After Aunt Ev and Birdie departed, Nan was wondering out loud where Hailey fit into the McAdam clan.
“Maybe they found me under a cabbage leaf,” Hailey mused, although she also often wondered why she seemed so different from everyone else in the family
“Under a cabbage leaf?” Nan giggled, “Ah, Mon petit Chou.”
Suddenly, Hailey stiffened and Nan followed her line of sight to where it intersected Sean Mappin, Hailey’s ex-fiance, entering through the French doors.
Several female heads turned in the direction of the slim young man in the dark suit.
“Bandit at twelve o’clock high,” Nan hissed. “Do you want me to run interference while you retreat to the powder room?”
“No, I better handle this alone.” She broke away and intercepted Sean before he took more than three steps into the room.
“Hello Hailey. I’m sorry to hear about your loss.”
She nodded. “Can we talk outside?” She turned without waiting for a reply and walked out the doors toward the couch and sofa arrangement in the small alcove. When she got there, she whirled around to confront him, her face white and tight. “What are you doing here?”
“I just came to pay my respects, Hailey.”
“I find that hard to believe, seeing as you never showed much respect in the past.”
“C’mon Hailey. I’m just trying to be nice.”
“Were you trying to be nice when you were stalking me—or suing me for breach of promise when I broke off our engagement?”
“I was way over the top when I did that—I figured I’d try to mend things with you.”
“Really—Now that your lawyer has dropped the lawsuit after the judge found your case lacked merit? Forgive me, if I don’t believe you.”
Sean was taken back momentarily, but quickly recovered.
“Look, why don’t we try to put all that behind us? I thought we worked well for a while.”
“We? There was no ‘we’ in our relationship, Sean—it was all about you and your control issues. What makes you think I’d want to go back to that?”
“Are you denying we had some good times?”
“Of course not, but the fact is they didn’t last. All our good times were at the beginning when you were on your best behavior.”
Sean broke into a wry grin, the type that showed off his dimples and crinkled the little lines around his eyes.
He was pulling out all the stops trying to be charming. “You make me sound so grim—surely I’m not bad to the bone.”
“Bad to the bone? The jury’s out on that one too. The truth is, Sean, I’ve seen your dark side—the one you keep hidden from everyone else and frankly, it’s not pretty. I have no intention of falling back under your control.”
His grin twisted into a sneer. “What are you afraid of, Hailey?”
She stared directly at him. “I will never allow you to control me again—now get out before I embarrass you.”
“Fine. Have it your way. Maybe you deserve to end up with a wimp like Art Kendall.”
“Art Kendall—whatever made you think that?”
“I see you with him occasionally.”
“Are you stalking me again?”
Sean’s face went beet red and he began to tremble. “That’s it—I’ve had it with you. I try to be nice and you turn me into some monster and accuse me of being a stalker. I think you’re deranged and I hope to God you get some help to sort out your problems.”
He stormed away leaving Hailey to stare after him in disbelief.
A touch on her elbow caused her to jump and she turned to see Nan standing behind her.
“Are you okay?”
“I’m fine, I guess. How much did you hear?”
“Just his parting salvo about you being deranged and needing help. That poor boy is delusional.”
“It doesn’t take much to push his buttons.”
“Say, do you think it’s possible he’s the one who’s been crank calling you?”
“I don’t know, but I wouldn’t put it past him. If he’s the one, I have no idea what his motive is.”
“Maybe to intimidate you.”
“For what purpose?”
“I don’t know—maybe to make you feel vulnerable. He could want to erode your confidence or attack your independence.”
“So I’d run back to him for protection and security?”
“Something like that.”
Hailey considered the possibility, but then dismissed it.
“Sean’s hardly the protector type—he’s too caught up in his own things to worry about me. He’d be the last person I’d turn to for help.”
“Well, like I said before, he’s delusional—he’s got an inflated sense of his own self-worth.”
Hailey laughed. “According to Trish, he’s a classical narcissist—controlling, self-absorbed and given to a grandiose view of his talents and abilities.”
“Yeah, well if it quacks like a duck…”
“Okay, I hear you—I’ll think about what you said, but for now, I better get back and meet some relatives or my aunts tongues will be wagging.”
“Ah yes, more duckspeak.”
Hailey snickered. “Orwell would love you for saying that and my aunts would kill you, if they heard you. C’mon, let’s go back into the Inferno.”
© 2017, John J Geddes. All rights reserved.