Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Living Her Own Life
Living Her Own Life
Tessa Graham couldn't remember enjoying an evening as much as she did the night before. Alex Bentley was everything she could want in a beau. He was handsome and funny. Tessa was usually rather quiet but Alex brought her out of her shell. He and his brother would be by the house soon. She was dressing warmly for a day on the ski slopes. It had been a while since she skied and she was looking forward to it. She was looking forward to seeing Alex too. There was a knock on her door.
“Tessa, I'm so excited.” Susannah said when she opened the door. “Isn't Todd the most handsome boy you have ever seen?”
“Both brothers are handsome, aren't they?” Tessa laughed at Susannah who was bundle up to her nose in heavy clothes.
“It might be cold up in those mountains. I wanted to make sure I wouldn't shiver. Do you really think it's too much?”
“For one thing, Susannah, they are hills, not mountains. Secondly, it is barely cold enough to snow down here. I think you might be a little warm. Why not just bring your scarves and extra mittens along with you.”
“Tessa, you always have the perfect solution.” Susannah said as she peeled off some of her extra padding. “I hope I don't make a complete fool of myself. I have never skied before. Have you Tessa?”
“Yes, a few times.” Tessa replied. In actuality she had often skied the slopes of Austria and Switzerland. She had been coached by champion skiers. Daddy always made sure Tessa had the best coaches in every sport available to a young girl.
Alex and Todd entered the busy Bentley kitchen. “Good morning everyone.”
Jamison looked up from his buttermilk pancake surprised to see his sons dressed for a day on the slopes.
“You're not quite dressed for a workday are you boys!”
“Pop, we met a couple of girls last night. They are nurses and both have the day off. We thought we'd have a day of skiing and make up for it on Saturday. You don't mind do you?”
“I don't mind you boys having some fun but today is a workday for us. Your place is at the office not on some ski slope.”
“Jamison, the boys have just barely arrived in town. If they met some nice young ladies, I don't see any harm in them missing one day of work.”
“We'll make up for it on Saturday, Pop. Gotta go or we'll be late picking the girls up.”
They kissed Caroline goodbye as well as their sisters and gave Kenny a pat on the head.
“I wish I could take the day off,” said Kenny
“I wish I could too, son,” said Jamison with a scowl on his face.
There was a knock on the door. “Mrs. Wharton, how nice to see you. Come in and have a cup of tea with us,” said Caroline.
“This isn't a social call, Caroline. I have come about your young friend Mitchell Anderson. He said he was a friend of yours when he checked into my boarding house. I am sorry to say he came to his room inebriated last night after carousing all evening. I specifically told him there would be no drinking in my establishment but I'm afraid I found an empty flask just outside his door this morning.”
“Mrs. Wharton, I am very sorry to hear of Mitchell's behavior. I don't know the lad well but I'm sure Jamison will speak to him about his conduct.”
“I hope you know, I cannot and will not tolerate these antics. I am only telling you this as a courtesy, if there is a next time I will be calling the sheriff.”
“I understand, Mrs. Wharton.” Caroline closed the door behind her.
Jamison was seething. “That is just great. Not only have the boys gone off to play all day, now I have to deal with Todd's friend. I knew I never liked that kid. Caroline, whose idea was it for those two boys to come to live with us. Maybe they have been on their own way too long. You have made them a little home up there on the third floor. We'll never get rid of them now.”
“Why does Papa want to get rid of Todd and Alex?” Becky's chin was quivering.
“Becky dear, Papa is just a little tired and out of sorts this morning. He doesn't want the boys to go away. Now get your coat and mittens on, it's time you were leaving for school.” Just then Lucy decided she wanted attention and began crying.
Caroline thought back to a couple of years ago when it was only herself rattling around in this big old house. “How peaceful my mornings were then. I wouldn't trade this mass confusion for anything in the world.”
Jamison stopped by Mrs. Wharton's on his way to the office. Mitchell was still sleeping but he didn't have time to come back later. He banged on the door until it was opened by an obviously hung over Mitchell.
“Mr. Bentley, to what do I owe this pleasure?”
“Mitchell, I understand from Mrs. Wharton that you have broken the rules of the house and you were out drinking last night. Maybe it's time you thought about moving on.”
“Mr. B, why would I want to do that? I am enjoying myself in your fair town. I believe it is legal to have a drink or two here, besides, I have my eye on a little filly who works at the hospital. I simply can't leave until she and I horse around a little.” He doubled over in laughter at his joke.
“Mitchell, this is just a warning. Behave yourself or Mrs. Wharton will call the sheriff and I won't be around to help you out of a jam.”
Jamison left knowing Mitchell wasn't going to be leaving town any time soon. He stopped in Mrs. Wharton's apartment and told her to call the sheriff if there was any sign of trouble from Mr. Anderson.
“What did that old bat do with my flask? Now I'll have to buy another.” said Mitchell as he poured a little whiskey into a glass. “Nothing like a little hair of the dog.”
Mitchell glanced out the window and saw some nurses waiting for their ride. He threw some cold water on his face and went downstairs to catch them before they were picked up. He liked the looks of the redhead and began directing his conversation to her. Lydia told the others to go on without her, she would walk home later. Mitchell and Lydia walked off arm in arm. Hazel called after her. “Lydia be careful.” She didn't like the looks of that fellow at all.
Mitchell laid on the charm. It didn't take Lydia long before she was totally enamored with him. He maneuvered the conversation around to the other nurses. “What do you know about Tessa Graham?” he asked.
“Tessa? She's very pretty. Don't tell me it is Tessa you are interested in, Mitchell. I hope you aren't using me to get to her.”
“Lydia darlin', how could I be interested in anyone after I have met the most beautiful girl in the world? I couldn't care less about Tessa Graham except I wonder why she is working as a nurse here in Camden Corners with all her father's money.”
“What money? What father? I thought she was on her own like the rest of us.”
“She didn't tell you her father is Hamilton Graham, I think he's the richest man in the country. I have heard he is a multimillionaire if not a billionaire.”
“A billionaire? I didn't know there was such a thing. You must be mistaken. Tessa doesn't have any money.”
“Maybe it isn't the same person I know but she looks like she could be her twin and she has the same name as the millionaire's daughter, Tessa Graham.”
“Let's go to the house and talk with her. I'm sure she will set you straight.”
“Where did you learn to ski like that, Tessa? I can't keep up with you.” said Alex. “You ski like an expert.
“I have had a few lessons.” She wondered if it would be best just to be honest with him. She liked him very much and she suspected he liked her too. If she told him about her wealthy father, he might turn away like most people did and she couldn't face it from him. The four of them had a wonderful day. Todd was teaching Susannah how to ski. She fell more times than she could count but she kept trying.
At the end of the day, they all ended up back at Millie's where Addie had hot chocolate waiting for them.
“What's this about you being Hamilton Graham's daughter Tessa?” said Lydia.
“Why do you ask?” replied Tessa.
“I ran into one of your old friends, Mitchell Anderson, he says he knew you in college.”
“I've never heard of him. Yes, Hamilton Graham is my father but I haven't seen him in almost five years and I'd rather not talk about it.”
“I just don't understand why you lied to us,” Lydia said as she was staring at Alex. He looked surprised. Maybe she hadn't told him who she really was and just maybe Lydia still had a chance with him.
Millie could see Tessa was upset. “Why don't you and Alex go into my study,” she said to Tessa while glaring at Lydia.
“Lydia, why did you purposely embarrass Tessa? That was a very cruel thing for you to do and don't tell me it was unintentional. You should be ashamed of yourself. What has Tessa ever done to you?”
“Miss Millie, she has been lying to us about who she is since the day we met her. We thought she was one of us but obviously she is a rich girl who has been laughing at us all this time.”
“Lydia, you know that isn't true,” said Susannah. “You have always been jealous of Tessa. Miss Millie is right you set out to embarrass her and you succeeded. You heard her say she hadn't seen her father in years. Not only did you embarrass her you brought up what is probably a very painful subject for her.”
“Maybe I'd better excuse myself,” said Todd.
“No Todd, you stay right where you are. It's Lydia who should excuse herself.”
“Why is everyone angry with me? Tessa is the one who lied to everyone.”
“Yes, and it was my old friend Mitchell who pointed it out. I think it's high time he left Camden Corners.”
“If Mitchell goes, I go too,” Lydia huffed and went to her room. She would pack her bag and go to Mrs. Wharton's. She would still be with him if she hadn't been so anxious to get back to Millie's to tell the other girls her news.
“I hate to say it,” said Susannah, “Lydia won't be missed. She is more interested in chasing around the young doctors than she is about caring for patients.”
“Tessa, you don't have to talk about your family if you don't want to,” said Alex.
“No Alex, I should have told you the truth earlier. I was going to but we were having such a wonderful time, I didn't want it to end. People seem to turn away when they find out who my father is.”
“I won't turn away, Tessa. If you haven't noticed, I really like you. I would like to get to know you better but I don't want to pry. If you are married or spoken for I guess I should know that but otherwise, you are entitled to your privacy.”
“Alex, I like you too. Trust me, I am not married or even spoken for although I'm sure if my father were still in my life I would be one or the other. My father never had money when he was growing up. My mother's father was well to do. My father may have loved her in his own way but he married her because of her family. He turned a small fortune into an enormous one. My aunt Regina told me from the day he married my mother he picked out her friends, her causes, her clothes. He made all the decisions until the day she gave birth to me. Father ordered her to give him a son but I was born instead. Mother died shortly after my birth. I always did exactly as Father told me to, until the day I discovered I wanted to be a nurse. It was in my freshman year of college. I was sitting next to a boy in class when he had a seizure. I had no idea what was happening to him. One of the students in the class was taking a makeup class in freshman English. She was also studying to be a nurse. I saw how swiftly she reacted and I'm sure she saved the boy's life. I went home that day and told Father I wanted to study nursing. He put his foot down. He said the only reason I was in school at all was because it looked good if his daughter had a college education. He said I would never need to use my knowledge because he would pick out my husband and he would he tell me how to think from that day on.
“I finally found my backbone and fought him every step of the way. He told me if I wanted to make my own decisions I would not be making them in his house. I left with only the clothes I was wearing. I moved in with Aunt Regina and her family. She and my Uncle Ray paid my way through nursing school. I have been paying them back with part of every paycheck. So you see, I am not rich anymore. My father has disowned me. I should have told you but it's such an unpleasant story and I'm so ashamed that this man is my flesh and blood.”
Alex held her tightly. “I'm so sorry you had such an unhappy childhood.”
“To be honest, my childhood wasn't unhappy at all. I spent most of the time in Switzerland in school. I had friends there and we did all kinds of things. Their parents all sent them away too so we had a lot in common.”
“Is that where you learned to ski?”
“Yes, there and Austria.”
Alex laughed. Well, I think I'll forgive you for being a billionaire's daughter. Now, I'm starved. Let's go to O'Sullivan's for a corned beef sandwich.”
“Todd, would you and Susannah like to join us at the pub?”
“How about it Susannah, are you ready for a corned beef on rye?”
“Where did Lydia slither off to?”
“She's gone to meet up with Mitchell. I think I'll pay him a visit before we go to the pub. I think he has probably caused enough trouble for the time being. We will suggest he moves on to a town far away from here.”
When they arrived at Mrs. Wharton's, Sheriff Mendenhall was escorting a tipsy Mitchell down the stairs and out the door. Nurse Lydia was by his side. “Don't worry sweetheart, you have me to take care of you now. We will stop at the Justice of the Peace on our way to Buffalo. I can't wait to be Mrs. Mitchell Anderson.”
Mitchell had a silly grin on his face. “Mrs. Mitchell Anderson? That's nice.”
“Wait until he wakes up in the morning. The poor sap won't know what hit him.” They all laughed and toasted the happy couple when they got to the pub.