Chapter 5 : Whirlwind chain of events

Breakfast with my father was a complete disaster, I was enduring a terrible headache from drinking till 2am, with only 2 hours of sleep and thinking about my fiancé, sounds funny doesn’t it? I just turned 18 and got engaged with a fiancé I really don’t know anything about in just one night. Croissant, coffee, Wall Street Journal and Wedding magazines were all over the breakfast table. I was really on the edge now, my father on the contrary was not showing any emotions, his well-known poker face is staring at the newspaper, then out of nowhere he pulled out a legal sized yellow envelope with a sticker label stating Monsieur Charles Austen Graham. He said with authority, “This will enlighten you, read it.”  He then shuffled a few more envelopes and gave me another one, “Your itinerary for the week, wedding draft, and some wedding gown catalogs.” He stood abruptly and kissed my forehead, “I’m going to a conference, I’ll be back tonight, looking forward to seeing both you and Charles. Enjoy your day princess.” Then with that I was left staring at the envelopes.”I really can’t believe this is happening, didn’t he saw me dancing with that arrogant man last night? Is this his way of saying he is consenting my dancing? I’m totally lost.” I stood up and picked up the envelopes and called my maidservant, who I know was eavesdropping by the door. “Marie! Go and tell Claudette I’m coming over now.” I went to my father’s library and tried to compose myself before I read the first envelope father gave me. “Monsieur Charles Austen Graham” the labeled states it is a complete background check report, I scanned quickly over the 20 pages report and shoved it all back inside the envelope, checked my itinerary. “So I have from this time till 6pm free to do whatever I want, then by 7pm I am to have dinner with daddy and Monsieur Graham, and I can only go back to my villa by 11pm, What is this?! 4 hours with those two, this is going to make me crazy indeed.”

Walking along the Blue Rose garden somehow gave me comfort, the butterflies are all over the place, the sun is now rising. “It’s almost 6am I still have almost 12 hours to think and sort everything before dinner. I wish I was back in London, at The Crypt now relaxing.” I was now almost half way through the secret path towards my villa when I started running. I started shouting as soon as I opened the front door. “Claudette! Claudette! Where are you? Claudette!” I was running all over the house, I checked all the rooms and was almost knocked off when I bumped into Alec at the end of the hall at the top floor. Good thing Alec’s reflexes were fast, he grabbed me by the waist and lifted me up before my head hit the marble statue. “Easy there princess, What’s the rush? Running around and shouting like a kid.” We he settled me down, he inspected my face and saw that I was on the verge of tears, “Are you hurt cheri?” Alec started inspecting me, not letting go of my hand. “Alec, I need to speak with Claudette.” I said crying and shoved both the envelopes at him. He quickly scanned the envelopes and embraced me, with his assuring smile he said, “Don’t cry cheri, Alec is here. Come! we’ll go to Claudette and discuss this matter. We will sure come up with some solution.” We went down stairs and out at the back of  the house, the gazebo, where Claudette was preparing breakfast. She was trying to hide the concern behind her friendly smile as she received me. “This Missy needs out relaxing potion Claudette.” Alec declared as he sat down and started reading the report in earnest. “Drink this first cheri, it’s lavender tea I also made some shortbread and croissant. Crying this early in the morning , with just a couple of hours sleep with a terrible hang-over is not healthy.” She smiled as she fixed my messy hair. After that relaxing breakfast we started discussing, Alec and Claudette were both reassuring and rational, they made me understand the situation well, made me realize all the consequences and possible ways to accept and refuse the situations. They clearly showed me the 2 sides of the coin, now all I have to do is decide what I really want to do. I sat comfortable in my Cleopatra chair as Claudette and Alec started clearing out our breakfast, not being aware that I have started my way in dreamland. When the two came back, Alec stopped Claudette from waking me up, “Let her sleep, she’ll need all the rest and strength she can get.” “But I don’t think she’s comfortable there and besides it’s almost noon, it will be hot in here.” “Don’t worry, I’ll put down the curtains and start the air condition, go get her a blanket.” As Alec and Claudette walked towards the house Claudette started telling Alec our childhood stories. “She loved that gazebo, we practically lived there, we planted those Irises surrounding the gazebo, we decorated the place. She loves different cultures, that time she was so engrossed with the Ancient Egyptian culture that she requested that the gazebo be our pyramid palace and brought imported Egyptian furniture. She went there every single night, when she is lonely, happy, worried, sad and angry. It’s like a secret world of hers that gave comfort and support. When her mother died I was on my first year with them, she locked herself in that gazebo for a month, her father ordered it to be destroyed is she will not go out and mingle. Guess that shook her up, but when we were out with the cousins or guests for luncheon or parties she was not herself, she started to have this second personality that is very pleasing to her father. She never disobeyed her father since then, gave in to all the things her father decides and declares, but when we are alone in that gazebo, the old Valerie comes out, cheerful, energetic, adventurous, sweet, talkative, happy, always dancing around the place. Valerie was not allowed to dance anything except for the waltz. You see, her mother was a great dancer, loves Tango and Salsa but I guess Monsieur Blanc doesn’t want to be reminded of his lost love.” Alec and Claudette were now at their room. He took Claudette’s hands and said “Don’t worry Claudette, everything will be alright. I know she’ll do the right thing tonight. We will support her all the way.”
I woke up right before the sun set, I had another tea with the two and Claudette helped me prepare for dinner. I love wearing different traditional clothes, which my father hated at first but now got accustomed with. Tonight I decided to wear my Sapphire Blue Chinese dress with black dragon print running down the slit at the left leg, dyed my hair blue-black, wore eyeliner and mascara emphasizing my deep blue eyes and a pearly pink lipstick. I was  now walking down the secret path along my Blue Rose garden towards the main house,Château de Ferrières,with a 3 inches black clog sandals, taking my time as I prepare my answers in my head.

Dinner was quite satisfactory for my palate. It was a Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes, corn kernels, peas, diced carrots in butter, red wine and garden salad. Simple yet I’m not used to it. Grateful that my father and Monsieur Graham did not talk about anything except the food throughout the dinner. Then we went to my father’s sitting rooms where they both had cognac while I continued drinking the wine. I was now nervous and can’t sit still. My father and Monsieur Graham were in a conversation as I started to compose my answer when suddenly , “Valerie my dear, the engagement party is tomorrow, the invitations were sent this morning. The wedding will take place in a month, the preparations are almost complete,, I have all the best men and women working on it, so you have nothing to worry about.” I was very upset with that I started to object with a very harsh tone, “Monsieur Graham, I”. “Please Valerie in four weeks you’ll be my wife, there is no need for any formalities, call me Charlie.” I glared at him this time, “Monsieur Graham” I stressed on it, “I know you can do anything you wish but don’t you think I still have to agree on this matter? This is my wedding we are talking about, my life!” turning to my father, “Daddy, so you are okay with this? Don’t you give a damn thing about what I really want this time?”. “Young woman enough of this nonsense, you are not a child anymore to throw tantrums at me and be careful with your words. Everything is settled, you will attend your engagement party tomorrow night and have a wedding next month. The empire can’t wait forever for your decisions, you will take my place by next year and Charles here can help you in everything as well. You will be a very busy woman and no more time for unnecessary stunts. Now I’ll leave you two to discuss the details. I will see you tomorrow for our early breakfast before I proceed to another conference.” He stood up and kissed my forehead and bid Charles good night.

Monsieur Graham, I beg your pardon but I am still in shock, everything happened so fast. You proposing the instant we finished dancing, left after that and returned in less than 24 hours to tell me that the wedding will take place in 4 weeks and that I have nothing to worry about? Don’t you think I should state my thoughts clearly first?” I was now sitting upright facing the handsome man who will be my husband in 4 weeks, whom I’ll be spending my life with. “Monsieur, this is a life time commitment for me, I think I have the right to choose who that person will be on my time. And I envisioned myself marrying the one I love and loves me back.”  I paused to look him in the eye and sighed “But since it’s clearly stated by my father that I have a duty to fulfill as the daughter of the great Monsieur Irvin Philippe Walsh Blanc and as the heiress of his business empire, I have no choice but to submit to your plans, but may I ask for some more time? I wish to get to know you more, not just knowing you from the background check reports but I need to see and meet the real you.” Charles sat closer to me and said in a sad yet earnest manner, “Valerie my dearest, I ‘m really sorry but you see time is so precious to me, when I see something I want I have to acquire it, when I need something I make sure to have it and when I saw you at The Crypt dancing with Mr. Mowatt during the contest I knew immediately that you are the one I want to spend my eternity with, but I admit I have the most detestable ways of acquiring things. But I am really serious when I proposed and said that I will do everything to make you happy. And I know that no amount of money of treasure can compare to that desire, that need, that LOVE that I feel right now for you.” He took my hand and kneel before me, “I will make sure you will never cry in pain anymore, I will listen to everything you will say, do what it is you want to do, you will not run out in the night just to enjoy dancing, I will personally take you to every dance studios, gathering and contests you’d want to visit and experience, but I cannot give you more time. Because I feel lost without you and another 4 weeks is like an eternity for me. I love you Valerie Blanc, will you marry me?” I was now teary eyed when I said “Okay sir” smiled and rephrased my answer, “Oui, Monsieur Charles Austen Graham, I will marry you.” He stood up and kissed me. It was a very sweet, warm and gentle kiss, when he felt me responding his kisses deepened. “Come, I guess we both need some fresh air, let’s walk at in the garden.” We strolled hand in hand sharing childhood stories for about and hour and then he said, It’s time for me to take my leave Valerie, though I don’t want to but I have some meetings back at home in the morning, I’ll be back for our engagement party. Everything is arranged, I will leave Bruce to take care of you and your needs, he will be your personal aid and bodyguard. I am very happy that our misunderstanding is all settled now. I am very happy. Thank you Valerie.” He kissed me and embraced me with the warmth of his love. He called Bruce, “This is Bruce, one of the best in my team, he knows everything that you’ll need to know, ask him for anything. He’s in charge of your food, clothes, beauty regiments, he’ll walk you through all your itinerary with ease. I want what’s best for you dear. If you need me ask Bruce to contact me.”  He left with his own bodyguards in tow. Bruce was like a handsome mean dog as he was following me on my way back to my villa. “You can rest now Bruce, use the room next to my sitting room. I will just go upstairs to Claudette and talk with her for a while. Thank you.”  He left me standing at my door. I went upstairs and convinced Claudette to spare me an hour. Alec I presume is  now sleeping in his room, so Claudette and I walked quietly towards my sitting room. I poured us a glass of wine each and I started telling Claudette everything. She was also in tears when I finished my story. “See, I told you earlier that it was just a misunderstanding, and all you have to do is tell him what you think and want, he is not your father whom you’ll succumb to his every whim. I’m so happy things turn out this way for you. So I guess you will have a very wonderful life from now on.”
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