Carl told Rachel, "I went to see Jenna's child at the hospital, earlier."
"Did you?" Rachel struggled to keep all judgment or assumption out of her voice. "How is she?"
"Felicia seems to be under the impression that she is on the road to recovery."
"You talked to Felicia?" This time, there was no hiding her alarm.
"No," Carl reassured tensely. "I simply hovered, unseen, along the periphery. As promised."
Rachel said, "I appreciate how hard this is for you."
"I don't think you do," Carl challenged. "You wouldn't ask it of me, if you did."
"I am trying to do what's best for everyone."
"You are trying to punish me. You agree with what Donna did, you agree with her reasons for doing it, and you believe that this is a fitting penance for me to endure."
"Please don't put words into my mouth."
"Only if you will kindly refrain from assuming you know or understand anything about my emotional state at this moment. The closest you've ever come to losing a child was when Mac briefly took custody of Amanda from you, or Mitch kidnapped Matthew for what was it, the duration of a few days? It is hardly comparable. I lost Perry before he'd graduated from University. I lost Ryan for thirty years of being kept in the dark about his paternity, and then to Grant Harrison's bullet. I lost Jenna's entire life, beginning to end. Our Cory and Elizabeth? How long do you think I'll have them for? How long do you think I'm still good to walk this mortal coil? Do you think I'll live to dance at their weddings? Do you think I will ever see our grandchildren? Lori Ann Frame is very, very likely, the only grandchild I will ever know. And you, Rachel, are asking me to just walk away."
Rachel stepped forward, reaching up and cupping Carl's face in her hands. She pleaded, "Please understand, I am not doing this to hurt you."
Carl took hold of both her wrists, gently lowering them back to Rachel's sides. "I believe that you get no pleasure from seeing me suffer."
"Thank you, at least, for that."
"I also believe that you are doing your very, very best to take the feelings of everyone involved into consideration."
"I am," she swore.
"Alas," Carl sighed. "When you rank them in order of importance, I seem to have come out at the very, very bottom of your list."
Back at Cass' home, Frankie told him, "You are taking this very calmly."
"Why shouldn't I?" Cass wondered.
"For one thing, because I just told you that a woman you were once somewhat fond of has been keeping me prisoner and threatening our daughter's life for over a decade. For another, because you've found out that I have been lying to you ever since I got back, and for a third, because, well, it seems as if a revelation like mine should have been more... dramatic, for lack of a better word."
"To what end?" Cass queried. "Sure, I could have gone the breast-beating route. We both could have gotten hysterical, there could have been screaming and recriminations and much gnashing of teeth. But, to enumerate as you have: One, I take medication now specifically to control that sort of thing. And Two, what would have been the point of it? You've finally told me the truth, I understand it, I accept it, and I now know exactly what we need to do."
"Yeah, see, that's what I mean. You're being way too calm. Something strange is going on."
"I'll take care of this, Frankie," Cass reassured. "You don't need to worry anymore."
"And yet I am. Worried, that is."
"It's a waste of energy," he said. "Just like our having a knock-down, drag-out conflict earlier would have been a waste of energy. Why would you want to waste time and emotion and, to paraphrase a wise woman, for lack of a better word... passion... on that, when we could instead expand it on," Cass stepped forward, dipping his head to kiss the base of Frankie's neck. "This?" He traced the outline of her throat. "Or this?" His mouth found the curve of her chin. "Or this?" Before settling, firmly, no questions asked, not now, not ever again, on her lips.
She responded, not just for this time, but for all the times in the past when she couldn't, when she wouldn't, allow herself to do so. She responded for all the times she'd dreamed about it, and for all the times they'd missed that couldn't ever be brought back. She responded for him, and she responded for her and, most of all, she responded for them.
"Do you see what I'm getting at?" Cass inquired politely in the brief instant when they both came up for air.
"Oh, yes," she moaned. "You make a very, very good case."
"I am lawyer," he reminded her. And then, no longer joking, Cass asked her, "Have we waited long enough, Frankie?"
She nodded, feeling tears coming to her eyes for no reason except that she was happy. So happy. Too happy, really. This couldn't last. It wasn't possible, of course. But, oh, wasn't it nice to pretend, if only for a minute?
This time, Frankie was the one to finally take the initiative, to unleash all the suppressed emotions she'd been keeping in check for so long. She took Cass' advice and channeled the fervor she'd once thought necessary for their conversation about Cecile into something more important, more meaningful and, frankly, a great deal more pleasant. She kissed Cass back, all but wrapping her body around his, only asking, "When is Charlie supposed to be home?"
Cass glanced at the clock, and then at Frankie, that old, familiar, ear-to-ear grin back on his face for the first time since... since... well, August of 1996.
"Not for hours...."
"It's not like you to sit in the dark," Rachel said gently, flipping on a light switch to reveal an unusually rumpled and somber Jamie on the sofa. She managed to mask her surprise at his appearance, but not at the glass of amber liquid in his hand. "Or to drink alone."
"I talked to Steven this afternoon," Jamie explained after she'd sat down next to him. "About Marley and I getting married. He didn't take it too well."
Rachel eased the glass from his hand. "So badly that you needed this?"
"When your son tells you that you're an ass and that he feels like he's second best to his brother for your affections, yeah, you kind of need a drink after that."
"What in the world would make Steven say something like that?"
"I'm guessing... a childhood mainly consisting of ducking the fallout from Grant and Vicky's never-ending battle for Kirkland," Jamie sighed. "While his father was MIA and living in San Francisco, oblivious to what Steven was going through."
"Grant and Vicky's war was not your responsibility."
"But Steven was. I left him in that war-zone."
"You left him with his mother, whom you trusted to do the right thing. And she did, in her own way. But you know Grant..."
"That's no excuse. For her or for me. Our kids should have come first. Not our egos not our need for revenge, or our own desires; our kids. Vicky was too caught up with besting Grant and I was too caught up in... not being here."
"You had to live your own life," Rachel reminded him. "At the time, that life wasn't here."
"Well, it wasn't in San Francisco either," Jamie laughed darkly, looking down into his glass. "Talk about just another failure in a long list of failures."
"We've all made our share of mistakes. It's pointless to regret them. They're what made us who we are."
"Yes, but some mistakes are nothing but... mistakes. They aren't character-building experiences. And they don't bring you anything but regret."
Rachel studied her son, feeling like she was missing something, something that would explain what she was seeing, what she was feeling, emanate from Jamie in such dark, distant waves.
"What are we talking about, Jamie?" Rachel pressed. "This isn't about you and Steven, or this situation with Grant. You know as well as I do that Steven will get past his anger, and that Grant is a nuisance that can be dealt with." She gently turned her son's face towards her. "What has you in such a mood?"
She waited patiently, his gaze meeting hers briefly before flickering away to search out a safer spot in the room that he could pretend to study intensely. Inwardly, Rachel smiled. It was a familiar routine of his from the time he was a boy, and she looked at him expectantly, ready to help him get this latest burden off his chest.
"Nothing," Jamie pulled away, pushing himself up from the sofa. "Everything. I just watched my cousin fall apart as his wife died in front of him, then ran down to City Hall to marry a woman with whom I share a very complicated history, to put it mildly."
Jamie went on, "And while attempting to keep one of my sons, I was enlightened by the other that, by the way, I suck as a father. All in the span of forty-eight hours."
Rachel shook her head at what she could only describe as his furious attempt at bluster. "That isn't it."
"Isn't that enough?" Jamie snapped with such venom, that, for a moment, she didn't recognize her son at all. Immediately apology was written all over his face. "I'm sorry," he said. "It's been a long day, and I'm going on call in a couple of," he looked at his watch and swore, "Damn... in a couple of minutes. I've got to pull myself together. Fast."
He was out of the room before she could say a word, the slamming of the front door signaling his escape from the house, leaving a disquieted Rachel stunned and confused.
"It didn't work," Allie whispered to Sarah once she'd managed to track her friend down to the campus library. Sarah sat hunched over a table in the corner, typing notes from a textbook straight into her MacBook. "Your plan to make GQ jealous didn't work. Oh, and Gregory figured out the whole thing days ago."
That got Sarah's attention. She looked up. "He did? Hm, guess he's smarter than he seems."
"What are you talking about? Gregory is really smart. He may not go on and on about it like Steven does, but he's plenty smart."
"Okay," Sarah shrugged, clearly uninterested in pursuing the topic further. She looked back down at her computer, and off-handedly told Allie, "You're wrong, by the way. GQ was totally affected seeing you two together. After you and Gregory left, all he could talk about was how great Gregory seemed for you, and how happy he was for you, and how he wasn't bothered by seeing you out with another guy AT. ALL."
"Really?" Allie wasn't sure how to react to that information. She confided, "You know, Gregory thinks that GQ's still into me, too."
"Like I said, smarter than he seems."
"He's a really nice guy, Sarah."
"Didn't say that he wasn't."
"He deserves better than me."
"I didn't realize he had you."
"He doesn't!" Allie corrected, stammering, "What I meant was, he deserves a girl who's really into him."
"Which you're not?"
"Okay," Sarah shrugged again.
"You're acting really weird."
Allie could see that. And, the fact was, she couldn't honestly put her finger on what exactly was making Sarah seem "off" somehow. The best Allie could articulate was that Sarah wasn't paying enough attention to Allie and her ongoing drama. Which sounded kind of self-centered to say out loud, didn't it?
So, in an attempt to regain their old, familiar rhythm and prove that Allie wasn't as all about herself as it may have appeared to the untrained eye she changed the subject and asked Sarah, "How are things going with you and Steven?"
"We're cool," Sarah refused to meet Allie's eyes.
"Any new developments the viewing public needs to be informed about?"
"So the Sarah Matthews-Wheeler Plan trademark pending is still on track?" Allie was shooting for a laugh. At least a smile. Heck, just some eye contact would be nice.
What she got instead was Sarah closing her MacBook and sweeping all her books into a bag on the floor. She stood up and told Allie, "I've got a class. Say hi to Gregory for me. Or GQ. Or, you know, whomever...."
"When I was sixteen years old," Donna said. "My father locked me in a room in the basement to punish me for getting pregnant by the stable boy. He sent Michael away and let me believe that I'd been abandoned. I didn't have anyone to talk to. I barely had any medical care. And when my daughters were born, my father took one of them to raise as my sister, and he gave the other one away without even telling me that she existed."
"I know," Matt said softly, fully aware that the passage of years decades hadn't done much to lessen Donna's trauma from that experience. Sometimes Matt thought that Donna would never really completely get over it. That some part of her had frozen in time, back in that locked basement room. That a part of her was trapped there still, and that nothing anyone could say or do would ever fully set her free. Which, in a way, explained why, despite her oft-repeated jabs about their age difference, much of the time Matt actually felt as if he were, in fact, older than Donna.
"You wonder why I mistakenly thought that Jenna would be alright, in spite of everything? She wasn't alone, was she, Matthew? She had her mother a mother who didn't just turn away and pretend she didn't know what was happening right under her nose. Or, I guess I should say, right under her house. She had her husband who she knew loved her and would never abandon her, no matter what. And she had no doubt that she would be allowed to keep her baby, and to raise her, and not be made to feel like she had done something wrong by loving her baby's father, when, as it turned out, it was probably the only right thing she ever did."
"After everything Reginald put you through," Matt tread cautiously. "How could you turn around and do the same thing to your own daughter?"
"It was only going to be for a little while," Donna swore. "Just until I figured out how I could fix things so that the trail from Gloria didn't lead back to me."
"Or Carl," Donna agreed. "You know, I had Jenna alone, too. She was born in Europe, at this villa I was renting, with a doctor who charged a rather exorbitant fee to deliver her in secret and then fake the birth certificate accordingly. He was a greasy little man. Every time he looked at me, I felt like he was counting. Gloria was supposed to be there when Jenna was born but there was bad weather and trains were delayed... It turned out all right, though. She was healthy, no complications. Which was good, because being out in the middle of nowhere, it wasn't like we could have done anything about it, anyway. I thought it would be the same for Jenna. I thought everything would work out."
"What you did was unforgivable."
"You don't think I know that? You don't think I know that I am most likely damned for all time due to this? You don't think I know that it will undoubtedly cost me Marley and my grandchildren... and you? You don't think I know that I've turned into my father?" She faltered on the last word, needing to gasp for air in the middle in order to finish.
And then Donna did the last thing Matt ever expected. She fell to her knees, covered her face with both hands, and began to sob.
After several days spent exclusively in the NICU, Felicia felt like she had picked up a good sense of the place's rhythms, sights and sounds. She knew all of the nurses by name now. She knew which one came on for what shift, and who was more likely to listen patiently to Felicia's questions rather than just blowing her off with a generic, "I'm afraid you'll need to speak to the doctor about that, ma'am."
She knew the sound made by each machine, and its purpose. Which is how, when Lorna was visiting, Felicia realized that something was wrong with Lori Ann's breathing a split second before the machine responsible for notifying the same set off its high-pitched shriek.
The noise pierced Felicia's brain and shot straight down into her heart like a lance slashing through flesh and bone. It was the same noise that Jenna's monitors made right before... before.
Felicia covered her mouth with both hands, too terrified to scream, and lunged towards the incubator, but the nurse her least favorite one, Felicia noted, and vowed to amend that opinion if only.... beat her to it, followed immediately by the resident on duty and, a moment later, his superior. Lorna grabbed Felicia by the arm and pulled her aside, urging, "Let's just stay out of the way and let them do their jobs. We might make things worse."
"What's going on?" Felicia demanded. "What's wrong? That's her breathing, isn't it? Did she stop breathing? What is happening?"
Jamie flew into the room, beeper still in his hand, white lab coat half-on. He didn't jump immediately into the melee of white-latex gloves working on Lori Ann, but kept his distance, observing silently and, finally, nodding in approval. Lab coat now fully on, he stuffed both hands into his pockets. But not before Lorna noticed that they were shaking.
The machine stopped shrieking. The doctors and nurses, almost as one, took a breath. It gave Felicia permission to take one as well. She hadn't even realized that she'd been holding hers until the pain in her chest abated.
The Chief Resident said something sotto voice to Jamie, who bobbed his head, snuck a look at Felicia and told him, "I'll talk to the family."
The resident thanked him, and motioned for Lori Ann's incubator to be returned to its original site, beckoning Felicia to come forward.
She'd been on the way to doing so even before he'd offered permission. Felicia looked down at her precious baby, noting that there were fresh bruises on her nearly diaphanous chest, and wondered just how much more someone this fragile was expected to take.
"What happened?" It was Lorna who asked Jamie. Her mother was too busy taking inventory of Lori Ann, convinced that ultimately nobody could care about this child as much as she did, and that it was up to her to make sure nothing was overlooked.
"Felicia was right," Jamie said. "Lori Ann did stop breathing. It's relatively common in premature infants, for a variety of reasons. In Lori Ann's case, she has a condition called Patent Ductus Arteriosus. A ductus arteriosis is a blood vessel that connects the aorta and the pulmonary artery. It's vital to blood circulation when the fetus is still in-utero. However, once a baby is born, that vessel is supposed to close by itself. In premature infants, it sometimes remains open. This allows oxygen-rich blood from the aorta to mix with oxygen-poor blood from the pulmonary artery. When that happens, it puts a severe strain on the heart and increases blood pressure in the lung arteries. That's what's causing Lori Ann's breathing problems. We've got her on a respirator now, but it doesn't seem to be enough."
"So what are you going to do about it?" Felicia demanded, never entertaining for even a moment the possibility that there might be nothing to be done.
"With some babies, medication does the trick and closes up the patent. It isn't getting the job done here so far. With others, we advise a catheter. However, as a rule, that's a procedure we like to perform on larger, healthier babies than Lori Ann. In this case, both the Chief Resident and I believe our best option is surgery to go in and physically close the patent."
"Surgery," Felicia groaned. "She's already been through so much."
"The choice is up to you," Jamie said. "We can give the medication more time to work. We can wait until she's stronger and try the catheter option instead. But the longer we hold off, the more respiratory incidents we risk Lori Ann having. The staff was able to get her breathing again today. It isn't guaranteed that the same measures will work another time."
Felicia allowed his words to sink in. And then she said, "It's not my choice to make."
"Unfortunately," Jamie corrected. "Because the situation isn't considered critical Lori Ann is stable again for now the hospital can't go ahead and just do the surgery. We need your permission."
"Not my permission. Dean's. I'm merely the grandmother, here. Lori Ann's father should be the one to have the final say."
Jamie said, "My understanding is that Dean was unresponsive."
"No," Felicia said. "He's doing much better. He's awake. He was even down here to see Lori Ann a couple of hours ago. We need to talk to him. This isn't my decision to make."
"All right, then," Jamie concurred. "You three talk about it. Let me know what you've decided. I'm not going to lie to you, Felicia. The situation is potentially critical. But it can wait for a little while. Take the afternoon. Take the night, if you need it. I want you all to be comfortable with your choice." He squeezed Felicia's hand, but looked at Lorna when he explained, "I have to step out for a bit. Just page me when you're ready."
After Jamie left, Lorna followed her mother down the hall, into the elevator, and then through another hall to Dean's room.
"Where is he?" Felicia asked the nurse busy stripping his bedding. "Dean Frame? Did they take him for some tests?"
The nurse shook her head. "Mr. Frame checked himself out about twenty minutes ago. AMA Against Medical Advice. His doctor didn't think he was fit enough to go anywhere yet, but Mr. Frame insisted."
"Where did he go?"
The nurse shrugged. "Away, was all he said."
Alice opened her door to the last person she expected to see that evening.
Still, it was almost no time at all before she found herself smiling and enveloped in a ferocious hug as she welcomed her guest in, and even less time before she knew that something was terribly wrong.
"What is it, Jamie?" Alice asked as she sat down next to him and gave his hand an encouraging squeeze.
"I needed someone to talk to," he answered with a shaky smile. "And I thought who better than you, seeing as you know... everything."
"Grant," Marley sniffed with as much distaste as she could muster in his general direction while unlocking the door to her art gallery and pushing her way past him. "To what do I owe the displeasure of your visit?"
"I brought you a present," Grant approximated his version of a (stiff and awkward) smile as he held a wrapped gift up towards her. "Congratulations on your recent nuptials."
"Should I be calling the bomb squad?" she eyed it warily.
"I would never do something so crass."
"You mean something along the lines of your delightful parting words when we last saw each other? Do you really expect me to believe your gift-bearing, one-eighty on Jamie's and my marriage?"
"I was out of line with what I said the other day," Grant doled out in a measured, practiced voice. "I hope that you will accept this gift as my apology."
Marley laughed. "Trying to score points with Kirkland? You think this will be enough to make him forget about Spencer's and your little stunt?"
"Kirkland and I have already talked about it and he's forgiven me for my transgression. I'm hoping that you can do the same."
Once again, Grant offered her the gift with a forced smile and once again she stepped back with a shudder. "Stop it! You look like you're baring your fangs."
Grant bit back what could only have been a scathing retort, and deftly dropped the gift on her desk. "Enjoy," he muttered, turning to leave.
"Oh, no you don't! You're not leaving this... whatever it is here. I don't want your gift!"
"You don't even know what it is."
"I know it's from you, and I know I don't want it!"
Grant regarded her for a moment, then shrugged and unwrapped the gift himself, presenting her with two champagne glasses. "I thought these would be nice for your first anniversary toast."
"If we make it that long, you mean," Marley angrily stripped off her jacket and threw it on her desk. "You know what, Grant? I really have a lot to do today so.... What now?" Marley suddenly noticed that Grant had frozen in place, a peculiar smile on his face as he stared at her with what could only be described as fascination, cocking his head ever so slightly, less like a predator sizing up his prey and more like... an adoring suitor caught in a trance.
Marley snapped her fingers, trying to stun him out of it.
Grant shook his head, seemingly coming to, but the goofy smile was still touching his lips. "Nothing, I... your blouse, it reminds me of something Vicky once wore..."
"It's from one of her old dresses," Marley shrugged. "I liked the straps and it seemed a shame to throw something so nice away, so I had it made into a blouse."
Grant nodded. "It was a very nice dress. The first time I kissed Vicky, that's the dress that she was wearing."
"Really?" Marley blinked with a frown.
"Yes," Grant laughed to himself, setting the glasses on her desk. "She was determined that night to prove that Paulina was not the woman for me. That I deserved someone better, different..."
And suddenly Grant was no longer in the room, but in another place, another time.
"There she stood, looking up at me, batting those big blue eyes of hers, telling me that if I could find her attractive, if I had such deep, passionate feelings for her, then I couldn't marry Paulina. Looking at her then, seeing the way she was looking at me... the way I felt after I kissed her... I knew she was right."
"Kissing your brother's fiance. What a prince."
"She all but dared me to do it," Grant defended. "She didn't want to admit it at the time, but she had long gone past fighting for my political career. She'd begun fighting for me. She wanted to be with me, not Ryan. You know how Vicky was, Marley," Grant stepped towards her, invigorated by the passion of his memories. " Always in your face, always pushing every button she could to get what she wanted. You never knew if you were coming or going, but you knew that as exasperating as she was, you felt alive, you felt... something more... when you were being pulled, kicking and screaming, into her orbit. Your life was simply better with her in it."
"And without her, it doesn't feel the same. It doesn't feel right," Marley found herself completing. What was worse, she found herself agreeing. With Grant!
"Exactly," Grant nodded, the sparkle in his eyes giving way to a sadness and grief that Marley could relate to, all too well.
"So why did you try to kill her not once, not twice, but three times?" Marley snapped, determined to squelch any feelings of sympathy for Grant. Or any bond they might share over her sister.
"Find something new to throw in my face, alright?" Grant huffed with a roll of his eyes. "You've gotten all the mileage you can out of those charges."
"Fine. How about the fact that all it takes for you to lose control is a woman to bat her big, beautiful eyes at you, and you melt into a puddle of goo?"
"That only worked when Vicky did it," Grant laughed, a note of unease dulling its intended scorn.
"Well, I do have her eyes," Marley continued, advancing towards him. "The surgery didn't change that."
"No," Grant conceded. "It didn't. But they still aren't "
Marley pulled a barrette from her head and shook her hair loose. "How about now? Or when I do this?" she leaned into Grant's chest, putting her hands squarely on him and batting her lashes coquettishly. "Am I getting to you now, Grant?"
"No," he grimaced, the sudden, rapid beating of his heart under her palms and the look in his eyes inadvertently communicating his true feelings. "No," he repeated a bit more gruffly.
Grant firmly removed her hands from his chest and turned on his heel to flee the gallery, sensing the entire time that Marley was watching him. And that she was smiling. Victoriously.
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