Written by Mercedes Keyes
Interracial drama series
[Overall] Rated R
To read further â€“ http://amberswann.com
Sylvia sat thinking she would be glad when her stomach settled. She thought for sure she would not be able to keep her breakfast down. Right now, her stomach was upset with butterflies, whether it was because she was pregnant or dreading meeting Shawn’s ex-wife, she couldn’t tell. She would no longer agonize over it; before the day was up, she would know, or try to. She would pick up a pregnancy test and get the agony of wondering over with. Her car was parked at the Ramada Inn, so they were all in Shawn’s SUV. Each one of them quiet with the uncertainty of the outcome once they reached the courthouse. Shawn was holding her hand as he drove, squeezing it on and off. Every stop light, he’d give it a little tug and squeeze, needing her to turn and look at him. She would, and smile, though neither felt like it. She knew how nervous he was, and with good reason. He had to tell his ex-wife that their daughter accused him of fondling her. Sylvia sighed with the thought of it. With her elbow propped up on the door window seal, the fingers from her right hand rubbing her scalp and temple, she knew she was not looking forward to being seen by that woman.
Granted, she’d purchased herself a nicer top to wear, added a bit more make-up…but she still wasn’t up to this. Poor Angela was a nervous wreck. She didn’t want to see her mother, she was afraid of being forced to go back to California with her. Sylvia stared out of the front windshield as he drove, the sky was clouding up, which meant snow or rain. She hoped not rain; if it froze, they would be in trouble. March could still be nasty with the weather. Seeing the grey clouds, feeling queasy with so much on her mind, and having to deal with so much right then, Sylvia fought back tears. She hated crying so much, but of late she couldn’t get herself to stop. She was not a repetitious crier, but right now, she felt the moisture clogging up in her throat and the tears burning her eyes.
“Hey, you okay?” Shawn asked, squeezing her hand again.
She wished he hadn’t done that, the words just uncorked her and the tears spilled. She tried to keep her face away and play it off, but it wasn’t working. They were rolling. The light turned green and Shawn pulled away from the traffic to pull over.
“Oh, Shawn, don’t pull over…I’m fine. We don’t have time for this,” she pleaded. He didn’t listen, he pulled over into a Kwik Trip lot, put the SUV in park and turned to her, turning her face his way.
“Talk to me…what’s going through your mind?”
Angela sat forward from the back seat, leaning towards the door and rubbing Sylvia’s shoulder. “What’s wrong, Sylvia? You okay?”
“You guys are going to make it worse. I’m fine…let’s just get there and get this over with…please!” she said gently, giving Angela’s hand a reassuring squeeze over her shoulder as she turned to Shawn. Using his thumb, he wiped her tears away, staring into her watery eyes. “I’m so sorry to be putting you through this.”
“I know, Shawn, you don’t need to keep saying it.”
Angela shifted to the center console to get a look at Sylvia. “Why are you crying, Sylvia?” she asked, worried.
“Sweetie, sit back in your seat and buckle your seat belt. I’m fine. I’m tired, that’s all…when I’m tired, I cry easy. I’m just worried about you, worried about how all of this is going to turn out.” She smiled at Angela and then looked back at Shawn. “Please, let’s go…I want to get this over with.”
He drew in a deep breath, pulled her towards him with both hands holding her head and kissed her mouth and cheeks, using his thumbs to wipe away the remaining tears.
“Yeah…let’s get this over.”
At the courthouse, they entered with Angela between them holding both of their hands, and of course as soon as they entered, there was Deidre and her mother sitting on the hallway bench waiting for them before they all took the elevator to the second floor.
Sylvia’s heart beat so hard in her chest, she felt it moving. Deidre was tall, slender and stunning. Dressed to the nines in a style that both enhanced her coloring and features, as well as her statuesque physique. She looked to be at the very least, 5’10 and was wearing heels as well. Her hair was a gleaming rich blonde, cut to precision above her shoulders. Her skin was crystal clear, made up just so…not too much, not too little. Her eyes were hazel-gold and framed by incredibly long eyelashes. The only thing that made Sylvia feel a modicum of satisfaction was that she had thin lips. She knew it was petty to gain any satisfaction from that, but she needed that trifle right then, feeling like a dowdy minority, still sick to her stomach.
Deidre’s heart was pounding so hard she felt her face heat and blush at the sight of them. To see her daughter, holding this women’s hand so tightly, and looking towards her with such dread, was like a punch to her stomach. Then to see Shawn looking at her the way he was, obviously concerned over her, crushed Deidre from within. Sylvia Payne was stunning as far as she could see. Rich, dark supple skin. Not a line in sight. She was dressed casual but comfortably, very fresh-looking. Compared to her height, she was almost petite, neat in her appearance with the most captivating dark eyes she’d ever seen. They stood out, with brows arching over them thick, smooth and silky black. Lips full, with the perfect shade of lipstick making them more luxurious and lush. There was something else about her as wellâ€¦a certain air of frailty, as if she was struggling to keep something within her under control. She looked weak on her feet. Deidre’s brows drew in with a sinking feeling that she was pregnant. She couldn’t put her finger on it, but there was something about her that made her feel that way. She had to look away from her as something within her shook with the certainty. Oh, my God, I bet she is…I bet she’s carrying his child! She turned her attention to her daughter as they drew near.
“Angela? Are you okay? Why have you done this? I’ve been worried sick out of my mind over you!” She knelt to look up at her daughter who was at that moment, looking at her as if she were the last person on earth she wanted to see, clinging to Sylvia’s hand with one of hers and the other gripping her coat sleeve. “Angela! Come here!” she beseeched incredulously.
“I don’t wanna go back. I love you, mommy, but…I want to stay here. Please…you can come and visit me here, but I don’t want to go back there.” Angela’s fear made her go directly into her greatest worry.
“Now is not the time for this, we’ll have to talk about it later, now come along.”
“Ummm, Deidre, we need to talk. It’s not that simple,” Shawn cut in as he pulled his eyes from her mother.
Deidre looked up, and then followed suit by standing.
“What do you mean?” she asked, upset at having to look at him, hating that she had to stand and talk to him when her stomach was in such turmoil over seeing her daughter cling to his possibly pregnant fiancÃ©e. She hadn’t missed the ring, the platinum and diamonds screamed at herâ€”It’s officialâ€¦He’s going to marry her! He’d spent a lot of money on that ring; knowing that irritated and devastated her, making her want to attack him for being able to go on with his life when she was stuck, stifled with so much regret. At that moment it hit home that he was going to marry another woman and there wasn’t a thing she could do about it. Her stomach churned with such pain, she felt she might swoon from the heartache made ten times worse by the fact that she had no one to blame but herself.
Looking into his eyes, seeing him again like thisâ€¦was overwhelming. Nothing hurt so much as not being able to feel those arms go around her again. Not hearing his voice speak with compassion as he used to. So many times he’d threatened to leave her, and she’d try to live as he wanted her to, but it had all seemed so futile to live that way when one didn’t need to. Then she left him, believing that it would put some sense into his head, make him see things her way. One thing then led to another, they’d reached an impasse that neither could figure how to cross, and suddenly…it was over.
“Can you follow me to the end of the hall? We only have a few moments before we have to go upstairs and meet with the judge.”
“Meet with the judgeâ€¦why? What is going on?”
“Follow me and I’ll tell you,” he instructed, taking her by the arm to lead her away from her mother. Deidre pulled her arm away from him. She couldn’t take feeling him touch her with her innards in such turmoil.
“Emmm, Deidreâ€¦I don’t think this is wise of you. Letting him talk to you alone…you should always have witnesses to everything, someone to hear in your behalf,” Georgiana spoke up, pulling her eyes away from Sylvia to her daughter and Shawn. She would not look at him; she felt she’d stared as much as she dared when he and his daughter walked in with that woman.
Shawn’s jaw clenched for control; he could think of no one he hated more than Georgiana Wherrington.
“We don’t have time for this, Deidre.”
“Why can’t you tell me here?” she asked, considering her mother’s words.
“I’d rather not,” he spoke up.
“Why not? What is it about?” Deidre asked. “Why must we be alone?”
“Either you talk to her with me present, or you don’t talk to her at all,” Georgiana pressed.
“Fine! I won’t talk to her at all!” Shawn blasted, fed up. He turned to Sylvia and Angela. “Let’s go,” he ordered, then grabbed his daughter, pushing her before him and taking Sylvia by the arm, heading towards the elevator.
“Wait a minute! Shawn! Wait!” Deidre called, following him to the elevator. He pressed the button and stood looking straight ahead and refused to say another word to her.
“Will you please just tell me what’s going on?” she asked, when her mother said, “I think what I told you before we got here is about to happen. You’ll learn to listen to me more often and be prepared,” Georgiana reminded her daughter, smug in her estimation of the events about to take place. Sylvia felt as if she was going to faint, her head was swimming and prayed to god really hard to keep her senses about her. The elevator doors opened, Shawn hustled them in, still ignoring Deidre and her mother. As soon as he stepped in, he pressed the button to the floor they were going to and stepped back. Deidre had to hurry in, pressing her hand to the safety panel that keeps the door open while entering it. The door closed with all five inside and Sylvia took slow, deep even breaths to keep from swooning.
“Please, Shawn, there’s no need for this. Just tell me, for goodness sake,” she asked, trying to keep her tone under control when she felt anything but.
“You’ll find out so-o-on enough,” her mother sang out and then sighed, actually enjoying it all, things like this made life interesting…anything tumultuous to stave off boredom was okay by her.
“I certainly hope you don’t have some crazy idea of taking my daughter from me. When I leave, she leaves with me. When you left California, you made your choice! You just up and left and told no one anything! If you think you’re going to blame her running away on me, you’ve got another think coming. Angela! Get over here, now! Right now!” Deidre demanded angrily.
“Daddy?” Angela called up to him, growing afraid.
“She’s staying right where she is!” he responded.
“I’m her mother! I have custody of her! Not you! Angela, get over here, now!“
The elevator doors opened. Shawn reached down and picked Angela up into his arms, took Sylvia by the arm, and strode from the elevator. Sylvia saw white lights before her eyes and her mouth filled with saliva. She spotted the ladies washroom not five steps away and launched herself for it, praying that she made it in time. As soon as she hit the door, vomit spewed from her mouth faster than she could catch it. She rushed into the bathroom with her hand catching the vile tasting acidic fluid, dashed into a stall and tossed up all of her late breakfast. Her body convulsed and clenched, tightening and squeezing her stomach as she gagged and shook, coughing it up and choking on it.
“Sylvia!” Shawn shouted, shocked, and rushed in behind her, caught off guard by her suddenly being sick.
“Shawn! It’s the ladies room!” Deidre shrieked.
“I don’t give a damn!” he blasted back at her, sitting Angela on the floor. By the time he turned to Sylvia, she’d shut the stall door to keep him out as she continued throwing up, unable to stop.
“Can you give us a few more minutes? My fiancÃ©e is in the ladies room, very ill,” Shawn tried to explain to the clerk of courts who’d come looking for them.
“I’m sorry, the judge is waiting. I’ll have an officer come out and wait for her to escort her in, but you all need to go in now to the judge’s chambers,” the clerk explained to them as Shawn leaned against the wall outside of the ladies room with Angela there and her arms wrapped around his waist. Deidre and her mother stood across the narrow hall watching, waiting and very uncomfortable with the circumstances as Shawn completely ignored them out of concern for Sylvia.
“Can I open the door and let her know?” he asked.
“Is anyone else in there?” she asked.
“Sure, go ahead.”
Shawn turned, pushing the door open and called in, “Sylvia, the clerk has come for us, we’ll be in the judge’s chambers, sweetheart.”
He received no answer, it was silent inside. “Sylvia!”
With a weak voice she answered, “I heard youâ€¦okay.”
Shawn stood a moment with the door open, he wanted to be with her right then, not going into that courtroom. But his daughter needed him, he looked down at her, she was looking up at him, scared to death. He paused another moment, and didn’t care who heard. “Sylviaâ€¦I love you.”
Sitting on the toilet feeling as if she could not possibly stand, Sylvia leaned her head against the toilet stall. “I love you…too,” she returned with a smile.
Deidre wanted the floor to open up and swallow her whole.
Georgiana rolled her eyes to the ceiling.
The clerk made a face of sympathy. “Aaah, she’ll be okay. I’ll come out and check up on her, promise.”
*Â Â *Â Â *
Deidre sat spinning in disbelief. She could not believe what was happening. What she was hearing. Too stunned to do anything other than to gape as Shawn explained in detail, exactly what took place immediately after getting the phone call from Deidre informing him that their daughter had run away, all the way until Angela’s claim, his arrest and the evening officer giving temporary custody to Sylvia until that day when they came before the judge. The judge sat at his long table across from them. Angela sat in the center with her mother and grandmother to her left, her father and an empty seat for Sylvia to her right.
“I see,” the judge said upon Shawn finishing the telling. The judge made notes as the court stenographer recorded every word.
Deidre turned and looked down at her daughter, then up at Shawn’s profile, trying to make sense of it all.
“And you, madam, are the child’s mother?” He finally looked up and asked Deidre.
“Yes, I am,” she returned, breathless from the accounting of it.
“Introduce yourself, please,” he commanded, reading over the paperwork from the previous night and all that was recorded surrounding the arrest, the questioning in the police station, statements from Shawn and his daughter.
“Deidre Charlotte Wherrington-McPherson.”
“Are you and Mr. McPherson divorced?”
“Yes, we are.”
“Thank you, now…how about you tell me what is going on where the child dwells with you that at the age of nine years old, she feels compelled to run away from home, hop a plane to be here with her father?”
“I hardly feel that what was going on in my parent’s home is the issue here. What is paramount is that she has made such a declaration against her father. That is what needs to be dealt with.”
“Ms. Wherringtonâ€¦I can assure you, I am perfectly capable of conducting this interview without any assistance. I ask the questions, you answer them. Now, what possibly compelled this child to take the chance she did, to be away from there?”
Just then the door opened and Sylvia came in, walking carefully to take her seat next to Shawn; the officer was at the door and closed it to stand before it. The judge looked at Sylvia. “Are you okay now, Ms.?â€¦”
“Payne, Sylvia Payne,” she answered, sitting down with Shawn searching her face, his eyes conveying the question of, Are you alright? She wasn’t, but she gave him a slight smile and answered the judge as well. “Yes, I’m fine, Your Honor.”
He turned back to Deidre. “You were about to answer my question,” he reminded her of where they left off when Georgiana spoke up. “I don’t think this has anything to do with her; she should wait outside.” She meant Sylvia. Shawn’s back teeth were under threat of shattering from clamping his jaw so tightly.
The judge looked over the top of his glasses at her. “Who are you, madam?”
“I am the child’s grandmother. Georgiana Victoria Wherrington, and I find this entire procedure totally unorthodox.”
“Be that as it may, in your estimation, madam, I am the judge here, and I’m telling you now as I told your daughter, I ask the questions, then I get my answers. I haven’t asked you anything. Make another sound and you will be waiting outside, do I make myself clear?”
Georgiana sat back in a huff, biting her tongue so as not to say anything to keep from being removed from the room. The judge looked from Georgiana back to Deidre with the raise of his brow, he waited for her to respond to his question, not about to ask it again.
“I haven’t a clue. My daughter is very spoiled. She’s been indulged a great deal, and has become accustomed to having her way. This matter with her running off, is no doubt a stunt she’s pulling to once again, have her way.”
“And what is it that she wanted to have her way with this time?” he asked pointedly.
Deidre sat struggling with the answer, her pause had the judge shifting expressions. “Well? Are you having a hard time understanding the question?”
“No, your honor, I am not.”
“Very well then,” he invited her to answer.
“She was upset because I changed my mind about relocating here.”
“‘Here’ as in, Wisconsin from California?”
“You say you changed your mind? That gives me reason to believe that you somehow built up an expectation of coming here; so why the change of heart?”
“Excuse me, I am not on trial here. I don’t have to answer that! She’s a child, I’m an adult. She cannot always have her way and that is something she must learn. I’ve flown here to collect my daughter, at which point, I will be leaving.”
“Right now, she’s classified as a runaway in custody of the court. Until I release her back to you, you won’t be taking her anywhere. Our records are overflowing with missing children, our streets are filled with them alive…and deadâ€¦do you understand that? There are children right now, tucked away somewhere out there…dead…we just haven’t found them yet. Yes, shiver…look horrified, you should be. A nine year old runaway is a serous matter. There’s a problemâ€¦and before she ends up on the streets…” He let his sentence trail off, looking at each of the adults, and then her. “…I’ll do my part to see that she is where she needs to be in order to keep this act from repeating itself. So you’ll have to forgive me if I seem callous to whatever inconvenience you may be suffering,” he finished, looking from Angela to Deidre. Deidre remained silent looking down and away.
The judge turned to Angela.
“Young ladyâ€¦what is your name?”
Angela looked up at her father, who nodded to her. She turned to the judge, sitting up straight and swallowing from fear. “Angela Rae McPherson,” she answered timidly.
“Has your mother spoken the truth about you?” he asked firmly. Angela’s eyes grew big, unsure of how to answer, she then shrugged her shoulders.
“What does that mean? Sorry, I don’t speak shrug. I need to hear it from you, why you’ve put your parents through what you have.”
“I want to-to live with my dad,” she squeaked out.
The judge made a face, looked down at the paper work, then back at her. He leaned an elbow on the table, grasping his chin and looked at her. “If that is true, why would you say what you said about him? Hm? Look me in the eye, young ladyâ€¦that’s an ugly, ugly thing you accused him ofâ€¦any man guilty of such a thing is vile. Certainly not suitable to be father of a little girl.”
“But he didn’t do it. I told a lie. I was mad at him, and…and…”
“Mad at him why?”
“Because he wouldn’t listen to me. He wouldn’t try,” she said softly.
“He wouldn’t try what?”
“To go back to my mommy again. She said she still loved him andâ€””
“Angela!” Deidre stopped her.
“Ms. Wherrington, one more outburst from you and you will wait outside. You and your mother. You had an opportunity and you didn’t take it. Now this is my last warning,” he firmly commanded. Turning back to Angela. “Go on…finish.”
Shawn had Sylvia’s hand underneath the table, his thumb stroking over her knuckles maintaining contact with her, even if it could only be with his touch hidden from view.
“She said that she still loved my daddy, and that we would move where he was. Maybe then, he would see she’s changed and would take her back. Plus, I would get to be with him instead of there at my granddad and grandmom’s house. I don’t like it thereâ€¦they don’t like me.”
“Who doesn’t like you?”
“They don’tâ€¦my grandmom and granddad. I have to stay in my room most of the time, I have to be quiet and not make too much noise. I can’t have friends over, and they won’t let me go to my friends’ houses. They said I don’t need friends because they will only want to be with me because we have money. Granddad says they may ask for money or steal from them, so they can’t come over and I can’t go there.”
“Oh, this is ridiculous! I’ve heard enough of this nonsense! I’m going to call our lawyer!” Georgiana stood and stormed from the room, knowing her outburst would get her tossed out.
After her departure, the judge sat jotting down notes, thinking a moment. “Ms. Wherrington, how old are you?” Deidre swallowed, feeling uncomfortable. “I’m thirty-four.”
“Thirty-four years old? Did you know about the circumstances your daughter just described?”
“Your Honor, my daughter is very well cared for. She has everything a young girl could need. The best of everything! Her room is filled with every kind of toy imaginable. Every kind of computer game. Her closet filled with more clothes than she will ever wear before she’s grown out of them. There are many, many children, far more worse off than she. There is no excuse for her behavior; she is ungrateful and disloyal!”
“Emmm,” the judge murmured and nodded, then asked, “How much time do you devote to your daughter each week, Ms. Wherrington? Let’s narrow it down, each day?”
“I have to work, Your Honor. By the time I get home from work, and she’s home from school, it leaves little time for us. I assure you, however, I try to make it up on the weekends,” Deidre argued in her own defence.
“But you work lots of weekends,” Angela pointed out.
“Why is that, Ms. Wherrington?”
“My job sometimes requires my attendance; it’s not all the time.”
Again the judge nodded, making notes, then asked Shawn, “You pay child support, Mr. McPherson?”
“Yes, Your Honor, I do, every month.”
“Two thousand a month, Your Honor.”
“I never required that he pay me alimony!” Deidre blurted. The judge looked at her without a word; she sat back in her seat, knowing he was about to send her out. All remained quiet until he spoke again. “I guess that answers that. Even so, why do you feel that overtime at a job is the priority over your daughter, when you’re a single parent most of the time? I don’t for a moment believe you need the extra income, Ms. Wherrington. I have a hunch that you work all the extra hours for other reasons. Reasons I will spare you right now. However, I think you need time to sort out some thingsâ€¦and because Angela, for the time being, is a ward of the court, I think we’re going to keep her that way a bit longer.”
“What are you saying?” Deidre asked, unable to sit quiet.
“I’m advising you to sort out your life, Ms. Wherrington. You have a nine year old daughter who is prisoner in an ivory tower. Surrounded, I do believe,Â by many things, but it is obvious those things mean little. I assure you, as well, this scenario is not new to me. I see it a lot; the victims of this type of lifestyle are children that end up in my courtroom. Some so badly messed up, one can only wonder why. We’re not going to take that chance with Angela Rae McPherson. We’re going to nip this in the bud now, while there’s still time.”
“She said her father touched her!” Deidre reminded him.
“Yesâ€¦there is that matter. To be honest with you, I believe she lied, just as she’s claimed. No child experiencing that is going to run in all desperateness to it. I read the account from the previous night, and I think she struck out at him.” He thought it over and then turned to Angela. “Where did such a thing come from, if not your father?” he asked her.
“A girl at school,” she confessed.
“A girl at school? Explain that to me,” the judge asked.
“Her father…touches her. She told us, me and Zayna. She hates going homeâ€¦and one day, she didn’t come back to schoolâ€”she ran away. I don’t know where she is now,” she explained with her eyes flooding with moisture. “The police came to the school to ask a bunch of questions.” She shrugged, then remembered what the judge said. “It just popped into my head because my father won’t go back to my mom. I thought-I thought he was…being mean…so…so I wanted to be mean back. But I didn’t mean it. I want to be with him. My dad always talks to me, takes me places with him. He likes my friends and they like him. We go fishing, to the movies, to the park, we laugh and talk a lot. He’s so funny, my dad…and he takes me with him on his photo shoots. We do all kinds of stuff togetherâ€¦we have a special code, too, for when I get my report card. Wanna hear it? It’s really cool,” she asked brightly, sitting up, getting excited over her favorite subject, her father. The judge didn’t miss it either, he smiled and nodded.
“Well, A is for Absolutely the best at a subject or class. B is for Building bridges to the best. C, I’m Contemplating being the best. D, I’m in Distant observation of the best.” She stopped and giggled, Shawn was looking down at her smiling as well. Sylvia sat forward with a tender smile watching her as she explained, in awe of him and the relationship they’d obviously had as Angela went on to explain the last grade. “And F…?” this was asked by the smiling judge.
“F is a Fierce dislike for a subject or class.” She smiled.
The judge chuckled. “Fierce dislike, you say?”
Angela nodded, shrinking back bashfully.
“I see.” The judge nodded. “Soâ€¦any Fierce dislikes?”
“Nopeâ€¦I’m Absolutely, Building Bridges and Contemplating everything!” She shrunk back again and giggled.
“Good girlâ€¦good girl,” he responded.
He turned to Deidre.
“Ms. Wherrington, I’m going to maintain her as ward of the court for thirty days. In that time, I suggest you find a home suitable for your daughter and yourself. You’re going to also register with the Social Services and Child Welfare at home. In the meanwhile, you’re going to find a new home, a different place to stay, one where she can feel comfortable returning to.”
“You can’t do that!” Deidre blasted.
“I can and will!”
“Well, where will she be staying?”
The judge turned to Sylvia. “Ms. Payne, you signed for the girl. Do your circumstances still allow for foster care of the child for the duration of the thirty days?”
“Yes, Your Hhonor. I don’t work. I’m at home all day, she’ll be fine with me.”
“What is it that you do that you can be home all day, Ms. Payne?”
“I’m a writer, Your Honor. However, not yet a successful one. I’m able to stay home all day because my first husband passed away a few years ago and I’m living off of his life insurance, for the time being. I paid cash for my home and car; my furniture and things I already had. I took a portion and invested it, and another portion is in a savings account. If I hold off from touching it one more year, I will have accrued enough interest to start living off of that.”
“How did he die?” the judge asked while looking over the report that came back on her.
“In a car accident. He drank, Your Honor…on and off of the wagon. He came off one time too many and wrapped his vehicle around a very large tree; the tree survivedâ€”howeverâ€”he did not.”
The judge nodded and read.
“You’re not feeling well today? Anything serious?”
Sylvia stared at him a moment, stumped by the question. Pregnancy was very serious.
“I’m fine, Your Honor, I no doubt ate something that didn’t agree with me.”
He nodded. “Your report came back clean. You have two children?”
“Yes, Your Honor. A daughter and a son. They no longer live with me, they live in La Crosse. My son is going to college, my daughter is married with two sons and is going to school as well as work. She and her husband share their sons care.”
The judge nodded, writing out his notes.
“Okayâ€¦Mr. McPherson, the same still stands for you. Until your things are collected, looked over to show evidence of your innocence, we have no choice but to follow it up. They are there now going through your home. What do you do for a living?”
“I’m an artist and a photographer. I do novel covers for a living…mostly romance novels. I work from home, as I’ve always done. Annnd, um, Your Honorâ€¦I’m going to be seeking full custody of my daughter.”
The judge looked up at him. Deidre shot forward, looking around Angela at him. “How dare you! Mother said you were up to this! I should have known! You will not get my daughter!”
“Calm down, Ms. Wherrington. That is not in my hands, so I don’t wish to hear the fight in my chambers. That will have to be done through the California court system, where your divorce took place. Do you understand that, Mr. McPherson? I cannot grant any type of custodies. You must acquire an attorney and file that where the child was born and where you two were married.”
“I understand, Your Honor,” Shawn stated.
“Very well. Once your things are cleared and social services has talked with your daughter, you will be notified as to whether she can be left with you alone again. As far as I can see, that shouldn’t take any more than a few more days. In the instance that you are cleared, she will still, however, be ward of the court, and will continue on in the care of her foster parent until we resume back here. Until that clearance, understand me that you’ll not be able to see her alone or sleep where she sleeps. We will meet back here in thirty days, unless those changes have been made before then Ms. Wherrington, and you have met with satisfaction with Child Welfare. My suggestion to you, madam, is that you remember your life is not just about you nowâ€¦you must share it with your daughter, or elseâ€¦perhaps give serious consideration to letting her live with her father.” The judge stood from the table and said before he departed, “You both have things to sign, good day to you all.” He left them then as the clerk came over, took his seat and laid out papers for them to sign. Sylvia stood, deciding to give them a moment in private and headed for the door. Angela stood to join her. “Angela, stay and talk to your mother,” Sylvia pressed. She looked up and shook her head no, grabbed her hand and wouldn’t let go. “I want to use the washroom,” she said. Sylvia looked up from her to Deidre, who was staring at them.
“We’ll be outside,” she said.
“I’ll be right out, babe, soon as I sign these papers.”
“Shawn…you need to talk. Sign the papers, and then communicate…try it.” She turned with Angela close by and left the judge’s chambers.
Deidre turned away back to the clerk; unable to resist, glanced up beside her at Shawn. He looked at her and said, “We do need to clear the air on some things.” He informed her and turned; started signing where the clerk directed them, as she explained what was expected of them both.
Sylvia stood looking out of the upper floor window at the traffic passing outside, snow was fallingâ€”it was better than rain. Angela was in the washroom and all she could think of was of all the things that had been taking place in the short 24-hour period. She felt weary and tired, unable to stop it, she yawned.
“Excuse me, how much longer are they going to be in there?” Georgiana approached Sylvia and asked.
She turned, surprised by her.
“Um, not much longerâ€¦there are papers to sign, they should be out shortly,” Sylvia returned kindly.
Georgiana stood a moment more, staring down her nose at her.
“You know, I said I wasn’t going to do this, but in view of all that he’s done to our family, I think there are things about him you should know. At least by sharing the facts with you, I can sleep tonight.”
Sylvia stared up at her, swallowing and dreading. “To be honest with you, I’d really rather not hear it. I think I know him pretty well,” she informed her softly.
“Honey, you haven’t a clue as to what you’ve gotten yourself into. The Shawn that he shows you, is totally different from the Shawn that I know. That my daughter knows. Just a bit of advice: cut him loose while you can still do so with your dignity intact, no matter how small that may be. You think this is over between them? This is just a game they are playing with each other. I’m certain a woman of your age and experience can imagine what I’m speaking of. Do yourself a favor and avoid the heartache. With him, it’s a guarantee. I know, you seeâ€¦because he was once mine…before he turned to my daughter.”
“Don’t believe me? We all know he has the cutest birthmark on the topside of his left butt cheek. Ah, yesâ€¦I know. I also know how incredibly satisfying his bed manner is; do you need me to give you his size and length as well?”
Sylvia felt her ears ringing as the room swam around her.
“Yes…now it’s starting to sink in. You stay with him, there will always be one event after another. With loads of humiliation, allâ€¦heaped upon you. Againâ€¦I speak from experience.”
“You were married to her father! She’s your daughter!” Sylvia accused.
“He was mine first! My marriage is an arranged one. It’s all about the money, and nothing to do with love or loyalty. I would have given Shawn anything! Oh, well…I’ve said enough. Do what you want, at least you were warned.” She turned and walked away, smug with the seed she’d planted. She knew the lie was a gamble, but she had long ago been sure that Shawn had indeed been her lover; the look on Sylvia’s face when she made personal descriptions confirmed it.
Sylvia turned back to look out the window and felt her ears burning, her heart racing. Oh, my god, what have I gotten myself into? What have I gotten myself into? With her hand over her mouth, she fought back tears and nausea again. Oh, my god, oh my god, oh my god! Noooâ€¦Oh, what am I gonna doâ€¦What? She had his daughter to care for, appointed to her by the court. She knew her body, and was pregnant with his baby. Suddenly she wanted to disappear. Just rush from the courthouse and never look back. Oh, my god…he slept with her mother! And then her! Oh, my God! She knew if it weren’t for her having temporary foster custody of Angela, she would be goneâ€¦out the door to never look back. The urge was overpowering to do it anyway. But if she suddenly disappeared, Angela would have to be taken into foster care by the courts. I can’t do that to her…no matter how stupid I am, that child does not deserve to be subjected to living with strangers. What am I saying, I’m a stranger! Not the sameâ€¦noâ€”I have to stay here for her sake, if nothing else. “â€¦cut him loose while you can still do so with your dignity intact, no matter how small…” You haven’t learned anything, Sylvia Payne! Nothing at all!
*Â Â *Â Â *
“Can we sit here and talk for a moment? We won’t be long.”
“Sure you can, but make it quick,” the clerk instructed, gathering all the papers they’d signed, putting them in a manila folder and leaving the room.
Both were quiet, gathering their thoughts. Deidre was the first to speak up. “Why are you doing this, Shawn? Threatening to take me to court for custody of Angela.”
“It’s not a threat.”
“Why?” Deidre asked, hurt by it all.
“Deidre, come on, ever since this happened, I’ve had nothing to do but think. You have never been a real mother to her.”
“Excuse me, I am too a real mother to her! I admit that I struggled in the beginning, and I admit, I’m not a perfect motherâ€”but I love my daughter.”
“If what you say is true, give her to me, then. She needs me right now, she needs the type of attention that only I have given her. You want to surround her with name brand crap and let the commercial and media world raise our daughterâ€”well, I’m sorry, I’d just as soon raise her myself.”
“With Sylviaâ€¦Payne?” she asked, her name lodging in her throat.
“Yesâ€¦I couldn’t have picked a better person to be a stepmother to Angela. She has just the type of values, morals, and confidence that Angela needs.”
“I’m her mother! I’m what she needs!”
“Deidre, I’m not about to sit here and get into a long drawn-out discussion over it. I’ve made up my mind. You can visit her anytime. If you would just set your pride aside, and put what’s best for her to the forefront, you’d know in your heartâ€¦this is best all the way around. Then you can get on with building your own life.”
“You were my life, Shawnâ€”” She couldn’t help it, it was now or never.
“Deidre…don’t do this. Stop right thereâ€””
“I can’t stop. Angela was telling the truthâ€”I still love you, Shawn. And I am so sorry for everything I did that tore us apart, ruined our marriage and what could have been. I’m asking you to think about our daughter, and how happy it would make her for us to get back together, and give it another try. I’ve changed, Shawnâ€¦a lot. I’ve done a lot of growing up. A lot of thinkingâ€¦I see all of the things I did wrong, and I’m willing to do whatever it takes for us.”
Shawn sat uncomfortably listening and felt truly sorry for her, because there was not the tiniest shred of desire to be back with her again. He was totally and completely, madly in love with Sylvia Payne. No woman from his past or possible future, could take his eyes from herâ€¦his heart from her. Taking a deep breath, he stood.
“We better go, we promised to make it quick.”
Deidre sat staring up at him. “What about everything I just said?”
“I can’t help you with that. I’m happy to hear that you’ve grown up. There’s a man out there somewhere who will really appreciate that gesture. Save it for him. All I want from you is my daughterâ€¦that’s it.”
Angrily, Deidre surged to her feet, tears were streaming from her eyes. “Well, you won’t get her! And you will not take me to court! No judge anywhere is going to give custody of a little girl to a porn star! Surprised? You should be! Even after finding that out, I still wanted you! I didn’t even care! Think Sylvia Payne will? Hm? Miss values and high morals? How do you think the news of that will go over with her?”
She snatched her purse up and stormed from the room.
Shawn stood with his guts twisted. “My godâ€¦I’m gonna have to tell her. I’m gonna have to tell her, I will not be blackmailed.”
“You okay, Sylvia?” Angela asked, back from the washroom. Sylvia took several calming breaths, girding herself with fortitude. First things first.
“I’m okay, sweetie, you okay?” she asked gently.
“Yeahâ€¦now that I know I can be with you and my dad, even if it is for only a month, but he’s gonna try to get me right?” she asked for reassurance.
“Yep…he is.” Even though not even he deserves you, she thought next.
“Angela!” Deidre called approaching them, unable to get herself to look at Sylvia. Her mother was next to her, she didn’t have a problem looking at her. Sylvia glanced at Georgiana, then away. Her peripheral caught Shawn walking from the hall that lead to the judge’s chamber, he was walking towards her. It took everything in her power not to yell at him to stay away from her. Instead, she focused her attention out of the window.
She heard Deidre talking to Angela. “Mommy’s gonna go now. You know my number, my cell phone. I promise you, I’ll be doing whatever I can to make things better for you. Okay?”
“Just let me live with my dad,” Angela said.
“Give me a chance, Angela, that’s all I ask. I promise you, things will be better. I-I love you.” She rose and kissed her daughter’s head, and strode from the building with her mother behind her.
“Sylvia?” Shawn called her name.
She turned and looked down at Angela. “Come on, we better go now.” She was the next to head out the door, refusing to look back at Shawn. He and his daughter stood stunned that she wasn’t waiting for them, that she didn’t grab her hand as she held her father’s so they could leave as they came.
Shawn swallowed down the boulder lodged in his throat, looked down at his daughter who was looking up at him, wondering what just happened. “Come on, pum’kin.”
When Shawn and Angela made it out of the courthouse and to the parking lot, Sylvia was standing by her door of the SUV, arms crossed and avoiding looking his way. Shawn’s mind was racing. Did I miss something? What the hell happened between our I love you’s and holding hands in the judge’s chambers? He was racking his brain trying to figure out what caused this sudden mood swing with her. He walked up to the SUV and clicked his remote, unlocking it. The alarm chirped off and she grabbed her door open and jumped in, not wanting him to get close to her to open it for her.
“Is Sylvia mad at us, daddy?” Angela asked as they neared the vehicle.
“No, pum’kinâ€”not at you, but most certainly at me.”
“What did you do?” she asked innocently.
“Good question, pum’kinâ€¦good question,” he returned, opening the door for his daughter to climb in. “Buckle up,” he commanded playfully and slammed her door. Walking to the other side, he was ticking off everything that had happened that morning. Everything he said to her. He decided there was no sense in stressing over it nowâ€¦he was certain he’d be finding out soon enough. He jumped in his side, looked over at her, she was looking out of her window, tenaciously avoiding looking at him. He couldn’t help himself, he reached over to touch her hand and she pulled it away.
“What’s going on?” he just had to ask.
“Not now, Shawn,” she returned immediately.
Realizing they weren’t in the place to deal with it, whatever it was, he left off any more inquiries and looked in his rear view mirror at his daughter. She shrugged with a wide-eyed shake of her head. Shawn smiled…he couldn’t believe his daughter was with him. If he had to do battle with the devil himself to keep her, he would. “You hungry, pum’kin?”
“Oh, yes…can we get KFC? I want some chickenâ€”the original, not crispy! And I want one of those parfait desserts, and I want biscuits, and I want fries, not mash potatoes,” she called out enthusiastically, making Sylvia smile despite her need to be away from her father.
“You hungry, Sylvia?” Angela asked so kindly, so sweetly, Sylvia looked back at her and smiled brightly for her. “No, baby, I’m fine. But we’ll stop and get what you want, for sure.”
“You got to be hungryâ€”you threw up all your food! Why did you get so sick, Sylvia?” The observation took Sylvia off guard.
“Um, I don’t think breakfast agreed with me, that’s all. I’ll be okay, don’t you worry about me,” she answered as Shawn started the vehicle and began backing out of his park slot.
“Maybe you’re pregnant. My friend says every time her mom got pregnant, she was sick all the time, throwing up, too! Like you.” She shocked Sylvia by speaking her mind without thought, as children often do. Sylvia wanted to die on the spot as she turned slowly back in her seat. She glanced out of her peripheral at Shawn, he was looking straight ahead driving, deliberately not glancing at her. Sylvia didn’t know what to do, Angela was waiting for an answer and the pregnant silence grew. Finally Shawn asked, “Are you tired?” It was a gentle question that she turned and snapped to. “Yes! Sick and tired!”
He reached up and scratched his head, then sighed deep. “Greatâ€¦thank you, very muchâ€¦so I guess it’s up to me to guess what’s going on now, hm?”
Angela could tell it was time for her to shut up, so she sat quietly and stared out of her window at the passing scenery.
Shawn tried to test the water, with the touch of his knuckles on Sylvia’s thigh; she brushed his hand away. Knowing her well enough to know this all signalled a fight, he gave up and focused on getting them something to eat, whether she said she was hungry or not. A sudden idea came to him as he drove, he engaged his car phone and dialled a number. Sylvia wondered what he was up to as she listened to it ringing whomever he was calling.
“Hello?” a woman answered.
“Meribel! It’s me, Shawn.”
“Shawn! Hey, papi! How you doing! Wha’s going on?” she asked excited, in a heavy Spanish accent.
“I have Angela with me, she’s going to be in Wisconsin a while. What are you and Derrick up to?” he asked his favorite sister-in-law.
“Oh, my goodness! You got Angela? You have to bring her by! The kids will be so excited!” she exclaimed; they could all hear the hectic sounds of children in the background, as one of them asked their mother, ‘Who’s on the phone?’ To which she answered, ‘Your Tio Shawn, he’s got Angela with him.’ and that person, a young a girl, responded, ‘Ooh, ooh, ask him can she come over?’
Now Sylvia understood, and turned narrowed eyes at him, he deliberately avoided her glaring at him. He was busy smiling at the sounds that were filling the vehicle, the sounds of a large family and children actively wreaking havoc in the home. Sylvia couldn’t miss the look of pleasure on his face and unable to bear it, she looked away, not about to soften her resolve to break it off with him.
“Oh, daddy, can I go over there?” Angela asked excitedly. She really liked her Aunt Meribel; the few times they’d visited them in California had been filled with such great fun with her cousins, she could barely sit still.
“Where are you guys?” Meribel asked.
“In my SUVâ€”in Madison!”
“You guys are in Madison!” she blasted them. “Why didn’chu guys call us! We were just gettin’ packed up to visit your folks! We was gone take a detour and visit you, papi! Ooh, ooh! You got your ol’lady wit’chu? We dyin’ to meet her! Wha’s her name again? lemme thinkâ€¦Sylvia right?”
“Yepâ€”that’s her, all right.” Shawn chuckled, thinking, ‘Although not talking to me, she’s here.’
‘Let me talk to him, Meri.’ He heard his brother ask. ‘Okay.’ “Okay, Shawn, Derrick’s here to talk to you, see you later!”
“Hey, man, so you’re in Madison? What’s up?” Derrick asked. Sylvia sat listening to his voice; the brothers voices were very similar.
“I need a favor. Sylvia’s not feeling well, and we have to drive back home. Would you mind driving her car back, and then taking Angela with you guys to visit mom and dadâ€¦she’s really excited about the idea.”
Sylvia’s eyes grew huge. Oh, my God! The nerve of this man! Don’t ask me nothing! Fineâ€¦I’ll go along with it for now, because then we’ll be alone and I can give you a piece of my mind.’ She thought angrily.
“Hey, no problem. Where you guys staying? What’s going on with two vehicles here?”
“It’s a long story, but if you could do this for me, I would really appreciate it. We’re staying at the Ramada Inn right off the 51.”
“Okay, well, we’re almost done loading up the van, we’ll be there soon. I’ll drive her car and Meribel can follow me, how’s that?”
“Perfect! I’m gonna stop and get some KFCâ€”you guys eat?”
“We were gonna do the same en route. Pick us up some, too, I’ll split the cost when we get there.”
“Hey, I’m not worried about that. When you go in the parking lot at the hotel, pull around to the far right side back entrance; that’s where I’ll be parking, towards the door near our roomsâ€”see you guys there!” Shawn answered, still smiling. They could all hear a little one begging Shawn’s brother, ‘lemme talk. lemme talk, daddy, I wanna talk…pleeease canna I talk!’
“Yepâ€¦see you there.” Derrick hung up and Shawn ended the phone call.
“Oh, thank you, daddyâ€¦thank you so much!”
“Soâ€¦papa done good?” he joked.
“Yes! Papa done real good!” Angela answered as they pulled up into the KFC drive-thru.
*Â Â *Â Â *
Georgiana sat rolling her eyes to the ceiling of their jet as it taxied down the runway for take off, sick of listening to her daughter sob her eyes out. “Give it a rest already! How much longer are you going to slobber over him, for goodness sake! It’s overâ€”get used to the idea, already!” With a shake of her head, she gazed out the window thinking. Yesâ€¦just forget him, daughter, because as soon as I can get that stupid negro to set him free, I can start to work on him for myself. First, I have to make sure she gets Angela from him! I’ll never get anywhere if she’s always present. Thank God I kept it to just one of them. Silly twit would have been stuck with two of them, had I not intervened in time. Now if I could only figure out how to get rid of the one that Sylvia’s carryingâ€¦If she had any sense, she would listen to what I said and just break it off with him and leave! Can’t drug her and get Stan to scrape her uterus.’ She remembered how easy it was to abort Deidre’s second pregnancy by Shawn, and thought herself a genius. By convincing her daughter to relax a bit by taking a “mild” sedative, the doctor had been able to come right up to her room, give her a shot to knock her deeper under, then he’d performed the abortion. He’d called a private ambulance and had her taken to a private wing of the hospital, where Stan saw to her recovery and giving her the lie that she must have suffered a reaction to the sedative she’d taken and miscarried the baby.
Georgiana smiled, nothing could have been easier – the last thing she’d wanted was a baby that her daughter would have used to get him back, she’d had to get rid of it before all they did to break them up, was undone. But this other woman was a different story. Irritated, she glanced at her daughter still crying.
“Have you no pride! He’s not crying over youâ€”go wash your face.”
Deidre blew her nose again, barely able to see from sobbing so out of control. “The plane’s about to take off, I can’t.”
“I don’t understand you. There are many men who would love to be with you, give you anythingâ€¦and here you sit, crying over him.”
“I’m not just crying over him! I’m crying because I once had it all! Everything a woman could ever want! And now it’s gone! Gone! My own daughter hates me!”
“Well, join the club! She’ll get over it! You better focus on how to get her back!”
“I don’t know. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. Maybe…maybe I should take advantage of this time, and maybeâ€¦get my life in order, as the judge said. I meanâ€¦Shawn has moved on. And…he was always a better father than I was a mother…always.”
“Well, that’s why! What kind of mother would just pass her daughter on to a man who fondles her?”
“Shut up, mother! Just shut up! He did no such thing! No matter how angry I may be at him, he’s not that type of person. She admitted it was a lie, and I, for one, believe that is was. Shawn would never do such a thing! That I do know about him!”
“Well, whether he is guilty or not, we’re getting her back! You want to do something with you life? You still can; she can go off to school for the major part of the year, that’s plenty of time for you to get your life in order.”
“Wait a minute! You want me to fight him to keep her from him, just to send her off to school?”
“And what’s wrong with that? Sent you offâ€¦you turned out just fine! No better polished woman have I ever seen, than you. She deserves the same.”
“Yeahâ€¦she deserves to be as I am now, miserable, with nothing normal about me or the things that I do.” Deidre sniffed and wiped her nose, thinking. Then asked suddenly, “Why did you and dad even have me? Why was it necessary?”
“Why do you think? Nobody lives forever; who will the company and everything we’ve built up go to, if you don’t have at least one.”
“So…that’s it? Just to have someone to pass it all to. Just so it doesn’t slip away into the hands of others. I mean…why would it matter? You’ll be dead anywayâ€¦how would you know?”
“Hmmm, that’s true. Very true.” Her mother reflected in thought.
Deidre sat and stared at her. “Mother, have you ever once…held me in your arms, and squeezed me close, proud of what you’d created?”
“Giving birth hurt like hell! I wasn’t in the mood for the tender scene, okay? You were always well taken care of. We paid for the best nurses and nannies. Besides, I was there for all of your little recitals. All your little award ceremonies, all the graduationsâ€¦ and who threw you the biggest birthday parties anyone has ever been to? Me! I did my part. My mother did hers, and her mother did the same! Now you do yours for your daughter, and quit this embarrassing weeping. You’re giving me a headache.”
Deidre turned and looked out of her window, the plane was airborne. Now if she could only be so lucky as to wish it into a crash landingâ€¦ if it did, that would be just fine with her.