Excerpt from Chapter 4- Angel of Death:
Everyone sat in his or her usual spots at the huge dining table, and the chef served the first course, lobster bisque. This was followed by a tomato salad and a mint sorbet to cleanse the palette for the wine and Brie that was to come. Finally, the main course of duck with caramelized orange sauce, small roasted potatoes, and asparagus steamed to perfection, with a hint of garlic, was placed in front of each dinner guest and compliments to the chef went around. The family talked business and oil prices, and they also wanted to know about Miles and Stacy Lynn’s plans for children and how the landscaping was going on their new home. Everyone seemed to be in good spirits, but Audrey was rather quiet because of her nervous stomach.
Baron asked Audrey to tell everyone what she had been up to, and that seemed like a good time to bring up the dreaded subject of Chicago. She shrugged and talked about finishing her senior paper and studying for finals.
“There is a bit of other news I wanted to share with everyone.” Audrey couldn’t make eye contact with her parents so she looked at Jonathan instead; he smiled at her.
Liza’s face lit up, “Oh Audrey, I bet I know, please tell us you have finally picked a college. I have a feeling it is University of Texas or SMU.” She clapped her hands in excitement. “We spent so much time with applications and touring campuses, they are all really great and I have a favorite, but I did tell you it was your decision.”
“Well, I am glad to hear that you feel it is my decision. I am not really sure how to tell you all, but I plan to leave Texas for college.” She took a deep breath.
Miles spoke up, “You’re kidding, right? That’s funny little sis, seriously though, which did you pick?” His gaze was on her, as was everyone else’s.
“No, I am not kidding, actually. I’ve given it a lot of thought and I’m sure that I want to do this.” She looked at Miles as she spoke and saw Stacy Lynn gasp in surprise. “Don’t act so surprised, Stacy Lynn. It’s not like you know me, and really my decisions aren’t any of your business anyway.” She looked at Miles and he seemed a little hurt.
“Don’t be ridiculous, Audrey,” her father piped in at the end of the table, his tone was even, but she could tell he wasn’t happy about this. “You will stay in Texas, just as all of us have. The schools here are exceptional, so there is no reason to go out of Texas.” He took a sip of his wine.
“First, I’m sorry, Miles, I didn’t mean to snap at Stacy Lynn like that.” He nodded and she knew she was forgiven, at least by him, and that was all she cared about. “I have been accepted to Northwestern in Chicago. Mom and I have traveled there several times for shows and shopping. The city fits me and has so much to offer. I love the culture and diversity there. Plus, there are all four seasons there and I know Texas can’t offer me that.” She smiled, hoping that would lighten the mood in the room.
Her grandparents were very quiet, but Audrey guessed they knew it was Baron and Liza that would lay down the law.
“I don’t remember you saying anything about Chicago for school. When did you apply and why was it behind my back?” Liza glared at her daughter, feeling stupid in front of her in-laws and parents.
“Mom, I know, I knew you would fight me on it and not let me apply. Or dad would call a business friend to make sure my application was denied. I did this on my own and used my own money to pay the application fee.” Audrey took a sip of her water; her throat was suddenly feeling constricted and dry. “I accepted their offer a few months ago.” She looked down at her plate, but defiantly decided to look up at her parents to show confidence in her decision.
“That’s impossible, Audrey, your mother and I are paying for your college education and you may not move up to Chicago. End of story.” Her dad was using his business voice and expected to have Audrey follow whatever he demanded. “Now, after all this foolishness, who wants dessert?” Baron looked around at the quiet table.
Jonathan spoke, “Well, I’m always ready for dessert, but maybe you and mom could hear Audrey out, and look at all the things Northwestern has to offer.” Audrey cringed, knowing her father would probably take his comments out on him at the office.
“No one asked for your opinion, Jonathan,” Baron said with an edge to his voice. “Besides, you got your degree here in Texas, and you seemed very happy about that.”
“True, but Audrey and I are two different people. She’s the most independent of the three of us.” She could see that Miles nodded in agreement. Audrey really loved her brothers, but she didn’t want them to take the wrath for her.
“Look, Dad, Mom …” Audrey sighed. “The boys are not trying to go against you, they just love me and still see me as the littlest, the youngest, and the one they need to protect, so please don’t be mad at either of them. I really don’t think they have a side, so to speak, in this, they know I just want a chance at something different.”
“So, they’ve known this whole time and didn’t bother to let us know.” Liza waved her hand in the air and gestured toward them. “That’s great, all we do for you kids and then you go off keeping secrets like this. I won’t stand for this, Audrey, you are staying in Texas. We are not letting you make this monumental mistake!” With those words, she disappeared into the kitchen and they could all hear her telling the chef they were ready for dessert.
“Dad, they didn’t know anything, I swear. I wouldn’t make either of them keep a secret from you guys.” Jonathan had known for a few weeks, but she didn’t need to tell her parents that.
“Dessert will be served momentarily.” Liza walked back in, acting as if that uncomfortable conversation had never happened. “Who would like some coffee?” She held up a silver coffee pitcher and smiled.
Liza would have made a great actress, Audrey thought. She was beautiful, tall and thin, and she could always mask whatever she was really feeling to be the perfect hostess, business woman, volunteer or whatever she was doing at any particular moment. In a sense, Audrey admired her mother’s resolve, but this was a family discussion, so why did she have to be such a Stepford-wife at this time?
Audrey got up from the table and excused herself. She was too annoyed to be around her parents right now. Jonathan excused himself from the table a few minutes later to check on her.