Clive was very amiable to Charlotte. After a tour of the grounds, they went joined their parents in the drawing-room until dinner was ready. He escorted her and held the chair out for her to sit before sitting beside her. He could sense his mother watching them and ignored her.
After dinner, while their parents retired to the drawing-room, Charlotte and he went to the sunroom. She sat in the chair beside the fireplace while he sat in the chair adjacent to hers.
“So, how have you been, Clive?” She asked, thinking how handsome he looked. “It has been a long time since we’ve seen each other. We parted ways at Westminster. You went to Oxford and I to Cambridge.”
He smiled. “Yes, it has been a while. I’m been doing well. I got my first manuscript published.”
“Congratulations. I read your novel, Deteriorating Daisies and loved it.”
“Writing has always been my passion. I finished another story a month ago which will soon be published.”
“What’s it called?”
“Sounds very interesting. What’s it about, if you don’t mind me asking.”
“No, I don’t mind at all. It’s about a man whose wife died in a tragic boating accident one summer and years have passed since then but his life is empty, hollow without her. He goes to the hills overlooking where the lake where the accident happened and he sees a woman dressed in white roaming about them.”
“Is it his wife?”
“You’ll have to read the book and find out.”
She smiled. “I can’t wait.”
“What about you? How have you been?”
“I’ve been fine. After graduating from Cambridge my parents and I went on a Mediterranean cruise. It was wonderful. I had always wanted to visit Spain, France, Italy, Greece and Turkey. As far as a career, I’m got a job as paralegal with Debenham Law Group.”
“I’ve heard of them. They’re a very prestigious law firm.”
“Yes. What about you?”
“I’m a writer and author. My parents aren’t too pleased about that. My father wanted me to be a barrister or even a junior barrister but I’m not interested in law. My mother wanted me to be a University professor but I can’t see myself standing in front of a classroom teaching students. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a writer.”
“You know if you had become a barrister, you could have being like John Grisham who retired from law to become a full-time writer.”
“Even if I had chosen to pursue a career in law, I still would have eventually left it to become a full-time writer too. Writing is in my blood and I hope to become very successful at it.”
“I’m sure you will and I look forward to reading your second book.”
“I hope it does as well as Deteriorating Daisies.”
“I’m sure it will. Whom will you dedicate the second novel to?”
“I don’t know.”
“Was your mother upset that you didn’t dedicate the first one to her?”
“She was terribly upset.”
“I expect that she would be. You dedicated it to your English professor.”
“I had to because she encouraged and believed in me. My mother was never interested in reading any of my work.”
“I hope she comes around.”
“I hope so too but, I doubt it.”
“If it were me, I would be thrilled to have a writer in my family. Who knows, maybe they will make movies out of your books like they did with John Grisham.”
“Pardon me for being so frank, but are you dating anyone?”
He thought about how he would answer that. He could say no but that would be a lie but if he said yes, she might pry more. “Yes, but my parents don’t know about it.”
She was surprised and disappointed. “Why?” she asked.
“They won’t approve.”
“What’s wrong with her?”
He grimaced. “Nothing’s wrong with her. They just won’t approve of her because she’s not white and upper-class.”
“What is she then?”
“Black and working class.”
“Oh. You’re dating a black woman?”
“What’s wrong with dating a black woman?”
“Nothing but I can see why you haven’t told them about her.”
“I want to tell them about her but she told me not to–at least, not yet.”
“Is it serious between you and this woman?”
“Yes. We’re madly in love with each other.”
“Is she an older woman?”
“Is she the English professor you dedicated your first book to?”
“Oh. It all makes sense now.”
“Please don’t breathe a word of this to your parents.”
“I won’t. I hope things work out for you and this woman, Clive.”
She stood up. “Maybe we should join our parents.”
He rose to his feet. “All right.”
They left the sunroom and went to the drawing-room where their parents were having a very animated conversation. They all looked up when the two young people entered. Mrs. Bennington glanced from Clive to Charlotte and then back to Clive. She could tell from their expressions that something was up. Charlotte appeared subdued. What had Clive said to the poor girl? She wondered. I will have to wait until later to find out. If he has said something to upset her or my plans, so help me…
Clive sat down in the chair backing the window. Why had Charlotte suddenly become so withdrawn? They were fine until they began talking about him and Rose. Did Charlotte have feelings for him? She looked upset when he said that he was dating.
Poor girl. He felt really bad. The last thing he wanted was to hurt her but he couldn’t help that he was in love with Rose and even if Rose weren’t in the picture, he couldn’t force himself to have romantic feelings for her.
He watched her now and noticed that she avoided his gaze. His mother who had the eyes of a hawk would have picked up on this. He braced himself for the onslaught of his mother’s ire.
For the rest of the evening, Charlotte and he didn’t say much to each other. They sat apart, listening to their parents talk about politics, religion, travel, the news and hobbies. When it was time to leave, he and his parents escorted their guests into the massive foyer.
Charlotte turned to Clive. “Take care,” she said.
They shook hands and then, she left. He had a feeling that it was the last time that he was going to see her.
“Well, the family dinner went very well, didn’t it, my Dear?” Mr. Bennington said to his wife.
“Yes, it did, although, I did notice a change in Charlotte later in the evening when she and Clive joined us in the drawing-room. Clive, what happened in the sunroom?”
“Nothing, Mother. We talked.”
“What did you talk about?”
“Our careers, books, people.”
“She appeared a bit withdrawn. What did you say to her?” Mrs. Bennington demanded.
“You must have said something that upset her.”
“I didn’t,” he insisted, “but as far as us becoming more than friends, it isn’t going to happen. Goodnight.” And he turned and headed for the staircase, taking two steps at a time before she could say anything else.
Source: Get Educated