"Aren't you two cute," Cecile cooed at Frankie and Cass. "The Bonnie and Clyde of suburbia. As if either of you could so much as issue a convincing death threat, much less find the cojones to carry it out."
"I'm not kidding," Frankie steeled her voice and held her ground.
"Neither am I." Cass crossed the room to stand next to her.
Cecile looked from one to the other. And burst out laughing. "Ah, yes, Casanova and Mary Frances, so co-dependent and joined at the hip. Your written-in-the-stars, blessed by the heavens, let no man put asunder, here's looking at you, kid kind of love will surely be able to conquer any and all niggling obstacles in your path."
"By George," Cass said coolly, "I think she's got it."
"Get this," Cecile challenged. "Where was your fated love, where was your mystical, across time and space connection for all those years that Cass was shacking up with his fried green steel magnolia, not giving his Vegan Venus a second thought?"
"I'm a vegetarian," Frankie corrected. "Not vegan."
"No way," Frankie said.
Cass interrupted, "You know, Cecile, most people, when they see their wife lying lifeless in the morgue, are apt to believe that she's gone for good, and so attempt to move on with their existence, especially when there's a child involved. Contrary to what you may suppose, it isn't typical to wonder if perhaps she's been snatched by a raging psychopath and brain-washed for a decade."
"But didn't the lovely Mary Frances once promise to never leave you? Guess somebody didn't put much stock in that vow..."
"She didn't leave. She was taken from me," Cass repeated a conversation he'd already had so many years ago, not realizing then just how apt it was.
"You say potato, I say Don't come crying to me about your long-lost great love when you moved on before the body was even cold. Literally," she indicated Frankie standing in front of them. "And in any case, my dear Cass, a psychopath has no control over their own actions. Believe me, I do."
"Aw, Cass, now you've insulted her," Frankie tsk-tsked sympathetically. "Don't you know your ex is a sociopath? We're sorry, Cecile, we won't make the same mistake again."
"I'm glad you have control of your actions," Cass told her. "That means it won't be at all difficult for you to stay away from my daughter."
"Or what? We had a deal, and Frankie broke it. She knew what the consequences would be. Oh, and please don't attempt to play the death-threat card again. Excessive laughter brings about wrinkles. I'm trying to avoid that."
"How about the felony-kidnapping card?" Cass asked, "I don't care how tight you are with the Queen of Toontown "
"Tanquir! And how dare you insult them, after all the hospitality they showed you years ago!"
" But there is not enough diplomatic immunity in the world to keep you from being thrown behind bars if Frankie decides to press charges."
"On what evidence?" Cecile demanded. "The word of a former mental patient against mine?"
"I convinced a team of psychiatrists that I was well enough to be let out into society. I dare you to do the same," Frankie challenged.
"My goodness," Cecile shook her head. "You two really believe that if you hold hands under a full moon and wish upon a falling star then truth, justice and the American Way will simply fall into your lap while Tinkerbell lives happily ever after with the three bears!"
Frankie realized. "You really were a horrible mother. Did you ever read poor Maggie a single bedtime story through to the end?"
Cecile shrugged and reminded, "My daughter isn't walking around with her life in danger because of me. I dare you to say the same."
Kevin chuckled and squeezed Amanda's hand. "Relax. It's not like I'm putting on my Bill Cosby Father Knows Best sweater excuse the mixed Nick at Night metaphors right this very minute."
Amanda smiled weakly. "But you will. Someday."
"That's the plan. I've officiated over so many adoptions. Watched men and women turn into dads and moms. It's an incredible sight. I decided I'd like to give it a shot myself."
"I wouldn't," Amanda blurted out.
Kevin's eyes twinkled as he gently reminded, "Allie..."
"Exactly. Precisely. Allie. I had Allie June of 1988. Exactly one year after I graduated high school. I was a kid, and then I was a mom. Nothing in between."
Amanda said, "I've been a mom my entire adult life. Allie's in college now. She's more or less on her own. This is the first time to myself I've had since Senior year. I'm having fun. I thought that we were having fun."
"We are having a lot of fun," Kevin agreed.
"I'm not ready to give that up."
"I'm not asking you to."
"I don't think I'll ever be ready to give that up. I've served my time in the trenches. I've earned an honorable discharge. And besides," Amanda admitted, knowing how horrible it would sound, but determined to be brutally honest. "There were times many, many times, while Allie was growing up, that the only thing that kept her alive, or at least kept me from completely losing it with her, was the fact that she was my own flesh and blood. She was a part of me. I loved her. Even when she was being absolutely impossible. Kevin, I don't think I could ever feel that way about a child that wasn't my own."
Between his dad being an absolute obsessive compulsive about drilling "No means no, you got that?" into Steven's head, and the University's Conduct Code that practically required a notarized authorization before so much as brushing by a girl in the hall, it was no wonder that, even with him and Sarah lying on his dorm-room bed, her one hand under his shirt, the other fingering his belt-buckle, Steven still felt compelled to ask, "Are you sure you want "
"Yes," she laughed. "I'm sure."
"I love you, Sarah," Steven swore.
Sarah stopped laughing. But she didn't bother explaining why he was wrong. Steven didn't love her at all.
It wasn't until nearly dawn the next morning that Jamie came out of the operating room and, as the representative for the entire surgical team, told Felicia, Rachel, Donna and Amanda with Kevin pointedly excluded that Lori Ann was doing great. They'd fixed the patent and her breathing instantly improved. He promised Felicia that she'd be able to see the baby as soon as they brought her back to the NICU for recovery. And then Jamie excused himself, saying he needed to stumble home and get some sleep, he'd been up way too long to be of any more use to anyone.
Felicia thanked him profusely and Rachel suggested she drive Jamie back to the house, but he waved away both offerings. Jamie told Felicia he didn't do anything, just scrubbed in and observed. It was Lori Ann's pediatric cardiac surgeon who deserved the real credit.
As for Rachel, Jamie didn't say anything directly. He just shook his head and said, "I got it, Mom, it's okay," and went off to change.
Felicia turned to Kevin, who'd respectfully kept his distance up to now, and said, "Thank you, Mr. Fowler."
"Who, me?" he asked, truly puzzled. "I did even less than Jamie."
"You gave permission for the surgery when I was too paralyzed with fear to make a decision. You probably saved Lori Ann's life."
"We all want what's best for her."
Felicia nodded, "I almost believe you." And then she asked, "So what happens now? If the crisis is really over, what's the next step, legally speaking?"
"By the time Lori Ann is ready to leave the hospital, I should have reached my decision about who would make the best long-term guardian for her."
"I suppose it can go without saying that I would like to be placed on the consideration list. I'm her closest relative. I was there when she was born. I've barely left her side since. She belongs with me, Mr. Fowler. If I have to beg you, then I will. Just tell me which hoops you'd like me to jump through. I am way past pride at this point."
"Please rest assured, Ms. Gallant, I will give this matter all due consideration. No hoops required. I have the deepest respect for your position, and I have by no means made up my mind. I am going to reflect very seriously on every single possibility."
Felicia may have been temporarily reassured by Kevin's pledge. But Rachel wasn't. Not when she saw what interest Donna was taking in the conversation.
Jamie ignored the Cory mansion looming across the grounds and unlocked the door to the guesthouse. Once inside he exhaled in relief as the door closed solidly behind him and he was finally, blessedly alone.
His guilt over not going home was mitigated by Kirkland's voicemail message saying that he was there, safe and sound, and he hoped Jamie was okay too, wherever he was. No word from Steven, not that Jamie had expected any. Ever since Sarah had come into his life, the rest of them were quite blatantly relegated to second place. There had been several messages from Marley that, frankly, Jamie knew he wasn't up to answering at the moment. She and everyone and everything else were just going to have to wait until later.
He'd worry about food and a shower later, as well. All he wanted at that moment was to put head to pillow and enjoy the blessed release of sleep.
So, of course, the one night he decided to use the usually empty guesthouse, someone else had arrived at the same decision.
"Great," Jamie muttered as stopped in the doorway of the bedroom, taking in the unmade bed and trail of clothes haphazardly dropped on the floor. Not particularly eager to run into the mystery guest or guests; that was the last thing he needed Jamie was turning to make a hasty retreat when the bathroom door opened and a very wet, very naked, very obviously fresh from the shower Lorna stormed into the hall.
Understandably, she was startled by his unexpected presence and let out a shriek. But fortunately for her not so much for him she quickly recovered. The next thing Jamie knew, he was ducking an impressive assault of fists and kicks, driving him back into the living room.
"Lorna, stop! It's me! Jamie!"
The vase she was prepared to throw paused over her head. "Jamie?" She relaxed in relief. "What the hell are you doing scaring me like that? Matt said nobody would be "
"I think maybe you should go put something on," he interrupted, turning his back to her as a courtesy, trying not to laugh at the look on her face as she realized that she was hey, look at that, would you? still rather naked.
"It's not like I've got something you've never seen before," he heard Lorna mutter as she frantically thudded off for the bedroom.
No, he smiled to himself, glancing over his shoulder after she'd left the room. But it had been some time, a long time, since he'd looked at a woman and allowed himself to feel something that Jamie normally tried to keep buried.
A serious attraction.
"It's not exactly Italy, is it?" GQ indicated the barren Midwestern view outside his dorm-room shades after he and Allie woke all wrapped up in each other the next morning.
"I don't care," she said, not bothering to look, not interested in anything beyond what was right in front of her that very minute. "I have you. Everything else is just literally window dressing."
"Still, do you ever miss the ancient architecture and the color and the sunshine and, oh, God, the phenomenal food?"
"I missed you," Allie said simply. "You were the only part of Italy that mattered to me."
"You are so sweet," GQ said.
"Not really. I wasted a ton of my mom's tuition money. I don't think I learned anything beyond Ciao, bella and Tortelli di zucca."
"I knew it! I knew you missed the food! I'm a cool guy, but I'm no pumpkin ravioli."
Allie laughed and snuggled closer to him, her head on GQ's shoulder. "This is so great. Us... like this... When I got back from Italy, I didn't think I'd ever be as happy again as I was there with you. And now here we are. And I feel like the whole world is perfect."
"Wow," GQ said. "That's a lot to lay on one guy."
"Am I freaking you out?" Allie nervously propped herself up one shoulder. "It's too much too fast, right? I didn't mean to push. I'm just... "
"Happy?" GQ finished for her.
"Yeah.... I'm really, really happy."
"I'm glad," he told her sincerely. "You deserve to be."
Allie lay back down and gushed, "I can't wait to tell Sarah. She's been rooting for us from the beginning."
"That explains a lot." GQ took Allie's hand, linking their fingers over the blanket. "She's really something, your friend. Steven's met his match."
"Totally. It's cute seeing him so head over heels. I think it's a new experience for him. I wonder if he'll think it's weird, us hooking up? To him it'll seem totally out of the blue. I didn't tell anyone except for Sarah about us. Did you?"
"No," GQ said slowly. Then he added, "And I'd rather not tell anyone about us now."
Allie turned her head. Her stomach contracted into a tight ball. "What?" she asked in a tiny voice.
He rolled over to face her, rushing to explain, "It's just that this... us... it's... it's special. It's private. Lying here with you, I feel like we're the only two people in the world. You said it yourself, everything else is just window-dressing. I feel the same way. I don't want other people ruining this mood for us."
"What other people?" Allie demanded, tucking a stray lock of hair behind her ear. "What kind of other people?"
"Anybody." GQ sat up too, putting both hands on her shoulders. "Everybody. You know how folks are, especially with a new relationship; always butting their noses in and giving advice and offering opinions... I don't want that for us. I want it to just be you and me."
Allie looked at GQ for a long beat. And then she said, "You must really think I'm an idiot."
"No." She shook his hands off. "Please, Allie is how I ended up here in the first place. My God, maybe you are right, maybe I am an idiot. At the very least I'm good enough to sleep with, just not good enough to be seen with in public."
"Allie... I'm sorry... "
"Save it." She stood up, grabbing her clothes. "You know, a real gentlemen lets a lady know upfront that she's participating in a booty call. It's the classy thing to do."
"This wasn't a booty-call. I told you the truth. I did miss you. I do love you, Allie. I never stopped."
"You never started," Allie snapped. "You're embarrassed to be seen with me."
"I'm not embarrassed."
"Then you're afraid."
"You don't understand. It's more complicated then that. I This is for your sake as much as mine. You don't know how vicious people can be. You've been protected your whole life. Your money and your big house and your driver and your private schools, not to mention your blue eyes, your long straight hair..."
"Oh, give it a rest," Allie snapped. "Your mom's a doctor. You grew up in Baldwin Hills. Plenty of big houses and private schools there, too."
"And you think people can tell that when they look at me?" GQ challenged. "You think the cops who used to stop me every time I'd be running to catch a bus were interested in the fact that I can conjugate Latin verbs with the best of them? You think people who see us together are particularly concerned about our comparable socio-economic and educational status? Or do you think maybe, just maybe, all they see is a cute little white girl and a scary Black thug with his hands all over her?"
"I thought you were more concerned that they see a good, educated Black man and the white skank who stole him away from his own kind?"
"Damn it, GQ, who cares what they think?"
"I care," GQ said. "And you knew that before you came here."
He had her there. She did know. He'd told her all this and more, plenty of times. Yet, she still came.
GQ was right. This was as much her fault as his.
"Allie, please," GQ reached out for her. "A relationship is two people. That's it. We don't need anybody else. We don't have anything to prove to anyone. I love you, you love me. Why do we have to publicize it? Why does anyone else have to know? You accused me of thinking you're not good enough to be seen with. Well, am I not worth being with if you don't get to show me off?"
Alice had to give Spencer credit. They were almost all the way through their lovely brunch at the Bay City Country Club the dessert and coffee were being swept away and Spencer had signaled for the check before he oh, so casually, as if the thought had just occurred to him, noted, "You were Jamie Frame's stepmother for a number of years."
"Well, I was technically his aunt, first," Alice replied, acting as if she found nothing odd about this particular track of conversation. "He was born James Matthews. My brother, Russ, named him after our father."
"How old was Jamie when he found out the truth?"
Alice thought about it. "Well, back when Steve was paying for Jamie's nursery school, he still called him Mr. Frame and believed he was merely a friend. So I'd have to say Jamie was four, maybe even five years old when Rachel told him."
"That must have been very difficult for him to accept."
"Jamie loved Steve. Besides, Rachel had already dragged another father figure, a man by the name of Ted Clark, in and out of the poor boy's life. He was used to the instability."
"That kind of trauma, though, it can scar a person for life, can it not? As his stepmother, and a physician, you must have been very concerned at the time about the effect that so much turmoil in childhood was bound to have on his future."
"Jamie has done very well for himself," Alice replied lightly. "He's a wonderful doctor, and a loving parent. I'm very proud of him. I'm sure Steve would have been, as well."
Taking his receipt from their server, Spencer stood to pull out Alice's chair for her. He led her towards the door, still musing, "Nevertheless, I'm sure that the judge in Kirkland's custody hearing would be very interested in hearing your opinion both professional and personal about Jamie's critical early years."
Alice turned to face Spencer. She told him, "I will not testify against Jamie."
"Not against him," Spencer blustered. "Certainly, not against him, I'd never ask you to do such a thing. No, no, I'm just talking about helping to form a complete picture for the court. You would simply be confirming facts. It's up to the judge to form an opinion, yay or nay, one way or the other. Jamie's life with Rachel is a matter of public record. Even if, when it comes to the good people of Bay City, Rachel's most grievous sins seem to be written on water while, for the rest of us, alas, they're chiseled in stone. It doesn't seem fair, does it? Not after everything she did. To Jamie... and to you."
Alice looked at Spencer, standing there, looking so earnest in his manipulation, that she couldn't help herself. She smiled. And then she laughed. And then she cupped his face in both her hands and sighed, "Spencer Harrison, you are adorable."
And then she did the last thing the patrons of the Bay City Country Club and anyone who thought they knew her, up to and including Spencer Harrison himself expected.
She kissed him. Like she meant it.
Because she did.
"How did you know I was here?"
"A great many people in this town still owe me a great many favors. They are inevitably quite gleeful for the opportunity to retire their debt." Carl pushed his way into the motel room that had recently been serving as Lucas' surreptitious home. "Lovely residence you've got here."
"Beats that compound in Canada you had me stored in."
"Oh, honestly," Carl threw his hands up in the air. "Are you honestly going to continue this charade? We're all alone here, there's no one to overhear. You know as well as I do that I am not, have not, and never was responsible for your unfortunate incarceration."
"You may not have been the one who sent me there "
"Well, thank you for that, at least."
"But you were most certainly the one responsible."
"Come again?" Carl clarified.
"Never mind," Lucas snapped. "What do you want?"
"Now see here, you can't just make that sort of an accusation and then refuse to follow through."
"I can and I have. What do you want, Carl?" Lucas demanded, voice steely.
Carl briefly debated the wisdom of pursuing the open line of questioning, then thought better of it and, softening somewhat, said, "To begin with, I wished to offer my condolences on the passing of your on Jenna's unfortunate passing."
And something in the way he said the words told Lucas, "You know..."
"You know," Lucas repeated, making clear that he wasn't asking a question. And wistfully remembered a time when he'd believed that the worst thing that could happen was for Cass Winthrop to turn out to be Jenna's father.
"I know," Carl conceded.
"Damn it," Lucas exploded. "Damn you. It was all for nothing. We go through Hell, and you "
"Now wait just a moment. I am not to blame for any of this. Donna "
"Did what any rational woman would do when faced with the possibility of subjecting an innocent child to your brand of parenting, not to mention the horror of ending up tethered to you for the rest of her life."
Carl's first instinct was to defend himself. But then, in the middle of Lucas' tirade, he suddenly realized, "When did you learn about Donna and Jenna?"
Lucas froze, realizing he'd given too much away. Carl realized it too.
"Donna just told Rachel a few days ago." He demanded, "How long have you known?"
"Lorna told me," Lucas bluffed, understanding that he was talking himself into an even deeper hole, but still instinctively coming out swinging.
"And how did she find out?"
This wasn't going to end well, Lucas knew it. Yet he refused to go down without a fight. "I don't know."
"I think you do. I think you know because you're the one who told her, not the other way around. It's the only thing that makes any sense. And I think you knew, because Donna must have told you."
"Don't be ridiculous."
"Donna had Felicia, Jenna and Dean kidnapped and stashed in Canada. Occam's Razor, it only stands to reason that she did the same to you."
"Donna did what?" Trying to outwit Carl flew out the window as Lucas struggled to comprehend what he'd just heard. "Donna was the one responsible? Donna got my daughter killed?"
"My daughter," Carl corrected and, for a moment, the two men did nothing but glare at each other from across the room, the weight of the moment too heavy for anything as lightweight as words.
"Why would Donna..."
Carl briefly recapped the events that had, inevitably in retrospect, led toward today. Lucas looked as if he might be violently ill. Or punch a wall. Or both.
"Bitch," Lucas exploded. "The goddamn bitch!" He was ostensibly still speaking to Carl, but Lucas' anger was clearly now directed at the universe at large. "I believed her! I let her talk me into walking away from my family because I genuinely believed she wanted to protect Jenna, and then she turns around and..." Lucas faced Carl. "How the hell can you just stand here? How can you, of all people, not be over there, skinning Donna alive for this?"
Carl cleared his throat uncomfortably. "I I have my reasons, let's just leave it at that, shall we?"
"Why did you come here?" Lucas asked suddenly. "What's your angle for telling me this?"
Somehow managing to be both cryptic and simultaneously crystal-clear, Carl told him, "I may currently be barred from expressing my... displeasure... with Donna's activities. But you're not. And it is highly unlikely that anyone would suspect a dead man...."
"So the surgery went well?" Lorna placed a plate of food in front of Jamie and joined him at the kitchen table. As expected, he kept his eyes on his plate, refusing to look directly at her ever since their earlier encounter.
"Yeah," Jamie nodded. "So far Lori Ann's condition is stable, which is good. Of course, we'll know more in a few hours. Right now we're back to watching and waiting. Last time I checked, my mother was with Felicia, trying to convince her to get some rest. At least leave the hospital for a few hours, see the sun, breathe non-recycled air."
Lorna nodded. "I should probably get back soon. I feel kind of guilty about it, but I just had to get out of there. The walls were starting to close in on me."
She felt Jamie staring at her, but his eyes snapped back to his plate when she looked up.
"Eat," Lorna said crossly, nodding at the untouched plate of food in front of him. "Cold French Toast is just soggy bread."
"Thanks, but "
"I said eat, not politely decline."
"Are you always this bossy?" Jamie quickly picked up his fork.
"One person's bossy is another person's take charge attitude. I'm simply giving you what I know you need."
"And what do I need?" Jamie took a bite, blinking in surprise, and then shoveled down another forkful to Lorna's delight.
"A good meal and a good night's rest. The former, I am providing as apology for taking away the latter."
Jamie shook his head. "This is the guest house, Lorna, and you are a guest, so "
"Quit being such a damned, Boy Scout. You were looking for a little solo R&R and I spoiled it by attacking you with my flying fists of fury. Be annoyed."
"I can't after such a great meal," he said, holding up his empty plate. "Apology accepted."
"What are you a hoover?" Lorna asked in surprise as Jamie pushed back from the table and carried his plate and glass to the sink.
"What? You wanted me to eat. I ate. I even cleaned up after myself. My grandmother Ada would be very pleased by my manners. And now, I'm leaving."
"No," she stood, blocking his escape from the kitchen. "You are going to stay here and get some rest and I'm going to..." Lorna trailed off when she noticed that for every step she took towards him, Jamie took another away. "What is wrong with you? It's like you think I have which is the correct medical term? cooties? or something."
"I know you don't," Jamie sucked in a breath as she stepped right up to him, leaving barely a hair's breadth between them. "Have cooties. I'm just tired. Being tired and wired make a bad combination."
She saw that she'd practically backed him against the sink, and shook her head. "I can see that." Lorna took a step back and narrowed her eyes at him. "What's made you such a 'fraidy cat with me all of a sudden? Is it because you saw my lady parts?"
"No," he scoffed, crossing his arms over his chest. "Like you said, you don't have anything I haven't seen before. Sorry."
Something about his sudden act of bravado made her laugh. "So nothing about me impressed you?"
His eyes flickered over her again, and she felt herself blush. Straight down to her lady parts.
"Maybe," Jamie conceded. "But I was too busy ducking your flying fists of fury to notice."
She made a feint towards him, fist raised, and laughed when he flinched.
"You're so cute."
"Lorna, you have me cornered like a rat. I'd say I'm pathetic."
"One man's pathetic, is another woman's endearing."
Jamie groaned. "Now, you're just messing with me."
She nodded. "I am. I find you very entertaining."
"Like a cat playing with a mouse," he muttered.
"Wow, two rodent metaphors in a row. Doesn't say much for your self-esteem."
"Congratulations. You've figured me out. Can I go, now?"
"I don't know? Can you?" she challenged, remaining where she stood.
"So you're just going to stand there?"
"Yeah. You have plenty of room to squeeze past me. If you really aren't afraid of me. Or my cooties. Or my boobs. You should have no problem."
She really was enjoying this too much. Tweaking him, teasing him, needling him into action. She smiled in anticipation as Jamie stared at her speechless, his face cycling through a delightful array of emotions before finally settling on a look of sheer determination.
"Fine. Stand there. I'm not afraid of you. Or your boobs."
And to prove his point, Jamie walked right up and proceeded to slide around her, almost making it clear around when she shifted ever so slightly to try to force him to retreat. Prepared for her maneuver, his hand went out to hold her at bay, sneaking in a tickle to her ribs that made her gasp in surprise.
"No, fair!" she laughed, grabbing his hand, the two of them jostling for position until she realized she was now pressed against him, really close against him, and he was looking at her, really looking at her, in a way she hadn't been looked at in a long time.
Without thinking, Lorna leaned up and kissed him, her entire body sighing in relief as the tension between them was finally broken, and something stirred inside her with an intense ferocity.
Shocked, their lips parted for only the briefest of moments before Jamie lowered his head to her again, his own desire and need now matching hers.
|Receive email notification every time www.anotherworldtoday.com is updated|