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Advent Stories #2- The Rhodes Family
Serena, Beatrix, Bella and Sloane, daughters of Briar and Stephen Rhodes, they grew up in The Village, a small commune in the Cotwolds.
Serena, the oldest, is a corporate lawyer at an investment bank in Mayfair. Oxford educated, for both her degree and masters, and a PhD from Cambridge, she is the consummate overachiever. She set the bar for her sisters, who often tease her about being the carbon copy of their mother, in both looks and achievement, which has a lot of truth to it. She is fiercely protective of her sisters, at times maybe too protective, but incredibly proud of them and supportive. Married to Gabriel an environmental scientist, they make their life in London, in a six-bedroom Victorian house in Kensington with three children; two girls- Arlo ten and Astrid eight, and a six year old boy Sawyer, and one rambunctious husky called Pumba. Ever the mother hen, she is also the attorney for the family, and her sisters’ respective businesses.
After university at Oxford, armed with a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, instead of toeing the line like her sisters did, Sloane, the last born Rhodes girl, chose Paris. She worked for a high end atelier for a year, before taking the crazy decision to strike out on her own. To the utter stupor of her parents, who found the idea too ludicrous for words, she would stay five more years in Paris, using a portion of her inheritance to set up shop as a brand consultant, employee of one, working freelance for niche brands in Paris, out of her studio apartment in the sixth arrondisment. Her talent for predicting the mood of the industry combined with unprecedented knowledge and obvious smarts, proved invaluable and soon enough, bigger brands were fighting to work with her, paying astronomical fees for her invaluable time. Her father eventually made peace with his rebellious daughter. Mother? Not so much; she thought Sloane nuts for wanting to “live like the starving artist she was not” instead of getting a “proper” career like her sisters had. There were a few shouting matches between her and her mother anytime she would return home for a visit, but Sloane stuck to her guts, dogged in her convictions. Her sisters encouraged her, which didn’t make life at home any easy on them, but such was their bond and they played peacemaker at family dinners. Today, she has a staff of six, working out of an old warehouse in Brooklyn, and is a most sought after brand consultant. Three years after moving to New York from Paris, Sloane met her husband, Harper Fitzgerald, tech wunderkind, at a Jay-Z concert, thanks to her friends setting her up without her knowing. They have been married for five years.
Beatrix, Bea for short, is a photographer. Like her older sister, Serena, she too went the expected route; Oxford for both degree and masters in the arts, and became a photographer whose work hangs in some of the most reputable galleries in the world. She spent her summers working with local photographers whilst at university, and internships at travel magazines assisting on location photoshoots. But it was Sloane who submitted her work in a regional photography competition unbeknownst to her. She won the competition and was awarded a grant to study at the New York Institute of Photography, under the tutelage of some of the best known photographers. After two years living in New York post NYIP, she moved back to the Village, met and married Edward a landscaper by trade, and together they have two children; boy, Felix eight, and Girl, Sky six. Bea enjoys the bucolic life, loves living close to her parents. Growing up in the village was a magical time for her and her sisters, they did everything together, and as grown women have maintained that close relationship, distance, career and their own families, notwithstanding.
And then there’s Bella, fondly called Bells, the third of the Rhodes sisters. Soft spoken and sweet natured, and like her sisters, whip smart with a dark sense of humour- a trait she shares with Sloane. Bella the curious nymph who loved playing fairy with her sisters as children, (more like bribed them to play it with her) and is so proud of the family she comes from. They are close, she and her sisters, love each other something fierce and care deeply for one another. They tell each other almost everything, even as women who have gone on to live separate lives, their bond remains as strong. Stronger. They support her curious mind, and encouraged her to go further than she thought she could. When her first boyfriend broke her heart, Sloane damn near broke his nose for making her cry- there were like two peas in a pod with only one year between them. When she launched her Saturday newspaper, The London Edition, despite not knowing what the hell she was doing, her sisters were there cheering her on. They gave their time without charging a penny, and their ears when she wanted to drown her sorrows. Serena is her lawyer, Bea her resident photographer, and Sloane her secret weapon, pointing her in the right direction of what was to come next before the world jumped in on it. Her sisters, her best friends. And when she got married they should have been there too.
Her parents would be livid if, no, when, they find out.
Briar and Stephen met in their second year at Oxford, and married shortly after graduation. Briar would go on to become a financial analyst for the Bank of England, and Stephen, a surgeon after earning their PhDs. They now spend most of their time in the Village, still involved in their respective professions and also overseeing operations on their farm which sells organic produce to local grocers and luxury department stores. They are active parents in their daughters’ lives, even Sloane the hell raiser. Education is a big part of the Rhodes family, as part descendants of the Windrush generation, and Senegalese-French migrants, their parents and those before them, worked hard to afford their children the very best education, in the very best schools, without compromise. The farm was handed down by Stephen’s grandparents who came to England on the Empire Windrush. Briar’s great-grandparents emigrated from Senegal to France before settling in rural England. Growing up, keeping secrets was not allowed in the Rhodes household, a tradition maintained even in adulthood. Now, news of a marriage would qualify as a secret that must be shared with the family.
Damnit. The holidays just got that bit more dramatic for Bella; her parents are going to hit the roof when she tells them that she got married without their presence or consent. Worse, how…
(Images- 1&2: Harrods Christmas. 3: Salvatore Ferrogamo)