Bay City Thanksgiving 1991....
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Bay City Thanksgiving 2009....
"What's all this?" Felicia asked in amazed wonder at the sight of an army of caterers and staff proceeding to set up tables and chairs along the waiting area just outside the NICU window.
"If Felicia Gallant can't come to Thanksgiving," Rachel spread her arms wide to encompass the hustle and bustle of the room. "Then Thanksgiving will just have to come to Felicia Gallant." She hugged her friend. "You said you couldn't leave Lori Ann for the holidays, so... Don't worry; we cleared everything with the hospital first. It's amazing what having a son and an ex-husband in high places can accomplish."
"I don't know what to say," Felicia stammered.
Carl came up behind his wife to stand between Rachel and Felicia. "Well, perhaps you can begin by introducing me to your lovely new granddaughter." He blatantly lied, "I haven't had the pleasure yet."
Still flustered, but unable to pass up the opportunity to show off her treasure, Felicia took Carl's hand. "Of course, of course." She led him toward the viewing window and pointed. "That's her. That's our Lori Ann. Gloria Ann Frame."
As Felicia went on to explain everything the baby had been through and how much better she was doing now compared to only a few days before, Carl nodded solicitously. The only time he tore his eyes away from the tiny bit of life waving her limbs so vigorously inside her incubator, it was to glance across the room at Rachel.
A single bob of the head was all Carl required to convey to her just how grateful he was for this chance she'd provided him. Because Rachel's idea to hold Thanksgiving at the hospital wasn't merely for Felicia's sake, it was for his, as well. It finally gave Carl the excuse to gaze upon his newborn grandchild out in the open, above any and all suspicion.
Rachel smiled to show that she understood, and blew her husband a kiss.
Marley came next, trailed by Bridget and Michele. Trying to sound casual, she asked if Rachel had heard from Steven and Kirkland. Oh, and what about Jamie?
Rachel assured Marley that she had, and they'd all promised to attend. Didn't Jamie tell her?
Marley just smiled. And refrained from admitting that she hadn't gotten so much as a text message from her new husband since right after they'd exchanged their vows.
Matt arrived with Jasmine and Lila. And Donna.
Rachel greeted her son, her granddaughter, and her former daughter-in-law. But the entire time she was watching Donna.
Who was watching Felicia and Carl.
"You said I could invite anyone I wanted, Grandma," Kirkland reminded Rachel as he escorted his guests through the waiting-room doors.
"That I did," she conceded, not particularly surprised to find Grant and Spencer at her celebration. Admittedly a bit more stunned to see that Alice was with them.
"It was very gracious of you, Rachel," Grant smiled solicitously.
"Don't make me regret it," she warned.
For a moment after Frankie stepped through the doors with Cass and Charlie, the room exploded into a chorus of cries as all those guests who hadn't yet had a chance rushed to welcome her home.
While everyone fussed over his wife, Cass could do no more than beam in her direction, grinning ear to ear. Charlie, standing off to the side, caught Kirkland's eye across the room, jerked her head at the scene, and mouthed, "Told you so."
In the spirit of the holiday, Felicia managed to be civil towards Kevin when he arrived as Amanda's escort. She answered his questions about how Lori Ann was doing, then wondered whether Kevin had made his final decision about her custody yet.
"Not yet," Kevin said gently. "Dean entrusted me with doing what was best for his daughter. I want to make sure that I consider every option."
Curious, Amanda asked him once Felicia had stepped away, "I'm guessing Dean was out of his mind with grief when he came to see you. Couldn't any halfway decent lawyer make the case that he wasn't thinking clearly when he named you Lori Ann's guardian?"
"Oh, absolutely," Kevin said. "I can envision at least three ways off the top of my head to attack it legally. But the problem is two-fold. First, challenging my guardianship would put Lori Ann's custody status into limbo. She'd become a ward of the state and I don't think anyone really wants that, especially not when her medical situation is still so unstable. And second, you said any halfway decent lawyer. Cass Winthrop is barely that. He may have been something a quarter of a century ago when he first set up practice in Bay City. But taking time off to run a bookstore is hardly conducive to keeping up with the latest in tort law. I've researched his recent caseload. Over the past ten years he's done the bulk of his work in Oakdale and Springfield, and it wasn't very impressive. He lost Margo Hughes' and Tony Santos' murder trials. The Craig Montgomery case was dismissed due to new evidence. Cass advised Montgomery to take a plea and go to jail for five years! The man just isn't at the top of his game anymore. But you know what? I don't blame him. I envy him." Kevin indicated the adoring way Cass was staring at Frankie and said, "He's got something a lot more important on his mind."
As she milled around, making small talk while they all waited for the buffet to be set up and dinner to begin, Donna made such a point of avoiding the nursery window that Matt felt compelled to sidle up to her and whisper that it was okay to take a polite peek, no one would find it suspicious.
"Carl would," Donna said.
"Jamie!" Marley called out once her husband at long last made his appearance. She ran up and gave him a kiss, making sure that Grant got a good eyeful.
Jamie, who'd only recently managed to catch up on at least a fraction of the sleep he'd lost over the past what? Month? Year? at long last felt somewhat up to playing his part dutifully, even managing a smile and another public kiss when first Rachel, then Donna insisted on toasting their children, the newlyweds.
But Marley hoped she was the only one who noticed that his eyes never quite met her's all night.
"Who are you calling?" Felicia asked Lorna, coming up behind her daughter and prompting Lorna to hastily snap shut her phone in order to keep Felicia from seeing the message Lorna had just texted.
"HAPPY THANKSGIVING, DAD."
Frankie and Grant ended up standing next to each other at the buffet table.
She said, "Looks like the afterlife didn't agree with either of us."
He laughed. "Let's see if life does a better job."
"I learned to ride when I was a little boy," Alice overheard Kevin telling Bridget. "Right there on the Love estate, same as you. The man who became my stepfather, he taught me. He used to work there."
Kevin's grandmother looked at him then. And she wondered what might have been if fate had allowed the little boy she remembered, the one with the cowboy hat Sally gave him that he practically slept in, to stay with the family he loved, rather than be forced to go with the family that claimed to love him more. The reflection compelled Alice to look at Kirkland. And sigh.
Meanwhile, Amanda could only wince at how comfortable Kevin appeared to be, his chair adjoining the children's table, making easy conversation across its back with Bridget, Michelle, Cory and Elizabeth.
Arriving late, Steven told Sarah, "Look, there's an empty seat beside Allie."
Sarah shook her head. "I want to say hello to Senator Harrison first. See how his golf game is coming along."
"How have you been, Jazz?" Cass asked the little girl who, for a majority of her life, had been his stepdaughter.
"Good." Jasmine set her plate of food down next to Cory, but only after noting that Kirkland had been allowed to sit with the adults this year. "I've been helping Mama a lot with her new job."
"Your mom has a new job? Doing what?"
"She's decorating Mr. Harrison's house for him and Kirkland."
"Lila is working for Grant?" Cass double-checked, hoping that he'd misheard over the din.
"Yup. They're friends now."
"What's with the cold shoulder?" Steven asked Kirkland. He'd noticed that as soon as he entered the room, his brother had headed in the other direction.
"What's with yours?" Kirkland asked, nodding towards Jamie before turning away.
"Got anymore good name puns for me?" Matt asked Lorna. "Because I've been working on a few. Matt Overboard. Matt of War. It's Raining Matts..."
"Oh, God," Lorna flushed furiously and covered her face with both hands for good measure. "I am so embarrassed about how I behaved the other night. Will you ever forgive me for acting like such an idiot?"
"Only if you forgive me for abandoning a lady in her hour of need. I was pretty buzzed myself, otherwise I'd have for sure stayed to make certain you were all right. It was seriously tacky of me to leave you alone like that."
"That's okay," Lorna said, taking care to look anywhere else in the room except for where Jamie happened to be. "By the way, your kitchen table is busted."
"Impressive kiss back there," Grant complimented Marley.
She shrugged. "We're newlyweds."
"Could have fooled me," Grant observed. "You kiss like siblings."
"I see you're still hanging around with him," Kevin indicated Spencer to Alice. "For God's sake, if you don't want to listen to me, just do a poll right here in this room, you'll find out what sort of a person he is."
"I am not in the habit of compiling dossiers on those who offer me their friendship," she deflected calmly. "I prefer to trust people."
"How's that worked out for you?" Kevin wondered.
Cass felt compelled to clarify with Lila, "You're working for Grant?"
"Jasmine is quite the little town crier, isn't she?"
"What are you thinking? You know what that bastard is capable of."
"Grant Harrison has never broken my heart," Lila observed. "There aren't a lot of men in this room who can say the same."
"What's up?" Unable to track down Sarah, Steven went ahead and plopped down next to Allie, anyway. "You look bummed."
"Turkey's dry," Allie mumbled. "Who wouldn't be clinically depressed about that?"
"Oh, come on, what's the matter? Finally caught up that Gregory Hudson's aw, shucks, Quiet Man routine is 'cause, deep down, he's got nothing interesting to say?"
"Shut up, Steven, okay? Not everyone's as in love with the sound of your voice as you are. Believe it or not, Off-The-Charts-IQ-Boy, you're not as smart as you think." She got up and switched to another seat.
"How is everything going on the road to independence?" Rachel asked Lila.
"Confusing," she admitted. "But fun."
"Good for you." Rachel offered a quick hug. "I am just so proud of you, Lila."
While Amanda watched. And tried to remember the last time her mother had said anything even remotely similar to her.
Grant told Jamie, "In case you're wondering, I didn't crash. Kirkland invited me."
"I know," Jamie said. "He told me."
That threw Grant for a bit of a loop, but he recovered to say, "Kirkland's a terrific kid. He's smart and he's athletic. And he has a big heart."
"That he does."
"Thank you, Jamie," Grant had to look down at his shoes to get the words out, but get them out he did.
Since neither one knew quite what to say after that, both awkwardly turned and walked in opposite directions.
"Caught you," Cass snuck up behind Frankie as she was looking at Lori Ann through the NICU window.
She smiled wistfully, not taking her eyes off the baby. "I don't know how Dean could have walked away from this."
Cass didn't say anything for a long while. And then he confessed, "You have no idea how close I came to doing the exact same thing when I thought I'd lost you. A part of me just wanted to turn my back on anything and anyone who in any way reminded me of you. Of what I'd lost."
"You never would have abandoned Charlie!"
"I thought about it, Frankie. More than once." He tried to explain, "I didn't see how I could be any good to her, in the state that I was in. My pain was so huge it hurt to breathe, it hurt to exist I simply couldn't imagine how there would ever be room for anything else, and that included Charlie. I wanted to run and I wanted to hide. Just like Dean did."
"He'll be back," Frankie insisted. "I know my cousin. He'll be back for his little girl."
"Congratulations on your marriage, Jamie," Alice kissed her stepson on the cheek, ignoring the glare Rachel gave her for it. While her mouth was near his ear, Alice whispered, "How are you, honey?"
"I don't know," Jamie admitted. "I really, really don't know."
"What? No kiss for old time's sake?"
"With pleasure..." Grant mused, even though Lorna had already stormed off in a huff.
Frankie wasn't sure if Lila was avoiding her or if, in fact, Frankie was the one subconsciously avoiding Lila.
Deciding that this was no way to act if they were going to live in the same town and most likely continue to run into each at family functions, Frankie steeled herself to cross over and ask, "How are you, Lila?"
"Thriving," she snapped and walked away.
"I tried..." Frankie sighed.
Rachel attempted to warn Alice, "You and Spencer Harrison are... "
"None of your concern," Alice said.
Lorna and Jamie didn't speak at any time during the evening. At one point, however, she did brush by him only long enough to slip something into Jamie's coat pocket.
He turned away from the crowd to examine what it was, and pulled out a plastic yellow bracelet, the kind that were ubiquitous for any and all fundraising efforts. On this one, the original message had been crossed out and replaced with the letters: WWLD. What Would Lorna Do?
It was all he could do to keep from bursting out laughing and spoiling their secret.
"People who cheat in guest-houses," Lila also walked by Jamie without stopping, but she made sure that he heard every word she was hissing. "Should be more discreet on the porch..."
Amanda asked her mother, "Why are you so hell-bent on warning Alice off of Spencer?"
"I owe her one."
"You owe her more than one, Mom. They built supercomputers to calculate how many you owe her. But, under the circumstances, if you were her, would you take your advice?"
"I received the stack of motions your office sent over," Cass informed Kevin. "So many of them..."
"I like to give my clients their money's worth."
"Were they really all necessary? Especially this close to the hearing date?"
"That's how we do it outside of Mayberry, Counselor." Kevin slapped Cass heartily on the shoulder. "I'll see you in court."
Grant handed Lila a drink and took one for himself. Both leaning against the wall, he indicated Frankie and whispered, "Saintly people are so annoying, aren't they?"
She didn't bother lowering her voice to answer. "Ain't that the truth..."
"So how many dire warning did you receive against me tonight?" Spencer wondered out loud to Alice.
"More than the average number, I would suspect."
"You don't seem upset."
"I've let people make up my mind for me in the past," she admitted. "It never worked out well."
Jamie looked up and found Steven standing in front of him.
"Look, Dad, about what I said that day in the computer lab... You screwing up our lives... and Kirkland and Grant... And Marley... I didn't... I sometimes, I really suck."
Jamie cut him off with a shake of his head. "Steven, you are more important to me than breathing. Don't ever forget that. Besides, the sucking? You come by it honestly. From your father's side of the family."
Charlie pointed to Frankie and Cass, necking in what they thought was a private corner of the room, and told Kirkland, "It's like all they do, morning, noon and night."
He watched Charlie's parents for a moment, then offered, "At least that's not a problem I have with my dads."
From the kiddie table, Jasmine raised her arm and waved furiously she'd been trying to get Charlie's attention, and Kirkland's, too, all evening only to lower it, dejected and embarrassed, when neither of them appeared to notice her.
Carl looked at Donna across the table.
He wanted to roar. He wanted to grab the plate of food in front of him and smash it into her smug, complacent face. He wanted to grab her by the hair, drag her along the floor to the NICU window and force her to look at the atrocious consequences of her monstrous actions. He wanted to make her answer for all of it and he wanted to make her pay.
But, of course, Carl did none of those things. This wasn't the place and it most certainly wasn't the time.
Very, very soon.
Matt thought it was bad enough when he spied Grant and Lila chatting cozily against the wall.
But after Jasmine came running up to offer Grant a slice of pecan pie, all Matt could mutter was, "Son of a..."
"... Bitch," Jamie helpfully finished. While Amanda grimaced in agreement.
Sarah suggested to Steven, "Want to blow this Popsicle-stand and go get naked somewhere?"
He grinned. "That would make me very thankful."
Matt clicked a fork against his drinking glass to get everyone's attention. Once the noise level settled down a bit, he cleared his throat and said, "First of all, I'd like to thank my mom for the great job she did setting this up and bringing all of us together."
A generous round of applause, with Felicia leading the way, rippled through the room.
He continued, "My stepdad well, he was my real dad in every way that counted..."
Jamie caught Kirkland's eye and winked. His son grinned sheepishly back. Grant observed the interaction and simply glanced down at his linked fingers, ignoring the pointed look Spencer was sending his way as a result.
"Mac used to make these terrific holiday toasts. I'm sure you all remember. And for those of you who didn't get to hear them, well, I'm sorry, but you really missed something special."
A chorus of "Hear, hear!"
"It's because of Mac that I can't help thinking about all of the people who aren't here tonight. I thought maybe it would be nice if, instead of any of us trying, kind of futilely, to duplicate what Mac was so good at, we went around the room and raised a glass to somebody we wished were still with us. I'll start, if that's okay." Matt blinked hard and choked out, "To Jenna."
Picking up the gauntlet, also barely able to keep from breaking down, Felicia said, "To Lucas."
Lorna said, "To Gabe."
Cass said, "To Wallingford."
Frankie said, "To my lost babies."
Jamie said, "To Steve."
Alice said, "To Sally."
Kevin said, "To Jennifer."
Lila said, "To Jessie."
Kirkland said, "To Vicky."
Allie said, "To Jake."
Donna said, "To Michael."
Marley said, "To Clara."
Grant said, "To Ryan."
And so did Spencer.
And so did Carl.
Rachel said, "To Ada."
Amanda finished simply, "To Mac."
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