EPISODE #2009-33 PART #2

Christmas in Bay City 1991 Part #2....

International viewers can screen the same episode through YouTube, here.

Christmas in Bay City 2009....

"Ready to concede?" Grant turned to Marley after bidding a soggy Kirkland adieu at the front door of the Cory home. Grant had politely declined his son's suggestion that Grant come in and say hello to the rest of the family. Marley told Kirkland to go on ahead, clean up, change his clothes; she had a few things to say to his father and would be right in shortly.

"Concede what?" Marley tried innocently, pulling on her gloves.

"That I won your little challenge. I proved myself to be a better man than you expected."

"One afternoon of wooing nine year old girls — fatherless nine year old girls, may I add — does not a changed man make. I know that today was all just a put-on to impress me."

"Well, it must have worked, because here you are with me, rather than with Donna and the girls at home."

"I sent the girls home with Donna because they were drenched from the snowball fight. I didn't want them to catch pneumonia."

"Why don't you just admit that you liked spending time with me today? That you didn't want it to end? I could've brought Kirkland home without a chaperone."

"If you are implying that I used Kirkland as an excuse to spend more time with you, then you are sorely mistaken. I came along so I could say Merry Christmas to Steven... And Jamie. We are married, you know. We like to spend time together. The separate living arrangements are just temporary." Marley changed the subject. "Besides, I had to make sure Kirkland got home in one piece. You looked rather unsteady after that last snowball to the head."

"It was all ice! Which you must have known when you threw it!"

"You deserved it for turning the girls on me. I have snow in places — "

Grant raised a quizzical brow. "What places?"

"Never you mind," Marley laughed in spite of herself. "Fine. I will admit that this afternoon turned out better than I expected."

"Today was as it should be. You and I enjoying the holiday with our children. There can be more days like it, if you'd just give up this ridiculous custody battle."

"I'm not the only one involved here, Grant. Jamie — "

"Isn't here. And is immaterial as to what happens between us."

Taken aback, Marley blinked up at him. "You mean what happens with Kirkland. And Jamie does matter. Whether you like it or not."

"I don't," Grant shook his head. "I don't like the way he's treating Kirkland lately, and I don't like the way he's treating you."

"You can't let one day, one opportunity pass without attacking him, can you?"

"And you can't stop defending him, even when he's done nothing at all to deserve your loyalty."

"He took care of Kirkland when there was no one else able to do it. You were dead. Donna and I.... we were in no shape to take him on. It was Jamie who gave your son a home and a loving, caring father when he needed it the most. Jamie will always, always have my gratitude for that. He should have yours, too."

"There comes a time when a debt is paid, Marley. Don't let gratitude and romanticized memories of the past chain you to an unfulfilling life. You don't deserve it."

And then Grant's lips were on hers, Marley not pulling away, but not quite giving in either, caught between her heart and her head... and in the crosshairs of Rachel's gaze as Jamie's mother peered out through the curtains of her first-floor window.

As promised and right on schedule, a catering truck pulled into the driveway of Cass and Frankie's house, followed by a van full of flowers, and a messenger carrying a dry-cleaning bag slid over a floor-length, strapless, off-white gown with matching opera gloves to the elbows and pearl dotted hair-wreath.

"I thought the groom wasn't supposed to see the bride in her dress before the wedding?" Frankie teased Cass.

"I saw you. I saw the dress. I didn't see you in the dress, so everything is kosher."

"Well, maybe not exactly," she observed as the vat of shrimp on ice was carried in.

"Kosher," Cass reiterated. "They're vegetarian shrimp."

"You're kidding me!"

"Gluten dough," he reassured.

And all Frankie could do was shake her head in amazement.

The minister came next, full of good wishes for the happy couple. He told Frankie that while usually he liked to open a wedding with a reading from I Corinthians or Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, Cass thought his bride would prefer a Cherokee wedding prayer invoking the Great Spirit, Earth Mother, and all of those other... charming... multicultural things they had to be so much more sensitive to these days. Rest assured, he'd come prepared!

Before Frankie had the chance to respond one way or the other, here came the guests. Sharlene with John! Josie, Gary, Jarrett and Gregory! Felicia! Morgan! Stacy! Steven, with Sarah as his date! In between kisses and hugs and good wishes and large, festively wrapped boxes shoved at both of them, Cass mentioned that he'd invited Jamie, too, but her cousin had been unable to make it. Frankie just smiled absently at that, and nodded.

As their friends and family members milled around, making conversation, wishing each other a Merry Christmas and politely waiting for the main event to hurry up and begin, Cass turned to Frankie and asked, "Now will you marry me?"

She cocked her head to one side and double-checked, "Gluten dough vegetarian shrimp?"

"Ten pounds of it. Plus dipping sauce."

"How can a girl say no to that?"

"I still can't believe you made a nurse cry," Jamie laughed from his chair next to Lorna's, who was sitting and holding Lori Ann with a mixture of fear and awe on her face.

"Stay focused, Frame," she gingerly adjusted the bottle. "You're supposed to be watching to make sure I don't do something to get Lori Ann another stint in this place."

"The NICU isn't jail, Lorna."

"Tell that to the little inmates trapped in their pens."

"And I am paying attention. You and Lori Ann are doing beautifully. She likes you."

"Yeah," Lorna smiled as she looked into her niece's big blue eyes. "I like her, too. She's amazing. I mean, she was so small before, you could fit her into one hand, and all those tubes and..." she looked up to him. "She's like a normal baby now."

"Pretty much," Jamie nodded.

"I was just thinking: It should be Jenna doing this. Sitting here, feeding Lori Ann. Dean should be sitting where you are, the two of them trying to figure out how to cart this kid from city to city while Dean's on tour. They should be here. It's so unfair."

"Any word on Dean?" Jamie asked gently.

"He's still off somewhere, wallowing in his own pain. I don't get it. I don't care how much he was hurting — we were all hurting — you just don't leave your kid. And don't — don't! — put on your Lorna is projecting face. I get that I'm projecting. I have every right to project. I'm the only one who knows.... " She stopped herself, took a breath and said, "I know what's in store for Lori Ann. She may have a great life with Cass and Frankie as her parents. My grandmother did the best she could too, she loved me; the whole reason she didn't tell me I was adopted from the beginning was so I wouldn't feel different from the other kids. But Lori Ann is always going to wonder about Dean. Why he just — how he could just give her up. It's going to eat away at her. She doesn't deserve that. Why the hell couldn't Dean have thought a little more about her instead of himself and... Oh, great. I just swore in front of a baby," Lorna sighed. "See? Felicia was right. Not mother material."

"Lori Ann will be fine, Dean or no Dean. She'll have you."

"I'd like to think so. But Cass and Frankie may not want me butting in on that perfect little family they've got going." Lorna looked down again at the baby, contentedly taking her bottle, before turning back to Jamie with an emotional smile. "At least I'll have one great memory with her. All thanks to you. Even after I was so mean and interrupted your one-man brooding party."

"I was sick of brooding, anyway," Jamie scoffed. He leaned over and whispered to the baby, "Did you know that the nursing staff nicknamed your aunt the Barracuda?"

"Don't let Jamie worry you, sweetie," Lorna soothed with a smile. "I've been called worse."

The minister began:

Great Spirit in heaven above, please protect the ones we love. We honor all you created as we pledge our hearts and lives together. We honor Earth Mother - and ask for our marriage to be abundant and grow stronger through the seasons. We honor Wind - and ask that we sail though life safe and calm as in our father's arms. We honor Fire - and ask that our union be warm and glowing with love in our hearts. We honor Water - to clean and soothe our relationship, that it may never thirst for love. With all the forces of the universe you created, we pray for harmony and true happiness as we forever grow young together. So be it.

Cass turned to Frankie and told her, "When I first started planning this wedding — "

"Behind my back," she reminded, which prompted a wave of laughter from their guests.

"My first instinct was to recreate the wedding — "

"Weddings. Plural."

"Weddings. Plural. Hey, whose vows are these, anyway? You wait your turn."

"Sorry," she smiled, not even a little bit chastened.

"My first instinct was to recreate the weddings we'd already had. The music of West Side Story, Venice... "

Felicia piped up, "He did call and ask where he could rent a gondola. And how fast did I think we could hire workers to dig a canal?"

Frankie finally gave Cass the laugh he'd been looking for all morning. "You didn't!"

"A man in love does crazy things."

"Especially this man," Morgan offered.

Cass told Frankie, "But when the canal guy quoted me way too high of an estimate — "

"Good canal guys are hard to find in the middle of a Midwestern winter."

" — I realized that this wedding shouldn't be about the past. It should be about the future. The Frankie and Cass who got married the first time — "

"And the second. And the third."

"We're not those people anymore. We've seen too much, had our hearts broken too many times, lived too long, to go into marriage with the same blinders we had on each of those previous times. We know what can happen now. We've been through the worst, and we've come out on the other side. We know there are no guarantees, no promises. Just... faith. You taught me that, Mary Frances. You taught me that, even when I've lost my faith in the universe, I can still have it... in you."

Frankie sniffled. So did a majority of the guests. Even Charlie looked somewhat charmed by the proceedings. And if that wasn't a Christmas miracle, then Cass didn't know what was.

The minister asked, "Do you have anything to say, Ms. Frame?"

Frankie nodded. She swallowed hard, desperately searching for the voice that had somehow managed to desert her at such a critical time. There was so much she wanted to say, but so much that she found she couldn't. So all Frankie ultimately managed to choke out, grinning ear to ear all the while was, "I do."

"We need to talk," Marley pulled Jamie out of the Cory game-room, where he'd been raucously cheering Kirkland and Jasmine on in a game of doubles ping-pong against Cory and Elizabeth.

A part of her hated to do it. Kirkland had been so happy to see Jamie finally arrive, it was almost as if the rest of Christmas had just been a dress rehearsal, as if the mountain of gifts from his other dad, including a red GTS 300 Vespa Scooter — "The fastest on the market," Grant assured — was nothing compared to the cheap plastic gun that shot ping-pong balls Jamie gave him.

"I was dying for one of these when I was eight years old," Kirkland laughed. "You didn't think I was responsible enough!"

"I believe you can handle it now," his father intoned in mock-seriousness, then shot a flurry of balls at Kirkland, at Jasmine, at Cory and at Elizabeth, prompting them all to try and defend themselves with their paddles simultaneously.

That was the other thing. Jamie, for a change, had been in a great mood, sweeping Kirkland into a hug, tossing presents to the rest of the family right and left, apologizing for them not being wrapped — and for having done his shopping at the mall down the street from the hospital. He'd said something about running into Lorna Devon visiting her niece, and her having shamed him into the last minute tokens. But Marley barely paid attention. She had more important things on her mind. As long as Lorna hadn't said anything to Jamie about seeing Marley and Grant....


"We need to talk, Jamie," she repeated insistantly. "Now. Not later. Or so help me — "

"Fine. You're right. Let's talk."

"Not here. In private."

"I'll be right back, guys," Jamie called over his shoulder, ushering Marley upstairs to his room. "What's wrong?" he asked once they were behind closed doors.

"I'm done, Jamie," Marley whirled on him. "I can't play this game with you anymore. The mood swings, flaking out on calls and meetings — "

"Marley, listen — "

"No, you listen! I can't fight battles on two different fronts. I can't afford to waste the time or energy trying to figure out what the hell is going on with you, while I'm fighting Grant! It's too much."

"I know, Marley and I'm sorry."

"I don't want to hear that you're sorry," she dismissed with a shake of her head. "I want, no, I deserve to know what is going on with you. Right here, right now, or this whole unified front thing that I thought we were doing is over. I'll just fight Grant on my own and leave you out of it from now on."

"What?" Jamie asked, sucker punched. "I don't... Wait. What are you saying?"

"I'm saying that I'll fight for Kirkland on my own. I've been doing it these past few months anyway."

"Marley, I've explained — "

"No, you haven't. And I'm sick of begging you for an explanation. Making excuses for you with the girls and Kirkland. We were supposed to be in this together."

"We are, I just..."

"You just what? Why don't you trust me?"

"I do trust you, Marley, but I can't... "

"Yes, you can. Only you won't. I don't know why. I don't know what happened to us, Jamie. We used to be friends, best friends, but..."

"Marley," Jamie pleaded as she turned to leave. "Wait."

"For what? More empty promises? I can't, Jamie. Not anymore."

His next words stopped her at the door. "It's about Cecile."

"Cecile?" she turned back to him, recognizing the name. "Your ex-wife, Cecile?"

"Yeah," Jamie nodded nervously. "She's back in town and... she's blackmailing me. About my time in rehab."

"How? And why would she care about that? The two of you haven't crossed paths in years."

"She heard about my going up against Grant, and I guess she thought it could net her a nice paycheck. She's always looking for her next big windfall. I — Marley.... She knows.... Your detective didn't get the whole story....I didn't tell you the whole story. It's... It wasn't as simple as a relapse of my old amphetamine addiction."

"Oh, God," Marley breathed as she took in Jamie's face and sank to sit on the edge of his bed. "So what was it?"

"I wasn't in rehab. I was in a mental hospital. Because I tried to kill myself."

It was already dark by the time Felicia left Cass and Frankie's wedding, although most of the other guests stayed on, drinking just one more toast, eating just one more vegetarian shrimp all the while asking, "What is this, again?"

She'd intended to stop by the hospital, but found herself too exhausted, both emotionally and physically. Felicia decided to head home, figuring that if Lorna happened to be there, it was about time the two of them discussed their earlier blowout over Lori Ann. Felicia felt desperate to make clear to her daughter that she wasn't rejecting the idea of Lorna becoming a mother one day. She wanted that for her, she really did. Especially if that was what Lorna wanted, too. But Cass and Frankie, they were ready to be parents now...

Felicia slid her key in the lock. And heard the footsteps behind her before she saw the approaching figure.

She recognized the footsteps.

Felicia didn't know how. She wouldn't have thought it was possible. But she recognized the footsteps. They were as imprinted on her brain as the sound of her own breathing.

She turned around slowly, unwilling to believe, but also unwilling to have the inevitable illusion shattered. Not yet. Not just yet.

She turned around, and she looked at him.

She didn't move. She didn't breathe. All Felicia said was, "Luke...."

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