"Luke," he repeated. Then admitted, "Nobody has called me Luke for a very long time."
Felicia knew she should do something, that she should respond in some way, that she should, at the very least move or make a sound. But she couldn't.
He said, "Frankie and Cass got remarried today?"
Felicia nodded mutely.
"So she came back to him."
"You came back to me." It wasn't a question. The question was, "How?"
"I'm afraid that's a long, complicated story."
"I've got all night," Felicia said, not thinking, because if she started thinking, she might change her mind about opening the door, about inviting him in. And that was the last thing she actually wanted to do.
"No," Lucas corrected. "We've got the rest of our lives."
Years of practice had taught Jamie at least one key thing about lying. It was best to stick as close to the truth as possible.
Which was why he chose to confess to Marley that he'd been committed after a suicide attempt and leave out what exactly had driven him to it in the first place.
"My God," Marley blinked up at him incredulously, still trying to absorb everything he'd just told her. "Jamie, I..." Before he knew it, she'd stood and rushed to hug him. "We almost lost you."
"It was a long time ago," he extricated himself gently, not to mention guiltily, from her embrace. "I'm better now. I have been for a long time."
"I know, but... back then you seemed so... I mean, when you came back to Bay City, I would have never guessed."
"I had good doctors. And a good friend. My stepmother, Alice you met her at Thanksgiving."
"Yeah, I'm trying not to think about that. She was really there for me after I had my breakdown. She helped me pull my life back together. Just in time, as it turned out. The boys...."
"I can't imagine what Kirkland and Steven's lives would have been like without you after Vicky died. I can't imagine what my life would have been like without you. I made you my rock. You didn't ask for that. I see now how unfair I've been to you. All these years, I've taken you for granted. I never thought about how much pressure I was putting on you."
"Marley, please listen, Steven and Kirkland are everything to me. Anything I could do to help all of you through Vicky's death, I was happy to do it."
"While still recovering from your own issues and keeping it from the rest of us. At least you had Rachel, Matt, and Amanda to "
"They don't know, Marley," he shook his head. "About any of it."
Marley's eyes widened. "None of them? Not even Rachel? Jamie, she's your mother, how could you not tell her what happened? She would have been on the first plane to California, wanting to help!"
"I had my reasons. I'm not going to get into them now."
"What happened to you is nothing to be ashamed of, Jamie. Everyone reaches a breaking point. Believe me, I know. Pushing away the people who love you.... You should've let us help you back then. You should've been letting me help you now with Cecile."
"It's my mess. I'm cleaning it up."
"First of all, your mess is my mess. We're partners in this, remember? What affects you, affects me. Secondly, I'm not letting you push me away anymore. I'm not letting you shoulder the burden of this secret on your own. I'm helping you whether you like it or not."
"I've got it under control," Jamie stressed. "In a few days, Cecile will not be a problem for me or for anyone else."
Marley stared at him. "What do you mean by that? What are you going to do? If Cecile goes to Grant "
A knock cut Marley off before she could press him further.
"Dad? You in there?" Kirkland called through the door. "You promised to play winner. That obviously, is me."
"Yeah, Kirk, I'll be out in a second." Jamie called. "And stop taking lessons in humility from your brother." He turned back to Marley, polite but confident. "Trust me. Please. I'm taking care of the situation. We are not going to lose Kirkland over this."
It's not that I don't trust you Marley sighed to herself as she watched Jamie and Kirkland head down the hall, Jamie's arm around his son's shoulders. It's that for some reason, I know you still don't trust me.
They spent all night talking. About Jenna and Dean and Lori Ann. About losing their daughter and gaining a granddaughter, and about Dean, hovering somewhere in between. They talked about Lorna, and about Felicia's most recent fight with her, which really, as far as Felicia was concerned, should have never turned into a fight at all.
"Why is it," she wondered. "That no matter what I do or say, Lorna just can't get it through her brain how much I love her and want what's best for her?"
"Because she's hard-headed and soft-hearted. Like her mother," Lucas said. "It's a hell of a combination."
Finally, as they watched dawn break, he told Felicia about being kidnapped and held and forced to pay a Devil's ransom for his freedom. But when she asked who and why, all Lucas said was, "Some former associates, not very pleased with my decision to turn state's evidence and go straight."
And when, in the middle of it all, Felicia suddenly realized, "Lorna! Oh, my goodness, we have to tell Lorna you're alive! She'll " Lucas was able to distract her by promising there'd be time to tell Lorna later. Right now he just wanted to focus on the two of them.
"The two of us," Felicia repeated. "I never dreamed, ever, that there would be a two of us, again."
"Didn't you," Lucas prompted. "Not even a little bit? Not when you saw Carl return from the dead, and Grant and Frankie, didn't some part of you... "
"Know that you'd come back to me, too?"
"I was afraid to so much as wish for it," she admitted. "The things we wish for, they never turn out the way we wanted them to, do they? It's the unexpected things, the ones we actually hope don't come true, they somehow manage to become the biggest blessings. I think of Lorna, and how much I prayed and prayed that the evidence was wrong and she wasn't our daughter. But she was. And she's brought so much joy into my life. It's the same with you. If I allowed myself to believe it was possible... then it wouldn't happen."
"It's happened," Lucas reassured. "I'm here, Fanny."
"You're here," she agreed. "You are here."
"So now what?"
"Now? We make up for lost time."
"Just like that?"
"Just like that."
"I don't know," Felicia began. "I don't know what to do, I don't know what to think, I don't know what to feel... "
"Let me help you with that," Lucas said, and pulled his wife into a kiss.
"I'm sorry," Alice stammered. "I was looking for Kevin." She took in Amanda standing at her grandson's door, wearing a robe, her hair freshly wet from the shower, and apologized, "I didn't mean to interrupt."
"What? No! No, you're not interrupting anything. Kevin's not here. He had a meeting outside the.... I Please. Did you need something? Would you like to come in?"
Alice did, mostly because she was unable to think of a way to politely refuse. "It's alright. It wasn't important."
"I can give him a message," Amanda, still feeling awkward as hell to be opening doors half-naked to Kevin's grandmother, prattled on, "Or you're welcome to wait. I don't know how long he was planning to be.... I just I was just leaving myself."
"Dressed like that?" Alice asked, not unkindly.
"The morning kind of got away from us," Amanda admitted. "I can call Kevin for you, if you'd like. I have his cell number..."
"No, please." Alice looked around, realizing she had no idea where her grandson lived or what he liked. Well, outside of Amanda Cory, that is. "I'm intruding. This was all very spur of the moment. It's only that... You see... Christmas is always a little hard for me. Every year, I can't help remembering Sally. And thinking about Kevin. Wondering where he is, how he's doing... This year, I told myself it was foolish to torture myself. I finally know where he is. I guess I thought if I stopped by... Maybe... I'm sorry, Amanda. It was a bad idea all the way around."
"No," Amanda reached out. "Please don't go. I Kevin... He's not... He's not really who he seems to be. On the outside. There's more to him than just the bluster and the arrogance and the sarcasm. He can be very sweet, very unselfish, very compassionate and caring and giving. I have to believe that's the real him. Everything else is just the surface armor crap he puts on to push people away. He's a good man. Deep down. You should see him with his clients. Especially the kids. He's really, really good with kids. He cares about the people who come to him for help. And he cares about you. He's really, really concerned about your relationship with Spencer."
Alice smiled, more to herself than for Amanda's benefit and observed, "Spencer. There's someone else who isn't really who he seems to be. On the outside. I have to believe, deep down, that's the real man, as well."
"I like Spencer," Amanda agreed. "I've always liked him. He was very kind to me when Grant and I were married. He has a heart."
"So you don't agree with Kevin? You don't think Spencer is just using me to get to Jamie and Kirkland?" Alice had no idea why she was asking this. Except that she needed to hear Amanda's answer. Much more than she'd expected to.
"I don't know," Amanda admitted. "I'm hardly one to talk. I mean, Kevin is Grant's lawyer. If you ask my mother's opinion.... "
"You don't seem to be of the same mind with her, though."
"Kevin makes me happy," Amanda said. "Maybe I'm being naive, like she thinks. But, I believe he's sincere when he says he cares about me. I don't... I don't have a lot of experience with men. I mean, there have been a good number of them. But I've never quite managed to get it right, you know? Every time, it feels like I'm starting from scratch, like I don't know a damn thing."
Alice said, "When I was young, a good, well-brought up girl wasn't supposed to know anything about men. I marvel sometimes how that was intended to work. On the one hand, you were expected to know nothing. On the other hand, you were supposed to somehow magically transform into a dutiful, perfect wife without any guidance whatsoever."
"You're lucky," Amanda blurted out. "By the time I was young, you were expected to know everything. Or at least to act like you did. Asking for guidance, or even accepting any would have suggested you didn't. And that would have branded you a freak."
"Expectations can be terribly difficult to get past, can't they?" Alice mused, "I was a naive, good girl for much longer than I should have been. I'm not surprised I was beaten out by an adult woman like your mother."
"My mother didn't beat you to anything. Not in the long run. I know how the story goes. Everyone in town knows how the story goes. Steve Frame was in love with you. My mother was just a diversion."
"I didn't know how to handle a man like Steve," Alice felt herself blushing furiously, and Amanda did the same in return. Both women realized that the conversation had strayed far, far from its original intent. Yet both also realized that it was one they'd never, ever had with another living human being. Furthermore, it was well past time that they did. "And Steve didn't know how to handle a woman like me. He worshiped me. He cherished me. He put me on a pedestal. And he never allowed me to fall off. He treated me like a reverie. Like an angel."
"But Spencer... " Amanda guessed.
"Spencer treats me like a flesh and blood woman."
Amanda smiled, exhaling not just for Alice, but for herself as well. She confessed, "I thought I was the one who was messed up. With Sam, that's Allie's dad, he was the first.... With Sam, I acted like I knew what I was doing, like I knew what I liked. I was too mortified to admit I didn't know anything. So all I ever really learned was what Sam liked. And with every man after him, I ended up just making love to Sam over and over again. Which really didn't please anybody too much."
"But Kevin..." Alice promoted in much the same way Amanda had her.
"Kevin's different. He doesn't assume, he asks. He experiments. He lets me experiment. I didn't know I could even.... Oh, God," Amanda covered her face with her hands. "This is so embarrassing. You could probably fry an egg on my cheeks right now."
"How do you think I feel?" Alice asked lightly. "If my mother, or God forbid, my Aunt Liz "
"I remember Aunt Liz very well!"
"So you understand. The mere idea of a woman my age being this sexually enamored "
"I think it's fantastic!" Amanda interrupted, unsolicited but genuinely enthusiastic.
"Me too," Alice agreed.
"No fencing class today," Donna told Matt apologetically when he showed up at her door with Jasmine in tow. "Didn't Gregory call you?"
"He did. You know Gregory, hyper-responsible. But Jazz wanted to say hi and Merry Christmas to Michele and Bridget anyway."
"Midget," Jasmine grinned. "I'm calling them Midget from now on. It saves time."
"Aren't you an efficient little thing," Donna nodded absently, her eyes not budging from a strangely unreadable Matt.
"And I wanted to talk to you," he said.
"Bridget and Michele are upstairs," Donna told Jasmine. "Sorting through their Christmas gifts. They reaped quite a windfall this year."
"I know. My Mama helped Mr. Harrison pick them out," Jasmine said as Matt rolled his eyes in disgust behind her back, prompting a smile of concurrence from Donna.
"Go on up then," she shooed the little girl, waiting for Jasmine to disappear around the second floor landing before turning back to Matt. "What did you want to speak to me about?"
"Could we go someplace a little more private? This isn't exactly for public consumption."
"Of course," she led him to the study, her legs growing more and more unsteady with each step. It wasn't like Matthew to be so serious, so cryptic. Donna didn't imagine this could possibly be a good thing.
In his line of work, Kevin was accustomed to clients not wishing to be seen coming and going from his office. As a result, he had no problem with meeting in out of the way places where they felt more comfortable.
The morning after Christmas, he followed directions to come to an obscure coffee shop by the name of The Bumble Bee. He took a seat at the table furthest from the door, set down his briefcase and flicked both locks open at the same time. He took out a yellow lined notepad and clicked open his pen.
Kevin leaned back in his chair, propped up the pad and turned to smile warmly at his newest client. "Hello, Allie."
Oh, this should be fun! Cecile could barely suppress her smirk at the sight of Donna Love's one-time scandalous little secret, a.k.a. Marley Love Hudson, standing at Cecile's hotel room door, all stoked up on mousy, righteous indignation.
"To what do I owe the pleasure?" Cecile inquired.
"Save it," Marley snapped, prompting Cecile to startle just a bit and actually pay attention. Marley reached into her purse and pulled out an envelope. "This is for you. Take it, leave Bay City, and don't ever come back."
Cecile's eyebrows rose as she pulled out a check from the envelope. "My, my, my what a generous smattering of zeros."
"Enough for you to leave Jamie alone once and for all?"
"Maybe." Cecile looked up. "Maybe not."
"Name your price."
"Oh, Marley..." Cecile laughed. "Just what has our little Jamie been telling you?"
Allie glanced over at Gregory. He squeezed her hand and offered a heartening smile. She clutched his fingers for support, took a deep breath, and, eyes averted, told Kevin, "I'm not going to be like my mom. I'm not going to spend my life feeling like I made a mistake, keeping my baby."
At that, Allie snuck a look Kevin's way, wondering if, under the circumstances, he might disagree and defend Amanda. But Kevin's face remained perfectly neutral. He continued to take notes, nodding his head encouragingly, declining to interrupt.
"I want him or her, whatever I want them to have a mom and dad who are really, really excited about becoming parents. Who won't feel like it's something they got stuck with and now they have to grin and bear it or what would other people think?"
"You know," Kevin finally spoke up. "It's still very early for you. You don't have to make up your mind right away. You have plenty of time to think through your other options. I strongly encourage you to do that."
"No," Allie said. "I'm sure. This is what I want to do."
"What about the baby's father?" Kevin wondered.
Allie glanced again at Gregory, who gave her the slightest of nods. She mumbled, "He's okay with whatever I decide." Then asked Kevin, "So will you help me?"
He sighed, closed his pen, put down his notepad and, bracing both elbows on the table, leaned closer, forcing Allie to look him in the eye. "I'm happy to help you. Just as soon as you stop lying to me."
"You're scaring me, Matthew," Donna said when, despite the privacy of the study, he had yet to tell her what it was he'd come to talk to her about.
"I'm scared," he admitted.
"Of me. Of how I feel about you."
Donna felt her throat clamp shut until she couldn't speak, couldn't even breathe, really. She waited for Matthew to go on. Waited to find out if it would ever be possible for her to breathe again.
"I've been asking myself for days, what kind of a person could know everything that I know about you and still... "
Donna found her voice long enough to croak out, "Still what, Matthew?"
"Still be in love with you."
The relief of hearing those words nearly knocked Donna off her feet, as did the realization of how painful it had been for Matthew to admit it. She wanted to go to him, to comfort him, to tell him that everything would be all right. But she understood that this would only make things worse. That it was the last thing he wanted. And that's what was tearing him up inside.
"You killed Jenna," he spat. "Don't tell me you didn't mean to do it, I believe that you didn't mean to do it, but that's what happened in the end. You killed her. And you destroyed Dean, and you've devastated Felicia and Lorna, and Lori Ann... she's alive. She's going to be okay. No thanks to you."
"Yes," Donna said. What else, after all, could she say?
"Those people, they're my friends. They're all people I care about. But not as much..."
"Not as much?"
"Not as much as I care about you."
"Matthew..." Now she did attempt to reach out to him. She couldn't help it. She brushed her hand against Matt's cheek.
He turned away, furious, but whether at her or himself, Donna couldn't tell. He gave a bitter laugh and, back still to her, mused, "You know, when my mom first got together with Carl, I couldn't wrap my brain around how she could ignore every evil thing he'd ever done just because the guy had memorized a couple of sonnets and quoted them back to her. I thought she'd lost her mind. Well, maybe now I've lost mine."
"Please don't compare me to Carl," Donna bristled.
"Why not?" Matt spun around. "From where I'm standing, you're right up there with him, maybe not in body count, maybe not even in intent, but certainly in accomplishment."
"If I could undo what I did "
"Nobody can. We can't change the past. We can only decide how to react to it in the present. And the future."
"Do we have a future, Matthew?"
"I don't know," he admitted. "I guess that's what I came here to find out."
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