A Promise To Keep

Chapter Two: Darcy

It was simply too cold in this town. The snow fell steadily, and despite Jeremy's warning to bring warmer clothes, Darcy hadn't packed any warm woolen coats or thick, fur-lined jackets. She scoffed angrily as thought about it.

Who needed an overcoat in Dallas, Texas? She certainly wasn't going to buy a new winter wardrobe just for the sake of this reunion.

They lived in the Southwest, and she couldn't help but long for the hospitable atmosphere of Texas and its environs. Warmer temperatures were calling, and there was no way she spend a week cooped up in this house.

Everything about this house was so quaint… From the furniture to the cars, nothing about this Harrington residence indicated sophistication, or trend setting modernity.

Darcy just wished that she had been able to convince Jeremy that they and the kids could go down to Cancun for Christmas vacation. Anything was better than dealing with Mark and his wife.

She didn't feel like feigning interest in whatever activity Monique was participating in, nor did she desire to hear about the new underlings at Mark's workplace.

Mark as usual, was always a gentleman, but like all of the Harrington men, a tendency to brag resided in his veins. It was as if the Harrington boys were stuck in their 'Me-Man-You-Woman' routine.

He treated her with respect, but with it came the caveat of her being Jeremy's wife first, and her own person second. She sometimes thought he saw her as an attachment to Jeremy, someone who could be replaced.

She and Jeremy had been married for eighteen years, and yet Mark thought that he could surmise her where her relationship stood.

His significant other however, was an entirely different story. Monique always seemed to be uncomfortable whenever the families joined together.

She would smile, and play the good hostess, but the smiles were feigned, and her eyes were dull. Darcy could empathize with the younger woman, but not by much.

Darcy Harrington nee Brighton was born into wealth. A certifiable Southern belle, Darcy's blood was as blue as they came. She descended from wealthy Englishmen and could trace her history back into the 17th century. Therefore, she sometimes found it hard to relate to such a regular, normal woman.

As for her husband, despite Jeremy's 'good old boy' personality, he was still managed to charm her frigid mother with his charisma. Her mother had grown to like Jeremy, but her father still believed that she could do better.

The Harringtons were well to do, but they weren't as wealthy as her family. They were new money, and as such incomparable to her family in her father's eyes.

Her slate grey eyes stole a glance at Monique as she began placing food on the table. Perhaps the source of Monique's discomfort with the Harrington bunch lay in the fact that she was a run of the mill kind of woman. She came from an average middle class family.

She didn't grow up in the lap of luxury, and she wasn't used to some of the benefits of that wealth provided. The two women were as different as oil and water.

They didn't have much common ground, but Darcy could see that Monique took her hostess duties very seriously. Domesticity seemed to be Monique's element. That in itself was a marvel because while she wasn't entirely sociable, she did her best to make sure that her guests were accommodated.

Even now, as she fluttered about the house finishing last minute tasks, she seemed ignorant of her guests' opinions about her.

It wasn't that Monique was outright rude, she just seemed unduly nervous and closed off. It was as if everyone around her were merely placeholders that could be easily removed when she found something better.

Whatever the case, Darcy wasn't blind to the woman's beauty. Jeremy had always given her a more than cursory glance each time that they were in each other's presence. His eyes would sparkle in a way that they hadn't for her in a long time.

It seemed impossible to miss the longing glances that he sent her sister-in-law's way. Darcy didn't mind the whole 'look, but don't touch' motto, but for Jeremy it was more than that. It was as if he did look and had touched. To her credit, Monique was either completely oblivious to his attention, or she just didn't give a damn.

Monique would never be a classic European beauty as Darcy herself descended from, but there was an untouched innocence about her, a purity of sorts, which had lasted into her adult years.

Darcy frowned then, wanting to remove thoughts of Monique and Jeremy from her mind altogether. Rolling her cobalt blue eyes, she surveyed the others in the room. Mason and Jeremy were engrossed in football talk.

Sydney and Beau were probably looking for a way to get out of the house, and little Andrew and Reed were addicted to the television screen as they played on that ridiculously named Wii game system.

Having been here for two hours, and she was already bored out of her mind. Should she ask Monique to show her around all of the trendy hotspots and shopping areas? It was going to be a long week and she was glad that they rented separate cars so that she could go into the city and do some shopping.

Perhaps she should invite her daughter along. She and Sydney could spend quality time together, as they had done when her daughter was still innocent about the ways of the world.

Sometimes, she wished that she could go back to that time when Sydney wanted nothing more than to emulate her every step. Sydney was growing up, but sometimes it seemed as if she were getting older a little too fast.

The smell of roasting beef and apple pie wafted through the room, thus shaking her from maudlin thoughts. She was sure that tonight's dinner was high in calories and in fat, but the smell of roasting potatoes, and sugary apple crusts, made her forget her South Beach diet. Christmas was about having fun right? Besides, she could go for nice, home cooked meal.

"Darcy, sweetheart, how was your flight up here?"

Rebecca asked as she chopped celery, onions and other low calorie vegetables. She moved into the kitchen, smiling as she heard Silver Bells playing on the surround sound stereo system. Though she was a little annoyed being here, she liked Christmas music as much as the next person.

"I'm just experiencing a little jet lag. I think I just need to rest a bit. Once I wake perhaps we can plan some outings this week. I wanted to get a little shopping done and I am sure that the men won't mind."

Rebecca nodded, stirring a bowl of cake mix in one hand, and carefully reading a Martha Stewart recipe book in the other. Darcy eyed her frazzled sister-in-law, quite glad she wasn't asked to make anything.

"Monique, which bedroom will Jeremy and I be staying in?"

Monique, finally cognizant of other women in the kitchen, turned to face them. She cradled a cordless phone between her neck while her hands stirred melted white chocolate and crushed peppermint fragments.

"Can you hold on for a moment Mama?"

Monique asked, rolling her neck to bring back much needed circulation. Monique gestured towards the stairs. Darcy could tell that the younger woman didn't like being bothered. Pssh! It wasn't as if I wanted to come anyway.

"You and Jeremy can take the bedroom at the end of the hall on the third floor. Mason and Rebecca, we set aside the second bedroom on the left on the first floor. Reed and Andy can bunk together. Sydney and Beau can sleep on the pull out beds in the den."

Monique returned to the phone, back to ignoring our presence. Darcy gathered her luggage and headed upstairs eager to get away from the banality of Christmas with Mark and Monique. All she wanted at the moment was a nice drink to get rid of the stress, and a hot bubble bath.

Not everyone wanted to play Susie Homemaker on their off days. Darcy was one of those "what-you-see-is-what-you-get" types of women. Thankfully, Jeremy understood that much. Her husband knew that her element was in hiring caterers and overseeing production, not being a part of the manual labor.

She found the guest bedroom relatively quickly. Jeremy was still downstairs; probably downing the Seagram's neat as if it were going out of style. She could hear Reed and Andrew playing a video game down the hall.

Sydney of course was texting like crazy, desperately trying to avoid interaction with her parents.

Darcy sat on the chaise, scrolling through messages on her Blackberry. So far she had received several messages from her best friends. No doubt, they wanted to make her green with envy. Meanwhile she was stuck in the suburbs of Boston freezing her gorgeous ass off.

When the phone in the room began to ring, it effectively silenced her inner monologue of complaints. Couldn't those knuckleheads downstairs hear the ringing? Monique couldn't even answer her own damn phone?

"Oh yeah, they have two phone lines. I thought that this second line was only for family though."

Darcy thought aloud.

"Hello, Harrington residence!"

She grabbed the cordless phone, upset that she had to do anything in this house or than relax.

"Hello, is Mark there?"

A woman's breathy voice came on the line. Darcy could literally sense the seduction oozing from the phone. Who the hell was this woman and why was she calling this late at night?

"No, who may I ask is speaking?"

Darcy stood from the chaise, shutting the door softly.

"Could you please tell him that Lady M called? I have the item that he has requested and it is available for pick-up anytime at my private office. I'm reluctant to visit his residence, you understand."

Darcy rolled her eyes as she listened to the woman speak. Whoever this Lady M character was, when she spoke, she rolled her consonants so that certain words came out like the purr of a contented cat.

Already this had secured her dislike of the strange woman. Darcy partially listened as Lady M barked out an address a little quickly, and then hanging up rudely before she could confirm the location.

Searching through drawers did not yield any pens or paper. Darcy knew that she had packed a small writing pad somewhere beneath layers of clothing, shoes, and other necessities for a woman of her stature.

She felt around some more, yanking out a small plastic bag.

"That's funny. I don't remember packing anything like this. Maybe, I brought along extra shampoo or conditioner."

Darcy emptied the bag, and stared in shock at its contents. Inside the unassuming bag was a pregnancy test. She dropped the box as it were on fire. Looking more closely at the dark brown bag nearly identical to her own, she realized that this medium sized luggage belonged to her daughter, not her. She must have picked up the wrong suitcase in her haste.

Taking a deep breath, Darcy calmed her nerves and closed her eyes. She couldn't just jump to conclusions all of a sudden. There had to be a logical explanation as to why her fifteen year old daughter packed a pregnancy test in with her luggage. Surely, her daughter was smarter than the other loose girls out there. She wouldn't have done something so foolish—she couldn't have.

Brighton girls were simply of better stock. At least, she thought her little girl would know better. Darcy walked slowly downstairs, her high heel shoes long kicked off. The message from Lady M had been forgotten as soon as she came across the little box that represented an ill omen for her family.

Sydney was talking on her iPhone, rather excitedly. From the look on her face and the gestures that she made it was probably one of her little boyfriends. She marched up to her daughter and stared at her intently, while everyone else in the room turned their attention to the unfolding drama.

"Sydney, what the hell is this box that I found in your luggage?!"

Darcy demanded, dangling the small pregnancy test in her slender fingers. Her redheaded daughter's eyes bulged in astonishment and she whispered a half hearted goodbye to the person on the other end of the line.

"Mom, how could you rummage through my things like this?!"

Sydney screeched, bringing their argument to the attention of everyone in the household. Even Monique and Rebecca who were so engrossed in preparing the night's meal rushed into the living room.

"What's with all this screaming? Sydney, what's the matter with you?"

Jeremy asked merrily, a drink in hand. Darcy frowned at his behavior. Of course her husband would be oblivious to what was going on, considering the fact that he had no idea what his children's interests were, but then again, neither did she.

"Jeremy, while looking for a pen and paper, I found a pregnancy kit in our daughter's luggage."

Sydney shook her head, and balled her fists, hopeful that her pout would have some effect on her father's good will. Jeremy may have been an occasional womanizing scumbag, but he also was wrapped around his daughter's finger. She was getting tired of always playing the bad guy with their oldest child.

"Daddy, she went through my things to find it! What about personal space? What about private property?"

Darcy tossed the box to her husband. Jeremy needed to see for himself the proof that something was up with their teenage daughter, and not be blinded by her whiny attitude.

"Young lady, you do not have a job first of all, therefore anything you own was paid for by your mother and I. She has every right to look in your things. Now I think it's time that you explain why you have a pregnancy test in your suitcase."

Jeremy crossed his arms, awaiting his daughter's answer. Sydney's brown eyes darkened as she stared helplessly at her parents. Tears began to stream down her eyes as she faced the group of adults.

"Mom, Dad, it's not what you think! I thought that I was pregnant, but I am not. I took the pregnancy test last night, but I haven't looked at the results yet because I was scared okay!"

Darcy stumbled back from her daughter as if she had been struck. What could she say about this turn of events? She didn't remember seeing any used applicator in the suitcase. Then again, as soon as she saw the box everything else flew out of her mind.

"I know you guys are ashamed of me, but it was only one time! I swear it Mom. Please don't hate me!"

Sydney's tears wouldn't stop flowing, nor could her anguished tears. She exchanged glances with Jeremy whose face was unreadable. Reed and Andrew rushed back downstairs to hear the commotion.

"Reed, Andrew, go back upstairs now. I'll call you when dinner is ready."

Andrew obeyed quickly, knowing that his mother was not in the mood for his mischief. Reed stood still, looking at his mother's for guidance.

"Do as your aunt says Reed. Go play with your cousin."

Reed frowned, upset that he was not a part of the conversation. He could tell that his sister was in big trouble judging by the faces of the adults in the room.

"That goes for you as well Beau."

"Why do I have to leave? I am older than Sydney! Besides, it's almost eight-thirty! When are we going to eat?"

Rebecca crossed her arms angrily at her youngest son. He was every bit as stubborn as his older brothers and his father. Even though he was almost seventeen, he still got too wrapped up in his teenage angst sometimes to remember that he was a child.

"Beauregard Harrington, you march right up those stairs or so help me—"

Beau didn't need to be told twice to leave because he flew so fast up those steps that Darcy thought he could be a star member of his school's track team. Rebecca still had the power to invoke fear into the heart of her wayward children.

Monique approached the crying girl, and wrapped her arms around her. Sydney grasped her aunt's shoulder, sniffling every few minutes.

"Sweetheart, all it takes is one time, just one time to get pregnant. Choosing to have sex is a very grown up decision, and it should not be made by anyone not prepared to accept the consequences. Surely you can understand why your parents are disappointed?"

Sydney nodded, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand.

"I know but everyone else was going out and doing it. All my friends already have with their boyfriends, and I didn't want to look lame."

Darcy marched up to her daughter and slapped her hard in the face. She reeled back, surprised not so much from the pain, but that her mother would raise a hand to her. Her mother had never slapped her before in her life.

"You went and fucked some boy because you thought it would make you look cool?! Are you insane?"

Darcy moved to her as if she would slap her again, but Monique grabbed her arm, preventing such actions. She pulled the mother and daughter apart before they began fighting.

"Calm down Darcy. Let's just talk this out like reasonable adults."

Darcy snatched her hand away from Sydney and stared at the woman incredulously. How dare Monique try to butt in? She had every right to discipline her daughter as she saw fit. Ignoring the woman, she stared coldly at the girl.

"How could you do something so irresponsible, Sydney?"

Jeremy asked as he patted his wife's shoulder, agreeing with her assessment completely. His little girl had obviously lost her damn mind if she thought that crying was going to get her out of this situation.

"What were you thinking? What if you really are pregnant?! You never think about the consequences of your actions, girl. I can't deal with this right now, go upstairs to one of the guest rooms and get out of our sight!"

He demanded pointing upstairs to the guestrooms. Mason looked at his granddaughter grimly, but patted her head gently as she trotted upstairs. She offered him a weak smile and trotted upstairs.

"Listen Monique, we appreciate your concern over our daughter. However Jeremy and I will handle this. We don't need you butting in."

Monique frowned, taken aback by the older woman's words.

"I'm sorry. I just thought you might need some help with Sydney. I know that you and Jeremy are struggling right now in other areas, and I figured that you two didn't need the added stress."

She turned towards the dining room, and began to arranging the place settings for everyone. Remembering that there weren't enough seats, she went to retrieve extra chairs to accommodate her guests.

Instead of the usual three servings for three, she now had to make room for ten people. Darcy smirked as she watched Monique rush off for extra chairs. She knew that in her goody-goody heart that Monique was trying to help, but she needed to understand that it was not her place.

"Darcy, what's the matter with you? You were very rude to Monique when all she wanted to do was help. Screaming at the top of your lungs won't solve anything!"

Mason admonished, rubbing his temples with a frown. This was supposed to be a simple family get together with the Mitchells and Harringtons and already it was shaping up to be a disaster!

Monique's family hadn't arrived yet and there were only two bedrooms left to accommodate them, his granddaughter might be pregnant, and his daughter-in-law was taking her frustrations out on an their hostess!

"Oh please Mason. What I said to Monique was for her own good. She is in no position to be giving advice, especially when her own husband is probably cheating on her!"

Darcy said in a huff, still furious over her wayward daughter's behavior.

"My son is not a cheater, Darcy. What makes you think that Mark would do such a thing?"

Rebecca demanded, upset that Darcy could come to such conclusions. She crossed her arms, a bit embarrassed that she had let the cat out of the bag. Oh well, in for a penny in for a pound.

Monique had already embarrassed her in front of her husband and in-laws when she showed her up by trying to lecture her daughter.

"You all remember when the phone rang about half an hour ago right? Well I answered the phone and this woman with a very raspy voice calling herself Lady M was on the line with a message for Mark to pick up a package."

Jeremy rolled his eyes dubiously at his wife. She overreacted over every little thing.

"Babe, that phone call doesn't mean that Mark is cheating on Monique."

"It does when the woman is afraid to meet at his house. She asked me to tell Mark to meet her at a location, although she rattled off the address too fast for me to write it down. It was obvious from the sound of this woman's voice that she wants him. Jeremy, a woman knows when another woman wants her man."

The sound of shattering glass brought their attention to a shocked Monique, who stood with her mouth agape at the scene. At her feet lay the remnants of the peppermint bark she had made earlier, but it was mixed in with bits of glass.

Monique didn't even shed a tear after hearing such startling revelations. Instead, she reached for a broom and dust pan and started cleaning up the mess. Monique couldn't help but think that it was fitting for her prized recipe to be destroyed on such a night.

White and dark chocolate mixed together made for a deliciously sweet snack, but it was now ruined along with her relationship with Mark.

"Monique honey I'm so sorry—"

Darcy began, reaching out to comfort her. Monique jerked away, ignoring the blonde.

"Please, just save it. I don't want to hear this, least of all from you. Could you tell the children to come down? Dinner is served."

She brushed past the four of them, intent on ignoring everything that she had just heard. She didn't have time to for this drama, and even if that so-called Lady M was really Mischa, there would be hell to pay when Mark finally brought his sorry ass home.

Darcy couldn't help but feel partially responsible for the silent woman's pain as she began to eat. Normally, Monique would wait for everyone and then ask for someone to say grace, but with the advent of such bad news all pleasantries were discarded.

Reed, Andrew, Sydney, and Beau rushed downstairs, obviously uncomfortable with the tension in the air. They took their seats and began to eat, although Sydney played with her food rather than eat anything.

Mason, Rebecca, and Jeremy were eager to relieve some of the tension and they all sat down for the meal. Darcy didn't really want to sit next to Monique, especially not after what had just been divulged. Instead, she sat between Beau and Reed.

Even little Andrew shifted uncomfortably, and that boy had an infectiously happy personality. They had all been so distracted by the last hour of drama that no one heard the door opening, or the footsteps leading into the dining room.

Mark, looking a little less vibrant than usual, but carrying a box of a medium sized honey baked ham in his arms smiled at his family assembled at the table.

"Hey everyone, sorry I'm late. I had to run a few last minute errands. Did I miss anything?"

Darcy frowned, sipping her red wine silently. Just before she could remove herself from the room, Monique stood, slamming her napkin on the table.

"Everything is fine and dandy Mark. Except for the fact that you are a cheating, lying bastard, everything is hunky dory. Excuse me, I have to go."

Everyone watched with rapt attention as Monique hugged and kissed her son. She whispered something in his ear before exiting the dining room and returning with her coat on and purse in hand.

"Mark, I have done nothing but love, cherish, and respect you since we have been together. I trusted you with my heart and I only asked one thing of you in return—and that was to keep the promise you made to me the night before our wedding. You have broken that promise, as well as my trust."

"Honey, what are you talking about? What did I do?"

He reached for her arm, frowning when she snatched it away just as quickly. Tears fell down in fat drops down her dimpled cheeks. She stepped away from him, walking towards the door.

As Darcy watched Mark plead with his wife not to leave, she knew then that this Christmas was anything but ordinary. The shit has definitely hit the fan.