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Showdown at Longwood

Premiered 1 May 2004 (Beltane)


Chapter 21

Heir Apparent


Dan Sewell Ward

(July 20 th)


Tina could have confronted Zak the night before his wedding, but she knew that there would be too many people, everyone having a gay old time. She'd never get him alone -- much less have the time to resolve her issues. But the next day, just prior to the wedding ceremony, that would be the time! Tina knew his habits well enough to know that Zak would reserve the prior hours to himself. He would have lunch sent up, relax in his room, enjoy his momentary solitude, and take an inordinate amount of time just to dress. It would be then, when he was unwary, that she would attack her prey.

She had also avoided spending the night at Longwood. All the family and friends would be there, enjoying themselves, pumping her up, making her think everything was wonderful. If she didn't protect herself, her energy might falter, her anger fade. She knew she had to keep the rage simmering, ready to do her bidding! Thus, she would spend the night in town, spend the morning planning her assault, and head out to her mother's estates with minimal fanfare and no hints to family members as to her plans. She'd slip in, without notice. No one would even see her. Except Zak! With a good night's rest, she'd have time to fall back and regroup. Instead of the emotional binge of the evening before, she would be back to the rational and ready to take on any comers -- even her father!

Well, maybe. For when the next day came, that 'blasted auspicious day' she'd heard so much about, and when she found herself approaching Longwood, the thought of "Tina versus Zak" momentarily shook her confidence. She had never gone head-to-head with her father, even though she had never been anything approaching a "yes-woman". Now she found herself ready to make nonnegotiable demands and to rip into his arguments. That was going to be different. How he would react was anybody's guess. Of course, on his wedding day, he might be as amenable as he ever would be. In any case, she'd have to take her chances.

When she arrived in Longwood -- after being cleared at the main gate by an especially alert pair of guards -- Tina found the outdoor wedding preparations in full swing. The troops had been called out early to set up the final preparations for the mid-day ceremony. Everything was going to be perfect, including the weather -- which strangely enough was far more pleasant than any weatherman would have ever dared to predict. At the same time, there was the air of excitement among everyone, as they anticipated a truly momentous occasion.

Amidst all the rampant enthusiasm, however, Tina kept up her guard. She would not become a party to the gaiety. Not yet, at least. Then when her limousine was still two hundred yards from the front door and temporarily blocked by the local traffic -- a flower truck and a caterer unloading their wares -- Tina stepped out of the automobile on her own and headed for the main house on foot. She had no idea where Zak would be staying, having never been to Longwood before, but she had no doubt that someone could direct her. The key was to avoid running into any of her relatives or friends. She didn't want to talk and possibly loose any of the fire she was now feeling.

Using a side door, and the simple, unassuming directions from an apparent member of the household staff, a pleasant enough woman named Yurie, she made her way through the halls, following the directions along the extra stairways, and taking care to avoid meeting anyone else. She got lucky. No relatives were around, no one challenged her, no one even thought to stop and chat. And she had found Zak's master suite!

Outside the door she hesitated, realizing that her heart was prepping for a marathon. As per its urgent instructions, she took a deep breath and an extra second to steady herself before opening the door and walking blatantly into the room. Her luck was holding out; Zak was alone, having just finished a late lunch. He was standing by the window looking out on the activity below when Tina marched into his room. With no apparent concern or surprise, assuming he knew who had just entered, he turned to greet her. Then, seeing that it was Tina, Zak registered obvious surprise mixed with a hint of genuine delight.

"Tina! You made it! Great! When you didn't get here last night, we..." It was then he saw her combative stance and expression of deadly seriousness. Immediately, he realized that casual conversation was not going to make it in this situation. The moment he had dodged for several weeks (even years, a small voice tried to tell him -- the same voice which he insisted on trying to ignore), had finally insisted on being heard. This moment had absolutely no appeal to him, even as he recognized its utter necessity -- if not its tardiness. Still, he would try to keep it as light as possible. For as long as he could. One step at a time.

With total genuineness, he greeted her, gesturing with his arms. "You're looking extremely beautiful this morning. Did you know that?"

Tina had seen her father operate on too many occasions. She knew every negotiating tactic, every bluff, and every pointless diversion he might have ever used against an opponent or adversary. She even knew his modus operandi on how to handle employees (listen but never promise anything), financiers (promise anything), politicians (just pay them), and anyone else from which he might have wanted something (find out what they wanted and bargain). As a result, the master was about to have his prime student put him to the test.

"What's going on?" Tina's voice carried her power, such that no one would think to challenge it. Even Zak. Her father had always had the good sense not to challenge a hair trigger time bomb. This seemed to be one of those situations. So he didn't. When he hesitated, Tina added, "I want to know exactly what is going on!? In detail!"

Zak sensed the futility of dodging any of Tina's bullets, of spending any time at artful diversions. At the same time, however, he was going to insist on covering the bases he knew needed to be covered. The agenda he needed to control. "You mean the wedding?"

"Among other things!" Her voice made it clear that even if they followed Zak's agenda, they were still going to cover everything on Tina's agenda as well.

"It's a double wedding," he began. "Andy and Anna. Your mother and I."

"I know that! What I don't know," Tina said, "Is how it is that my father and my mother can plan a marriage, and not tell their daughter!"

Zak instinctively tried levity. "You got an invitation." When that obviously failed to carry any weight, Zak added, a bit more sheepishly, "Besides, you weren't invited to our first wedding, either."

"You sound like Herman!!"

The sarcastic tone of her voice was one that Zak had never heard from his daughter, at least, when aimed at himself. For a moment he flinched.

Tina then let her emotions have a brief say. "You don't think that this is something that you could have told me on a one-to-one basis?" The hurt in her voice permeated the room.

Zak swallowed, rather hard. "Yeah. Well I should have. Metese made it very clear that I had a major responsibility there."

"She was right!"

"I won't argue that point." Zak brushed his hair back in order to gain a breath of time. "And I sincerely apologize."

Tina felt his intentions, even as she realized that she had never heard him apologize with what she would have viewed as genuine feelings. This too was a new experience.

Zak, his eyes on every movement of his daughter, accepted the lack of forgiveness (at least for the time being), and tried to explain himself. "Only, it was a little awkward. I wasn't sure how you would handle it. I suppose I was a little intimidated."

Tina almost laughed. "You!? Zachary D'Michael Gilan intimidated!? By me of all people?"

"With my daughter, Tina... Absolutely! I care for you far too much! Life without you would have been less than negligible." With that first venture into vulnerability with his daughter, Zak turned away and looked out the window, not trusting himself to look into her eyes. He was not sure of her reaction. He was also becoming very worried.

He needn't have. The love contained in those short sentences did more to move Tina than she could ever remember being moved. Her emotions, already on edge, felt themselves surge, reclaiming a territory long denied. With Zak turned away, she let the words temporarily suffice for a lifetime of adoration and love for her father. Eventually, she would ask for more, but not now.

After several moments of silence, she asked, "Why my mother? I thought that was finished a long time ago."

Zak felt a sense of relief. Still not sure of what Tina would do next and caring very much what she would do, he nevertheless felt the immediate potential for disaster postponed. And the subject she was now raising, he felt more confident to discuss. Turning back to her, he said, "Metese is the only woman, the only lover, who ever meant anything to me! The only one! Before I met her, I'd had plenty of women. None of them ever really got my attention. Not for long anyway. But Metese was different. She was so much better. Not just prettier, not just more physically attractive, but better! She was intelligent, even wise. Caring and loving, everything one could ever want. At first I just figured that I was getting better at selecting women."

"So why did you leave her?"

Zak avoided Tina's gaze. "At the time, I doubt I knew the real reason. I now have to believe it was simply because she was too much! Too much power! Too much will! Too much wisdom! I would never have admitted it then, but she scared me. I couldn't get away with anything with her. She was too smart." Zak looked back up at Tina. "After I left her, taking you with me, making sure I had some kind of control over her, I figured I'd have no more problems. There were still plenty of women. I'd never be without." A slight frown crept over his face. "The only problem was that they couldn't hold a candle to Metese. They were smart, rich, beautiful, powerful, and yet, there wasn't a one in her league."

With the closet thing to sheepishness that Tina had ever see Zak display, he moved to a chair and set down. Tina took the opposing chair, watching him intently, while Zak seemed distracted by intense memories. Quietly, forcefully she said, "And?"

Zak hardly looked up. "I found I couldn't shake her from my thoughts. It was incredible! I had taken her daughter and just walked. And she still loved me! I couldn't believe it! There had never been anything in the way of revenge, no tit for tat, nothing. She just loved me. It was irresistible. I found that I couldn't do without her."

"Did you love her?"

"The only woman I ever did. It was a strange feeling. But at the time, I didn't think of it in those terms. It was more like an obsession. I was drawn to a womanI couldn't do without. That really bothered me; I even went to an analyst!"

Tina almost smiled. "You're kidding!"

Zak grimaced, and then let it fade to a smile. "I went to a lot of trouble to make sure no one ever suspected."

"I can imagine."

"And I haven't been back since."

"That I can believe as well!"

"But it did help. Just one session. The guy told me that it was 'enantiodromia, where instincts and emotions, previously repressed, suddenly well up and overturn reason.' But he couldn't help me beyond that. All he could suggest was that it might help for me to get in touch with my feelings."

"You must have loved that!"

"I hated it! But I kept finding myself drawn back to her, over and over again. She was always what I needed. Always there for me." Leaning forward, he took a deep breath. "But I was also convinced that having once dishonored her, having taken her power so to speak, that there would be hell to pay if she ever regained her position. That worried me. A lot!"

Tina could guess the rest. "And you no longer are worried?"

"No. It's clear that it's time for Metese to be reinstated in her rightful place. She's my equal in every respect, and the world needs to know that." For a moment, he laughed. "In fact, she's probably my superior. But part of her glory, part of the appeal, is that she doesn't have to be acknowledged as such. Only as an equal. But a true equal."

Tina sat looking at her father, a man who had always been the ultimate authority. No one could hold a candle to him. Until now apparently. Abruptly, Tina realized that her father was no longer the all-powerful man she once knew. And that he would never be again. He was still a man to respect and to never casually disregard, but for the first time, he'd been conquered. Someone else had finally taken the laurels.

Suddenly Tina smiled to herself. 'Conquered, maybe,' she thought, 'But even then he'd had the good sense to be done in by someone who would not feel compelled to break his sword.' Tina shook her head at the ways of fate, wondering how some people always managed to come up smelling like a rose. Then she looked up to see her father studying her. Without a second thought, Tina asked, "What about Andy?"

Zak smiled and leaned back into his chair. He seemed in thought, recalling memories, and ordering them into some form of explanation. "Before you and Andy came along, right after I married Metese, I happened to run into my half-brother, Chirles. I hadn't spent any real time with him since the days when we'd camped up on some mountain in Greece , back in our youth. Then, we had been pretty close. But later, as we grew up, we went our separate ways.

"So when I ran into him that day, I figured we ought to sit down, have a drink or two, maybe rehash old times. Which we did. It was rather pleasant, actually. Then at one point, feeling pretty mellow, he told me about a future prediction, a prophecy I suppose, that a friend of his, some guy named Paul Meany, had once made."

Tina was incredulous. "A prophecy!?"

Zak shrugged his shoulders. "Yeah, I know. At the time I thought he was full of shit too. Or at least under the influence. But I was feeling pretty good myself, so I told him to let me have it. Which he did. Right between the eyes! It turned out, that according to this Paul Meany fellow, I was to have two very special children by Metese: A daughter equal in every respect to me in terms of brains, courage and wisdom..." Zak smiled at his daughter, who blushed slightly. "And a son of all-conquering heart who would one day take all my power."

Tina felt a sudden chill, as a thought she didn't really care to address filtered through her defense system.

Meanwhile, Zak continued. "I really had to laugh. I figured Chirles had just had one too many drinks." Then he sobered. "But I never really forgot what he had said either. When you came along, I knew that you were the daughter who could keep up with me. But the idea of a son being next on the agenda, the one who would unseat me... That didn't feel too good. Our family has a history of sons decapitating their fathers!"

"So I've heard," Tina said.

"This may have been part of the reason for my leaving your mother in the first place. Subconsciously, I might have wanted to avoid having a son by her. Which when you think about it, would have worked pretty well in that regard." Slowly, his smile faded to a grimace. "Only I kept going back. And then when she became pregnant with Andy... Well, obviously it occurred to me that it might be my child. In fact, I even assumed that it was a boy from the time I knew she was pregnant."

Abruptly, Zak stood up and began to pace. "But then Metese told me that there had been another man, the baby was his! Only she wasn't about to tell me who for fear that I would take out my anger on him. Which I have to admit, made sense." For a moment, Zak stopped and turned to Tina. "You know me: I'm a pragmatist. Whatever the world hands me, I accept. But then I make sure I get my piece of the action. Only..." Zak grimaced. "This was something else. Another man! I wasn't ready for that! Not with Metese! So I walked out again. And I didn't look back!"

"I don't get it," Tina said, "Why did she tell you there was another man?"

"Obviously, she wanted to make sure she didn't lose her second child to me as well! I didn't exactly have a good track record in that regard." When Tina seemed to accept the logic, Zak continued. "Whereupon she raised Andy with great care, giving him all the things that I had prevented her from giving you, nurturing him from day one. When he turned eighteen, she arranged for my illegitimate half-brother Chirles to act as Andy's mentor." Zak laughed. "How's that for keeping it in the family!?" When Tina only shrugged her shoulders, Zak added, "I knew something was up, when Chirles was kidnapped from your Uncle Hal's estates, but I could never track down who was responsible. Metese had arranged everything, and as it turns out, she had been a lot smarter than me."

Tina repressed a smile at Zak's admittance of being something less than omniscient.

Zak glanced at her, as he continued. "Then Metese began to include other members of the family and a few close friends in her conspiracy with Chirles and Andy. Together, they all formulated an elaborate plan." Zak grimaced. "Several years ago Metese and I had lunch. There she coolly handed over to me extensive documentation that proved beyond a shadow of doubt that Andy was my son. It was incredible! She had been accumulating it from the time of his conception. She had sandbagged me all the way! I was a little taken back by the detail and actually had my best lawyer check it out. He couldn't believe it either and told me point blank that the only way that I could win in a paternity suit, would be to pay off the judge, jury, appeal court judges, etcetera, etcetera. Even then he figured my winning at no better than fifty-fifty."

Zak's grimace suddenly became a grin. "Actually though, I didn't really object to the idea of a son. Not as long as Metese and Andy weren't going to try and pull something or make a lot of demands. In that case I would have paid off the whole judicial branch of the government! I don't like to lose!" Zak smiled and set back down. "Only I didn't have to. There were no demands. Except one. Metese wanted me to meet her son. That was it. I was curious, so I agreed.

"I still remember the day. We met for lunch. I liked him at once even though I was not about to say so. There was something about him. You couldn't resist his presence. He had this subtle power..." Zak left the sentence incomplete, recalling the day. Then he continued, his voice again forceful. "But he didn't ask for anything -- even when I offered. In the final analysis I figured he was just another of my sons, but in this case fully grown such that I wouldn't have to wait for him to come of age." Zak looked at Tina. "I don't really get into raising kids anymore."

Tina smiled, despite herself. "Yes. I know."

Zak smiled. "So we just became good friends -- ir as close as a father and son can in today's world."

Tina leaned forward, her attitude no longer the patient listener. Her voice crackling with an ominous ring, she said, "Somehow, I suspect there's more to this story."

Embarrassment is a lousy emotion for a world class corporate executive to experience, but Zak was feeling it now. This one was flavored with a dash of panic. "Yes. There's more." Zak took a deep breath, even as he tried not to show it. "You may have noticed a few changes at Worldwide in recent years."

Tina made it sound flippant, even when she felt every aspect. "You mean the massive cash position, the company sell-offs, children and ex-lovers being well set up, all of them now operating their own independent fiefdoms...?"

Zak raised his hand, as if to forego the litany of grievances. "They all have things to contribute. Which they can best do without someone else censoring or controlling them."

"It all comes down to control, doesn't it? Tina watched her father intently. When he indicated no intention to interrupt, she added, "Ultimately, it's the person who will be running Worldwide Enterprises." For just a moment she paused, while the two stared into each other eyes. Briefly, Tina smiled. "Herm had the idea that you were selecting an heir apparent."

There was a brief surprise on his face as the phrasing caught Zak's interest. "An 'heir apparent!'? Not bad. But then again, I always did like Herm's way of putting things."

Tina couldn't let the final question go unanswered. "Who is it?"

Zak grimaced. "I sort of got blindsided on that one. It turned out that Andy and I, in our father-son bonding, got into some betting. Andy made a few predictions about the stock market and bet me ahead of time that he would be right. I figured the kid needed a few lessons in life, so I bet against him. And I lost. Of course, they were pretty trivial bets, but it got my goat that he had been flawless in his predictions. Then he predicted a space shuttle disaster and a Russian nuclear reactor disaster near Kiev during 1986. I figured it was time to really crunch the kid, so we made some pretty substantial bets on those two. Obviously, the Challenger and the disaster at Chernobyl cost me dearly. After that he predicted the market crash in '87, and I pretty much went along with him, making some of my losses back. But he kept predicting, everything from the chaos in Eastern Europe , to the Middle Eastern wars, to the government's manipulation of the market in '92 and 04. And I kept betting. It was incredible!"

As Zak talked, Tina had been sensing a growing horror. Finally, she voiced it. "Don't tell that you bet the farm!"

Zak hated this part! Taking a deep breath, he let it all out in a heavy sigh. "Yeah. I'm afraid so!" When Tina could only look stunned and horrified -- an interesting combination of emotions to see -- Zak tried to explain. "It was the old double or nothing routine. You just know the other guy is bound to lose at some point and then you get it all back. The key is being able to hold out long enough. It never occurred to me I couldn't hold out -- I was filthy rich. Only, as it turned out, I wasn't rich enough. Eventually, Andy had it all, except for a few pieces I held back, principally that little company I've always considered as yours."

Tina missed Zak's casual reference to his having saved something for his beloved eldest daughter. The shock of Worldwide Enterprises being lost on a series of bets took precedence! For several moments, she sat there, studying her father intently, trying to see through what surely was a gigantic hoax, something they could laugh about later. Zak's expression, however, was not one of secret delight or amusement. Furthermore, Zak was not that good of an actor. Tina could only believe that Zak must be leveling with her. Finally, she asked, "You never saw it coming at all?"

Zak leaned back, taking a deep breath, the concept clearly one that he had considered. "To be quite honest, yeah, maybe I did." For several moments, he let his admission sink into Tina's thinking. "When it came down to the bet where Andy could end up with effective control, I knew what was happening. I knew then I would lose. I could still have backed away."

Tina was astounded. "Why didn't you!?"

"I thought about it a long time," Zak answered, his voice level and laced with the pride and confidence he had carried for so many years. "I'd seen a lot of success and failure in my lifetime, some guys making it and some not. But I was never able to distinguish what it was that made the difference between the two. Eventually I came to realize that success or failure was more predestined than the result of cause and effect. Some might have called it luck, I called it fate. I realized you can't take credit for success, only for the attempt. Success or failure, it's just the course you chose to take before you enrolled in the school." Slowly he stood up and began to walk toward a window. "Obviously, my success was not entirely mine. Or not even mine at all! More likely, it was what I chose to do with it. There was the rub: What to do with my success!"

Looking out the window, Zak continued, "Everything I had ever known seemed to be based on only three things: aggressive strength, possessiveness, and acclaim. Which I also noticed, quickly became belligerence, greed, self-righteousness and ruthless power plays. It was as if I, personally, was only meaningful in terms of more of -- instead of my own unique contributions to those qualities deemed worthwhile by society." As if lost in thought, he turned sideways, his form silhouetted by the window's light.

"I eventually realized that judging and achieving were not the point. Opinions of others meant nothing. Success was only someone else's opinion of you . Their opinion, in turn, was based on faulty data, i.e. what fate had bestowed on you, not what you had done with it!" For a moment he turned to Tina. "The whole idea is to explore, to experiment, to risk. To take on whatever fears we might ever have had. To remain open in the midst of it all." He laughed, as if suddenly recalling a minor joke. "I used to equate courage with strength. But then I realized that if you have enough strength, you don't need courage. The thing that requires courage is vulnerability ! Going beyond the safe and secure rules, to seek, to ask, to remain open. To always ask: Who and what does this serve?"

Gently, he turned back to Tina. "That was when I saw the good men walking away from Worldwide, dumping the whole system, the whole culture. Institutions that had held sway for as long as I can remember were withering away. Religions, medicine, law, not to mention insurance and advertising... The whole, intertwined ball of wax was loosing its grip. It was time to quit while I was ahead."

"Quit!?" Tina's question had the tone of total disbelief. Zak didn't quit!

Zak smiled. "Maybe not quit. Maybe just accept reality. Being pragmatic when it wasn't all that easy to do so." For a moment, he looked directly into Tina's eyes. "The whole patriarchal society is on its way out, Tina. The paradigm is shifting. You can't hold back half the population, half the talents, half the creativity, just in order to hang on to control. It's too dumb! Why penalize yourself when you've got massive problems to deal with!? It's a time for change!! It's a time for cooperation instead of beating each other to death!"

Suddenly, he sighed, his intensity dropping. "I knew instinctively that it was time for the old guard to retire, the same people who had been so much into control, always at the expense of the long term. It was time for youth, the ones who would have to live with what they did!" Abruptly a hidden anger erupted. "Instead of the elders ripping off the future generations and leaving them with a decimated economy, not to mention a ravaged planet!"

Tina sat for a few moments, thinking. There was no panic, no pain, nothing to suggest that she was worried for her future. There was no sense of disappointment or frustration over something of which she had no control. Instead, it felt more like relief. A sense of 'Yeah, you're right! I'd have done the same thing.' Slowly, a slight smile crept over her face.

His eyes following every expression on her face, Zak smiled at the first hint of Tina's smile. "It wasn't a mistake, Tina. I knew what I was doing. I just figured it was a new adventure, something I had to risk. I made the bet. I lost."

Suddenly, Zak laughed. "But it was only the bet I lost! Because by that so-called 'losing', I gained vastly more than I could ever have imagined!" Shrugging his shoulders, he added, "Andy assumed control and together we began to restructure everything. We began to bring all the others into a totally new way of doing things." There was a brief laugh. "What was absolutely incredible was that things got better in a hurry!! I would never have believed it if I hadn't seen it!"

Tina laughed slightly herself, although more from chagrin than amusement. Then a loose end popped up and tickled her interest. "My half-broth..." Suddenly she smiled. "My full-fledged brother, Andy, must be something else! To think that one man managed to pull this off! One person able to take you for everything!"

Zak looked at her, surprised. Then he said, "He didn't. He had help." As Tina looked at him, Zak explained, "First of all, he had Metese, the sharpest master planner I've ever run across. She enlisted the help of your uncle Chirles and his daughter, Teresa. Between those two, they came up with all the predictions that Andy subsequently fed me. Teresa, in particular, is incredibly accurate in foreseeing what's about to happen." With barely a pause for breath, Zak continued. "Andy was, admittedly, the master showman, the one who took me down the garden path, the executor of all the planning. The others simply gave him the weapons."

"Quite an organization," Tina commented.

"Not in the usual sense, but yes they do manage to get things done. They cooperate beautifully! With Anna, Andy's fiancée, an incredibly bright lady -- I frankly don't think there's anything they can't do or won't try!" Abruptly, he smiled his broadest smile. "What I'm really looking forward to is when you join them!"

For the first time, Tina thought of her own position, her own future. She smiled slightly, recognizing her father's compliment, even as she wondered if she would fit into the new order. Apparently, one was going to have to make a lot of changes in order to make it work. A lot of shifting paradigms. Tina wanted to know a bit more, before she made any irrevocable choices. For the moment, she dodged the issue. "I haven't exactly been asked."

Zak frowned slightly. "I know. You have to realize that it's been only very recently I've been enlightened as to the full impact of what's happening. For a long time they didn't trust me, much less trust my closest ally. Everyone has the highest respect for you, Tina, but they knew where your loyalties were: Me."

"But if you're on their side now..."

Zak grimaced. "I should have told you everything long before now. Metese and the others kept pushing for me to tell you. They also kept insisting I had to be the one to talk to you first! Frankly, I was still dealing with having bet the farm and lost. Or perhaps more importantly, what your reaction would be."

Tina felt the need to respond but couldn't seem to find the words. Her head was still trying to comprehend all that she had just learned. Quietly, she said, almost to herself. "I'm not sure what my reaction is. At least, not now."

Zak suddenly felt the first hint of panic. The critical point had finally been reached. If Tina decided to fight the changes, Zak knew instinctively she might well win. Even if she eventually lost, the casualties on both sides would be enormous. It was immensely important Tina cast her vote with Metese and the others. Otherwise there was going to be more than just tough times ahead; it was going to be all-out, chaotic, pointless, and self-destructive war.

Timing is everything. This time it provided Tina with space to think and Zak to put his momentary panic on hold and perhaps find others to influence Tina's decision. A young man, introduced as Percy, had come to tell Zak that they were ready for him now. Knowing he had to give Tina more time to make up her mind, Zak turned to completing his preparations for the wedding ceremony, while Percy utilized the brief moments to observe Tina.

As they were ready to leave, Zak asked Tina, "You want to give the groom away?"

Tina smiled, "Is that an appropriate thing for a daughter to do?"

Zak laughed, "Why not? Let's set precedence!"

Tina merely smiled back, shaking her head at her father's antics. Then, together, the three began walking toward the assembled family and friends. Tina was still thinking.


Chapter Twenty An Invitation

Forward to:

Chapter Twenty Two -- Anna




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