The small town of Markham, Indiana was a gem in the southern part of the State. Bisected by the Wabasso River, as it flows to the much larger Wabash, Markham was in the grips of winter at this time. A light snow was falling and it covered the now barren trees which, during the spring and summer, shade the beautiful campus of Ambridge College. At this point in time, the college is in the beginning of the Spring session, while everyone was in their dorms
On the left bank of the Wabasso, the office suite at Mayfield Manufacturing Company was lighted. Aside from the college, Mayfield Manufacturing was one of the largest employers in this largely agricultural town. It provided many and varied products and services for agriculture and industry.
It was a little before Seven PM, and Jason Mayfield was working on some paperwork. He was looking over a proposal for an expansion of the Farm Equipment division in Terre Haute, which was about 50 miles from Markham. He buzzed his secretary, Delores, in the outer office, but he forgot that she had gone home at Five.
Jason was working hard on this proposal, because he had to take it in front of the board of directors, one of which was his father, Aaron. Aaron was notoriously hard to please, and while he favors his son, he tends to be hardest on him. Jason's brother, Andrew and his sister, Mary Kate, were not as into the business as he himself was. Andrew was a student at University of Indiana in Bloomington, much like his father and Jason himself had been, but was never home much, living in a fraternity house there. Mary Kate was a sophomore at Ambridge, and was rumored to be rather promiscuous.
A tired Jason was finishing up, and he had the proposal ready. As he stretched out, his cell phone rang. He smiled at the name that had come on the caller ID.
"Hello, Frieda," he said softly.
"Hi yourself," Frieda Merriweather smiled back.
Frieda Merriweather was the daughter of William Merriweather, an equally wealthy family in Markham, whose ancestors helped found the town and later brought Ambridge College to town. Frieda was the oldest of two daughters of William and his wife, Elizabeth. However, nobody knew that these two were together, for the two families had been at one another's throats for seven decades.
Jason's father and Frieda's father had been best friends back in the 40s and had been close all through their school years. Then came the year 1955 and things exploded between the two former friends.
For many years, William had been in love with Jason's aunt Catherine and it had been understood that they would have been married. However, according to his father, William gleefully jilted Catherine at the altar and took off with Elizabeth Snyder, a woman he had been cheating on Catherine with. Catherine had run into the main street of Markham and had almost been killed in a car-pedestrian accident. She had gone to the hospital and she recovered.
William and Elizabeth had gotten married and they had two daughters, Frieda and Corrine.
The hatred between their fathers however hadn't abated since they were children. Aaron had accused Mr. Merriweather of molestation and child abuse; while Mr. Merriweather had slandered the family and their name more times than he cared to admit.
Catherine got over William, and she met and married Andrew Steiner, a young man she knew from Terre Haute and had known the Mayfields well. They met his approval and they had married in Terre Haute. He died in 1992 at the age of 75; and then Catherine passed away the year Jason graduated from High School in 2000. He and Frieda met at the University of Indiana, and both knew of their families feuding with one another, but they didn't let it get to them. They fell in love instantly.
After he graduated college, Jason had begun working at Mayfield Manufacturing. He had always loved it.
"Any plans for the evening, lover?" Frieda asked.
"No," Jason sighed, "I have to finish up a proposal for Dad. Then we have a dinner engagement with the head of Acquisitions."
"I'm sorry, honey," Frieda said, "I had asked Cook to have Chicken Cordon Bleu. I know how much you love it."
"Thank you, sweetheart," Jason said, "but I don't think your dad will have me in the house!"
"I know," Frieda said, "Our dads will NEVER get along."
"And never will again, if they have their way," Jason said, as frustrated as his fiancee was over the constant war between their families.
"I don't get it, though," Frieda said, "our mothers get along beautifully."
"Yeah," Jason said, "Just recently, in The Record, our mothers had helped donate a new MRI machine to the hospital."
The town's hospital was named Adelia Mayfield Memorial Hospital, after Jason's great great grandmother. While the Mayfields tended to be charitable towards the town in general; Frieda's family tended to be more focused on Ambridge College.
"How is your sister?" Frieda asked.
"Don't ask," Jason said, "Mary Kate hadn't come home at all last night."
"I'm sorry, Jase," Frieda said, "how can you deal with her?"
"I don't know," Jason said, "I've never been able to understand my sister either."
It had been a long standing rumor that Mary Kate Mayfield was notoriously promiscuous and it was a shame to Jason. Frieda and Mary Kate never got along, and it was one of the few sore spots between them. She was known for being at a truck stop outside of Markham and usually going after the truckers there.
"How's Corrie?" Jason asked, referring to Frieda's sister, Corrine.
"She's fine," Frieda said, "she went on a trip to Indianapolis for school."
"At least it gets her away from Markham," Jason said. "I have to get going, here comes the old man. Save me some of that Chicken Cordon Bleu."
Frieda grinned, "In the works, lover," she said, "see ya, love ya."
Jason smiled, "Love you too," he said, and disconnected the call before his father came in. Aaron Mayfield still cut a handsome figure at age 70 and looked the part of a benevolent patriarch.
"Jason, do you have the proposal?" he asked.
"Right here, Father," Jason said, handing him the manilla folder with the proposal.
"Good, good," Aaron said in approval, "the expansion will go without a hitch, depending on those fatheads on the Terre Haute council."
"Dad," Jason said, "the council will have to go over this with a fine toothed comb."
"Not to mention the board of directors, boy," Aaron said sternly, "and you know what sticklers they are."
Jason sighed, sometimes his father didn't think he knew anything.
"I called your mother," Aaron said, "and she said that she and Elizabeth Merriweather helped donate that MRI machine."
Jason looked at his father, "Surely you have no faults with that?" he asked.
"Of course not," Aaron said, "I just wish that woman wouldn't be working so much with that Elizabeth Merriweather."
"Mom and Mrs. Merriweather have been friends for years," Jason pointed out, "much like you and Mr. Merriweather had been."
"I don't like William Merriweather," Aaron thundered, "and I never will. Don't forget what he did to your aunt Catherine."
Jason was close to losing his temper. He also possessed the Mayfield temper, which his dad had.
"Dad," Jason stated calmly, "I am well aware of the damage that William Merriweather had done to this family. You've never gotten over that he had dumped Aunt Catherine. Aunt Catherine had gotten married to Uncle Andrew and they were happy for the longest time."
"And that perverted old fool has never done a thing wrong," Aaron seethed.
"Sometimes, I don't get it," Jason said, "you and Mr. Merriweather were old friends and have hated one another for seven decades! Don't you think it's time we ended this feud?"
"Only way this will end is when Merriweather drops dead!" Aaron said acidly.
"I am ready to present this to the board, Father," Jason said, "here it is."
"Good work, boy," Aaron said, "what are you doing now?"
"Nothing," Jason said, "I think I will go and get something to eat."
"Good idea," Aaron said, "I will be home later on. I think it will be a long night for us."
"All right," Jason said, "see you when you get home."
The minute Jason left the office and headed out of the massive building overlooking the Wabasso, Jason expected his office light to go out, but it hadn't.
Oh, man! Jason thought, I forgot my cell phone. I left it on the desk!
He went back to his office to get his cell phone, what he saw shocked him! Sprawled over his desk, his father was seducing his secretary, Delores!
"FATHER!" he roared.
"Mr. Jason," Delores said, "I can explain!"
"I will deal with you later, Delores," he said angrily, "right now, I want words with my father!"
"No need to say anything," Delores said, "I am fired right?"
"Yes," Jason said, "I will send you your termination letter in the morning. Right after I hire a new secretary!"
Delores walked out, dejected.
"I can explain!" Aaron pleaded.
"I doubt that!" Jason said acidly, "Nothing you could say could excuse what you did!"
"Jason, please!" Aaron said.
"I can't get rid of you, since you own the company," Jason said, "you had best come up with a thing to keep me here and from quitting!"
Aaron looked at his angry son. He was in for it now.
"Tell me why I should not walk out of this company for good?!" Jason glared at his father.
"Delores and I were working on something," Aaron said.
"What about Mother?" Jason said.
"I will always love your mother," Aaron protested, "but she is such a cold fish in bed! I wanted some fun!"
"With my secretary, no less!" Jason said.
"Jason, I am sorry," Aaron said.
"No, you're not," Jason said coldly, "you're no better than William Merriweather is! You have no shame! I resign as President of Mayfield Manufacturing!"
"No!" Aaron pleaded, "Andrew won't come into the company, and Mary Kate has no interest in it. I can only trust you!"
"But can I trust YOU?" Jason asked, "I have to hire a new secretary!"
"Don't," Aaron said, "please keep on Delores."
"I will keep her on," Jason compromised, "but I will watch you, old man! You mess with her again, then you will definitely PAY!"
Outside of the office, Delores Ramirez was turning in her badge.
"Wait a second, Delores," Jason said, "Rafkin, she is not fired. She is rehired."
"But, you saw me with your father," Delores protested.
"Maybe," Jason said, "but you're one of the best secretaries I've ever had. You're the ONLY secretary I've ever had, ever since I started to work here."
"You're saying?" Delores said.
"Can't break up the old team, can we?" Jason grinned.
"I thank you, Mr. Mayfield," Delores said gratefully.
"We must talk to my mother, however," Jason said.
"Si," Delores said, her spanish coming through, "I can't bear having been with your father."
"Then we will talk to her," Jason said.
"Am I still on the clock?" Delores said.
"No," Jason said, "I'll take care of your time card. We've to talk with Mother tonight!"
Some hours later, at Redfern, the estate of the Mayfield family, located on a bluff overlooking the Wabasso River on Markham's west side, Jocelyn Quintard Mayfield was eating supper, alone, with her faithful maid, Collette, to take care of her.
Jason, along with Delores, came in. Ravenswood, the butler, took the coats.
"Your mother is in the dining room, sir," the butler said in clipped tones.
"Thank you, Ravenswood," Jason said, "we need to talk to Mother."
Jocelyn was finishing up, when Jason came in. "Mother," he said.
"Jason, I was finishing up dinner," Jocelyn said, "is everything ok?
"Mrs. Mayfield, I have to confess something to you," Delores said.
"What is it, dear?" Jocelyn said.
"Your husband and I were having an affair," she said, feeling ill.
Jocelyn looked stricken. "Did you know about this, Jason?" she asked.
"No," Delores said, "he just found out about it, like you did."
"I went to the office to get my cell phone, which I left on my desk," Jason explained, "and then I went into the office and I saw Delores and Father."
"I don't deserve your mercy," Delores said, "Jason was about to fire me, but yet he rehired me."
"At least you had the honesty to be open with me on this," Jocelyn said, "and Jason, I am sorry you had to find out."
"Believe me, Mother," Jason said, "I was about to up and quit the company."
"I'm glad you didn't, darling," Jocelyn said, "I need at least ONE of my children to be above the fray. Between your father and Mr. Merriweather, and what is going on, I don't know how to deal with it!"
"Don't worry about it, Mother," Jason said, kissing his mother on the cheek, "we will deal with it. I can't believe Father would behave that way!"
"And after all the ranting and raving he does about William Merriweather," Delores said, "I am not sure if I can continue as secretary, me knowing what I know."
"I would insist you continue your job," Jocelyn said, "you not working there, warning bells would sound, and you know how this town is with the rumor mill."
Jason, as much as anyone, knew the rumor mill in Markham. Because the Merriweathers and Mayfields had been around since the town had been founded by their ancestors, they faced more scrutiny than a lot of the town.
"Besides," Jocelyn continued to Delores, "my husband is aching to learn a lesson."
"Just like he will learn one from Frieda and I," Jason said.
"That's right," Delores said, "you and Ms. Merriweather are getting married."
"And that will happen in the garden behind the house here," Jocelyn said.
Unfortunately, as Jocelyn said that, Aaron came in.
"I will NOT allow that," he roared, "I will NOT have this grounds tainted with Merriweather germs!"
Jocelyn fixed a glacial glare at her husband.
"I don't think you've any call to question this, Aaron," she snapped, "I am the mistress of the house, and I say the kids are to get married in the garden and there is NOTHING you or William Merriweather have to say that will change my mind! Elizabeth and I agree on this. The kids are to be married here, and that is final! UNLESS......" she said with a snide look on her face, "you want me to expose your affair with Delores to the entire town? Remember, I know people on The Record. And I can have your name demolished!"
Aaron was flummoxed. How could Jocelyn blackmail him like that?
"You wouldn't do that to me," Aaron said, unconvinvingly.
"You maintained this miserable feud for decades, all because William had done Catherine dirt," Jocelyn said, "how can you deny your son his happiness?"
"How dare you, Jocelyn?" Aaron snapped, "I want Jason to be happy, but NOT with Frieda Merriweather!"
"You are failing to take one thing into consideration," Jason said coldly to his father, "I am in LOVE with Frieda! And she is in love with me!"
"Why couldn't you marry Catsy McBride?" Aaron said, "she's a lady of quality."
"Catsy McBride was a phony," Jocelyn said, "her mother was laughed out of the garden club!"
"Would you PLEASE keep your place?" Aaron snapped at his wife.
"Mother is right," Jason said, "Catsy was a fraud! She was jailed for embezzlement!"
"Because she worked for that loser Merriweather!" Aaron crowed.
"You know that is not true," Jocelyn said, "she worked for Mayfield Hospital!"
"And she was fired for embezzling from medical funds," Jason pointed out.
"That is BESIDE the point," Aaron roared, "she was under the tutelage of Merriweather!"
"You are so blinded by hatred," Jocelyn said, "I can't believe it."
Meanwhile, it was after midnight and on Markham's east side, in a similar mansion on College Boulevard, five blocks east from Ambridge College's campus, the Merriweather family live. While the Mayfields often spread their charity around the town in general, the Merriweathers tend to focus more on the college, since it was their ancestors who brought the college to the town.
A scream pierced the quiet of the estate.
"NOOOOOOOOOOO!!" the scream was heard throughout the mansion.
"Corrie," Frieda yelled, "what's wrong?"
"HELP!" Corrine, her younger sister, screamed.
Frieda raced to the bedroom, where she saw her father molesting Corrine.
"GET OFF OF HER, YOU BASTARD!" she exploded.
Behind Frieda, her mother, Elizabeth was in shock.
"WILLIAM!!!!" She rasped, "GET OFF OF MY DAUGHTER THIS INSTANT!"
Corrine fled to her sister, sobbing.
"He wouldn't leave me alone! He wouldn't leave me alone," she wailed.
"It's not your fault, Corrie," Frieda said, then she glared at her father, "which leaves you, doesn't it?"
William was in stunned silence.
Frieda glared at her father, "I am going over to the Mayfields! I am going to see my fiance!" she spat coldly, "and if you have any sense at all, you will not be here when I get back!"
"Corrie," William pleaded, "nothing happened."
"You are lying!" Elizabeth said angrily, "I am going with Frieda to the Mayfields! I don't want to see you for a while!"
"And if you are still here when we return," Frieda said coldly, "then we will call the police!"
Elizabeth, Frieda and a sobbing Corrine left the room. The car was started and it was clear they were headed to the Mayfields estate.
William looked at a picture of him and the family at their summer home on Lake Michigan in Benton Harbor, Michigan. He grabbed it and threw it across the foyer, where it smashed.