A Bitter Taste

Antonia watched Laird and Martina, anxious for them to leave. It was torture seeing them together. After Martina and Mr. Pendlebury returned to the drawing-room, talking and laughing, Laird had immediately left her to join them. Even though she lived there, she felt like an outsider and she hated Martina for that.

Laird, oblivious to the malevolent feelings raging inside Antonia toward his fiancée, put his arm around Martina’s shoulders, drawing her close to him so that their bodies were pressing together. It was as if he wanted to remind his father that she belonged to him. “Did you enjoy the tour?” he asked her as she smiled up at him and slipped her arm around his waist.

“Yes, I did. You grew up in a very lovely home. Your father told me about all the wonderful times you’ve had here.”

“Yes, there were many good times,” he agreed. “One of these days, I’ll bring you during the day and give you an outdoor tour of the estate.”

“That would be great,” she said. “Perhaps when we return from our honeymoon.”

“Perhaps that would be the best time.”

“You’re welcome to come anytime,” Mr. Pendlebury said.

“Well, we’d better be leaving,” Laird said. “It’s getting late and Martina and I have a busy day tomorrow.”

“Yes.” Martina moved away from him and went over to Mr. Pendlebury. “Thank you for a lovely evening,” she said as they hugged. “I enjoyed the company, the music and of course, the dinner.”

He smiled. “Especially dessert.”

She laughed. “It has been a while since I’ve had Goody goody gumdrops ice-cream so it was a quite a treat for me.”

“Martina, it was an absolute pleasure meeting you and getting to know you. Laird is a very lucky man.”

“Thank you. And I’m a very lucky woman.”

Antonia went over to Laird. “I hope you had a good evening too,” she said. She wanted to hug him but she knew that he wouldn’t be receptive. Instead, she touched his hand, half expecting him to recoil but he didn’t. And there was no hostility in his expression. In fact, all evening, he had been courteous in his manner toward her although, she would have liked there to have been some degree of warmth.

“Yes, I did.”

“I’m happy to hear that.”

Martina joined them and Laird excused himself. Turning to Antonia, she said, “It was really nice meeting you.”

Antonia forced a smile. “It was nice meeting you too.”

“Dad, thank you for a delightful evening,” Laird said.

“You’re welcome, Son. You chose wisely. She’s a remarkable woman.”

“Yes, she is.”

Martina and Antonia joined them and then, she and Laird left. After they were gone, the place seemed very quiet. Antonia went over to the window and watched as the car went down the winding driveway until it disappeared.

She turned around. Mr. Pendlebury stood there, watching her. “I think I’ll go to bed now,” she informed him quietly. “It’s late and I’m tired.”

“Did you enjoy the evening too, Antonia?” he asked.

“Yes, I did. It-it was nice having Laird join us for dinner.”

“He hasn’t had dinner here since he moved out, come to think of it.”

“Yes, but tonight, he came and it was wonderful.”

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“I agree. And it was a treat meeting Martina.”

“Yes, it was.” It was amazing how easy it was to tell an untruth.

“They looked so happy together. It was so obvious that they are mad about each other. It reminded me of your mother and me. We were crazy about each other. She wanted that same kind of happiness for Karson and Laird. Karson found it with you but unfortunately, he didn’t live long to enjoy it for a lifetime.”

The last thing Antonia wanted to hear about, especially at that moment was Karson. Sometimes, she hated him even though he was dead. It was as if he was still ruining things for her even from the grave. If it weren’t for him and his unwanted attention and unrequited love which disgusted her, she could have gotten Laird to fall in love with her. She should be the woman marrying him, not Martina.

What did he see in her anyway? She was full-figured and not very attractive. There was nothing glamourous or elegant about her. Her dress looked cheap and her hair was a limp mess. And to top it all off, she wore glitter eyeshadow.

She had expected a woman with some sort of class even though she worked at La bonne Touche but instead, Laird had shown up with a feminine fiasco. Somehow, she had managed to hide her distaste and acted as the gracious hostess but inwardly, she had been bitterly resentful towards her father for treating the woman as if she were the Queen of Sheba and towards Laird for getting mixed up with her.

How could he, who had been raised in a mansion, attended ivy league schools and university, enjoyed a successful career as a MP, end up with a woman like that? Was it the sex? She didn’t want to think about that. The idea of them in bed together filled her with jealousy and revulsion.

“Are you all right?” Mr. Pendlebury asked, studying her closely.

“Yes. I’m all right. It’s late and I’m tired. I’m going to bed now.”

“All right. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight, Dad.” She went over to him and hugged him briefly before she walked briskly out of the room. The entire evening which everyone else had raved about had left a very bitter taste in her mouth.

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