"Grandmother?" Jackie said in astonishment. "What is going on?"
"Oh, you would like an explanation, I take it? Perhaps you would care to explain to me why you have abandoned both myself and your birthright. After all the money and time I have invested into you, you turn your back on me with a single long distance phone call. Deserting me in my twilight years…" Jackie's grandmother dabbed a lacy handkerchief to her eye.
It was clear her grandparent could wield the weapon of guilt with the agility of a Jewish fencer. Jackie braced herself against the stabbing words and tried to defend herself.
"Grandmother, I told you why I am staying here. Now that Steven and I have reunited, the reason for me to live in New York no longer exists. Surely you understand that there is nothing more important than true love?" Her grandmother looked at her as blankly as if Jackie were speaking a little known Cantanese dialect. She looked past Jackie to the person who was responsible for the disruption of her well laid plans. She noted his possessive grip on Jackie's waist and the stubborn set of his jaw.
"Steven Hyde, I presume?" she interrogated.
"The same," he responded, regretting that he had left his sunglasses downstairs. He felt her chilly blue eyes reading his soul.
"Are you aware what this silly chit is throwing away for your sake? I would call you an opportunist but as her choice will ruin you both I would have to amend that to a fool."
"Lady, I wouldn't go around insulting people's intelligence if I were in your position," Hyde responded just as freezingly. "Seems to me that if the only way you can have family around you in your "twilight years" is to bribe them with your millions, it doesn't say much for how wisely you've lived your life."
Elise's lips thinned to a narrow line. Hyde slouched disrespectfully against the wall. Noting the battle positions, Jackie thought Man, this is going to be bad.
"So let me see – a pot addict alcoholic with a criminal record is giving me advice on how to live my life? You'll never see 25 with the path you're on. Which I have no objection to except that you want to take my granddaughter along for the ride." Jackie had a mental image of her grandmother blowing the smoke from a pair of six-shooters after that verbal attack. She could feel Steven's pain as his worst self-doubts were used against him. Anger rose up in Jackie, overriding the intimidation she usually felt in her grandmother's presence.
"Grandmother, Steven is my boyfriend! You have no right to speak to him like that or to judge him because he has a criminal record which was my fault anyway – wait, I never told you about his record. And I certainly never mentioned the pot. How do you know these things?"
"That is not important. All that matters is he is not a fit partner for you."
Jackie felt her suspicions rise as memory stirred. "When you first called me and invited me to stay with you, you seemed to know a lot about Steven. But I hadn't mentioned him to you or anyone in the family so there's no way you could know unless… Grandmother, have you been investigating my boyfriend?"
Before Elise could respond, Jason interposed, mainly because no-one had paid any attention to him in the last 10 minutes. "There's no need to be so emotional, Jackie. Your grandmother was only looking out for your best interests. When she proposed the merger and marriage plan to my family, they naturally could not agree to the proposition until they had read the complete dossier on you." Jason continued blithely on, oblivious of the amazement on Jackie's face and the irritation on Elise's. "So you see the investigation of Steven Hyde was only incidental to the profile our detectives ran on you."
"I see," Jackie said with an eery calmness. She turned back to her grandmother and Steven was struck by the resemblance between them, not in facial features but in the basilisk stare. "So, what did your 'profile' uncover, Grandmother? A beautiful young woman made vulnerable by the recent abandonment of her parents, not to mention the break-up from her boyfriend? No pesky loved ones to look out for me and put a spoke in the wheel of your plans. I must have been a gift from heaven, the perfect pawn." Suddenly hot tears rushed to her eyes to melt the ice. "Damn!" she said brokenly, "why can't I have one lousy person in this lousy family who will just look out for me?"
Hyde felt the sadness of that plea resonate inside him, like a tuning fork that could only be heard by someone who had been through the same anguish. He gathered Jackie into his arms. As he whispered words of comfort and reassurance into her ear, she felt her pain diminish.
Looking upon the couple, Jason Featherstone was reminded of an old bible verse about how the man and the woman shall join together and become one flesh. He had a strange sense that these two separate and dissimilar people now formed one single unit. Although he could not understand why such a promising young beauty would choose an ill-dressed burn-out over him, he had enough intelligence to accept that it was so. He turned to Elise purposefully.
"Mrs Mansfield-Jones, I believe it is time to renegotiate this business proposition. As your granddaughter is no longer on the table, so to speak, I propose we just make this a straight business merger and forget about the whole marriage option, which I must agree is a rather archaic tradition."
"No," Elise cried. "That company has been in my family since my grandfather's time." She turned towards Jackie with an expression that was almost pleading. "The only way I could consider giving up control of it was if I knew it would be passed on to my descendants. Jackie, you and Jason could have a son who would inherit not only Glow Cosmetics but the Featherstone empire as well. If you were not so blinded by this ridiculous love emotion, which is greatly overrated in my experience, you would see the good sense in marrying for dynastic reasons."
"Love is not overrated," Jackie replied. "All you need is love. Love is the answer. Love will keep us alive."
"Can't buy me love," Hyde contributed to the song titles.
"Exactly," Jackie agreed.
"Rubbish. Love is a marketing ploy dreamed up by advertising agencies to sell jewellery and chocolate boxes."
Jackie and Hyde's eyes widened at this familiar sounding diatribe. "Whoa," Jackie breathed. "Steven, it looks like you and my grandmother have more in common that I would have thought possible."
Hydegave Elise a side-long glance. "You don't happen to have strong views on the government, do you?" he asked.
"Apart from the fact that they are parasitic leeches draining the life blood out of the citizens of this country through taxes and unreasonable legal restraints, I've nothing against them," she responded sarcastically.
Hyde grinned in appreciation. "Jacks, I'm thinking your grandma is a fellow anarchist underneath all that upper crust."
"Hardly," Elise sniffed. "Anarchy is for the unimaginative. The way to get the best of the ruling powers is to beat them at their own game. For example, my accountant is a master of tax evasion; he would bring a tear to a mathematician's eye."
"Steven," Jackie said excitedly, "I bet my grandmother gets the same illicit thrill when she signs her W2 forms that you do when you shoplift an 8 track." The elderly aristocrat and young proletariat eyed each other with new respect.
"Hello, I'm still here," Jason called from the sidelines.
"Yes, why is that?" Elise answered. "If you're not marrying Jaclyn, the deal is off. Good day to you, young man."
"But Mrs Mansfield-Jones –"
"I said good day!"
With sulky bad humour, Jason Featherstone stalked out of the Foreman house.
"Jaclyn," Elise began.
"Jackie," her granddaughter corrected firmly.
"Jackie – perhaps my methods were underhanded but I would not have you believe that I was using you purely for my own ends. I truly believed that the life I was offering you was the best suited to make you happy." Her grandmother sighed as she noted the bond between Jackie and Hyde, who had not broken contact with each other throughout the entire exchange. "But then, the life I was offering you is exactly the same one that my parents carved out for me when I was a young girl so I must admit I am not in a position to compare it to a life based on the softer feelings. Certainly my life until recently did have a certain empty quality. But then you came along with all your enthusiasm and pushy ways. This may sound mawkishly sentimental but the thought of going back to that huge mansion in Long Island without your young spirit in it is rather… bleak."
"Oh, grandmother," Jackie cried, clasping her relative's angular body to herself. Elise made awkward patting motions on Jackie's back in response until Hyde detached his girlfriend.
"My dear girl, forget about the merger and Jason – just come back to New York with me. Our deal will still stand."
"But I can't leave Steven," Jackie said as a statement of fact. "I mean, I would like to come back but not if it costs me my love."
"Hang on, you said you didn't want to go back," Hyde said, trying to pinpoint her motivations.
"I only said that because I was certain that my grandmother would not allow me to see you if I was under her control for the next 8 months, which is in essence what our deal was – that I would have to obey her wishes in order to earn the 5 million. Plus I didn't think she needed me – but I can see I was wrong." Jackie said.
"Indeed," Elise interjected, "I do need you to come back, Jackie, and if the price of your agreement is the inclusion of your gentleman friend," (Jackie smothered a giggle at this term) "then so be it. I will not stand in the way of your choice."
"Oh grandmother, thank you!" Jackie escaped Hyde's grasp and launched herself onto her grandmother again. "We would love to come – I think. Steven, you still want to go, right?" Jackie had remembered that inconvenient rule Hyde had made about consulting him before making his life decisions. She beamed in delight at his slight nod of agreement. "And I promise you will grow to love Steven once you get to know him."
"I will?" Elise said doubtfully.
"Oh, definitely. Although it did take me a couple of years to move past the initial loathing stage but I got there in the end. Would it help any if I told you his father is William Barnett who owns the Groove Records franchise?"
"That does help," Elise said, looking on Hyde with new eyes.
Later after her grandmother had left to check into a hotel, Jackie asked Hyde "Do you think we should tell her that your father is black?"
"Nah," Hyde vetoed. "It'll be more fun if she finds out at the wedding."