"You've been a bad boy, Jamie," Cecile scolded as she settled in the chair behind his desk, languorously pulling off a pair of sleek, black suede gloves. "You've been talking about me behind my back with Frankie. Don't try to deny it," she pointed a well-manicured fingernail at him. "I know she was here in this very office just this morning."
"So what if she was," Jamie shrugged. "She's my cousin. We have a number of things to talk about besides you."
"Oh, Jamie," Cecile clucked. "You and I both know that isn't true. You two were never close. Except when you were in that mental hospital What was it? Ten? Twelve years ago? Both of you so out of your pathetic little minds you didn't even recognize who the other was."
"I think you're mistaken," Jamie shook his head, still standing at the door, still refusing to take one step near her.
"I don't think I am," she laughed. "Unlike you or Frankie, I haven't been pumped full of drugs. My memory's pretty good."
"Twelve years ago, I was in rehab in San Francisco," he recited to her carefully. "I certainly didn't see Frankie while I was there, because as far as I was concerned, she was dead."
Cecile appraised him, amused. "That's your cover story? Drug rehab? Really? How 1981 of you."
"It's the truth," he countered flatly. "And I have the documentation to prove it."
"I bet you do," she laughed. "I must say, Jamie, I am mildly impressed. Here you are, attempting to grow a spine and call Frankie's bluff. If I didn't know you better, if I didn't know that you already have this propensity for being weak and cracking under even the most moderate of pressure, I might be inclined to believe you could pull it off. Especially with everything you stand to lose."
She expected Jamie to react to that. When he didn't when he continued standing where he was, arms crossed, chin up, eyes boring into her without the trace of fear she really preferred to see there at all times; especially if she was the one to put it there the denial threw Cecile off her game. But only temporarily.
She recovered quickly and shook her head as she pushed herself up from her chair and slowly stalked towards him. "I don't believe it, though. Because, as I said: You're weak. Frankie will either appeal to that most useless of human appendages, your conscience, or she will threaten you with that dirty little secret you foolishly told her in your pathetic state. Either way, you'll simply fold like a sniveling coward and take me down with you. I can't have that. I'm sure you understand."
"Maybe you should have considered that before you kidnapped and drugged her. But then you've never been very diligent about thinking through the consequences of your actions and how they can come back to bite you on the ass."
"Oh, I think about consequences, Jamie. I think about them all the time. The lesson you taught me on that account was a particularly memorable one."
Once again, he didn't give her the satisfaction of flinching. He'd been steeling himself for this from the moment he'd closed the door.
"I've apologized for that," he said quietly. "That's the whole reason why.... At the hospital.... We've settled our past, Cecile."
"Oh, no," she said in a low, deceptively calm voice as she looked him right in the eye and noted the ah, there it was! fear at long last rearing there. "We're settled when I say we're settled, Jamie. After all... I was the one you raped."
"Wow," Steven told Sarah after Gregory left. "That was really... harsh."
She shrugged, pretending to be fascinated by the same textbook paragraph Sarah had already gone over six times, all without absorbing a word of it.
"And it really wasn't like you." Steven sat across from her and raised Sarah's chin with one finger. "What happened with you and Allie that it made you go off on her like that?"
"Nothing," Sarah said. "It wasn't anything. I don't want to talk about it."
"Look, I'm no expert when it comes to being a good friend. In fact, I'm kind of a wasteland in that regard. I've never been very good at connecting with people. You know me, I'm happier behind a computer. I actually like it when there's an extra electronic layer between the world and me. But, you, Sarah, you're awesome at that stuff. You've only been in Bay City, for, like, less than a year? And you already have a million friends. You get invited to every party on campus. Your phone is constantly ringing. Me? I've lived here my entire life, and I think I've got maybe a dozen people who'd be happy to take my calls. And then there's only a half-dozen that I'd actually want to talk to. You and Allie were so tight. Something major must have "
"It was you, okay?" Sarah flung down her highlighter, crossed her arms and stared out the window.
"Me? What did I do?"
"It wasn't what you did. It was what Allie thought about what you did." Sarah said, "She was constantly ragging on you, Steven. Saying how full of yourself you are, how you think you know everything, how you're arrogant and egotistical and "
"Sarah," he interrupted calmly. "Two things. One, I actually am all those. Allie isn't the first person to mention it. And two, Allie and I are cousins. We grew up together in the same house. Hell, we're more like siblings. It's kind of how we talk. It's certainly not worth breaking up a friendship over."
Sarah sighed and looked away again.
"What?" Steven asked. "There's more?"
"She said that you go through girls like some people go through floppy discs."
"That's ridiculous," Steven said. "Nobody uses floppy discs anymore."
Sarah raised both eyebrows in his direction.
"Sorry," Steven mumbled.
"Allie said that you're a player, that you're just messing around with me until you get bored or something better comes along or both. I defended you, we got into a fight. Allie said fine, if I really want to know... The truth is Allie thinks you'd never be into me for long, that you're a Wile E. Coyote super-genius and I'm too dumb "
"Allie said that?"
"Yeah. She said it was for my own good. That she was just looking out for me. Well, I don't need that kind of looking after. And I don't need that kind of friend. So can we just drop this, please?"
"I'll talk to her," Steven suggested.
"No! I don't want you to talk to her, I don't want Gregory to talk to her, and I don't want to talk to her. I just want to forget about it. Now that I know what she really thinks of me, what she's probably always thought about me, I stand by what I said. She's not worth being friends with. And she's not worth losing sleep over, either. I cut her out of my life and I just want to keep it that way. Promise me you won't do anything, Steven. Promise me you'll just drop it."
"So if everything goes according to plan," Frankie smiled down at her daughter. "We should be able to bring Lori Ann home sometime after Christmas."
"Hm," her daughter shrugged unenthusiastically, head down as she picked at the plate of burger and fries in front of her.
"I think it will be good for all of us," Frankie struggled to continue sounding enthusiastic, despite Charlie's rather obvious lack of, well, enthusiasm. "A fresh start in the new year as a nice, normal family."
Charlie's head shot up. "I thought you, me, and dad were already a family? Why can't it just be us for a little while? It's not like I remember how things were before you left. We should get to be a real family. Before getting a new baby."
"First of all, I didn't leave, Charlie. I am never going to stop repeating that, so you might as well accept it. I didn't leave. I was taken away against my will. I would have given anything, done anything, to stay with you and your father. And second of all, it's not like Cass and I went looking for a baby. But this is Felicia's granddaughter. You know what Felicia means to your dad. And she's Dean's daughter, too. That poor little girl desperately needs a home, and if it can't be with Felicia, well, then, it's up to Cass and I to step up. We have been so lucky this year. I never, ever thought that I would be back with you all. But here I am. It's a miracle. I am so happy, all I can think of is using that incredible, positive energy to pay my good fortune forward. Lori Ann is a blessing. She's our chance to thank the universe for everything we've been given."
"Whatever," her daughter cut Frankie off with an exasperated huff. "You and Dad are going to do whatever you want to do anyway."
"But if picking up stray kids is your thing now, how about Kirkland? He's family too."
Frankie blinked at the sudden change in subject. "What? Kirkland? What about Kirkland?"
"Yeah, he says his dad... one of his dads... his dad, Jamie... has been acting really weird lately. Kirkland told me he heard Jamie almost lost it in front of the judge at his custody hearing. And Jamie's always been so nice and normal. Well, compared to the other one, Grant."
Frankie chose her words with care, trying to sound as if she were just guessing. "Sometimes, sweetheart, people don't act like they normally would when their children are involved. They get scared. And that makes them get... crazy. Sometimes they do things they normally wouldn't, all to protect their kids."
"How about you?" Charlie asked, looking at Frankie with a curious expression. "Would you ever be so scared that you'd do something crazy to protect me?"
"I'd do anything to protect you," Frankie said without hesitation.
"Anything?" Charlie pressed skeptically.
Frankie nodded, the look of despair on Jamie's face from earlier flashing briefly in her head, before she pushed it aside and reassured her daughter with a sad smile. "Anything I had to."
"Dead man walking," Carl observed dryly when Lucas stepped into the living room, asking to speak to him and Rachel.
"Maybe people who've crawled out of their own coffins once or twice shouldn't throw stones," Lucas proffered in return. And then he got down to business. "Now that Lori Ann is doing better, I am going to tell Felicia I'm alive."
"It's going to be a shock for her," Rachel observed.
"I'd like you to help me soften the blow," Lucas said. "I would like you to keep what you know about where I've been, and the fact that Lorna knew I was alive before Felicia did, to yourselves."
"Why?" Carl wondered. "So that you can continue to blame me for your imprisonment rather than let the true story get out?"
"If the true story gets out, eventually it will still lead back to you," Lucas reminded. "Even if you weren't responsible for my abduction, you were certainly responsible for Donna's familiarity with the place. I am offering you the chance to let sleeping dogs lie. I don't open your can of worms, and you leave me and Lorna and Fanny the hell alone."
"Why does everyone seem to think that I am gunning for either you or the lovely Lorna? I was quite fond of the girl at one time, you know. I daresay she was my all-time favorite "
"Flunky?" Lucas asked.
"Protegee," Carl finished. "I have no interest in seeing her exposed. Anything of Lorna's I might have wanted to see, I assure you, I've seen already."
Rachel cut off Lucas' silent fume and Carl's bemused smirk by telling them both, "Carl and I won't mention what we know to Felicia. She's been through hell these past few months; I have no intention of making things any harder for her. But, Lucas, I feel I have to warn you, after everything, I don't know if Felicia is just going to welcome you back with open arms."
"I don't know that either," Lucas confessed. "All I know is that I have to give it my best shot. I tried to live without her. I found out that I couldn't."
After Lucas left, Rachel asked Carl, "Was it really necessary for you to goad him like that? You know I don't mind you bringing up past... dalliances. Even if it was with a virtual child like Lorna. But I don't think her father is equally sanguine about the matter."
"I am merely fatigued of having everyone in Bay City constantly waving their moral superiority in my face like a badge of honor. Especially when, in this particular case, the margin of error is slight indeed. The only reason Lucas failed to achieve my level of socially frowned upon sinning is not for wont of trying. He is no more moral than I, he is simply less competent. Offered the same opportunities and backed into the same corners, he would have made identical life choices. I guarantee it."
Jamie didn't look away. He didn't recoil or crumble or weep in the face of Cecile's accusation. Which, she had to admit, was kind of a shame. Making Jamie break down was kind of a hobby of hers. A go-to pick-me-up when the world wasn't turning exactly the way she might like.
"What?" Cecile asked innocently. "Did you forget? Again?"
He hadn't forgotten. And he didn't deny it. He had raped her.
Yes, it had happened while under the influence of some powerful, psychotropic drugs that Cecile herself had deliberately slipped him as part of yet another greedy, self-serving, destructive plan. But that didn't change the fact that upon confronting her, only to receive complete disregard and utter contempt in return, Jamie had, in fact, raped his wife. There was no getting around that.
Even if he had, at first, managed to block the incident. Maybe it was the effect of the mind-altering drugs, maybe it was post-traumatic revulsion, or simply willful denial, some subconscious, some deliberate. But he'd pushed it aside and gotten on with his life. The memory never resurfacing, never stirring or giving him a moment's pause. Not even when Jake raped Marley.
The nightmares were always there, though. Although he managed to dismiss them, as well. He got quite good at it, actually. Until the patient in San Francisco. Jamie had told Marley the truth about that. There was a patient. A rape victim. And she did get to him. Just not in the way Jamie described.
After her, the nightmares got worse. Because they got so much more vivid. They began feeling less like dreams and more like... memories.
His solution foolish, in retrospect was to resist sleep, to push himself to work longer hours, to even dangerously, lamentably dabble with uppers in an attempt to avoid encountering something far worse than his relapsed addiction.
But even that didn't work for long. All the drugs did was fracture him to the point where Jamie could no longer control himself enough to stay stubbornly, deliberately, desperately ignorant.
He remembered it all. And from that moment on, everything he was, everything he had thought himself to be, was shattered.
There was no fixing himself, no understanding of how to fix himself, let alone any desire to. Because how was he supposed to live with this? With what he'd done? With what he now knew he was capable of doing?
He couldn't. He didn't want to.
So he took more pills, and he drank more scotch, not living, not dying, existing in a living hell that Jamie unfortunately didn't have the courage to free himself from.
Until one day he did. The day that, for a brief second, his memory of Cecile's face, screaming at him to stop, damn it, Jamie, stop, what the hell is the matter with you? turned into... Marley's.
And that was a terror he could not live with. Even with the help of alcohol and pills.
So he did the only thing that made sense at that moment. He swallowed more pills and more alcohol than he ever had.
And woke up several days later committed to a psych ward, courtesy of a concerned co-worked who'd found Jamie and rushed him to the hospital.
When the staff asked if there was anyone Jamie wanted to contact, he'd scrolled mentally through a list of family members, imagining the various looks of shock, disappointment and, worse of all, expectancy inevitable from each of them. And realized that what Jamie needed was help. Not more people to confirm that he had royally screwed up. Again.
So Jamie asked only for Alice.
And he must have asked for Cecile, too. Because one day, there she was. Standing right in front of him, talking to the fellow patient Jamie knew as Mary. The one that had initially reminded him of Frankie. Except that Frankie was dead.
Jamie remembered crying, begging Cecile's forgiveness, telling her how sorry he was, how he wished he could take back what he'd done, how he would do anything, anything at all, just name it, to make it up to her...
"I know you're sorry, Jamie," Cecile had patted him patronizingly on the shoulder, leading him toward a private corner to predict, "And I feel certain that you'll make good on your promise to me one day."
Now, face to face with Cecile for the first time in over a decade, Jamie could only reaffirm. "No. I haven't forgotten. I remember what I did. And I remember apologizing for it."
"As if mere words could make up for.... You didn't break my window with your baseball, Jamie. You took advantage of the most sacred "
"Do not play the innocent," Jamie warned, stepping forward, willing to put up with only so much. "You and I both know the truth about what happened that day."
"Oh, yes, yes. That I drugged you? That I pushed you to do it? That I got what I deserved? Grow up, Jamie, and take some responsibility for your actions for once. You raped me and now it's time for you to pay back the debt you owe me. You made a solemn promise while weeping on my Chanel suit back in your godforsaken loony bin. And unless you want me running to Grant Harrison and telling him every little thing I know until this pitiable, provincial life you've built for yourself is blown sky high, you're going to keep that promise."
Smiling, Cecile slid her gloves back on, then reached into her purse, pulling out a vial of liquid.
Jamie went rigid. "What is that?"
"This," Cecile explained patiently. "Is how you're going to get rid of our mutual problem that goes by the name of Frankie Frame Winthrop."
"This is still my house, right?" Grant double-checked the address on the door when he returned from his dinner with Marley to find Lila in his living room, unannounced and seemingly making herself at home.
"What are you doing back so early?" she wanted to know. "I thought you said you'd be away all evening. What's the matter? Marley catch on to your games?"
"I wasn't playing a game," Grant confessed. "I was simply enjoying a lovely evening with a beautiful woman." His face darkened. "When Lorna Devon had to pop up and glare at us as if we were committing some sort of mortal sin."
"I do believe adultery is mentioned on a list of those very things somewhere."
"It's rather hard to commit adultery in the middle of a crowded restaurant. Not to mention with a woman whose marriage isn't worth the paper it was hastily scribbled on. All Marley and I were doing was having a civilized, grown-up chat about Kirkland's future. Unfortunately, Lorna managed to make Marley feel so guilty about our doing... nothing..."
"Not for your lack of trying, I'm sure."
".... That she cut the evening short. Which brings us back to: What are you doing in my house, Lila?"
"Cass called," she admitted. "He said he needed to see me right away about something important. I wasn't about to have him come to Rachel's home. I'm just a guest there; they're putting up with me for Jazz's sake. I wanted Cass to see that I was doing well for myself. I have a real job, and I'm making it on my own without any man," Lila said.
Just before she grabbed Grant by both shoulders and, not bothering to eleborate on how exactly setting herself up in his living room equated to demonstrating independence, kissed him.
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