Donna looked from Marley to Matt to the third figure hovering in the background and, summoning as much dignity as possible while propped up, bandaged, in a hospital bed, asked, "You believe I belong in a mental institution?"
"Actually," the gentleman who'd introduced himself as Chase Hamilton, District Attorney, corrected, "I believe you belong on Death Row. But fortunately for you, a whole host of fellows in white coats including one who happens to be both your son-in-law and your little pal's brother; how lucky can one merry murderess get, I ask you have sworn you unfit to stand trial. At this time. Trust me, the minute your head is shrunk back to proper proportions, we'll be chatting again, you can bet on it."
"Chase Hamilton," Donna repeated, as if being introduced in a receiving line. "I remember now. You're married to Douglas Rivera, the head curator at the Bay City Modern Art Museum, aren't you?"
"That's right." Hamilton braced himself for the predictable insults to come. It wouldn't be the first time. And, as always, it wouldn't do any good.
"Douglas is a much, much more congenial person than you are."
He'd been expecting a wide variety of epithets. He hadn't been expecting that one. It almost made Hamilton feel kindly towards the woman. Luckily, the inappropriate sensation passed quickly. "I'll tell Doug you think so."
"I'll tell him myself. I'll also make sure to fill him in all about your atrocious treatment of me at the next Gala Steering Committee meeting."
"That's in a month," Hamilton reminded. He turned to Marley and Matt. "Who wants to tell Mommy Dearest where she'll be next month?"
"Oh, don't be ridiculous," Donna said. "I'm fine. Whatever... head shrinking... was that the distasteful would you employed? Honestly, how a gentleman like Douglas... anyway... Whatever treatment my doctors seem to think I need surely won't take a month."
"Great," Hamilton said. "I'll clear a spot on my docket for you."
"Donna," Matt interrupted gently. "You tried to commit suicide...."
"Would you please stop harping on that," she all but waved him away, exasperated. "Yes. Fine. Very well. I had a low moment. It's passed."
"You could have died," Marley reminded, still unable to reconcile the Donna she was seeing now with the one lying on her bathroom floor in a pool of blood. If Donna wasn't the crazy one here, that meant Marley was. Considering everything, considering this conversation, she was ready to believe it, too.
"I'll leave you three to sort this out," Hamilton reached for the door. "Just let me know when I can bring charges again. I'm ready whenever you are, Ms. Love."
"Give my best to Douglas!" Donna trilled in his wake.
"Allie?" Rachel knocked hesitantly on her granddaughter's door.
Allie was sitting cross-legged on the bed, reading. She looked up when Rachel came in. "Hi, Grandma."
"Hi, sweetheart," Rachel said softly. She studied Allie's waistline for a few moments, then confessed, "If I didn't know, I wouldn't be able to tell. You're carrying small. I always did too."
Allie admitted, "I figured with the way Mom was running around town, telling anyone who'd listen, you'd find out sooner or later. One less person I had to fill in."
"Actually, your mother didn't tell me. Carl did. He thought I already knew."
Allie shrugged. "Whatever. Not one of those secrets you can keep under wraps for long. Though it being winter helps. Lots of sweaters. Lots of scarves. Big purses. I figure soon I'll have to start standing behind plants."
"How are you feeling?" Rachel asked. "Physically, I mean."
"Fine. I haven't even really been sick. Just a little dizzy. And tired. That's one thing; I've been so tired. I think I'm sleeping twenty hours out of every day."
"What about emotionally? You must be feeling "
Rachel smiled. It wasn't a word she would have picked, but she certainly understood it. "I can only imagine. Carl told me you were thinking of giving the baby up for adoption. You must be going through so much "
"I'm not. Not about that. I am sure that is the right thing to do."
"But how can you be?" Rachel said, "It may have been a while since my last pregnancy, but if there's one thing I remember, it's how overwhelming everything is. Not just the daily physical changes, but your emotions are all over the place, you can't think straight, you have no memory to speak of, every sensation is heightened... "
"I don't feel anything," Allie blurted out.
"I'm sorry, what?" Rachel sat down beside Allie.
"I don't feel anything. I had a sonogram. I saw the baby on the monitor. It had arms and legs, it was sucking its thumb and rocking its head from side to side like it was listening to music. The technician kept waiting for some reaction out of me. Even when she said it was a boy... "
"A boy?" Rachel repeated, almost to herself. "A boy... Your grandfather would have been so excited."
"Yeah. So was the tech. So was Gregory. He was staring at the image, this kind of half-smile on his face. I was the only one in the room who didn't feel... anything."
"That's impossible, Allie. It's like I said, the emotions are so overwhelming... "
"I just want this to be over."
"All pregnant women feel that way," Rachel reassured. "Wait till you get to the last few weeks. You'll be climbing the walls by then, ready to deliver. It doesn't mean anything."
"You don't understand, Grandma. To me, this isn't a baby. It's a problem. I'm trying to do the best I can by him, because that's what my head tells me I'm supposed to do. I got us into this mess; it's my responsibility to get us out. But as for that other stuff, that bonding stuff the books go on and on about... Nothing. I don't feel... I don't feel like a... like a... mom."
Rachel hesitated. She looked down at the floor and then she looked up at the ceiling, and then she looked Allie directly in the eye. She said, "I'm sure you've heard, over the years, in bits and pieces here and there, that I haven't lived the most exemplary of lives."
Allie nodded mutely.
"Being pregnant with your mother was one of the happiest periods I can remember. I was madly in love with Mac, he was thrilled about becoming a father again, even Iris couldn't ruin things for us then. But that wasn't the case with Jamie. Or Matthew. Or even the twins. Carl and I were having problems when I was pregnant with Cory and Elizabeth, plus there were some health issues... But that was nothing compared to while I was pregnant with Jamie or Matt. You know that I was married to another man when Jamie was born. That I tried to pass him off as Russ Matthews' son, the same way I later tried to pass Matt off as Mac's. The difference was, with Jamie, I saw him as a tool for getting the man I really wanted, while with Matt, it was closer to what you described... a problem that it was my responsibility to somehow fix. Both times, my feelings about being pregnant were very, very complicated. But that didn't mean I didn't love both my babies. Don't confuse being unhappy over the circumstances with being unhappy about your child. That feeling won't last, I promise you."
"What if it does?" Allie challenged. "What if I end up like my mom, angry about being stuck with a kid I didn't really want?"
"Your mother loves you, Allie."
"That's not what I said. I didn't say she didn't love me. I said she didn't want me. At least not how, and certainly not when, she got me." Allie wiped her eyes with the back of one hand. "And you know what the kicker is? You'd think, considering everything, Mom would be my biggest booster about the adoption thing. That she'd understand. But no, she's dragging me from Carl to Alice "
Rachel clarified, "Alice?"
"How did it go with Allie?" Jen asked GQ as they sat in the empty computer lab, him supposedly showing her the latest models from his AI research, but really just listlessly tapping the keys.
"Spectacularly awful," he filled her in.
"I'm sorry," Jen said. "Especially since it was my idea."
"It was a good idea. My execution was what sucked. Maybe if I hadn't gone barging in, maybe if I'd just talked to her "
"You've tried just talking to her. Right?"
"So now she deserves it." In response to the look on GQ's face, Jen clarified, "If the shoe were on the other foot, if you were the one denying Allie's claim of paternity, she'd be perfectly within her moral, ethical and legal rights to stalk you from here to eternity, demanding a blood test, child support, the whole shebang. She could go to the State and get them to garnish your wages on just her say-so. She can force you to be a father against your will, but if she decides to get an abortion, there's not a damn thing you can do about it. That sure doesn't sound like equal rights to me."
"Wow," GQ said. "I guess they don't offer a lot of Women's Studies courses at MIT."
"We're eligible to take them through Wellesley."
GQ laughed. "You're phenomenal, you know that? Most girls would have run away screaming after what I dumped on you the other night."
"Was that what you wanted me to do?"
"Why didn't you, though?" GQ wondered. "Run away, I mean? And please don't say it was solely due to socio-political considerations. I don't think my ego could handle just being an allegorical cipher to you right now."
Jen said, "I think you're a good guy in a bad situation."
"As opposed to just another brother with Baby Mama Drama?"
"I told you before, my Dad does Family Law. If there is one thing I've learned after years of watching him work, it's that there's a lot more than one way to look at any state of affairs."
"Did you take a lot of Women's Studies classes at Wellesley?"
"Enough to know what I'm talking about. Why?"
"Isn't that the school with the code where before you kiss someone you're required to obtain clear and concise verbal consent "
"No." Jen leaned in until their faces were almost touching. "Yes," she said, kissing him first, so as to sidestep any potentially sticky legal issues.
"Grant Quinn Todd?" The name came after a formal throat-clearing, during which GQ and Jen broke apart and looked up to see first a piece of paper being thrust out towards him, then a hand holding that paper, then a man attached to the hand.
"What the..." GQ asked.
"It's a restraining order, requiring you to stay a minimum of 100 feet away from Alexandra Fowler at all times. You have been served." He turned to leave. "See you later, Jenny."
She raised her arm to wave sheepishly. "Bye, Daddy."
"Who was Jenna Norris?" Elizabeth asked Carl.
"Before you answer," Cory chimed in. "Be advised that we understand basic biology."
"And can add two plus two together."
"And know how to Google."
Carl looked from his son to his daughter, witnessing the results of $50,000 dollars a year spent on private education. And not liking it. Except, of course, for the part of him that was puffed up with pride.
He leaned back in his chair, beckoned them both forward and suggested, "Perhaps, under the circumstances, it would be best if you two were to tell me who you think Jenna Norris was."
"She was Ms. Gallant's daughter," Elizabeth said. "She was married to that singer. The one whose music you call a clamoring cacophony of clatter. I saw him on TV a couple of times. Jenna died over the summer, I remember Mom talking about it."
"Her baby is Charlie's new little sister now," Cory added.
"But Ms. Gallant just adopted her. You and Kirkland's grandmother are her real parents."
"Again, you are correct."
"Why didn't you tell us?" Cory demanded.
"I only found out myself recently."
"After she died?" Elizabeth asked sympathetically.
Carl had to clear his throat before answering. "Yes."
"Are you very sad?"
"I am devastated," he told them honestly. "Before Elizabeth was born, I'd so desperately wanted a daughter. To think that I had one all these years... I believe my life would have been very different had I but known."
"But, if you had known," she offered. "Your life might have been so different that you never would have had me. Us."
"And that," Carl agreed. "Would have been a tragedy all of its own."
"You're going to make Ms. Love pay for this, aren't you?" Elizabeth asked in the same tone of voice she might have used to state any number of obvious facts.
Carl narrowed his eyes. "What makes you say that, poppet?"
"We know how to Google," Cory reminded.
"And we know about you and Kirkland's dad, after he killed Ryan."
"That was a long time ago," was all Carl could think of to say in response.
"You're still you," Elizabeth challenged.
Her father smiled.
"Happy Birthday!" John boomed heartily to his son over the phone.
"Your mother and I would like to take you out to dinner tonight, celebrate."
"That's okay, you don't have to."
"We want to."
"I'm just turning nineteen. It's not a big deal."
"Every birthday with you is a big deal for us, you know that. What's the matter," John joked. "Making so much money teaching fencing part-time you couldn't use a free meal?"
"Bring Allie along."
"Dad..." Same word, different tone.
"Listen up, Gregory. I know I promised to stay out of this. And to keep your mother at bay. But this girl is clearly important to you. And if she's important to you, she's important to us. It's that simple. You've decided to give up your baby for adoption? Fine, I can respect that. But this makes Allie a permanent part of our family. We just want to show you both that we're here for you, okay?"
Gregory said, "I love you, Dad."
"Carlinos. Six. Bring Allie." John hung up the phone.
Frankie looked nervously from Lori Ann, happily gurgling in her crib, to Lorna, no longer wearing the moderately civil expression that had perfunctorily graced her face from the moment Frankie opened the front door, but a bright sunny smile now that she was looking down at her niece and tickling Lori Ann's belly.
"You probably don't want to do that." Off Lorna's look, Frankie shrugged. "She just ate. It might make her spit up."
"Don't babies always spit up?"
"Well, yeah, but no need to encourage her," Frankie laughed lamely.
"You mean, like, peer pressure?" Lorna rightfully looked at Frankie as if she'd lost a marble or two, then reached down, intending to pick up Lori Ann. "You've gotten so big since the last time I saw you! Obviously figured that whole bottle-feeding thing out, huh?"
"You should slide a hand under to give her better support," Frankie rushed to instruct, pantomiming the movement. "And since she just ate," Frankie dashed over to a drawer, pulling out a cloth diaper. "Take this for your shoulder. Which side were you going to rest her on? She normally likes the right."
"Right one it is, then," Lorna snatched the bib from Frankie.
"Maybe you should sit in the chair and I'll "
Lorna turned on her, jaw clenched. "I know how to hold a baby, Frankie."
"It's just that Lori Ann is so... "
"Fragile. I remember. I was there from the beginning. Before you got there," she reminded. "I've held her before. I've even fed her and managed not to let her head fall off. Now, will you back off, please? You're making me nervous. What's the matter with you?"
"I'm sorry," Frankie apologized, despite continuing to hover close to the crib as Lorna leaned down for another attempt at holding her niece. "It's just... I'm overprotective, I realize that. She was so sick for so long. And then, things were... uncertain for all of us. There were some issues with me and Cass and Charlie. Some... threats. From my past. I'd gotten used to looking over my shoulder all the time."
"What kind of threats?" Lorna asked sharply. "Is Lori Ann in danger?"
"No!" Frankie insisted. "Not at all. Everything is fine now. Everything is... over. I'm just having a little trouble getting used to the idea of us all being safe. Finally."
Her vague explanation didn't appear to have satisfied Lorna completely, but she forced herself to table the impulse towards prying further in exchange for scooping Lori Ann up and out of her crib.
Lorna rocked Lori Ann against her, slowly rounding the nursery. "See? We're old friends, isn't that right, sweetie? Your cousin Frankie "
"I'm her mother."
Lorna bobbed her head in a combination of acquiescence and apology. "Your mother thinks your Aunt Lorna is completely clueless about babies."
"I never said that," Frankie defended, even as she fought the urge to follow Lorna around on her circuit.
"Or maybe she's just afraid that, while she isn't looking, I'm going to try to run off and keep your cute little butt for myself."
At that, Frankie stilled, a surge of protectiveness and fear running through her as Lorna looked up with an accusing eye.
"I never said that," Frankie repeated, even more unconvincingly. "Or thought it."
"Then why have you maneuvered yourself in front of the door?"
Frankie cast a look over her shoulder, realizing that she was indeed blocking the door to the nursery. And clutching a stuffed toy as if to jab it at Lorna like a weapon. "I... I know you wouldn't run away with Lori Ann."
"No, I wouldn't," Lorna huffed. "Not that I wouldn't have loved the chance to raise her. But, things are what they are. Lori Ann belongs to you and Cass now. Which leaves me as cool Aunt Lorna. I get to come over for visits and bring her nice things and generally spoil her rotten. And then I get to go home when she needs a diaper-change or acts fussy. All of the fun, none of the fallout. Lucky me."
Somehow I believe you'd have no problem taking it all on, Frankie thought as Lorna continued to bounce Lori Ann, the change in her face whenever she focused on the baby alternately inspiring sympathy, understanding and guilt.
"So, how's Felicia?" Frankie pressed on to what she hoped was a less volatile topic.
"You probably know the answer to that one better than me," Lorna shrugged. "She's pretty much only acknowledging Cass these days. Which is fine, I'm sure she's right, if anyone can help her deal with this tragedy, it's him."
Frankie shook her head. "You're her daughter. You "
"Are not a magic cure-all. Whatever it is Felicia is going through... I'm not the answer. And I don't have any answers."
"Neither does Cass," Frankie insisted. "I think maybe he just empathizes with what she's going through a little better than the rest of us. Cass and I, we had a situation... I was pregnant, but we weren't together at the time and... I never told him about the baby until after I'd miscarried. He felt betrayed and angry, like he was being forced to mourn two losses at the same time. It isn't precisely analogous to what Felicia is going through but..."
"And then," Frankie went. "We also had that health scare with Charlie when she was a baby. Her heart. She needed surgery. The stress nearly destroyed Cass. Especially when he found out the problem was genetic and she'd probably inherited it from him."
"I remember," Lorna said thoughtfully. "He had a breakdown and had to go on medication, right?"
"We were lucky. The Lithium really worked for him. It doesn't for everyone. I don't know what I would have done... I like to believe I'd have stuck by him no matter what. But that's easy to say when you've never been tested. At least in that particular way. Heaven knows we've been through the ringer in other "
"But he's fine now, right?" Lorna interrupted. "He's completely normal? Well, for Cass, I mean..."
"He'll have to take medication for the rest of his life, but other than that he's the same as he was before. He's still Cass. The good parts and the bad. I wouldn't have it any other way." Frankie studied Lorna curiously. "Are you worried that Felicia might need medical intervention?"
"No," Lorna shook her head distractedly, her guard atypically down. Honestly, Frankie hadn't realized that was possible with Lorna. "I was just thinking about a... a friend. I found out he went through some heavy stuff a long time ago, and I guess it threw me for a loop. He seems better now but I'm still trying to process...." Sensing that she was saying too much, Lorna willfully snapped herself out of her rare, openly pensive state, and Frankie was once again facing the frosty but civil Lorna she knew and had eventually learned to... tolerate. For Felicia's sake.
"I'm not trying to be extra rude or anything," Kirkland eyed his court-appointed psychologist, a nondescript woman in her 40s with, he had to admit, an awesome poker face. "But this is a waste of both of our time. Not you, not some judge, nobody can tell me who my real dad is. I'm going to be sixteen in April. I'm old enough to decide stuff like that for myself."
"No one said you weren't, which is why you're talking to me."
"But I'm not the final word, even though I should be."
"Well, everyone has their own point of view, and sometimes they can't be objective about what they want or what might be the best course of action."
"So I can't know what's best for me, but a judge who knows nothing about me or my family does?" he challenged cynically.
"Which again, brings us to why you and your parents are all being interviewed," she smiled patiently. "We get to know you, hear what you have to say "
"And try to read between the lines to find some deep dark secret about me, Jamie, or Grant that could be hurting my psychological and emotional well-being." Kirkland explained, "I've been in therapy before. After my mom died."
"If there's something to read...."
"Well, let me save you a lot of time. My biological dad's been to prison, he killed my uncle, he shot my mom, and he's been playing dead for the last ten years." The therapist opened her mouth to respond, but Kirkland cut her off with, "Please don't ask me how I feel about that. Short answer: It sucks. Slightly longer answer: I think he's changed. Or at least he's trying to. And I mean, for the better. I know everyone assumes it's some phony act, but I I believe him."
"I'm sure that makes your father very happy."
"Moving on," Kirkland said. "My grandmother just tried to kill herself because she's been arrested for killing this woman who was blackmailing her about some other rotten stuff she's done. Oh, and my Aunt Marley once snapped and kidnapped my mom. Which, by the way, is one of the reasons I think my Dad deserves a second chance. Everyone else got one, why not him?"
"So you do think of Grant Harrison as your dad?"
Kirkland rolled his eyes and washed it down with a gloriously adolescent sigh. "Jamie Frame is my dad. I know he comes off like a Boy Scout compared to the rest of them, but he's got a few bad marriages under his belt, too, plus an old drug problem. Also, he still lives at home with his mom that's a little weird; Norman Bates, right? and her husband, who makes Grant look like the Boy Scout, no joke."
The psychologist nodded, jotting down some notes.
"Quit it," Kirkland ordered. "Please. Stop pretending like I'm telling you anything you didn't already know coming in here. This is all so stupid. And it really doesn't matter."
She lifted an eyebrow. "They'd revoke my license if I let that statement go without comment."
"I'm not saying it doesn't affect me," he amended. "Just that who did what to whom a million years ago doesn't matter when it comes to who should be my official dad and who gets to raise me for the next two years, one month, and two weeks until I'm of legal age and can tell everyone to shut up and they'll have to listen."
"You think no one is listening to you now?"
"We wouldn't be here if they were. If they'd just do what I want."
"Which is what?"
"Which is..." the confidence he'd been battering her around with since the beginning faltered, and the boy who was still two years, one month and two weeks short of declaring legal independence, reemerged. "Which is I I want them both. I know how lame that sounds, okay? How babyish. I know that the whole point of being an adult is that you have to make choices. Even when you don't want to. But, if they both love me like they say they do, then why can't they... why can't they just... share?" Kirkland blinked, determined not to cry. "Everybody else gets two parents. Why can't I? So it's not the normal two, but... I'm already down a mom. I just don't get why they can't see that if one of them gets their way, it's the same as me losing her all over again?"
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