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Mother and Daughter

Premiered – 1 May 2004 (Beltane)


Chapter 12

Heir Apparent


Dan Sewell Ward 

(July 14 th )


Lorenzo Valentino hosted one of the finest restaurants in New York City . Catering to the extremely rich, influential, and able-to-afford-long-lunches crowd, Valentino's was one of the nineties' major success stories. Opened a mere three years ago, Valentino's had gone from a grotesquely snobbish, extremely expensive tourist trap (Yuk!) to a grotesquely elite, extremely expensive, all the rage restaurant (Yea!). More than any other restaurant in New York City (at least for the summer -- fame tending to be rather fleeting in The Big Apple) Valentino's was the place to be for every social climbing neophyte. Assuming, of course, said social climbing neophyte could get a table -- which normally they couldn't.

The restaurant had been conceived and brought to its glorious fruition by a Hong Kong refugee, originally named Li Wong Duc. Li Wong had grown to loath Chinese food, not to mention all other things Chinese -- in particular, Chinese real estate. Leaving Hong Kong and all other things Chinese, he had changed his name and upon arrival in his adopted country promptly set about creating an authentic upper-class Italian restaurant (obviously, an oxymoron). Why Li Wong had changed his name to Lorenzo Valentino is anybody's guess, but legend has it that the former Hong Kong entrepreneur had seen one too many spaghetti westerns, and had inadvertently mistaken Clint Eastwood's name to be Lorenzo Valentino. It's a common mistake.

Part of Valentino's success was due to the personal attention foisted upon its clientele by Lorenzo himself. This was particularly true when said clientele included such notables as Tina Mettese Gilan, Executive Vice President for Worldwide Enterprises. In fact, Lorenzo the Lion-hearted had gone rather overboard in ensuring that the honorable Ms. Gilan would receive the best service Valentino's could provide. One might even suggest that Lorenzo was somewhat enamored by Tina's personal attractiveness. This might not be the best news we've heard so far, but at least it's nice to know that his extraordinary enthusiasm on Tina's behalf was not inspired by anything so mundane as his merely trying to improve the restaurant's profit structure! Rather, it was love that moved him. Or lust. Whichever.

Tina, as expected, declined the short, extremely oriental, Valentino-style approach, taking great pains to clearly inform her host that she had no interest whatsoever in a lunch with romantic overtones. In this endeavor Tina had been exceptionally forthright as well as diplomatic. Naturally, this combination of clarity and diplomacy on her part and the marginal fluency of the English language on Lorenzo's part resulted in Lorenzo assuming that there was a real possibility of an extended, romantic ski-weekend with Tina in Southern New Zealand , as early as next week.

In the short term, however, Tina gained momentary relief from Lorenzo's attentions. This in turn allowed for a lone, handsome, rugged (but genteel) man at the next table to cast considerably more than an appreciative eye in Tina's direction. Rather like a chuckling smile and four variations of arm, shoulder and head movements (i.e. virtually anything above the waist) which suggested in as many as sixteen different languages the desirability of either Tina joining him, or him joining Tina. 'Probably at the hip,' Tina thought, 'where only radical surgery could have separated them.'

Tina's first reaction was to wonder if she was in heat. After Dan, Harrison, Lorenzo and four other Unidentified Female Observers of the last several days, Tina was beginning to notice a trend: If the man was male, then he found Tina irresistible. It followed that if logic had its way a rather large percentage of men would soon find Tina irresistible. Considering Tina's ability to resist, however, this obviously had the potential to generate a significant problem. A problem, nonetheless, which Tina felt was their problem, not hers! Right? Right! And it never rains in Indianapolis !

On the one hand, Tina could at least take comfort knowing that her sexual attractiveness was in full bloom. On the other hand, it was seemingly out of control. Tina might easily lose her power to some charming male, become so attracted that she couldn't see his liabilities for his assets. This was something that had never happened to Tina, and the possibility, quite frankly, scared her to death. The idea of being vulnerable as opposed to being in total control had all the attributes of Nightmare on Elm Street , Part XXII. Tina shuddered, at the totally insane idea. Why in the world would she want to be vulnerable!?

But then again, why not?

Tina decided that control also implied she didn't have to answer the last question, and that therefore she was not about to! Instead, she glanced around, studiously ignoring her latest would-be suitor, and hoping that her lunch date would soon arrive. Silently pleading, in fact, that someone, anyone, would show up and demonstrate that Tina was not alone, and thus "available". Tina had never had major problems with dining alone, but the last several days had begun to suggest to her, for the first time, that a new set of ground rules existed for temporarily unattached women. Obviously, the rules were quite ancient, but Tina had never been forced to acknowledge them or find herself subject to them. And if Tina was now being forced to meet reality, no one was safe!

But lo! There on the horizon! The Seventh Calvary ! Also known as Tina's mother, one Metese Drew Neese. Tina was saved! At least, from her lustful, temporary neighbor.

As for Metese... Well... That would remain to be seen.

From the moment of her birth, Tina had been her father's daughter to the extent that when Zak left his marriage with Metese, he had taken his infant daughter with him and thereafter raised her as his sole property. Zak had also forcibly prevented Metese from nurturing her daughter or in any way interacting with her. The split between Zak and Metese had been a traumatic one, not untypical for two very strong individuals. In addition, the early nineteen fifties was a time when society allowed the very wealthy Zak to effectively usurp any power that Metese might have had. Zak got his way and then some.

By the time Tina had entered elementary school, the die had been cast. Metese had early on accepted the situation, preferring to step aside rather than risk tearing her daughter apart in a titanic struggle for supremacy. It had, in fact, been Metese's early resolve to take the high road with respect to her Solomon's choice which had moved Zak to later back off considerably from his original, messy-divorce-inspired decision to separate the mother from her child.

Much of the breach had been healed by Tina's seventh birthday, but when Metese had subsequently become pregnant by another man, Zak had abruptly reinserted the wedge. It was never entirely clear why Zak had taken such offense at Metese's condition, but society in nineteen fifty nine was still a bit Neanderthal , particularly in its view of women. It was many years later before Metese was even marginally acknowledged again as Tina's mother.

Tina, of course, spent her teenage years in the nineteen sixties, where all manner of anti war and anti establishment movements were in vogue. For the most part, however, she was hardly aware of the "sixties", and continued as her father's daughter. At the same time, her mother went in the opposite direction and did all sorts of radical things, none of which Zak, and therefore his daughter, approved. The result was something less than conducive to family harmony.

By the nineties, Tina and Metese had found small islands of agreement in an ocean of radical differences. Because of this, they got along. They just weren't bosom buddies! Still, Metese had maintained contact with innumerable invitations to lunch, and Tina had done her small share by accepting a small percentage of them. But strangely, the invitations had become notably absent for several months. Tina now found herself inviting Metese, who then had to work somewhat diligently at finding an open day to have lunch with Tina!

This switch in their parts as initiator and responder had had a strange effect upon Tina. She now found herself uncomfortable and ill at ease meeting her mother. Tina was no longer the woman of power to which the supplicant mother must plead her case. In fact, Metese was now the one carrying her own confidence and power, attributes which shown considerably brighter than Tina's. Tina was, accordingly, unusually nervous.

Metese, however, did not appear to notice. Approaching Tina, she smiled her most loving smile and held out her arms to welcome her daughter. Tina, still uncomfortable, took the offered hug and kiss, and the mother and daughter quickly exchanged greetings.

As they sat down, Metese said, "This is certainly a first! My very important daughter inviting me to lunch!" (One of the iron clad rules of motherhood is to never miss an opportunity to instill a small amount of guilt in one's child. It helps to justify the birth pains endured so long ago.)

Tina, however, decided not to be put on the defensive. Her response was a calculated one. "I'm so pleased that you were able to fit me into your very busy schedule."

Metese laughed slightly. "I have been extremely busy of late. Lots to do!"

Tina smiled broadly, vowing to avoid the slightest intimidation, "I know what you mean! Many of my days are the same way."

The preliminaries were then interrupted by the arrival of the waiter, some meaningless small talk on what selections were the best (both from the standpoint of taste and health), two definitive orders, two slight modifications to the definitive orders, a small alteration of each modification to the order, an inconsequential (or two) addition to at least one alternation, and the ultimate departure of a waiter, recently succumbed to writer's cramp.

"So," Metese began, as they found themselves alone again, "What's the occasion?"

Tina knew Metese to be terribly direct sometimes and was ready for her. Carefully, Tina answered, "It seemed a good time to bring ourselves up to date on one another. Maybe get to know each other better, heal a few wounds, that sort of thing."

"Or perhaps you're fishing for information," Metese replied, still smiling.

Tina returned the smile, tit for tat. "I'm always fishing for information."

"Yes, you are. A trait I've always admired. At the same time, I wondered where you got it! I've never been enamored with merely gathering information, myself. But you seem to thrive on it."

Let's see now: was that a compliment or an insult? Or both? Probably all of the above and then some. But Tina didn't stop to notice.

"Does that bother you?" Tina asked, her voice carrying a timbre of concern. "The fact that we're different in so many ways? That it's even difficult to communicate?"

"Absolutely!" Metese replied earnestly. "You're the child of my body. My first born. The one I was never able to nurture in the way I would have wanted." For a moment Metese let the words sink in before she added, "I suppose that's why I mothered Andy with such a vengeance! No man was going to deny my son his rightful nurturing!!"

As if, 'surely it's obvious', Tina said, "Men don't need nurturing."

"Oh yes they do!" Metese was suddenly intense. "They need it as much if not more than women! That's what's been wrong all this time." When Tina did not immediately respond, Metese added, "But times are changing! Just look at your brother, Andy..."

"My half-brother," Tina corrected.

For a moment, Metese hesitated, looking at her daughter's calm demeanor. "Fine. However you want to think about it." Metese continued, "But Andy has always had his nurturing, his divine right to be loved for his own special growth. And now he's older and has become the complete man! Sensitive, yet delightfully manly. An all-around wonder!"

Tina smiled good naturedly, "He's even qualified to be President of the United States ." After allowing Metese to register a momentary shock, Tina added, "He's over 35, a U. S. citizen, and hasn't been convicted of a felony. At least, I'm assuming he has been convicted of a felony."

Metese smiled at Tina's attempted humor. "You're right! He is ready to take on the Presidency. If there was any good reason to do so; which I doubt." Both women laughed together. "He's even ready for marriage."

Tina blinked. "Marriage? Isn't he a bit late for marriage?"

"Not really," Metese replied, thinking about it. "A person's not even an adult until after they turn thirty. After their Saturn return."

Tina's attention flared slightly at Metese's reference to Saturn, as if her mother was in league with Dan and his comments on Tina's astrological Saturn placement. But she said nothing as Metese continued.

"As for Andy, he's had his education to consider." (Mothers are very weird when it comes to their children's education. The longer, the better. It's as if their continuing status as a student, even at eighty years of age, justifies the mother's desire to continue to treat them as students, and by extension, children.)

"For heaven's sake," Tina asked, not buying into the concept of the mother-student-forever-thing, "how many years of education do you need!?"

"All your life," Metese answered, smiling. Then when Tina gave her a skeptical look, Metese added, "Sometimes intense, sometimes more casual. Andy's done a lot of things in the last couple of decades, but he's also had a mentor and master teacher since he turned eighteen."

Tina grimaced slightly. "That's a lot of education!"

Metese gave her best smile. "He has a lot to do."

"I've a lot to do as well," Tina replied with conviction. "But I've also been out in the world, doing those things, interacting, learning from experience, from the school of hard knocks."

Metese was suddenly very definite, her voice displaying her confidence. "The only thing 'the school of hard knocks' teaches you is how to avoid receiving more hard knocks! There's really a lot more to learning than just discovering how to apply the whip instead of having it applied to you!"

Tina smiled, "You'd be surprised how seldom I use the whip."

Tina's response caught her mother slightly off guard. But then Metese quickly laughed. "That's not what I've heard!"

Tina laughed as well. "Must be someone else. Someone with my name." The two women smiled at each other, suddenly finding comfort with one another. Then Tina looked directly into Metese's eyes. "Can I ask you a silly question?"

Metese was taken aback by the idea, particularly because it was coming from Tina. Her daughter did not ask silly questions! But then, Metese whipped out her best mother's smile, specifically designed for encouragement, and said, "Of course." Then she added, taking the opportunity to mother, "The only really good questions are the silly ones!"

Tina had serious doubts about her mother's last statement, but she was after bigger game. "I was named after you," Tina said, directly to the point, "but my middle name is spelled with an extra 't'. Why is that?"

Metese laughed. "Your father! He wanted a different pronunciation, for one thing, to distinguish the two of us. But then, he was always weird with names. I suspect it's a family trait." Metese thought for a moment. "You know, of course, that your father's whole family Americanized their last name some fifty odd years ago. And Zak has a half-brother who changed his name from Charles to Chirles. Name changing seems to run in the family."

"As if a name change can make all that much difference!" Tina laughed slightly at her own joke.

"Actually," Metese replied, "there's a great deal of power in a name. And changing even a single letter can sometimes have some far-reaching results. Your extra 't' provides you with a whole new means of expressing your natural potential. Did you know that?"

"You're kidding," Tina smiled. Or tried to. It was hard smiling when you had just begun to suspect your mother was losing her mind.

"Not at all," Metese assured her. "Change the spelling of your name, even if only a single letter and you change much more. This is particularly true when a woman marries. A woman can actually modify her personality by changing her last name to her husband's. She can end up subverting her own psychology, her own motivations and talents, to his, and taking on something totally different, something which may not be in her best interests."

Tina's response was one of amazement and skepticism.

Metese smiled at her skepticism and ignored the amazement. Then she added, "It's become clear that a woman should never change her maiden name, just because she's getting married. In fact, she shouldn't even arbitrarily add his last name with a hyphen to her own. It changes things."

Tina suddenly found a sense of relief. "Now I know you're kidding me!" Metese promptly received Tina's best frown, as her daughter dismissed the idea.

"I'll send you a small book on the subject," Metese offered. "After which I'll ask you why, when your grandfather was changing the family name from Gilanos to Gilan, your grandmother Ruth insisted on Zak's full name being Zachary D'Michael Gilan. Adding the 'D' was quite important to her."

Oh boy! A resolvable mystery! Just the kind Tina loved! Slowly a smile crept over her face, as she accepted the challenge, knowing that her mother would never put out a red herring. Primarily, of course, because Tina was fairly certain that her mother did not even know what a red herring was.

As the two women continued to watch one another, both felt the subtle stirrings of a notable improvement in their friendship. Why now, of all times, Tina could not fathom. Unless, it was somehow connected with Metese's growing confidence and belief in her own power. Yes, that could be it! Perhaps, what had been needed all along was respect as well as blood between them. In any case, it was a nice feeling.

The feeling also encouraged Tina to be a bit more direct -- and a bit more vulnerable. "You talk of nurturing Andy, and why it was so important to you."

"And it is. To both of us."

"And the fact that you weren't able to nurture me." For a split second, Tina hesitated, swallowing her fear. Then with more emotion than she had felt in years, she asked, "What did I miss?"

Metese felt the full force of Tina's vulnerability, and a fair shot of pain in her own heart. Gently and carefully, she tried to answer, backing away slightly from loving too much too soon. "A lot of things. The idea that you don't have to compete, you don't have to beat someone else in order to have or to be. The sense that your inner feelings are more important than all the rational thinking, the false authorities, the established knowledge. The absolute knowing that one is loved, no matter what."

Tina tried to defend herself. "But I've always felt loved."

"Intellectually perhaps. Or based on your performance, what you were able to achieve. But to know, emotionally as well as mentally, to have your body physically know you're loved, no matter what, no matter in what way you fail, no matter what you've done, good or bad... That's part of the nurturing. Where you can be totally open, totally vulnerable, totally without defenses; and still know that you're loved, that you're safe, that ultimately the universe will take care of you, respond to your every desire, and protect you at all times."

Tina's mind blanched at the enormity of the idea. "That's quite an order."

"The incredible part is that it's absolutely available to every person on the planet. All they have to do is ask, know they're worthy of receiving, and capable of accepting it. Then all things are possible." For a moment, Metese paused. "There's nothing we can't ask for, create ourselves, and ultimately have."

Tina's past briefly intruded. Skeptically, she said, "You might want to be careful for what you ask. You might get it."

"Absolutely!" Metese's smiled broadly in agreement. "In which case, you can just ask for joy. Then whatever is appropriate will follow."

"Sounds very vulnerable," Tina replied, trying to make it sound light.

"The walls of the castle that keep the fears out, will also keep the joy out. But tear the walls down, recognize that ultimately there is nothing to fear, and joy can continually flow to you. The only motivation for control, for avoiding vulnerability, is fear. And there is simply nothing to fear."

Tina gently disagreed. "But the problems of life..."

"Like what? Losing a job, losing a loved one? Why fear these? With the universe taking care of you, you'll just find other work, probably more rewarding. As for someone to love, there are billions out there looking for someone to love!"

Tina felt the strangest sensation, as Metese' last statement reminded her daughter of that half of the human race currently eager to make love to Tina. Off handedly, and without thinking about it, she quickly replied, "I'm not sure I want that many males after me."

Metese laughed, drawing a few chuckles from Tina. Then the mother picked up on an intuitive thought and asked, "Are you dating anyone now?"

Tina's defensive shields, normally raised in an instance, hardly budged. Somehow the motivation just wasn't there. Instead, the shields stirred slightly, and then lost interest. Tina's sudden hesitation faded into a silly grin. "No one. But I seem to be attracting every man within a fifty mile radius."

Metese could only smile. "Surely that's not a problem."

"It's just that it seems to be getting out of control." Tina's smile turned to a slight grimace.

"You may be attracting what you fear," Metese added, her voice becoming more serious. "Don't put any emotion into it. Simply do a quick pivot, decide what you want, and begin writing down the specifics. Then, if you're open to it, it will arrive sooner than you can imagine. You will always attract whatever you're emotionally thinking about. Not instantly, necessarily, but amazingly quickly."

Tina was suddenly intrigued. "You mean, if I'm diligently trying to avoid something, I'll be attracting it?"

"Definitely. This is why you turn it around and think about what you want to enter your life, not what you want to keep out."

Tina watched her mother for several minutes. An inner voice within Tina kept bouncing around excitedly, saying 'Yes, yes, yes!' Tina, unaccustomed to paying a lot of attention to hyperactive inner voices nevertheless seemed to feel at ease with the idea. It just might be something worth trying, she thought.

Then her thoughts eased back, her openness to new ideas ebbing in order to consolidate, and her old habits of business-as-usual reasserted itself. "I'll try it," she conceded, ready to move on to new subjects.

Metese fairly radiated with delight. She was being allowed to do the things she had wanted for so long. And the feeling was wonderful. And yet, the only thing she could manage to say was, "Wonderful!"

Tina felt the intense, loving warmth, and for a moment simply felt good. But it was time to move on. Or so she thought. "So, tell me," Tina began, her smile betraying her own warmth as well as genuine interest, "have you seen much of old D'Michael lately?"

Metese's stirred feelings were abruptly overridden by other concerns. Suddenly, she was very much aware of the possible implications of a straight answer. And because of the implications, she found herself hesitating ever so slightly at a time when ordinarily she shouldn't have. The moment did not feel right to be completely straightforward.

Tina found her mother's brief hesitation strange, but hardly thought about it. "You know: Zak? The guy you married once upon a time? My father?"

Metese smiled. "Oh, yes! I know Zak. In fact, I know him quite well. Perhaps more than anyone else. Including Zak, himself."

"Have you seen him lately?"

Metese was again circumspect. "We still see each other from time to time. Over the last forty years of so he's tended to enter and exit our relationship a great deal. We'll spend some time together over the space of a year or so; then he'll become restless and take off. He might leave for several years at a time, not even a word in the interim. But he's always come back."

"And lately?" Tina was still fishing for information. Even if only by habit.

"As a matter of fact, lately, we have spent a fair amount of time together."

Tina smiled, "It must be one of those together periods, as opposed to his away times."

Metese smiled an uncommitted reply. "Apparently."

Tina's next question, however casually delivered, carried a bit more importance. "Have you noticed any changes in Zak lately? You know, little, inconsequential things?"

Metese laughed out loud. "Little!? On the contrary, I've seen some very substantial changes! Zak has made some amazing strides! I would never have believed it but for the fact that he's really one of the most brilliant men I've ever known. And once he gets his mind open, even slightly, he can change with the best of them. Just show him some real evidence, however complex, and with his brains, he can pull it all together in the kind of synthesis that is enormously convincing! All truly great men are more than capable of changing. Provided, of course, that in their minds the change is justified!"

Tina thought out loud for a moment. "I think I always called it flexibility."

"Some of Zak's more recent changes," Metese confided, "go a bit beyond flexibility."

"Like what?" Tina was now intrigued. And enormously enjoying the talk between herself and her mother.

Metese thought for a moment, earnestly considering the question. "Like his attitude toward women, for example. More respect."

Tina considered the idea. Somehow, it didn't seem to quite fit. "Maybe," she replied, "But right now, he seems to have disregarded me."

Her mother was immediately concerned. "How!?"

"Zak seems to be making some major changes at Worldwide Enterprises, but he hasn't even bothered to let me know what's going on."

Metese smiled in mock amazement. "You mean you haven't figured it out with your spy network?"

Tina grimaced slightly at the reference to her reputation (as we are all likely to do, with our reputations being what they are). "I haven't figured it out, and he hasn't said anything!"

"Well," Metese smiled, "I'm sure he will let his favorite child know when the time is right."

"Which brings up an interesting question," Tina noted, her voice betraying her concern and the fact that the question was not simply 'interesting'. "Who is his favorite child?" For a moment she swallowed hard. "Aaron?"

Metese's response was immediate. "On good heavens, no!" Then her confidence slipped slightly. "At least, I don't think so."

"It's hard to say," Tina added, not without some traces of hurt. "I haven't even been able to see Zak lately. Even talk to him for more than a few minutes."

Metese watched her daughter carefully, thinking how to answer. Then her decision was postponed indefinitely, as a waiter arrived at their table carrying a remote telephone. (All fancy restaurants have mobile telephones, which many of the clients arrange to utilize by pre-planning a call to their table. The call may be nothing more than a notification that the sun has continued to move across the daytime sky or it may even be about something actually important. The key, however, is that it looks so sheik! Thus making it very much the 'in' thing to do! At the same time, one's cell phone ringing has no where near the class of others rushing to provide you with the latest urgent communiqué.)

In any case, Tina was the first to see the waiter, and automatically reached for the telephone; Tina having received calls at lunch innumerable times before. The waiter, seeing Tina's expectant attitude, offered the telephone to her and simultaneously asked, "Ms. Metese Neese?"

"Oh!" was Metese's response, while Tina merely looked at the waiter with a blank expression. The waiter caught on quickly and handed the telephone to Metese instead. Metese took the telephone, obviously thrilled to have gained the status of receiving 'the very important telephone call at lunch'! She then smiled at Tina as she answered. "Yes? Oh, Iris! I'm so glad you called! Did you talk to Chirles?" After a momentary pause, Metese smiled, and said, "Wonderful! That sounds great! Now… Did you find out about..." For a moment, her voice trailed off, the speaker on the other end having either known the question and interrupted, or Metese becoming suddenly hesitant to finish the sentence for Tina to hear. Metese listened intently for several more moments, adding a few yeses and uh-huhs, or an occasional "No, I don't think so." Finally she smiled broadly and said, "Wonderful! That's absolutely marvelous! By all means, do it!" After another quick pause, she finished the conversation. "See you then. Bye."

Tina vaguely recalled all of the times she had received a telephone call at lunch, where she had not even considered telling her luncheon guest what the call was about. She now had a sense of how lousy it can be when someone is having this marvelous conversation but is very unlikely to share any of it with you. It didn't seem quite courteous to do such a thing, or to ask about it. Still, she decided that she would at least inquire. "What was that all about?"

Metese, still smiling, hesitated for just a second. "Andy's wedding plans!"

Tina was suddenly shocked. "Andy's getting married!!?"

"I told you he was ready for marriage," Metese responded, totally enthusiastic. "And he's marrying a wonderful woman!"

Tina was astounded. "This is phenomenal! When is he getting married!?"

Metese braced herself slightly, "July Twentieth."

Tina did a quick calculation: less than a week away! Maybe. Her voice incredulous, she asked, "This year?"

"Right," Metese answered, attempting a light hearted smile. "Six days from now."

Tina felt suddenly shut out, even more than before. It was as if she were no longer family, no longer had that unseverable connection. "I didn't know." The tone in her voice sounded vaguely like a shy, wounded child.

"We didn't either," Metese gently replied, sensing Tina's hurt. "There were some complications, things that had to be taken care of before the plans could go forth. Then when we were able to manage a breakthrough, the most auspicious date was only eight days away. We had already done some of the planning and since we're having it on my country estates, we decided that there was no time like the present..."

"And so, you just threw caution to the winds and dived in!" Tina was not as cavalier as her words might have suggested.

"Exactly," Metese replied. "Of course, we didn't have time for formal invitations; but we're only having family and our closest friends, so invitations are not absolutely essential. Obviously, we're really looking forward to your being there. We might even change the date to accommodate you."

Tina was genuinely affected. "That's a nice compliment, but I wouldn't want you to do that."

Metese smiled earnestly. "It's important that you're there."

"The twentieth," Tina confirmed, retreating from her momentary foray into emotions and back into the mundane activity of scheduling, "At your estates in Longwood?"

"Right," Metese smiled. Then she added, "I'll tell you what: Since you're special, I'll have an invitation prepared expressly for you and have it delivered by special messenger. In the meantime, you should plan on spending the entire day with us. I guarantee that you'll find it a fascinating experience. The wedding ceremony will be a custom one, of course, but using a wide variety of ancient traditions. It will really be something to see."

Tina smiled faintly. "Hopefully, I won't have any major conflicts."

Metese looked at her daughter with a practiced eye. "If Zak can take the time to be there, I'm sure you can."

Tina was surprised again. "Zak will be there?"

"Oh, yes." Metese seemed very firm on that point.

Tina didn't have the chance to follow up on her point, as another waiter with another telephone arrived to interrupt the conversation again. At the same time and confirming that there is still justice in the world, this call was for Tina, who was able to smile an "I-told-you-so" smile, as she answered. Her mother missed Tina's slight smirk all together.

The message was particularly brief. Herman Travers had flown into Newark . Tina's right-hand man, Gordon, had no idea why Herman's flight had been diverted from JFK or why anyone in their right mind would want to fly into Newark in the second place. But he had, and Gordon was simply reporting the fact to Tina. Herman had then taken a private motor launch across the Hudson River , had been met by one of Worldwide's limos, and was now, theoretically, on his way to his hotel. Tina made immediate plans to meet him, knowing that, priorities being what they were; lunch with Mom might be shorter than expected.

As Tina hung up, she set the mobile telephone down beside its mate. The first mobile telephone had been left at the table as a matter of policy by the restaurant. This was due to the current status symbol of one's importance being determined by the number of instruments being left at one's table by the end of lunch. Even the arrival of food did not disturb the ongoing accumulation of the restaurant's contribution to one's status symbol.

As the food was served, appropriate comments were made as to its appearance and aroma, and the fact that one alternation to a second modification had apparently not been consummated. Appropriate action was then offered by the waiter, and quickly refused by the guest who had decided the alternation was not such a good idea after all. The waiter left, much relieved.

With these essential traditions of lunch accomplished, the conversation went off on several new tangents. These included an extremely brief overview of the possibility of Tina getting married sometime in the foreseeable future, a slightly longer discussion, led by Metese, on the subject of biological clocks in women, and a much longer talk, primarily by Tina, on all the wonders of work at Worldwide Enterprises -- the latter discussion which served to fill in the blanks and thus avoid further talk on the first two subjects.

Then, on schedule, Gordon Medson arrived just prior to the last three bites of Italian pasta cheesecake. (Rest assured it tastes better than it sounds.) Rather quickly, Tina was off to run down Herman. She had not been eager to cut short her time with Metese, but the old tapes of always charging forth prevailed. It was time to get back into the breach.

Metese stayed for just a moment or two longer, savoring her performance, and thinking about the fact that Tina was in for a major surprise on the twentieth. Importantly, Metese was totally confident that Tina was really going to enjoy it!


Chapter Eleven – The Underground

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Chapter Thirteen – Back to Nature




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