Chapter 2: Rites of Passage
by Jessica Martin

        I guess I really was the Queen of Mean.  And as Melissa so aptly pointed out, I’d do anything to try to make my uncle happy.  Except I never seemed to be able to do it, and I just got meaner and meaner. 

       Anyway, on with the story...

       It was the afternoon before New Year’s.  We’d just arrived in Mexico City for our biggest private auction.  All the military heavyweights were there, and we were introducing our latest line of warheads, antiballistic missiles and landmines.  This was our best line ever, and I was going to bring home the sale of the century.

       We were winding down the corridors in the hotel complex (the whole entourage --  seems I never went anywhere without at least a dozen assistants), and I was fielding calls from other smaller deals.  To be honest I was kind of annoyed at whomever it was.  Troy was on the cell phone and I was impatiently barking the answers to the ridiculous questions he relayed, in the manner I usually did in those days.

       “Of course it can nuke a city -- we’re not selling toys!”

       “Tell him, we’ll just have to sell it to the Russians or the Chinese, if he can’t make up his mind.  Then hang up. He’ll call back!”

        “Good guy, bad guy, it’s all relative... Whoever pays us the most -- that’s the good guy!”

       I don’t recall the questions, but you get the picture. Troy always seemed to soften the answers, just the right amount, and it always worked out.  We were a good team, Troy and I.  Of course Troy was much more than just a Global Missiles Junior VP -- we were secretly engaged, although it seemed we had no hope of ever getting married. Uncle Reginald detested him.  Called him soft and weak.  But I adored him. In my way, at least.

       So we entered the conference hall and they were all there.  The usual faces.  I was in top form, ready to shine. They all knew the rules: we had the goods; they had the money.  Hardly ever a surprise.

       “Gentlemen, so nice of you to come to our little pre-New Year’s Eve party.  We won’t keep you long as I’m sure you all have New Year’s Eve plans.  Many of you will have something extra to celebrate this year. This afternoon Global Missiles Unlimited is proud to introduce these three new items for your arsenals: the Destroyer X14 -- the ultimate triple-chambered nuclear warhead; the Silencer B-1-12 -- our best zero tolerance antiballistic missile; and the Wasp -- our meanest revolutionary hair-triggered  laser landmine.   You’ve seen the specs.  You know the procedure.  You have five minutes to present the cashier with your best closed bid...”

       I was surveying the crowd, picking out by their expressions who was going to walk away with what, when Troy whispered in my ear.

       “Jessica, it’s about your Uncle... Sir Reginald is dying...”

       Suddenly my world was crashing down.  I couldn’t think straight.  I couldn’t think at all.  I knew this call was inevitable; Uncle hadn’t been well for months now.  But I was dreading this moment.  Had been for years.  My whole life was built around trying to please him -- and now I had but one last moment to fulfill this life ambition.

       “Excuse me a moment, gentlemen,” my automatic pilot announced, and Troy and I stepped out into the corridor (with just two of my personal assistants following, but standing appropriately out of earshot).

       “The doctors say Sir Reginald only has another few hours,” Troy was saying. “He’s asking for you.”

       I felt like crying.  Sometimes I let myself feel that way around Troy, for a second.  Of course I’d never let myself actually cry.  But I was very close to breaking down in that moment. “Troy ... I... I can’t face the idea of him leaving ... I know he’s treated me so coldly for so long, but he’s all I’ve got ...”

       “Jessica, Darling, after all you’ve given to him and to Global Missiles ... Don’t feel that way, love.  In his own way, this is how he’ll show his love for you.  Twenty-two billion pounds sterling, Jessica.  He’s the fourteenth richest man in the world and you’re his sole heir!”

       That didn’t seem very comforting at the time.  I had all the money I needed already.  What I wanted was Uncle Reginald’s respect, or even appreciation; I didn’t hold out a chance he’d show me any hints of love.   I was resigned to the fact that I’d fly back to England and rush to his side and ... and nothing.   The thawing in my heart quickly began to chill.

       “Well, now we won’t have to hide our engagement anymore,” I said matter-of-factly, my composure completely regained.  “You go back in and finish up in there, Troy. I’ve got to deal with this now... like the dutiful niece I’ve been for the past twenty years.”

       “Good luck, darling,” he whispered and leaned closer to kiss me.

       I nodded, completely dismissing his affection.  He sighed and trying to smile and compose himself, hesitantly headed back into the conference room.

       “Joanne,” I barked out to my assistant.   “Call the limo and have them pull up front...and tell Captain What’s-His-Name we’re on our way to the airport and to have the jet ready to go.”

       That trip back home felt like the longest plane flight ever, but it was all a complete blur.  Next thing I know I’m staring down at my uncle and he opens his eyes and recognizes me.  His lips move, and I’m trembling with twenty-some-odd years of anticipation as I’m straining to hear the magical words that will melt my heart and allow me to feel whole for the first time.

       Like a surreal movie I’m staring at his lips trying to force them to utter the incantation I’ve longed to hear, and I swear it sounds like “Rosebud,” and I lean even closer and unmistakably he whispers again, “Peace, Dude.”  And then it’s over.  A tear rolls down my cheek and falls on his silent lips, and I bite my lip and the frost rushes through my veins and freezes my heart deeper than I could have imagined possible.  

       “Farewell, Uncle,” I choke, and all emotions are gone.   “Joanne!” I call as I stand up, shoulders back, determined never to feel again.  “Tell the doctors Sir Reginald has left us.”

       And then Troy was there and I asked him for a complete report on the sale, but he brushed it off with an assurance that “indeed it was the biggest ever,” but he had more important issues to discuss.  Sir Reginald had apparently appointed him as executor of the will, and he’d read it, and it was all quite disturbing.  I listened unbelievingly to most of it, but then cut him off when I realized where it was going. 

       “Save it for the Board, Mr. Michaels,” I said caustically.  “We’ll have to call an emergency Executive Board meeting of course.” 

       “But it’s New Year’s Day...” he started.  My icy stare silenced him immediately.  He dashed off, furiously dialing his cell phone.   That was definitely the worst day of my life. Little did I know it was only the beginning.

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Table of Contents | Preface | Ch 1 | Ch 2 | Ch 3 | Ch 4 |
Ch 5 | Ch 6 | Ch 7 | Ch 8 | Ch 9 |Ch 10 | Ch 11 |
Ch 12 | Ch 13 | Ch 14 | Ch 15 | Ch 16 | Ch 17 |
Ch 18 | Ch 19 | Ch 20 | Ch 21 | Ch 22 | Ch 23 |
Ch 24 | Ch 25 | Ch 26 | Ch 27 | Ch 28 | Ch 29

A Novel about creating humanity's first day of peace
Robert Alan Silverstein

The People For Peace Project

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