Charles & Claire Ch. 22bySchuppinzigh©
After my 'issue' lessened, I went out to find Claire. She was talking to one of her many cousins who were here today. I felt an arm on my shoulder, and it was Sarah. She had a look on her face that had me quite worried.
She explained, "Charles, I want to apologize for coming on so strong earlier. It's just that the attention you give to us all, is truly amazing, and I appreciate it. When we dance, you seem to be looking straight into my heart, something I've never felt with my husband. In the beginning of our relationship, he looked at me like you do, but not in a very long time. I ran into your mother, and we talked. I've apologized to her. I don't want you to feel uncomfortable around me, all right?"
"Sarah, I don't feel uncomfortable around you? I feel like I'm looking at Claire when I look at you; Claire has my heart, Kalista has my soul, Annie has my back; but beautiful Sarah - has my very life in her hands. Without you, I wouldn't be able to dance today."
"Back, when I fell and you helped me back on my feet and able to dance, I realized that the 'magic hands' of Sarah Mary Elizabeth Rollins McArthur, were indeed the hands of an angel, and I want to make you the offer of my official personal trainer and masseuse. My back, shoulders or whatever, needs your incredible strength, of both heart and hands."
I added, "We're going to be in very close proximity to each other for the next couple of years, and I want to sincerely apologize again, for the unfortunate circumstances from earlier."
"What unfortunate circumstances, Loverboy?" Claire said from behind me.
"I... felt a twinge in my back and Sweet-Lips here, helped me out. I was looking for you, kiddo? You want to show Jimmy our 'So This is Love 'routine? Talk to you later, Sarah!"
Claire and I walked up to Russell, telling him to get the David Huntsinger version of 'So This is Love' ready. I grabbed the microphone.
"Hey Everybody. Hey. There is one more person I have yet to publicly thank, for us being here today. That person is Jimmy Bradshaw, of the Bradshaw Family Cotillion; Come on up here, Jimmy." There was a light applause from the crowd.
He did - and I continued, with my hand on his shoulder. "A long time ago, I walked into a room, dressed in a shirt and tie, which, at the time, I didn't necessarily like."
There was a smattering of laughter.
"But, there was a gentleman, who said those fateful words, 'Boys, find a young lady, and go to the center of the room,' and I looked around for about ten seconds, before an angel appeared before me, with red hair, brown eyes, and the prettiest darn smile I ever saw in my short life."
That got a lot of chuckles from the crowd. My Mom and Sarah, along with Kalista, were looking at me, causing me to almost tear up, but I bucked up and continued.
"The next thing I said, was to Claire; I said, 'My name is Charles Newman, but you can call me X.' I was struck 'smart' that day, and thanks to Claire, Annie and Jimmy Bradshaw, I learned something about myself that I want to share with all of you, 'Dancing is Fun, So Have Fun Dancing.' Russell please. This is for all the Jimmy Bradshaw's out there."
I took Claire out and we danced, chest to chest, the most loving waltz I can remember, since our original Sunrise Sunset. We moved all around the floor, doing the routine we'd slapped together in thirty minutes, a couple of days ago. We moved across the dance floor, an inch above the ground. This young lady has got me 'in her arms' for as long as she'll have me.
The jazzy part started and I heard Jimmy, with his 'oh, my,' which is his favorite expression, as Claire and I looked into each other's eyes.
I felt a tear falling down my cheek, and I thought to myself, 'This is indeed love,' from the deepest part of my soul, love for this gorgeous young lady, who has stolen my heart and soul completely. The dance was over and there was thunderous applause.
As it died down, Daniel yelled, "LAST CALL FOR ANYBODY WHO WANTS SOMETHING TO EAT, THE GRILL CLOSES IN THIRTY MINUTES."
Sarah came up to me and Claire, and said, "Oh, the two of you are so good for each other, I'm so grateful Charles has come into the lives of the McArthurs. Claire honey, can I give your beau a kiss please?"
"Well, at least your asking me now, instead of just grabbing him, Mother," Claire said, with a mischievous smile on her face.
Compared to other times, this was a rather chaste kiss, but I saw a look on Sarah's face that told me otherwise. When we were done, she turned to Claire and said, "Honey, I'm sorry about earlier -- He just seems to bring out the... animal in me." I heard her actually growl.
Be afraid, Charles, Be very afraid.
"I don't know if I'm strong enough to go through this upcoming moment again Charles?"
"Sarah, I understand if you want to leave for a while, we all understand, but it's now so far in the past, almost twenty years ago. Why don't you listen? Kalista, let her up on my lap for a little bit, Please -- Thanks! Sarah -- this was a tough moment in your life and you really need to face it."
"Oh, Charles thank you for being so strong for me over the years. Without any of you in my life, this moment would've been so much more devastating."
"Grandma Sarah, we all love you -- No matter what!"
"Everybody ready for this?"
"Onward and upward," mom replied.
The last five hours, felt more like three days. As people were leaving, with leftovers, they stopped to say their goodbyes. I hugged my sisters, shook the hands of their beaus, and gave Steven a slap on the back.
He leaned over to me and said quietly, "I never saw anybody handle Dad the way you did today, Chuckie-Boy."
I hope Claire didn't hear that, or I'd never hear the end of it.
Daniel came up to me and said, "Charles, thank you for letting me provide the food to the masses today. It was the most fun I've had since my Honeymoon in France."
Sarah slapped him on the shoulder, saying, "Silly boy... it wasn't France, it was Hawaii, John and June went to France. You and I got 'leid' together, Oh... I'm sorry you guys. Can you believe my own husband forgetting where we went on our honeymoon?"
"It was twenty-eight years ago, Honey? Some guys my age can't remember what happened twenty-eight minutes ago. Charles father showed up drunk, but Charles sent him on his way, threatening him with bodily harm. Charles, I want to be just like you when I grow up," Daniel added.
"That will be -- Never!" Sarah added, which caused our group to all laugh for a while.
Jimmy came by saying, "You guys throw one helluva party. I've a week of Cotillions to get ready for, so I better leave. Good Luck to you Charles, Claire and Kalista. You'll be taking a magic carpet ride, starting Labor Day, so I guess you're all turning professional very soon. Goodbye, and Good Luck to you all."
I laughed out loud as I waved goodbye to Jimmy.
"What's so funny Charles?" Annie said.
"Nothing Mom, just going to miss Jimmy, that's all," I said.
The tents were down, the tables and chairs were folded up, and the extra grills were cleaned and ready to be picked up. The dance floor was left up, and I went out there with Sarah, Annie, Claire and Kalista.
We all sat in a circle taking about our favorite things that happened today. We stayed out, talking for over an hour when Daniel poked his head out, and said, "You guys staying out there all night?"
Sarah snickered, got up and started inside. Annie got up as well, catching up with Sarah. They've become pretty good friends.
Claire, Kalista and I held hands as we gazed back and forth into each other's eyes. We were all on the verge of crying.
Something needed to be said, "Girls, I want to tell you both, that you mean everything in the world to me. We're going to all end up together - the three of us... I just know it!" They both giggled.
Just then, I heard a slap and a shriek from inside the house.
When we got in there, Daniel was on the ground, protecting himself from Sarah, who was brandishing a large skillet in her hands.
"Get out, get out of this house right now, you... you conniving bastard," Sarah shrieked at him.
Without a word, he got up, grabbed his coat and his car keys, and ran out the door, not even closing it behind himself.
Sarah dropped to the floor, sobbing, weeping loudly actually, as Annie had come out of the downstairs bathroom. First closing the door, she went over and took the skillet from Sarah. She then bent down and got her up on her feet, and walked her over to the sofa. Mom was being very soothing to Sarah.
"Do you want us kids to leave the room for a while, Sarah?" I asked.
"N--No Charles... everybody sit down please, I find I need the comfort of you all," Sarah said, still crying mournfully.
"What did Daniel do, Sarah?" I tenderly asked.
"That -- that -- that man... who just left here is NOT Daniel McArthur!" Sarah exhorted.
We all looked at one another, and didn't understand what she was saying to us.
She tried again, "That man who just left... is 'John McArthur,' not Daniel. It was Daniel who died in June's arms, all of those years ago. John swapped all their credentials and took over the life of Daniel, including being the f-f-father of all of my children." She was sobbing very hard again.
I remarked, "So, it sounds like John and Daniel played the same kinds of tricks on everyone, being twins? Including changing places in their brothers wife's lives, when... what? Some kind of accident happened, killing Daniel, and John saw it as an opportunity, swapping out their identities and figuring nobody was the wiser?"
From under her sobbing and weeping, Sarah said, "Yes, Charles... that sounds like exactly what must've happened. When he got our honeymoons mixed up earlier, I recalled that he'd remembered incorrectly before about some other things, so I confronted him, and HE ADMITTED IT - So I hit him, with the first thing I picked up."
"Oh, My God... what do I do now, Annie?" Sarah sputtered.
Before Mom could put together a coherent response, I suggested, "Move in with us, Sarah -- We all love you."
"Yes Sarah, Charles is right," Annie said, be with people who love you. Girls, find and pack a couple of suitcases, one with clothes, one with everything else. Charles, come over here and hold Sarah, please? Girls come on - let's go get her ready to go home with us."
I went over and comforted her, rubbing her back, the way she does me. While doing this, I said to her, "Don't worry, Sweet-Lips, Loverboy's here for you." That made her laugh a little.
I saw her look at me, and she moved closer to me, until she started to kiss me, and I was kissing her with equal intensity. I felt her tongue enter my mouth, and I was starting to respond when I heard an 'Ahem' from behind me. It was Claire, who was smiling, as she was bringing down a suitcase. She mentioned she locked the place up.
Quietly, looking a little embarrassed, Sarah said to me, "I'm so sorry Charles -- that was so very wrong, but your eyes told me, that you love me, and I was feeling so, so..."
"It's all right Sarah, I seem to have that affect on you McArthur women." I smiled at her and added, "Just stay calm." I turned and saw each of the three of the ladies carrying a suitcase. I got up, holding Sarah by the hand, bringing her to her feet. We all walked to the Land Rover we brought, which held everything... with room to spare.
As we walked to it, I had Sarah by her waist and I said, "I recommend that you have all of your children's DNA checked. Could it be possible that Kalista was the daughter of June and John, and 'That's' why Daniel, err... John, insisted that K be a McArthur?"
Sarah spoke and said, "That makes sense Charles, and then Kalista and Claire could be Half-Sisters."
"Actually Sarah, the colloquial terminology is '¾ siblings,' when a man has a child with two full-sibling sisters... but they could also be considered paternal half-sisters, also called 'agnate' siblings, as opposed to 'uterine' siblings, when they have the same mother, but different fathers..."
"...Thank you Charles," Sarah said interrupting.
"For talking to me, and taking my mind off my problems."
"Anything for my Sarah." I gave her a peck on her cheek.
We were out to the Land Rover, and I loaded Sarah up in the front seat with Annie driving, while the rest of us got in the back.
Unbelievably, this day was finally coming to an end - a day starting with such promise, and with our futures ahead of us ready to be clearly defined. Now in the midst of love, chaos has reared its ugly head. Our group of five has never been closer; somebody once said 'It takes a village to raise a child,' and this has never been truer, then right now.
We got back to our place, and I took the lion's share of the suitcases up to my mother's room. Annie, seeing this, asked why and I told her, "You and Sarah have become close, and I think she needs that closeness. You can clear out dad's closet and move in Sarah. This way, my girls get their own bedrooms again."
"We could all become a new and improved dysfunctional family unit, the McNewmans?" I said.
"That's cute Charles. We can go back tomorrow and get all of Claire's and Kalista stuff out of there. Both Sarah and I, along with the girls thank you for your strength," Annie said rubbing my arm.
"Everything I have, I've gotten from you, Mom. I've got one more suitcase to bring up, then we can all sit down and hash this out a little," I said.
"Charles," Sarah said. "I want to thank you for everything you've done, and are doing for all of us. You're clearly the man of this household, and I hope that everything you want, you get."
She winked at me - I shuddered in my shoes.
"EVERYBODY CHANGE FOR BED, MEETING DOWNSTAIRS IN FIVE," I exclaimed.
I went into my room and took off my shoes, and my feet were so happy. I made fists with my feet -- something I remembered from the first Diehard movie. I changed into a t-shirt and sweats, and opened my door to go downstairs. Claire was there, and she closed the door behind her, saying "Charles, kiss me please."
She and I held each other and we kissed, it started out as a simple kiss, but quickly turned into much much more. Our tongues were playing hockey in each other's mouths; my hands both went to her lower back, practically on her butt. I heard her say, "You can have me... if you want?"
That shocked me back to the present. "NO, I can't Claire. This is wrong -- this is so wrong, your mother needs our attention, and we can't do anything until we're eighteen or married. You know that, you've always known that - Calm down please, and let's go downstairs, OK Claire-Bear?"
"OK Xavier," she said, still with that oh, so wicked smile on her face.
Hot damn! My middle name never sounded that good before.
We were all there sitting around, just looking at one another. I was sitting in between Claire and Sarah, while Annie and Kalista were buddying up on the love seat.
"First things first Sarah, all the stuff that was rented for today; will they get it, if nobody's there?" I asked.
"They'll go around back and get it all. I heard Daniel, er uh, John... arrange to have the dance floor taken up and put away," she replied.
Claire added, "I locked the house up, including all upstairs windows, Charles."
"Good, that takes care of all that, what's coming up on the schedule for Charles & Claire in the next couple of days?" I asked.
Sarah replied, "Well, you have Cotillion, oh, but I remember you telling Jimmy you wouldn't be there any more, so scratch that - so you have the baseball game that wants you to just stand up in the bleachers and wave to everybody. They'll introduce you to the masses, and then we take the ten grand and run. Then the Competition two days after that."
"There's the Sarah I've grown to know and love. Mom, doesn't taking that ten grand, by extension, make us professionals?" I asked.
"Uhm, technically Yes. Oh, dear... I see something brewing in your eyes, Charles, don't I?"
"Yep - Charles & Claire, and Kalista, are going Professional, starting immediately after this upcoming Competition. 'Saying Goodbye' and 'Lady in Red' are what we're practicing in the morning, 'Putting on the Ritz' is 'B,' and 'Kiss the Girl' is 'C.'"
Sarah got up and gave me a hug, whispering, "Thank you, Chuckie." She heard that - oh well.
Annie said, "Everybody to your rooms, bed check in ten."
I saluted her and said, "Permission to speak freely, Ma'am?"
Everybody giggled, even Annie, who said, "Permission granted PFC Newman. What do you have to say?"
"Only this," I went over and started kissing her, and as she started to respond, I pulled away and said, "Thank you, ma'am."
The next morning, I woke up to the smells of cooking, waffles in particular. I saw Annie and Sarah fixing the food, with Claire and Kalista preparing the table. I caught Kalista's eye and smiled at her, mouthing 'I love you' to her. She placed a plate in position, then mouthed back to me, 'I know.'
"When we go to get the girls stuff, could we stay long enough for a spa; actually, my back is asking... not me?" I said.
"Sounds good to me, Loverboy," Sarah said, with a bit of larceny in her voice.
"Mother, remember he's mine, or at least mine and Kalista's," Claire said, but couldn't keep from giggling. Kalista did as well.
Sarah replied, "In the immortal words of Kalista Rosemary McArthur, 'I know how to share.'"
I saw my mothers head slump a little, and she was tearing up. I went over to her and gave her a hug and asked, "What's wrong Honey-Bug?" She looked at me and started to talk, but I cut her off, saying, "You clearly didn't like Dani, so I adapted; Honey-Bug what's wrong? Why're you crying?"
"I think I'm fourth now; you clearly 'enjoy' Sarah more than me?"
Brandishing an Irish brogue, I said to her, "Antoinette Danielle Moynihan Newman, why'd you tink I enjoy anyone more tan me own mither. My gosh, you're ma standard; my rock; without you I'd have niver met any of tese udder fabulous women in tis room right now."
Dropping the accent, I continued, "I'd be working on Merit Badges instead of Paso Doble steps. I'd have never found my dance partner, or my soul mate, and I'd have never found my Sarah; my beautiful, so sexy Sarah."
My mother just thumped me.
"My magnificent, impressive, exceptional and inspirational Mother, who's pretty hot, if you ask me... or you could ask Jimmy."
"That was one dance we had Charles -- you saw that?" mom said, with a smile on her face.
"Yes, I did. You two were talking up a storm, and it looked like you both, were enjoying the conversation."
Snorting, Annie said, "Jimmy was asking me about Sarah that night. He was very taken with her and... that dress."
"Not as much as Charles was," Claire said.
I blushed deeply.
"Can we stop talking about all of this foolishness, please -- I'm hungry?" Kalista said.
We all laughed and sat down and had a truly wonderful breakfast, made with love and tenderness by my ladies.
It took us the rest of that day, to go back to the McArthurs and get everything there was to get. We took both the Land Rover and the twelve-seater, filling them both up. Sarah even took pillows, towels and sheeting, along with everything out of all the bathrooms. We must've filled about twenty-five or so large trash bags of 'Stuff' to bring back to our place.