Sloane lies awake in bed, Fitz is already left for work. She looks over at his side of the bed, there is a note for her on the pillow.
Please eat breakfast, don’t go into the office, your assistant has cleared your schedule.
Talk to your sisters, please don’t call the police.
I love you always.
They haven’t spent enough time together lately, and it is all on her; Bella’s shenanigans kicked them further out of sync. She sits up in bed, hugging her knee to her chest. She misses him, them; they need to get back to each other. He probably still wants them to go to the village for the holidays but she is not sure she can cope with any of that, any of her mother’s tense energy around her. She nixed that idea as soon as she got off the plane but hasn’t spoken to him about it because; nothing good will come out of going home for Christmas, her mother will be up in arms, her father will be disappointed and Christmas will be ruined for everyone.
Serena and Beatrix are in the living room, having just had breakfast. Fitz spoke to them briefly before leaving to work. Sloane is likely still mad at them but he assured them that she will not call the police, if Beatrix behaves herself that is. Serena too had given Bea a talking to last night.
‘I see you’re both still here.’ Sloane walks into the living room, still dressed in her pyjamas.
‘I’m sorry. We’re sorry.’ Bea immediately jumps off the couch, she half expected Sloane to kick them out. ‘Sloane please don’t be mad, it was all my fault. I dragged Serena here… I didn’t give her much of a choice. I am so sorry.’
‘Of course you didn’t and of course you are. It’s always after the fact with you.’ Sloane takes a sit on an arm chair. Tucking her legs beneath her.
‘Do you forgive us?’ Serena asks.
‘No, but Harp does so that’s ok.’
Both sisters engulf her in a hug, smothering her with kisses.
‘So, how is she?’ Serena asks when they are done with the silliness. None of them can hold a grudge against the other for long, they are too close and their bond runs too deep.
‘She’s good. She’s in love with him, they’re happy and they look good together.’ Sloane tells her sisters all about Bella and Kaiser and they listen without interrupting. She knows it is too soon to tell but they are good together and maybe she is being sentimental because they are close, and because her relationship with Fitz was six months to marriage, but she gets where her sister is coming from. Sometimes love sneaks up on you and bites you in the ass and other times it follows a set pattern. For Bella it was the latter.
‘Wow…’ Serena says.
‘I gave them a hard time and his mother is not thrilled about it, that is something he needs to handle and she needs to deal with her paper, which I guess you know all about.’ She motions to Serena.
‘I found some stuff out but not to the extent that she told you because her accountant stopped sending me information when he got the gist of what I was looking for.’
‘What is she going to do?’
Just then Sloane’s facetime on her iPad rang at the same time Serena and Beatrix’s phones ring.
‘I guess we’re about to find out.’ Sloane places the iPad at vantage point so that all three of them could see Bella. ‘Behave.’ Sloane says to Beatrix before answering the call. ‘Hello you.’
‘Hi… oh. You’re all together?’ Bella says when she sees all three of her sisters on the screen of Sloane’s phone.
‘Beatrix.’ Sloane and Serena say in unison.
‘Wow Bea. Way to turn up the drama.’
‘Thank my mother-in-law.’
‘What happened?’ Sloane asks.
‘We can talk about that later. Bella, first things first, how are you?’
‘Married.’ She giggles. ‘I know it came out of left field, way out I know, but here we are.’ Bella tells her sister about her romance with Kaiser and they listened. She looks happy, and relaxed, it might not have been what they wanted for her, but her happiness, is the grand scheme of things, is what matters.
‘Bells… he sounds lovely.’ Serena says, ‘and you look happy.’
‘Is this what you want?’ Beatrix ask, ‘if it is then I am all for it.’
‘It is. I’m sorry for the way I dropped it on you guys it was cowardly-’
‘Stop.’ Sloane says, ‘you did what you wanted for you, not for us. Mom might kill you but she’ll get over it.’
‘Oh don’t remind me. Kaiser is talking to his mother right now.’
‘How was she when you spoke to her?’ Serena asks.
‘She was kind, she’s mad at Kaiser but she was kind to me.’
‘When do you meet her?’ Sloane asks.
‘I’m not sure, I’ll talk to Kaiser about that too. And everything else.’
‘Okay, can we talk about the paper now?’ Serena asks.
Bella sighs, this one hurts, cuts deep, ‘I fucked up.’
‘Honey… don’t say that everything happens for a reason and Sloane told us about your plans it sounds like you know what’s next for you.’
‘I know…’ Bella sounds so defeated, ‘I wish it didn’t have to end like this.’
‘It’s the beginning of a new chapter Bells.’
But it’ll take a while for her to see it as so. She put everything into this newspaper and so it feels like a failure.
‘We love you.’ Bea says.
‘Now… onto the next big thing. Mom and dad. When are you telling them?’ Serena asks.
‘Right after this call I want to tell them about the paper before it becomes public.’ Bella had time to think about this a lot; her game plan, it doesn’t make it any less hurtful but it is what needs to be done.
‘You cannot do a drop and run Bells.’ Sloane says laughing.
‘I would pay good money for you to do that.’
‘Bea! Don’t encourage that.’
‘It’ll be funny though.’
‘I am almost tempted but mom will probably take it out on dad and I don’t need that for him right now.’
‘You do know the wedding is not legal yet? No matter how cute it was, you still have to make it legal.’
‘What’s your plan?’
‘I haven’t thought that far ahead yet.’
‘Okay, that’s why you have us. You have to have a wedding. It doesn’t matter how big or small, but both families have to be present. They have to know us and we have to know them.’
‘It has to be small. His family my family.’
‘Ok leave it with us. We’ll handle that.’
‘I’ve calculated the severance package for your staff and I’ve spoken to our accountants to transfer the funds to your business account from all three of our accounts-’
‘You can and you will accept this.’ Bea enforces, ‘that’s what we do for family.’
Bella cries and they let her. If they were there with her, they’d hug her and tell her everything will be okay.
‘Do you want us on the call with mom and dad?’ Sloane asks, she desperately wants to reach out and hug her sister.
‘No. This is on me. Besides, you know mom is going to call you as soon as we’re done and I am sorry in advance for that.’
‘We can handle her. Go handle your business. We love you.’ Sloane says before they end the call.
‘Mom is going to kill her.’ Bea says and for the first time the other two cannot dispute that.
‘But you. Are you still coming home?’ Serena asks Sloane.
‘Not now. I want to have a merry Christmas and with everything about to go down it will be significantly melancholic and I don’t want that for Fitz and I.’
‘Sloane come on. You haven’t been home for Christmas since you left-’
‘I’ve been home plenty and each time I get in the cross-hairs of mom and whatever she’s feeling and I’m tired of it. I especially don’t want to get into it with her over the holidays.’
‘How do you know?’
‘Mommy doesn’t even like me-’
‘Don’t say that.’ Bea chastises. ‘She loves you-’
‘But she doesn’t like me, there’s a big difference. I remind too much of a failure despite what I have achieved I didn’t earn my masters and that to her is too tragic to even stomach looking at me.’
Serena and Beatrix cannot refute Sloane, when they are together with their mother it is almost like walking on egg shells around them.
‘Well think about it. We want you to come home. We’ve decided we’ll spend Christmas at mom and dad’s even Bea will pack up the family and come round. She’ll sleep there, the house is big enough. We would love to see you and Fitz for the holidays and maybe it’ll give you and mom a chance at making up.’
‘I have nothing to make up for, she decided that since I did not earn a master’s degree I was the dark horse of the family, a bad influence and I decided I didn’t want any more of that so there.’
‘We know Sloane, we’ve still got a few sleeps to Christmas. Just think about it, please.’
Sloane makes no promises. Her mind is made up and that’s all there is to it.