advent stories XO

Advent Stories #16- Time To Face The Music

Bella revises her editor’s letter to go out to their readers on all platforms come Monday morning. She also scheduled a staff meeting and a meeting with her accountant. She reaches for her phone and dials the number to The Village. News in Threes.

It is answered in two rings by a maid. ‘Rhodes residence.’

‘Hi Anas, its Bella.’

‘Hello Ms Bella, how are you?’

‘I am well and you?’

‘Keeping well. Thank you.’

‘Are mommy and daddy there?’

‘Of course. I’ll let them know you’re on the line.’

In the few seconds Anas was informing her parents about her call, Bella debated hanging up the phone, delaying her news another day, but she knows this needs to happen and the sooner it does the better for all involved.

‘Hello pet how are you?’ Her father’s warming voice comes on the phone.

‘Hi daddy how are you?’

‘Good. Better now that I hear the voice of my favourite daughter.’ There are no favourites with Stephen Rhodes, his favourite daughter is always the one to whom he is speaking at the time.

‘Hello darling.’ Briar Rhodes picks up the call in her office, Bella assumes.

‘Hi mom. How are you?’

‘Good thank you. You?’

‘Well I’ve got some news and I wanted to let you two know before it becomes public and on top of that I have other news.’

‘Is everything okay?’

‘Yes and no.’

‘Is it something we can handle?’ Briar asks, typical.

‘One you don’t have a choice because it’s happening the other… I hope so.’

‘No more questions Bri let the girl tell us why she called. Over to you sweetheart.’

Here goes everything.

‘I am shutting down the newspaper.’

‘Why?’ both parents seem to have asked.

‘It’s failing. I am not making money from it. Haven’t been for a long time, over a year and I’ve been using money from my portion of the trust to pay staff and keep things afloat. It’s not sustaining itself and I need to reprioritize.’

‘Oh sweetheart. I’m so sorry to hear that. Why didn’t you come to us for help?’ Briar misses those days when her daughters were younger and needed her, they are all grown and independent now… all with their own lives that she is so proud of them for, even Sloane, whatever her rebellious daughter believes, she is incredibly proud of her.

‘Because mom, I should be able to stand on my feet without a hand out from my parents, at some point in my life I ought to be able to. I own a business I should be accountable to that and not my parents.’

‘We know that Bells, but we are your parents.’ Stephen says, ‘you and your sisters have made us proud and no one is immune to failure even your dear old mommy and daddy.’

‘Well at some point a kid is gotta learn how to stand on her own two feet and right now, I fell-’

‘No, you had a wobble and you are going to get back up. What’s your plan?’

Bella tells her parents about her plans and they agreed it was a good and solid one, but not without telling her they would give her a pile of cash to keep going, because that is what parents do. She refused. She knows when she needs to walk away and this is one of those times, a pile of cash is not going to save a dying industry, she has a strategy in place and she is going ahead with it.

‘Well at least let us give you money for the severance packages.’

‘The two S’s and B already took care of that.’ Their father used to call them his Sweet Bees growing up, for their initials. ‘I’m okay they insisted and I could not put up a fight.’

‘Well we insist, use the money for something. I’ve already sent a message to the accountant and he’ll handle the transfer.’ Briar enforces in a motherly way.

Bella holds her laugh, her mother might want to recall that transfer.

‘So what’s the next news that you hope we can handle?’ Stephen asks his daughter.

Deep breaths. Deep breaths. ‘I got married last weekend.’

The initial silence was so loud she thought her parents had been disconnected.

‘I’m sorry, what did you say?’ Briar asks her daughter surely she misheard her. Sure she did not just say she got married.

‘Bella…’

‘I got married last weekend.’ Bella repeats, her voice small but firm.

‘To whom?’ There it is, that classic Briar Rhodes voices, the one that belies the impending storm.

‘You don’t know him. Kaiser Williams.’

‘Is this a joke?’

‘No mom it’s not. I know what you’re thinking-’

‘No, no you don’t. You do not know what I am thinking at all. You got married to a stranger without your family present? Or were your sisters there because this is the type of nonsense you girls would do.’

‘No, it was just the two of us in Provence.’

‘Tuh Ras-’ her father cussed in patois. ‘Bella dis no funny.’

Bella fights the urge to laugh, she loves hearing her dad break into his native patois it often means a situation is deadly serious. ‘It’s not a joke daddy. I’m sorry.’

‘How long have you known this person?’ Briar left her office and came downstairs to the family room where Stephen was. They’d just come in from the farm where they help set up for market day.

‘A week-’

‘Lawdamassi!’ Stephen put his head in his hands.

‘Okay… I am getting off the phone now and when you call back, you are going to tell us that you have annulled this sham of a marriage and that’s all there’ll be to it.’

‘Mom, I’m not annulling anything. I met a man I fell in love with, and we got married. It might not be convention but it is what it is.’

‘Are you listening to yourself? You met a man you fell in love with over a weekend and you think the next best thing is for you to get married? Have you lost your damn mind?’

‘I understand that you-’

‘No you don’t! You are incapable of understanding anything because if you did you would not behave as if you don’t have a family. You got married to some stranger and you expect us to be okay with it?’

‘I don’t, but I hope you’ll come round to it.’

‘No we are not coming round to anything. You will do as I am telling you-’

‘Mom please don’t do this. I know you’re upset and angry, and a lot of things-’

‘Did you stop to think about your family? Do your sisters know?’

‘No, I didn’t think about the family because I did something for me. And yes they know.’

‘And let me guess, they support you.’

‘Eventually. Sloane came out-’

‘Of course I should’ve known she would be behind all this. I should-’

‘She was not behind anything, she flew down here after she found out and gave me a hard time about it.’

‘Not hard enough. This is bloody ridiculous. You children act like you have no common sense, that you were raised in a barn or something. What the hell is the matter with you?’

‘I’m sorry.’

‘That’s all you have to say for yourself? You’re sorry?’

‘I don’t know what more to say.’

‘Neither do I.’ Briar hangs up the phone but she is not done yet. She stalks back to her office to call her youngest and most rebellious daughter. Always at the root of something that one.

‘Dad…please say something?’

‘I too don’t know what to say Bells, I wish I knew my darling.’