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Kaiser arrives at the Rhodes residence, nervous but he knows this is something he has to do. Something should have done, but life has a way of not going according to a set plan; meet a girl, date a while, fall in love, marry for life. He looked at the house, Bella did not tell him she was raised in a palace, it is easily the largest estate in the village, resplendent and beautiful, it sits on acres and acres of land, well-kept gardens and farmland. Even the taxi driver had been impressed when he gave his destination. Thank goodness he’d worn a suite and tie. Bella doesn’t know he is here, she is busy dealing with the insolvency of her newspaper and is distracted enough for him to get away with being here today without her knowing.
‘Here goes nothing.’ He presses the doorbell and waits patiently for it to be answered, it can go one of two ways; they kick him out or the beat the shit out of him before kicking him out. But he prays for nothing of the sort.
A uniformed maid answers the door.
‘Good morning. How may I help you?’
‘I’m here to see Mr and Mrs Rhodes please. My name is Kaiser Williams.’
The maid hesitated a minute, she knows who he is, the entire staff knows what Bella did; her parents are furious with her. Does she turn the young man away? That would be impertinent but she is not so sure she can let him in either. Oh dear Lord why was she the one who answered the door?
‘Um wait here a minute please.’
‘Of course.’ Kaiser says, clearing his throat. He saw the hesitation in her eyes, she obviously knows who he is and maybe has been forbidden to let him in.
Mallory hurries into the staff office to talk to the steward, ‘he’s here!’
‘Who is?’ Anas jumped out of fright when Mallory came bursting through the door.
‘Miss Bella’s husband, he is here. I didn’t know whether to let him in or-’
‘You left him standing out there!?’
‘Yes I didn’t know what to do.’
‘Oi vey Anas, you invite him in.’
‘But Mrs Rhodes is so mad I didn’t know… oh bloody hell I should not have left him standing there.’
Anas has a point, but Kaiser is a son-in-law and from what she knows Miss Bella is not going through with an annulment. ‘I’ll see to him don’t you worry.’ Anas hurries out of her office to the front door, she tucks a wayward tendril into her bun before opening the door. ‘Mr Williams good morning. Please come in. I am Anas the steward.’
‘Thank you very much ma’am. I’m sorry to turn up unannounced I…I took a chance I hope that doesn’t put you out.’
‘Not at all.’ Anas shows him to the guest parlour. ‘Would you like some tea?’
‘No thank you I’m fine. Thank you for the offer.’
‘Do make yourself at home whilst I fetch Mr and Mrs Rhodes.’
Kaiser cannot make himself at home, not before he has a chance to meet with his in-laws. This meeting can go either way, although he hopes for a better outcome than he expects he will receive, but it’s worth a shot. Bella is worth every shot he has to take to make it right. His mother had spoken to him after dinner, she likes Bella for him, she understands what he sees in her, and if this is what he wants then she is all for it. His brothers too gave their blessing and welcomed Bella to the family. They agreed to live at hers, whilst his mom keeps the house in Sheen where she would have the time of her life with the grandchildren. She is not ready to let go of it, it is the place that holds the most memories of her and husband and their family growing up there.
Anas devised a plan and wisely went in search of Mr Rhodes first, he is in his study, after coming in from his morning surgery. Kaiser has a better chance with him than Mrs Rhodes who is still out of sorts with Bella, all her children, so she will likely kick him out of the house. She knocks gently on the study door and waits patiently for the good doctor to answer.
‘Hello Anas.’ Stephen Rhodes greets his steward fondly, Anas has been with them since before the girls were born, she helped raise all of them when he and his wife were busy with their demanding careers. He observed the furrowed brow of worry, in all her years in their employ, he could count on one hand how many times she had the furrow and it was almost always cause for alarm. ‘Why the worry?’
Stephen leans against the door ledge; he wasn’t expecting the young man to turn up, primarily because of the way they handled everything, he simply dismissed this as a fluke that would undo itself, no point getting worked up like his wife has. Briar has been in a bad mood since Bella sprung her news on them, cussing and fussing. ‘What do you think of him?’
‘First impression, decent enough. No one is going to be good enough for any of my girls, but he came all this way I think you ought to grant him the audience.’
‘And so I shall. Where is Briar?’
‘Still upstairs in the attic.’
‘Good. I better go down before she comes down.’
So much for that.
Kaiser stands when Briar Rhodes walks into the parlour where he’d been waiting. Bella gets her looks from her mama; the same full lips, flawless chocolate brown skin, almond shaped bright eyes… the woman is beautiful and tall and regal. Her obvious irritation at seeing him doesn’t hide that.
‘Let me guess, you must be Kaiser Williams.’
‘Yes ma’am.’ Kaiser extends a hands and gives a little bow because Briar Rhodes is a woman who intimidates on sight.
Briar seizes Kaiser up, her look filled with utter contempt. She doesn’t take his hand, instead she looks at it as if it were something unpleasant beneath her Hermes loafers.
Kaiser withdraws his hand; this will not be that type of visit.
‘How dare you? How dare you bring yourself to this house? How dare you entertain the thought of coming here? What exactly are you here for?’
Damn. ‘I…I…I wanted to introduce-’
‘I don’t want to know you. I don’t want to know anything about you because a person who behaves the way you have behaved has nothing that I want to know.’
‘Mrs Rhodes I understand-’
‘You have no idea what to understand, you have no idea at all. I doubt you have a brain to help you understand. Do you understand exactly what you have done?’
Kaiser is tongue tied at a moment he should not be. ‘I’m sorry.’
‘You’re sorry?’ Briar laughs scornfully, ‘you are sorry.’
Kaiser looks down at his feet feeling much smaller than his six foot frame. What the hell did he think was going to happen here? That he would be welcomed by the family? That they would invite him to stay for tea? What exactly did he think was going to happen? He has no leg to stand on. None.
‘You must be Kaiser.’ Stephen heard his wife before he saw her, but he knows the look in her eyes that accompanied that tone. Many have been eviscerated by it. Whilst he is not happy about what happened, Bella is an adult and has made a decision by all accounts with an acute functioning adult mind. That’s all there is to it. At some point they ought to stop trying to raise already grown children.
‘Yes… Yes sir I am.’
Stephen steps forward and holds out a hand to Kaiser. The poor boy did not know what to do, his reflexes seem to have been delayed by his wife’s attack. He reaches for Kaiser’s hand and shakes it.
‘Nice… to meet you sir. Nice to meet you.’
‘And you too. Let’s go for a walk.’
Briar Rhodes stalks out of the room, ahead of Kaiser to her husband, she will not be involved in this nonsense whatever her daughter says, adult or no adult, this is pure foolishness that will blow up in all their faces.
Stephen puts on his hat and coat and Anas hands Kaiser his, she feels so sorry for him, he looked shell shocked having witnessed Briar Rhodes first hand. Whew! That woman can put the fear of God in anyone who crosses her and Kaiser, not only crossed her he left his log on the road blocking her way.
Both men walk the grounds for a while in silence, Stephen gives Kaiser some time to collect himself and recover from the shock of his wife’s tirade.
‘Yes sir. Thank you.’
They stop to sit on one of the benches in the vast garden, far away enough from the house and Briar, who is no questions looking out from one of the windows throwing daggers. If looks could kill.
‘So you’re the young man who charmed my daughter over a weekend.’
Kaiser smiled, he’d been charmed. ‘Doctor Rhodes, I am sorry for the way I behaved. I fell in love with your daughter on sight, I guess you can call it a cliché but I’m madly in love with Bella.’
‘And how do you know?’
‘Because when it comes to love, you just know. How could I not love her? Bella is an incredible woman; she’s smart, loving, fiercely proud of the family she comes from…I love her.’
‘Hm.’ Stephen saw it too. ‘So what brings you here?’
Kaiser stands to address his elder. ‘I would like your permission to ask for her hand in marriage Sir.’
Stephen leans back into the bench, he’ll give it to the young man standing before him, he must have guts; it takes some to come here after the fact.
‘Does Bella know you’re here?’
‘No sir she doesn’t.’ Kaiser remains standing.
‘I need to talk to my daughter.’
Fair enough, Kaiser reasons, fair enough.