madeline had purchased. They had approximately two hours before they would be expected to arrive at the Stevens’ home. She advised Atari that she had rented adjoining rooms, so that each could have their private space.  Soon they huggedAdelaide and told her they would see her sometime in the following day prior to noon.  By doing so they could be at the house before the packers and truck arrived to pick up Atari’s belongings the following afternoon.

 

Once at the hotel, Atari quickly showered and found a royal blue suit she had designed with ruffles adorning the entire jacket.  The skirt was narrow with small slits on each side.  She chose a white silk blouse she had sewn which had a high beaded neckline.  By the time she knocked on Madeline’s door, Madeline was already dressed and waiting for her.

 

“Atari, I love the design of your suit which I assume you have not only designed but have sewn as well”.  As Atari stated she had, Madeline continued “I have the perfect jewelry to go with your attire” as she handed Atari jewelry box which contained a necklace with hanging blue sapphires.

 

“Oh, Aunt Madeline, I couldn’t possibly wear something so expensive.”

 

“I want you to have it, sweetheart.  It will look better on you than it will on me”, she said as she hooked in place on Atari’s neck.

 

At that time there was a knock on the door, and the Carlisle’s chauffeur explained that the car would be waiting in front of the hotel whenever they were ready.  Madeline and Atari stated they were ready currently and they followed him out toward the vehicle.

 

As the car left the hotel area, it traveled through the hilly area of which there were few hills in the valley.  The driver suddenly slowed the vehicle at a large gated area.  As the gate opened, one could see the large white pillared home which lay ahead.  Atari had never seen such a lovely home in the area and it was similar to many homes she saw in magazines pertaining to the south..

 

There was one additional home in this area, which was separated from the Stevens’ home only by bushes. Atari felt that home was especially beautiful but haunting with its gothic brick design. She could see where Madeline could not take her eyes off of that home and suddenly she could sear tears in her eyes.

 

“Aunt Madeline, is there a problem?  Do you know the people who live there?”

 

“Atari, it is the house in which Adelaide and I was raised.  I have not been back to this area since my parents’ funeral” she explained getting back her composure.

 

Atari then placed her arm around Madeline as the vehicle made it down the winding road to the Stevens’ house.

 

 

***

 

Sandra Stevens greeted Madeline and Atari into her home.  She told Madeline how pleased she was to give her a tour.  As if she was embarrassed about her living conditions, it was explained that homes in this area are not quite the same as the homes on Nob Hill but yet their house was one the best of this area.  The St. Claire family was seated in the living room, enjoying cocktails and hors d’ oeuvres, while conversing with Kent and Carlisle when they were introduced to Madeline.

 

When Gigi noticed Atari, she moved closer toward Kent who she was sitting by on the couch.  It was then thatKent excused himself and asked his mother whether he could assist her by showing Ms. Dupree and her niece the garden and grounds while she made the final preparations for dinner.   He said that he required a walk.  Gigi offered to join them and he firmly stated that he could handle it on his own. Knowing his stern look she was reluctant to join them and decided to inquire whether Sandra required help in the kitchen.

 

After a short tour, they returned to find that dinner had been announced.  Soon everyone was seated at the table.  Mrs. St. Claire was enamored with Madeline’s stories about the fashion industry and Sandra couldn’t say enough about her tour of Madeline’s home at Nob Hill.

 

Gigi then addressed Atari.  “Well you certainly will have an interesting life, Atari.  It appears you will be going from rags to riches when living with your famous aunt.  Are you certain you can handle it?”

 

“I believe I will be able to handle it perfectly fine, Gigi.  After all, I had already decided to move to San Francisco to pursue a fashion designing career, prior to my knowledge that my Aunt was in the industry” she answered.

 

“Well, I wish you luck.  Living with a drunken father must have not been easy for you.  After all, you are kind of a country bumpkin.  I bet you have not even travelled out of this town much less to another state” Gigi exclaimed.

 

“Gigi, I do not know why you are being so unkind” Mrs. St. Claire commented.

 

“I’m not being unkind, mother.  I am just stating facts” replied Gigi.

 

Madeline then said “Gigi, it is so nice of you to be concerned about Atari.  But I can assure you that Atari has great breeding and genetics.  She is probably one of the most intellectual and creative young women I have ever known. I am so proud that she is my niece. She will adapt easily to her new surroundings. You cannot imagine what a beautiful collection she has already designed.  It will not be long before her collections hit the runways in San Francisco, if not in New York and Paris.”

 

“Well doesn’t it take time?” Gigi asked.

 

“Of course, dear, but if she is as talented as I was at her age, I cannot imagine it will take but a year or two. Plus she can still continue her education while designing.  The difficulty is that I know when my people view her, they will probably wish for her to model rather than design because of her exceptional photogenic features” Madeline explained.

 

“But she is not you and she is not your daughter” said Gigi to everyone’s dismay.

 

“You have been showing in Paris yearly as well.  Am I correct” Carlisle asked, changing the subject.

 

“Yes, my collection is seen in Fashion Week, bi-yearly for the spring and fall collections.  It is a very romantic city and I know Atari will love it as I do” Madeline stated. “When my parents were both younger, we travelled to Paris once every five years.  One of my father’s business clients had a château in the countryside” Madeline stated. “We would trade homes and they would either come to the country house or the house inSan Francisco.  You will recall that Carlisle, because your parents also knew them.”

 

“Yes, Madeline, but it has been ages ago and I believe I only was in Paris once” he said.

 

“Well”, said Mrs. St. Claire.  “That must have been wonderful for you.  Since your family obviously had some money, why is it that your sister lives in such squalor?”

 

“My sister is a wonderful woman.  Even though our parents at one time had money, it was not her or my primary focus. My parents did not leave their estate to their children, but rather left it to business associates and charities.  Instead my father provided us with life’s tools and what we made of those tools was to be our successful legacy. My sister has great wealth in her love and consideration for others.  That is something which is rare.  As for me, I am designing as I always wished to do and I am thankful for my sister in supporting me and caring for my daughter.”

 

“Daughter?; But you were never married to my understanding” stated Sandra. “Does that mean you had a child out of wedlock? Since you were such close friends of Carlisle, it wasn’t his child was it?” at which point Kent almost choked on his wine and had to get his composure.

 

“You are correct, I did have a child out of wedlock, but not with Carlisle who was a neighbor and always a close friend..  It is not a known fact except to those of whom I consider close friends. Atari is actually my daughter and my dear sister Adelaide cared for her throughout the years.  Yes, Gigi, now you know why I am so assured Atari has my attributes and talents.”

 

“But, no one seems to have known this throughout the years.  You have certainly kept this secret hidden” said Sandra.

 

Years ago, it was very difficult for someone to care for a child and carry out a career.  It ruined one’s reputation, especially if one did not have a husband. Today, things have changed and it would not have mattered.  Yet I am forever grateful for my sister’s help but I have always provided support for my daughter, if that is what you may be questioning Mrs. St. Claire” as she looked at Madeline as if she was a lesser person.

“I didn’t ask.  I was just curious and I guess you read my mind” Mrs. St. Claire stated.

 

“My God, Atari.  You are a bastard child” exclaimed Gigi. “I can’t wait to tell the old gang from school”.

 

“Enough” said Kent looking directly at Gigi.  “You are not only unkind but ridiculous.  Atari had a family and whether you approved of her family or not is irrelevant.  It shows me how narrow minded you really are, Gigi. That is one of the reasons I would never consider sharing my life with you.”

 

As he turned his attentions from Gigi, he stated “Mrs. Dupree, I so apologize for our guests’ discriminatory remarks. They obviously do not have the breeding your family has”.  Kent then placed his napkin on the table and started walking out of the room.

 

Gigi then went running out after him and he commanded her to be seated at the table with her parents. “I do not wish to see you.  I have had about enough of your attacks on our guests.” He then told Mrs. Dupree that when she was ready to leave, he would be happy to drive her and her daughter to the hotel since the driver would not be available.. He stated he would be in the drawing room.

 

Madeline stated she was ready now.  She then thanked Mr. and Mrs. Stevens for their wonderful hospitality and advised them that whenever they came to San Francisco, they were welcome to stay at her home.

 

“Mr. and Mrs. St. Claire, I apologize if I have shocked you.  I am a top designer who now owns my own company mainly because I had a wonderful sister who cared for Atari” Madeline stated.  “And, if your family travels to San Francisco, I hope that you also will look me up.” She, however, noticed the look of distain Mrs. St. Clair seemed to have for her from her body language but it did not matter.

 

A small town girl finds success – Dedicated to the Dragon Ladies of Welding
Carlisle then excused himself and brought Atari and Madeline to the drawing room where Kent awaited their arrival.  He said “Madeline my dear that was a very brave thing to admit in this small town. You know what happened to you was not your fault, I feel you still have blamed yourself and you should not.”

 

“No Carlisle.  I should have admitted it long ago. I really don’t care what anyone thinks about me.  I was wrong to not have told Atari long ago.  I really did not know her conditions were so impoverished; especially when I paid for her support monthly.  Please keep me apprised of my sister’s disposition.  I told her that if things are not better between her and Ken, that she should join us in San Francisco”, Madeline stated.

 

Realizing the Porsche would not be comfortable enough to drive Madeline and Atari to their hotel, Carlisle gave Kent the keys to the Mercedes, since his driver would not be available for the balance of the evening.

 

When arriving at the vehicle, Atari was told by Madeline that she should sit up front with Kent.  She mentioned that she preferred the backseat because she was always a backseat driver, including the limos.  At least she made them laugh for a moment.  As they drove toward the city she kept the conversation going about the changes she had seen since she had left.   Atari remained silent for the trip. She was still feeling badly over the evening’s events especially to the comments made by Gigi.

 

Once they arrived, Kent asked Atari if she needed a shoulder to lean on.  When she refused, Madeline toldKent that it probably would be an excellent idea if he spent some time with her since she probably needed a friend. Atari tried explaining that it was not necessary, to which Kent gave her a look of compassion as he grabbed her hand.  Madeline smiled, thanked Kent and then let herself out of the vehicle, heading toward the main door to the hotel.

 

“Sweetheart, this has been a very life changing day for you” Kent said. “Is there anything I can do for you?”

 

For some reason, Atari was unable to stop the tears which welled in her eye.  Kent told her that he definitely did not wish to leave her in this condition. “I am not good with seeing you cry Atari. The attacks made by the St. Claire family were abominable. Let me park this vehicle so we can go up to your room”. He then proceeded to park his vehicle.  As he opened the door to the passenger side, he told Atari that she could decide as to the length of time he would stay but he definitely felt he should walk her to her room.  “Beautiful,if you would like to tell me about what is really bothering you, I am here to listen and my shoulders are available. I want to know everything about you and we do not have a lot of time.”

 

“I don’t know why I am crying Kent.  I should be happy because I have such a great opportunity.  But my family life has been turned upside down. I wasn’t ready for what happened at your parents’ home.  I really do not wish to burden you and I feel I am being ridiculous. I do know that I don’t want to be alone, Kent.  Would you please stay with me tonight?” Atari asked. “I just need you to hold me.”

 

“I would be happy to stay with you Atari if that is what you wish. But please do not be concerned, even if I do, I will not take advantage of you in any way. If I am distant it is not because I do not want you but rather to abide by your wishes.   When we finally become one, I do not wish it to be for any reason other than that we love each other.  I really hate to see you cry. You must know I love you.” he said.

 

“Thank you Kent. I love you too.  I need a friend to talk to and to hold me. Right now you are my best friend and I do not know what I would have done without you.  Are you certain you do not mind?”

 

“Are you kidding, Atari.  I am your friend first and I will be there for you whenever I can.  Please understand that” he answered. “Yet I do not wish to be your friend for the now but rather forever”.

 

When they entered the room, Atari attempted composure. The comments Gigi had made had certainly affected her.  Although she had not intended, she relayed various incidents in high school where she was harassed and ridiculed by Gigi and her friends.   She was happy to know that she would have an opportunity to begin her designing career, and she loved Madeline from the moment she met her.  Yet, she was concerned for her mother who raised her and for all the gossip which surely would begin over her illegitimacy.

 

Kent held her in his arms comforting her and expressed that she not only had a family who loved her but a multitude of friends and factory workers who loved her as well.  That was all that was important.  He told her that he would contact her by phone at least weekly if not daily, dependent upon their respective schedules. They would also be able to contact each other by computer web-cam once she was set up in San Francisco.

 

Wrapped in his arms as she sat on his lap in the arm chair, she fell asleep.  He picked her up and laid her on the bed.  He then laid beside her, holding her as if he was fearful of losing the most precious gem in his life.

 

As they slept, there was a knock on Madeline’s door. “Mrs. Dupree, I am Officer Smith. Your sister said I could find you here.”

 

“What’s wrong?  Is my sister okay?”

 

“M’am, unfortunately she is not.  Ken came home in a drunken rage and beat her up. We put him in jail.  Your sister is in the hospital with broken bones and lacerations on her face. She has difficulty speaking but was able to ask for you and tell us where to find you.  Thank God one of the neighbors called us.  Would you like for me to take you to see her?”

 

“No, I will dress and go there with Atari but thank you.  Please tell me what room she is in.”  The officer gave her the information and left.

 

Madeline quickly dressed and knocked on the door to the adjoining room where Atari and Kent were fast asleep.

 

Kent opened the door half dazed and it was obvious to Madeline that they were both dressed.  She told Kentwhat had happened as Atari listened while sitting on the bed.  He gave Madeline a comforting hug and said that he would need just a few moments to splash some water on his face to awaken.  He motioned for her to come into the room and be seated while he and Atari individually headed toward the restroom.   “Madeline, I can see you are in no condition to drive at this hour nor do I wish for Atari to drive.  I will be more than happy to take you and Atari to the hospital.

 

Once she washed her face, Atari frantically changed into a pair of jeans and a top, not caring whether or not Kent or Madeline was in the room. But neither noticed her because Kent was holding Madeline in his arms as she was sobbing out loud.  Soon they left for the hospital.

 

 

***

 

 

Kent stayed in the waiting room of the hospital as the women ran toward Adelaide’s room.

 

“Adelaide, darling, I am so sorry this happened to you” Madeline stated.  “It is my fault”.

 

“No, Madeline” she stated in deliberate tones, “it would have happened sooner or later because Ken was only concerned about the money.  He never cared about me”. She then dozed off as the pain medication set in. The nurse advised Madeline and Atari that she had broken ribs, a broken arm as well as facial bruising and cuts.

 

Atari started to cry “Mother, I never wished for this to happen to you. It is my fault” as she placed her arms around Adelaide.

 

Madeline then gently pulled Atari away from the bed. “Atari, I will stay with Adelaide and when she awakens, I will get you.  This was not your fault.  As soon as you would have left home and the checks would have stopped, this would have happened anyway.  I am sorry but I tried telling Adelaide to leave him.  Try to get some sleep in the waiting room. Kent indicated he would wait for you.

 

“Aunt Madeline, it is not your fault either.  My father has never been good to mother and I feared this would happen one day due to his temper.  It is his fault and I love you” Atari said.

 

As she made her way to the waiting room, Kent stood up and grabbed her hand asking whether she was okay.  She stated that he must think poorly of her family under the circumstances.  “I really appreciate that you stayed with me tonight and for bringing us to the hospital.  I am so embarrassed about this entire situation and I am surprised that you just didn’t leave us.  This certainly has not been a good evening for you.”

 

“Sweetheart, I would rather be with you than anywhere.  Please do not be concerned” he said.

 

“What a horrible second date this has been for you.  Seriously, you really do not have to stay. You look so tired.  We will be fine” she said as she caressed his cheeks and kissed his forehead.

 

He then grabbed her hands and placed them in his palms. “I hardly think poorly of your family Atari.  I learned a lot this evening. I learned that my father has retained confidences for years; that he has always loved Madeline but has never acted on it for the respect of my mother; I love that you are so sincere and loving and I could go on for hours about the things I love about you.  It was my pleasure to be with you my dear Atari.  I have called father and he will take my appointments today.  I will stay here for as long as you need me” he said.

 

Atari had tears of joy in her eyes.  No one had ever shown her this type of consideration.   As he extended his hand to her, she then sat next to Kent.  Soon she placed her head on his shoulder as he held her in his arm.  Now she would have to wait for further word that her mother had awakened.

 

It was about 7:00 am when the nurse called Atari to Adelaide’s room and Madeline took a needed break to the public restroom.  Adelaide had finally agreed to move to San Francisco with Atari as soon as she was well enough to travel. In the meantime, Madeline had decided to have Adelaide’s personal belongings packed so they likewise could be shipped.  Ken would not be released from jail yet, pending whether charges would be made against him by his wife.

 

Kent advised Madeline that he would get some coffee and rolls at a nearby convenience store and would be right back.  Madeline told him she would remain in the lobby because she had more than one phone call to make.

 

She was determined to move her sister away from here. If something had not been packed for her, it could be replaced.   Fortunately Atari still had a key to the house so she could allow the packers in.

 

She also contacted her attorney who was still asleep.  She asked whether he could commence divorce proceedings for her sister before he flew back. Since he could not represent her in Minnesota, he said that he could either refer a local attorney to assist her or that her sister could fly to Las Vegas to get a divorce.

 

Madeline apologized for awakening him and thanked him for flying out to handle her dilemma.  She said she probably should allow her sister to make the decision and he agreed.  He had always known Madeline to call at any hour if something was on her mind, so this was not a new event. He rolled over and went back to sleep for an extra hour because he would not be flying out until early afternoon.

 

By the time Kent returned to the hospital parking lot, he could see various media trucks in front of the hospital.  He immediately called the police department and advised that the family of Madeline Dupree would need some protection.  He knew that although Madeline Dupree was a celebrity designer, someone must have provided the media with dirt, and he felt he knew exactly who would have done so.  He dashed to the front door of the hospital as the camera men began to follow him in.

 

Madeline had just completed her calls when she noticed the crowd of reporters entering the hospital doors. Kent with coffee in one hand and his remaining arm wrapped around Madeline, he guided her down the hall as reporters were asking her about her illegitimate daughter. Another reporter asked what part Kent Stevens played in this situation and another asked about her sister’s condition.  Sirens could be heard as they finally made it to Adelaide’s room.

 

“What’s wrong?  Is there a problem?” Atari inquired.

 

“Someone contacted the media, Atari, and the entire lobby is filled with TV personnel.  No one really knew Madeline was in town because she came a week earlier so obviously someone at the Stevens’ house contacted them” Kent stated.

 

After he had passed everyone coffee and rolls he asked whether he may use Adelaide’s room phone.   “Good Morning Mother.  Do you know anything about the media following Madeline around?” he asked.

 

“Oh, did they find Madeline?” she said.

 

“Mother, that answer sounds like you actually contacted them” Kent stated

 

“Darling, don’t be upset.  Madeline is a celebrity and Gigi and her Mom thought it would be great to get some publicity for our town.  They were at our house early this morning and interviewed each of us. We contacted them after you had left.  Of course, I did not mention the illegitimate daughter portion exactly.  Gigi assisted with that.   We are all going to be in the celebrity rag as well as the newswire.  They took our photographs. Our town will be on the map” Sandra stated.

 

“What did father have to say about it?”

 

“Well dear for some reason he was upset.  Jon St. Claire and he left the house immediately and I do not know where they went.  Gigi and her mom are still here.  Do you wish to talk to Gigi?” Sandra stated.

 

“No, I do not.  I cannot believe you did this especially when Madeline told you she specifically had left a week earlier than planned because she did not wish the media chasing her.  No one knew about her family and she wished to keep it private”, Kent said.

 

“Well she seems so hoity-toity and someone should know. If she slept around she should pay the consequences. I heard after they arrived the police arrested Atari’s father for beating up Adelaide.  That is a family you need to stay away from dear” she said.

 

“I won’t even take that under advisement mother.  I am very disappointed in all of you” he said.

 

Soon thereafter Carlisle walked into the room.  “I am really sorry Madeline that the women in my home decided to contact the media.  I am stunned and I cannot even begin to tell you how disgusted I am”, he said.

 

“Carlisle, you have been a friend of mine for years.  I know this is not your fault and I should have owned up to it long ago.   I do not wish for you to be involved, but I believe I should answer to the media.   I will go out there and address their comments.   Atari, do you wish to stay with Adelaide?”

 

“No, mother, I will meet with the media also and stand by your side” she said.

 

“And I will go with the two of you for support, since they already have realized I am associated with Madeline” said Kent.  “Father, please stay here with Adelaide because you do not need any further publicity.  I assume you were not seen when you arrived?”

 

“No, I came through a back door when I saw the vehicles” Carlisle stated. He then grabbed Kent and whispered in his ear “Madeline was a virgin when she was raped.  This was not her fault.  Do what you can without indicating that if she is placed in a bad predicament” he stated.

 

It was then that Madeline, Atari and Kent went toward the lobby to meet with the reporters who the police were keeping at bay.

 

“Gentlemen and ladies; Good morning!   I am Madeline Dupree as you already know and now that I know my sister is safely recuperating, I am ready to speak with each of you.”

 

She continued, “I know you may have many questions so I will provide you the opportunity to make your inquiries only after I have given you a statement.   First I would like to introduce you to my daughter, Atari” she said.  All the cameras then were flashing.  “Although I have supported her throughout the years, she had no knowledge that I was her natural mother.”

“Years ago, I had elected not to marry her natural father who my sister loved.  It was then that we made a contractual arrangement whereby my daughter would be raised by my sister and her husband until she reached the age of eighteen. My sister was unable to conceive a child so it seemed like the best solution.  In the meantime, I would pursue my career as a fashion designer and provide a means of support for my daughter.”

 

“I arrived here a couple of days ago after my sister wrote a letter stating that my daughter Atari had a special interest in becoming a fashion designer.  Since I have the means with which to assist Atari so she is able to receive the education she requires as well as an opportunity to work under me in my fashion house, I felt it was best to take her back to San Francisco at this time” Madeline stated.

 

“Ms. Dupree, I understand her father is incarcerated for beating up your sister.  Is that correct? Was this a love triangle in the old days”

 

“Yes, it is unfortunately true that my sister Adelaide was brutalized by her husband.  It has been difficult for him to see me take his daughter away after she had lived with him all of these years.  And he apparently could not understand why my sister had contacted me relating to my assisting Atari in her career. As you are aware, gentlemen and ladies, alcoholism is a disease.  This is not the circumstances of a love triangle and I am sorry to disappoint you. It was a bad night of mistakes so long ago. I will see to it that he is helped if that is what my sister and he may desire.”

 

But do you condone that type of treatment?  I understand he has spent most of his life drinking at the local taverns and if you have provided support, it certainly has not been obvious in the manner in which they have lived. And no one has yet pressed charges.”

 

That is an unfortunate situation which may be rectified soon.  Whether charges are imposed is up to my sister and she has not yet made such a decision.  I had not realized the conditions by which my sister and Atari were subjected to and had I known, I would have been here sooner.  Understand I was bound by the contract I had made with her father and my sister.  And I have asked my sister to join me in San Francisco as well, but only if she wishes to do so.”

 

“Kent Stevens, this question is for you.  How are you involved in this situation?  You seem to know Madeline.”

 

Kent then placed his arm around Atari. “It may be obvious now gentlemen and ladies, but the reason I am involved is because of my love interest in Atari.  Although I realize it will be difficult to continue a long distance relationship, Madeline Dupree has assured me that I am welcome to court her daughter; that is if Atari will have me?”

 

As Atari smiled at him and grabbed his hand a reporter asked “How do you feel about this Atari?”  All the time, flashes from cameras continued.

 

“Although I have great concern for the mother who raised me and look for her ready recuperation, I am extremely happy to know that I have a successful natural mother whose interests I obviously have shadowed.  I never realized fashion designing was genetic but obviously it must be because I had no knowledge of Madeline Dupree except with respect to the multiple fashion magazines I have read.”  The reporters laughed. “And if you are inquiring as to my feelings about Kent Stevens, well I have to admit I will look forward to his every visit while I am residing in San Francisco.”

 

“But are you able to place your difficult life behind you?” one of the reporters stated

 

“Contrary to popular belief, I have not suffered by what many of you may consider my life to have been meager or impoverished. It made me stronger and allowed me an opportunity to do a lot with very little. That’s an opportunity in itself and it makes one use all of the mental faculties which may be inherent.  I have been given the appropriate tools in which to fashion my own life as a caring and dynamic individual who has never been happy to be second best.”

 

“As to my new relationship with Kent Stevens, I am fortunate that he has stood by me while I have been criticized for my lack of wealth and for the unfortunate parents who have raised me.  It shows his excellent character of seeing beyond that which the average individual perceives as certainly not posh.’

 

Atari then continued “I am elated that he wishes to continue our relationship even though we will be miles apart.  His place is here at his father’s side and that comes first.  We respect each other’s professional pursuits.   Yet you never know, maybe I may be able to start a new fashion house in this area after I complete my education.  Should you question why I would have chosen to work in a factory after high school, I enjoyed the time I spent at the Steven’s factory.  It not only gave me a means of support and money for school but it is where I had met Kent.  And obviously Kent has his father’s exceptional attributes.”

 

Atari continued “I hope this answers your questions Gentlemen because frankly, I did not know that it was a problem to be impoverished.  Had I been provided a lot of money and been raised by Madeline, I may not have had the values I have today.  After all, everything my mother, Madeline did was due to her own dynamics and not handed to her.  I believe God does things for us and not to us.  My destiny is of utmost perfection because she has extended her hand to me.  I look forward to being one of the best designers in the country with my natural mother’s help.  And hopefully her sister, the mother who raised me, may join us inSan Francisco.  Adelaide is talented as well and I only want the best for her.  Again, it’s obviously in the genes…not the jeans I am wearing” as Atari laughed and everyone joined her.

 

The reporters then asked Madeline about her fall Paris collection which will be shown in July and whether she could provide them with a sneak preview of what was new in the fashion world.  She smiled and said “You know that I cannot do that.  In fact when Atari returns, she may also be including some of her designs so until I have determined my entire collection, I would rather not discuss it at this time.”

 

“Ms. Dupree you realize Fashion week is just three weeks away” one of the reporters commented. By this time the media seemed to enjoy the conversations about the fashion world with Madeline and Atari who each discussed their various designs and how they each began designing.

 

Kent was extremely proud of Atari in the manner in which she spoke to the press.  Even though she was in a pair of jeans and a tee-shirt, with no sleep, she was beautiful and talented abound.  In fact, one of the reporters inquired whether Atari with her sculptured features may also be modeling some of Madeline’s clothing line.

 

It was then that one of the reporters noticed Carlisle Stevens standing near the lobby.  “Mr. Stevens, can you tell me why your spouse and her friends contacted the media?  Mind you, we are grateful for this story.”

 

“I hate to say it, but I believe it has to do with my son Kent.  You see, Atari went to school with his long time friend Gigi St. Claire who I understand a reporter met with this morning.   When Kent showed his interests for Atari this evening for the first time, Gigi became upset and talked her mother and my wife into contacting the media for a great story.  Yet, it was not as if Madeline had hidden the fact that Atari was her daughter.  I have known it for years and I too have looked over Atari on Madeline’s behalf.  In fact, my wife and I had the pleasure of staying at Madeline’s home on Nob Hill a few years back and our families have been friends for years.  It is amazing what a love triangle will do.  See, there is a triangle but it has noting to do with Madeline” he stated as the reporters laughed. He then continued, “But after meeting Atari, who I find has many of her natural mother’s fine attributes I can say that I believe my son has made a wonderful choice in Atari.  He resembles Atari in that he has an excellent eye and he only settles for the best. They shall make a wonderful couple.”

 

Does that mean that Kent and Atari will be married soon?  What do you say Atari?

 

“I have no comment at this time” said Atari.

 

“I have not asked her yet, gentlemen and ladies, but you can be assured that now that I have found her, I will not let her go alone in life without me” said Kent.

 

“Now if you do not mind, I believe Madeline and Atari need time to be refreshed because they have been here all night and have some packing to do.  I and my son also need showers and shaves, but only after all of us get something to eat.  I hope that we have assisted you in straightening up this love triangle” said Carlisle “so we can have a nice private breakfast alone.”

 

Everyone thanked the Stevens’ men and Dupree women for their time. The media seemed to disperse at once and the police officers were relieved.  Carlisle Stevens gave each of the officers some cash and thanked them for responding so quickly.

 

“Okay, Kent, I will need to go with you because Jon St. Claire dropped me off at the hospital and you have my Mercedes. Why don’t we go to the ladies’ hotel and we can get some breakfast.  Thereafter, you and I can go to your apartment Kent to freshen up.  This time, you will have to provide me with a change of clothes” and he laughed. “Then I’ll take you back to Atari’s house so you can help them pack.  I need to handle some things for the two of us at the office.  Madeline can take you to the house later to pick up your Porsche, if that’s okay with you, Madeline?”  Madeline indicated that she would be happy to do so.

 

“Great plan father!  Is that okay with you girls to be stuck with me for the day?”

 

“Absolutely” they both said in unison.

 

In the meantime, Kent, since you do not have to go to Japan for another two weeks, perhaps you would like to help the girls by taking them and their belongings to San Francisco.  I will not need the Lear Jet, so I will contact the hanger and get it readied.  You will have to tell me the exact time you will be leaving so I can give the information to the pilot.  Right now he is on standby.”

 

A small town girl finds success – Dedicated to the Dragon Ladies of Welding
“Great, I would like that” said Kent.  “Sweetheart, isn’t that great?  We can spend some time together” he said to Atari who was just beaming as she fell into his waiting arms.

 

Madeline went up to Carlisle and kissed him on the cheek.  “Thank you my friend for everything.  You are a lifesaver and it will be so much easier for Adelaide to travel on a private jet rather than a commercial plane.  I should have thought of that myself when I left San Francisco, but I wished to be less conspicuous.  But look what happened anyway.  I am now on national news.  And I think it will be good news with my daughter’s and the Stevens men’s assistance.  Even bad publicity helps sell my line” Madeline said.

 

 

 

***

After Carlisle and Kent had breakfast with Madeline and Atari, they left directly for Kent’s apartment. Everyone had decided to shower, and change clothes before going over to Adelaide’s house to meet the packing people who were to arrive at 1:00 pm.

 

Kent, who now had his Porsche, thanks to his father, decided to go directly to the hotel.  He would take Atari to her parent’s home and meet the packers.  This would allow Madeline to go to the hospital to be withAdelaide. The men had decided that the girls did not need the added stress of going to the Carlisle home.

 

In the meantime, once they showered and dressed, Atari met Madeline in her room.  “Mother, would you mind explaining something to me?   I really do not know a lot about our family but this entire thing is really confusing to me.  Kent is six years older than I am so obviously Carlisle had married Susan at least twenty-three to twenty-four years earlier.   You are three years younger than your sister and she is three years younger than Ken.  It’s not the number of years I am concerned about, but it is obvious that Carlisle loves you and he would have been as old as Ken, my father.  Did he just fall in love with you after he was married?  You obviously did not attend high-school at the same time.”

 

“I can see where that would be confusing.  You will recall my saying that my parents, your grandparents, were rather wealthy.   Carlisle’s parents lived in our neighborhood.  In fact, you saw how closely in proximity we lived to each other.  Ken was his friend from the wrong side of the tracks and he spent a considerable amount of time at the Stevens’ home. The Stevens and the Dupree families were also inseparable.  Both men were entrepreneurs, playing the stock market and buying businesses on a regular basis.   We had residences inSan Francisco, St Paul and Grand Forks.  My father’s brother permanently stayed at the San Franciscoapartment.  And once father realized my uncle was gay, he sold his interest to him and would have nothing to do with him or the apartment.”

 

“Your grandfather was an executive for the Sugar Company while Horatio Stevens owned not only land under contract with the Sugar Company but also owned two trucking companies and two car dealerships.”

 

“Carlisle was an only son and spent a great deal of time with our family.  He was friendly with Adelaide but had dated numerous other women in his day.  Instead, Ken started seeing Adelaide who at the time was rather wild but she seemed to love Ken the best.  I knew the two of them had been sleeping together, but because of a childhood illness, it was determined Adelaide could not have children. That in itself was a relief since she seemed extremely promiscuous.”

 

“By this time, Horatio Stevens and other investors built a factory to build snowmobiles.  It was his hope thatCarlisle would take the business over after he graduated from college.  By this time Carlisle had met Sandra at college and had brought her home to meet his parents.  And, it was his intent to give Sandra a ring during the holidays. All the neighbors, business associates and friends were invited to the gala event.”

 

“Adelaide and Ken were dating, of course, and were invited as was I.  I didn’t date anyone because I did not wish to remain in the area in the event someone became serious about me.  I was determined to become a fashion designer and move to a larger city.  Yet it is not how I expected it to happen.  I had designed and sewn a special holiday gown for the event. I arrived at the Stevens home with my father and mother.   As it was when I was a child, Carlisle could not keep his eyes off me and it was evident by his friends’ comments. It was fortunate that he was watching over me that specific evening, however.  Adelaide had become inebriated and father became very angry at her actions and sent her home.  However, Ken did not leave.”

 

“Ken asked me for a dance and I refused because I felt he was as inebriated as Adelaide had been.  He started to use force to drag me out to the dance floor when Carlisle came forward and said “This young lady promised me this dance.”

 

“This aggravated Ken who then asked Sandra to dance with him.  She, of course, declined because he was not the type of individual she would associate with.  Soon he went storming out of the house.  It was then thatCarlisle introduced me to Sandra.  She realized that I was a neighbor and not a threat to her relationship withCarlisle so we spoke for some length.  It was then that Horatio went to the microphone and stated he was pleased that Carlisle had chosen Sandra to be his wife.  Carlisle then knelt to the floor with his ring box in hand asking her to marry him.”

 

“Mother and Father seemed upset and I know the reason was that they had tried to match Adelaide andCarlisle together for some time.  They had not approved of Ken, but it was not because Ken did not have money, but they felt he had no future.  He seemed to be happy in his failures.”

 

“After the proposal, I decided to leave the party and check in on Adelaide.  I said my goodbyes to those I knew or had met and thanked the Stevens for the wonderful party.   As I left through the back door, I was grabbed and muffled.  I was dragged to the Carlisle utility and storage shed where I was thrown to the ground.  Although I fought, Ken was stronger.  I was a virgin and I pleaded with him but it did not work. As I started to scream, he hit me almost knocking me out.  I no longer could fight him and he had his way with me.  He then left me lying on the floor, fortunately with my fur coat but my dress had been ripped into shreds. I was in dire pain and was bleeding from the nose. I also suffered pain and some bleeding to my virginal area where he had forced himself on me and I was too weak to get up. I just went into a fetal position on the floor unable to move. ”

 

“For some reason Carlisle came to the utility shed to pick up a gift he had hidden for Sandra’s father.  At least that is what he told me.  Upon seeing me on the floor in a fetal position sobbing, he came to my aid.  He held me and found paper towels to wipe my bloodied nose.  He then picked me up after wrapping me in my coat and brought me to my house.”

 

“Since Adelaide was sprawled out on the living room couch, she did not hear us.   He took me directly to my room and ran a bath for me.  He told me that I should try to clean up in the bath and he would get my parents.  In those days, police officers did not protect females who were raped and there were no rape kits. He brought me my robe and took me into the bath and then left after he was assured I was okay.”

 

“Soon thereafter my parents arrived.  Instead of consoling me or contacting the police, my mother and father blamed me for my being raped by Ken.  They said that Adelaide and I had asked for what happened to us. They stated that both of us were enticing Ken by hanging around him all of the time.”

 

“I remember crying throughout the night and I did not wish to leave my room the following day.  Adelaide did not believe me either and said I probably threw myself at Ken.   Finally later that afternoon when my parents took Adelaide to another party in the neighborhood, I elected to go to the lower level of the house and get something to eat.  It was then that Carlisle checked in with me.”

 

“I don’t know why, but I told him everything and as I cried he held me tightly, kissing my bruises.  He said that he would never have another thing to do with Ken.  He was sorry that my parents would have blamed me. One could see his anger but also his love and compassion for me.  He said that he had admired me throughout the years but knew I was too young to go out with him due to the age difference.  He realized that I never paid attention to him or anyone else. It angered him that my first introduction to sex was brutalization. He told me that if there was ever anything he could do for me all I would need to do would be to ask.  He also said that he would be having words with his former friend Ken.”

 

“It wasn’t long and I found out that I was pregnant with you.   My parents were livid and my father made an arrangement with my uncle to have both I and Adelaide move to San Francisco where I would have the baby. He was embarrassed and said he did not wish to see either one of us again.  That is when they decided to spend time in Paris.  I know my uncle was paid handsomely for taking us in because he was given the deed to the apartment, without making further payments.  He was also given additional money to support the two of us for at least a year.”

 

“My parents virtually deleted our names from their wills and made certain that all of their business ventures would be given to charity as well as to a few fortunate business associates.  We were in San Francisco for approximately a year, when the news arrived that my parents and Carlisle’s parents were killed in a plane crash in Europe.  Fortunately provisions were made for us to attend the funeral and both Adelaide and I were provided $50,000 each to assist us with our education. At that time, the money was more than sufficient to secure a bachelor’s degree or more. At least my parents saw fit to provide us with an education.”

 

“When we arrived Carlisle picked us up at the airport.  My uncle and his partner also stayed at our parent’s house with us.   By this time Carlisle knew of the plight of my sister and me and felt badly that my parents had not placed any faith in us.  As an only son of his father’s empire, his fate was one in which everything had been willed to him.”

“You stayed in San Francisco with a friend of my uncles because you were so very young.  It was then that Ken apologized to me and he talked Adelaide into marrying him.”

 

“Since I wished to use the money I had been given in the will for my education, Adelaide said that she would use the money to purchase a house in the area where Ken was working at the Stevens’ factory.  It was then that my uncle negotiated a contract with Ken and Adelaide for you to be raised by them since you were Ken’s daughter.  Adelaide agreed because she could not conceive a child.  The contract stated that they would have full custody and that it would not be revealed to you until your 18th birthday that I was your mother. By that time you could make your own decisions.”

 

“Carlisle witnessed the paperwork so he knew exactly what was transpiring.  With the help of Carlisle, Ken and Adelaide then travelled to San Francisco and were married.  Everyone was told that Adelaide had you out of wedlock and of course, that Ken was the father and finally came to his senses.  No one questioned the matter.”

 

“My uncle’s partner was in the fashion industry and assisted me in my career.  They and their close friends became my family.  My legacy of $50,000 and a place to live assisted me greatly in those earlier years” she continued.

 

“When my uncle passed away, he had willed the apartment to me.  His partner had purchased another home on Nob Hill before my uncle’s death.  Through the years, I helped his partner with his business affairs and one day, after earning much recognition for my designs in New York and Paris, he provided me with my own fashion house.  He was extremely wealthy and I could not believe his kindness.  He remained my family member and I looked after him when he became ill.   When he passed away, his home was willed to me and that is where I currently reside.  So you see, Atari, I had some wonderful breaks in spite of the hardships which were bestowed on me as a young woman.”

 

“But mother, have you ever had anyone in your life?” Atari asked.

 

“No, in fact my family members in San Francisco felt I probably was a lesbian.  Yet I did not date either men or women but essentially worked myself to success.  I could never find someone that I would be interested in.  In fact, even though I went out on dinner dates with men, if they ever became serious, I had commitment issues and ran away” Madeline concluded.

 

“Are you still wishing you were with Carlisle Stevens?” she asked.

 

“Darling, that will never happen.  He is married to Sandra and although there have been some close encounters, we have been wise enough to not act on our passions” she replied.

 

It was then that Kent arrived.  He apologized for being late, but because of his father’s situation, he had been dropped off at his parent’s home after he and his father had left the hospital.  He not only picked up his car, but picked up personals and clothing for his father, who had decided to move into his apartment for a while.

 

Kent said it should be interesting living with his father but that obviously he was still upset at his mother for her actions and he had to agree with him.  Apparently after hearing a newscast, his mother now was upset that the media made Gigi St. Claire look like a scorned female but placing you in the limelight, Madeline.  And she stated some things to both of us which she should not have said.  Father left in a storm, not even being able to pick up his own items.”

 

“I’m sorry Kent that this has happened.  Uh, I believe you two better go.  You have fifteen minutes before the packers arrive” Madeline stated. “And my sister will be wondering whether I have abandoned her.”

 

“You know, Madeline, we can take all of the items on the plane.  In that way, you will not have to pay UPS for the shipments” he offered.

 

“I think this will be easier on Adelaide. Anyway, I have already made the arrangements for the shipments with UPS. I really hate having to be responsible for the belongings.  If it had been furnishings I would have called in a mover.  By the way, I am intending to deed the apartment to you Atari and Adelaide will remain with me. Each of you will need time to get adjusted to the city so we will remain together for a month or two, however. That way if you and Kent would wish to stay at the apartment instead of my home, it is fully furnished.  You will only need to change the linins if my cleaning service has not handled it.  I have left it in tact without leasing it because it is used for my guests now.”

 

Soon Madeline was on her way to the hospital and Kent and Atari were driving toward her previous residence.

 

 

***

 

 

 

The packing crew was already waiting at the house.  After Atari apologized for not having also been early, she took them to her room where she instructed them as to which items should be packed.  She and Kent then went to Adelaide’s bedroom and started placing her personal items such as photographs, paperwork, books and knick knacks on to the bed for the packers to box.   They would place her clothing also into her luggage carriers and take them to the hotel.

 

Since the house was in both her and Ken’s name, most likely if Adelaide secured a divorce, Ken would have to pay her for her portion of the equity. Kent checked every nook and cranny for items he thought wereAdelaide’s but inquired of Atari before placing the items on the bed.   The packers did an excellent job and were finished packing by the time Madeline arrived.

 

It was then that Sandra and Gigi arrived.   They stormed in the house uninvited.  Sandra asked Kent to apologize to Gigi.  She told him that he needed to make a statement to the media stipulating that Gigi was not some crazed female.  He refused and stood his ground that obviously if the media had made such a comment it was because of what Gigi stated in the interview.

 

Sandra then started condemning Carlisle and told Kent obviously was as stubborn as his father.  She said that if his father did not come to his senses that she would seek a divorce and then Carlisle would find out how expensive it would be for him.

 

She did not stop with Kent but attacked Madeline as well.  She told her it was all her fault because she knew she had been sleeping with her husband throughout the years. In fact she indicated that the night Carlisle had asked her to marry him, he only stared at her. And she asked Madeline how many times she had met her husband on business trips.

 

Madeline fervently denied those accusations and told Sandra that Carlisle had always been true only to her. She stated that Sandra should go to Carlisle and apologize to him because if that was the reason for her anger toward him, it was totally unfounded.

 

By this time Kent was angry and although his fists were clenched he held his composure. “Really mother, you are accusing father for having an affair when you have been sleeping with Jon St. Claire?” Kent asked.

 

“What do you mean Kent?  I have done no such thing” she responded as Gigi’s eyes now were wide open with wonder and shock.

 

“Mother, I always though it was father’s fault because he was never at home.  But I find that he has always been working with his companies, knowing you were never satisfied except with the money and things he could provide for you.   I never saw you giving him loving glances or even comforting him.  Your marriage affected me as to my feelings about women.  Obviously, I never knew what a loving relationship could be like until I met Madeline and Atari”.

 

“What?  You are now sticking up for Madeline?  She is a whore.”  At that moment Madeline excused herself and left the room.  There was no need for her to defend something which was so ridiculous to begin with.

 

Atari stood in the room as did Gigi while Kent continued.  “I came home more than once in the last month to find Jon leaving the house in the afternoons.  And, I waited until his car left to enter the house to find you in a bath robe.   It seemed strange to me to see your hair a mess and to not have a stitch of makeup on. After all, you would not even allow dad to kiss you because it would mess up your make-up or your hair.   I kept it to myself until now. That is because I could see father contain his passions when he saw Madeline.  They have never been together from what I know and you, obviously, are not the one to point fingers at anyone for their infidelities, mainly lack thereof.”

 

“Well I never.  Jon has always been a close friend.”  Noticing the upset look on Gigi’s face, she turned to her stating “Honestly Gigi, this is not the way it is.”

 

Gigi then started screaming at Sandra stating that her mother thought her father was having an affair with someone, but she did not know who.  She thought the Stevens were close friends but now that Kent brought it up, it seemed as though her father always excused himself to assist her in the kitchen, leaving her mother and Kent’s father in the living room with her.

 

Sandra became extremely agitated and in anger accidently admitted her affair with Jon.  She stated that Betsy St. Clair did not treat him well and didn’t care whether she and her husband had sex.  She said that her own husband was never home and admitted finally that she and Jon fell in love.

 

Kent threw his hands up in the air and said “There you have it.  Mother, did you ever care for father?”

 

“Well, our parents were happy with our union but it seemed as though we did not have anything to talk about and our interests were not the same.  He is a good provider and he has always given me everything I ever wanted but I guess you are correct, I was never really happy or in love with him.  Yet as far as Jon is concerned, it just happened.”

 

At this point Gigi began to sob and Atari tried to comfort her.  She moved away and grabbed her cell phone to call her mother.  Sandra told Gigi to hang the phone up because Betsy did not need to hear about the affair in this manner.     The packers who were uncomfortable with the conversations decided to leave the house for a much needed break.  They found Madeline in the kitchen as they left for the back door.  She paid them and walked them out, while calling UPS to pick up the boxes.

 

Sandra stormed out of the house making her way toward her car.  She called Madeline a few choice words and then made her way out of the drive.  It was then that Betsy arrived to pick Gigi up.  One could see that she had been crying.  Gigi ran up to console her, when Jon arrived.  He did not even acknowledge anyone but placed his focus on his wife and their daughter.

 

“Betsy, I didn’t mean to hurt you.  I love you and Gigi.  It just happened and Sandra made it convenient.  I don’t love her and she was just a good f…” he said.

 

“That does not help me Jon since I obviously was not enough for you” she replied.

 

“Betsy, let’s go home and talk about this.  I do not wish to lose you.  You know that I love you” he said.  By this time, the neighbors were looking out of their windows peering at the activity outside.

 

“No Jon, I think it was my family’s money that you have loved.  If you left me you would have to depend on Sandra getting a good divorce settlement which would be nowhere near the type of money you now have because of my family” Betsy stated.

 

“Betsy, that is not true .  I had no intention of being with Susan.  I promise you, I will break it off immediately and do whatever you want” Jon said.

 

“So that’s all you feel about me after all these years, Jon.  Well you can just go to hell”, Sandra stated as she entered her vehicle and sped away.

 

“And what were you planning on telling me, Jon,” Carlisle said.  He had been standing in the entryway of the house with Madeline and had heard the entire conversation. “I thought I saw you nibbling on her ear when the two of you were dancing at the Rusty Pail but I thought, oh, its nothing, believing you were as faithful as I was.”

 

“Carlisle, I am so sorry.  I really didn’t think it would hurt anyone.  I do not love your wife.  I only met her needs since you weren’t around” he said.  At this point, Kent placed his hand on his father’s chest restraining him so that he would not deck Jon. Carlisle’s eyes glared at Jon in anger but he held his composure.

 

“So how long has this been going on, Jon?” he asked with his voice straining tranquility.

 

Jon did not answer but Betsy said “You may not admit it but I suspect this has been going on for some ten years…right Jon?”

 

“Yes, Bets but I did not think anyone would find out.  I love you and with Sandra and me, it was only sex.”

 

Kent then suggested that Jon leave the area before his father and he did something they would be sorry for.  Gigi was still sobbing so hard she was having difficulty breathing. Atari took her into the house and to the bathroom to place some cold water on her face.  She had her breathe into a paper bag so she did not totally hyperventilate herself to death.

 

Jon asked Betsy to join him. Betsy told him that he should remove his belongings from her home and find another place to live. She told him that he would have four hours in which to pack and be out of the house.  It was her intent to secure a restraining order and ultimately she would be securing a divorce.  Betsy then dialed her attorney and told him she required him to meet with her within a half-hour, at his office.

 

She thanked Atari for attending to Gigi who had stopped crying but who now appeared to be in shock. She then apologized to both Madeline and Atari for the disservice they did by contacting the media.

 

Carlisle hugged Betsy and told her that if she needed anything, she would only need to call him and he would assist her.  When she inquired what he intended to do, he stated he would probably follow suit in asking Sandra for a divorce.  He said “I like you cannot live a lie.  I could never sleep with her again especially when she has indicated that she has never been happy with me but only desired the money I could provide her”.

 

“Ditto” Betsy exclaimed.  Obviously we both have a similar situation and now that I know what he is like, I and Gigi will probably move back to Florida to be with my family after we sell the house.   If Jon wishes to retain the company, he will have to buy it from me, which I do not feel he will be able to afford. I have a pre-nuptial agreement that he signed and he has not yet been married to me for 25 years to share my fortune.  He only will receive a whopping $250,000.  It’s too bad for him because he only had a year to go.   I rather doubt if he has ever saved a dime.  And if dad has anything to say about it, most likely the company will be sold.

 

“I’m sorry for both of us Betsy.  This is not the way to end up but it is probably for the better.  Each of us needs to find happiness and it is obvious, neither of us has found it as of yet” Carlisle stated.

 

“You’re right, Carlisle.  I totally agree with you.  We each need to find our happiness and obviously the time is now” she said. “It may even give Gigi insight into what is more important in life. Money certainly does not buy love.”

 

It was then that Gigi went up to Kent and apologized for everything.  She told him that she understood why he loved Atari so much.  She stated that after seeing what happened to her parents, she realized she probably would not have loved him in the manner in which she sees the love Atari has for him.   He thanked her and hugged her before she left with her mother.

 

Carlisle told Kent that he would need to talk to him as to the disposition of the business.  He stated he would call in his attorneys to be at the office in the morning.  “But for tonight, I need to be with my loved ones and that includes you Atari, and Madeline.  Let’s go to one of the local restaurants for dinner and then maybe we could just spend a quiet night together at the hotel” he concluded.

 

“Dad, I don’t know about you, but I would like to be alone with Atari after dinner.  There are some things we also need to discuss.  And I would imagine you may desire a private conversation with Madeline as well” he said.  His father just grinned and gave him a wink.

 

“By the way son, how did you know that your mother was seeing Jon Carlisle?” he asked.

 

“Father, I was uncertain at first but it became more evident as his visits were frequented.  Yet, I was not certain because I had not actually seen the two of them together.  I only knew for certain when seeing mother’s expressions and admission” Kent stated.

A small town girl finds success – Dedicated to the Dragon Ladies of Welding
“Well thank you son.  I felt something was going on with her and I must admit your mother and I have not had marital feelings for each other in a very long time.  I tried, but she did not have time for me” he said.  “I only hope that this travesty will not affect you Kent.”

 

“No, I am an adult and if anything, it made me realize that one can have a relationship with love”.  Kent stated as he looked lovingly at Atari.

 

 

***

 

 

After dinner, Atari and Kent had conversed for what had seemed to be hours.  He explained that he was not certain what he would do if his father decided not to sell the business or ask him to run it.  He said that he was in actuality an architectural engineer and had given up offers to pursue his profession to join his father.

 

He told Atari that he knew he wished to spend the rest of his life with her on their first date.  After what had happened today, he was absolutely certain there was no one who would complete him but her.  He knew that he could not be without her for long and it pained him that with his father’s situation, he would have to delay being with her.  He had hoped they would at least have two weeks together.  “I love you Atari and I do not have a ring to give you to solidify my commitment to you yet.”  And as he bent down on one knee, he said “Atari, I know that this may seem too soon for you, but will you do me the honor of being my wife?”

 

Atari took his hands in hers and asked him to stand.  She looked in his eyes and said “Yes”.   “I love you Kent and I have loved you since the time I fell into your arms at the factory.  I know that I was fearful of commitment but I know that I no longer have a problem committing to you because you are the one I am meant to be with.”

 

He grabbed her and held her close while finding her subtle lips where they responded to each other passionately.  He then said, “Sweetheart, if I stay any longer, I will not be able to refrain from making love to you.”

 

“Then, darling, that will be my commitment to you for the future.  Please be with me tonight.  I want your love” she said breathlessly.   Soon the two were rapidly removing clothing which was thrown to the floor as they barely made it to the bed.  There she gave up her virginity to the man she loved as he gently penetrated her providing her a joy she had never expected to experience.

 

Madeline tried to sleep knowing that her daughter was probably allowing Kent to make love to her as she had wished to love Carlisle.  She found it most difficult to break away from him after numerous passionate kisses which awakened her utmost desires.  He agreed that it was probably best if they did not culminate their love until such time as the ugliness of his divorce ended. She was upset that she was so logical but knew it was for the best.

 

Madeline told him that Adelaide would be able to leave the hospital in the following day. She had decided that it would be best if they travelled to San Francisco so her sister would not have to face Ken.  In fact she was wondering whether his attorneys would be available for her sister, if Adelaide wished to have the paperwork completed before they left.   She said that since the Stevens men had much on their minds, it would be best also for Atari to go with them so she could settle in with her schooling and position at the Dupree Fashion House.

 

“As much as I hate having you leave, my dearest Madeline, I know you are right.  Call me tomorrow as to the time in which you wish to leave and I will make certain the pilot will have everything ready” Carlisle stated. “Or if Adelaide wishes to speak to my attorneys first, I will make certain they take time out for her.  Just come by my office in the morning.”

 

“Dear Carlisle.  You do not have to retain your original offer.  We can fly commercially” she said.

 

“No, Madeline.  You have all of Adelaide’s clothing as well as your own and Adelaide has not yet fully recuperated. I wish for you to be comfortable and if I send the three of you home, no one can say that I am having an affair with you.  I know this divorce will be messy.  But, I will be there to join you at the first moment of opportunity.  I do not wish to retain the company and I have had previous offers.  Now it will just be a matter of determining what share Sandra will settle for.  And, from the way Kent is acting, I know he will not desire running the company because he can join a firm in San Francisco as the architectural engineer he is destined to become.”

 

“I love you Carlisle and I have always loved you.  I cannot tell you that I am not happy this happened.  I have always desired to be with you even when I was a young teenager.  And if I have waited for you this long, I can wait for you longer” she said.

 

“Madeline, are you certain?  You heard what Sandra stated.  She obviously was not happy with me sexually” he said.

 

“Carlisle, I do not believe Susan knows what she wants.  As for me, I know that I love you and I believe you love me.  If we have such a love for each other void of sex, then when we finally have a union it will be fantastic and I doubt if either of us will wish to be out of the bedroom for weeks” she said as she giggled.

 

“God I love you Madeline and you do not know how hard it is to leave you.  I just wish to throw you on the bed and make love to every part of your body” he stated breathlessly.

 

“Darling, I do know how hard you are and it shows.  You are not the only one who is hurting over this situation.  Just know I will be waiting for you.  I will call you tomorrow once Adelaide is released from the hospital” she said.

 

He then took her in his arms and kissed her passionately, never wishing to leave, but realized the longer he held her, the more difficult it would become.  “Good night, my dearest Madeline.  It will not be long.  I will make certain of that.  I do not care what Sandra desires.  She will receive her fair share and my share will be enough to allow the two of us to retire and let our children carry on.”

 

“Carlisle, please just take care of you and Kent.  I have made a great life for myself and you are welcome to share that life with me as well” she said.

 

“An independent woman……What more could I ask for?  I do have one surprise for Sandra, however.  Do you remember the estate my grandfather left me?  Well after my father’s death, since I had sufficient money from my father’s estate I had grandfather place the money in an irrevocable trust to equally be shared by any of my natural children.

 

Since grandfather owned many businesses with my father, outside of my purchasing the company from the proceeds of my father’s will, the balance of the estate remained in my grandfather’s name by contract.  He ran the businesses which had been transferred solely to his name.  The Stevens men had decided that no spouses would affect their business plans even at death. They made other provisions for their spouses.”

 

“At my parent’s death, I was also willed a couple of million dollars which consisted of my father’s private investments which normally would have been my mother’s.  Of course, I was willed my parents home and its possessions.

 

“The manner in which the trust was handled by my grandfather before his death is not something Sandra can touch because it is solely in Kent’s name.  In fact, I am not certain she is aware of it or she would have demanded a portion of the money be placed in her account even if I had to do it illegally. Yet she will be paid handsomely.”

 

“Good Night Sweetheart.  I hope you do not mind me thinking out loud, but I also wish to assure you that I also may provide for you.”  Carlisle then left her room and started toward his Mercedes, which finally was in his possession but which he would give up if his wife decided she did not wish to retain the Lexus.  Tonight he would be alone in Kent’s apartment and he had a lot of planning to do before meeting with his attorney and Kent.

 

 

***

 

 

Kent did not disturb Atari as she slept.  He knew if his father wished to have a meeting with the attorneys, he would have to go over some things with him prior.  His father was ready to leave for the factory as Kentarrived.  He told his father he would take a quick shower and join him within the half hour.

 

Once he arrived at the factory, Carlisle advised Kent that he no longer wished to retain the factory but would most likely sell it.  He advised Kent that he has kept a family secret from him throughout the years.  It was then that he finally told Kent that his grandfather had an irrevocable trust whereby Kent was the sole heir.

 

Kent was somewhat stunned since he had felt everything had been left to his father when his grandfather had died.   Carlisle explained that it was his father and grandfather’s wish that in the event of one of their deaths, the estate would remain solely in the name of the remaining owner.  And since his grandfather was not assured of his relationship with Sandra, it was decided that the entire estate would be placed in trust until his living grandchildren would reach the age of 25.

 

Kent was currently 24 years of age and would be 25 within a couple of months.  He could not believe that he was the sole heir to his grandfather’s estate.  Although his father was uncertain as to the exact amount, it was felt the estate was valued at some $16 million.

 

“But father, if mother demands your company and the residence, what will you have?” he said.  “I am willing to share anything I have with you once the divorce is final”, Kent said.   “In fact, let me purchase a house for you, at least.”

 

“You will not have to Kent.  Originally I received $2,000,000 of my father’s private investments as well as his residence and the factory.  Currently, outside of the home values and the factory I have holdings of ten million. Since she is unaware of your inheritance, we will not discuss this further” he said. “She would be hurt that I kept that from her and it is not my intent to hurt her.  We just need to get a divorce since neither of us are in love with the other” he said.  Kent agreed.

 

Then he continued “Although your mother is entitled to one-half of everything I own, she will have to decide whether she wishes to retain our residence and give up the factory or whether she wishes to pay me for my portion of the equity in both.  I am hoping my attorneys may be able to negotiate a settlement whereby I retain the company and she may retain our residence.”

 

But do you think mother would consider allowing you to retain the business, especially when it will generate far more money than the residence and $5,000,000 of your personal investments?” Kent asked.

 

“It may be the best for her.  If she decides she wants one-half of my business investments, she will have to determine who she wants to run the company for her.  She knows I am the company and I will threaten to leave it for her to handle.  You know she has no business acumen and I would be very surprised if she would attempt that demand.  And once she signs off, I have a couple of managers who may be interested in running the company as well as owning shares.  And possibly if all are in agreement, such additional shares may be purchased from me through a stock option by all employees.  In that manner, I would receive regular payments as the investments are made and the employees would share in the profit as they work toward employee ownership of this company.” Carlisle stated. “I know that it will not be a fast buyout, but acting only as a consultant and remaining as CEO, until the company is solely owned by the employees, I will still have the opportunity to semi-retire or at least spend some time in San Francisco.”

 

“That is fantastic because you already may know I do not wish to run the factory.  Your plan gives the employees a greater opportunity to have ownership as well as to make certain the company works like a finely tuned machine. After all, if they have ownership, they will wish for the company to succeed.   It will then give you freedom. But, I don’t know if mother will be able to live on a $5 million budget, even if she owns the house” he said.

 

“Well that will be her problem. I obviously will be on a budget as well and I do not have a home to live in.  The only things I want out of the house are my parent’s personal possessions and artifacts such as the oil paintings of our family members throughout the centuries.  Those may also be kept by you if you so desire since it is part of your heritage” he said.  “Anyway, your apartment will have to remain our storage area until the two of us are settled.   I hope that you do not mind.”

 

“No it should be interesting, father because we haven’t lived together for a long time.  But since neither of us plans on seeing women, it should work out relatively well.  And, when I do need to get out, I have a friend to go with me” Kent stated to his father.

 

“I will like that very much, Kent”, said Carlisle.

 

“I am curious though, who will own the Lear Jet?” Kent asked.

 

“I’m considering selling it with the business since it is owned by the Company now.”

 

“Perhaps, Father, since we both love travelling, once I receive my estate, I can purchase it outright.  But if mother decides she wishes this as a settlement, you may have to pay her portion and I can reimburse you. Nevertheless, we will work it out” Kent affirmed.

 

Then Carlisle inquired. “Kent, both your mother and I have always loved you.  And, although I am extremely happy that you have stood by my side at this time, I guess I am concerned that you have had to make a choice between your mother and me.  I really hoped that if something happened with our marriage, you would not have had to be in the middle or to have to take a side.”

 

“Father, I have watched the two of you for years.  You were and are a workaholic and when you came home, you always seemed to find time for me.  Mother continually was going to the club, the spa, to her women’s luncheons and the like and I hate to say it, we really had nothing to say to each other. In fact she spoke to my friends more than to me.”

 

“She continually bickered at you and it seemed all she wanted was possessions, jewelry, cars and furs.  I felt that all women were like that and I certainly did not need a loveless marriage someday.   I initially decided that I would never marry because having a woman in one’s life was far too expensive.”

 

“Well, do you feel Atari will be too much of an expense?” asked Carlisle.

 

“I have to admit, I fell head over heals with Atari when I first met her.  But I have been far too cautious and even though I had feelings for her, I was capable of turning them off as fast as they were turned on.  It was on our first date that I realized she was a treasure. Although I realized her family situation, she seemed fine with her upbringing.  In our twenty questions, I found she loved the simple things in life. It was then that I could not hurt this beautiful woman or treat her like I treated the others.  God help her when she is involved in Madeline’s world because I feel it will be totally different for her” said Kent.

 

“What if she does change Kent?  Will you allow her to grow into the person she is meant to be?” Carlisleasked.

 

I’m certain you remember Rand Paul, my best friend and fraternal brother. Thank heavens his parents were the exact opposite to your relationship with mother.  His parents adored each other and his entire family had meals together and conversed even though they both had their own professions. That is why I spent holidays with Rand and didn’t complain when you and mother flew to Europe or went on a cruise.  I guess this last bout knowing she had been sleeping with your best friend, really upset me.  I guess I love you both but I respect you more. And I feel, Atari and I can grow together because we have a great foundation now.”

 

“I figured that out when you stated you wished to slow down the process because the Stevens men do not slow down when there is something they wish to attain.  Yet, I do not feel you will have to worry about Atari. You will have to allow her the time in which to determine what she desires for herself.  After all, working with Madeline will not be easy and she will be introduced to an entirely new world.”

 

“I do wish for you to understand son that I never wish for you to dislike your mother.  This entire mess is unfortunate and obviously, we should not have married so young” Carlisle continued. “I probably should have spent more time with her before making the decision to marry her.”

 

“But you tried father and she always found other things to do. What did great-grandfather see that he did not will his estate to you, father?” Kent asked.

 

“My grandfather was extremely wise and although the contracts were already in place, your mother acted extremely greedy at the reading of my father’s will.  In fact she argued about a couple of charities father had left money to and she questioned why grandfather owned the businesses which he had paid for.   That was when he spoke to me and stated his intent.  He said he felt badly but that I was a Stevens and he knew I would be successful with the factory” Carlisle explained.

 

“Well I hope that Atari moving to San Francisco will not change her feelings for me.  I have to tell you, I proposed to her last night…and if it is possible, I really need to get a ring on her finger” Kent said.

 

“I’m a little surprised.  I guess she said yes.  Well why don’t I call the jeweler in to bring various rings for her to pick out?  He can deliver them to your office at about 1:00 pm” said Carlisle who immediately got on the phone.  “You may have to prepare a pre-nuptial as well, Kent, for your own safety” Carlisle warned.

 

“I will consider it, but in my estimation, we will be having an engagement of at least one year, if not longer. I promised Atari that” Kent stated.

 

The attorneys arrived promptly at 9:00 am.  One of the attorneys worked with Kent to go over the provisions of his future estate while Carlisle worked with two of the partners and a paralegal so that the paperwork could be prepared for the impending divorce. It was determined that a joint meeting would be set up with Sandra Stevens and her attorney the following week to begin the preliminaries and that Carlisle’s primary attorney would contact her.  In the meantime the attorneys would work out various options relating to the house and business.

 

It was then that Carlisle’s secretary entered the board room.  She explained that Madeline Dupree and her daughter arrived at the factory with her sister Adelaide.  He told his attorneys to wait because he may need their further assistance.

 

As he greeted the ladies he said “Adelaide, I am so pleased that you are out of the hospital.  How are you feeling?”

 

“Oh Carlisle, other than the cracked ribs and a sling for my broken arm, I am doing great.  Yet, I have no pain because of all the pain pills they have prescribed” Adelaide responded with laughter.

 

“Well I am happy that you are being taken care of Adelaide.  Will you be leaving with Madeline to San Francisco?” he asked.

 

“Yes, and I am most grateful that you will allow us to use your jet.  I am uncertain how I would handle a commercial flight.   Also, I understand that I may be able to use one of your attorneys to prepare my divorce papers.  I really do not care about joint property and I just wish to get out of the relationship” she said. Madeline then stated she would be responsible for the attorney’s fees.

 

“Yes Adelaide.  I will make certain it is taken care of.  And, Madeline, I will be handling the fees.  They are on retainer anyway.  It is my pleasure.  Please ladies, come to my office and I will have one of the attorneys join you shortly.  We are just concluding our business in the board room” he said.

 

In the meantime as sandwiches and beverages were being delivered to all those in the board room as well as to Madeline and Atari in Carlisle’s office, the jeweler arrived earlier than planned.  Once he was announced,Kent took him into his office and asked that he spread the various rings out on the desk, as he moved paperwork around.  He called for one of his security men to be situated at the door.

 

It was then he knocked on the door to his father’s office and asked whether Atari could break away for a few minutes.  When she agreed, he then led her to his office.  Once they both arrived Atari said “Kent what is this?”

 

“Sweetheart, you did say you would marry me?  Right?” asked Kent.

 

“Yes, but I did not expect a ring so soon” she said.

 

“Does that mean you really do not wish to marry me?  You can decide when it is right for you but I really would like for you to wear my ring” he said.

 

“Of course Kent, I wish to marry you.  Please do not be hurt by what I said.  It is just that with everything happening all at once, I did not expect for you to go out of your way to get me a ring.  I love you and I would be proud to wear your ring.  That is not even a hesitation on my part” she said.

 

He then grabbed her and held her in his arms, kissing her passionately as the jeweler viewed the entire scene.  Once they parted, she was led to the cases where Kent told her she could pick out any ring she desired.   Instead of going toward the more expensive cases, she found a small ½ carat marquise diamond ring which she fell in love with.  It was simple and elegant and the sizing fit perfectly.

 

Kent asked why she would not choose a larger stone and she advised that it was not the size of the stone that mattered but the love he showed her by allowing her to choose a ring she really loved.  She asked whether he did not like her choice.  He smiled and said he loved it and it looked beautiful on her.  The two of them then kissed as the jeweler removed the balance of his collection.

 

Kent thanked him and asked his security man to accompany him to his vehicle.  He then led Atari to Carlisle’s office.  As they entered the office, he announced to Adelaide and Madeline “Atari has accepted my proposal of marriage” and Atari placed out her hand for all to see her ring.

 

“That is wonderful.  I am pleased for the both of you.  Yet I must question, how soon will the two of you be married?” asked Madeline.

 

“Don’t worry mother, we will be taking our time.  It is just that we will not be seeing each other for a while and we must have time to place our lives back together before we marry” she said.

 

Kent then added “I promised Atari last night that she would be the one who would decide when the actual marriage would take place. I just did not wish for her to leave before she knew my intentions.”

 

“I am happy for you both” said Adelaide.  “But with so much happening in such a short time, I am pleased that you will take the time to know each other better before plunging into marriage immediately.  It is not that I do not love you both.  It is just that Atari has not experienced the world and she has not even dated during high school.  I am surprised that her relationship with you happened so fast and I just wish to make certain you both feel it is right” said Adelaide.

 

“I understand.  It is fast for me as well but I cannot see spending my life with anyone else, Adelaide.  And my promise to each of you, Adelaide and Madeline, is that my love for her will not falter.  I will give her the time she needs and I know how important her career and education are” he said.

 

“Will you be running the factory here, Kent?” Madeline asked.

 

“No father and I will be moving to San Francisco once everything is taken care of here.  Dependent upon mother’s desire for a divorce settlement, it is father’s intent to sell the factory but I would rather he explain the details to you Madeline.  I do not believe that you are aware but I am an Architectural/Structural Engineer. I intend to set up my own office in San Francisco after getting some exposure with another firm.  That most likely will take a year. Since I was at the top of my class there were two engineering firms in California who initially had contacted me; one on Lafayette and another on Grand Avenue in San Francisco.  I will probably be contacting each of them for interviews.  I already have a great portfolio and in this economy, I can assist in the structural engineering area until I have a firm reputation as an Architectural engineer in the area.”

 

“That is wonderful” both women stated at the same time.  Madeline then told Kent that this was an excellent idea because it would leave both he and Atari the time to become established.  Then both Madeline andAdelaide rose up so that Kent could hug them.  He then excused himself and left his father’s office so that the matters could be concluded.  He had been told that the girls would be leaving the following morning so he wished to tell his father to make certain the pilot was ready and to confirm the time established.

 

It was 3:00 pm before all the attorneys left with their paperwork in hand.  The ladies went back to the hotel to relax and pack for the following morning’s trip. Only Atari agreed to leave the hotel to meet Kent for dinner.

 

When Kent and Atari arrived at the local restaurant, it appeared the parking lot was full of vehicles, which Atari commented that it seemed strange for a weekday night. Kent said he really hardly ever went to this restaurant so he wouldn’t know and the two continued toward the door.  Once they entered, they were taken to the back room where Carlisle, a few of his managers and supervisors and all of Atari’s friends and co-workers were found. Susan ran up to Atari “Congratulations!  I understand you and Kent are engaged.”

 

“Susan, how did you know?” Atari asked.  “Both Kent and I have retained that information as a secret.”

 

“Well you know how this town is.  Yet, his father confirmed it tonight.  Can you believe it?  His father is paying for the entire party…but we each are limited to three drink tickets because of what he said were his company’s liabilities” Susan said.

 

Atari excused herself and approached Carlisle to thank him for the wonderful send-off.   She kissed him on the cheek as she embraced him. He was grinning from ear to year.  Then Kent teasingly told her that he didn’t want her getting too attached to his father and then he winked at him.  Carlisle just smiled and realized Kentwould definitely be in for a surprise when the girls were sent off in the morning.

 

A local band was brought in so the employees could dance throughout the night.  The restaurant provided fantastic hors d’oeuvres, soft drinks as well as alcoholic

A small town girl finds success – Dedicated to the Dragon Ladies of Welding

beverages and beer and wine.  Atari received many cards and a few presents from her best friends.  It was a wonderful evening and she and Kent left the restaurant at mid-night with Carlisle and two of his managers, while the party was still going strong.

 

Carlisle explained that they should be at the airport at about 9:00 am.  He told Atari that not only Kent would be joining them for the flight but her friend Susan.  Susan and Kent would then fly back within a couple of days after spending time in San Francisco.

 

Atari said “Mr. Stevens I do not know how to thank you.  You have done so much for my family and I will never be able to repay you” she said.

 

“Atari, making my son happy will be repayment enough.  I have watched over you throughout the years and I know you are an exceptional person who will go places in life.  I never expected that you may become my daughter-in-law, but I am elated.  It was then that Atari embraced Carlisle, this time in tears of happiness.

 

Kent then told Atari that he had set up appointments with a couple of Engineering firms and he hoped that it would be fun for the two girls to tour San Francisco while he was out on business.  “In fact, I want the two of you to enjoy yourself without worrying about money” as he handed her an envelope of cash.

 

Not even looking inside the envelope which contained $1000 in cash, she said, “Kent I can’t take this.  I am certain Madeline will provide me with an advance and I have a payroll check from the company,”

 

“This is my gift to you, Sweetheart.  I want you to have fun and I do not wish for you or Susan to not enjoy the sites.  After all, I want the best for you always” he said.

 

Susan then came running out of the restaurant and asked whether she could get a ride home as one of the managers immediately offered to take her.   She hugged Atari and Kent and thanked the Stevens men for the ability to travel to San Francisco.

 

Once they arrived at the hotel, Kent walked Atari to her hotel room and told her he would see her in the morning.  He told her how much he loved her and he was happy he had the opportunity to be with her in San Francisco.  He also hoped Madeline would not mind the additional house guests since she had no forewarning.

 

Atari said she was certain that would not be a problem especially since they also had the apartment downtown for guests. “And perhaps we could spend some time alone at the apartment” she commented asKent grabbed her placing a large kiss on her lips. Í think that will be most acceptable, Atari” he said.

 

Madeline and Adelaide awakened early and were already having breakfast when Atari joined them.  They were happy that Atari had such an enjoyable evening and when Madeline was told that both Susan and Kent would be joining them on the flight, Madeline was elated.  She said that the apartment downtown had two bedrooms and that they would have an opportunity to sight see while Adelaide had an opportunity to get settled at her residence.  She said that she had to be at her fashion house the following morning because apparently there were some problems which required her attention regarding Paris fashion week.

 

Soon the ladies were ready to drive toward the airport to drop the rental car off and to take a shuttle to the private airstrip.   Kent, Susan and Carlisle were already at the airport as they arrived.  As Madeline approached Carlisle to thank him and ask whether he would accept payment for this luxury, he got on one knee and pulled out a ring box from his pocket.

 

“Madeline, I know we will have to wait until my divorce finalizes.  Yet there is no other I wish in my life but you.  I have loved you throughout the years and will you marry me after all of this is settled?” he asked.

 

She looked at him with loving eyes and said “Yes, how could I refuse your offer.  I have always loved youCarlisle and I will wait for you as long as it takes.”   He then stood up and placed a beautifully designed ring which consisted of at least three carats of stones on her finger.  She was in awe of the ring and told him, he really did not have to be that extravagant.  She would have been happy with a ring similar to Atari’s.

 

He then told her that it had been his grandmother’s ring and that he had saved it throughout the years for the person he would share his life with.  “I know this was probably not fair to Susan but my instincts to have kept this ring hidden were correct in my opinion. And if Susan and I would have been able to sustain our marriage, I would have provided it to Kent.  I love you and I always have.  Somehow, I always knew you would be wearing this ring.”

 

The two of them then embraced in a most passionate kiss as those around them clapped and congratulated the two.  Kent then advised Susan that whatever she had heard today had to be kept under wraps because ofCarlisle’s impending divorce from his mother.

 

She said she would never divulge the information to anyone especially with the kindness bestowed upon her by the Stevens’ men.  She explained that his father had offered her an opportunity to go to the local community college to get her associates degree in business and that she would soon be working in the office. She was grateful because she could not afford to go to school on her own.  She then embraced Kent with tears in her eyes as Atari held them both before going onto the ramp toward their plane.

 

It was then that Gigi and Betsy St. Claire arrived to bid Madeline and Atari goodbye.  Betsy told Carlisle that Jon had moved in with Sandra because he had no other place to go. His personal possessions and his yacht were moved to the Steven’s residence.

 

“I bet Jon had to do some fast talking, especially when he told Sandra he only used her for sex” Carlisle said with amazement.

 

“I understand that he had to stand outside of the door for at least an hour, in accordance with the neighbor’s recollection”, Betsy stated.  After everyone laughed she stated that she and Gigi would be moving to Floridaas soon as the divorce would be finalized.  Gigi would be attending the University of Florida in Gainesville.

 

Adelaide had not pressed charges against Ken so he was free to return to his residence.  The divorce papers were prepared and served on Ken while he was still in jail.  She felt he should be happy because he would not have to worry about selling the home they had purchased and hoped that he would someday be happy. She now had the opportunity to pursue a career at Madeline’s company, even though she would have to take courses to be proficient even as an assistant.  Yet she was being allowed the opportunity and looked forward to a better life where she was previously felt unloved.

 

 

***

 

 

The plane arrived in San Francisco at 12:00 pm pacific time after an approximate five hour flight.  Madeline’s chauffeur picked up the passengers including the pilot who was dropped off at a hotel near the apartmentAtari, Kent and Susan would stay at.  After leaving the luggage with the doorman of the apartment, they travelled to Madeline’s residence to enjoy the afternoon. Her servants had prepared lunch and beverages in the atrium.   Madeline, of course, decided to go directly to her fashion house as soon as lunch was over.  She knew Adelaide required time to herself and she had to handle the problem at the fashion house.

 

The fashion house was located just off Market Street.   She had contacted Pierre to meet her at the door at her arrival because she wished to have a meeting with him before going to her office on the fifth floor.  Pierrewas frantic for some reason because some of the designs had not been completed to what he had felt would be Madeline’s specifications.  He felt that Serenity, their top model, had provided information about the Dupree collection to one of the competitors because she not only left but took one of the designers with her. He was concerned that they would be using these designs to enhance their own collection since they had not won for years.

 

Madeline told Pierre that he should not be concerned.  First, they would change their designs.  Secondly, the collection would include some of her daughter Atari’s clothing designs which she felt would be the designs people would wear in the following year.  She then gave Pierre Atari’s portfolio.   “Thirdly, within a couple of days, Atari will join us and I will need for you to work with her so that she takes Serenity’s place. Do you feel the other’s are trustworthy or do you feel there are others who will betray our collection?” she asked.

 

“Madeline, I have investigated the other designers, models and seamstresses and from what I can see it was only Serenity and Claire Dufault who seemed to have an agenda.  I understand they both are being paid well by Saran Façade. And since we cannot prove that they have taken copies of our designs, it will be just their word against ours because even our security cameras did not pick up anything specific” he said.

 

 

As they made their way to the upper level, all the employees were trying to act busy as Madeline and Pierrewalked past them.  She told her assistant Carrie that she wished all of her designers in the board room within fifteen minutes for a meeting.

 

Carrie could see the under toned anger which came from Madeline’s voice. Although it was common for Madeline to be extremely discriminatory and sometimes not too considerate of her employees, the Dupree House of Fashion was one of the most lucrative and popular houses to work for.  If you worked for Madeline, it was of certainty that you would be going places. She in turn expected perfection in her staff’s appearances as well as perfection in the way everyone handled their respective positions.

 

Her designing staff was awaiting her arrival as she and Pierre entered the board room.  She iterated the information Pierre had provided her about the top model and designer who left for another design house.  She then advised that she would be placing Celia Wolf in charge of the other designers to complete a new look for fashion week.  If their current designs were now compromised, she wished the design team to take the designs she would be providing them and to incorporate the styling into their current designs.  Not explaining the designs were her daughter’s she was pleased that it appeared her designers including Celia Wolf found them to be exquisite by the comments and oohs and ahs made

 

Each was to come up with a change in the existing design to incorporate the new designs which also would be included in the collection.  Since they had only two weeks to complete these designs, everyone would be expected to work additional hours until everything was completed. Each designer was to provide her with the changes the following day. She also stated that she did not wish for any fittings with the balance of the models until the final couple of days so that no one else would have the opportunity to steal their designs. It was unnecessary anyway because they had each of the models sizing.

 

Celia Wolf waited as the other designers left the room.  She approached Madeline and thanked her for her confidence.  “Celia, this is temporary and an opportunity to be a permanent position for you.  I will expect that you will meet with the designers before our meeting tomorrow to be assured that everything is handled. Pierre should also be in that meeting.”

 

“I am curious Ms. Dupree.  How is it that you have a totally new design?  I find it extremely innovative but it seems to have been done in such a short time since you left.  Do you have another designer that you will be including on staff, if I may inquire?”

 

“Yes Celia and you will meet her within a couple of days.  She will also be one of our models in the Pariscollection” Madeline stated.   “Now, go and coordinate this project with your design team.  Oh, and you can also tell them they may expect a bonus if the collection is completed by next week. Otherwise, I guarantee heads will roll.”

 

After everyone left, Pierre reminded Madeline that she was asking a lot in a very short time. She agreed but said she had no other choice.  She also asked Pierre if he could make the arrangements to have the stylists meet with Atari to assist her with skin care, hair care and make up. “And Pierre, I need for you to show her how to walk on the runway as well as how to pose.  Have the photographer take test shots and some video so Atari will feel comfortable with her new role.”

 

“You mean, Madeline, so you may feel comfortable; right?” Pierre commented.

 

“She said “Yes, but I do wish for her to be comfortable as well.  She has come from a small town and although she has excellent poise and is thin, beautiful and tall, I will be taking her totally out of her element.  And let’s face it, she’s a small town girl” Madeline replied.

 

“Well then, she will have no fear.  She obviously does not really know what to expect and she will be perfect. You will be proud, Madeline” he said.

 

“I know I will Pierre and I cannot thank you enough for putting up with me this long. I don’t know if you have noticed, but I am now engaged to a wonderful man that I have loved for years” as she placed her hand in front of Pierre so as to notice her ring.

 

“Congratulations, Madeline.  I was wondering if you had something to tell me” he said.

 

“Pierre, I have operated as the CEO and President of my house for years and I wish to promote you to President.  You have been my friend and partner for years and considering you only as my director has been a shame.  I apologize that I have not given you a greater opportunity sooner.  I wish for you to not only share in my success but to share in the profits of our house” she said.

 

“Madeline, you have always been good to me financially. I would consider it to be an honor to assist you in your endeavors as I always have.  But what plans do you have of Atari?” he asked.

 

“First of all she has to get her designer’s degree while working as a model.  This way she will be able to support herself even if I pay for her tuition.  In time, I hope she will start her own design house but Pierre you know that it is not a fun position.  It may seem glamorous to those outside, but on the inside, it is extremely cut-throat and competitive.  She is currently engaged to a wonderful man and frankly, I want her to have a happy life, one which may be enriched by a family” she responded.

 

“I do not intend to provide her favors because she is my daughter Pierre.  However, if her designs save ourParis collection, then I expect her to be rewarded.  That is only fair” she continued.

 

“I agree with you Madeline and I will be happy to work with her in every way that I can” he said.

 

“Pierre, understand, I wish to have you be the one everyone looks to and to handle the everyday matters.  It will not be long and I probably will leave you to the entire task of running this company and determining the designs.  I will make certain you join me in every meeting and in every show.  I will introduce you as the one who will be taking over Dupree Fashion House” she said.    “Oh, by the way, will your partner have the opportunity of joining us in Paris?”

 

Yes, I am happy to say that he will be there.  He is having his associates handle his practice for a couple of weeks so that he can take some time to be with me.  I am really happy about that.  And, Madeline, thank you for this opportunity.  I know this will be a difficult transition for you since you are completely hands on” he said.

 

“I trust you Pierre, and I have seen you accomplish so much in the years we have been together.  Yes it will be difficult but not as difficult as it would be if I did not trust you so explicitly” she said.

 

“Oh by the way, I have already contacted my corporate attorney to draft up the contract relating to your new position.  He will be in tomorrow at 10:00 am.  And Pierre, if you would like your partner to go over the details, please let him know.  I realize I am not giving you a lot of time, but I really wish your position to be in place before fashion week. Anyway, you will have time to review it, in the event he cannot be here tomorrow.  I will make certain once everything is done that we contact the media.”

 

As he walked Madeline to her limousine, he was deep in thought.  If Madeline had not come to her senses and offered him the title to go with his responsibilities soon, he had made up his mind that he would be leaving her after the Paris show.  He felt that perhaps some of the designers have sensed that and perhaps that is the reason for Claire Dufault to have left.  Unfortunately Claire shadowed him in his every move pertaining to the collection and it could have been that she overheard the situation.  After all she was now working for the fashion house that had contacted him to join them.  He hoped that this would not come out in the open to Madeline.  Yet, she seemed to understand that he had not been treated in the manner in which his responsibilities required. He realized this was quite a concession for Madeline who was always the barracuda of the fashion industry.  He also wondered if this new man in her life brought her to her senses.

 

He then contacted his partner and stated he knew that he would be working late to make preparations for the following day.  He would not be alone because not one of his designers had yet left and were working together on changing their designs. He fortunately felt their newly designed fabrics would work for Atari’s designs.

 

As Madeline arrived at her home, everyone was seated in the dining room, enjoying an extravagant dinner. She apologized for being late as she sat at the head of the table.  She advised Kent that he would have use of her Mercedes and that she would have the company limo take her wherever she needed to go.  It was then that she explained her dilemma and advised Atari that she would be using her designs.  Atari was surprised but explained she was elated.

 

Madeline also explained her dilemma regarding her existing top model and hoped Atari would take her place. Although Atari initially was hesitant, Madeline advised her that Pierre would work with her so she should be comfortable by fashion week.   When Atari expressed concern about spending time with Susan, she was told that she would not have to go in for a couple of days for her training.  Yet, she said she would take the girls in the morning to the fashion house where they would take Atari’s measurements and she could meet Pierre and some of the staff.   Susan was exited about the possibility even though it meant they would not be able to tour the Fisherman’s Warf or China town until the afternoon.  She then asked Atari whether she had a passport.  It was confirmed that Adelaide had made certain she had one in her senior year of high school, just as a precaution.

 

Because of the busy day ahead, Kent, Atari and Susan travelled to the apartment shortly after desert was served.  The GPS was already programmed with the address to the apartment.  Even though Kent was somewhat familiar with San Francisco, it had been a number of years since he had been here. He was happy for the opportunity to have relaxed and taken a swim in Madeline’s pool with the girls.  One never requires swim gear when you are at a designer’s home because there are racks of various clothing and swim suits at your disposal. He could definitely understand why his mother had been so envious of Madeline’s lifestyle and home.

 

 

***

 

 

Carlisle was happy to see his son arrive as he picked him and Susan up from the airport.  Susan spoke for the majority of the trip to her home, telling Carlisle what a wonderful trip she had, how marvelous it was to have viewed the Dupree House of Fashion and how great Atari had adjusted to her modeling role.

 

After they had dropped Susan off at her home, Carlisle asked Kent how he felt about Atari becoming a model and travelling to Paris in fashion week.

 

He stated he did not feel it had changed Atari but he could see how everyone felt she was one of the most extravagant beauties they had laid their eyes on.  “Not only that but Madeline has promoted her long time partner and friend from director to President and she will be allowing Pierre to make most of the decisions after fashion week“, Kent explained.

 

“Well that is great.  I had hoped Madeline would find a little time for herself and for me.  If you are asking, I never told her that was a requirement of our being together” Carlisle stated.

 

“I didn’t think so but I was prepared to ask.  With Atari being an overnight celebrity and the magazines all publicizing the fact that she is Madeline’s daughter, I have to admit, I really would have liked to have told her to make a choice, me or modeling.  Yet, that would have been wrong but I can honestly tell you I feel insecure and I am concerned about losing her. You could not imagine the attention she received from the media when modeling one of the evening dresses. It was televised as well as being on the internet.”

 

“Oh Kent, I know she loves you.  And you admitted, this celebrity status had not gone to her head, right?” he asked.

 

“No, that morning before we left, I and Susan went directly to the fashion house and watched her being photographed…even in scanty swimwear.  And at every break she would run up to me and kiss me.  She even cried when I left and she had to go into makeup before completing the rest of the shoot”, Kent said.

 

“Well then son, you will just have to place your trust in her.  Let’s face it, her mother has not been with anyone for years and obviously still loves me.  I am banking that the Dupree women only love us Stevens’ men” he said.

 

“I sure hope so.  The way some of those men were looking at her, I had some concern” Kent said.

 

“Well be proud of the fact that you probably have one of the most beautiful women on the planet as your future wife, Kent.  It is a compliment and not a curse.  I have seen the way she looks at you” Carlislecommented.  “You are extremely handsome yourself and within a week will be a multi-millionaire”.

 

“That last comment doesn’t help me.  I want someone to love me for who I am and not for my money.  Most of the women I have dated throughout the years, including Gigi, only seemed interested in money.  Atari instead felt obligated to me for anything I did for her and even tried to return the money I had given her to make some wagers at the casino” he said. “So what’s happening with mother?  Is she ready to meet with your attorneys?” he asked, changing the subject.

 

“Yes, in fact her attorney and she will be having a preliminary meeting with me tomorrow morning.  I am surprised about that but also concerned since she seems a bit eager to get this matter handled” Carlisleadded.

 

“Well I guess you will know tomorrow.   What’s on my agenda at work?” he asked.  Carlisle advised there were some additional problems with the engines which were sent over from Japan.  Although the engineering department took the appropriate tests and have all the data for him, he will have to go over the details.  He also told Kent that he would need for him to fly to Japan possibly within a week because of these new problems.

 

Kent knew that if this engine dilemma could not be handled soon, that he would have to layoff his people again and he certainly did not wish for that to happen. They had only about 500 engines on hand and the assembly area could put together almost 200 vehicles a day.  Kent told his father that he would see whether he could work with the engineer in Japan via web meeting so that a possible change in the engine could be made at the Carlisle factory before the new shipment arrived.

 

It was early morning and Kent left for the factory early.  He had not awakened his father in the next room because he felt he needed some sleep before meeting with his mother and her attorney.  He called a meeting with all of his engineers in the board room and set up a web-cam meeting with his Japanese counterpart. The meeting was set for 5:00 pm which would be a 14 hour difference or 7:00 am           the following day in Japanand two of the top engineers would assist Kent in going over the test information to come to a conclusion. He also called the University of ND for an interpreter to join them.

 

Carlisle arrived an hour later, realizing his son already had all the engineers in the board room.  He was not anxious to see Sandra after the scene at Adelaide’s home.  Yet, it was necessary to conclude this matter, especially since Jon was now living with her.

 

Soon his and Sandra’s attorney arrived, with Sandra trailing behind by five minutes.  Since the engineers and Kent were using the board room for their meeting, they unfortunately would have to meet at the table in his office.  Each of the attorneys brought paralegals to assist them.

 

Carlisle’s attorney began the meeting by inquiring as to whether the offer made by Carlisle was acceptable to Susan.   She said she felt it was not fair that she did not share in the profits of the company.  And because she had bore his son, she felt the entire house should be hers and that included all of the family artifacts since Kent was her son.

 

Carlisle had enough as she carried on about her difficulties in being a mother and his wife.  “Sandra, it is like this.  We can take a 50/50 split on everything.  You then will have to sell the house you and Jon are living in and give me my share of the equity.   The family portraits and artifacts are not from your family’s heritage but from mine.  You will not keep those items I have listed.  I will accept a compromise, however, since you have indicated more than once about our son’s interests, that he may retain all such items you feel belong to him.”

 

“As for the company Kent will not remain as the engineer. He is moving to San Francisco where he has secured a position with an Architectural firm.  And should you elect to sell the company, I will vacate my position immediately and the factory premises will be shut down unless you wish to operate it yourself.  In that case, you will have to determine who you wish to sell the factory to, realizing that the competitor which is in the area will purchase it but absolve our company anyway after using our designs. Or maybe Jon St. Claire has the experience and know-how to run the company.  Either way, you decide” he said.

 

Sandra’s attorney then asked for a short recess where he could converse with his client.  Carlisle was angry because he gave her a very sweet deal, considering the circumstances.  He felt that if she was sleeping with his former best friend, she should be happy with the residence, which in itself is valued a little over $1,000,000 without the acreage.  His attorney calmed him down and advised him he felt certain that it would work out.

 

After about a half-hour, Carlisle, his attorney and paralegal returned to his office.  This time Susan’s attorney agreed that Susan would agree to the terms of the

A small town girl finds success – Dedicated to the Dragon Ladies of Welding
divorce.  She would receive approximately $5,000,000 in cash from the current $10,000,000 in investments he had as soon as probable.  She would receive the quick claim deed to their existing residence and be responsible thereafter for all taxes, utilities, improvements and betterments.  Also, she would have full title to the vehicle she is driving as well as to the yacht.  “In turn, she will allow Carlisle Stevens full ownership of the company as well as to the Lear Jet which is owned by the company.  Mr. Stevens will also be able to retain his current investments of approximately $5,000,000 after sharing the 50% with Susan Stevens.  The family property which Mr. Stevens has listed will be returned to him after the deed is signed.  Mrs. Stevens has asked that the property be removed by her son rather than Mr. Stevens” Sandra’s attorney iterated.

 

Carlisle’s attorney then concurred that the original agreement with the exception of one minor change as to the removal of the family artifacts schedule by her son, would be signed and accepted.  Thereafter all changes were initialed and signed by the parties and the quick-claim deed was signed and witnessed for the residence Sandra would retain.

 

Although Susan was upset that she would be responsible for those credit cards which were solely in her name, she had to agree that Carlisle had never used personal credit cards…only cards which were in his business name.

 

Carlisle was pleased with the results of the meeting.  While his attorney was still on the premises he contacted his Vice President and the Production Manager.  Once they arrived he indicated his thoughts of selling the company on a stock option basis.  Realizing the buyout would take several years, he stated that he will remain the acting CEO and consultant but no longer be its president.  He stated that Brice Safranski, his vice president would move his rank to president and that his production manager Ron Kaminski would be given the title of Vice President.

“Each of you will be given a raise to be able to purchase five percent of the Company’s stock within a year. Anything they chose to purchase above that would be through their own salary. The employees then could purchase a stock option to purchase shares in the company which my attorney has scheduled.  Since I currently own 100% of all shares, the money under this buyout will come to me directly, until the employees own 100% of the company’s assets and liabilities.”

 

“Since I have had an excruciating day already, I will leave you with our attorney to go over the details of the buy-out.   Gentlemen, if you would prefer, you may secure your own attorney before signing these documents.  However, since the Bennett Law Firm has represented our company since its inception, I would hope that you would retain this firm once I become the minority owner and give up my title.”

 

Brice then inquired whether Kent would be an officer as well.  Carlisle advised him that Kent would be with us only for a short time because he will be joining a firm in San Francisco as an Architectural/Structural engineer within the month.

 

He explained that if it had not been for the Japanese engine problems, Kent would have left the factory sooner.  “He, I understand will have a web cam meeting with the Japanese engineers and then fly to Japanwithin a week.  Brice, you may consider flying down with him because you will be running the show from hereon in. They will provide an interpreter if there is a language problem, but most likely you will be meeting with the same people who have come to the factory. They of course speak English” Carlisle concluded as he left the office.

 

In a week he would be in court with the judge signing their divorce decree.  He would be free to fly to San Francisco after Paris fashion week to be with Madeline.

 

 

***

 

 

There were only three days prior to the Dupree Fashion House Executives making their way to Paris.   The design team and the seamstresses under the direction of Celia Wolf managed to have the haute courtier collection ready in record time.  Because of the excellent job Celia orchestrated on Madeline’s and Pierre’s behalf, they decided that Celia would become the new director as soon as Pierre Denning was made President. There was no other that would be able to fit into Pierre’s current position and Celia agreed to the transition knowing there would be little time for a personal life.   Both Pierre and his life partner had agreed to the terms of the contract. Madeline was looking forward to relinquishing her title as President although she would retain her Chief Executive Officer title for the sake of involvement and consultation.

 

Adelaide made certain she stayed by Atari’s side through all the photo shoots and fittings.  In only a week, Atari was favored as the top model for the Dupree House.  Her sculptured face and graceful tall features made it easy for the photographers to come up with some astounding shots.   The rumor mill indicated that Serenity who was seen at one of the posh clubs in San Francisco

mentioned that Saran Façade would have the winning collection Paris week.  She further stated that the designers who she modeled for were always the winners and unfortunately the Dupree House of Fashion would be in the bottom list.

 

Madeline could not prove that Claire Dufault had stolen her designs but felt they would be changed up so as not to show they were copied. In any event, she hoped that the new collection intermingling Atari’s designs would far exceed anything Claire Dufault could master for Saran.  Yet she could not understand why Claire would have left so abruptly with Serenity.  She wondered whether Pierre’s discontent may have had something to do with it but he to this time said nothing regarding the matter.

 

It was not until the day they were to depart for Paris would she learn the truth.   The reporters inquired as to how Madeline was feeling about her collection when obviously she lost her top designer and model to Saran Façade. She just smiled and responded “I am very happy for Saran Façade because obviously his house required some assistance. Claire Dufault will do an excellent job for him.”

 

“But aren’t you worried at all Madeline?  Surely losing your top designer and top model will cause you some difficulties” stated one of the reporters.

 

“I really am not concerned gentlemen.   In fact my top designer Celia Wolf has agreed to become my director taking Pierre Denning’s position” she said.

 

“So it’s true what the rumor mill is stating.  Pierre is now to be working for Saran Façade as well?” said one of the reporters.   “Pierre is that true ?” another reporter stated directly to him.

 

Madeline interjected “Well gentlemen, perhaps it is true that Pierre was intending to leave our house. However, as of this week he has signed a contract with Dupree House of Fashion where he will take the position of President, allowing me to free my time by remaining CEO” she said as she placed her arm around Pierre.

 

“But is that the reason you provided Pierre the promotion?” asked the reporter.

 

“No, that is not the reason.  Pierre has been fundamental to our company’s growth and has always been a dear friend.  He unlike Clare and Serenity did not elect to leave before fashion week.  He has stood by me and it is appreciated” she said as she smiled at him.  “He should have been promoted long ago and it was my mistake to not have recognized what a treasure I have had working with me throughout the years.  I may only state that I am so pleased that he has elected to remain and run my house so I may have some additional time on my hands.”

 

By this time the models arrived, including Atari who was escorted by Adelaide.  Celia also arrived at last minute.  Madeline made certain that Atari, Adelaide and Celia had the appropriate designer clothing to wear when they were not on the runway. Pierre’s partner had arrived during the media interviews and had quietly entered the plane. The luggage and the collection had already been stowed and soon the plane was ready for take off.

 

Other than for the meals served by the flight attendants, everyone seemed to require rest; that is everyone but Pierre and Madeline.   Once the models were asleep, Pierre asked if he could join Madeline and Adelaidegladly moved to a seat near Atari.   He was concerned about Madeline’s feelings about his prior decision to leave her.

 

She was very gracious and advised him, to his surprise, that had she been in his position, she would have sought a position elsewhere as well.  She apologized that she had not thought about promoting him previously. Yet, she had always felt she was the only one who could manage all the particulars.  She also hoped that the situation could be forgotten and that from this day forward they would be able to work as a team.

 

Pierre also explained that he had not anticipated her designs to have been stolen in advance of fashion week.  He felt the entire situation was his fault.  He asked for her forgiveness for not having anticipated the ramifications of his discussion to leave with Claire.

 

“Pierre, it was obviously meant to be.  We are not the worse for wear.  I suspect that it was meant for us to use Atari’s designs at least in part and I believe because of it we have a better collection.  Do not worry my friend.  All will be alright in the end.” She said.  It was then that she nodded off with Pierre at her side, as he was meant to be.

 

They arrived in Paris and were quickly picked up by limousines which would take their entourage to the InterContinental Paris-Avenue Marceau.  The Inter-Continental Marceau was once the private mansion of the Comte de Breteuil which is not only close to the trendy French restaurants and Place Vendome’s jewelers but is an excellent place to stroll along the Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe.

 

Madeline, Atari and Adelaide stayed in the same suite while Celia Wolf and Pierre and his partner had adjoining rooms.  The various models had rooms on another floor.

 

Atari was extremely excited to be in Paris.  She knew that for the first couple of days prior and during the show, Madeline and Pierre essentially would be attending receptions at the various hospitality suites.  Pierre’s partner, Lucas Cane agreed to escort Madeline and Atari to one of the local restaurants so that they would not have to eat all of their meals in the hotel.  After an excellent dining experience at the Tour D’Argent, the Mecca of Haute Cuisine they hailed a cab to see some of the sights of the city before retiring.

 

They saw the Eiffel Tower, the Palais du Louvre, the Beauborg area, Notre Dame de Paris and the Arc de Triomphe from their vehicle.  The driver was kind enough to stop at each site so Atari and Adelaide could take photographs.  It was such a wonderful experience and Atari could see how everyone loves Paris.  Atari hoped there would be time to go back to the Beauborg area so she could take in the Musee National d`Art Moderne and the Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique centers. Yet if not for this trip, perhaps, she thought, she and Kent could return to Paris for their honeymoon.

 

Except for their first night everyone was too busy with plans for the show to see the sights.  It was finally D-Day for their collection on the runway. Everyone was scurrying at the Musee Rodin for the 12:30 timeslot.  Adelaide and Celia made certain the dresses, hats and hair ornamentations were fitted perfectly on the models after they were done with makeup and hair styling.   Madeline was extremely nervous and Pierreattempted to calm her as he himself made certain everything was in order.

 

Both Madeline and Pierre announced their fall collection prior to the models beginning the runway show. They received several raves by those judging the show and although Saran Façade’s collection would follow, Madeline and Pierre felt their collection would be the one to receive acclaim.

 

Claire Dufault noticed Madeline and Pierre and had difficulty looking their way.  Serenity gave Atari a dirty look as she passed her.  Atari only could smile knowing that she was able to take her place without Madeline having a problem.

 

A dinner would be held at one of the hotels for all of the designers and executives to attend.  Madeline made certain her daughter and sister attended with her, Pierre and Celia.  It was the night where Madeline would announce to the rest of the world that she would be promoting her top people into higher positions so that she would be able to spend less time at the fashion house.  She was elated because she knew that within the following week, Carlisle would be flying into San Francisco and they would be able to spend some time together.  In fact Adelaide stated she would move to the apartment with Atari so that they could have some privacy.   Kent would not be expected to arrive until the following week and it would give Atari the time to enroll into the institute.

 

Everyone raved about the Dupree Collection as Madeline made her way to the podium.  Adelaide not only introduced her new President and Director but her daughter Atari who she proclaimed assisted her with this year’s collection by implementing her designs.

 

When Atari was asked whether she was to remain as a model, she indicated she would model clothing only if Madeline may require her services.  Otherwise she intended to study designs at the Institute and become a designer, someday owning her own fashion house.   Everyone applauded.

 

Many of the guests noted the rings both Madeline and Atari were sporting.  Of course, the news of their impending marriages to the Stevens’ men from Minnesota were the main topics of discussion.   Everyone congratulated Pierre, including Saran Façade and Claire Dufault.   Claire however refused to congratulate Celia who now was a formidable competitor who ended up with a job she had hoped to have for herself.

 

Atari was amazed with the number of movie stars who attended these events or who were ambassadors. She was even asked whether she would consider being in a couple of commercials, which she agreed to since she wished to have an additional amount of money over and above the allowance she is to receive from Madeline, for assisting at the fashion house when she is not attending classes. In fact one of the modeling commercials was for Victoria Secret and she wondered how Kent would handle it.  Yet she felt he had been open up to this time for anything that she would elect to do.  Madeline just beamed that her daughter was provided additional offers.

 

Pierre introduced Adelaide to some of the eligible straight bachelors who he felt would be compatible and surprisingly one of the directors of Saran Façade, Rand Levine, took an exceptional interest in her and invited her for a stroll that evening. When Madeline found out she just shook her head and told Pierre “It looks like we will always be in some type of association with a member of Saran Façade”.  Pierre just laughed but mentioned surely that Madeline would not have to worry about Adelaide giving away design secrets.

 

 

***

 

 

Carlisle did not arrive the following week but phoned Madeline to advise her that he was awaiting his son’s return from Japan.  They both hoped to arrive within a week’s time in the company jet which Kent would soon own.  He told Madeline that she and Atari should be packed and ready to fly to Las Vegas for a double wedding.  “Later if you wish we could all fly back to Paris for a honeymoon?”

 

“But Carlisle, I cannot answer for Atari.  You know she wished to wait until after she completed her education and became more worldly” Madeline said.

 

“Well, from what I can see from the Media, she was quite popular in Paris and it is known that she will be doing commercials for Victoria Secret.  Since both she and Kent will be busy with their respective vocations they may as well live together as a married couple.  Yet, that will be their decision.  I know Kent will be contacting her as soon as he arrives back from Japan.  We just have a few details to complete at the factory regarding the engines and then we will be on our way” he said.

 

“I love you Madeline and I cannot wait to make you my wife.  I hope you do not mind that I have chosen Las Vegas for our wedding destination” he said.

 

“No, I certainly do not mind.  I think that will be wonderful.  But Carlisle, I know you well, have your attorneys drafted prenuptial agreements?” she asked.

 

“Madeline, you and I do not need pre-nuptial agreements unless you are concerned for yourself.   After all, I saved Mother’s ring for you.  You are my true love and I am certain we will grow old together.  I just do not wish to waste any more of my lifetime without you.  Is that alright with you?” he asked.

 

“Carlisle, I have no problem with that because I too love you and always have.  There is no way that I plan on losing you or leaving you” she said.

 

“Well that is great.  I know I originally suggested that Kent get a pre-nuptial agreement between he and Atari because they are so young.  Yet, the more I thought about it and in my discussion with Kent, he feels she is the only one that has meaning in his life and I must agree.  It’s funny how fate works.  We each had to have children with another so that our children could marry and have the life we initially had hoped for.”

 

“I know, but all is not lost.  We each have had a good life and now that we have found each other, neither of us will ever be alone or without love.  I am pretty excited about that” she said.

 

“So am I my love.   I will call you as soon as Kent and I are ready to leave, so you have an opportunity to make arrangements at your business” and after a few endearing statements to each other they concluded their call.

 

It was within a couple of days of Carlisle’s call that Kent contacted Atari.  She had just finished a shoot and was on her way home.   He explained that his father and Madeline would be flying to Las Vegas to be married shortly after they arrived.  It was then that he asked Atari whether she would consider changing her mind about waiting to be married.  “Sweetheart, I really do not wish to just live with you without you being my wife. I love you and it isn’t as if both of us will not be busy with our respective vocations, but it would be nice to have each other to come home to.  I want you and I need you, but I do not feel it is fair to just live with you without legalizing our union.  Atari, are you still there?   I am not trying to push you, Sweetheart.  I am in love with you and I want us to be together forever.” He said.

 

“I’m here and I have listened to your every word.  In such a short time I have experienced so much living and working with Madeline.  I was fearful that you would find me boring and I did not wish for you to be sorry that you married me.”

 

“How could I be bored with you, Atari?  You have already in just a couple of week’s time done some things most people would dream of.  I understand you also have a great commercial with Victoria Secret and may be one of their regulars.  I may get a bit jealous about that at times, but I am so proud of you Atari, especially for saving Madeline’s collection by incorporating your designs.  I know we can grow together and help each other.   I also need your shoulder to lean on, Sweetheart.  It’s a two way street!  You won’t get bored with me, will you?”

 

“Are you kidding Kent, there is no way I could be bored with you.   The answer is yes; Yes, I will marry you and I will look forward to being your wife.  I adore you!” she said.

 

“I adore you too Sweetheart so may we make plans then to be married in Las Vegas along with our parents. Then we can fly directly to Paris for our honeymoon.  Of course we will be in separate rooms from our parents” he said as Atari laughed.

 

Kent was exhausted from his trip and decided to sleep in.  He had provided the paperwork to his father and had advised the engineer he had traveled to Japan with to take the morning off as well.

 

In the meantime Carlisle met with the engineering staff to go over the changes that were necessary to the engines.  The engineers were required to make the necessary changes and to test the engine’s calibrations to see whether they would operate as required prior to making the changes for the line.

 

Ken had brought in a knap sack earlier that morning which he placed in his locker.  He was angry at the circumstances of his divorce but most importantly it appeared his friends were not treating him in the same manner as they used to.

 

The news that he had beat up his wife had spread through the factory and although his drinking buddies had been involved in various infractions with other men, they had never beat up their wives.  A DUI was the worse that some had experienced.  Many had known Adelaide and felt she was a beautiful and kind woman.  Yet the manner in which Ken explained the relationship was totally different.  Now, it seemed as though everyone knew because of the media that Madeline had been supporting the family and it appeared Ken spent all of his non-work time mainly in taverns. He was always the life of the party and many could not believe that he had an alternate personality.

 

It was about 10:00 am and Ken had decided that it was time to go up to the office and discuss the matter with Carlisle Stevens.  He felt as though this entire incident had ruined his life and he blamed Stevens and his beloved Madeline for everything which happened.

 

The receptionist noticed Ken going toward the stairs to the offices on the upper level.  Since factory employees are not allowed to go into the office areas during the day unless they are summoned from Human Resources, she asked if he had an appointment with someone.

 

“Yes, I am to see Carlisle Stevens” he said.

 

“But Mr. Stevens is in a meeting with his engineers and he does not wish to be disturbed” she said.

 

“I don’t know about that.  He just told me to come up and it really is not your affair” he said.

 

She became nervous about his attitude and especially since she also had heard of the various stories surrounding him and his family.  Normally one has to have a pass to get into the factory area and there is a security man at the desk when they arrive.  Usually the security officer notices if something seems strange but usually during the day, they move throughout the plant.  She waited for a moment to allow him to be out of view and then contacted security.

 

It was then that Ken opened the door to the board room where Carlisle was meeting with the engineering department.  “You son of a bitch; How many lives do you have?” Ken stated pulling his gun out of his waistline and pointing it at Carlisle.

 

“What do you mean, Ken?  Is there a problem?  Why are you here? And why are you pointing a gun at me?” he asked.

 

“I thought I had gotten you at your home two days ago and now I find out that you are here and fine?” he said.

 

“What do you mean that you thought you had gotten me?  What did you do at my home?” Carlisle asked as the three engineers and his Vice President Brice Safranski who were in the room pushed their chairs back fearful of the man who was shaking his pistol at their boss..

 

“Well if you don’t know, apparently someone else was sleeping with that hoity toity wife of yours.  But I have you now and you are going to die this time” he claimed.

 

“What did you do at my home Ken?  What are you doing threatening my life.  Do you realize how serious this is” he asked.

 

“It doesn’t matter now you prick because I am certain the two of them are dead already and what’s one or two more” he said.  “You have treated me like dirt throughout the years.  I was never good enough for you to be my friend.  You knew I loved Madeline and you turned her against me and now she has made me a fool”, he continued.

 

 

 

“But you raped her Ken.  How do you feel that was right?  She was young and a virgin and you hurt her? “, Carlisle stated.

 

“Yeh! But if you would not have stuck your big nose into the matter, she would have loved me.  I know it.  She just needed time” he said.

 

“Ken you beat the hell out of her as you beat up Adelaide.  What is wrong with you?” Carlisle stated.

 

“There is nothing wrong with me you rich prick.  And I do not wish to hear you speak.  Shut your mouth!”  Within an instant, Ken pulled the trigger.  Carlisle tried to evade the bullet but was hit and fell to the floor.  Ken then pointed his gun at the three engineers who threw themselves under the table.  He hit Brice Safranski in the arm and the other three managed to be under the thick table.  Soon the security men were attempting to get in the door and the police were called.  It was then that Ken placed the pistol next to his head, pulled the trigger and killed himself.

 

Kent was contacted by security and followed the police into the building.  It was too late and as he came into the room he found his father on the floor, barely breathing in a pool of blood.   Although the ambulance arrived within seconds it seemed like forever.  Kentheld his father in his arms sobbing and telling his father to hang in there with him.  He needed to live.

 

Kent traveled in the ambulance with his father.  Although his father had an oxygen mask on his face he removed it and stated “Check on your mother” and then he went back into an unconscious state but was breathing.   They arrived at the ER within a few minutes. His father was then taken into the OR for an immediate surgery with Kent holding his hand until he was taken into the room.  He had lost a tremendous amount of blood and Kent elected to donate some blood immediately since they both had the same blood type. Safranski who had only a superficial wound joined him and explained what had transpired in the board room as they walked toward the police officers who were waiting to take statements.

 

Kent then said “We have to go to my mother’s house.  There may be a problem.  Brice advised Kent that he would go to his mother’s home with the police and that he should stay at the hospital awaiting his father’s condition.   He gave Brice his cell phone and told Brice to contact his mother and Madeline.   Brice then quickly took the phone and told him he would handle the situation.

 

From the back of the police car, Brice attempted calling Sandra Stevens but the telephone just rang.  He then contacted Madeline and told her that Carlisle had been shot.  Madeline started to sob but managed to tell him that, Atari and Adelaide would be flying in immediately.

 

A small town girl finds success – Dedicated to the Dragon Ladies of Welding
By this time, the police arrived at Sandra Steven’s home.  The door was ajar and apparently the security monitors were not on or working.  As they pulled out their pistols and called Sandra’s name, they went from room to room until they reached the bedroom.  There in the middle of the bed were two bodies whose sheets were full of blood.  As the officer pulled the sheet down and sought identification, it was apparent that both Sandra Stevens and Jon St. Clair had been shot while they were asleep.  And from what was stated by Ken, he obviously had killed them thinking Jon was Carlisle.

 

Brice immediately contacted Betsy St. Claire to let her know.  She said she would bring Gigi to the house immediately.  Brice indicated that it may not be a good idea because it is not something that neither Gigi nor she should see.  He explained that they apparently were dead for over twenty-four hours and that Kent was at the hospital while Carlisle was in the OR fighting for his life.  He suggested that instead she and Gigi should go directly to the hospital where Kent was.  He stated that Kent did not yet know and that she should probably wait for the police to tell him.  Betsy explained that she had known the Stevens family for years and that she would advise Kent when she arrived at the hospital.

 

In the meantime various police cars including the homicide detectives made their way into the house.   Brice contacted his family to tell them that he was fine and his wife advised that she would pick him up from the Steven’s home.

 

As Betsy and Gigi arrived at the hospital, Kent realized immediately there was a problem.  Gigi ran up to him and was crying uncontrollably.  He looked at Betsy and said “Jon and my mother are dead, aren’t they”.

 

“Yes, they apparently were killed in their sleep over twenty-four hours ago.  Although Kent tried to console Gigi, she became extremely angry telling him that if he had not become involved with Atari, none of this would have happened.  He realized that in part, what she was stating was true .  Yet he did love Atari but felt this was a very large price to pay.

 

It had been over six hours before the surgeon came into the waiting room.  Within an hour of Carlisle being taken into the OR, another surgeon from Grand Forks had been taken into the OR as well.   Kent was concerned because the surgeon who stood before him looked very dismal.   He said “Your father is in critical condition but we have removed the bullet which fortunately had just missed his heart.”

 

“Will he be alright” Kent asked nervously.

 

“We will not know for another twenty-four hours. His situation is very poor because he lost a great deal of blood. You must also prepare yourself.  The bullet was very near to your father’s spine and it may have caused damages as well.  In other words, your father may suffer some paralysis and be unable to walk, but we will closely monitor him.  He is currently resting and we may only hope for the best.”

 

“May I see him?” Kent asked.

 

“Yes, but he is resting in ICU and he will be unable to speak to you” he said.

 

Betsy and Gigi hugged Kent and advised that they would now be going to the morgue to make a formal identification.

 

It was then that Madeline and Atari arrived.  One could see where both had been crying for hours. Both women indicated how sorry they were that Carlisle was shot. When Atari touched Kent’s arm he flinched and moved away from her.

 

Madeline then went up to Kent and asked how Carlisle was.  He told her that his father was in critical condition and they were not assured he would walk again.  She asked whether she may see Carlisle.  “Well I am going there now Madeline.  I know you loved my father but I ask that you remain in the waiting room.  I would like to be alone with him before I view my mother’s body in the morgue.”

 

“Oh Kent, I am so sorry to hear about your mother and Jon St. Clair.  I could never have imagined that Ken would have killed them.

 

“Under the circumstances, Madeline, your family reminds me of the loss of my family.  And, I would think it would be better if you would leave us alone” he stated firmly.

 

“Kent, you cannot mean that she may not see your father” Atari asked as she touched him on the shoulder. “They have been close friends all of their life.”

 

“And look what that friendship did to my family, Atari.   I really cannot handle looking at either of you at this time and Madeline, if you wish to see father, you will have to wait until I leave” he said.

 

Atari then stated “I am certain you do not mean that Kent.  Both Madeline and I love your father. We could not have anticipated what happened.”

 

“It doesn’t matter how you feel.  I have just lost one of my parents and the other is in critical condition.  I fear that every time I look at the two of you, it will be a constant reminder.  I’m sorry, but I cannot deal with anything more” he said.

 

At that moment Atari slipped the ring off of her finger and told Kent that she understood.  She handed him the ring before he made his way toward the direction of the ICU and his father.

 

Madeline placed Atari in her arms and allowed her to sob. “It will be okay, Atari.  Kent has much on his mind and one could understand where our family was the cause.” Soon it was noticed that Kent passed them in the waiting room, obviously on his way to the morgue. He said nothing but made his way directly out of the door.

 

Madeline went into Carlisle’s room.  She kissed him on the cheek and started to weep.  “Darling, Darling, I am so sorry this happened to you.  I love you and I hope you will come back to us.  She then sat by his bed holding his hand in hers.

 

At least an hour went by and it appeared Carlisle had awakened “Madeline, I am happy you’re here.  Please don’t leave me” he said.

 

“I will never leave you Carlisle.  I am here and I will stay with you for however long it takes. Please get some rest.  Kent will be here soon and he has been with you from the time you were shot.  I am so sorry” she said as she cried aloud.

 

Carlisle held her hand tightly as he again dozed off.   It was then that Kent came into the room.  “Madeline, I can be with father now.  You can leave” he said.

 

As she tried to release her hand to get up, Carlisle seemed to hold it tighter.  He then looked up at his son and said “Both of you stay”.

 

“Okay father” and he placed a chair on the other side of the bed, not really looking at Madeline.

 

Atari had waited for what seemed to be hours in the waiting room and finally Madeline came out to her. “Sweetheart, why don’t you go to the hotel to be with Adelaide?  I promised Carlisle I would remain here with him.”

 

Just at that moment Brice arrived with his wife and asked Madeline how Carlisle was doing.  She explained he was in the ICU and that she and Kent would remain with him until he was out of danger.   He told her how sorry he was that he was unable to do anything to keep Carlisle from being shot.

 

She explained that there was nothing anyone could have done and that he should not blame himself.  “It appears right now, the finger of blame is pointed to my having come back home for Atari.  All this happened because of our family.  Anyway Brice, I am pleased that you are okay and thank you for contacting us.”

 

“Madeline, surely you do not believe you had anything to do with this” said Brice.  This has been a very bad day for Kent and I know him well enough that he will come around.  I’m saying this because I see that Atari is no longer wearing his ring.”   Atari started to cry and Tara, Brice’s wife placed her arms around her assuring her that everything would be alright in time.  Brice then excused himself and said that he had a few business details to discuss with Kent.  Tara stated she would walk Atari out to her car and return to the lobby.

 

Betsy came back to the hospital specifically to see Madeline.  She gave her a hug and asked whether Madeline would like to assist her in the morning regarding the funeral arrangements for John and Sandra. She indicated that Kent seemed to be upset as was her daughter.  Yet someone had to handle the arrangements.  Madeline agreed and stated she would be more than happy to assist with the expenses as well as the planning.

 

It was then that Kent approached them. “Bets, you know that the funeral is my responsibility so why on earth would you ask Madeline? She is not married to my father and surely has nothing to do with my mother.”

 

“The reason you will leave this to us is because you need to be with your father Kent.  Your mother has passed away and there is nothing you may do for her.  I divorced Jon but I am willing to assist with the funeral as well.”

 

As he glared at her, she said “I know what Gigi stated to you but understand, Atari and Madeline had nothing to do with what happened here.  Carlisle was Ken’s friend years prior.  Who would have known that he would have become insane?  I don’t blame your father for Jon’s death because after all he was an innocent victim because it was Carlisle that Ken was aiming for.   It is too early for you to think clearly, but you will know that I am right when you are not grieving.”

 

“Okay, do what you want, but I wish to choose the memorial cards and handle some of the aspects of the service” he said.

 

“I will make certain the director provides you with the options.  He can bring the cards to you at the hospital” Betsy said.   Madeline, I will pick you up at the hotel tomorrow morning” she said as she was walking toward the exit.

 

“Kent, I only wish to assist you” Madeline stated.   I cannot imagine the grief you are going through with the loss of your mother.  And I love Carlisle and I promised him I would be here for him.  I am not here to hurt you and I am so sorry that Ken hurt your family but he is never anyone that we have been able to control.  It was just a matter of time and I should have recognized it when he beat Adelaide up.”

 

“I need time Madeline.  I know that you did not do this to my father or mother.  It is just that right now, it is a reminder” and then he began to sob.  Madeline placed Kent in his arms and held him until he achieved composure.”

 

Gigi spent the night with a couple of her girlfriends.  She could not face anyone at this time and she advised her mother that she did not wish to assist with the funeral services.

 

Adelaide and Atari had a quiet dinner at the hotel.  Atari looked as though she had been crying for hours.  It was then that Gigi came into the restaurant with her friends.  “I thought I would find you here Atari.  I hope that you are happy that your involvement with the Stevens family has not only killed Sandra but also my father.  You and your trashy family must be pleased” she said with two of her friends sneering at Atari.

 

“Gigi, you know that I had nothing to do with your father’s death or Kent’s mother’s death.   I cannot help that my father became insane.  I am so sorry for your loss Gigi”.   It was then that Gigi went up to Atari and slapped her across the face and then dropped her to the floor as she was pounding on her.  Atari tried to fight back but Gigi’s two friends held Atari down.  At Adelaide’s screams, two hotel personnel came forward and broke the fight up.  Atari was bleeding from the nose with a couple of abrasions on her face.  Her ribs hurt but she did not feel as though her bones were broken.

 

“Atari, please come with me.  I will take you to emergency to have you checked over” Adelaide said.   By this time Gigi and her friends had left the premises with the two restaurant personnel trailing them.   Atari told them to let her go because she was grieving for the loss of her father.

 

Kent was still in the hospital lobby for a much needed break when Adelaide brought Atari into the emergency room.  He noted that Atari looked as though she had been beat up.  It was obvious she was bloodied and sported a black eye. He attempted to follow them to inquire what went wrong.  Adelaide placed her arm around Atari and ignored his inquiry.   They took Atari in immediately and started to check her vitals.  She would require a couple of stitches where Gigi had gashed her cheek with her ring.  Adelaide said if there was a scar she was certain Madeline would be able to get her to a plastic surgeon.

 

After seeing them go to the ER, he went directly to the ICU where Madeline sat holding Carlisle’s hand. His father’s vitals seemed to be better and he had hope that his father would come out of this in one piece. “Madeline, I just saw Adelaide bring Atari in to the ER.  They would not talk to me but I feel you should know” he said.

 

“I’ll go immediately.  Thank you Kent” and she went running down the hall toward ER.  The doctor was stitching up Atari’s face when she walked in.  “Darling what happened to you” and she knew Atari couldn’t answer but Adelaide would fill her in.  Adelaide, I guess Ken should have been incarcerated after he beat you up.  Now both the Stevens and St. Claire families are suffering and this has to stop.

 

“Once Atari face was stitched she finally was able to speak even with the local anesthetic.  “Mother as soon as the funeral is over, I and Adelaide would like to go back to San Francisco.  Although I am able to complete my classes on line, I really need a change.  I believe I will take some additional modeling positions as well as soon as my face heals.   At least I was able to protect it except for Gigi’s ring.”

 

“Oh, Sweetheart, that will be great.  Whatever you wish to do is fine with me.  I will make certain Pierre looks after you in my absence and perhaps for now you could move in with Adelaide so you have each other” Madeline stated.

 

“We have it handled.  Since the apartment is closer to the campus, we will remain there.  It will be like old times and I relish the time we may spend with each other.   Pierre already stated the company vehicle will be at our disposal but I will probably take BART” Atari stated.

 

“I’m not certain I will be happy with that decision Atari.  BART is public transportation and after what happened to you here, I cannot imagine why you would wish to exposure yourself further” Madeline stated.

 

“It will be okay Mom.  My other mom will watch over me.  I promise” she responded.

 

Since the St. Claire and the Stevens families belonged to the same church, the arrangements were made to have the services conducted at the same time.  Madeline and Betsy shared the expenses equally, which included a luncheon after the service and all flowers from the family.  Since both families were well known in the area, it was expected that some two-thousand relatives and friends would show up.  Madeline contacted the local news media and had cameras set up at the church so that Carlisle would be able to view the funeral from his room when he became better.

 

Kent tried to inquire as to what happened to Atari but Madeline just told him that one of the family members was grieving and had an unfortunate physical response to Atari.  He did not know until just before the service that it was Gigi who had hurt her and now that his father was better, he started to assess his actions and he was not proud of what he did to Atari. He also felt that what Gigi had done to Atari was uncalled for and was no better than what Ken did to his family. He saw the love Madeline had for his father and appreciated all she had done with his mother’s funeral arrangements.  In fact she had refused any reimbursement.

 

Adelaide and Atari arrived at the church just before the services commenced.  They had elected to remain in the back of the church and leave immediately for their trip back to San Francisco, as soon as the service concluded.  They had no intention of going to the gravesite or the luncheon.   The problem was that not only did the media assist with cameras but newscasters also photographed those going inside.  Atari was asked how she received the gash on her cheek and she just smiled and said she was clumsy.  She and Adelaiderefused to comment on any questions raised about Atari’s father.  They only stated they were removed from him and that they were so sorry that this travesty happened.

 

Gigi had joined Kent at the front of the church whereas Madeline was seated with Betsy at least ten pews behind.  Atari felt that this happened for a reason and that Kent and Gigi probably belonged together.  She would make a new life no matter how difficult it would be at first.  And anyway, what could be better than starting a new life in San Francisco.  As her thoughts waivered from the service, a friend pushed her way into their pew.  “Atari, I am sorry that I did not come to see you earlier.  I am so sorry all of this happened to you” said Susan.  Atari gave her a hug and Susan held her hand throughout the balance of the service.

 

By the time the families travelled to the grave sites and returned to the luncheon, Atari and Adelaide were enroute to San Francisco.  Kent looked for Atari but could not find her.  He finally approached Madeline. “Where is Atari?  I thought she would be here” he said.

 

“Kent, she attended the funeral but felt it was best she left for San Francisco.  This entire situation hurt her and Adelaide as well and she needed to get back to San Francisco so she could start healing” Madeline stated.

 

“It was because of me, wasn’t it?  I did not let her in and it was my fault.  You know I still love her Madeline?” he said.

 

“I know Kent, but this entire situation was difficult for everyone.  Each of you will require some time and she felt that you probably will need to console Gigi since you each lost a parent” she said.

 

“Well I guess she lost one as well.  What will happen with Ken?” he asked.

 

“Adelaide contacted his family and they will have a private service for him.  His mother is still alive and my understanding is that since Atari refused the house, it will go to his mother to pay for his funeral expenses” she said.

 

“I really blew it with Atari and I hope that someday she will forgive me” he said.

 

“I am certain she will.  But for now, this memory of what her father has done has broken her down.  I toldAdelaide to watch over her and if she needed a psychologist to speak to, Pierre could assist in recommending one” Madeline stated.

 

“I never even considered how she would feel about what happened.  I am such an ass” he said.

 

“No, you just had a lot on your mind, Kent.  I cannot imagine how difficult this entire thing was for you. I will feel better when your father starts recuperating as will you. Just remember, I will help you in whatever manner I can.”

 

“Madeline, it is none of my business but Brice Safranski told me that Carlisle had mentioned to Ken that you were raped.  Is that how Atari came to be born?” he asked.

 

“Yes Kent and your father was the one who found me after I had been beaten to submission.  He always checked on me and believed in me even though my parents did not.  We always loved each other but I was younger than him and I was not even dating age when he was engaged to your mother. But we need to talk to our guests.  This matter is old and I need to go forward from this day myself.”

 

“Well join me Madeline, as he extended his elbow so that she could place her arm through.

 

 

***

 

 

Three months had gone by and although Carlisle had to again learn how to walk, Madeline was at his side daily.  In fact Kent felt that her being there made his father try harder to impress her.  He watched as the two of them held each other up through every trial and tribulation.  His father appreciated that Madeline had provided him a video of the funeral.

 

Madeline had the Stevens’ home cleaned professionally and because it would be difficult to sell the home at this time due to the homicide, Kent elected to reside there with his father and Madeline.  The home was his as the natural child of Sandra.   Each day Madeline pushed Carlisle in the wheel chair down the drive for a walk in the country and to visit neighbors.  She also purchased a van which had handicap lifts for wheel chair accessibility.  She not only took him shopping but also to the drive-in movies.  On the weekends, they would go to the casino for some mild gambling and a romantic dinner.  In spite of his physical challenges, Kent had never seen his father happier. The two of them could be seen kissing and cuddling as she sat on his lap of the wheel chair.

 

He regretted having to turn down the job in San Francisco, but once they had known the reason, they advised him that the job would be open any time that he decided to move there.  Right now he was pleased that Brice was at his side as President and realized his father had made an excellent choice in both Brice Safranski and Ron Kaminski.  When they required advice, Madeline could be seen in the factory wheeling Carlisle to the board room.  She would frequently steal Susan for a quick luncheon and it seemed as though the supervisors just looked the other way.

 

As for Atari, she was a hit with her commercials for Victoria Secrets.  It also landed her a small part in a film. Surprisingly the director felt she had great potential and soon she had an agent.   She still took on-line courses but found that that her time was becoming far more difficult to manage when she had to travel to Los Angeles.

 

Adelaide also became a right hand person to Celia Wolf and Pierre.  Her designs were much similar to Atari’s which everyone found surprisingly refreshing.  Her relationship with Mr. Levine continued.

 

When in Los Angeles, Atari was escorted by Trax Kemp, one of the new hottest males in films.  Although it was for publicity purposes, they were publicized as the new and upcoming couple.  Yet, even when he kissed her, it did not feel the same as Kent kissing her and she felt that she would be soon labeled the “Iron Maiden” like her aunt.  Yet for the cameras she tried but Trax knew he did not stand a chance with her but since he also was fickle and metro-sexual as well, it did not matter. For the present, the relationship was comfortable.

 

It now had been six months since the shooting in Minnesota and Atari seemed to be enjoying her acting roles.  She kept extremely busy so that she would not have to think about Kent.   She had heard that Gigi and her mother had moved to Florida where Gigi was attending college.  She knew that Kent was handling his father’s affairs at the factory but she received no word from Susan or his friends as to whether he was dating anyone.

 

She had just completed the film and was pleased to go home.  She hadn’t lived in her apartment for months and looked forward to some leisure time.  As she made her way down the hall, she noticed someone in an overcoat and hat was standing at her door.  Upon seeing Atari, the man came toward her.

 

“Who are you and why are the lights dim on this floor.   I will call security if you make one additional step toward me.”  she said.

 

“It is me, Atari, Kent.  I heard you would be arriving back home today and I waited for you hoping that I may have a word with you” he said.

 

“Why?  I do not believe we have anything more to say to each other.  It was all said in Minnesota. Remember?”, she said.

 

“Atari, I have regretted my actions for all of these months.  Yet, I had no choice but to remain in Minnesota to assist in running my father’s company.  I love you and I have never stopped loving you.  Please Atari, could you forgive me?”

 

“Kent, there is nothing to forgive.  Each of us had a part in this entire situation and I can only imagine how difficult it was for you to lose a mother and to almost lose your father at the hands of my father.”

 

 

Atari, I had not realized what had transpired with your mother and Ken.  And Ken was my father’s best friend at one time.   It was not yours, Madeline’s or Adelaide’s fault and he was just a bad seed who did not care for his family.  I realized how wrong I was when I remembered how Adelaide had been beaten by his hand and then Gigi violated you.  It was my fault for not protecting you Sweetheart and please, let me know if I may again have a chance with you?” he asked.

 

“Kent, there has never been a day when I have not thought about you and what we had.  My question to you is whether you may be able to forget and forgive this entire situation so that we may enjoy a life together without regret” she asked.

 

“The only regret I would have is if you will not accept my hand in marriage Atari.  I cannot live without you and I love you so much.  Will you marry me?” he asked.

 

Atari stood there for a moment searching his eyes and then began to cry.  He took her in his arms and placed kisses on her head and face.  He kissed away her tears until she achieved composure.  “I love you Kent and I have always loved you.  Yes I will marry you.”   The passion of the immediate circumstances made it difficult for them to open the door to the apartment, much less removing all of their clothing so they could make their way into the bedroom.  They remained there for two days before a call was made to Madeline and Carlisleannouncing their new plans.

 

Carlisle had made a breakthrough of his own and could now walk with a cane.  Madeline and he went shopping on-line for various canes which looked distinguished.   Kent was extremely pleased and asked Madeline whether she and his father would join Atari and him in Las Vegas where they intended to be wed. He said that thereafter, they all could go to Paris for a honeymoon.  “But I supposed I should speak to father about this.  You know the Stevens’ men.  They have to at least feel they are in charge, even if they are not.   It was then that Kent heard his father’s voice through the speaker phone.  “It’s about time son.  Madeline and I thought we would never get to have a double wedding if the two of you did not come to your senses.   I noticed you took a commercial flight to Frisco.  Does that mean you wish for us to take your plane to San Francisco?

 

 

You’ve got it father.  Let me know when you will arrive and I will make certain you are picked up at the airport. We can spend a couple of days in San Francisco and then to directly to Las Vegas.  I will get us the appropriate suites at the Bellagio and we can plan our trip to Paris while in Las Vegas.  Atari feels she can get us rooms at the hotel she stayed at in Paris week…yet Madeline would have more of a grasp on that as would Pierre.

 

“Well son, we will pack and be there in a couple of days.  Now you two stay out of trouble” and he and Madeline laughed

 

“Although there are many trials and tribulations, it is nice to finally be with one’s soul mate” Kent stated as Atari kissed him in agreement.

 

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