"You want me to drug Frankie?" Jamie asked incredulously. "Are you insane?"
"Very sane. And infinitely practical. She'd never allow me close enough to do it. You, on the other hand.... "
"I'm not doing your dirty work, Cecile. And I sure as hell am not doing to her, to any human being, what you did to me."
"Sweetheart, you'll dance the Macarena in the middle of Bay City Hospital naked if I ask you to. Besides, it's not as if it'll kill her! Just make her conveniently forget all about you and me, so that we're free to go on living our lives. She responds beautifully to this drug, it's like it was made just for her. Believe me. This way, you get to keep that bourgeois little family of yours and your middling reputation, and I keep my glorious freedom."
"Until one day you need me to be your tool again, and you blackmail me into doing something else."
"No," Cecile said with a shake of her head. "You do this for me, Jamie, and we'll be square. The story of our... unfortunate incident... will never pass my lips."
"Like I believe any word that comes out through your damned lips."
"I'm sure Grant will believe what I have to say," Cecile chuckled. "Or at least be interested enough to start digging and prying and chiseling into your past with such fervor that in no time at all you'll be back in that mental hospital, crying your wee little eyes out. I'm giving you a chance to keep that from happening, Jamie."
She pressed the vial into his palm and closed Jamie's fingers around it. "You can either side with me and dose Frankie with enough of this drug that she won't even remember her own birthday, or you can do what Frankie asks, testify against me, and watch me make your life an even bigger hell than I did before. The choice is yours."
It didn't take Grant long to make the connection between Lila's newly discovered ardor, and the sound of Cass' footsteps entering the room.
Always happy to help a beautiful woman in distress, Grant got with the program, waiting for Lila to break their kiss and turn to Cass with a look of not-even-a-little-bit-innocent surprise. "Cass..."
"Lila," he returned politely. Then, with barely disguised contempt. "Grant..."
"Nice work in court today, Counselor," Grant jeered. "At least you got your client to show up. In body if not spirit."
"Lila, could you and I speak somewhere else?" Cass wondered.
"Now, now, we can hardly evict Grant from his own home, Cass. It would be most boorish."
"Fine," the last remnants of Cass' self-control slipped away, and he shoved the document he'd come in carrying, at Lila. "Would you be so kind as to sign this, and then I'll be on my way. You two can get back to whatever..."
"What is it?" Lila asked, no longer joking around.
"They're divorce papers," Grant intercepted the missive. He reminded Cass, "I'm a lawyer too, remember?"
"I don't remember you being Lila's lawyer. Though I do remember certain disbarment proceedings..."
"I was reinstated in 1996. Due to my exemplary record of good deeds." Grant smiled spitefully at Cass, though the bulk of his attention was focused on Lila.
Whatever joy she'd gleaned from having her ex-husband catch Lila in the arms of another man had faded away as soon as she realized that perhaps he wasn't yet her ex-husband after all.
"Why do you need this?" she demanded. "I thought with Frankie's return our entire marriage is null and void?"
"Not exactly," Cass clarified. "Since Frankie was legally declared dead," he shot Grant a pointed look. "Our marriage was official. I'm not a bigamist."
"Well, peachy. It slipped my mind how you're the most important player in all this."
"Frankie and I," he went on, trying to be gentle. "We want to get remarried. And just to make sure everything is above-board, I need you to sign "
"My client will be in touch," Grant said crisply. "What? Did you expect her to just drop everything and sign on the dotted line without reading through the terms first?"
"It's boiler-plate... We already agreed on everything!"
"We'll be in touch," Grant reiterated.
"Lila," Cass threw his ex-wife a look that said Just get rid of him and we'll settle this ourselves.
Lila looked from Cass to Grant, and back again. And then she said, "You heard my lawyer."
After Cass left, muttering under his breath all the while, Lila told Grant, "Thanks. For everything."
"My pleasure," Grant mock-bowed. "That's what friends are for."
"Are we?" she wondered. "Are we friends, Grant?"
"I think so," he said. "Naturally, not of the sappy Cass and Felicia variety."
"Oh, certainly not."
Grant smiled and held out the divorce papers for Lila's appraisal. "Come on. If that fool you married has got his heart set on trading down, what say you to us making him pay for it through the nose?"
Allie's first instinct was to call Sarah. Even after everything, even after she'd already spent days trying to make peace with the loss of her best friend, even after she'd gotten to the point where she didn't automatically just every once in a while burst into tears at the memory of Sarah's rejection, Allie's first instinct upon seeing the EPT plus sign was to call and beg Sarah for help. Because Sarah could fix this. Sarah could fix anything.
Except that Sarah wasn't picking up her phone to Allie's calls. And, the next day, she went a step further and blocked her text messages with the auto-reply, "Stop it. I don't want to talk to you."
Which is what Allie was crying about when Gregory ran into her on campus, sitting on a bench in the quad, staring at her phone and sobbing as if her heart were permanently broken.
He sat down next to her and put his arm around Allie's shoulder. She showed him the text message from Sarah. Gregory's expression didn't change, but he did take the phone out of Allie's hand and put it away so that she didn't have to look at it anymore. She buried her face below his chin, and Gregory silently stoked her hair until she'd calmed down enough to start forming words again.
But it wasn't until they'd been talking for close to a half-hour that Allie even got around to telling Gregory that the reason she'd been so desperate to reach Sarah was because she was pregnant.
"Dad? Are you listening to me?" Grant interrupted himself in the middle of proudly relaying the results of the custody hearing when he realized that his father's mind was rather obviously someplace else.
"Of course I am," Spencer blustered. "Good work, son. Very good. It's only a matter of time now before we have our boy back where he belongs."
Grant nodded, unconvinced. "I have to admit, I expected a little more enthusiasm on your part."
"I am very, very happy for you, Grant."
"You look happy," his son observed. "But I don't think it's due to Kirkland."
"What else could it be?"
"I don't know. But I'm going to take a wild guess. How about... Alice Frame?" The look on his father's face told Grant everything he wanted and didn't want to know. "Are you kidding me, Dad? Alice Frame? What kind of scam are you running? Is this about Kirkland? You think she can help us out with Jamie? Because, I'm telling you, there's no need. Kevin and I have everything under control."
"It's no scam," Spencer told Grant. He confessed, "It may have started out that way. But this isn't... It's no scam."
"Dad!" Grant couldn't believe his ears. "Alice Frame? Seriously? She's so... "
"Not your type," was the nicest way Grant could think of to put it. "I mean, Mom? Iris?"
Grant went on, "Rachel? Felicia, even. You were interested in Felicia at one time."
"So..." Were they really having this conversation? Grant couldn't believe they were really having this conversation. "Alice Frame is a completely different type of person."
"You mean she's a nicer person."
"Okay, let's pretend that's what I mean."
"Do you know what I used to think of nice people, son?"
"Actually, I do."
"I used to think that nice people were dumb people. If they refused to see the world for how it really was, then they deserved everything they got as a consequence. I felt no guilt about taking advantage of their humanity as it were, because they, in effect, through their actions, their choices, were allowing me, were inviting me to do so."
"I'm sure Alice Frame would be happy to hear that."
"Alice Frame isn't stupid." Spencer raised a warning finger in Grant's direction. "She is kind, and she is decent, and she is warm, and she goes out of her way to see the good in people. But she is not stupid. From the beginning, from the first moment, she has seen through every one of my what did you call them scams? She saw through every one of them. She refused to let me get away with anything. She called me on everything. And still, somehow, some way, she found something salvageable in me. Something redeemable. Something I didn't have to shirk away from."
"You were right. She is nothing like the sort of woman I have been with before. But did you ever think that maybe, just maybe, after a lifetime of Justines and Irises, an Alice Frame is exactly what I need?"
Gregory's face didn't change after Allie's announcement, either.
In a way, it was kind of reassuring. He wasn't shocked, he wasn't disgusted, he wasn't judgmental. He was simply still Gregory. He waited for Allie to go on.
Which she did, in a rush of words, the gist of which came down to, "I know. I'm an idiot. You'd think with all my mom's warnings about how she totally ruined her life getting knocked up at eighteen though, hey, at least I waited until I was old enough to drink; not that I even have that as an excuse, I was stone sober you'd still think I'd know better. And I do know better. I've been on the pill since I was out of high school. But then, after GQ and I broke up last summer, after he dumped me the first time, that is, not the second time I figured, what was the point? Clearly nobody would ever want to have sex with me again, I was such a loser. So I stopped. And then, when we... it was before Halloween... I just didn't think, we were so used to me taking care of it... God, it all feels like it was so long ago. I kept telling myself I couldn't be pregnant. I don't feel pregnant. I watch TV, I know the symptoms. I'm supposed to be tired and throwing up and hormonal. Well, okay, maybe I'm hormonal, but I'm always kind of all over the place, right? And I feel fine. In fact, I feel great. I feel ready to run a marathon. That's not supposed to be a symptom, is it? I kept hoping... but then, I took the test..." Allie turned to Gregory. "Are you going to say anything?"
He wondered, "What would you like me to say?"
"Call me an idiot."
"Call me a stupid slut."
Damn those hormones, Allie could feel herself starting to cry again. "Tell me everything's going to be okay."
"Everything is going to be okay, Allie."
"Funny, when you say it, I almost believe you."
Gregory asked, "Do you know what you're going to do?"
Allie nodded vehemently. "I know what I'm not going to do. I am not going to make the same choices as my mother, that's for sure."
"I have some wonderful news about Lori Ann's custody," Felicia gushed to Lorna when her daughter dropped by the hospital to see the baby.
"Kevin Fowler stepped in front of a two-ton truck with his name on it?"
"Less wonderful. But just by a little." Felicia beamed. "Cass and Frankie. They want to adopt Lori Ann!"
Lorna lowered her purse slowly onto a chair, not sure of what to say.
"It's perfect," her mother went on. "Fowler wants somebody younger and married and a relative "
"What about me?"
"What about you?" Felicia skid to a verbal stop, confused.
"I'm younger," Lorna pointed out. "I'm actually younger than all of you. Granted, I'm not married. But I am a relative. Remember? If you aren't going to do it yourself, why not let me adopt Lori Ann?"
"You?" Felicia repeated in a neutral tone.
"Me. Or did the thought never even cross your mind?"
"I " Felicia began. "It's just that... You have a life in Chicago. We've already interrupted it enough."
"I'd move back to Bay City. I'd never take Lori Ann that far away from you." Lorna shook her head. "But this isn't about geography. Or not wanting to interrupt my life. You just don't see me as the mothering type, am I right?"
Sensing an explosion on the horizon, Felicia attempted to placate, "You know how much I love you, Lorna."
"But when it comes to me raising a child Jenna's child, no less there you've got your doubts."
"I just didn't think it would be something you'd be interested in."
"What? Being normal? Having a baby? A family? Yeah, I can see that. I've had so much of it, I'd probably be sick of that sort of thing by now."
"Lorna, please believe me, I didn't mean "
"On the other hand, Cass Winthrop, a man with bipolar disorder, and Frankie, newly back from the dead via a decade-long stint at the funny farm, now there are your Mother and Father of the Year. Much better potential adoptive parents than me. Thanks, Mom," Lorna said before storming out. "Thanks for the vote of confidence."
There were two messages waiting for Kevin when he got back to his office. One was from Felicia Gallant. Well, technically, seven were from Felicia Gallant. But they all said the same thing so he decided to count them as one. And a single request from Mindy Lewis Bauer that he call her back right away.
Kevin did as she asked, though he was quick to tell her there was no news. His contact in Mexico hadn't managed to turn up her original birth certificate yet.
"He won't," Mindy apologized. "It isn't there. Turns out my Daddy has been telling me a bit of a fib all these years. He faked up that birth certificate that I'd been using because my Mama didn't want me to know that she was only seventeen and not married to Daddy when I was born. See, they were in Tulsa, and the law there says no one under eighteen can get married without parental permission. She didn't want to tell her folks about her situation, so she ran off with Daddy, but they still couldn't get married until after I'd already come along. She was real embarrassed about it."
Kevin hesitated. It took him a moment to make up his mind, but, ultimately, he decided that his loyalty was to his client, not to her Daddy, whom he'd never laid eyes on.
"Actually, Mrs. Bauer," Kevin tried to be tactful. "That isn't precisely true. There are six US states that allow a pregnant teen-ager to get married without parental consent. Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland... and Oklahoma."
Frankie knocked on the door to Jamie's office, and then cautiously let herself inside.
"I got your message," she said as he looked up at her from the seat behind his desk. "I'm assuming you've made your decision."
"Yeah," Jamie nodded, fingers closing over the vial Cecile gave him earlier, his hand remaining hidden under his desk. "I have...."
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