Charles Pugh is Mrs. Pugh's husband who was the original head gardener.

Helen = Mrs. Pugh

Dottie = Mrs. Greer

Marriage Covenant versus Contract information can be found on the web. I've heard it told multiple times in church, quoted it in Esther's dialogue but website I used won't come up on here.

This is somewhat beta'd so there are errors. Happy New Year!


July 5, 1933 (10 p.m.)

Dear Milly,

If you thought yesterday and the day before were a whirlwind of activities and emotions, then today must have been a hurricane! I must say it didn't start of like that though, but now we all know it was the calm before the storm!

Let's see … where to start? Hmmm, I know after yesterday morning's discovery, where William found Oliver in Grace's room, my adorable husband was up early to do a bit of patrolling around the house. To his amusement he found Oliver out in the garden picking a bouquet of summer flowers for Grace as he hummed last night's tune. William said that instead of looking sheepish when he was discovered, Oliver actually greeted him warmly, and freely offered an explanation about what he was doing without missing a beat.

Milly, I guess, since Grace and Oliver have shared their undying love for one another, the vise around Oliver's heart has now dissolved, and he doesn't care who knows about his unleashed and unquiet love for her now. William said that all he could do was clap Oliver on the back because like any lovesick schoolboy, Oliver's mind was only focused one task to continue picking flowers for his lady love, so after his admission, he immediately returned to his original purpose and unintentionally dismissing William.

However, as William turned to leave, Oliver did ask for his permission to venture into Grace's room to leave her the bouquet of flowers before getting some early work done before THAT DEMOCRAT took over his time. Let's just say the ornery and stubborn Oliver wasn't too far gone, on that lovesick cruise, after making that statement which had my husband chuckling all the way back to our room.

On a side note, the fact that Oliver is respecting William's and my wishes, as 'parents,' is invigorating. I know it's hard for him and Grace to wait until after the wedding on Saturday, after all, they have waited 10 years to announce their eternal love for one another; but, he also understands that outside these walls people are very unforgiving, and tongues will wag even if the occupants inside vouch for their 10 years of innocence and celibacy. He made that very clear, much later, during our first marriage covenant class, but I'm getting ahead of myself Milly!

Okay, so when did the tailspin begin? It began about 30 minutes after breakfast started, when Mr. Donatelli returned early for the girls. However, not only did he return for the girls, but he also brought along a Mrs. McGuire, who was nameless until much later to those of us not privy to Grace and Oliver's meeting with her. All we knew about this mysterious woman was she came with two trunks and small dresser of some kind, and that she not only held court with Grace and Oliver for about an hour but almost another hour when Annie joined them.

All I know, Milly is … its hard being the person whose expected to keep a level head among her family especially during turmoil times like today. I know Abigail wanted to quiz Grace immediately after seeing her carry a crying Annie toward the elevators but I held her back anyway. On the other hand, Helen and Dottie were able to fill in several of the holes about today's mayhem, including Mrs. McGuire's name; however, they weren't able to fill in the ones we were all hoping for especially about what made Annie's demeanor change along with the mysterious trunks and dresser.

Then about 20 minutes after the boys ascended the stairs to Oliver's office, four distraught women came flying down the stairs, apparently they were eavesdropping on their discussion. Once we were able to herd them all into Oliver's study, and calm them all down a bit, they were able to share their devastating news that the girls' adoptions weren't necessarily a shoo-in after last Friday's debacle with Annie.

Apparently, Miss Hannigan the shenanigan, overlooked many of the pre-requirements for all potential adoptive parents (or weekly hosts such as Oliver was initially) which require not only background checks but home visits to ensure the environment is safe as well. I'm sure Gracie will be thrilled when she learns about the hoops she jumped through because of Miss Hannigan the shenanigan. If there is one thing Grace does not like doing, it's using Oliver's power and money as leverage to get what she wants especially if there are rules involved which concern the safety of others. They actually both like to follow the rules most of the time. Now when it comes to Oliver's Cuban cigars and last Sunday's shopping spree, Grace will bend the rules for those she loves; however, Grace's feelings for Annie hadn't developed into love yet during her initial visit to the orphanage, maybe impressed by her loyalty and charm, but I'm sure she would have followed the visitation and background rules if Miss Hannigan had enforced them.

Eleanor, actually explained the purpose of the background checks. She indicated that the purpose of the initial one is to inspect the environment without the children present. Generally, each living environment requires at least two bedrooms, one for the parents and one for the child or children. However, before she could explain about the second visitation, a ghastly sound occurred within the study!

Oh my goodness, Milly, I've never heard sweet Annette wail like she did after hearing about the two bedrooms! Helen, immediately, hightailed it out of the room faster than I've ever seen her go in years as Cecile, Mabel, and Jane tried to console Annette. Initially, Eleanor, Abigail, and I all had a hard time understanding Annette's response, but then Abigail recalled out loud that Annette and Michael lived in one of the staff's living courters, which are all one bedrooms.

Anyway, the other three couples live in either brownstones closer to the city, or in one of the caretaker cottages. We were all trying to come up with a solution to the Jenkins' housing problem when Helen came charging back into the room with Charles right behind her. She stated that they had been talking for a while about moving back into the house because the upkeep of their cottage was getting too much for them.

Milly, remember Charles use to be the head gardener of Oliver's estate, and Helen has been the head cook for over 12 years now, so of course they live in one of the caretaker cottages. I know some thought that when Charles stepped down, Oliver would ask them to move out of the cottage, but he never did. It was his silent way of thanking them both for their hard work. I know it was one of those times Grace was so proud of him she was walking on air for at least a few hours before his bellowing burst that bubble! MILLY, THANK GOODNESS GRACE'S LOVE IS MORE POWERFUL THAN HIS BELLOWING, BECAUSE ANY LESSER FEELING WOULD HAVE CAUSED ANY SAIN PERSON TO HIGHTAIL IT OUT OF HIS EMPLOYMENT BEFORE HIS/HER FIRST YEAR ENDED! I believe that is why up until Grace, Oliver had an infamous turnover rate with his personal secretaries!

Now, don't get me wrong Milly, it goes both ways. Oliver, has always treated Grace with upmost respect, and a kindness which he's never bestowed on any of his other employees; however, it was always a bit different than Grace's patience and unwavering loyalty. What is it Punjab says? Oh yes, 'Buddha says a man who has a tender spot for another but fears it's not returned will hide behind a cloak of indifference and callousness.' Milly, I couldn't agree more especially after watching those two silent lovebirds for years! Thank Heavens for Annie's arrival and her matchmaking scheming … otherwise they would have both gone to their graves single and unhappy. Now, to see them, you would think they've been a happily married couple for ten years, and up until recently, the only reason the house was so gloomy was because they were unable to fill it with a child's gaiety and laughter. Oh hum, Milly, the musings of the retired 'Judge Love!'

Now where was I? Oh yes, Charles and Helen's sudden entrance into the office! Well, we had just started hashing out different ideas on how to make the Jenkins' living situation suitable for Mr. Donatelli and the board of orphans when the Pughes came huffing into the study (I mean, Milly, we had several well educated and clever women in one room surely we could come up with a plausible solution to suit their requirements)! Anyway, Helen came bustling in, with Charles close on her heels, stating this was the moment they had been waiting for to exchange their cottage for one of the more manageable servant courters. She went on in her usual bubbly self about how they'd been talking about downsizing for some time, but didn't want to offend Oliver for allowing them to stay in their home after Charles semi-retirement.

Let's just say Dottie and I shared a knowing look that Helen's epiphany was a bold face lie, but the Pughes' abundant kindness and love toward others would always win out even if it meant sacrificing something they cherished for a greater good. Oh, don't get me wrong, Helen and Charles, both, made it sound like the house was too much for them to handle especially with their continued responsibilities within the Warbucks household. It was a smashing performance and would have easily won an Oscar had it been on the silver screen.

However, after Dottie and I shared our silent tête-à-tête, I looked around the room, and NOT one woman present acted as if they believed the Pughes' sudden announcement was anything but a sham; but, the humble response from Annette after she got over her initial astonishment was all the response the Pughes needed to know that their sacrifice was well worth it. Annette quickly hugged the Pughes and showered them with incredulous thanks yous; then after she was done showering them with her gratitude, all three dashed up the stairs in order for Helen to announce their decision to the boys upstairs before the Jenkins were initially rejected due to their lack of suitable housing for their two girls.

Milly, about a half an hour later, the four families were reunited, and I'd have to say we all needed to observe their happy faces with relief and love intertwined in them, especially after this past weekend's events. Ellis and William eventually followed them after leading Mr. Donatelli to the front door and bidding him a farewell for now. Once they turned to head back toward the cigar room, Abigail flagged them down making them take a detour to us first.

When they entered the study, they began to fill us in on the meeting upstairs in Oliver's office. They indicated that Oliver and Grace would be all the girls' guardians, until home visits were conducted, but that all the other information looked well in order, due to Grace's well organized files on each of Oliver's employees, which would help expedite the girls' adoptions. They also implied to Oliver's immediate mortification on all the hoops Grace was able to jump through to get Annie for the week, all due to Miss Hannigan's shenanigans. One thing I know for sure, Milly, is how much Grace and Oliver hate getting special treatment … most of the time … due to his power and money!

Well, after the boys informed us about the proceedings up in Oliver's office, and we saw the four families frolicking out in the garden with the kites the boys purchased a few days ago, William and Ellis were able to inform us that Miss Hannigan would be on administrative leave until further notice, and Mr. and Mrs. Benson would be talking over temporarily if not permanently. Apparently, Mrs. Benson, is Miss Turner the caretaker Miss Hannigan replaced, who married a Mr. Benson, who happens to be one of the board of directors. They both felt it imperative that they return to the scene of the crime, and clean up Miss Hannigan's mess. Evidently, they were both told countless times that everything was okay, and that all the orphans whose parents assisted with Miss Turner's programs were reunited with their respective children. Mr. Donatelli also informed the boys that had the Bensons known of Miss Hannigan's foul dealings toward the Bennetts, and about their untimely deaths they would have personally adopted Annie in honor of them.

Now, once all this information was shared with us, Abigail started her interrogation about Mrs. McGuire, and the emotional disturbance she caused during her visit. Of course, boys will be boys and their lack of acknowledgement toward worldly undertones and seeing the whole picture around them most of time, not only caused Abigail, but the rest of us women to become a little irked toward them. Her look of disgust said it all, but before she could give them a piece of her mind, the President and Christian came into the study announcing that lunch was being served out on the patio so the families could enjoy 'an almost celebration' picnic.

Let's just say that my two youngest children had a small tiff, but it resolved quickly with an eye roll from Abigail. She soon turned her attention to her 'diary' in order to curb her sharp tongue. Abigail and Ellis have a strong and supportive relationship, but because they grew up together they also can fight like cats and dogs. They are both very aware of this trait so they attempt to avoid causing this characteristic to unleash at all cost. You remember, Milly, their first year of marriage had some rough moments where both their claws left horrendous marks on the other's heart and pride. I believe that's when I hung up my Judge Love Robe!

Anyway, I know when 2:00 p.m. rolled around I was chomping at the bit to know what was going on with the rest of my family upstairs; so, I used the pretense of lunch being my means of interrupting their little solitude or whatever was occurring in their absence. Of course, I didn't get much when I was granted entrance which was perturbing to this 'mama bear.' However, I did notice a few things visually, Milly:

1) They were all seated in the love seat together with Oliver protectively holding Annie as Grace had molded herself into his side.

2) Grace had a pen in her hand and her diary out as well as one of her folding tables in front of her.

3) It also appeared that Grace was allowing Oliver to read over her shoulder as she entered today's diary entry. Very intriguing indeed since a woman's diary/journal is very sacred to her, Milly!

4) After spying Grace's items in her hands, I noted the redheaded doll Annie was holding earlier was still secure in her arms, even as she was curled up in Oliver's arms. If I was a betting woman I would say it was a handmade Raggedy Ann doll! How fitting for my little redhead to have a Raggedy Ann who shares her name as well as the hair!

5) Sandy, that lovable mutt, was at Oliver's feet guarding his little family. His head was the only thing that moved when the door opened, but when he saw that it was me, and not an intruder he went back to his vigilant, nonchalant resting pose at Oliver's feet.

6) The hint of redness to Grace's eyes spoke volumes to this 'mama bear.' This recent visit from this Mrs. McGuire caused freshly healed wounds to be reopened again!

7) The mysterious trunks and small dresser were laying inconspicuously off in one of Annie's corners, almost as if the new owner didn't want to acknowledge them anytime soon!

Milly, even if the family of three were not ready to eat lunch, they were definitely not ready to divulge their reasons for their immediate seclusion from their family, friends, and important guests. So, like any clever investigator who wanted information about their earlier rendezvous, but who wasn't getting it voluntarily from the actual parties privy to the crime scene, I cunningly insinuated that my sole purpose was to ensure that they would eventually eat lunch soon since supper wasn't to fair away! Milly, I think I pulled it off! NOT HARDLY, just wishful thinking, but the others didn't need to know!

So, when I returned to the study, I informed the group that our wedding planning must continue without the bride and groom for at least another day. This definitely had Abigail rolling her eyes, but my 'mother stink-eye' had her stop short. During our discussion on July 3rd after their engagement, Grace indicated she wanted a small wedding in the garden with all the staff invited, and only close friends and family (so basically less than a hundred). She also indicated she wanted to use Alan as their photographer since he was so kind to sensor Annie's stay and provide the proofs and copies of those candid moments last week. It would also help out Alan's career, and I am sure they will also lock him in as their 'preferred' press photographer from the New York Times.

In other words, Milly, the wedding planners had the majority of the little things settled such as Grace's preferred vendors, for Warbucks International parties and events, secured for the wedding. It was just confirming the little details, such as colors, decorations, clothes, etc. which required the input of the bride, and I'm sure the bride will want the input from her groom as well. Milly, I say this because Grace will want Oliver to feel included in this process, she's not one of those 'it's all about me brides.'

Don't get me wrong, Milly, Grace and Oliver provided some ideas for the finer details, on the 3rd, such as they both wanted some blues included in the décor, however, simplicity seemed to be the word they both used a lot (i.e., they wanted to allow the natural elegance of the Warbuck's garden to enhance the ceremony and reception). I am sure after seeing them all cozy this afternoon, elopement doesn't sound too bad to them right now. Especially after witnessing their love firsthand in addition to Annie's recounts of their interrupted tête-à-têtes and trysts on how enraptured they've been since revealing their hidden feelings for one another two days ago.

Anyway, around 3 o'clock even the men were starting to get antsy and worried about the small family of three; but, the straw that finally broke the camel's back was when the girls started asking where Annie was and if she was okay. Their inquiries had 'papa William' running up around 4 o'clock to fetch them this time. He indicated that he'd bring them back down one way or another (after all they did have a President residing in the house even if he is a Democrat).

Milly, apparently, they were headed down when William knocked at the door, because it wasn't too long after he went up that all of them joined us. However, a few subtle differences were noted by my keen eyes.

1) Annie was a bit clingy to Grace and Oliver the rest of the night; and, if she went out to play with her friends she'd either come back in less than 30 minutes after departing, or her eyes would flick up every few minutes scanning for them. It was almost like she was afraid they would disappear or something. Another piece to the puzzle, Milly, but the puzzle was still unsolved!

2) Oliver was very adamant that FDR, and he discuss business outside on the veranda (which mind you is out of the ordinary). His comment to cover his 'papa bear's' desire, to keep within Annie's sights, was "Franklin, it's a beautiful day out, let's not waste it being cooped up in my office. What's the saying? Oh, yes let's get some fresh air it will be good for our health, besides I'd rather stifle the fresh air with our arguments rather than my stuffy office."

3) Grace, my ever efficient 'daughter' was quite distracted during our discussion of the finer details of the wedding. She continued to pace over to the window in search of Annie, when she wasn't running into the room for a reassuring hug. During Annie's appearance, Grace would pull her onto her lap for a few seconds then ask her opinion on some of the details (stall tactics, Milly, stall tactics). Annie, for her part, would agree wholeheartedly and then dash back out quickly stating she would be back to check on things in a bit.

4) Now, the moment I knew something big occurred today, was not during dinner, but right before dinner when I reminded Grace and Oliver that their premarital counselling started tonight. You would have thought I said Oliver lost all his fortune the way they both protested the counselling session stating that they didn't want to be parted with Annie that long. 'Judge Love,' wouldn't hear of it and insisted that they partake in the session tonight. Again another puzzle piece to the jig saw, Milly!

5) After dinner another piece of the puzzle fell into my lap when Annie gave a 'stink eye' toward William and I when Oliver and Grace told her that they would have to attend a marriage counselling session without her. Again, Annie is one tough cookie so for the amount of coaxing and reassuring Oliver and Grace had to do as well as Annie's inquiries about how long the session was going to take were resounding red flags flying high for this 'Judge Love.'

6) Also, the initial distraction of the couple when the session began was also a great clue that even though they knew counselling was important their hearts weren't fully in it. That protective parent gene had been awakened and was in full bloom especially today.

Once, Grace and Oliver spied Annie and her troop of friends heading off into the garden, their minds were more focused on the marriage counselling session. When I peered out my peripheral view, I noted that Annie's earlier clingy disposition had morphed into her 'tough, I'm in charge' personality. I'm not sure where the girls were trekking to, but Annie appeared to know where she was going. This also relieved two very apprehensive parents, who were willing to participate once it appeared their 'cub' was okay.

Now, Milly, during this marriage counselling session, my husband insisted he be part of it, and as the spiritual leader of our household, I allowed him. I also allowed him to participate in Ellis and Abigail's marriage covenant class as well. It's nice to tag team with someone!

Anyway, back to the start of the marriage counselling class. William started it off stating "Oliver, Grace, we are so happy that both of you have finally admitted your love for one another. However, with that being said it's important for you both to realize that 'tongues wag.'" Oliver and Grace just shared a knowing grin before agreeing with William (which by the way took him off guard, it was priceless). Milly, he actually had to clear his throat again, and who's the real judge in the family?!

Once, he regained his equilibrium and Oliver and Grace were able to contain their amusement toward him, William continued. "As I was saying tongues are bound to wag as the jealous vipers generally do; however, we have some powerful allies in this house even if they are Democrats who will vouch for your innocence especially when their source is one of their favorite people!

"We will also try to keep tonight's session short especially since you two are concerned about Annie. Tonight we will just review the difference between a strong marriages versus a weak marriages, and then we will give you homework for tomorrow night's session," stated my incredibly handsome man. His words caused multiple reactions from the pair, from relief to confusion to almost appalled when they heard homework.

It was actually Grace who spoke up to rebuttal the homework assignment, "'Papa William,' I don't wish to break any rules, BUT HOMEWORK?! Oliver and I are already behind on so much work, not that we are complaining because now we have Annie and are finally together; but, HOMEWORK will take more time away for Warbucks International!"

"Now, Grace," I softly chastised, "haven't you often talked about how efficient Oliver runs things, and how more often than not you are six months or more head of schedule?"

"Yes, in a manner of speaking …"

"Grace, I'm not finished yet," I interjected before she could list of several more excuses, "This is very important for you two to have a successful and amorous union. So 'buckle up buttercup,' because this is important for your marriage to with stand all the fangs and claws society with throw at you!" Milly, the 'buckle up buttercup' had the reaction I was looking for from Oliver and Grace as they grinned reducing the sting of my words, because it's another Annieism; however, another look passed between them indicating they both understood that their relationship was more important than Warbuck International, and that they needed to build a mighty fortress to withstand those society vultures.

"William, Esther, before we start, I just want to say, I've come to realize how a union with me will impact Grace. We've or should I say she has already encountered some of those ripple effects …"

"Oliver, I've already told you, life with you is more important to me than any friendships I've established here. I know it will be odd for some and they will pull away, but my close friends won't, I promise," emphatically proclaimed Grace, which had William and I both a bit confused, as they continued their private tête-à-tête.

"Grace, I was just informing them of some of the backlash that has already occurred …"

"Oliver, it's not backlash!" Grace interrupted with a hint of her Irish ire.

"Grace, are you going to let me speak?" interjected Oliver as his infamous Warbucks agitation grew as well. Hence, 'Judge Love's' interception before fireworks exploded again between our two pupils.

"Oliver, Grace!" I firmly said as I shook my head, like one of those Catholic nuns Ellis always talked about when he was chastised by one of them. "Thank you for sharing this little tidbit with us. We are glad you realize there will be some repercussions with your union, and that is why it is important you learn the different between a Marriage Covenant versus a Marriage Contract. Many will think your union is based on a marriage contract of convenience and lust for you Oliver, and money and security for you Grace."

Oh Milly, you should have seen their reactions to my last comment they were priceless! It was like they were both whiplashed, and once they reeled back from that blow the daggers which ignited in both their eyes were riveting. Yes, their fortress would be strong and shatterproof that even those society maggots couldn't siege effectively! "Good, I'm glad 'Judge Love' got your attention," interjected an amused William.

"Now, as Esther pointed out a strong marriage is built on a covenant NOT a contract. I know both of you are aware of a marriage covenant due to your Christian and Catholic upbringing. I definitely know our priests have spoken on the subject a time or two, and I can imagine Father Charles E Coughlin has spoken on the subject during The Golden Hour. Therefore, both of you should have a basic concept of the topic."

Milly, both of them shared a silent conversation again before nodding their heads. It's been very interesting watching how their intimate relationship has developed rather quickly since their declarations this past weekend. I guess, when you've worked together like a well-oiled machine for over a decade it's bound to happen!

Anyway, after their head nods, William proceeded by asking a rhetorical question, "What is a Marriage Covenant?" Of course, he loves those dramatic pauses whenever it comes to one of our children, which also earned him another 'stink-eye' from Grace. Oliver however just pulled on the collar of his polo shirt before Grace grabbed his hand to silently sooth his worries.

"William, enough with the dramatic effect, Grace and Oliver are humoring us as it is so let's get going," I expressed before we lost our audience. I know Grace's mother instinct was elsewhere, and the peripheral glances Oliver was giving toward the window, every few minutes, indicated his 'papa gene' was on high alert too!

"Okay, okay, okay. I just wanted to make sure I had their attention especially since it appears to be split between the window and us," William rebuked with the effect he was looking for with both our pupils sitting up a bit straighter in their seats because they weren't as sly as they thought. "Now, as most leaders of the church will state 'a marriage covenant is intended by God to be a lifelong fruitful relationship between a man and a woman. Marriage is a vow to God, to each other, our families and our community to remain steadfast in unconditional love, reconciliation and sexual purity, while purposefully growing in our covenant marriage relationship."

Milly, after this statement William again paused for that 'dramatic effect.' I love the man but he's so predictable! "In other words, my dears, a covenant is not a contract!" I interjected, "A contract is an agreement between two or more parties, especially one that is written and enforceable by law. As we all know there is a new contract that has become very popular among the wealthy to prevent splitting of assets if a divorce occurs, called a pre-nuptial agreement. This is very much a contract not a covenant."

Oh Milly, you should have seen the steel in Grace's eyes after I stated the pre-nuptial agreement. She must have been squeezing Oliver's hand like a vise because he turned to see her look as well which had him grinning like a Cheshire cat. This caused Grace to look toward him when he stated, "William and Esther, I believe a pre-nup won't be needed in our case." Oliver's statement had the calming effect needed to fizzle Grace's Irish ire as a slow pleasurable smile blossomed on her face. William and I shared a knowing look that these two were made for each other.

"Anyhow, as I was saying, 'contracts are based on protection and mistrust. They allow the parties involved to look for loop holes and exist clauses, and are centered on your rights and protection. In fact, the Bible doesn't say anything about contracts anywhere in scripture!" I emphatically stated before William picked up where I left off, what's the saying Annie likes to refer too? 'Tag teaming'!

"The term 'covenant' means 'a coming together.' In the Bible, the word covenant is translated in Hebrew over 300 times!"

"William is right, in the Old Testament you will see the word 'covenant' referenced as the word 'bond.' It generally refers to two or more people being bound together. In the New Testament, the word 'bond' is replaced or translated to 'covenant,' but you may also see testimony and/or testament being used in place of these two words as well. In other words, all these words discuss the concept of two souls or people being bound to each other with the concept of 'cleaving,' or sticking together like an adhesive or glue!

"Yet, and I say yet! Covenants were not just unique to God and his people. They have also existed between families, tribes, clans, and brothers; however, God brought a new element to the otherwise common practice of covenant making …" now I added the dramatic pause so William could finish my line of thinking.

"That is, God added the Divine into the everyday covenant. In other words, His initiative with His people was to create a covenant which was far superior then any covenant produced by mankind," finished William as we both looked on our two loved ones as they absorbed this information.

Then a cheeky grin spread across Oliver's face as he turned to Grace, "No wonder they didn't want Annie in here. It's hard for me to digest all this information, let alone answer all her questions."

Grace's look and chuckle said it all after Oliver's insight, "Yes, and if she wasn't asking questions right now she would be taking mental notes to ask us later." This caused us all to chortle, and it also took some tension out of the room as well. Oliver's tender kiss to Grace's hand solidified my belief that their union would survive any future adversity thrown their way.

William cleared his throat to get the two lovebirds attention again, "Now, Esther and I will give you some examples of a contract versus a covenant relationship. Esther." Milly, this of course started the tag team again where we alternated our examples in tandem.

"Contract: I take thee for me. Covenant: I give myself to thee."

"Contract: You had better do it! Covenant: How may I serve you?"

"Contract: What do I get? Covenant: What can I give?"

"Contract: I'll meet you halfway. Covenant: I'll give you 100% plus."

"Contract: I have to. Covenant: I want to."

Milly, the looks on their faces were priceless. I think Oliver realized how much Grace's professional relationship toward him already mirrored a covenant. He looked chagrined with a bit of shame colored in it. Grace's expression seemed so serene and content … how does Annie say it? … oh, piece of cake. It appeared as if this inner peace had settled over Grace like this next covenant with Oliver would be a piece of cake … well until she saw his reaction to our examples.

However, before Grace could reassure Oliver, my devious husband had to continue, "So as we stated earlier, a marriage covenant is intended by God to be a lifelong relationship exemplifying unconditional love, reconciliation, sexual purity, and growth. A covenant is an eternal commitment with God. People can negotiate out of contracts, but not out of a covenant. The heart of a covenant marriage is 'the steadfast love of the Lord," which comes from the very heart of God and 'never ceases' (Lam. 3:22, RSV)."

During William's orneriness, Grace caught Oliver's eye and maintained it as she soothed away his doubts and worry nonverbally (that is, using the thumb connected to his hand to relax him tactilely). It was refreshing to see and it also warmed my heart that they were finally allowing their desolate lonely souls to merge together as one powerful unity built on unconditional love and devotion toward one another (and of course toward their current and future offspring)!

Like I said before they have been the HEART and the BRAINS of this household for years; but, they now have gained the SOUL which binds these two powerful entities together creating a strong foundation for any future turbulence this messy vortex of a world will heave at them in an attempt to tear them apart. A covenant marriage will only strengthen their newly formed foundation, like rebar does for cement to withstand Tornadoes.

Anyway, after a poignant pause for Grace to reassure Oliver, I continued the remainder of the session by giving them their homework. "Oliver, Grace, we've given your plenty to think about tonight and tomorrow. Your homework will be to provide a statement that exemplifies the following elements which make up a covenant marriage:

1) Covenants are the fruit of a loving, faithful relationship.

2) Covenant partners take responsibility for their actions.

3) Covenants are rooted in actions based on choices, not feelings.

4) Covenant partners nurture their relationship.

5) Covenants are based on commitments freely offered."

Milly, I then handed them a sheet of paper with large enough spaces in between each element to add their statement. After they had a chance to glance over this portion of their homework, I proceeded to hand them two more sheets of paper as I added verbally, "You will see that these two sheets are identical. Both sides are questionnaires, however, one side of the questions is for you to ask the other personal questions; and, before either of you say anything, we are aware that you both know each other well professionally, but personally 'how well do you know each other?' The other side are more questions you must answer yourself about the other's dislikes and likes. Again, all of this is to make a stronger foundation for your future happiness."

It was quite comical to see both of them looking a bit ash, after reading, several of the personal questions they would have to answer on their own. They were even attempting to gauge the other's response via their peripheral views; however, they both caught each other and turned a nice shade of red.

"Oh, and no seeking help from anyone else with the portion you must do on your own. Like using that cute little redhead as your middleman," playfully instructed William as he wagged his pointer finger at both of them. Each had the decency to look chagrined and embarrassed because apparently the thought had just crossed both their minds, and before they could implement the scheyme it was immediate shut down by my husband.

"Alright, I think we can handle the homework assignments. When do you want us to hand them in?" questioned Oliver.

"Oh, we will review them tomorrow during our next session," William supplied nonchalantly. This caused Oliver to swallow air due to his disbelief.

"'Papa William,' two nights in a row, is a bit much. We agreed to tonight and the homework exercises, but we need to get back to work, plan a wedding, and attend to our daughter's needs before the wedding on Saturday!" refuted Grace.

"You also need to build a strong foundation for this picture perfect Camelot your little redheaded cherub and the First Lady painted for Ethel Anderson and Russel Brinkman last night!" William interjected as he waved the New York Times in front of them without really supplying Grace an answer to her rebuttal. When Oliver snatched it out of William's hand and opened it for both Grace and him to skim over, William as he continued, "As you can see Ethel and Russel used your two powerful allies' story instead of those society felines. Hence why their claws had been clipped last night! Like, 'Mama Esther' and I have said society, whether wealthy or not will attempt to wag their tongues.

"Oh, and if it hadn't been for the First Lady's eagle eyes spying those felines with Ethel and Russel, while riding that elephant, I'm sure the fairytale would have been a scandalous affair instead, tainting these walls of Camelot, so to speak. Per Mrs. Roosevelt when Annie and she dismounted the elephant she marched herself and Annie right into the middle of the lion's den; and, like Daniel, Annie tamed those felines like a pro as she sly painted a different picture for all of them. Eleanor's rendition this morning, once we all had a chance to read that lovely article was priceless, and I'm sorry you missed it!"

"William, care to share her story with Grace and I since it involves our daughter or are you going to be your ornery self like usual," half jested half criticized Oliver.

"Oliver," softly warned Grace as she continued to sooth his announce.

"Grace, I'd love to share the story of how Annie clipped those feline's claws and stole the thunder from their scandalous storm they were creating for these walls. Apparently, Annie's wit and cleverness worked exceptionally fast when she independently realized what the socialites were attempting to do to her mommy and daddy Warbucks. She then sweetly retold the story she told Eleanor and FDR earlier that evening which of course we all know IS the TRUE story; and, with Eleanor's support and endorsement of the story the felines were declawed immediately.

"I also think what helped seal the deal with those two, had something to do with Eleanor inviting both writers to a future stately event which would occur between you and FDR in addition to a promise from Annie that they could come question you more about your sudden love story this week," cheekily responded William. Milly, you know he can be an annoying bird at times which earned two sputters from our lovebirds, no pun intended.

"What?!"

"Great … swell?!"

"GRACE, OLIVER, watch yourselves, as you can see Annie and Eleanor saved you a horrendous scandal," I interjected before continuing, "The time for your interview with Ethel and Russel will be at 2 p.m. tomorrow … so besides working with the wedding planners, attending to your daughter's needs, hosting your important guests/allies, and working on the imperative items for your business, you can and will find time to steady your foundation for the public. Especially if you recall that Camelot didn't end so well, its foundation was shaky even though the walls appeared crisp and clean! DO I MAKE MYSELF CLEAR?!"

Milly, like two kids caught stealing cookies from the cookie jar, both lovebirds stated a solemn, "yes."

"Now, Oliver and Grace, we aren't trying to be difficult," I encouraged as both glanced at each other before confidently meeting my gaze. "We just want you to weather through the storms that may come your way as a married couple with an adorable child. This world is cruel and life is messy as it is; but, add money and power to the mix of it, and people want the walls of YOUR Camelot to come crumbling down like Jericho. It's that 'little man' syndrome, tear down the 'great man' in order to gain leverage or respect by others; however, if the 'great man' has a solid foundation to rely upon the 'little man' may rock it a bit, BUT will never be successful at crushing it!"

Milly, during my little speech Grace had somehow silently diverted Oliver's gaze back to her as they both listened to my spiel as they shared a silent conversation with one another. A poignant pause ended with Oliver bringing their joined hands up to his face as he placed a tender kiss to her palm earning himself an affectionate smile. Grace then added, for our benefit but never breaking eye contact with Oliver, "We agree to your plan of action. We both want a strong foundation to withstand any adversity that comes our way in the future. After all, we deserve to be happy, and not live in an abyss controlled by society's views, tongue lashings, and cruelty especially now that we have each other and Annie for all the right reasons."

All, I could think in that moment, Milly, was that's my girl AND in many ways my boy too! Also, I'll admit this 'Judge Love,' had a few renegade tears escaping her tear ducts during her proclamation especially when we could feel all the undercurrent emotions swirling around her and Oliver like a cyclone. The electricity they've been igniting, Milly, since they've unleashed their unconditional love toward one another could now power all of New York City! It's one of the reason's Eleanor, a true romantic believes Annie's story, because there is no way Oliver and Grace would have been able to turn their now powerful, ignited, love currents off and on for the last ten years.

Milly, I'm sure our time in Oliver's office would have continued had it not been the old Grandfather Clock chiming 9 o'clock indicating we'd been in there for over an hour and half. The 'mama and papa bear' looks were priceless, as they both quickly glanced our way to be dismissed before they dashed out the room to check on their little cub!

I'd say Milly that our first session went well tonight, and Oliver and Gracie's little cub has done a wonderful job so far, 'earning her keep' like she enjoys stating! Annie's definitely a great PR saver that's for sure in addition to being one of the greatest blessings God's provided to our growing family!

Until tomorrow Milly!

Sincerely,

Esther

a.k.a. unretired 'Judge Love'