By definition a queen is a woman with regal authority. An angel is an ethereal being that transcends the human experience. A queen is historically blessed by God. An angel is a messenger of God. As human beings we put a lot of stake in such definitions and by bestowing titles on mortal women they are expected to meet heavy expectations and more. In the Shady City angels and queens take on a whole different meaning. What if a God given queen and a heaven sent angel were to clash? What would happen to us mere mortals? I’m reporter, Sam Crusow and this is the telling of the days a queen and an angel found themselves at logger heads.
In City Main of Coldford resides a royal family. They’re not like those of a palace or tourist attraction. They earned their title of sorts. King Reginald Penn presided over the people of Main as a king would. His palace was the Faulds Park building which stood as one of the highest in the main thoroughfare. He was a king, not because he wore a crown. He was hailed king by his loyal followers because he was ruthless and violent. That was what it took to be a leader in the Shady City. He was also granted his regal respect because he could be noble and kind too. Sure, he had held despairing enemies by the feet off the Fullerton Bridge but he always made sure the vulnerable in his community were taken care of. He may have bashed the skulls in of those who stepped out of line with the heavy chain he called Belta’ but he never turned away anyone who came to him in need. Needless to say, like every king, he needed his queen. Rita Penn was warm and pleasant. She was a loving wife and doting mother of three triplet boys. The people of Main loved their queen and she did all she could to earn that devotion. On the morning I now detail, where these incidents began, she was preparing for her regal duties at a meeting with the Child Services Committee. It had been brought to her attention that some minors who had ran away from home had been living in shacks out by the Rumilaw area. The Rumilaw was the part of Main where the depravation starts to become more apparent. Rita had taken an interest in some of the children who had been living there and was appealing to the CSC for extra support in finding them permanent shelter.
The triplets – Marcus, Reggie and Simon – who were young teenagers at the time of these events, were already dressed in the uniform of St Alban’s private school. It was one of the most prestigious schools in Coldford and the Penns had been taught there for generations. As a matter of fact, it was where Rita had met her husband.
When they heard their mother descend the stairs Marcus pushed the button for the elevator. Reggie danced in front of her showing her an early electronics game he had been playing.
“I got top score!” He was cheering excitedly.
Rita smiled a wide smile.
“That’s so good, baby. Well done.”
Simon nudged his brother out of the way.
“Coach said he’s going to try me on some more strength training today,” Simon told her throwing some shadow punches. He had taken up boxing recent to these events and was thriving in the sport.
Rita gently patted his face. “You’re such a little sportsman. I’m so proud of you.”
“Your elevator is here, mother,” announced Marcus.
Marcus was quite a serious minded boy but as his mother smiled at him he gave a warm smile in return.
Stepping onto the elevator Rita was flanked by two Loyalists – a term here which refers to those who followed the Penn family. Both were dressed in the black and belt. It was the uniform of the Penn Auction House but in this case it extended to those found around Main ready to do the royal bidding. They both stepped back respectfully with a polite nod.
“Good morning, Mrs Penn,” greeted one.
“A lovely day out,” said the other. “Your car is waiting.”
The travel from the Penthouse suite to the ground floor was passed in polite silence as the Loyalists awaited to be addressed before adding anything further.
When they stepped out onto the foyer of the building a figure from the press tried to stop her.
“Mrs Penn! Mrs Penn! Do you have any comment on the recent crime statistics here in Main?”
the two Loyalists closed in on their queen giving those who stepped too close a firm, ‘step back. Step back there.’
At that Rita climbed into the town car that would take her to the Rumilaw where her meeting was to take place.
Meanwhile, over in the Kingsgate area where the more traditional royals held court there lived the Bergman family. Diamond merchant, Howard, wasn’t like Reginald in that he loathed violence. He was a pacifistic man who was more likely to throw a party and entertain friends then he would be to beat a man to within an inch of his life. He was raising his son, Seth, and daughter, Elsa, in the same manner. The matriarch of their family was Vera. She was soft featured, warm hearted and much beloved. Her family considered her to be nothing less than an angel.
Seth was fixing the tie of his Kingsgate uniform. His hair was neatly combed and his shirt freshly pressed. He was much like his father in his younger days, handsome, congenial and had just been made head boy of his year. Then there was her daughter, Elsa. Elsa’s hair had been combed at least although you wouldn’t know it to look at her. Her shirt was partly tucked and partly flowing. Her mother stopped and inspected her. She pulled a handkerchief from her pocket and held it under her daughter’s chin.
“Spit it out,” she requested.
Elsa rolled her eyes but she parted her lips and dropped the chewed gum into the handkerchief.
“You have been warned many times about chewing gum,” Howard reminded his daughter with the sweetness and naivety that was natural to him. “Try and stay out of trouble.”
“There are worse troubles a girl can get into,” Vera teased.
“Let’s not put any ideas into her head,” was Howard’s reply.
“Well, family, I’ll be off. Wish me luck!”
The luck required by the diamond angel was for a commercial shoot for a lotion brand. Her naturally milky complexion had saw her as an ideal candidate. An actress with many stage and screen performances to her name, Vera had taken time away from the limelight when she had her children. Now encouraged by her family she was returning to having her name in lights.
So it was our queen and our angel set about their day with great enthusiasm and high hopes. A collision was set to throw their days into disarray.
Travelling through Main was difficult at the best of times but the early morning traffic was particularly horrendous.
“Do hurry,” Rita urged her driver. “I don’t want to be late for this meeting.”
“Don’t you worry, Mrs Penn,” the driver assured. “I’ll have you there on time. I’m just going to have to cut off before Timeline and round through the Rumilaw that way. I’ll try and avoid the business district.”
The plans were all well and good but unbeknownst to them, danger was approaching in the form of a silver estate car. Driving the estate car like a mad woman was Vera Bergman who was also late and further distracted by a phone call.
“I’m on my way,” she was crying to her agent. “Tell them I’m on my way.”
All Hell was broken loose with a screech of tires and a clash of steel.
“I’ll call you back,” Vera said.
She looked out of the window and gave a cry of an expletive when she noticed it had been one of the Penn town cars she had hit. The Loyalist driver had already alighted – opening the door for Rita to do so too.
Vera climbed out and as the driver assessed the damage Rita approached her with concern.
“Vera, my lovely, she cried, “are you okay?”
“I’m fine. I’m sorry but I’m really in a hurry. If you don’t mind …”
“We’ll just take note of the damage. It will keep us both right,” insisted the queen.
“Really, it’s no trouble. It was my fault. Send me the bill. I have to …”
Rita could be fussy at the best of times and this was a time it was really not best to be as far as Vera was concerned.
“I wouldn’t feel right about that. We were both at fault I’m sure.”
Vera tried to swallow her frustration.
“I’m sure it’s no problem between friends.”
“Are you sure? Should you maybe go to the hospital?”
Vera was still keen on departing.
“I’m fine,” she said. “I really have to go. Send me the bill for damages.”
Rita frowned at the silver estate car. “I’m not sure that will be able to drive away.”
“Oh it will,” Vera insisted.
And it did. With a clank and a bang the bashed up estate car took Vera away. The Loyalist driver draped his jacket over Rita’s shoulders.
“Should we take you to the hospital, Mrs Penn. You aren’t hurt or anything are you?”
Rita shook him off.
“I’m perfectly alright. But now I’m really going to be late.”
Her estimation was correct. Ten minutes late she finally reached the CSC building in the Rumilaw.
“Thank you for waiting,” she cried as she was ushered into the meeting room.
Waiting was head of youth social services at this time, Olivia Platt. She was pleasant and seemed relieved Rita had made it.
“We were just about to call this to a close, Mrs Penn,” reminded a stern, raven haired woman named Karyn Doyle who was chair of the CSC.
“I do apologise. I had some car trouble along the way.”
“Nothing serious I hope.”
“A little accident. No one was hurt thankfully.”
Olivia smiled. “Maybe you have some angels watching over you.”
‘Yes and one of them lost control of their wheel and caused this embarrassment in the first place,’ thought Rita.
“Shall we continue?” Urged Karyn.
Meanwhile, Vera came rushing into the hall where her audition was to take place. Her agent, Jack, stood with a nervous expression on his face.
“It’s too late,” he informed her.
Vera was insistent. “I’m what? Twenty minutes late?”
“They gave the part away. They told you they had a schedule to keep. They were flying back to Luen. What happened to you?”
“I got into an accident. My car was bashed up. I banged my knee and it was all for nothing!”
“Better luck next time,” said Jack.
Vera scowled at him. All she could do was return to Kingsgate on the tram, leaving her car behind, cursing Rita Penn’s fussiness at every shudder.
Timeline in Main is so called because at the very head of the long, stretching street lies the clock face of City Hall. It is one of the most well known sections of the Penn kingdom in that it’s where a stream of businesses bring prosperity to the Coldford. This includes the Bergman Diamond Parade sitting close to the top where Timeline meets the main thoroughfare. Every morning at ten am Howard steps outside his complex to enjoy an espresso and to spend a few minutes watching the city going by. It was the time of day when the sun caught the buildings at just the right angle and offered a pinkish glow in the summer and an ethereal blue in the winter.
On this morning I now detail Howard took his seat at the little wrought iron table he kept at the complex entrance. He greeted tobacconist, Mr Henderson, as he passed towards his own shop. He took a sip of the espresso. All was well.
He had just started to sample the morning paper when two men tumbled into his table. When he dropped the paper away he found a greasy looking man on the ground and Reginald Penn stamping on his chest.
“You see what you’ve done? You fucking cunt!” Reginald spat.
He looked up at Howard and his furious expression simmered.
“I’m sorry about that Howard.”
Howard was still trying to catch his breath after the sudden intrusion. His heart was beating heavily and he couldn’t take his eyes off the greasy man on the ground even as Reginald pulled him up onto his feet. Howard had hoped the man had learned whatever lesson the king had sought to teach him but he spat blood on the ground. It was an involuntary action from what Howard could tell but Reginald didn’t see it that way. He heaved the man and slammed him across Howard’s little table. Howard stifled a yelp as the table crashed into his stomach and he was pushed back.
“You’re going to learn some proper etiquette,” Reginald warned him. Looking back to Howard his expression softened again. “Sorry, Howard.”
“Erm, that’s quite alright.”
Reginald wasn’t done with the greasy man though.
“You see what you’ve done? This man here is trying to enjoy his coffee and now he has to look at a little piss taker on his damn table.”
Still laid across said table, the greasy man looked up at Howard who’s eyes had widened.
“I apologise for the language Howard,” Reginald went on. “Sometimes it’s the only way to communicate with cunts.”
Above them in the Parade the window was thrown open and two goldsmith brothers, Ike and Abe Rothenstein leaned out.
“Watch it, Reginald,” said Ike. “You’re going to break that table.”
Abe chuckled. “That old thing? It would be an act of mercy.”
“So would caving that guys face in,” jested Ike.
Howard had started to pull himself away from the table but Reginald insisted he stay.
“Just you sit there. You shouldn’t have to leave. This is your place.”
Reginald stepped back to greet a couple of well dressed older women who were heading into the Parade and had stopped to observe the scene that was unfolding.
“Good morning, ladies,” said the king. “Don’t worry about this. We’re just conducting a bit of business. You go ahead and take a look around inside. Mr Bergman has the best jewels you could ever hope to see. I bought a ring for my wife on for our last anniversary there and the diamond is stunning. It was cut to perfection.”
The two women took the regal advice and headed on inside. When they cleared the area Reginald gripped the greasy man’s neck. He slammed his head on the table.
“You better apologise to Mr Bergman. I’m already pissed at having to run you down and now you’re starting to affect his business.”
“Really, it’s not …”
“I’m so sorry Mr Bergman,” uttered the greasy man.
“Damn fucking right he is.”
That was when three men in black and belt arrived on scene.
“Where the fuck have you been?” Reginald asked them.
“The other one put up a bit of a struggle. We had to bundle him into the boot of the car.”
Grabbing the greasy man by the hair, Reginald pulled him onto his feet again. “See if you can squeeze this one in beside him.”
Into his ear he hissed, “you ever swam the Ford?” To his Loyalists he ordered, “you two take him,” to the other he requested, “go grab Mr Bergman another coffee.”
At that the Loyalists departed the scene leaving Reginald to fix his shirt and jacket.
“Some cunts, eh Howard?”
“Yes, I guess so.”
From his pocket Reginald produced some notes. “This is for any damage caused.”
“Let us know when the next show is,” cried the Rothensteins as the King of Main laughed it off and made an exit to see all was well in the rest of his kingdom.
Rita and Vera had been long time friends. Being such friends one might ask how things could spiral into something which can only be described as a frenemy frenzy. The clash with the cars was bad enough. Rita was annoyed she had arrived late to her meeting with the CSC, offering the unforgiving Karyn Doyle reason to believe she wasn’t caring all that much about the children’s plight. Vera’s frustration also peaked at losing the audition. Returning to work as an actor had given confidence she hadn’t felt in some time.
All was put aside as the women in question met in a vacant space in Main that had been held by Molly Walden – a local wine merchant. Molly had brought them together, along with Tawny from the Knock Knock club and Leslie Doyle – younger sister of Karyn who has been previously introduced. It had been hoped that something could be made of the space so the women were to put their heads together and their resources.
“Running a little late again,” Rita had commented to Vera.
It was a joke given their last encounter but Vera was still a little embittered given how it had played out for her.
“Oh dear, it’s just an audition,” Rita had said.
Just an audition?
“Don’t worry about it, honey,” Tawny beamed. “I swear they tell me an hour earlier than everybody else so I might have a chance of being on time.”
This was somewhat true. She was a well meaning but flaky showgirl. If you told her one pm at least you stood a chance of her being there for two. She was a charitable sort, knew lots of people so she was hoping to assist in making their space of some use to the women in the area with young children to meet and greet.
Leslie was sympathetic towards Vera. She was a Kingsgate girl too, born and raised among palaces. She had married famed actor of stage and screen, Laurence DuBoe. She wanted to get involved in the space because she had not much else to do with her afternoons. The Doyle girl always found Tawny a bit much but she was good company for the ladies and if anyone was going to step outside into Main and encourage people to join, support or visit their space it would be her.
The ladies’ discussions were brought to a halt when some Loyalists delivered a tray of cakes.
“I’ve been so busy in the kitchens lately. I thought having some fresh baked goods on hand would be nice. We could make the space a sort of luncheon area with space for the younger children to play.”
The cakes were masterfully baked. Rita Penn nee Delphine, hailed from a family of talented chefs and so it was all in her blood. She hadn’t taken to the industry the way her cousin, Bastian, had but she did have the skills natural to them. Baking in particular was her forte. What the ladies didn’t want Rita to bring was the tea from Luen she was keen on but everyone else found watered down, tasteless and quite frankly akin to sticking a straw in a toilet bowl.
“She thinks her cakes are all that but she insists on that Luen pisswater to wash it down with,” commented Leslie.
Vera gave it some thought. Her own family hailed from the country of Levinkrantz. Howard had fled from war there as a child refugee which explains his insistence of staying out of disputes. Vera on the other hand adopted the same spirit that had kept the country fighting for decades. Luen had its food, it’s ballet and it’s art. What Levinkrantz had was a notable history, a formidable people and a tea blend that was next to none.
“I hope you don’t mind, Rita, but I thought we could try some of my blend. It would go really nice with your cakes.”
Rita narrowed her gaze. Leslie had already insinuated that the Luen blend was about as palatable as dog shit. Now Vera was confirming those fears.
“It’s no trouble, my lovely,” replied the queen.
“I insist, sweetness,” replied Vera, being such an angel.
Turning to Tawny, Rita asked, “you like the Luen blend right?”
Tawny raised her eyebrows.
“What about you?” She asked of Molly.
“I’d sooner be pissed instead but I don’t want to be passed out by three.”
She gave a cackling laughter which tickled Tawny’s sentiments again and the two chuckled heartily.
The Levinkrantz blend was served and the ladies couldn’t help but agree it did taste so much better than anything from Luen.
“My people just have a way with tea. It’s nothing on you,” said Vera to the queen. “I’m sure you did the best you could.”
Rita returned with a stern smile. “That’s okay. We all have our talents I suppose. Take baking for instance. I come from a family of talented chefs. You on the other hand, my dear, serve clearly store bought.”
“So we’ve got teas and cakes and this great hall to take care of,” Molly reminded them. “It doesn’t matter where it all comes from does it?”
“Ye know, I probably couldn’t tell the difference anyway,” decided Tawny.
“Oh you could tell the difference,” insisted Leslie. “The quality of both are not on the same level.”
Without stating specifically which qualities she was referring to Leslie had left both Vera and Rita disgruntled. Niceties continued to be played but there was tension. The tension wasn’t at all helped by Leslie telling Vera, “I heard Rita said you are wasting your time still acting. She says it’s unbecoming of a woman of your age.”
The angel was stirred.
To Rita, Leslie had said, “Vera thinks you ride a lot on your husband’s name. She doesn’t believe you have any talents of your own. I think she’s still a little annoyed because you made her lose that audition.”
The queen was annoyed.
“You know, if she has the best cakes and she has the best tea then we could put them together and have the best of both worlds …”
“Shut up, Tawn!” Was the reply. They weren’t really listening to reason at this point.
Tawny turned to Molly. “Just saying,” she shrugged.
“I know, hen,” Molly agreed.
By the time the two women returned to their respective homes they were furious.
Reginald and the triplets heard Rita storm from the elevator.
“We’re at war!” She cried.
Reginald who had been holding up punch mitts for Simon naturally asked, “with whom, my love?”
“The Bergmans? That doesn’t sound right.”
As this declaration was being made, over in Kingsgate Vera was crying similar.
“Are you alright?” Howard asked when he noticed the look of fury on his wife’s angelic face.
“We are at war, Howard!” She called.
“At war? Who with?”
He and Seth looked to each other. “Nooooo!”
“There you are boys. Come and sit down.”
Rita was excited as the triplets ascended the main stair case into the lounge of the Faulds penthouse apartments. A table had been filled with freshly baked cream cakes, pastries, sponges and tarts. Reggie’s eyes widened. Marcus had quite the sweet tooth too but was a little more reserved in his expression than his brothers.
“What’s the occasion?” Simon asked.
Rita hugged her son.
“I’ve been busy in the kitchen. You know how I love to bake.”
“Yes, mother,” said Marcus, “but is the whole spread necessary? Who’s going to be joining us?”
“I just thought we could enjoy.”
Reggie pushed past his brothers crying, “sweet!”
“Just wait a minute, baby,” Rita urged. “There’s something I want you to try.”
Reginald had joined them. Like his sons he found the spread a little extravagant. It was true Rita loved to bake and her cakes and sweets were restaurant quality but seeing the table stacked as such gave hint to an agenda. Reggie didn’t’ mind. He was focused on the tarts. He had already decided which one he wanted – the middle one with the largest strawberry.
“You can have something from the table.”
“Sound!” Reggie cried which was his declaration of approval.
“You have to have tea with cake so first I want you all to try this.”
Rita pointed to two tea pots that had been set. She poured some cups from the first.”
“I’m not big on tea, my love,” Reginald said as some sort of preemptive strike.
“I just want your thoughts. It’s two different types. I want to know which one you think is best.”
Reginald and Marcus sampled the tea whilst Simon cut a piece of cake and Reggie was already giving thought to a second tart. In one pot was the Levinkrantz blend that the ladies had all been ranting about. The second was the Luen blend that hadn’t been as palatable. In this instance Reginald did seem to enjoy the tea. Rita narrowed her gaze as she watched the pleasure of the taste show on her husband’s face.
“That’s actually really nice,” the normally astute king commented.
“Dad,” Marcus tried to warn.
“It’s really good. I think I might have just had the wrong tea all this time.”
“Dad …” Marcus tried to warn again. Only he seemed to notice his mother was starting to pout.
Rita composed herself. She poured from the second pot. The Luen blend reminded Reginald why had never developed a fondness for tea. A wash or realisation flooded over him as the familiarity of the Luen swamp taste flooded back to him.
“Enjoy the cakes,” Rita said. “I hope having to choke down my tea doesn’t spoil it too much,” she groaned, making an abrupt departure.
“She wanted me to favour the Luen blend, didn’t she?” Reginald put to his son.
“Yes,” replied Marcus sternly.
Meanwhile, over in Kingsgate, Howard had been alerted to a fuss in his own kitchens.
“Mum’s trying to bake like Rita Penn,” Elsa told him by way of a warning.
It was all the warning Howard needed to stay clear. There was a lot of crashing, a lot of cursing and a lot of pleading to various deities she didn’t necessarily believe in.
After an hour of what seemed like complete chaos, Howard took it upon himself to check up on it.
“What on earth was that.?!” He cried.
It was a good question and not one that took much time to answer because almost immediately Vera came charging from the kitchen.
“I’ll be back in a few. We need a new oven.”
At her back Seth came stumbling. He was completely covered in cake mix.
“Oh dear, Seth,” Howard exclaimed.
“New stove, Howie, won’t be long.”
With a towel Seth cleaned most of the mess from himself.
“I tried to tell her it was too hot,” the son said.
Things were getting heated indeed.
Leslie Doyle, the trouble causing minx that she was, continued to stir the pot that was festering with Rita and Vera’s frustration. She was such a woman that she enjoyed the drama. She had married an actor after all. Having the Queen of Main and the much beloved angel, Vera Bergman, who shone brighter than any of her husband’s diamonds, at logger heads was enough drama to whet even the most voracious of appetites. The two women in question were caught up in it now. There were scores to be settled. According to Leslie, who heard it from her sister Ashley, who at this time was dating a Loyalist, Rita had said Vera was never all that talented anyway. Sure she was pretty but when those looks fade it’s probably best to stay away from the cameras. Technology was advancing so fast and it was leaving less and less haze to hide behind. Also, according to Leslie who had spoken to a clerk at the Office of Lawmakers, Vera had called Rita a gangsters moll – a term here which Rita found quite derogatory. She had been a prima ballerina before having her sons, travelling with the Deluge group. But as Vera told it, according to Leslie, who had heard it from some friends, she felt it was easier to live off of her husband’s money.
Naturally both women were furious at this. Neither of them would stand to be disrespected in such a way.
“I could still dance if I chose to,” Rita stated.
“Of course you could, my love,” Reginald assured.
“Too old! Too bloody old!” Vera raged. “At least I’m still willing to try. She’s just jealous.”
“You really shouldn’t put too much stake on tall tales like that,” Howard insisted. “You know what Leslie can be like.”
It all came to real logger heads on the night Vera was taking part in a play in Central Theatre. She had been giving press interviews all week and her confidence was at an all time high. The play was a marvellous little drama called ‘Whispers in the Dark.’ Vera had won the role of Agatha and it was a chance to really flex those acting chops. To cap it all off the entire hall was a sell out. In fact it had all gone down so well the seats had been filled before Howard even had the chance to find his. It was the first performance he hadn’t been able to attend.
“I’m so sorry I can’t be there.”
Vera beamed through her nervousness.
“That’s alright. I know you’re with me in spirit.”
It all was going so well until it came time for curtain. The stage manager found Vera in the back rooms.
“We have a bit of a problem,” he cried.
“There’s no one out there. We’re ten minutes to curtain and there’s no one out there!”
“I thought it was sold out.”
“It was. I mean it is. It’s just … no one is using the tickets.”
Rita Penn was on the board of that particular theatre as it happened. When she heard that Rita would be performing she felt compelled to purchase all of the seats so that Vera would be playing to an empty hall.
Vera wasn’t one to sulk, even after suffering such an embarrassment. However, her husband and children watched on with bated breath because they knew you don’t provoke angels without expecting some kind of fiery justice. A few days passed and the Bergmans had thought they had managed to pass through the storm. Howard hoped that Vera would learn her lesson in listening to Leslie’s opinions on anything. It came to a calm. All seemed well.
On the Bergman estate also lived Howard’s young sister, Sophie. Sophie Bergman was a high ranking lawmaker. She was also congenitally deaf. However, when she was upset there was no misunderstanding it. The noise had been that of Sophie throwing the door of the main house open. She came storming into the lounge where Howard and Vera had been quietly reading.
“Whatever is the matter?” Howard asked of his sister.
Sophie’s sharp blue eyes were filled with rage. She signed to her brother.
Sophie signed some more, throwing a few frustrations Vera’s way.
“Rita Penn? What did they do?”
Sophie scowled at Vera. Howard has flabbergasted.
“You had her arrested!”
Rita had been running some errands in the city when she was suddenly flooded by CPD. Coldford Daily News were sure to capture the detainment of the gangsters moll.
“We’re sorry Mrs Penn,” the officers stated, “but we had some reports and we had to follow them up.”
“I was concerned she had drugs on her,” was Vera’s explanation.
There were no drugs. Vera knew there were no drugs. Rita knew Vera knew there were no drugs.
Sophie was still furious at the waste of police resources over the petty spat. Vera apologised sincerely and assured it would never happen again. It was mission accomplished anyway.
“We’re putting this to an end,” Reginald Penn was insisting of his wife as the two arrived at the Central Theater. All week he had been hearing of this ongoing feud between she and Vera Bergman.
“She started it,” Rita insisted like a pouting child.
“It doesn’t matter who or what started it. The Bergmans are good people. Vera is an old friend of yours. This has to stop before it gets really out of hand.”
Rita was on the verge of rolling her eyes but her expression stopped when she saw Vera and Howard approach the theater steps.
“You look lovely,” commented Rita to Vera but her words stank of insincerity. At least that was how Vera felt. The men on the other hand seemed to believe bygones were being held as bygones.
“Thank you. I’m so glad you left the theater open this time so other people might have a chance of seeing a performance.”
“It’s my pleasure. I’ve been a patron of this theatre for so long so I’m quite fussy with it. I did want to make sure there were actors worth seeing first.”
“Rita,” Reginald scolded his wife.
This time the taunt hadn’t escaped the notice of the men.
“It’s a lovely evening, isn’t it?” Howard tried. “Vera and I are very much looking forward to the performance.”
“I heard the role of Esther was torn apart at rehearsals. Let’s hope it’s improved,” remarked Vera.
Howard hoped the Penns hadn’t noticed her petulant disdain.
“It could be worse,” Rita replied. “The role could have gone to an actress who is way too long in the tooth for the part.”
Reginald rested his hand on his queen’s shoulder. Howard’s fears were realised. They had heard the disdain. Vera was still confident though.
“Acting is a life long talent, sweetness. That’s much the beauty of it. I guess that’s one of the draw backs of ballet. You had to give that up after having the triplets because one wrong move and everything would spill out.”
Luckily, Rita was laughing this off. What wasn’t so lucky was she still had fury in her eyes.
“C’mon, ladies, we’re all friends here. Let’s keep things civil,” Reginald urged.
‘Yes, Vera, please. Let’s just go find our seats,’ Howard was praying inwardly to his angel.
“She had me arrested,” Rita barked.
“It was a minor inconvenience,” Vera retorted. “Unlike buying out the whole theater so I would have an empty house.”
“I was saving your audience from your terrible delivery!”
Reginald stepped in the way before handbags were launched.
“Vera, sweetheart, I’m sure it’s all been a big misunderstanding. Rita, I’m sure is sorry.”
Howard was taking a deep breath. He didn’t want to swim the Filton Ford. He never really was a strong swimmer.
“Are you going to let them speak to me that way!?” Vera asked of her husband.
‘Oh good grief!’ Was Howard’s inner plea.
It was like those murky Ford waters were filling his throat already.
“No, he’s just going to sit there with that blank expression on his face,” Rita was griping of the diamond merchant.
“At least my husband’s not a thug!”
Glug. Glug. Glug. Those Ford waters were terribly polluted.
“Bash his head in, Reginald!”
Had Rita cried that or was he just hearing those words ringing in his head? Howard couldn’t tell. His vision had gone a little blurry. He loved his wife though with all his being. Sometimes you had to pray to angels to stop them laying waste in God’s fury. He summoned the strength within himself, stepped up to Reginald Penn – the King of Main – tapped his chest and said, “Your wife has insulted mine and for that I ask for some retribution, sir.”
Reginald frowned. It wasn’t one of anger though. It was of confusion. How had it come to be that Howard Bergman, one of the nicest men in Coldford, had demanded satisfaction of him?
Speaking of this incident later Howard recounted that Reginald seemed to have understood the predicament he was in. The last thing he wanted to do was ‘throw down’ – whatever that meant. However, he was a dedicated husband and Vera had felt insulted. On the other side of this completely unnecessary coin, Reginald was thinking he too was a dedicated husband. His beloved queen had called for a beheading and when it all came down to it the place was flooded with Loyalists. He could not be seen with Howard Bergman of all people tapping his chest with aggression. Was it aggression? It was hard to tell. He had experienced all types of aggression in his day but this was something quite new.
‘Please, Reginald. You know I don’t want to be doing this,’ Howard continued his inner plea, hoping the king could read from his eyes.’
Reginald did know this. Howard was a friend. The women seemed to be having issues so maybe it was something they would quickly resolve with a punch and a pint. The scenario made for quite the headache all round.
“I’m going to have to insist you bring your wife in line,” Howard declared. Even he thought the words sounded odd.
Reginald’s frown deepened. “Is that so?”
Howard nodded. “It is.”
He couldn’t remember much of what happened after this but the police reports stated that two women had to be separated outside the Central Theater. Queen Rita Penn had been whacked on the chin. The normally angelic Vera Bergman had been slugged in the gut. There were also some rumours that Howard Bergman had Reginald Penn in a headlock at some point but there was no way to confirm this. Howard himself couldn’t remember. It all became quite hazy after that.
Returning to the hall again, Vera and Rita were brought back together. Molly needed Rita’s influence and Vera’s investment. Things were still frosty but at least they had become somewhat civil.
“I’m so confused about all this,” Reginald had said to Howard. “I mean, normally, someone hurts my wife they’re not going to last very long. But, you know, it’s … you.”
“I’m so terribly sorry,” Howard replied. “I have no idea what came over me. I really wish Vera and Rita could put this business to rest.”
“You and me both,” agreed the king.
Seth Bergman had been admiring his mother’s progress when he felt a great shadow over him. He turned and found himself face to face with the Penn triplets.
“Good to see you Seth,” said Marcus with an expression that didn’t give away much.
“Good to see you too.”
“I’m glad our mothers are no longer feuding. It was terribly tedious.”
Seth couldn’t help but agree with that.
“We’re still friends,” stated Marcus, sounding as though he had just made that decision then and there.
Marcus reached out his hand and shook that of Seth. He nodded and departed. Simon gave him a pat on the shoulder.
“Good thing we don’t need to kick the crap out of you,” he jested.
“Our mothers were fighting?” asked Reggie, following his brothers.
There was a lot of work still to be done and Molly Walden took it upon herself to make sure it was carried out.
“You know I could knock your two heads together,” the wine merchant had told the women. She pointed to Leslie, “as for you, ya mouthy cow, you quit trying to start something.”
Leslie gave a, ‘who me?’ Sort of look but she said nothing.
“You’re right. There’s a bigger picture here,” Vera conceded. “There’s work to be done and people relying on us.”
Rita smiled. “That’s exactly why I thought I’d be the bigger person and apologise, my lovely.”
“Too late, sweetness,” said Vera. “I believe I already did.”
“I don’t remember you saying sorry.”
“It was implied.”
Molly stepped in again.
“Let’s focus on getting this place up and running shall we?”
And focus on that they did, for you see dear readers, when we work together there is so much that can be achieved. Rita and Vera had had their differences but they were both wholly dedicated to helping the women of Main. Giving young mothers a place to gather, to support one another and learn from each other was something they both could agree on. As the afternoon wore on they were laughing like old friends again. Tea and cake was served.
And so it was the feud came to an end. It showed that putting aside differences was possible, even in the Shady City. As we look to what lies ahead perhaps the people of Coldford can take something from this story. Could it be possible that we could work together for the benefit of all? Sure, there are those who will always strive to be a cut above but I like to think overall, people are good. Rivalry can be good for pushing yourself but if we stop to raise each other up just imagine the sweetness of the tea and cake we could enjoy.
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