WRITING EXTRAS

The Star of Something by Elizabeth Famous

100-word flash fiction


 

Annabelle wiped sweat from her neck, smelling bleach.

Without a hitch, the cheery nurse stuck an IV in her vein. "We put in for an urgent gynecological consult. The ob-gyn on call is amazing." Her voice was tinged with conspiracy.

A tech peeked in. "That's her. The one from that music video."

"Get!" the nurse hollered at the intruder.

Annabelle had been waiting her whole life to be recognized. Devoted all her efforts to becoming famous. Now, she was noticed while lying in a hospital bed, suffering from the consequences of her out-of-whack priorities.

A clear baritone interrupted her thoughts.

 

What Was Darcy Like Before He Met Elizabeth?

Read a letter Darcy writes to his grandchildren at the behest of his new wife, Elizabeth Darcy, (nee Elizabeth Bennet). It's a continuation of Pride and Prejudice, as well as the story of Darcy's youth, including his first experiences with women.

A Letter from Fitzwilliam Darcy by Elizabeth Famous:

A Letter from Fitzwilliam Darcy

by Elizabeth Famous

 

 

The National Gallery in London, England:

Letter dated June 4, 1814, written by Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley Estate in the county of Derbyshire.  Found September 10, 2014, in the cornerstone of the family chapel in Arcy,[1] France, by Colleen Firth Darcy[2], great great great great great granddaughter of the author.

 


June 4, 1814

Arcy, France

Dear Rightful Darcy Heir,

In addition to the usual apologies and courtesies, I confess my reluctance in writing this letter. Not even a year ago its composition would have defied my sense of propriety, and had the endeavor not been pressed upon me by a person whom I cannot disappoint I would not have attempted it.

As I write, newly titled Elizabeth Darcy sits by my side, feigning innocence as she contrives to glance over my shoulder. When I remark on this, she answers, "I will atone for my intrusion by complementing the evenness of your handwriting."[3]

My Elizabeth is aware that it has been my lifelong mission to avoid those eccentricities that expose other men to ridicule,[4] and yet she insists on extraordinary candor in the composition of this letter, asking that I record for posterity my reminiscences of life before she and I met at a Meryton assembly near her home at Longbourn. Upon completion of this letter, I am to seal it in a locked box for a future Darcy to discover, and in exchange she has vowed to never again mention some disparaging comments about her person thoughtlessly spoken by myself when we first were made acquainted. She is not merely handsome enough to dance with but entirely captivating.

She requires that I include the most intimate details of my bachelorhood including the ignoble and salacious — details that ought not be shared with anyone in my lifetime excepting her — in hopes that our great grandchildren, whose existence may depend on the completion of this epistle, may comprehend the circumstances of their progenitor.

And so I begin …

My childhood as a schoolboy at Eaton needs little exposition, as it was the same as any boy of England born into a family such as mine. My cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam, son of the 35th Earl of Glossop, trusted confidant and co-guardian of my sister, may speak on the subject of an English schoolboy's day —  sports, equestrian pursuits, and voracious appetites at mealtime. He was my contemporary at school, benefiting from the same tutors and mentors. 

While not at school, I received another form of instruction in form of the powerful influence of both my father and mother, Mr. and Mrs. William Darcy of Pemberley. They taught me every principle of right and wrong by their example. My father in particular was a model of fairness in his business dealings with tenants and servants and exhibited chivalrous decorum whenever he ventured into society, never an angry word passing his lips while in company.

My mother, the late Lady Anne Darcy, née Lady Anne Fitzwilliam, daughter of the 34th Earl of Glossop, exulted in the highest standards of conduct. She taught me the rules of behavior for a gentleman, and I followed them to a T, almost too fastidious in my commitment to rule following. I can recall one occasion when I refrained from speaking out of turn at table even as hot soup was spilled on my thigh. The subsequent blisters had to be attended to by my nurse Mrs. Reynolds, which was a humiliating experience for a boy of ten. And no matter the provocation, I would never tattle on the misdeeds of a playfellow for fear of bringing upon myself my mother's harshest critique, "Fitzwilliam, such grumblings are beneath you!"

My parents were excellent at entertaining, but their graciousness did not come naturally to me, their only son. My Elizabeth can wax poetic on the subject of my shortcomings in this area. As a boy I had a tendency to make people of lesser rank feel uncomfortable in my presence, even if my behavior or expressions weren't in and of themselves unkind. This was not the product of ill will but of thoughtlessness and inability to catch the tone of conversation of those unknown to me.[5] As young master of Pemberley, I made no effort to put those around me at ease. I was innately reserved and rarely loquacious, unless surrounded by intimates, so I felt no impulse to enter conversations or ask questions I'd rather not bother with. This is not to say that I was a spoiled imp meanly addressing servants or failing to greet acquaintances while on Sunday visits with my parents. My mother would not have stood for such behavior. I always did my duty but was aloft in doing so.

Before moving on to an account of my life after I reached the age of majority, I feel I must discuss circumstances involving a childhood companion named George Wickham, who has intruded on my life to such an extent that all of my happiness as well as the Darcy legacy were threatened by his schemes, including the not disinterested and probably ingenuous romantic pursuits of both my sister and my future wife. Some may accuse me of provoking his anger in one way or another, by my jealousy or disrespect of him, but on more than one occasion I have attempted to placate him and financially assist him, but it was never enough and he is never satisfied.

From his earliest days, George Wickham was distinguished as a favorite by my esteemed father thanks to his charisma and outward affability. His general good humor and liveliness made him popular among our circle of friends. His freedom to run wild and do as he liked, which far exceeded that of other boys our age, was envied by all, including myself.

Far be it for me to assign blame to anyone other than Mr. Wickham himself for his wanton behavior as a man, including high stakes gambling, spreading slanderous falsehoods and sexual misconduct, but his father, who was for many years the able steward of all of Pemberley Estate, never curbed his wife's vulgarity, allowing her to influence their son in such a way that his inauspicious fall from respectability must serve as a warning to any indulgent parent.

Mrs. Wickham was a woman unfazed by meanness. I recall covering my ears as she laughed uproariously at her son's jokes about a lady's unmentionable parts. She gave no sign of disgust when young Wickham bragged of pilfering a haunch from the Pemberley kitchen. During gatherings at Pemberley house, she offered Wickham and other boys including myself sips of spirits when we were outside my mother's notice. George Wickham as a boy was unruly and reckless, and, as he grew older, true depravity set in, ruining his character. No longer guilty of mere boyish pranks and nonsense, he became a pariah.

At age 18, Wickham began corrupting young women. His first victim was an Irish girl of middling birth named Miss Dornan, who now goes by the name Mrs. Younge. She never married but uses a married woman’s title so she may remain unmolested and make her way about London without attracting notice. As far as I have learned, her only regular employment, with one notable exception which I shall get to in a moment, was as a maid in a brothel.

At the tender age of 14, the future Mrs. Younge visited Pemberley as the child of an architect from Dublin who'd come to Pemberley on commission and planned to stay for twelve months. A fortnight after her arrival, she disappeared, taking with her clothes and pocket money. Her father was of course distraught. A magistrate was called, but, as far as I know, her family never learned the truth, nor did my esteemed parents.

I myself did not learn of Wickham's involvement in her disappearance until many years later, after both my parents had passed, when under threat of prosecution and with the aid of bribery, Mrs. Younge confessed the whole of her history with Wickham, including the story of how Wickham had arranged to have her, as a girl of 14, taken away from her family and friends at Pemberley, only to abandoned her in London with promises of his return. His visits were infrequent but enough to leave her clinging to him as her "darling Wickham" and offering herself to him in any capacity he required. Not even the dastardliest plan was beneath the depths she sunk for him.

When my sister Georgiana was 15, one year older than the trying age at which Miss Dornan was corrupted, she went to Ramsgate for a summer holiday, inspired to visit by her love of music and the promised enjoyment of a concerts series held there. I secured the services of a Mrs. Younge as companion to my sister, not realizing she was the former Miss Dornan. She was recommended to me by my cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam, who got her name from a fellow colonel, who I later learned was acquainted with George Wickham. Mr. Wickham helped Mrs. Younge forge reference letters using information he possessed as a former intimate of my family.

About a month after Mrs. Younge and my sister established residence in Ramsgate, I arrived unexpectedly and discovered that my hire was in conspiracy with Mr. Wickham to persuade my sister to run off with him to Gretna Green. Georgiana's 40,000-pound inheritance was his main object, as well as getting back at me for not providing him with the family living he requested in addition to the generous payout I made to him in lieu of the preferment. The thought of him succeeding in his designs on my beloved sister is unbearable to me. I don't exaggerate when I say that my peace of mind would have been forever ruined if he'd succeeded with my sister as he had with Mrs. Younge. What a tragedy it would have been if I'd been unable to protect Georgiana just as my father had been unable to protect Miss Dornan.

Ten years my junior, my sister Georgiana always looked to me as a father figure and strived to please me in all things. When I came upon her in Ramsgate with her trunks packed, I was stunned by her refusal to answer my direct questions. After pressing her, she confessed to the whole of her plans with Wickham. To this day I cringe to think of my angry outbursts that morning. I now realize that the reason she turned to a companion such as George Wickham had to do with my deficiency as a brother and guardian. My domineering manner of dictating to her in all matters of import as if she were still a girl of ten had pushed her into the arms of a corrupt and syrupy sycophant.

Returning to Pemberley with my sister free of Wickham, she and I conversed at length, and amid her tears she told me that what she really wanted was a brother whom she could confide in. She said she never truly wanted to marry Wickham, just appreciated his kindness. I promised to do better, to respect her as a young woman and encourage her to be open with me about her feelings, whether or not they were in line with my own. That night I went through my mother's jewelry and choose a favorite piece for Georgiana, asking her to assume her rightful place as mistress of Pemberley. She did not immediately take to the role, but I believe she is now delighted to act as co-hostess alongside my bride Elizabeth.

Moving on to the story of my years at university, I can say this period was noteworthy not only in that I came to develop my interest in botany and ancient Greece, but it was during this period that I developed a distaste for the contrivances of the fairer sex.

Frequently invited to dinner by the families of fellows at Cambridge, I encounter comely young ladies so eager to please that their conduct bordered on scandalous. After hearing only a few words about my connections, they would seek my notice with pitiful displays and undignified ploys. Had my name been kept anonymous, I venture to say I wouldn't have been half so cunning a card player or expert a rider. At a private ball in town, I recall one lady bending forward to pick up her fan, then looking up at me to ask, "Do you like my new muslin?"

"It allows one to discern your person with transparency," I replied, but this comment she seemed to enjoy immensely.

By the grace of god, I have the ability to assess my own virtues, and this enabled me to avoid being puffed about by flattery as other young men in the their early twenties might have been.[6] I recall visiting the country home of a family grieving the loss of an elder and overhearing the aunt whisper, "I heard Mr. Darcy is likely to be very soon engaged. I must invite him to dinner so my niece might have her chance before the other young lady secures him."

The truth is that I was never close to an engagement, unlike my intimate friends who were forever felling in love, yet my aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, would often call unexpectedly to warn me of dangerous rumors to that effect. On several occasions she stopped by my lodgings to inquire as to whether, in disregard of her and my mother's wishes that I marry my cousin Anne, I had made an alliance with a certain titled lady or reputed beauty as had been scurrilously reported to her. On these occasions, I carefully explained to her that my mother's wishes with respect to her daughter were not binding; however, I did not go so far as to bluntly assert that I had no interest in my cousin romantically. Be that as it may, the three or four eligible ladies who did interested me over the years, and with whom I ventured to become better acquainted, were scarcely more likely to win my hand.

I, like any other man, appreciate feminine beauty and acknowledge the lure of it, but the young ladies who put themselves forward as potential love interests upon first hearing a man's income, and without knowing anything substantial of him, expose themselves as not only mercenary but entirely careless with regard to their own future happiness. Perhaps this unfortunate conduct is precipitated by dire financial situations whereby ladies are poor compared to the gentlemen of their family. Disproportionately small sums being settled upon daughters, while leaving most of an estate to the eldest son, has led to pressure to marry for financial reasons, as opposed to happiness. It has always been the case that men in the Darcy family have settled substantial sums upon females in the family, so Darcy daughters have no need to choose a partner out of desperation.

You, as my descendent who has discovered this letter, are responsible for teaching the young ladies of the family that if they are desirous of a good marriage, they ought to direct their energies to study, strengthening of their minds and powers of judgment, and development of accomplishments useful to the mistress of an estate. A match based on mutual affection is preferred, and in order to achieve this a lady ought to work not only on her appearance but perfecting her moral virtues and presenting herself as both sensible and good tempered.

As a young man, I looked to my friend Charles Bingley’s sisters as examples of ladies of good breeding, and Caroline Bingley is an example of a woman I once admired. I was introduced to her by her brother soon after he and I met at Cambridge. Thoughts of him as a suitable partner for my sister caused me to accept his invitations to dine at his house in town. As for his sister and I, it was not so much that she entertained me (although her performance on the pianoforte was delightful) or challenged me (although she had numerous strong opinions) but that she appreciated the qualities I possess: my family legacy, my intelligence and my reasoned reactions when faced with adversity. She held me in high esteem, and this assisted my partiality.

My immediate interest in Miss Bingley was also based on her talent at navigating social situations and playing hostess with ease. These qualities were of great importance to her brother, as well as myself as his frequent visitor. They were qualities my mother possessed, and I once assumed that I would choose a wife with these qualities in abundance:  a natural yet practiced hostess. This preference changed when I found myself faced with a woman who stirred my interest with her saucy playfulness, but this letter is a history and not a description of my current state of marital felicity.

A history of my bachelor years cannot avoid the mention of several unsettling cases of licentious conduct on my part. Firstly, I confess to a hastily arranged first carnal encounter at the age of 19 with a young lady of the same age who worked in the kitchen at the Lambton Inn. She told me she'd been with several men previously, so I needn't worry if I were inexperience, and she offered to become my mistress, saying, "We needn't worry about deciding on my allowance till later."

After the encounter, I mumbled farewell and made my way out the back door of the inn, uncharacteristically elated but without just cause for the smile on my face. Several months after I heard that she'd left Derbyshire and gone on the town after getting involved with an older married man, resulting in his wife exposing her to the scorn of the entire community of Lambton.

Any explanation I might offer for my behavior involving this ill-fated young woman is obscured by the fact that there were no rational thoughts passing through my mind during the ten minutes I spend with her in the pantry closet. I do recall that a week after our single encounter she angrily called me out for not continuing our affair as I alighted from my horse near the inn, and I managed to apologize with sufficient religious fervor to stave off any public altercation. This wretched experience taught me three things:  1. the idea of a man being married to one woman and involving himself with a second as his mistress is insupportable, 2. don't use a woman for sexual gratification without her full consent to be used merely as a vessel and 3. the filthy business of prostitution has its place.

Something my father failed to teach me, and I had to learn on my own, was that I, as caretaker of a celebrated English estate, must avoid country girls, servants, and shopkeeper’s daughters who could be ruined by relations with me. Young men of means will always find a way to lay with women, but it's deplorable to be responsible for a young maiden falling out of respectable society and never being able to marry, be it to a game keeper, coachman, or maybe even a cleric. It's wrong to soil an unmarried woman's reputation, as overt and tempting as her amorous offers may be. A man may avail himself of prostitutes because they have no character to preserve, but it's inexcusable to be the one who leads a young woman astray.

When several years out of Cambridge and just back from my grand tour of the continent I hired a fiery-haired young woman as chambermaid at my house in town, I knew it would be morally abhorrent to expand her household duties to include attending to me. She initiated contact, offering me a palliative massage, but this was likely a misguided attempt to better her situation in life. It would be a disgrace to my name to use a lesser's ignorance, and disregard for consequences, for my pleasure. I could not but envision a scenario in which I impregnated this young woman, causing a life of ignominy for the resulting child. I released her from my embrace before completing the act and wrote a letter of reference to secure her employment elsewhere. The days and weeks that followed I sublimated my frustrations with daily swims at the public bath.[7]

As for my above-mentioned advocating of prostitution for unmarried men, my beliefs are pragmatic, not wholehearted. While on tour of Europe, I let rooms over an olive oil shop and within a short walk of the ruins of the Coliseum and was soon made aware of a nearby house of ill repute, with high-priced prostitutes who worked for an affluent madam with extensive property throughout Rome. After attempting to avoid their notice, I found myself accompanying a group of men from the club to their front door. After that, I regularly hired one lady but was always uneasy about it; it was humiliating to pay a woman for her company. She was professional and rarely let on that she wanted to get it over with and go about washing herself. I will never forget lying on her bed staring at the the erotic oriental wall hangings that were anything but while my skin itched from the yellowing over-bleached sheets.

As beautiful as was my preferred lady of the night, I was never fully satisfied by her, nor by other prostitutes I met in London, because there was no genuine affection in the coupling. It was merely a business transaction. Thus, in my mid twenties, my thoughts turned to marriage, and not just a suitable marriage to an accomplished woman but a love marriage. Of course a wife is much more than a lover — she also shares a common outlook and goals — but my thoughts on choosing a wife were undeniably altered by the carnal dissatisfaction I describe. My Elizabeth, who is continuing to read this account while looking over my shoulder, expresses her astonishment at my forthrightness. Luckily, her profusion of blushes makes me saving,[8] and I do not blush. 

June 5, 2014

Arcy, France

Taking up my pen again, I continue …

When on the cusp of manhood, I would have told you that I wanted a wife of equal social standing who came from a prominent family, someone of excellent character who wasn't inordinately chatty. But as I grew older I realized the importance of eliminating the possibility of a passionless marriage. A wife with a certain air, an elegance like my mother was perhaps necessary but not sufficient for me.

As a younger man, I expected that, like my father, I would attach myself to a demure wife who always agreed with her husband in public settings. My mother, with her perfect manners and not overdone or officious hospitality, danced gracefully and spoke with a bit of French accent she learned from her governess. She understood subtlety and grace, but she was not overly enthusiastic, never effusive with me or my sister in an affectionate way.

Based on my experience with my mother, I developed a prejudice that women who always smile lack depth of feeling, associating equanimity with a lack of ardent emotions. So, if I wanted a partner in life to share a robust intimate relationship with me, I needed to seek a woman who expressed fervency in life. This I realized even before I met my Elizabeth.

I should mention that my mother, Lady Anne Darcy, was never thought conceited like her sister Lady Catherine. Unlike her sister, she was naturally soft spoken. As younger sister to boisterous Catherine, my mother was in the background during her first season in town; her coming out was barely talked of because of her quietness. However, she was attractive to a sensible man such as my father. As a young gentleman of great wealth, he appreciated my mother's prestigious pedigree and made an effort to get to know her, finding her to be the epitome of genteel. They were married with joyous blessings on all sides. The unification of the two great families, Fitzwilliam and Darcy, was the talk of the town in London and all over England. 

My father was a charming man and, as such, attracted interest socially after his marriage and before. I believe he was faithful to his wife, but in my presence he never showed himself to be enraptured with her. My mother didn't partake in sparkling conversation or laugh with spirit. She was not an advocate of exercise or fresh air. My mother was devoted to her husband and happily gave her life to him according to her lofty sense of fidelity and obligation.

As the only son of Lady Anne and William Darcy, I was taught to respect the importance of the Darcy legacy. My father pressed upon me that my choices affected not only myself but all of Pemberley lands and village. If I sinned, sin would blacken Pemberley, as those under me would follow my example. I have never let these teaching stray far from my thoughts and they impact everything I do. In my father's final years, I began assisting him in overseeing Pemberley. My first responsibility was hiring a landscape designer to update Pemberley grounds and give them a less formal, more natural appeal. My father lived long enough to see these alterations, and on his death bed he said that he was comforted by the thought that he was leaving Pemberley in good hands. "As long as you maintain the respect and admiration of those in our employ, they will readily do right by you," he told me, before calling in Georgiana who sniffled as he told her how pretty she was.

Much has been said about my pride that I am weary of speaking on the subject, but, I proclaim, as someone recently humbled, that my pride came from the praise I received from my father for my dedication and abilities. He told me that it was because of my noble qualities that I deserved my position as future master of Pemberley. At times my pride has caused me to express myself poorly. I've never been able to suffer fools gladly and often turn away in disgust. As a young man, I expected to be automatically acknowledge for my status and looked upon in silent admiration. As you may guess, my overabundance of pride did not go unnoticed by the woman I fell in love with. Since she entered my life, I've ventured to overcome the more troublesome aspects of my haughtier, and develop more acute sensitivity to the feelings of others. With her as my guide and my inspiration, I plan to pass on these improvements to our future son. 

I hope that you, as both my reader and my heir, are informed by this letter and that you may be guided by the lessons I learned as a bachelor, or at the very least, I am confident you now know something of your forbearer's thoughts on living honorably.

Yours sincerely,

Fitzwilliam Darcy


[1] http://www.map-france.com/Arcy-sur-Cure-89270/

[2] Colleen was born in 1995 when the BBC mini series Pride and Prejudice staring Colin Firth debuted, and her father, Fitzwilliam Darcy VII, has a strange sense of humor.

[3] "How can you contrive to write so even?"

-from Pride & Prejudice, Chapter X of Volume I (Chap. 10)

[4] "Certainly," replied Elizabeth -- "there are such people, but I hope I am not one of them. I hope I never ridicule what is wise or good. Follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies, do divert me, I own, and I laugh at them whenever I can. But these, I suppose, are precisely what you are without."

   "Perhaps that is not possible for any one. But it has been the study of my life to avoid those weaknesses which often expose a strong understanding to ridicule."

-from Pride & Prejudice, Chapter XI of Volume I (Chap. 11)

[5] "I certainly have not the talent which some people possess," said Darcy, "of conversing easily with those I have never seen before. I cannot catch their tone of conversation, or appear interested in their concerns, as I often see done."

-from Pride & Prejudice (chap. 31)

[6] "No," said Darcy, "I have made no such pretension. I have faults enough, but they are not, I hope, of understanding. My temper I dare not vouch for. It is, I believe, too little yielding -- certainly too little for the convenience of the world. I cannot forget the follies and vices of others so soon as I ought, nor their offences against myself. My feelings are not puffed about with every attempt to move them. My temper would perhaps be called resentful. My good opinion once lost is lost for ever." –from Pride & Prejudice, Chapter XI of Volume I (Chap. 11)

[7] https://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/2009/03/04/the-peerless-pool-londons-first-outdoor-public-swimming-pool/

[8] "Your profusion makes me saving; and if you lament over him much longer, my heart will be as light as a feather."

-from Pride & Prejudice, Chapter XVII of Volume II (Chap. 40)



Prom Scene -- extra scene not included in final draft of LOVE and CANDY

Click here to read a deleted scene with Samantha and her family having dinner with Anton de' Medici in Manhattan.

Click here for the EPILOGUE to LOVE and CANDY.

 

          It took three trips to the mall and one to Manhattan to find a dress for prom.  Stephanie was the only one who had much pleasure during these excursions.  Catherine had to field questions about why she hadn't gone to her own prom -- "Why didn't you ask Dad?"  Gretchen got bored and collapsed in one of the seats generally reserved for boyfriends and husbands.  Annabelle fumed when Catherine told her she wasn't allowed to try on dresses.  Samantha shook her head at every dress she saw, imagining one of Delaney's female friends wearing it.  But thanks to Stephanie's persistence she eventually found something.

            At six o'clock on the dot, Delaney's old mustang pulled into her driveway.  Samantha rushed into the downstairs powder room to do a final check of her wavy updo.  She was wearing make up: a natural shade of auburn on her lips and cheeks.           

            Delaney walked in empty handed, only a key ring dangling from his finger.  He winked at Annabelle who ran up to him, grinning ear-to-ear and looking like she wanted to jump into his arms.

            Samantha stood off to the side until he looked over and noticed her.  She was wearing a gown that flowed to the floor with a slinkiness so unlike her standard attire.  Clear beads were sewn along the edge of its V-neck and on thin spaghetti straps.

            She grinned cautiously and walked over to greet him with a pat on his watch-free wrist.  He motioned for her to turn around, which she did awkwardly. 

            "I like the back," he said.  It was open almost to the waist.  She had to find a special bra to go underneath.

            "I like the color," she grinned defensively.

            "It looks good on you."

            Cameras appeared, but Samantha insisted on only a couple quick snapshots.

"If you two get separated from the limo, you'll be calling a cab, not driving.  Correct?" asked Robert.

            "Whatever you say," replied Delaney.

            Robert turned to Samantha, his eyes thin and slanted.  "Or call me."

            Rocking from side to side, Catherine told Delaney he looked nice, eliciting a mild "Thank you."  His proportions where emphasized by the traditional dinner jacket he wore.  His hair was gathered at base of his scalp, neatly pulled back out of his face.  From the front you got an idea of how he would look with short hair.

            Soon they were in his car and on their way to Nicolette's to meet up with the limo.  Samantha glanced his way, noticing the white of his shirt peaking out from under his jacket as his hands grasped the upper rim of the steering wheel.

            "So, if you dance with each of your female friends, how many times are you going to be able to dance with me?" she grinned.

            "Once is enough, right?" he deadpanned.

            She wanted to nag him about the prospect of being left alone sitting at the banquet table for half the evening while he said farewell to all the senior girls.  "Am I allowed to say I don't want to slow dance with your horny friends?"

            He laughed.  "Maybe you should dictate a list of who you do and who you don't want to dance with in case it comes up."

            "Just don't try to get anyone to ask me, okay?"

            "Whatever happens, just take it easy, Shorty.  Don't expect much from the girls and don't blow things out of proportion."

            She nodded.

            He flashed her a guilty look.  "Shit, I forgot to give you your flowers."  He reached back to get a box hidden behind his seat.  "I hope they match.  It wasn't easy.  They were like, 'If she's wearing orange, then you shouldn't get red or pink or violet … blah blah blah.'"

            She opened the box and took out the small bouquet of rusty white flowers tied with a champagne ribbon.  "They're beautiful.  I have to get a picture so I can remember exactly what they look like."  She put the bouquet to her nose, screening her face.  "I'm going to come visit you in New York in a couple weeks and bring you flowers."

            He smiled.  "We'll pick a weekend once things calm down with the job.  When I get settled.  Your parents agreed?"

            "Well, almost."  She frowned a little.  "Do you think it'll be sometime before the end of June?"

            "Come on, Sam.  You don't have to keep asking me the same questions over and over."

            "Yeah, I know.  I'm just not sure how hard it's going to be to hardly ever see each other."

            "We'll see each other."

            She nodded.

            "I'm going to take you to dinner in the city the week of graduation."

            "Okay!"

            "You can dress up again.  You look really nice tonight."

            Off in the distance, near a copper fountain, Nicolette was getting her picture taken while her parents looked on.  She was wearing a tight-bodice white gown with regal embroidery like a Dolce and Gabbana wedding dress.  The straps were off the shoulder and the hem formed a puddle at her feet.  The dress alone was enough to earn her another crown.   

            Trevor pulled out a bottle just as Mr. and Mrs. Hunter disappeared into their house.  He passed it to Delaney who took a swig, frowned, and said, "It tastes like cough medicine," then handed it off to Brian.

            "Do you need to be inebriated to make it through prom with me?" Samantha murmured in his direction.

            "Who knows?  You may end up needing something too before the night's over."

            She shook her head.

            "She prefers citron?" said Brian with a grin. 

            "Actually, I think she's a teetotaler," Delaney smiled. 

            It took a moment for Samantha to remember what the word meant.  She knew she'd seen it on an SAT vocabulary list.  Since when was Delaney using words she didn't immediately recognize?

Nicolette collected all the girls, except Sam, for a cheerleaders' photo.  The guys were called over for a senior group shot.  Next there were couples' shots. 

Delaney trudged over to the photo area with Samantha, hunching over with a sigh as the photographer directed him where to stand.  Samantha looked at him with pleading eyes and got a smile. 

            After several formal poses side-by-side, the photographer suggested they face each other and hold hands.  Delaney balked, "No way."  Instead, he walked behind Samantha and put her in a loose head lock.

            As the photographer showed proofs on the screen of her digital camera, Samantha asked for a copy of the last one.  Her smile was so big she hardly recognized herself and he looked like a mischievous kid. 

            Soon after, they all piled into a limo.

            They entered the main ballroom after showing school IDs and dodging the photography area that was decorated with fake trees.  Delaney was given a ballot for queen and Samantha looked away.

            "Is it all you hoped it would be?" he asked as she examined the twinkling stars and fairy lights of the Midsummer Night's Dream décor.

            "I guess it was hard for you to vote," said Samantha.  "You've only seen half of the nominees naked."

            "That's not the sort of conversation I expected when I put on this suit."

            Dinner was served by young, bored-looking waiters in white polyester tuxedos.  Nicolette and Brynn picked at their food and complained about its quality.  Trevor and Brian tried to entertain the table with comments about kids passing by, but they were interrupted by a steady flow of seniors stopping by to greet one or more of the group and have pictures taken.

A girl with a diamond clip in her hair stopped to talk to Delaney.  "How are you?  I haven't seen you in ages.  You used to be at like every party.  Someone told me you have a girlfriend now.  It can't be true!"

            "She's right in front of you," he said nonchalantly.

            "Really?"  Curious grey eyes flickered at Samantha.  "You and I have got to talk.  How'd you managed this one?"  As she spoke she squeezed Delaney's shoulders.

            When the music started Samantha's wish came true.  Seemingly carefree, he danced well for a guy, neither overdoing it or awkwardly stiff.  She tried to immerse herself in the feel of the music and not be self-conscious as his hand rested on the exposed skin of her lower back.

            The music changed to a down tempo song with blaring horns.  She looked up at Delaney as he coaxed her into putting her head on his shoulder and brushed his face against her neck.  As she rested her eyes, she felt the warmth of his body, giving her the feeling of being cocooned and loved by him.  Swaying, her hand drew an oval on the back of his jacket.  By the end of the song, she felt like she'd fallen into a peaceful sleep. 

            Then she heard Meghan's jarring voice. 

            Samantha went back to the table by herself and watched Delaney dance with Meghan at the outer edge of the floor.  She had to admit, there was nothing in the way he held Meghan that gave her much pause.  When he returned, a line had formed of senior girls wanting to dance with him.  Some also had yearbooks for him to sign.  Fifteen minutes later when a faster song with an Indian beat came on, she couldn't locate him within the mob of dancers. 

            Alone with the flowers, cameras, and purses, she was tapping her fingers against the stem of a water glass when a hand on her bare shoulder made her turn with a start.  It was curly-haired boy she'd never seen before.  He looked older than her but probably a junior, not a senior.  "You wanna dance?" he asked. 

            She shook her head, no.  "Sorry.  I'm tired." 

            "Okay," he replied, a scowl taking over his face.  "That's fine!" 

            Many times, like when she'd gone to her first high school dance, she had thought about what it might be like to be approached by a stranger and asked to dance, but she'd never realized saying no would make her feel so guilty.

            Delaney finally returned as the student president ascended to the DJ's microphone and asked everyone to take their seats.  Nicolette, Meghan, Lila, Brynn and seven others were called forward for the crowning of prom queen.  Sitting next to Delaney, Samantha strained to see, deciding on the spot that she sincerely wanted Nicolette to win and be happy.

            She did.  All the runner-ups were handed yellow bouquets with blue and white ribbons, and Nicolette was presented a sparkling crown by last year's queen. 

            The floor was cleared and Nicolette danced alone with her date.  Then the entire court danced.  As the announcer opened the floor to all couples, Brynn ran over and whispered something in Delaney's ear. 

            He turned to Samantha and said, "I'll be right back," before walking off with Brynn. 

            Samantha stood up and watched as Delaney danced with Nicolette to a warbling country-sounding love song.  As the music died, Nicolette squeezed him, clearly overjoyed by his gesture.  Samantha smiled too, even as a school photographer took a couple shots of them.

            Delaney returned, grinning as he noticed Samantha's contented face.  "As a reward for being cool you get to see those old prom photos you keep asking about."

            Samantha laughed, but just as they were about to head out to dance, Ally grabbed her,

            "Hey, baby!  Can I borrow your guy?"

            "Oh, sure," said Samantha tentatively, her smile fading.  Delaney averted his face from Ally's view and frowned, giving Samantha a biting look before walking off with her friend.

            He returned in three minutes by himself.  "You should see if I'm interested before offering me up."

            "I'm sorry.  I felt bad about telling this guy I didn't want to dance with him, and then she asked and I didn't have the nerve to say no.'"

            "Which guy?" he asked.

            "I didn't know him at all.  That's why …."

            "If you don't want to dance with someone, don't.  A lot guys just want to rub up against you." 

            "Uh, Del," she exclaimed, "you've spent the whole evening dancing with other girls, and now you say that?"

            He shook his head.  "I wasn't talking about me.  I was warning you about dancing with random guys."

            Taking her hand, he led her to the dance floor.  Immediately closing all gaps between their bodies, they moved to a thumping dance song.  Hoping it wasn't too noticeable, she tried some arm movements from Indian dance class.  As her hips grazed his pelvis they moved in concert.  She willingly followed his lead. 

At a bridge in the music, he smiled and put his mouth to her ear, "Want a drink?"  At the buffet tables, they came across Angela.

"Hi, Ang," Samantha called, waving as she held her ground next to Delaney.  Her phone call had paid off, and she and Angela were on speaking terms again.  The ancient history involving Stephen was forgotten.  She had found out Angela was going to Russia over the summer for language courses and applying early decision to Harvard next year.

            "Hi," said Angela, walking over.  "Are you going to the SADD afterprom?"  She had a pink corsage attached to her wrist.  "It's free and we're giving out prizes."

            "No, I think we're going somewhere with Delaney's friends."

            "Oh.  Your parents are cool with that?"

            "Yeah, I have a cell phone so they can reach me.  I'm surprised Dad hasn't called yet."

            Motioning toward Delaney, Angela asked, "Is he coming back for junior prom next year?"  During the make-up phone call, Delaney's name wasn't mentioned, yet it was clear from several things Angela said that she knew they were dating.

            Delaney turned away from a couple of his friends and looked at Angela.  "Not on your life.  I'm out of here in a few weeks."

            "Oh.  Okay," said Angela, looking surprised that he spoke to her.

            Timothy walked over to where they stood, near a table laid out with finger foods.  "Hey, Soccer-girl, now that Delaney's graduating, who's your next victim?"  He looked to see if any of the girls heard him, but they were occupied with each other.

            "You certainly have nothing to worry about," Samantha answered him, then, turning her back on him, she returned her attention to Angela.  "Who are you here with, Ang?"

            As Angela began to reply, Timothy interrupted, "Come on, Soccer-girl.  I'll take a shine job."

            Delaney snapped his head in Timothy's direction, "Shut up, Asshole."  He took a step closer to Samantha, his arm cradling her bare back.

            Angela's eyes bulged, but after a fleeting look at Timothy, she continued, "Um, I'm just here with a friend really.  I don't think you know him.  He's been hanging out with his friends all night."

            "Yeah, I know the feeling," laughed Samantha with a look at Delaney.

            They continued to ignore Timothy and he walked away.  Delaney eyed his progress across the dance floor.  "There are definitely some things I'm not going to miss about Darcy."

             Angela chuckled, adjusting the waist of her dress as she looked at Delaney.  "Did you guys hear about junior prom?"

            "No, what happened?" asked Samantha.

            "Well, it was really bad, actually.  This girl was wearing a white dress and then suddenly people started pointing at her.  There was a red stains on the back of it."

            "Oh my gosh, what did she do?"  Samantha glanced at Delaney.

            Angela shrugged.  "It was all anyone could talk about for the rest of the night.  She went running to the bathroom, and I think her date went home with someone else."             

            "What a jerk!"  Samantha looked at Delaney.  "Would you ditch me if I did something embarrassing?"

            "When do you not do something embarrassing?"

            Angela laughed. 

            Samantha smiled at him.

            They were all quiet for a moment, then Angela said, "Well, I should probably go find my date."  Looking at Delaney, she extended her hand.  "It was nice meeting you."

            "Likewise," he said, as he shook her hand.

            At almost midnight Samantha was in the ladies lounge as she heard the DJ call for the last dance.  "It's almost the end of your Midsummer Night, so everyone on the floor."

Passing through the crowd near the Prom Court section, Samantha noticed people taking pictures in front of the make-shift throne.  Nicolette was there with her rhinestone crown.  The other crowned princesses were also smiling and posing for photographs.

            Nicolette called to Samantha, "Don't you like this song?" 

            "It's okay.  Are you guys going to dance?" Samantha asked.

            "Where's Delaney?" Nicolette asked.

            "I'm not sure."

            "Actually, I think I saw him heading out to the parking lot with Mairin," said Meghan. 

            "Oh," Samantha nodded.

            "Yeah, but once you exit, I don't think you can get back in," said Nicolette.

            Samantha frowned slightly. 

            "Did you see her date?" asked Brynn.  "I think he's over there with a red carnation." 

Mairin's date was wiry with jet black hair and a stern look that made Samantha think he'd probably be a little rough in bed.  Jesus, what in the world am I thinking?           

            "Betcha I know what he was smoking before he got here," said Meghan.

            "I guess I'll just wait at the table for Delaney.  If you see him, tell him I'm looking for him," Samantha said gently.

            "Oh course," they chimed, all smiling in a way that made Samantha shiver.

            Samantha waited at their table for five minutes, telling herself to stay put.  But after the house lights came on and the DJ asked everyone to begin gathering their things and exchanging goodbyes, her feet started moving toward the door.  A chaperone told her she could peak outside for a second and get back in, but once she passed through the doors, she couldn't return to the dance. 

            After running back to retrieve her purse, she looked out the door and spotted him at the end of the front drive, near dumpsters flanking the building.  She hurried out.  There were a few couples in the shadows, but he and Mairin could be seen clearly.  They stood near a sconce attached to an outer brick wall.  She was dying to know what they were saying and wanted to interrupt.

            But was there really a point in trying to ask him about going off alone with his ex-girlfriend?  Exclusivity was about to end.  One week here, one week there.

            She waited quietly under the awning by the front door, trying not to stare.  Suddenly, Delaney and Mairin walk toward a flush-mounted side door.  His hand moved to Mairin's back as he escorted her, like his gentlemanly attire required, but Mairin brushed him off.  Samantha took off in their direction but was too slow to catch them before someone opened the door from the inside and they went back in.

            Breathing loudly, she phoned her dad and told him everything was okay.

            "Is he behaving?" Robert asked.

            "Yes, better than me."  She chuckled so as not to worry him.

            Samantha pointed and flexed her suddenly tired feet, wishing she had a place to sit down.  She worried that the couples nearby were staring at her, wondering what she was doing by herself.  After a few minutes, people started filing out of the hall.  Would Meghan and Nicolette tell him that she might be out here looking for him?

            She felt her cheeks burn, trying to figure out what explanation she was going to give.  Angela and her date came out and looked at her funny, but they didn't ask any questions, just said, "See you later." 

            Samantha turned her back to the crowd and, glancing over her shoulder, tried to discreetly search for Delaney's face.  She felt tears start to form as she shifted awkwardly but told herself not to be a baby.  This was not a serious tragedy.

            After a while she stopped scanning the exiting crowd, just waited off to the side, her arms crossing her chest as her hands rested on her shoulders.  Then she heard Brian's voice,   "What are you doing out here?"

            She turned to him, straightening her posture and acknowledging him with a slight grin.

            "You didn't tell us you were coming out here," said Lila.  Samantha studied her eyes for sincerity.

            Brian backed up and called to someone inside, "Tell him she's out here."

            Samantha blushed.

            "Oh, there you are, Samantha, we couldn't figure out where you went," said Meghan.

            Samantha glowered.  She was way too upset with herself to say anything.  If she did, she might end up venting on Meghan. 

            Delaney appeared, his hair slightly messy, strands loosened from his short ponytail.  Was he frazzled?  He repeated Brian's question, "What are you doing out here?"

            Samantha closed her eyes, breathing deeply.  Delaney's face moved close to hers.  "Why don't you ask Meghan?" she whispered with exasperation, trying not to allow their conversation to be overheard.

            "Huh?" he asked.

            "Someone told me you were out here, so I came to look for you."

            "With all your stuff?" he exclaimed.  "When I saw your purse was gone, I thought you ditched me."  He grinned for an instant. 

            "I couldn't find you inside, so I thought you might have gone outside and then I couldn't get back in …"  Feeling frustrated with her lie, she paused and began anew, "Nicolette and Meghan said you were outside with Mairin.  I thought you wouldn't be able to get back in, so I came outside to wait for you."

            He visage contorted comically.  "Oh, that's a relief.  You were only spying on me.  I was worried the mystery guy you turned down for a dance had kidnapped you or something."

            "I wasn't…" she raised her voice a little.  "I was just curious what you guys might be talking about."  She shook her head realizing honesty wasn't working because her actions just didn't make a lot of sense.  "Stop grinning at me like that, Delaney."

            He laughed.

            She squinted at him, turned away and started walking slowly. 

            He caught up with her.  "Okay, okay, whatever.  It doesn't matter.  I'm glad I found you."  Taking her arm in his, he led her back toward where his friends were waiting for the limousine. 

            There, Nicolette was standing with her hands on her hips, looking pissed, and not at all ladylike like her attire.  Facing her, on the other side of the sidewalk, was Mairin.  Her date was placing a paper plate crown on her head.

            "Drop dead!" Nicolette growled.

            Mairin laughed.  "Please don't have our heads cut off, your highness." 

For the first time, Samantha noticed Mairin's dress up close.  It was strapless with tulle flowing out from under an uneven, ripped hem with frayed threads hanging loose.  On her legs, she wore dark fish-net stockings and contrasting white high heels.  She had black bangles on her wrists and a big ebony ring.  And to top it all off, there was a pink bow in her hair. 

            "We're starting a website," said Mairin.  "Prom Queens gone wild.  We'll take the pictures of you from tonight and add them to your crotch shots from other parties."  Mairin turned to glance at her laughing friends, including Ally's sister Suzanne.

            Samantha eyes moved back and forth.  

            "Listen, Bitch, go back to the meth lab you were born in.  You're the porn star, Mairin.  Not me."

            "Being a whore cheerleader really does pays off.  But your reign is over, Princess."

            Friends on both sides, saying stuff about not wanting a fight on prom night, got in between the two.  Then Samantha's heart stopped as Mairin turned toward her.  "Don't worry.  I'm not going after you.  I don't mess around with children.  Unlike some people."  Mairin glared at Delaney.  "Ta ta."

            Once safely nestled into the innermost seat of the limo, Samantha whispered to Delaney, "You've gone out with the sweetest girls around."  She said it with a smile, relieved to have reunited with him and relieved to have avoided becoming a part of the nasty altercation.

            Delaney smiled back.  "To me, you're much scarier than either of them."

Epilogue for LOVE and CANDY

Click here to read a deleted scene with Samantha and her family having dinner with Anton de' Medici in Manhattan.

  

How do things end up between Delaney and Samantha?  Below is the unpublished epilogue for LOVE and CANDY called 'SOCCER GIRL.'  Please be aware that it contains **spoilers** and shouldn't be read until you've finished the novel.

 

Soccer Girl, an epilogue to Love and Candy

She'd been through so much.  Endless discussions with her dad about Delaney's carousing in Manhattan.  Feeling scared that she'd accepted too many of his assurances about what might happen someday.  Worried that she was putting off the inevitable heartache.  Their quasi-open relationship was a constant trial.

Only the regular visits to the city sustained her.  They were together every couple of weeks as a real couple, an exclusive couple.  Exploring neighborhoods, sampling pastry shops, checking out free exhibits and half-priced theater, eating street food, browsing hipster shops and used bookstores.  Whatever happened when Delaney went out drinking -- to whatever seedy places he accompanied his friends and coworkers when she wasn't around -- Samantha was the only person who had a toothbrush at his apartment.  She was the only woman to spend the night.

Delaney's parents soon learned that the best way to get Delaney to visit was to include Samantha.  She bit the bullet and put up with their coolness, becoming closest to her former most-hated, Mr. Troy, who was undeniably intelligent and impressed by her academic transcript.  Delaney was a staple at Montclair family gatherings, crossing Samantha's grandparents' doorstep for many holidays and special occasions.  He got death glares from Robert for his off-color remarks, but never pushed it so far that he got kicked out.  Both Robert and Catherine were won over by the fact he didn't push Samantha into risky situations, such as taking trains late at night or going to places in the city with drugs in the bathrooms. Delaney didn't want to change her into a seedier version of herself.  He adapted himself to fit in with the Montclair family dynamic, admiring her relationship with her parents.  He opened himself up to a new sort of family life where people never got falling-down drunk, drove recklessly, snapped at each other without apologizing, or manipulated their family members passive aggressively.

Once she got to Yale, Samantha spent hours tucked away in a library cubicle.  She kept away from distractions, so she could get her work done and take off to go see Delaney almost every week.  Late at night she debated philosophy with her housemates, sitting on the floor of the hallway outside her dorm room, she but never felt much interest in inviting any guy other than Delaney into her room. 

Delaney didn't have any other girlfriends to keep up with while living as a bachelor in New York, but he cherished his freedom to "do whatever he wanted," including casual hook-ups backstage at concerts or in dark corners at parties.  Samantha had free access to his phone, which he used to keep in touch with his boss and call her; no women texted him about dates.  But it was always a sore spot that he wasn't 100% monogamous when they weren't together.

Delaney and Anton had an open antagonism, which never boiled over into hot war.  A general disapproving affect on Anton's side collided with snide remarks about hot secretaries from Delaney.  Yet, Sam managed to have chatty dinners with the two of them when Anton was in the city.  The outings had to be kept to two-hours max.  After each, she hugged Anton goodnight and exhaled in relief as she and Del walked back to N.Y.U.

***** 

Her eyes followed the squares of glass up to the ceiling as they curved over an inner atrium.  On the table beneath the dampening sunlight were garlic pickles and canapés from her favorite local deli.  Everyone was mingling behind her -- in the great room of Anton's dark-floored condo -- as she looked through terrace doors to Central Park.

Delaney picked her up and swung her around, not really taking her by surprise although he'd snuck up on her.  

"Congratulations," he beamed, dressed in jeans and buckled shoes that screamed Greenwich Village hipster.   

 

c70b3ee05618cbf588ce45dd9f700e7e.jpg

She kissed him, the only natural thing to do when she was near him. 

"You never have to set foot in New Haven again," he grinned.

"You’re late," she said.  Anton was hosting a party to celebrate her recent graduation from Yale.

"Sorry, it was work."  He handed her a gift bag with a vintage I Love NY logo on the side.  He looked tan, even a little reddish below his shirt collar.  Last weekend they'd gotten back from a jaunt to the Jersey shore.  Their longest trip together, just the two of them, so far.  Two weeks at a friend of his dad's small house on a romantic bay near the crowded beaches.  She hadn't wanted to leave.  He agreed their digs were beginning to feel domestic – "Should I got out and chop wood for winter?"

She pulled him over to greet her parents who were mingling with Anton and her sisters amongst the settees, all drinking champagne although only she had reached the age of 21.  Annabelle jumped on Delaney, and he pretended to be injured.  Stephanie was giving Anton instructions on what music to play as he merely nodded in Delaney's direction.  Gretchen stood frozen like a doll in a yellow sundress.

Samantha noticed Delaney was sweating a little, around his brow.  He glanced at the gift she held in her hand.  She lifted it and peered inside but saw only white tissue paper.  She looked up at him as he began speaking to her mom about his new job.  Oh my God, why does he look anxious?

Looking down at her favorite linen pants, she tapped the feather-light bag against her thigh, swinging her leg.  In an instant everyone was staring at the present in her hand. 

"Open it!" yelled Stephanie, who'd said the exact same thing earlier about other gifts.

Samantha reached inside and felt soft fabric. 

"A shirt?  A tiny shirt.  I think it's the wrong size," she said, looking at Delaney's stone-faced look of discomfort.  His hands were jammed in his pocket and his mouth was seal closed like the last time he'd visited Yale and they'd run into the graduate student she liked to sit with during physics lectures -- the first ever sighting of Delaney's jealous side.

The infant-sized shirt in her hands had lettering on it.  Inside her head, she read, reread, and finally, spelled out each letter of the two words embroidered on the shirt: soccer baby.

"What is it?" Gretchen asked, sounding excited and nervous.

Robert and Catherine looked confused but were smiling and interested.

"OMG!  You're pregnant?" screamed Annabelle.

"No," laughed Delaney in reply.  Glancing at Robert, Catherine and Anton, he added, "Seriously.  I swear."

The room was spinning a little as Samantha tried to speak.  "Ummm, ... I think you're jumping the gun a bit."  She puckered at Delaney.  "Where's my ring … my marriage proposal?"

"I already know your answer," he said, smugness returning to his eyes.

"Del!"

His grin turned into a huge smile.  "I can't afford a ring suitable for the Montclare/de' Medici dynasty."

Everyone laughed.  Samantha focused on her mom's happy calmness as little flashes of silver stars obstructed her vision.  Annabelle started dancing.  Stephanie joked with Anton about a wedding in Italy,

"In Capri!  You pay for it … but put mom and dad's names as hosts on the invitation." 

Anton replied, "He will have to agree to an unbreakable prenup."  

Samantha reached her arm out, grabbing Delaney, who moved to her side, holding her up as she asked for a glass of water.

Her parents did not conceal their eavesdropping as she sat on Delaney's lap in the dining room, looking down on Columbus Circle where pedestrians challenged yellow cabs. 

"Now's the right time? … Because I graduated?"

"Sort of," he said with a squint.  "For so long I was scared to death of trying something I couldn't do … and making you give up on me."

"I don't want you to do this out of fear…"

He held her hand supplicatingly.  "It's a true compromise.  I got to indulge that part of myself for a while, but I want to be with you and we can't make this work if I never stop playing around like it's meaningless."

"But if you're denying part of yourself, that might be a mistake."

"I get something in return."  He squeezed her and his voice lowered.  "And I want it all.  The kids stuff I never got to do because my dad was missing in action.  Awful soccer playing … like the way you used to play.  Camping.  Skateboards.  Surfing." 

A giant grin again took over his face.  He smiled so much since landing a full-time job in concert promoting.  He was no longer dependent on his dad.  After years of moving from one apartment share to the next, he'd recently got his own studio downtown. 

"I can't believe you're the one bringing up having kids.  Where's my Delaney?"

"I want to see you with stretch marks."  He laughed and then his grin faded.  "But I don't want our kid to feel like he has to be bagging a bunch of girls to be cool.  I just want him to be a kid.  Or, I just want her to be a normal kid."

"Right, I agree."  Her voice was trembling.

"And when we have kids I won't need an assist like your dad."

"Stop!  This is serious."  She smiled as he glanced at her parents, who were good-naturedly grinning – they were used to him. 

"You're sure now?" she asked.  "You're sure you're never going to be … you're never going to have regrets, right?"

"If we do this, we're never getting divorced.  I will not get divorced.  I won't sign the papers.  You're stuck with me.  You're the one who loves marriage counseling, right?"  She was interested in child psychology for at-risk kids and had applied to grad school uptown.

Her eyes overflowed at the thought of the crazy stuff he did, like flirting with models behind the scenes at photo shoots and partying with the band.  "I shouldn't say it, but no matter what happens, we'll get past it.  But do not make me put up with too much."

"No.  No.  It's not kinda, sort of, we're trying to be exclusive.  It's completely, totally exclusive.  Never apart.  Like your parents."

"Oh my god, Del.  We ought to live together for a while before we start planning anything permanent."

"It's not such a big deal actually," he continued, "I wasn't going to tell you, but it's been on for a while now."  He shook his head like he was laughing at himself.  "I've been testing the waters to make sure I'm ready.  I get home earlier.  I'm not so hungover.  I want to come home to you.  And whatever shit goes down, you can handle me, Samantha.  I know you can."

 Copyright 2013

Bridal Hairstyles 2013 -a.png

Click here to read a deleted scene with Anton de' Medici. 

Check out Character Spotting and Ask Delaney

Dinner with Anton in Manhattan

Click here for the EPILOGUE to LOVE and CANDY

Click here for the PROM SCENE

 

This is a deleted scene from LOVE and Candy.  Contain **spoilers**!  It takes place during winter break of Samantha's Sophomore Year.  She and her family go to Manhattan to meet Anton de' Medici for a fancy dinner.

 

Dinner with Anton in Manhattan

They met Anton at Three Rings on Madison Avenue.  He wasn't alone.  A dazzling woman sat next to him at the bar, wearing a deep-necked wrap-around cocktail dress with a sparkling broach fastened at her waist -- so tightly-bound as to impair digestion.  Clutching a red fur shawl, she unabashedly kissed Robert on both cheeks and was introduced as Ms. Palmero, Anton's assistant who had planned much of their trip to Italy.  They'd never gotten a chance to meet her in Florence, so Anton brought her as a surprise. 

Samantha would have preferred fruitcake, or a Poinsettia. 

Catherine, who had been beaming during the car ride from Connecticut, slumped her shoulders and lowered her chin in the presence of the beautiful young woman who spoke with a wispy southern Italian accent. 

Samantha followed her mom's rigid back as the maitre d' led them to their table.  Catherine took the innermost seat at the banquette, partially hidden from the rest of the party by a Christmas tree hanging upside down from the ceiling.  Ms. Palmero simpered as she eagerly situated herself between Anton and Robert in an armchair upholstered in polka-dotted rainbow fabric. 

Samantha thought of what her mom recently had told her about the times in New York when Robert and Anton had taken her out to fancy restaurants.  They would gang up on her and tease her, but also listened to her like they were truly interested.

"I guess it was those conversations over dinner," her mom had said, "the way they made me feel like the center of the universe … that's when I began to think I might be willing to go along with what they suggested, even though it went against everything I thought I knew about healthy relationships." 

 Catherine now looked dreary, a powder blue scarf still wrapped around her matching turtleneck sweater.  The ensemble was a Christmas gift like the reindeer sweater Samantha wore.  Noticing men at nearby tables checking out Ms. Palmero, Samantha cursed herself for not taking the time to dress for dinner like her sisters.

She studied her mom and decided that although she was clearly not as young-looking as Ms. Palmero, her light skin and gold hair looked pretty in blue.  Samantha was certain, however, that her mom wasn't feeling pretty.

Stephanie and Annabelle made up for Catherine and Samantha's lack of conversation.  In awe of Anton's guest, they eagerly asked her questions as she dropped hints about attending a fashion show in Milan with "VIP front-row seats." 

Samantha overheard her sisters whispering speculation about whether Ms. Palmero was Anton's girlfriend, and she couldn't help but wondered about this herself.  She expected to catch him putting his hand on her shoulder or something else that would confirm it, but she saw no touching at all, not even of hands.  Yet, there was something in his onyx eyes, as he watched Ms. Palmero and Stephanie talk about "small-town life" in Connecticut, that made Samantha feel nauseated.  Didn't he realize it was tactless to be anything but spayed and neutered around her? 

Satisfyingly, Robert showed no sign of being overcome by Anton's striking consort and spoke normally, asking questions about her extensive travels, which she seemed eager to talk about.  Samantha knew her mom was wondering if her dad was attracted to her.

After dinner, they crossed to Fifth Avenue to see the window displays, and then walked toward central park.  Samantha joined in as Annabelle cavorted with Robert, playing tag by tugging at the hood of his overcoat. 

When they reached the park and turned west, Anton left Ms. Palmero, who was immediately accosted by Stephanie and Annabelle, and drew near Catherine.  "Are you feeling well?" he asked her.

"Yes, I'm fine," she said, not sounding fine. 

"Then what's wrong?  You're so quiet."  His tone of voice softened with the second sentence.  Was that the voice he used to convince her to let him touch her?

Samantha inconspicuously drew closer to her mom, teeming with curiosity.

Catherine turned to look at Anton for a moment, then fixed her eyes ahead on the sidewalk.  "I didn't expect you to bring a date."  She didn't say this loud enough for Ms. Palmero to hear -- she was 10 paces behind with the younger girls.

"She's not a date," he insisted.  "Her mother worked for my father.  Her family has been in our service for three generations."

Catherine looked at him again, with a sadness in her eyes.  "I know you like to always be around women like her, but I didn't realize you needed to bring someone to a … family dinner."  Catherine paused to take an audible breath.

He shook his head with apparent consternation.  "I thought the girls would have things to talk to her about.  That's the only reason I invited her.  And as a matter of fact, I don't think she stands out around your family."

Catherine slowed her pace a step.  "I don't want the girls to think beauty is everything to you." 

Samantha looked to Robert to see if he was concerned.

"As usual, I'm at a loss," said Anton.  "I haven't the least idea what you mean by that."

"When Rob and I knew you, I remember you used to have lots of assistants back in Italy.  If that's how you want to live to … your whole life … I guess that's fine.  But I thought you'd be paying attention to Samantha today."

"I was not … I did not intend …."

Catherine turned her face away.  Robert caught up with her and put his arms around her waist, tucking his hands in the front pockets of her coat.  Samantha noticed Anton watching them as Robert whispered in her mom's ear for several minutes.   

Finally, Catherine returned her attention to Anton.  "Sorry.  Forget what I said about Ms. Palmero … I think Steph and Annabelle do have a lot to talk to her about.  They were so happy about their shopping spree in Italy."

Anton just stared at her face for several moments until she looked away.

Annabelle, who was walking with Ms. Palmero, shouted in a voice loud enough for everyone to hear, "Guess what!  Samantha has a boyfriend.  He's a god!  All the girls at school are crazy about him.  His eyes are like Jude Law's and his hair is like Brad Pitt's in Legends of the Fall, only shorter."

Ms. Palmero grinned at Samantha, who, along with her parents, had stopped walking -- the last thing she wanted was a discussion of Delaney around Anton. 

"Is he the one you thought was trouble?" Anton asked, looking at Robert.

"He's still trouble for all I know – of course I haven't had a good chance to scrutinize him because he doesn't set foot in the house … just waits in his car for Sam."

"You shouldn't permit her to spend time with someone you don't approve," said Anton.

"She gets to choose who she spends her free time with," said Robert.

"Yes, but you ought to keep her away from men who aren't appropriate for her.  She's too young to know what's best."

Pain enveloping her chest, Samantha glared at Anton.  "Maybe they should keep tabs on who you date."  She made sure not to say the last sentence loud enough for Ms. Palmero to hear.

Robert controlled a smile as Anton gawked at Samantha.  She refused to meet his gaze and lowered her eyes angrily, her shoes making a clapping sound as she stepped onto the curb. 

The topic of conversation quickly changed to the new piano.

"It was an extra special Christmas gift for Gretchen and me," said Annabelle to Ms. Palmero.

 Samantha calmed down, realizing that neither Anton nor anyone else was going to say another word about Delaney.

With a voice of authority, Anton said sharply, "Samantha."

She turned to face him, her chin lifted, her eyes icy.

"How much time to you spend in the city?"  His voice sounded more lenient.

She just stared.

He waited.

"Not so much," she answered with a quirk of her lips.  "We come to dinner with my grandparents, and sometimes go to Broadway or Lincoln Center."

"Do you like the ballet?"

"Yeah.  Sure.  I saw Swan Lake last year."

Anton starting speaking to her about how Manhattan was inherently suited for commerce, until they reached the parking garage.  Out of Ms. Palmero's clutch came four suede pouches for Samantha and her sisters, each containing a necklace with a star pendant made of five diamond-shaped stones.    

They all said goodbye.  In the car, Annabelle and Stephanie were anxious to decide who got which color star:  yellow, blue, pink or light green.  Samantha insisted Gretchen get first pick -- yellow, her favorite color -- and offered to take whatever was left after the others choose. 

Maybe he should have gotten Mom a gift too?  No, that would have been awkward.

***

That night Samantha woke up around one in the morning, yearning to talk to her dad.  Tiptoeing into her parents' bathroom, she peaked into their room through the sliding door they sometimes left open. 

Her mom was sitting on the edge of the bed in a floral print bra with a gold background.  "Are you thinking about how attractive she was?"

"No, I can honestly say I'm only thinking about you right now."  Her dad was in his PJ bottoms, kneeling on the carpet in front of her mom with his hands on her legs. 

"You always want to have sex after we see him," said Catherine.

"I always want to have sex when we get to bed before midnight too … on weekends … when we stay over at your parents' … after we get home from a party … Does that mean something?"

Catherine looked at him absorbedly.

"I don't know, Cat, maybe there is something about seeing the two of you together … in the same room … again."

"He barely said a word to me the entire dinner."

"You can be intimidating in your own way.  You don't even realize it.  He's scared of your frowns."

She nodded, but without seeming to believe him.  Robert rested his head against her stomach, and Catherine added, "She loses her temper so quickly around him." 

"You two were tag teaming him -- he didn't have a chance."  Robert smiled.  "Unlike me, he has no frame of reference for dealing with a wife and daughter turning on him at once."

Samantha decided to interrupt, knowing she wouldn't get in trouble for spying if she made herself known, "Hey."

Her dad whipped his head around, taking both hands off Catherine, but his voice was even.  "What's up?"

"Are you guys talking about me?"

"We were wondering if you had a good time at dinner."

"Stephanie keeps saying I was rude."

"She doesn't understand the situation.  Don't worry, no one is disappointed with you, Sam.  Your mom and I -- and Anton -- appreciate what you're going through."  Sitting on the carpet, he leaned against Catherine's legs.  " And, by the way, both you and your mom were off about Ms. Palmero.  She's engaged to a man in Milan."

copyright 2013

 

Click here for Character Spotting and here for Ask Delaney.