Chapter Thirty Three&

What does one do with a drunken Bowen

On Christmas Day, Sarah thought she'd be spending the day dodging the attentions of her least favorite person, Bowen. Again he'd managed to finagle an invite to dinner. Sarah was trying her best to keep calm, however his comments the last few times she'd had to be in the same room with him left her feeling like screaming. Most Christmas Day's were spent at Karen's sister's house. This year with the big trial Robert was working on, that was out of the question. Both Robert and Bowen were treating it as a working holiday.

Toby had gotten up at the crack of dawn, and had dragged Sarah from her bed to watch him open all his amazing gifts. He seemed to be looking for something special and seemed very upset it was not under the tree. Sarah didn't have a clue as to what it was he'd thought he was missing. It was not like he had not made out like a bandit.

After giving up on trying to get any some more sleep, she changed into a warm sweater and a pair of jeans. Sarah went down to help set up the Christmas brunch that Karen had planned. Karen had things moving along, so Sarah shouted up the back stairs that she was going to build the best snowman that was ever built. A moment later there was the rush of small feet on the stairs and a voice yelping 'Wait for me!' Karen laughed as she watched the brother and sister building a lopsided sorry excuse for a snowman. Sarah was packing snow on the snowman when the first snowball hit her. She turned and told Toby that was not funny, the second ball hit her squarely in the back. The third took off her cap. Sarah went after her sibling with a wet snowball in her hand. She came running round the front of the old Victorian. At that point it was all out war. The brother and sister ignored the man walking up to the front door.

Bowen paused for a moment before knocking on the door. How young and fresh Sarah appeared playing in the snow. Just watching her was fuel for the fires that had developed when he'd met her. He remembered the briefcase in his hand and turned to the door.

Once both were covered in wet snow, Sarah declared the war a tie and called a truce. They came into the house though the back, peeling off the wet layers of clothes. Sarah hung the things she could to dry, and ordered Toby up to a hot bath. She intended to follow suit after making sure the mudroom was straight. Karen told her Brunch was nearly ready, and she should hurry.

Sarah removed the remainder of her wet things in the privacy of her own room. She hung the wet jeans and sweater on the rack in her bathroom. After a hot shower, she felt ready to tolerate her father's partner. She made sure the clothes she'd chosen for the day were not revealing or clingy or thin. She didn't want to give him any excuse or encouragement.

Brunch was less than joyous. Toby glared at the man sitting across from him and Sarah. Bowen and her father spent the entire meal in quiet discussion. Karen sat looking as if someone had hit her across the face with a fresh tuna. Sarah leaned toward her stepmother and told her the meal 

was wonderful. It lifted the other woman's spirit for a moment. After the meal Robert and Bowen locked themselves in the study. They were not seen again until dinner that evening.

Sarah looked at the tree in the salon. It was pretty, but it was not as glorious as the tree in Garrett's solarium. She could still see his bow tie hanging off the bough, and she smiled. The thought tickled her Garrett was such a mass of contradictions. Sarah bent down to readjust the things under the tree, knowing that Karen liked things to look like a cover from 'Better Homes and Gardens'. Sitting next to the tree, Sarah wondered how many more years would she be spending Christmas this way, with her family. She looked round the salon. Every inch of the room was familiar to her, but not her own. A melancholy filled her.

Something she had not wanted to think about was becoming something she could not ignore. Something was missing. Or perhaps it was someone. She'd grown up here, in this house. It should feel like home, it should fell safe. It did neither. More and more over the last six years the house left less and less like home. More and more there was an empty space in her, a space that was demanding to be filled. Filling that space was something Sarah feared.

Karen called her name. When the girl didn't answer she went in search of her. She saw the girl sitting next to the tree, looking as if she'd lost her best friend. "Sarah? Didn't you hear me?"

She looked over at her stepmother. "I'm sorry, did you say something?"

Karen nodded, "I asked you to come help me in the kitchen. What are you dreaming about?"

Sarah shook her head, "Nothing, just stuff." She rose to her feet. "Let's get that dinner on the table."

Karen had originally planned on being at her sister's house. So the dinner was not as lavish as it could have been had she'd taken more time to plan. In fact, it was not the dinner she'd have planned at all. It was roast beef, instead of a turkey or a goose. Karen's disappointment at not being able to be with her family was very clear. It was the first time Sarah had seen real friction between her father and his second wife. Having Bowen heaped on her as well, that was the straw that broke the camel's back.

It was nearly six when they were able to convince the men to come out of the study. Karen fretted that her dinner was going to be ruined, or the roast too dry as the men had put her off for nearly an hour and a half. Sarah noticed that her father and Bowen were drinking a bit more wine then she'd seen them do in the past. Something about this trial was not sitting well with either man. Sarah didn't really care how it affected Bowen, but she was worried about her father.

Toby picked at his meal and was overjoyed when Karen told him he was excused and could go to his room. Sarah wished she could be as easily dismissed. That was not likely to happen. Karen was leaning on her for moral support, more then she ever had. Even Karen seemed a bit irritable about Bowen. Tonight, Karen was practically pouting.

Bowen and Robert again disappeared into the study. Karen fought back tears of fury. She accepted Sarah's offer of help and after the kitchen was once more spic and span, she excused herself to go to her room. Sarah wondered if her father had the slightest idea of how upset Karen really was. It was nearly eleven when the men emerged from the study for the last time. Robert asked where Karen was and Sarah pointed to the upstairs.

"Sarah, see Oliver to the door, I'd best see if Karen is alright." Turning to his partner, Robert shook hands and went up the stairs.

Bowen looked a trifle the better for the wine he'd consumed at dinner. Sarah wondered if her father had lost his mind, leaving her alone with this odious man. She pulled his coat from the closet. "Good night, Mr. Bowen."

Bowen took a long time putting his coat on. All the while his eyes were on the girl. "When do you think you'll feel able to call me Oliver?"

"On the twelfth of never," Sarah said flatly. Bowen looked above the girl's head; there hanging was a mistletoe ball decoration. He lunged and pulled the unsuspecting girl to him. His lips were on hers, and his hands were doing things she didn't like. Sarah pushed him off. "Go home, you dirty drunk!" She wiped her mouth on her sleeve as she opened the door.

"Someday, Sarah. You're going to beg me to kiss you like that." Bowen chuckled as he made his exit.

Sarah slammed the door. "In your dreams!"