Mr. Pendlebury’s Announcement

“What’s the matter, Dad?” Antonia asked Mr. Pendlebury.

“Nothing’s the matter,” was his evasive reply. Truth be told, he was concerned about how she would take the news about his engagement to her Aunt Margery. He had been putting it off for a while but he had to tell her sooner or later. And, he had decided that he was going to do it today.

“Are you sure?” she asked, studying him closely. It was obvious that he had something on his mind. “Was it to do with her? An anxious expression suddenly came over her face at once. “Is it Laird?”

Mr. Pendlebury shook his head. “No, Laird’s fine.”

She breathed a sigh of relief. “Thank goodness for that. Now, if it’s nothing to do Laird, then, what is it, Dad? Tell me!”

“Well, I have some news to tell you.”

“Was your manuscript rejected?”

“No. It was accepted.”

“That’s good, then. When did you find out?”

“A couple of days ago.”

“A couple of days ago? Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I guess I didn’t think that you were interested.”

“Oh, Dad. Everything you do interests me.”

“Antonia, I’m not sure how you will react to the news I have to tell you.”

“What do you mean?” she asked warily. “I thought you said it had nothing to do with Laird.”

“It doesn’t. It has to do with your Aunt Margery.”

Antonia stiffened. “What about her?” Did her busybody, interfering aunt tell him that she believed that it was she who pushed her down the stairs? If she did, she was going to deny it. It was that woman’s word against hers.

Mr. Pendlebury cleared his throat before he said gravely, “I’ve asked her to marry me and she accepted.”

The color drained from Antonia’s face. For several minutes, she stood there, staring at him, unable to believe what he had just told her. This was the second worse news she had ever received from her father. The first was when he announced that Laird was engaged. “You-you can’t be serious,” she gasped.

“I am, Antonia. I’ve never been more serious in my life.”

“But–but, how could you marry her, of all people? You know how she feels about me.”

“I know how you feel about her. That’s why I put off telling you about the engagement.”

“I have every right to feel the way I do about her. She hates me and she wants to ruin my life.”

“You’re wrong. Your aunt doesn’t hate you or want to ruin your life.”

“She does! If it weren’t for her, Laird and I would be as close as we were when he was still living here.”

“Antonia, your aunt isn’t to blame for the state of your relationship with Laird. What happened all those years ago with Karson is the reason and–“

“I don’t want to hear about Karson. He’s dead and buried. I’m alive and so is Laird. And if it weren’t for that woman whom you’re going to marry, he and I would still be close. And, he wouldn’t be married to Martina.”

“Antonia, you and Laird weren’t that close. Karson and he were until you came along. Laird spent more time with his books than he did with you. And even if Karson and you hadn’t become engaged, nothing would have developed between Laird and you. He never saw you as more than a little sister. And even if he hadn’t met Martina, he still wouldn’t have had romantic feelings for you.”

“I think he would have if Mom hadn’t thrown Karson and me together or if Aunt Margery hadn’t told him lies about me.”

“Antonia, why don’t we leave Laird out of this? The fact is that I’m going to marry your aunt although I would have liked to have your blessing.”

“You’ll never have my blessing.”

Mr. Pendlebury looked sadly at his adoptive daughter. “I know.”

“Go ahead and marry her if you want to but, you’ll be sorry, though. She could never make you as happy as Mother did.”

“No one can ever replace your mother, you know that.”

“And, I suppose that she’s going to want to live here.”

“Yes. She’ll be putting her house up on the market soon.”

“And what about me? How do you expect me to live under the same roof with her?”

“That’s another thing I wanted to talk to you about, Antonia.”

“Oh, I get it now. You want me to move out. Was it your idea or hers?”

“It was Laird’s,” he replied quietly and saw the shocked expression on her face.

“Laird?”

“Yes. He told me again that it was time that you moved out and found your own place.”

“He told you that again? That means he has told you this before…”

“Yes. He tried to talk me into getting you to move out but I didn’t want to.”

“And now, you do, because of her.”

“Antonia, I think you would be happier living on your own.”

“If it’s what you want, I’ll move out.”

“It isn’t what I want. The mansion is big enough for the three of us but, I think it would be best.”

“Fine. I’ll start looking for a place and as soon as I find a suitable one, I’ll move out. Then, you and your bride can have the mansion all to yourselves.” A words ended in a sob and she rushed past him.

Mr. Pendlebury watched her retreating figure and sighed heavily. Deep down inside, he knew that having her move out was the best decision. It would have been a terrible mistake to let her to remain, knowing that Margery was afraid of her. He hadn’t wanted to accept it, but he believed that Antonia had willfully pushed her aunt down the stairs, with the intent of doing her great physical harm. It was by the grace of God that Margery didn’t break her neck. He shuddered at the thought.

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