White Roses in Winter

Below is an excerpt from White Roses in Winter, a story I first wrote years ago and have been revising for months. It’s still a work in progress but I’ll be giving you a peek every now and then as it ever so slowly turns into the book I want it to be.

“You’re what?”  Kenneth Huddleston shook his head as though he’d been doused with ice water. “I’m sorry, Kerrie. For a moment there, I could have sworn you said you were pregnant.”

Kerrie caught the look that passed between her parents wishing with all her heart that she could have found a way to avoid the scene that was bound to follow, but what could she do?  She had made every attempt to locate Jason.

Telling her mother earlier had been much easier than facing her father now. “We can’t tell your father unless we’re a hundred percent certain,” Meredith had insisted. Of course she’d been right. Her mother had gotten her into see Dr. Weatherby immediately.

“That’s what I said, Daddy,” Kerrie answered quietly, bracing herself for the storm.

“What!”  Her father’s temper simmered as his gaze swung between the two women. “And your mother knew about this?  Meredith!”

“I told Mom this morning—”

“And you kept it to yourself, Meredith?  I can’t—”

“I asked her to let me tell you myself,” Kerrie interrupted, trying to remain calm as her father’s temper erupted like gasoline on fire, scorching everything in its path.

“I can’t believe this!” he roared. “You, Kerrie, of all people! How could you? I thought I’d raised you better than that!” Kenneth paced behind his desk, eyes blazing. “When did this happen?  How did this happen?”

“At Tiffany’s party. The weekend I spent with Melonie’s family,” Kerrie began before he cut her off.

“Tiffany Preston! I might have known. I never liked that girl. She’s a bad influence on you, always was. Brad and Kate let her run wild, and that brother of hers, no better than he should be—”

“It has nothing to do with Tiffany!” Kerrie jumped up. “It was my decision, my choice! Leave her out of it!”

“All right, Kerrie,” Her father pretended calm. “Why don’t you tell me the whole story? I presume your mother has already been apprised of all the facts.” He raised an eyebrow at his wife.

They would discuss this at length later in private, Kerrie knew, but for now he wanted to hear what she had to say.

He continued to pace, hands behind his back as Kerrie talked.

“I met a man at the party. We—he—” how to explain? I fell in love with him the moment I saw him? Her father would never believe that. We went for a walk along the shore and did it in the sand? Kenneth would be disgusted.

“Did he force himself on you, Kerrie?”

“No!” If her father only knew how far from the truth that was, how she had practically thrown herself at Jason, drunk on the unaccustomed freedom she had been allowed that weekend, and perhaps a bit tipsy from the glass of spiked punch she had consumed before their walk.

“Kerrie, please. I know this is difficult for you, but there’s no reason to protect an animal—”

“He’s not an animal!” Her father wanted to take what had happened between her and Jason, something beautiful, a memory she already treasured, and destroy it with his twisted assumptions.

Kenneth paused behind his desk. “Are you saying you were a willing party to—to—” he sputtered, unable to put what Kerrie had done into words.

Kerrie closed her eyes for a moment feeling as though she had a knife in her hand. She had plunged it into her father’s heart by telling him she was pregnant, and now she was twisting it by admitting she had been an enthusiastic party during conception. She opened her eyes. “I can’t explain it you, Daddy. I wasn’t seduced. I wasn’t forced. I made a mistake.” Then why doesn’t it feel like a mistake? She had asked herself that question over and over again. How could a baby be a mistake?

“A mistake. Hmm.”  Her father ruminated over her choice of words for a moment. “Who is it, Kerrie?”

“I don’t see what difference it makes—”

His name, Kerrie!” her father roared, making Kerrie jump.

His face turned red. A vein bulged and pulsed at his temple. He planted his palms on his desk and leaned across it, impaling Kerrie with his gaze.

Kerrie could feel the press of tears at the back of her eyes. Kenneth might be blustering with rage, but she knew his anger covered his enormous hurt and disappointment. The fight went out of her. “His name is Jason Pendell. He’s in his last year at Rutgers.”

“Rutgers,” her father sneered. He began leafing through his calendar. “And what does Mr. Pendell have to say about all this?” He glanced at Kerrie.

“I haven’t told him.”

“Why is that?”

Kerrie couldn’t recall ever feeling more humiliated than she did at that moment. But she lifted her chin and gazed steadily into her father’s eyes. “Because I haven’t heard from him and I don’t know how to reach him.”

It was like the final twist of the knife to her father’s heart. He sank into his chair in defeat. “You mean you— that is…” His gaze went to his wife.

“This, er, Jason was there with a friend of Mark’s,” Meredith explained. “As I understand it he and Kerrie neglected to exchange phone numbers.”

“I’ll find him,” Kenneth assured them both. He looked at Kerrie. “Unless you have a problem with that?”

Kerrie knew her father would track Jason down and she knew better than to object to whatever tactics he used to do it. She might be in big trouble at the moment, but one thing was for sure. Jason was in even bigger trouble. He just didn’t know it.

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