~ The Next Morning ~
Alistair slammed down the phone in his office inside the
Crane mansion just as Timothy Crane entered.
"I suppose I don't even need to BEGIN to tell you how deeply disappointed I am, Alistair," he barked.
Alistair snorted. "Yes, well, it's not nearly so awful as the 'Harmony Herald' would have everyone believe,
"That girl was practically MAULING you - in public!" Timothy snapped raising his voice as he held up
the newspaper. On the front page was a huge black and white photo of Rachel when she had first greeted Alistair.
In spite of the fact that he had seen it already, Alistair cringed at his father actually holding the picture up.
"WELL?" Timothy demanded.
"Don't you always say no publicity is bad publicity?" Alistair finally asked. Timothy showed the faintest
trace of a smile, but stifled it quickly.
"That is besides the point. Look at you! Look at her!"
"Her NAME is RACHEL, she is my fiancée, and I will NOT have you speaking badly about her!" Alistair
finally said. "I love her."
Timothy sighed. "Now WHY do you have to go and do a thing like that for? I told you, I approve wholeheartedly
of the marriage - it will make for a FINE merger. But Crane's do NOT have time for love. WORK. We spend time at
work, and time IS money Alistair."
Alistair took a deep breath and courageously blurted out, "Maybe love is more important than money!"
"Oh son," Timothy sighed. "Money will never hurt you. RACHEL will hurt you, if you keep going on
about this - this - LOVE business. You don't love her and she doesn't love you. IT - IS - A - MERGER!"
Alistair snorted again. "Keep telling yourself that father. And I suppose that to you it is true. Perhaps
to YOU this is a merger. For Rachel and I, it is LOVE. And you know father; I'm starting to believe that there
are better ways to get what you want than to manipulate others. I think-"
"She is filling you're head with LUDICRUS IDEAS!" Timothy screamed. "She is a WOMAN! She does not
understand business. She does not understand how the Cranes, how we OPERATE. We ALWAYS get what we want no matter
WHAT we have to do!"
There was a long pause, and finally Alistair answered, "All I want is Rachel. And she wants me to the little
voice inside of me that is telling me what is right and what is WRONG."
Timothy gaped. "She had enough courage to actually tell you that?" he sputtered.
Alistair shrugged. "Not in those exact words, father, but she tells me what she thinks, always, good or bad,
and she's not afraid to fight with me. It's one of the things that I love the most about her, actually."
Timothy turned away and stormed out, muttering under his breath about how utterly hopeless Alistair was.
Elizabeth Barrett stepped quietly into her eldest daughter's bedroom. Although it was only 8am Rachel was already
adding the finishing touches to her outfit, putting on a thin strand of black pearls. She smiled as her mother
came in, and Elizabeth smiled to see her up. Rachel had always liked the sunrise, as well as the sunset, and many
days she actually rose to see it, unlike Katherine, who if left alone would generally sleep past noon.
"Congratulations, of course, on you're win yesterday," Elizabeth began, still standing.
"Oh, thank you," Rachel smiled up at her mother from her seat in front of a mirror.
"You know that the engagement party is in less than a week?"
"Yesssss," She slowly nodded.
"Oh my darling girl, I BEG you to reconsider!" Elizabeth cried, melodramatically dropping to her knees
"Mother," Rachel began softly but VERY firmly, "We had this conversation once before. I love Alistair.
I'm NOT going to reconsider."
"You are a child!" Elizabeth cried. "A very strong willed and impulsive child. You do not understand
what the wedding will mean, what the MARRIAGE will mean. You don't understand how the Crane's work, and because
of that you don't understand Alistair. You can't begin to comprehend how it would be-"
"MOTHER!" Rachel screamed. "That is ENOUGH! YOU are the one who does not UNDERSTAND!"
Elizabeth gaped at her. In their world, girls never screamed at their parents. It was just NOT DONE. Slowly she
shook her head. "Such a child, so foolish," she muttered.
"No." Rachel declared. "Listen to me mother, because I have no intention of saying this again. I
am very young, that IS true, but I am not a child. I love Alistair, and I know that he loves me too. I-"
"Oh Rachel! I know that's all you can see right now but that family-"
"STOP IT!" Rachel snapped. "LISTEN to me. I am not STUPID, mother. And I'm not a fool, either. I
UNDERSTAND how the crane's OPPEREATE. I understand that they'll say anything, do anything, and use ANYONE to get
what they want. I understand."
Elizabeth looked HARD at her daughter and realized, suddenly that she did indeed, understand. Finally she managed
a small "Why? Why - would you subject yourself to that? Rachel, aren't you scared that you'll get used?"
Rachel bit her lip. "Yes," she answered finally, softly. "Yes mother, every day. But I know Alistair.
He's not like his father, not entirely, not yet. And he loves me, and I love him. I know - when he lies. I know
when he's happy when he's sad when he's upset - and mother, I AM sorry, but you have to REALLY understand that
I'd never leave Alistair. Besides," she shrugged candidly, "Some of the Crane's worst qualities are things
I can see in myself, a little bit. So you see, I do understand."
"I know," Elizabeth finally whispered. "I see now." She got up. Rachel rose also and hugged
her lightly. "Ever since you were a little girl you always won arguments," Elizabeth smiled in amusement.
"NO? Not ME?" Rachel laughed.
Suddenly Katherine burst in. "It's 8:15. Could you two maybe keep it down?" she asked groggily. Suddenly
she seemed to snap out of her sleep-induced state.
"Were you fighting with mom, Rachel? How DISCRACEFUL!" she gasped. Rachel fought against the urge to
laugh. Katherine was just too much for her to swallow sometimes. She was very, very proper, to the point where
Rachel felt it became ridiculous, fake, and prissy.
"Go back to bed Katherine," she grinned at her sister, shaking her head slightly in amusement. "Just
go back to bed."