(n.) any of the diverse forms of interpersonal union established in various parts of the world to form a familial bond that is recognized legally, religiously, or socially, granting the participating partners mutual conjugal rights and responsibilities
Stefan leans forward, resting his chin on his hands as he stares directly into one of the cameras.
“Why should I care if my ex-wife is marrying someone I used to work with?”
He shrugs his shoulders nonchalantly. His lips let a deep sigh escape before twisting into a smirk - the smirk that got him most of his roles when he was still acting, the one that was the origin of his reputation as a bad boy years ago. He is obviously satisfied by the reaction a few women have.
“Because the man is black? She could’ve gone with worse. It’s not like he dated other men before,” Stefan laughs. “Oh wait, he did that too!”
Some journalists gasp while other snicker discreetly. And it is all the encouragement the businessman needs to keep talking.
”It is not like my ex has ever been known for making good choices. She’s the one who asked for the divorce after all!”
The only positive responses he receives are from men, who laugh and some of them even clap. There is a brief silence, uncomfortable and heavy, that makes Stefan start to think about the eventual repercussions, until a journalist stands up to ask another question. Stefan nods in her direction, completely forgetting about his worries, too enthralled by her appearance.
”And what do you have to say about the pregnancy rumors?”
The man shakes his head with a scoff.
”For the baby’s sake, I hope they are wrong. With parents like that, it wouldn’t survive long.”
It is when he sees his latest girlfriend, in the back of the room, clasp her hand over her mouth that he realizes he went too far. He ignores all the questions being asked, the comments and the insults, and stands up to leave the conference room, led by his bodyguard.
Stefan can only relax when his girlfriend joins him in the backseat of the car. She is staring at him, but with none of the usual desire in her blue eyes, only disappointment, so much that he can’t help thinking about Aurora. He growls and puts his forehead against the window. Even if his girlfriend is only a few years older than his daughter, she is not supposed to remind if of her.
”This is not going to be good for your image, Stefan,” she says hesitantly, caressing his arm.
He turns his head abruptly, making the young woman tense up.
”Oh really, you think?”
She puts her hand back on her lap and apologizes, looking down at her feet.
The remainder of the ride to his girlfriend’s apartment is silent, as neither of them wants or dares to speak up again. It is only when the apartment’s door is closed behind them that Stefan talks.
”I shouldn’t have snapped at you like that, babe.” He grabs her chin between two fingers, forcing her to look at him. “But I know that I’ll be making the news and not for the right reasons. And I’ll have to find a solution…”
She simply nods.
”You can think about that later. I have a solution for tonight.”
The next morning, newspaper editorials are full of comments on the interview and videos are everywhere on the internet. Stefan’s phone keeps ringing as relatives and business partners send him messages to ask what the controversy is really about.
”Your phone is ringing again, Stefan,” his girlfriend announces as she puts a plate of bacon and eggs in front of him. “I guess the person you set the Addams’ Family song for is not your best friend.”
Stefan raises an eyebrow. His girlfriend hands him his phone as an answer. He opens the last message he received.
One more mistake. More troubles you will have difficulties getting out of. But guess who will get all the partners you are going to lose?
Stefan tosses his phone carelessly on the table and starts pacing in the kitchen under his girlfriend’s worried, and yet delighted, gaze. He mumbles about taking down a woman and making her shut up forever.
“Don’t you have a gay wedding to attend?”
“What are you talking about?” Stefan asks as he sits again to start eating his breakfast.
”Isn’t there anyone gay in your family? Looking happy at their wedding would dispel some of the rumors, you know.”
The man stays silent a moment. He then stands up, takes his bag, jacket and car key and runs out of the apartment without explaining where he is going or even saying goodbye.
He rushes out of the elevator, looking like a complete mess. The secretary, a man, Stefan notices, calls to him and asks him to stop and calm down. They stare at each other before Stefan shifts toward the glass doors of the office.
“You can’t get in without an appointment with Ms. Moore.”
“Don’t you know who I am?”
The secretary laughs.
“Stefan Rose, notorious homophobe and racist. The world knows who you are.”
Stefan ignores the black-haired man and pushes through the doors violently. He walks to the large desk, his eyes never leaving the woman sitting there.
“I see you still know how to make an entrance. Sadly, the surprise was ruined when you started screaming at my secretary.”
“Get me out of this mess, Maleficent.”
The woman smirks and gives her attention back to the papers she was reading before he barged into her office.
“I have a plan that is so twisted you will love it.”
Aurora paces in the living room, holding the TV remote tightly in her hand, completely ignoring her three nannies worriedly following her every move and her knuckles turning white. Even though it is summer and people are laughing outside, she can enjoy neither of these things because her father is acting obnoxiously again. In front of cameras!
”Honey, maybe you should calm down,” Ms. Flittle says, putting a reassuring hand on her shoulder.
The blonde turns her head suddenly when she hears the door opening. She rushes to the hallway as her father slams the door. The three nannies gasp in surprise, but Aurora does not even flinch; she has seen this so often it is now part of her daily life. Stefan throws his bag on the couch before heading to the fridge, ignoring the four pairs of eyes following him to the kitchen. There is an heavy silence only interrupted by the noise the beer bottle makes when Stefan opens it.
”Mr. Rose, if I may-“
”No, you don’t. Now that I am here, you can leave. The three of you.” the man growls, taking a sip, keeping his eyes closed.
The nannies know better than to disobey their employer; twenty years working for him had been enough to teach them not to follow every order he gave them - even a week had been enough.
As soon as the door is closed again, Stefan looks up at his daughter standing on the other side of the bar, nervously playing with a lock of golden hair. They both know they will argue, or at least disagree rather loudly, as Stefan prefers to put it.
”You should sit.”
It is not a suggestion and Aurora does not wait for her father to ask twice. He has not shaved this morning, she notices, which means he spent the night at his office or most probably at his new girlfriend’s place. But he is not smirking smugly like he usually does when he comes back from a week-end with a new toy. He looks too serious. And it is not surprising, being accused of being racist and homophobic because of one more comment made during an interview could never make anyone happy, especially when they have a reputation and family and fortune to protect.
”How are we going to get out of this mess, Father?” Aurora asks, trying to look as serene and calm as possible.
”I have an idea as insane as it is genius.”
Aurora opens her mouth but no sound comes out from her lips. This really is not a good sign; her father admitting his idea is insane is definitely something to worry about.
”To redeem our family’s name,” he stops a moment, taking a deep breath and one more sip of his beer - Aurora knows he lies and only wants to be loved and admired again, that he does not care about the consequences for her. “I have to prove that I am a good person, that I am not homophobic- or- or racist! And you, my dear, are the most important part of my plan.”
Aurora intertwines her fingers together, bracing herself. She knows she is not going to like the plan.
”You are going to have the perfect wedding you so often dreamed of. Well, except for a few details… like the groom…”
”You are getting married. To a woman.”