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Part 4 - Me, Myself & I

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“Oh, my God! How could you?! Bertie, how could you hide all that from me?  I thought that I knew all about your past as you know all about mine! Wouldn't you expect me to warn you about any illness that we could expect to show up in our child? Do you think that I would act as irresponsibly as you have acted? If I had known, under these circumstances, I would never have dared to have a child! Never!”

“Please Maude…”

“Do not Maude me bec….”

“Would you two please stop! Peaches is here and I do not want to hear anything about it might having been better if she hadn't been born! I understand you Maude, because it is for the same reason, although it was not the only one, I never wanted to have kids.” Bette said with her gaze alternately directed first at one then to the another. “Just look her, isn’t she great... a smart, kind child? Isn’t she worth getting just a bit more attention and some support to help her beat her demons?”

- Jera
 

 

Maude and Bertie looked at each other quite intently for just a brief moment then broke eye contact and looked away in shame. Bette was right.

“But how could Josh do such a thing to me?”

Maude closed her eyes trying to shield herself from the bitterness of her thoughts. She thought they had come to a point in their lives where truth was that wondrous thing that could hold them together; love had wavered, had been tested and had failed them on more than the odd occasion. Now to find out that she had been deceived, it was almost too much to bear.

Maude, nee Katrine Josette, had been raised in the lap of luxury. Not quite an only child, she had been lavished with material riches, extravagant trips and treats as though she had been the only born, though sadly this had not been her lot. Growing up, she scarcely saw her parents and could hardly remember having spent more than a day or two at a time in their company, but she had been very well acquainted with all the delights and thrills their vast store of wealth could bring. She never really knew a time when life was too difficult to bear, when wishes were not fulfilled; life had been proverbially handed to her ‘on a silver platter’ and she had never wanted it to end. On her own, Katrine would often examine her parents’ lifestyle, and would reflect upon the extent to which she had always felt like nothing more than a nuisance, an unwanted intrusion into the glamourous life the couple led. She just knew, somehow, that a child would be that one thing that would bring her own highly treasured and carefree life to an end. So, the young heiress had never wanted to have children, but as it turned out, Josh did.

Sweet, honest, forthright Bertram Brandman, nee Joshua Reid, had convinced a starry-eyed Katrine that a child was the most important gift they could share, and she had believed him. After many years spent wading through the falsehoods that a life of privilege can bring, a young Katrine had been almost immediately lost to the charms of this newcomer’s strength and honesty. She had been only too willing to share his name, his adventures, and the inconvenient adjustments that had to be made in time. She remembered how after a week or two in his company she had felt as though she had sprouted wings beneath her feet, as though finally any and everything could truly be possible. He had been so loving and attentive and a perfect fit. In fact, he had become all the family she had ever wanted and she didn’t want or need anything more or anyone else, but Joshua had been quite adamant about wanting to add a daughter to their little family unit. Katrine had fought her private wars, her fears borne out by memories from a distant past, and had finally succumbed to Joshua’s verbal and physical caresses. He wanted a daughter and a daughter her love would have. Now finally, after all these years, after all they had come through, Katrine, given new life as Maude, held grand hopes of being a mother too, at long last, to her daughter.

Maude slowly opened her eyes and soberly scanned the shadowy room. The sun had already begun to set and everything just seemed damp and cold and miserable, so difficult and dreary. It really was too much to bear. She opened her mouth to address Bertie, but only the burdensome silence in the room could be heard. The downcast woman simply turned and walked away. She had some packing to do.
 

~Aria

 
 

 

As Maude clicked the special briefcase compartment of her deluxe Henk suitcase shut, she was even more sure than ever that she had made the best decision she could have under the circumstances. In fact, over the course of the past half hour she felt the burdens of anger and disappointment gradually lift woe by woe as she had returned each of the outfits that Hanna had dutifully pressed and folded back to their assigned spaces in the spacious case. She smiled gaily at her reflection in the mirror and primped her auburn hair. Yes, everything was in place. Yes, the sun had assumed its rightful place in her smile, in her thoughts and in her heart; she would leave the darkness, deceit and hurt behind. Katrine Josette was not born for sorrow.

music.gif "Hey lady, you lady, cursing at your life
You're a discontented mother and a regimented wife"


The woman was suddenly confronted by a sweet melodious voice that echoed from somewhere within the confines of the television set which had obligingly kept her company, serenading her, as she packed. There had been no sign of Bette or Bertie during all that time which was just as well; it had suited Maude just fine. She didn't want to have to deal with any more awkward moments.

music.gif I've no doubt you dream about the things you'll never do
But, I wish someone had talked to me
Like I wanna talk to you.....


Confidence renewed, Maude gently placed the aerodynamic Henk on the floor and as its price tag of a mere twenty thousand ensured, it effortlessly glided across the floor in her wake as she crossed the room to switch the television off. She smiled as she came face to face with the singer Charlene on Solid Gold.

"What a beautiful voice you have," Maude commented through her smile and stood a little longer watching the singer with the Japanese subtitles bordering her, completed drawn into the song.




music.gif Oh, I've been to Georgia and California and anywhere I could run
I took the hand of a preacher man and we made love in the sun
But I ran out of places and friendly faces because I had to be free
I've been to paradise but I've never been to me

Please lady, please lady, don't just walk away
'Cause I have this need to tell you why I'm all alone today
I can see so much of me still living in your eyes
Won't you share a part of a weary heart that has lived a million lies....

Oh, I've been to Nice and the Isle of Greece while I've sipped champagne on a yacht
I've moved like Harlow in Monte Carlo and showed 'em what I've got
I've been undressed by kings and I've seen some things that a woman ain't supposed to see
I've been to paradise, but I've never been to me

[spoken]
Hey, you know what paradise is?
It's a lie, a fantasy we create about people and places as we'd like them to be
But you know what truth is?
It's that little baby you're holding, it's that man you fought with this morning
The same one you're going to make love with tonight
That's truth, that's love......

Sometimes I've been to crying for unborn children that might have made me complete
But I took the sweet life, I never knew I'd be bitter from the sweet
I've spent my life exploring the subtle whoring that costs too much to be free
Hey lady......
I've been to paradise, (I've been to paradise)
But I've never been to me


With each new measure of the song, Maude's smile gradually lost its glow until it faded to nothingness . She stared blankly at the woman performing on the screen.

"Just what IS it with this day? Why do I feel so off balance and so weepy? This has been a very interesting adventure, but ..."

But, that elegantly attired woman was not as put together as she had thought.  In fact, in that moment, she could barely complete her ragged thoughts. Instead, she reached for the remote just as Charlene was about to sing the last refrain of the song. It was time to go.


music.gif (I've been to Georgia and California, and anywhere I could run)
I've been to paradise, never been to me
(I've been to Neice and the isle of Greece while I've sipped champagne on a yacht)
I've been to paradise, never been to me
(I've been to cryin' for unborn children that might have made me complete)
I've been to paradise, never been to me
(I've been to Georgia and California, and anywhere I could run)
I've been to paradise, never been to me


Maude's finger hovered over the power button but before it could depress it, her finger was doused by a tear that fell from her eye.

~ Aria

 
 

Maude turned off the television and decided that she had to make a decision. And oh, what a decision that would be. She told herself that nothing was at stake, that leaving would be the best way to go- and the easiest. She loved the easy life so much but this was about her husband and her child. How could she abandon them? She must stay. But she cant. All the thoughts were whirling in her head, sending her into a frenzy. She didn't know what to do or say. She didnt.....


Back in the living room, Bertie was reflecting on the recent occurence. He also tried to imagine what Maude was thinking at the time. Was she reconsidering her choice- or was her mind so made up to choose the easy way out. He should have told her a very long time ago, but he feared that she would change her decision to have a child. He wanted a child so dearly. Oh how he had wanted a child.....


Peaches sat with Aunt Bette as she explained what had just happened to her. She told Peaches of how she was oblivious to the state of temperature on the outside. She told her of the words that had come out of her mouth as Peaches struggled to remember any of the event that she was hearing about. As Aunt Bette added details, slowly more and more came to Peaches, up until the point where she remembered what she was thinking and doing at the time. She remembered that she was digging for someone and she suddenly looked at her hands and was surprised to see bruises and cuts that had not been there before. The sight of Aunt Bette drained out as she silently relived those traumatic moments.

"Who was I trying to save,' she asked herself. Just who......

- Abi

 

A familiar vibration in Bertie’s pocket interrupted his thoughts. It was his secretary Helen Butler.

“Good morning, your Excellency! I am so sorry but I need to inform you that we have an emergency situation here, and Sir, your presence would be more than necessary. I have already sent all the details with further instructions about travel and so forth to your official email account.”

“I see. Please, Helen, can you tell me more now?”

“Sorry, Sir. It is top secret. O.k, maybe it would be ok to share one little detail with you now. Your wife’s presence is also required because of some protocol commitments. Please, send my regards to her Excellency! Your personal security forces will join you at the airport at the described time. It would be very helpful if you could inform them in advance - please Sir, as soon as possible - of the names of any travel companions that you plan to take along with you. They will make the necessary arrangements."

“Thank you Helen I will check the report in the email. And Helen, this is a bit off the topic, but would you please be so kind as to check to see if Miss Waddle has been taking good care of Pluto - considering she is not used to him yet.”

“Of course your Excellency, it will be my great pleasure. Do not worry! I wish you a pleasant flight!”

“Thank you Helen!”

“Yes, this is exactly what I need now. I know Maude will join me. And maybe if the situation is not too complex, we should consider taking Peaches with us. We need to clear up some things between us all, and we will definitely need some time."

- Jera

 
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“Are you warm enough darling?”

“Yes, thank you.”

Bertie glanced up at his wife. Her face was beaming. She seemed her old self again: confident, caring and calm with soothing eyes that radiated warmth and love. She tugged at the velvety blanket, pulling it up over her shoulder with tender loving care. Bertie closed the file he was reading, took off his glasses and focused his attention on the beautiful creature before him. She was at peace and so, for the moment, was he.

“Warm towel, Madame?”

“Yes, thank you.”

Bette closed her laptop and gratefully received the moist square of embroidered cloth. It was toasty warm and did a superb job of warming not only her hands but her entire body as well. The cushiony lounge chair, the fleecy hand towel and the bubbly champagne, which she now happily sat sipping, were indeed tangible reassurances that life is good, that around every corner could be found very happy endings. She looked over at the couple with the adolescent seated between them. Maude was busy fussing over Peaches, simultaneously smoothing the blanket she had thrown over her and the girl’s glistening wavy hair. Bette noticed how Bertie watched the couple; he had a huge grin on his face that seemed so full of contentment, it looked as though it had spilled over to his sparkling, now tear-filled eyes.

Soon after he had received the telephone call from Helen, Bertie had quickly read the brief in his email; informed the entire household of the changes that had to be made in their plans; and made arrangements for all of them to travel to his next appointed destination. He was so relieved that he had managed to discuss the situation with his wife before Peaches had become aware of her mother’s earlier travel plans. As it was, the young girl happily invited Maude to help her select the things she would need, completely oblivious to the fact that her mother had been on the verge of leaving her behind, once again. Bette, in compliance with her long-standing role as caregiver and chaperone, was included in the travel plans; she would be companion to Peaches during the times that Mr. and Mrs. Brandman would have to go off to fulfill their vocational duties. As they all made themselves comfortable with the amenities of first class seating in the huge airliner, only Bertie Brandman knew exactly what those duties entailed. He was so happy to see his wife at peace at again, her finally being able to fully express the maternal instincts that she previously felt so uncomfortable displaying, and his daughter in the arms of the woman that had been his partner for so long, that he knew that now was not the right time to reveal full details of what would await them at the end of this long transglobal flight.

~ Aria

 
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His gazed rested upon his daughter though he was not seeing much because his mind was occupied with all sorts of thoughts about his diplomatic duties, about his personal life and about all the things which somehow touched them all, particularly, the rather odd recent chain of events. Maude’s laugh awoke him from his reverie. He was turning his head to glance at her when something caught his eye. He was drawn to little patch of crimson and he quickly redirected a now more watchful gaze to an odd bruise that was visible on Peaches’ neck. It was tiny short red cut on her neck just below her ear. His expert eyes could easily detect that under that cut, under the skin, there was something in the shape of a small square. The mound was barely visible but it gave the impression of a tiny puck just like the one that Pluto had under his skin.

"No, no! It can't be!" he whispered to himself in amazement.

Bertie was in complete disbelief. He shook his head slowly as it all sunk in.

“How can this be?" he thought to himself. "Someone has implanted a chip under her skin!” was his final conclusion. "But who?"

With this discovery, for Bertie, all the recent events surrounding Peaches' actions became less mysterious. He knew that his sister's behaviour had not been something that had been handed down genetically and now things could easily be explained in a more rational way - at least to him. It was all well and good to make the discovery but Bertie knew that he would still have to be very careful if he wanted his family to remain safe, if he wanted everything to end well for them all. For the next few hours, he silently reviewed all that had been and that all that would have to be in his head, picking apart all the details and making very important plans. One thing was very clear: without any major stress for Peaches, this situation with the chip would have to be fixed urgently, just as soon as they land. Just then, Bertie's thoughts were interrupted.

“Attention passengers, the pilot has put on the seat belt sign. We expect to land in 30 minutes and will now begin to make our final preparations for landing. Please return to your seats and fasten your seat belts. The stewards and stewardesses will be passing through the cabin collecting any items that need to be discarded. At this time, we also ask that you secure your carry-on luggage in the overhead compartments or below the seats and return tables and your chair backs to their upright positions. We hope that flight was a very pleasant experience for you! It has been our pleasure to serve you and we do look forward to seeing you again soon.”

- Jera

 

As the plane landed on the tarmac, Joshua is wary of the chip placed inside the body of Peaches because someone might be monitoring his whereabouts. It has been ages that he met a Russian scientist and explained to him the formulation of the best biological weapon in this world, he was working as a Mossad agent but at the same time a CIA with lots of friends from Russia who supports CIA missions.


This is the most discrete part of his life because he was born in Israel and grew up in Russia and finished his studies in the USA with excellent grades in Journalism. He was hired by the most prestigious TV station in the USA as a journalist after graduation to cover the Yom Kippur War. He had been a very good journalist that the Director of CIA recruited him to be a part of the agency. This is now one of his crossroads of his life since he is also a Mossad Agent and knew that he should be loyal to each agency he is into. That day was the most unforgettable episode in his life since he was living as a double agent.

Joshua! Yousef called him as he walked through the aisle of the plane. He was baffled since it was 30 years ago that he last saw his friend and all of a sudden appeared from nowhere. Yousef was the person who introduced him to lots of Russians friends living in the USA.
Hey! how are you? exclaimed Joshua, this is my wife and my daughter as he introduced them to Yousef. It's been awhile since we parted that spring day. Yousef was smiling and patting Josh's back. Yousef whispered to him; I have to talk to you and meet you sometime, it's important that I have to talk to you. Yousef bid goodbye to Joshua's family and fade out from the crowd.

rose.gif wave.gif happybday2.gif blowkiss.gif

- Frosty Pooh

 
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bigsmile.gif coolguy.gif

Bertie's mind was in a whirl. First the discovery of a chip implanted in his daughter without anyone noticing, then the sudden appearance of Yousef as if out of thin air. There was much more to this summons than he initially anticipated. He knew he had to do something before more coincidences occurred.

He had an idea. "Darling, why don't you and Bette go and see about the luggage. Peaches and I will find our driver." If his plan was going to work, he needed to be alone with Peaches for at least five minutes.

"Alright, my love. Bette, let's make sure they didn't misplace anything," Maude said cheerfully as she gave Joshua a quick peck on the cheek.

"I'll be right along, Maude. Let me get my whits about me, first," Bette replied looking over to Bertie with a slight look of suspicion in her eyes. When Bertie first proposed the unexpected trip, Bette knew that there was trouble afoot, but for him to want to split up upon arrival was unusual, indeed - especially under the circumstances of which, she was sure, could not be good. "Bertie, a word please."

"Bette, we really should find our driver. I'm sure Peaches is tired after that long flight and...."

"This will only take a moment. If you would please allow the indulgence." The look in Bette's eyes told Bertie that she would not be deterred.

Bertie turned to his daughter, "Peaches, dear, would you please give your dear old Father a bit of assistance, and check that map over there for the exit closest to the carport?"

"Father," Peaches said, smiling, "you are hardly old, but I am interested in seeing how the maps here are different from the ones back home." Turning to walk away, she added very sweetly, "oh, and...if you needed to speak to Aunt Bette privately, you could have just said so. After all, I'm not a little girl anymore."

Bertie, and Bette watched as Peaches made her way lightly to the airport map. "She's right, you know. She's not a little girl anymore," Bette told Bertie with a look of pride in her eyes.

"I know, Bette, but that doesn't mean I can't want to still treat her like 'Daddy's Little Girl' every now and again. I've missed so much that..."

"That you feel compelled to remove that chip in her neck all by yourself?"

Bertie's eyes widened in shock. Bette, on the other hand, merely opened her travel case. "How did you know?"

"Bertie, I've taken care of her for all these years - through childhood illnesses and preteen scrapes. Do you honestly believe I wouldn't notice a suspicious bruise on her neck? Or do you think that, in my advanced years, the old peepers are failing?" Bette continued to dig through her bag.

"No. Not at all, Bette, but...."

"...and am I correct in assuming that you think me ill-prepared to handle a situation such as this?"

"What! Oh, of course not, Bette. It's just..."

"Nonsense. That's what it is." Bette finally found what she was looking for. "This....is all you'll need." The woman handed Bertie a plastic tube that read 'Aloe Lotion'.

"Bette, I understand your concern, but I think Peaches is going to need more than some moisturization to remove that device." Bertie was completely bewildered.

"You goose!" Bette exclaimed, rolling her eyes. "This is not really lotion. Yes it looks like it, but it's a special mix. There are tiny particles in it that will neutralize whatever signal she's emmitting. Just have her rub some on her neck, and she'll be safe. At least until she showers or we get it professionally removed - whichever comes first!"

"Bette, my dear, you are a life saver!"

"You're not the only one with a few tricks up the sleeve," Bette said with a wink. "Now, you get Peaches, and I'll go meet....." Bette stopped mid-sentence and turned around. "Where is she?!"

Peaches was gone.

- LadyNikki

 
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