Hera Feelgood is in despair! Normally a most competent young woman she was frantic. Going for her smartphone Hera rang the one woman she always went to in a crisis. Her call was answered by a voice with the sweetest tone imaginable. Their conversation began with these words,
"Hera darling I was just about to call you. See you do have a bit of my gift. But seriously I have some great news!'
Too desperate to fully take in her mother's greeting, Hera said in a sad tone of voice
"Oh Mummy I cannot find anything to wear. Everything I like is only in the smallest sizes. There is no time to get anything altered by Andre. I can't go to your hospital charity ball in my old dresses. I just can't."
Finally Hera took a breath allowing her mother to get a word in. Still using her honeyed toned voice Mary Feelgood said,
"But sugar plumb I have found THE DRESS!'
Unpset with her mother for using that nursery name from her childhood Hera said in a cross tone of voice,
"Oh Mother how many times must I ask you not to call me by that ridiculous nickname. Really Nanny Upright should never have given me that nursery room name....Wait. What did you say after that? You found WHAT?"
Now her mother's delicious laugh could be heard clearly on Hera's smartphone. It was a laugh that was full bodied like its owner. But it also had traces of tinkling like a high pitched bell. To hear it was to smile and laugh along with its owner. Mary Feelgood said
"Hera I can always get you with that nickname. You are so easy. But do stop yelling darling sweetheart. Yes I found the perfect dress for you in......"
Too excited to let her mother finish Hera said in a hurried tone of voice
"What color is it? Is it my size? Does it have puffy sleeves? You know I hate puffy sleeves. Is it above the knee? How much above?..."
With the laughter now embedded in the very tone of her voice Mary Feelgood answered her daughter's questions in the order of asking,
"Its your favorite color! Exactly the same as your eyes. The size is perfect! There is no need for Andre's services this time around. No puffy sleeves. As if I would do that to you Hera sweetie. As for being 'above' the knee? Well its one of those new dual function dresses. I think it is called a "peeler". The Jazz dress is more like thigh length rather than knee length.......Hera stop squealing. You are too old for that.....What will your future husband think if he hears you squeal? .....Yes I know you are younger than I was when I got married but that does not excuse squealing... Now come home so I can show you this gorgeous dress.... He will fall in love with you at first sight! I promise..."
Hera could not believe how lucky she was to have such a treasure for a Mum. But something still worried her. So she said in a cautious tone of voice,
"Mum have you being inviting any of Dad's horrible choices for this ball? If so I am not going."
Mary knew when to take a firm line with her headstrong oldest daughter but this was not the time. So Mary said in a winning tone of voice
"Would I do such a vile thing? Hera I am surprised you would even think that of me."
Not put off by her mother's charming voice Hera demanded an answer to her question by clarifying its intent. She used her no nonsense tone of voice to say bluntly,
"Who then is this "future husband"? Why should I care if yet another man tells me that they have fallen "madly in love" with me? They all say that then never call you after the first date."
Betrayed by her own enthusiasm to get the news out about the dress Mary had to tell Hera the whole truth. She said in a fatalistic tone of voice
"Sorry I should never have told you that bit about your future. Your great aunts will scold me for that when then arrive. Still here goes. You are going to meet your future husband at this hospital charity ball. That is why I scoured the city boutiques for the perfect dress. A young woman in a city boutique off the main street knew exactly what I was describing. A tall young thing with stunning hair, she found the dress in the back waiting for shipment to another customer. But she gave it to me to buy. I must reward her for that as it was costing her commission on the sale. So sad about her boyfriend. But the right one is literally just around the corner. She will have seven children and...Wow! Hera should I warn her?'
With anyone else Hera would have just dismissed it all as fantasy talk. But this was her mother. She had a gift handed down from Hera's grandmother and great grandmother. The Irish strain in her descendants was strong on the female side. If her mother said that Hera would meet her future husband then it was almost certainly going to happen. So Hera said in a resigned tone of voice,
" Mum don't interfere. Let this young woman just get on with her life. I'll come home immediately but I want to hear more about that supposed husband. See you shortly."
The Feelgood Charity Hospital Ball was a big social event in the harbor city. All eligible young women from the well to do families attended. It was the closest thing to a "coming out" party that was so still blatantly a social event. Started by Mary Feelgood some ten years previously, it was the highlight of the city's Autumn social season. Most young woman had kept their slim summer figures specifically to allow them to squeeze into impossibly tight dresses. Men came because the females were all from connected families. Matriarchs made sure all the city's eligible bachelors attended. Even the wives of military commanders got involved in a bit of matchmaking. One such wife was presuring her husband into ordering some of his officers to attend this ball. She started very craftily by saying in a wounded voice,
"Well I think it is just too much..... I said Ron that it is just to much!"
Colonel Ronald Mackenzie was trying to ignore his wife at breakfast time, just like he always did for the last twenty years. But he knew that tone of voice from his wife meant business so he obediently gave his cue line in a neutral tone of voice,
"What is too much dear?'
His wife now assumed her censorious tone of voice,
"That Admiral saying to the Prime Minister that his command will supply all the officers needed for the most important ball of the season. Who does he think he is? Why should those Naval officers be the only ones to go to the best Ball of the year. Mary Feelgood is the richest woman in Australia. And I hear that her sister Hilda will be there this year. Only the finest young ladies get to go to that ball. No it really is too much."
Noticing that his wife had given him another opportunity to be supportive, Colonel Mackenzie replied in a tone copied from that of his wife's current mood,
"That Admiral wants to be made the new Vice Admiral. Old Vice Admiral Voyages is retiring soon. The Prime Minister has a few Admirals to pick from but he won't do it without wide consultations. Everyone knows that Abraham Feelgood has a say in all military appointments. The Navy has huge construction contacts coming up. Feelgood has his fingers in many construction companies. He will want to squeeze out any rivals. Getting on Mary Feelgood's good books can not harm that Admiral's chances for the top job."
Mrs. Mackenzie now sprang her less than subtle trap. In a forceful tone of voice she exclaims,
"Just so Ronald. But why only him. If it works for a naval Admiral why can't it work for An army Colonel?'
The look she now gives her husband made him squirm. Colonel Mackenzie did not need reminding, especially by his wife, that he married a general's daughter. But that General was now retired. If Colonel Mackenzie wanted future promotions then he would need to impress his political masters. So he picked up on his wife's thread and said in a hesitant voice,
"So you think I should offer to send my officers, the young ones of course, along to this Feelgood run Ball?"
His wife gave him one of those smiles that spoke volumes to a whipped husband. But she kept the scorn out of her tone when she replied,
"Exactly so! I have a list here of all the young unmarried officers under your command. Major Lee kindly drew it up from personnel records. They could be all given provisional leave if they agree to go to the Ball. A few I had to delete after talking to some of the other army wives. We don't want any scandals coming back to threaten your promotion. Now do we?'
Any husband of twenty years of marriage knows the answer to that question. So Colonel Mackenzie replied in a deadpan tone of voice
Mrs. Mackenzie now sounded every inch the daughter of a general when she said,
"Indeed not. You can get Major Lee to write out the leave permissions in the morning. Best to leave the invites to me. I know a few ladies on that Hos[ital's charity committee. They owe me a favor or two. Don't forget to send the Office of the Prime Minister notice of your officers attending the Ball. He will then have to wangle an invite for you and me. Not what will we wear? Your dress uniform will have to go to the cleaners. My best dress will have to go to Andre. He is the best in the city. I hear that even Mary Feelgood uses him for her daughter's dresses. Now how old are they? Let me see the oldest is Hera. Yes she is old enough. Some might say a bit too old for a Ball but no daughter of Abraham Feelgood is ever too old. Then there is Hilda Feelgood. Yes she is just old enough.... So now who to call first?..."
Colonel Mackenzie slipped away to his office. He knew from past experiences that his wife would now ignore him whilst she buried herself in preparations. Ronald Mackenzie could not think of a more blissful outcome. Determined that nothing must up set this latest plan of his wife's fertile imagination he got Major Lee onto the leave formalities. He knew from bitter experience that a disappointed wife could make his life a living hell.
Abraham Feelgood was another husband who was glad of a distracted wife. Though he loved Mary, Abraham Feelgood loved business better. He loved to make money of course but after the first billion he lost interest in the mere accumulation of wealth. Nowadays he was more interested in the power his wealth could attract. This meant alliances. Abraham Feelgood had being buying politicians for decades. But politicians came and went. Even Prime Ministers did not last for any extended length of time. Particularly in Australia, politicians had short power life cycles. But the rich families simply switched from the last to the newest political guru. These rich families held the reins of power. The richest man in Australia, Abraham Feelgood, was determined to be the driving force behind all future political power games.
This Charity Ball that his wife ran every year was a golden opportunity to curry favor with the rich families. Abraham Feelgood had done favors for many of the rich city families. He gave prospective husbands highly paid jobs, got rid of undesirables by any means available and directly funded any business ventures that would bind rich families to his future interests.
Now he was going to cash in a few favors. Abraham Feelgood had decided to win the support of the second richest family in the harbor city. This he would do the old fashioned way. Marriage was still more about money and wealth in the social circles with too much of both. The Horan family had a highly eligible son. The Feelgood family had two eligible young women. All three would be at this year's Charity Ball. Any marriage proposal would be the start of a family merger that would increase Abraham's Feelgood's power base. The Horan Family were the richest family in the harbor city after the Feelgoods. Lucas Horan was unmarried and available. But not for long if Abraham Feelgood had his way. Now all he had to do was convince his daughters and his wife.
The Feelgood Hospital Charity Ball was always going to be a big media event in Australia's largest harbor city. On the night the media pack had their hounds, their photographers, and their weapons -their microphones. So arrivals had to leave their stretch limos at the entrance to the largest ballroom in the southern hemisphere. The carpet to the ballroom entrance was not red it was golden. The rich families of the eastern seaboard paraded their most eligible bachelors and bachelorettes up this golden carpet as a rite of passage. On entering the ballroom the well dressed young rich kids had to descend a small flight of stairs. As for the carefully chosen young naval officers well they had to be brought in by a side door but where still eager to attend. When a large coach arrived some time later it was also directed to this side entrance.
By the time the Feelgood family arrived, minus one teenage daughter who was happy to be left alone back at the Feelgood's city mansion, the ballroom was packed. Abraham Feelgood made for the bar! Not to get a drink but to take his place as Charity Bar Chairman. Mary Feelgood raced off to the kitchens. She had got an SOS from Mrs. Horan about the French Chef they had flown in for this event. Mary felt the tension coming out of that kitchen from the moment her car pulled up at the entrance. Her two daughters went off to find their respective groupies. Hera Feelgood was mobbed by woman who had been to this Ball before but had left disappointed. Hera was their self appointed matchmaker! They wanted to find out who she had chosen to be their partners for the evening. Hilda Feelgood was attending her very first society Ball. She made a beeline for her friends. There was always strength in numbers.
As Hera handed out her last partner suggestion, receiving a grateful kiss from some veteran maiden, a man approached her with a saunter. Looking up Hera stopped him in his tracks with a stare that would strip paint off a cruise liner. She said in a threatening tone of voice,
"Go away Lucas. I am not even going to listen to your pathetic pick up line."
Lucas Horan, voted by some magazines as the most eligible bachelor in the harbor city, pretended to be hurt by these words. In fact his could not be hurt because he had packed his heart in ice a long time ago. But you did not get to be the number one city sleaze merchant by just giving up every time you got an initial knock back. So he said in a tone of voice that could impress most women,
"Hera darling. So good of you to finally notice me. Your Dad and my Dad thought it would be a good idea for the two of us to get acquainted. I love your stunning dress, its the latest "Peeler" fashion dress isn't it? All my partners were those to these events. Anyway how about it? A dance I mean of course."
Hera was not fooled by the oily charm dripping from this infamous womanizer. She answered in a tone of voice Lucas only ever heard from his paternal grandmother,
"I don't believe a word of it Lucas. No you can't have a dance. Not from me. Nothing ever from me. Is that clear?"
Now Lucas was angry. No woman ever refuses him anything. How dare this spoilt rich girl speak to him...HIM..like that....but then he remember what his father had said that he had to do. Any failure on Lucas's part was to be punished the only way it hurts such a reprobate like Lucas. He would lose his private jet. This was registered in the name of Horan Corporation! And Lucas' father was chairman of Horan Corporation. So Lucas swallowed his pride to return to the battle of wits with Hera. He sounded resigned when he said,
"Look I know that in the past I have had a few flings. But that is all over now. I am to be made CEO of Horan City Holdings. Time for me to settle down. So what do you say, will you help a me reform? Please."
Hera now laughed. It had that tinkle in it but with a very hard edge. She said in her no nonsense tone of voice,
"You must have rehearsed that for days. Ever thought of acting in the movies? But seriously I would have fallen for that repentance routine if I had not just spoken to the last three women you dumped. You are a ruthless lover Lucas! If you ever come near me or my close friends again I will hurt you bad. Do I make myself clear?"
Suddenly Lucas was in a flashback inside his brain. He was seven years old. His paternal grandmother was laying down the law. When his mother tried to shield him from censure, as she always had done since he was born, she received a blast of vitriol that shrunk her back into her shell. Lucas could see Grandmother Horan in Hera's eyes. Turning white from fear, not rage, he made a speedy retreat.
Another man laughed out aloud. He said without fanfare,
"Horrible Hera the demigod! HowI have missed that tongue of yours. That poor man did not stand a chance."
Looking round Hera saw a familiar face. She cheered, raced up to him and threw her arms around his neck. This was no gentle hug. He had to fight for breath but did not seem to care. Finally Hera said in a loving tone of voice
"Hunchy. My lovely Hunchy! When did you get into town? Let me look at you. You are a major now? Why Hunchy look at you. Yet your brothers said you would never make it in army life. You sure showed them and your father. How is that lovely mother of yours?'
Major Hutch Matterson beamed down at the secret love of his life. Well it really was no secret to Hera. Hutch had proposed ten times as they grew up together over the years. Usually at the many Feelgood Estate Christmas parties. A major in the Australian Army, Hutch was also the heir to an enormous family fortune. The Matterson Family owned more rural properties than anyone else in Australia. Even large agricultural corporations did not own as much rural land as the Mattersons. So when Hutch gave up all that for an army career, his father threatened to disinherit him. This was welcomed news to Hutch's siblings. But Mrs. Matterson put a stop to all that nonsense. She told her husband that if he did anything of the kind she would divorce him. That was nine years ago! Now father and son tolerated each other in Mrs. Matterson's presence but ignored each other when they could. Hutch had won battlefield promotions so many times the media called him Australia's war hero. Starting in Australia's elite Commando battalion, Hutch was sent to international peacekeeping zones. One time he had single handedly saved his patrol. Back in Australia he had been promoted in a secret army ceremony. Then he was sent again to a war zone hot spot. the same thing happened. Now he was the youngest Major in the Australian Army.
But Hutch Matterson's legs went to jelly in front of Hera Feelgood. He could never meet her gauze. Never was he able to ignore the churning in his stomach every time he saw this woman. Still he was a brave man. So he chided Hera by saying in a censorious tone of voice,
"Don't call me "Hunchy" . You know I hate it when you do that in public."
Not willing to give up her claim on this man, Hera said in a conciliatory tone of voice,
"Its what your soldiers call you isn't it? Surely your oldest friend can do the same?"
Now it was Hutch Matterson's turn to laugh. He had a good laugh and it did travel into his eyes. Hera saw it. She knew this is why she loved this man like a brother. He was her ideal male role model.
Just as these two were about to continue their verbal sparing a new voice was interjected. It was from a very attractive younger army officer. In a formal tone of voice it conveyed this message,
"All the men have arrived sir! Any orders?'
Resignedly the persona of Major Matterson now reappeared as Major Hutch Matterson answered,
"Lieutenant Champion isn't it? If you ever want to make Captain never interrupt a superior officer when he is talking to a beautiful woman. Tell the men to mingle. If they can cut out the Naval officers from the debutantes there is an extra days leave in it for those lucky ones. Now go away."
A staring Lieutenant only just recovered in time to reply,
"Yes Sir. May I say in passing that you were right. She is a beautiful woman. Sir!"
With that the Lieutenant walked away but never kept his eyes on Hera.
Strangely Hera found herself blushing. She listened as Hutch apologizes for his Lieutenant's rudeness. In a tired tone of voice he said,
"Sorry about that but its Colonel Mackenzie's direct order to bring these young men to your mother's Ball. I could have told him that they would not fit in to this set. But "Ronald the Racket" only listens to his wife. She was a General's daughter...Don't laugh its true. The poor Colonel is forever trying to live up to the standards set by his father-in-law. At least as they are portrayed by his wife. These young officers present here tonight were promised a four day leave pass if they attended tonight. But they have to behave because Colonel Mackenzie is here with Mrs. Mackenzie."
Hera was keeping that young lieutenant in view. Every time he went near a debutante her heart skipped a beat. But so far the Naval officers were prosecuting a successful blockade. So Hera could clear up one point with her childhood friend. She asked,
"But why are you here at all Hutchy? I mean the "Hero of Australia" as a junior officer nurse maid? It makes no sense."
Hutch Matterson was nodding his head before she had even finished her questions. He answered in a mater of fact tone of voice,
"It was meant to be Major Lee coming tonight. He is a hard officer. These young men would probably be still getting lectured on how to behave if Lee was here. But he got the flu bug that seems to be going around. I was a late minute replacement. Oh and by the way. No Lieutenant Champion is not married."
Confuse by this last comment Hera said in a faux tone of voice,
"Lieutenant Champion? And who might that be Hutchy? "
Hunch Matterson had known this woman too many years to be fooled so easily so he replied in his man about town tone of voice
"He is that army officer you can't take your eyes off. Adam Champion. That is his name. He is an expert on security and cyber warfare. Not that you care about anything but his eyes. I saw you gaze at each other. Hera I think you are smitten. Come on admit it."
Hera was not ready to admit to anything. So she replied in a brusque tone of voice,
"I could not care less what his name is or what is his expertise. I will dance with you all night Hutchy! Junior officers are so boring when they talk about their longed for overseas postings. Really is that the way to a young woman's heart? I ak you?'
Hunch Matterson was still not convinced that he had Hera's undivided attention. But he was not going to pass up on the opportunity of holding this woman as her dancing partner. So he said in a happy tone of voice,
"Great lets dance. Unless you want a drink or some food."
Now Hera unleashed the full seductive power of her best laugh. It had crystal bells running through it that were caught up to by peals of golden sunshine. She squealed,
"Lets dance the night away.'
Hunch Matterson grabbed this wondrous vision of womanhood and his heart leapt as they danced the next six dances in each other arms.
Of course happiness never last long. When Hunch left to get Hera a drink she was surrounded by naval officers. They formed a wedge to keep out any army advances. One army officer sees what is happening. He slips out of the ballroom. Making his way to the security room he tells the man on duty that he is needed at the front entrance. When the man leaves to race to this phantom emergency, Adam Champion types in a security protocol on the main computer panel. Suddenly all the fire alarms go off. Recorded announcements asked all attendees to make their way to the front entrance.
Everyone files out of the ballroom. But Hera feels her arm hooked as she is lead towards the kitchens. Getting ready to punch her attacker, Hera sees his face. Suddenly she becomes unusually compliant. As they enter the red lighted kitchen Adam Champion explains his actions,
"Sorry Miss Feelgood. I saw you being hassled by those Navy drones. Can't let the Major's girl be shanghied by the Navy. Now can we?"
Whilst he waited for his orders to be verified Lieutenant Champion settled down for some blissful reflections. On that fateful night back in the harbor city of his birth Adam had been given leave to attend that Hospital Ball. The leave was the only reason he went along. He had thought it was going to be a boring dance with spoilt young things. He was sure that they would spend the night looking down their noses at his lack of breeding. Instead it had become the most remarkable night of his life. Of course as soon as he had arrived his best friend Johnny McCarrell had begun chatting up all the beautiful young debutantes. Adam had not felt so old when her saw the ages of some of these young rich women. Then he caught sight of of one woman talking to his commanding officer. Later he was amused to see how easily the naval officers began to cut off access to that woman. Then he saw a look on her face. It reminded him of someone in his past. Without thinking about it Adam acted to set her free.
Johnny had told Adam what happened after the fire alarms were finally turned off. The younger people returned to the ballroom. But the older people had already ordered their drivers to take them back to some city mansion or penthouse apartment. With the older generation gone, the younger ones went feral. Long ball gowns magically became very short jazz ballet style dresses. Dances that were sedate even boring suddenly became frenetic. The wild dancing was matched by the speed dating going on even during dancing, If this crowd was older it would have been able to name this progressive partner swapping. As it is they thought they were inventing a new thrill. Johnny laughed as he recounted what had happened to his commanding officer. Hutch Matterson was grabbed by young women not prepared to take no for an answer. It took all of his diplomatic skills to free himself from what seemed a never ending series of wild dance partners. Johnny of course made no such attempts at freedom. He gave himself up to dancing with as many young things as possible.
Two not quite young things were not dancing wildly. They had passed the part of first meeting where they needed any excuse for close contact. Sitting in the now deserted kitchen, Hera said in a sultry tone of voice
"This is heaven! My mouth is full but I don't care. What about you Adam?"
Adam Champion could not believe his luck. Alone in a room with this vision from another world. He had plenty of girlfriends but they were all fleeting partners. This one was one he had no intention of losing. So he said in a charmingly humorous tone of voice,
"Your tongue is wicked. It flips in and out like a dragon's tongue devouring its meal. Can I be your next meal Golden Dragon?'
Hera laughed that laugh which captured high pitched bell sounds to thrill any listener. She answered in a mock stage voice,
"This dragon is hungry. I want more. Lets go deeper."
The voice of this young woman seemed to cast all the demons out of Adam's mind. He knew that her physical presence was sending messages that he could not ignore. So he said in a cute naive tone of voice,
"Will it be better if we go deeper?"
That laughter again shook Adam to his core as Hera said in a playful tone of voice,
"We will leave nothing to chance. This chocolate icing has meet its destiny. Spoons at the ready? Now dig deep into the bowl."
With much laughter two still young people reverted to their childhood when they sat in a kitchen to 'clean up the bowl' while the cakes cooked in the ovens. As they ferreted out all the last bits of chocolate icing these two kept glancing into each other's eyes. Hera was a country born female. She did not hide her feelings. Looking deep into Adam's eyes gave her a sensation only matched when she was riding her stallion at full gallop. As for Adam he felt himself transported to an alternate universe where there was no pain but only joy. Hera's eyes were deep brown. They grabbed him to send him flying over land unseen.
Finally there was no more icing. The bowl was clean so the spoons were useless. They looked at one another. Eventually Adam extended his hand. Hera placed her hand in his as she walked with him back to the ballroom. When they got there the noise level exploded in their ears. Being young they were soon dancing at the wildest ball ever seen in that harbor city. Couples finally started leaving after four in the morning, The musicians had left at two but digital devices had been employed to give couples their desired dance tunes. An observer would have noticed that many couples were dancing to different music. The last two to leave were Hera Feelgood and Adam Champion. As they walked the harbor streets, Hera placed her arm inside Adam's leaning heavily into his side. Adam placed his other arm around Hera's back with his head bent to touch her hair.
Even far away in that godforsaken city of chaos Adam could still smell her honey almond hairspray. He could still remember the fire that raced up his arm as he touched Hera's bare back. Not ever one for self deception Adam knew that he was in love with Hera Feelgood. What he did not know is when he would see her again.
Hera was doing some reflection of her own. This was less romantic. She was remembering the scene st her home after that beautiful night of wonder and joy. The very next day Abraham Feelgood kicked up a family storm. Her mother had told her about the parts she missed whilst in her romantic daydream. Apparently it had all started with a call to Abraham Feelgood from Frank Horan. This was just a distant rumble but it started the whole change of atmosphere at the Feelgood Mansion. After the call Abraham went searching for his wife. Not a diplomat by any definition his voice could be heard even on the street outside their home. The tone of his voice was commanding with a hint of pride in the pronunciation of the words. First came the trumpeting of the male ego,
"Mary! Maarryy! Were the fu..french are you? MARY!!!"
A near deafened wife replied in the sweetest tone but with a trace of resignation in her reply,
"I am standing right behind you Ab. Don't yell. Your two daughters got home very late last night. Hera did not get in until the gardener opened the back gate. Really Abraham you lock this mansion up like it was a fortress at night. How do you expect your girls to get home at a decent hour."
Like most marriages this was a long running argument between domineering husband/father and wife/protective mother. Normally Abraham Feelgood would have relished a long argument with his wife,. But this morning he was brimming with news so he said in a hurried tone of voice,
"Never mind all that, I know at least one of my daughters was not wasting any time last night. Guess who just called me to tell me the good news?"
Mary replied in a worried tone of voice,
"Oh Abraham you know you hate it when I guess right. Just tell me."
But her husband was full of himself this morning so he insisted. In a superior tone of voice he said to her,
"You will never guess this time. I have been clever! Never let you in on this secret. No you will never guess. Come on guess. Unless you are too sacred."
Resigned to disappointing her husband once again Mary used her softest tone of voice to reply to her husband's gloating,
"It was probably Frank Horan to tell you that his son is getting married."
The look of shock on her husband's face confirmed Mary's expressed fears. But Abraham Feelgood was not a business mogul for nothing. He recovered to try to win at the last hurdle. So he ventured this challenge in his haughtiest tone of voice,
"Yeah but who is he going to marry? Tell me that little miss fortuneteller."
Mary saw an escape for them both so she assumed a defeated tone of voice to answer her husband,
"Oh Ab you know I cannot see everything. I am not my grandmother. You will have to surprise me. So who is Lucas Horan marrying?"
Her husband visibly blanched when Mary mentioned her grandmother. Abraham Feelgood had only met that frightening woman a few times. But she scared all the cockiness out of him when he first married Mary. Bluntly told him that he would not see his sixtieth year. Now there was a witch if there ever was such a thing. As far as Abraham Feelgood was concerned he was happy his wife was only half Irish. But he had kept his wife waiting for the surprise he had planned for for so long. Almost in a bragging tone of voice he stated,
"Frankie Horan, we call him franked because of his constant use of snail mail for business contracts, anyway where was I ...Oh yes Frankie informed me this morning that his son Lucas proposed to our daughter and was accepted. We are going to be family with the Horan montague. Isn't that great?"
Mary was old money wealthy. The Horans were only second generation wealthy. She could not help remembering what her grandmother said about Frank Horan's father. It was not complementary. If true the Horan fortune got its start like a lot of English fortunes in Hong Kong. The Horan family had had to leave their original business base very quickly once Hong Kong was returned to the Communists. They had moved to the premier harbor city of Australia. Using their own money the Horan business people had accumulated over one billion dollars in city real estate. Only Abraham Feelgood owned more of the city's prime real estate.
Still Mary knew that her husband was not going to like this next question. Still better he take it out on her than her daughters. So Mary said in a quizzical tone of voice,
"That is all well and good but doesn't it all depend on which daughter it was that Lucas proposed marriage?"
A beaming husband was brought back to a frown by this strange change of mood. He asked in a edgy tone of voice,
"What the hell does that mean? Which daughter? Hera of course who else could it be......"
Marriage bestows looks between couples that are instantly recognized. Mary gave her husband just such a look. Words were not necessary. The next minute Abraham Feelgood's well laid plans lay in tatters. Or so he thought as he lost his temper to yell,
"HILDY? WHY IN BLAZES...NO I WILL NOT LOWER MY VOICE. THIS IS MY HOUSE AND IF I WANT TO YELL I WILL YELL....BUGGER MY BLOOD PRESSURE! IF YOU ARE RIGHT IT IS GOING MUCH HIGHER BEFORE I'M THROUGH WITH THIS DISASTER."
Mary knew the danger signs. Her husband's doctor had warned her about the poor health effects of too many business lunches, too many long haul overseas flights and too many beers. So she quickly went to get his prescription medicine. On the way she put in an emergency call to his doctor. The ambulance would be sent from a very exclusive private hospital. But Mary needed to act quickly. She could hear her husband calling his girls,
"HERA! HILDA! HANNAH! COME HER NOW!"
By the time Mary got back with the now much needed pills her husband had his three daughters lined up like soldiers on a parade ground. Mary quickly looked at Hera but was relieved to see that anger was not dancing in those brown eyes. Glancing at Hilda, Mary's suspicions were confirmed. Yet it was Hannah who broke the code of silence in that room. She whined in a little girls tone of voice,
"Daddy there is no school today. Why do we have to get up so early?'
Abraham Feelgood was distracted by his youngest daughter so he did not notice the looks passing between his wife and her second daughter. Confused at her presence he replied,
"Hannah what are you doing here? You weren't even at the ball last night where you?'
Screwing up her face as only a teenage girl can without leaving wrinkles Hannah replied in a scornful tone of voice,
"Oh Daddy I would die before I go to such a boring thing as a ball. Really its so lame. Can I go back to bed now?'
Still more confused than he could ever remember being before in his life, Abraham Feelgood touched his aching head before saying in a weak tone of voice,
"Give your Dad a kiss then scurry off back to bed. I only wanted your two sisters."
A warning look from her mother made Hannah reluctantly kiss her father on the forehead before she skipped back to her lovely warm bed. Mary Feelgood used this to press a pill into her husband's hand then a glass of water.
Still trying to remember what he was supposed to be doing, Abraham absently swallowed the pill then drank the water. Slowly it all came back to him. He was still shaken by his mental blackout but now knew the cause of his outburst. Looking at his two remaining daughters he thought that they both looked impossibly pleased with themselves. Still feeling his way back to full mental alertness he quietly asked both of them this question,
"Which one of you got engaged last night?... No don't interrupt Mary they are big girls... sorry women now....they can answer for themselves. Which one of you are engaged to Lucas Horan?"
Hera looked her father in the eyes before replying dreamily,
"Lucas? Not me. He came up to me last night but I sent him away."
Now Hilda spoke up in a tone of voice that spoke volumes. Rarely had she sounded more triumphant,
"It was me Daddy! We were thrown together during the fire emergency . We talked out the front then went back into the ballroom together. He danced with me all night. My friends were so jealous. Then he got down on his knees to propose marriage. Of course I accepted at once. It was so romantic!"
Mary Feelgood only said in a depressed tone of voice,
"Oh my darling Hildy. My poor darling girl."
Abraham Feelgood said in a distracted tone of voice,
"I told Frank Horan that the proposal had my full blessing! What have I done?"
Hera was able to shudder at the mere thought of Hilda marrying that creep Lucas Horan. For once she agreed with her father.
Whilst the army administration process stalled due to computer database difficulties Adam began having a less enjoyable flashback of his own. Again it was the day after the charity hospital ball. At the local army camp two other young people were facing intense questioning. They were on the carpet in front of their Commanding Officer. Colonel Ronald Mackenzie had been phoned up by the Defense Minister. He was still shaking with rage at these two junior officers standing in his office at strict attention. His wife was never going to let him forget this disaster. These two officers were going to pay big time for that alone. Trying to keep the anger out of the tone of his voice Colonel Mackenzie said,
"First you Matterson. Major Lee told me about you replacing him at the last minute. But perhaps you can explain to me why you made such a bad job of it. I am referring to that time when you allowed Miss Feelgood to be mobbed by naval officers. Good God man you were there to stop just that from happening. You had her under your protection but deserted your post. No telling who she hooked up with thanks to your negligence. I just had the Defense Minister chew me out. He had a raging Mr. Feelgood threatening to pull all his funding from the Minister's campaign fund. Abraham Feelgood is the most dangerous enemy you can ever make in this city. Explain yourself man."
Major Hutch Matterson knew he was in for a bad time no matter what he said so he went for the truth,
"Sir, I was only away from Hera's side for five minutes. That fire alarm separated us but Lieutenant Champion here saved the day. He got her out of their clutches. Sir!"
Colonel Mackenzie now moved his beedy eyes to glare at this young officer. He had an icy tone of voice when he asked this question,
"Lieutenant Champion can you tell me how you managed such an amazing feat?'
Adam Champion knew scorn when he heard it so he assumed a strictly formal tone of voice,
"Yes Sir. Seeing the navy had blockaded Miss Feelgood I acted to free her so that Major Matterson could reach her position. Sir."
Now the Colonel sprang his ambush. He took in both his junior officers with his venomous glare then raised his voice by using a threatening tone of voice,
"MEANWHILE THE OTHER MISS FEELGOOD WAS LEFT ALONE! DID EITHER OF YOU EVEN THINK OF HER? YOU PAIR OF IDIOTS!"
Major Matterson recovered first to rely in a concerned tone of voice,
"Hildy? I did not see any naval officers near Hildy. She was safely inside a whole gaggle of debutantes the last I saw of her....Sir!"
Colonel Mackenzie now used selective attacks towards these officers. Firstly he asked Lieutenant Champion,
"What about you Lieutenant? Such an enterprising officer like yourself. Surely you noticed what was happening to the younger Miss Feelgood? If not Why Not?"
Adam Champion recognized a loaded question when he heard one so he replied even more formally,
"No Sir! I do not know the young lady in question. Like Major Hutchinson I saw a group of young debutantes but did not approach their position.... Sir!"
Now the Colonel fired his biggest weapon. He asked in a mock surprised tone,
"But when the fire alarm went off surely you rushed to help the young ladies leave the ball room? Didn't you Lieutenant?"
Champion now felt very uncomfortable. He replied in a weak tone of voice,
"No Sir! I did not think of that action at the time...Sir!"
Colonel Mackenzie now exploded once again in an outrageous tone of voice,
"NO YOU DID NOT. NEITHER DID YOU MATTERSON. YOU BOTH LET A CIVILIAN....A CIVILIAN GRAB HOLD OF THE DAUGHTER OF THE RICHEST MAN IN AUSTRALIA. THAT IS WHAT YOU DID! NOW I HAVE TO PUT UP WITH BEING TOLD TO DISCIPLINE THE BOTH OF YOU. GET OUT OF MY SIGHT. I WILL SEND FOR YOU BOTH WHEN I HAVE WORKED OUT YOUR PUNISHMENT. DISMISSED!"
The two young army officers did not have to wait long to learn of their punishment. A battalion of Australian commandos had been requested by the United States General appointed as joint forces commander of a United Nations peacekeeping mission. The Australian government had agreed to this request and wanted to send Australia's best young commandos. So Major-General Phillip Dent, the head of Armed Forces, was directed to do that expeditiously. These constant requests for the Army's best combat ready battalions were making Major General Dent angry. As a career army officer he knew how hard it was to get a battalion to combat ready status. So he was very terse with Colonel Mackenzie when he ordered this latest deployment. Colonel Mackenzie misinterpreted this as some sort of indication that his superiors were unhappy with his command performance. So he quickly settled on Major Matterson's battalion. Hutch Matterson was regarded as the best combat commander in the Army. Young he may have been but no one doubted the combat readiness of his battalion. It had won first place in the recent war games with the United States Marines based in Northern Australia. So these two young men found themselves packing their kit for almost immediate deployment to an international war zone.
Adam was never more grateful for strict army regulations than he was after this catastrophic event. Now suffering from the first pangs of discomfort from his long flight Adam was still able to smile as he reflected on what happened next in his home city. Army regulations mandated a furlough for soldiers going on a six month deployment to any war zone. Hutch Matterson made sure that each person in his battalion received a five day leave pass. That gave the married soldiers one last week with their partners and children. It gave the single soldiers time with family and loved ones. Colonel Matterson went north to visited his family based around his family's rural estate. Adam Champion rang a number he had been given at the end of that magical ball. Then he went to the harbor city's newest casino restaurant. He waited at the bar. A vision of young beauty entered. She walked up to Adam with a stunning smile almost, but not quiet, blotting out her revealing dress. Adam could not speak as his heart was stuck in his mouth. So this brown eyed beauty opened the conversation with these words in a mocking tone of voice,
"Why Lieutenant Champion you are not only out of uniform but also out of words. You certainly was not this tongue tied last time we meet."
Male shame gave Adam courage to speak but his voice was anything but dark and commanding. This had been what he had been practising on his way to the Casino. In fFact his tone of voice would have been described as boyish. So he stammered out these words,
"You were.....not...wearing that dress last time we meet. I.....I...had forgotten how deep brown your eyes are...I swear I can see gold flecks in those pupils."
Hera had seen many kangaroos caught in the high beams on country roads around her family's rural estate. Now Adam seemed to her to have a matching look of being scared stunned and surprised. Hera laughed her crystal bell laugh before hitting Adam with the most sultry tone of voice as she teased him with these words,
"Is that all you want to look closely at tonight Adam? My eyes?"
Gulping like a teenager, Adam became the boy his voice seemed to belong to when he fell over the next words that tumbled out of his mouth in a nervous tone of voice when he answered,
"I only have five days leave. ...Believe me I really want to spend a lifetime looking closely at every part of you Hera.....you are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen.....I mean you are obviously highly intelligent too and not just a woman with awesomely great model looks but...Not that you don't look like one of those supermodels...because you do...but last time we talked ...you were just so clever in everything you said...I could not stop thinking about you....Not that you have to do anything...well I mean not...if you don't want to...I mean.."
Hera laughed a full throated laugh that sent Adam into an embarrassing public display of manly lust. Hera took pity on him to take command of this early part of their first date. She spoke to him with genuine pleasure seeping into her half serious mocking tone of voice when she said,
"As we are currently at a public bar lets just start with drinks then dinner. We can get to the rest after dinner. How's that?"
Nodding like a love sick fool Adam let Hera order the drinks. He was an Irish whiskey man so she got him a double shot of the best the bar had to offer. Hera was a gin fanatic but was choosy about her brand of gin. So she ordered the boutique label Underground Spirits Gin. This arrived with a slice of lime. They both hid behind their drinks but never stopped looking into each other's eyes.
Finally after six drinks st the bar they were called to their waiting table. They had a full banquet meal but would have been hard pressed to answer any later inquiries about the food or service. Of course the restaurant staff recognized the daughter of Australia's richest man so they served them super fast whilst keeping any pestering photographers away from their table.
After dinner the pair almost floated to their lounge chairs. Adam had ordered glasses of his favorite red wine, Australian of course and full bodied. Hera drank the best champagne the restaurant head wine waiter could provide from the casino's cellars. They were not drunk but were far from being sober. Their mutual eye gazing was becoming intense. Hera was trying to work out how to get a room without leaving a trail any gossip columnist could follow.
Just then there was a major commotion at the front entrance to the casino. A very large party of business people were arriving. By the way the Casino staff forget about anyone else it was clear that this party must have had important politicians as well as rich patrons. Hera was too wrapped up in Adam to notice but luckily he had just excused himself to go to the toilet. Fortunate because a voice she knew very well now broke into her alcohol hazed brain. In a loud demanding tone of voice it said,
"Hera? What are you doing here? Where did you get that dress? Hera put on your coat. Really that dress should be illegal. WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE YOUNG LADY?'
No cold shower could have worked faster than her father's censorious tone of voice. To protect Adam from her father Hera swallowed her anger to come up with a likely alibi. She said,
"Daddy I am old enough to go out to dinner. This dress is the latest fashion! Its from New York."
Abraham Feelgood was not letting go of his displeasure. He looked his oldest daughter straight in the face demanding an answer to his first question. In a tone of voice Hera knew all too well Abraham Feelgood barked out these words,
"Explain yourself young lady. It better be good. Who are you having dinner with exactly. Our family has had enough scandal with Hilda's rushed engagement. Just you forget about making things worse."
Hera became frantic when she saw Adam walking back from the toilet. Just then another man walked into the lounge. Hera could not believe her luck. Yesterday afternoon he had phoned her to say he was going north to visit his lovely mother and father. But here he was...her savior. So Hera spoke excessively loudly in exclaiming in a mock innocent tone of voice
"If you must know Daddy. The man you want to hound out of my life forever is none other than Hutch Matterson. He is being sent overseas and I am giving him an Aussie female goodbye dinner....HUTCH! Over here Hutch. Here is Daddy getting all the wrong ideas about our friendly farewell dinner. Come over tell Daddy how much you needed a send off dinner"
Abraham Feelgood felt cheated but he was not sure how this had happened. He certainly could not berate his daughter for having dinner with the heir to Australia's largest rural fortune. Besides they had been friends all their lives. He was sure that his daughter only saw this man as a friend. Still that dress needed explaining. But he sensed that they were beginning to attract the gossip social media snoops. So he assumed a pretense of being relieved by this revelation. In a tone of voice that shouted satisfied parent indulging his daughter he said
"Well if it isn't old Henry Hutchinson's son. How are you Hutch? How are your parents? Going overseas soon. That's too bad. Just make sure you get Hera home before the gates are locked. Goodnight you two. See you at home Hera."
With that he walked quickly away before any photos could be taken that could embarrass his social standing.
Hutch Matterson was a highly intelligent man. He had worked out what was going on so he played along by holding Hera's hand in a brotherly manner. As soon Abraham Feelgood had rejoined his party he lent in close to ask
"Exactly who were you having dinner with in that dress Hera?. Who every it was he is a lucky man! That dress Hera should be illegal."
Hera saw Adam still standing just out of sight of anyone else. She looked at Hutch before deciding to trust him completely. So she said in a conspiratorial tone of voice
"Hutch if I gave you a note to hand deliver to a fellow officer will you do it without questions?"
Swallowing his pride, Matterson replied in a resigned tone of voice,
"You know I will do anything for you Hera. If my parents had not suddenly decided to fly to London to visit my sister and their grandchildren I would not even be here tonight. But at least I got to see you in that dress. So fairs fair write the note, seal it and I will deliver it."