Book Excerpt – A Family Affair
A Family Affair
by ReShonda Tate Billingsley
Publication Date: Jul 30, 2013
Format: Paperback, 336 pages
Imprint: Gallery Books
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Parent Company: CBS Corporation
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Copyright © 2013 by Gallery Books. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted with permission from the publisher or author. The format of this excerpt has been modified for presentation here.
Everyone that had ever crossed paths with Adele Wells knew that she was not a woman to be crossed. In the nine years that Lorraine Dawson had worked for her regal employer, she’d seen her fury on numerous occasions. But never had she seen an eruption like this.
“You disgraceful, low-life cheat! You disgust me,” Adele spat at her trembling husband.
While the living room of the Wellses’ twelve-thousand-square-foot mansion was bigger than the average person’s house, it felt like the walls were closing in. Lorraine stood off in a corner, her head bowed, like a scolded child. She wanted to protest, speak up in her defense, but truthfully, no words could excuse what she’d done.
“And you,” Adele said, spinning around to face Lorraine. Fury filled her pale face. “I took you into my home!” Her hazel eyes burned with rage. “I cared for you and that little nappy-headed mongrel of yours. I treated you like part of my family!”
Again, Lorraine wanted to say something. Yes, she was paid a nice salary as the Wellses’ nanny, but she earned every dime. Their son, Kendall, thought she was more his mother than Adele. Still, Lorraine remained silent, her eyes downcast.
“Look at me when I talk to you!” Adele snapped, grabbing Lorraine by the chin and raising her head. At five foot nine, she towered over Lorraine’s petite frame. Lorraine feared the matron was about to slam her head into the wall. Instead, Adele glared at her. “If you’re woman enough to sleep with my husband, you should be woman enough to look me in the eye.”
“I’m s-sorry,” Lorraine managed, her voice weak with fear.
“Shut up!” Adele commanded, and Lorraine immediately clamped her mouth closed. She kept telling herself that Adele had every right to be furious. What she’d done had been the ultimate betrayal. “I don’t want to hear your tired apologies.” Adele took a deep breath, composing herself, in a vain attempt to return to the classy demeanor she usually exhibited.
“Sweetheart, please don’t blame her,” Bernard said, finally speaking up for himself. He hadn’t said much since Adele had summoned them both into the living room and confronted them with the evidence they’d tried to keep hidden for the past four years.
“Did I tell you to speak?” she hissed at her husband. She’d been domineering in the past—being the daughter of one of the wealthiest men in the country had given her the right as far as she was concerned. But she’d always allowed her husband to hang on to some dignity. But now that consideration had gone out the window and Bernard was in no position to argue otherwise.
“I’m just saying, it’s not her fault,” he said, albeit with not as much conviction as before. He was taller than his wife, but right now he appeared shrunken.
“Did you drug her?”
His shoulders sank in defeat. “No, I did not.”
“Did you put a gun to her head and make her have an affair with you?”
“No, but it’s not—”
Adele turned her attention back to Lorraine. “Then she was fully aware of what she did when she crawled into bed with my husband. And on top of that betrayal—” Adele’s voice cracked for the first time. She’d shown no emotion other than rage since they’d stepped into the living room. “On top of that, this other deception is unforgivable.” She waved the piece of paper that had sent their worlds spiraling into this horrible abyss. “What does that filthy TV show say? You are the father!”
“Adele, please . . .”
“Is this a lie?” She shook the paper at him. “According to this, the probability that you’re that child’s father is ninety-nine point nine percent. Is it a lie?” she screamed again. The vulnerability in Adele’s teary eyes dared him to deny it.
“No, it’s not a lie,” he reluctantly admitted.
She flung the paper at her husband, then released a maniacal laugh. “My husband, the esteemed Bernard Wells, CEO of England Enterprises, pillar of the community, philanthropist, and all-around good guy,” she said, her tone a mixture of sarcasm and pain. “You are the father of that little bastard child.”
Lorraine winced at Adele’s slanderous words against the little girl that was her heart and soul, the joy of her life. She was just grateful that Olivia wasn’t here to witness this nightmare. The little girl was asleep out back in the maid’s quarters, the place Lorraine had called home for the past nine years.
“And to think, I doted over that little girl. I spent thousands of dollars buying her the cutest clothes and taking her places. I loved her! And all along you both knew that was my husband’s child?” Adele screamed.
Neither Lorraine or Bernard said a word. They stood as if they were frozen in place.
Silence filled the room as Adele gathered herself. The time for venting was over. Now she had to make some decisions.
“Let me tell you how this is going to work,” Adele said, spinning back around to face Lorraine. Adele was now eerily calm. “You are going to get your belongings and get the hell out of my house.”
She walked over, picked up her checkbook off the imported marble coffee table, and tore out a check. “You will take this.” She scribbled on it, then flung the check at Lorraine, who couldn’t move as it fluttered side over side to the floor.
“Pick it up!” Adele commanded.
Lorraine stooped down and obeyed. She gasped when she saw the zeros. The amount was $250,000.
“The child shouldn’t have to suffer because she has two lying, deceitful parents. So take this and provide for her.” Adele fought back a wave of tears before continuing, “But you are never to contact us again.”
It was Bernard’s turn to gasp. Adele was ordering him to stay away from his flesh and blood? Lorraine just knew he was about to put his foot down—for once. He loved Olivia, and even though they’d kept his parentage a secret, he had never been shy about letting Lorraine, or the little girl, know. No way would he go for a total ban.
“Adele, can’t we talk about this?”
She ignored her husband as her eyes shot daggers at Lorraine. “You know firsthand what I’m capable of. I will destroy you, that unfaithful ingrate I call my husband, and then have your little princess sent to a foster home.”
Lorraine didn’t have to wonder if Adele would make good on her threats. She’d watched the woman single-handedly ruin the business, marriage, and finances of a former friend who had double-crossed her. Ruthless could’ve been her middle name.
“So, what is it going to be?” Adele asked.
Lorraine directed a silent plea to Bernard, but his crestfallen expression told her that they—that she—had no other choice. He looked away, helpless to intervene. At that moment Lorraine realized she was in this all alone. And once again, Lorraine felt herself despising the man she’d loved for so long. Even now he could not choose her.
“We’ll leave tonight,” she said quietly, pushing the check down into her apron pocket. “I’ll just go pack my things and get Olivia.”
“Your things are packed,” Adele hissed, motioning toward the front door, where Logan, the Wellses’ family driver, magically appeared with two black garbage bags. Next to him, Lorraine’s beloved three-year-old girl stood, wide-eyed and innocent, sucking her thumb and clutching her stuffed white rabbit, her very first gift from Bernard.
Lorraine fought back tears. “Fine. I’ll just go say good-bye to Kendall.”
“You’ll do no such thing.”
Lorraine raised her hand to her mouth in shock. Kendall was like her son. She’d raised him since he was two months old. He took his first steps with her, said his first words with her, and made no secret that he preferred Lorraine to his mother.
“I-I can’t say good-bye?” Lorraine said, clutching her chest. It felt like someone was taking a thousand pins and sticking them into her heart.
“What part of you are to never come near my family again do you not understand?”
The noise made Olivia jump and she called out for her mother. “Mommy! Why Miss Adele mad at you?”
Lorraine raced over to her daughter and scooped her up. “Shhh, it’s okay, pumpkin.”
“It’s not okay, pumpkin.” Adele tried to smile through her tears as she knelt down to stroke Olivia’s hair. “Listen, we won’t get to have our teatime anymore or go shopping for pretty clothes.”
“Why not?” Olivia whined.
Faced with the girl she had loved so much, Adele could not reply. She just continued staring at her and rubbing her hair.
“Why not?” Olivia repeated.
Lorraine knew Olivia would not stop asking why. She took her daughter’s hand and tugged it lightly. “Come on, sweetie, Mama will—”
“Tell her,” Adele said,, turning the little girl around to face her mother. “Tell your daughter why Miss Adele is so mad. Tell her why she has to leave the only home she’s known.” Adele rose to her full height, her anger returning. “Tell your daughter what a whore you are.”
“Adele!” Bernard cried as Lorraine covered Olivia’s ears.
“Shut up, Bernard!” Adele’s unbridled fury returned as she gave Lorraine a hard push. “You’re lucky I’m a classy woman, because I should beat the hell out of you right here in front of your child. Get out!” Adele pushed Lorraine hard again. She had to struggle to keep from falling. She clutched her daughter’s hand tighter.
“Mommy!” Olivia cried.
“Get out and don’t ever come back!” Adele pushed Lorraine again toward the door.
Olivia screamed louder as Lorraine fought back her own tears.
“Nana, where you going?”
Everyone stopped and turned toward the voice coming from the bottom of the spiral, wrought-iron staircase. Seven-year-old Kendall stood in his baseball pajamas, looking confused. Just seeing him opened up the river of tears Lorraine had been trying to hold back.
“I have to go,” Lorraine called out. “But please know that I love you. I always will love you. I’m sorry!”
“Go? Go where?” Kendall said, sprinting toward her.
“Kendall, go back to your room!” Adele snapped, snatching the boy by the arm as he passed her. “For the last time, get the hell out of my house!” she shouted at Lorraine.
Logan, who had gone to put the bags in the car, gently swooped Olivia up. “Come on, Miss Lorraine. Let’s go,” he said softly.
Kendall broke free from his mother and darted toward Lorraine. “Please don’t go. Don’t leave me. I promise I’ll be good,” he cried, throwing his arms around her waist and holding on tight.
Lorraine sobbed as Adele yanked her son away. With her other hand flailing madly, she pushed Lorraine out and slammed the door. Lorraine fell to her knees outside on the front stoop, crying uncontrollably. At long last Logan helped her to her feet and led her down the steps.
As Lorraine climbed into the car, she glanced up at the living-room window. Kendall stood in the window, tears streaming down his face. Behind him stood Bernard, and Lorraine could see the endless sorrow in his eyes. Then Adele appeared and whipped the curtains closed.