"What got Matt running out of here in such a hurry?"
Donna looked up from where she was sitting on her bed to encounter John Hudson, of all people, standing in her doorway.
"Long time no see," he offered, voice and expression non-committal.
"What are you doing here?" she wondered.
"Checking on a patient. I ran into Matt. He didn't look happy."
"He thinks he's in love with me. What else would you expect?"
John didn't crack a smile. He barely reacted at all.
Donna assumed the worst. "Did you also stop by to excoriate me about what I did to Felicia?"
He stepped inside the room, hands in his pockets. "Felicia is a very good friend of mine."
"Yes," Donna couldn't help herself. "A break-up your marriage good kind of friend."
Now, he almost smiled. "Is that really something you and I get to be smug about?"
"You and I sleeping together didn't break up my marriage," she raised a finger to remind. "Michael's thinking that we had, did."
"I stand corrected."
Donna patted the spot on the bed next to her. "So sit down then."
He considered the offer, then lazily ambled over to do as she'd requested.
"It's good to see you, John. I must confess, I've been feeling a bit abandoned. Marley hasn't come by once. And, of course, I wouldn't want the children to see me like this. But maybe a phone-call or a note... something."
"You had your own daughter kidnapped and inadvertently killed. That's a lot for Marley to deal with. Especially with everything else she has going on."
"Do you believe I meant to hurt Jenna?"
John hesitated. Finally, he said, "You never mean to hurt anyone."
"Well, thank you, at least, for that."
"But you do, Donna. More often than not, you do." He asked her, "What would you have done, twenty years ago, if the thing you were most afraid of had come true, and I turned out to be Vicky and Marley's father, instead of Michael?"
She bristled. "You weren't. You couldn't have been. Michael and I were in love. You and I... it was... I was just trying to make him jealous. It was only the one time."
"Why?" John wondered.
"Why was it only once? I just told you. I loved Michael. You know that. You knew it then, too."
"No. Not why did it happen once. Why did it happen at all? I spent a lot of years in Vietnam, ducking, staring at the jungle, writing you love letters I never got up the nerve to send, and questioning, why... how did it happen at all? You may have been only sixteen years old, but anybody blind people! could see that Michael was it for you. Some people wait their entire lives and never love anyone as much as you two did each other."
"Yes," Donna said softly.
"So what in the world ever possessed you to even give me a second look?"
"You were very persistent, John."
"But I was far from irresistible."
"Don't sell yourself short."
"Don't flirt with me, Donna."
She shrugged. "Sorry. Force of habit."
"Just give me a straight answer. After forty some years, don't you think I at least deserve that much?"
"I'm going to get some more ice," Jen said to GQ and Sarah when she stepped out of the room where Gregory was still sitting with Allie. "Though I don't think it's doing much good anymore. Worked at first, but the brain eventually figures out what you're doing and adjusts. It's kind of smarter than we are."
"Actually," Sarah stood, holding up a pair of tennis balls. "I used to do this for my mom when she had her back spasms. Think it might work here?"
"Give it a shot," Jen stepped out of Sarah's way.
"Is Allie okay?" GQ asked Jen anxiously.
Jen poured the now melted water down the kitchen drain. "She's in a lot of pain. It's natural, but it doesn't make it any easier."
"How much longer... "
"Who knows? Her water hasn't broken yet. It could be hours still."
"Maybe Steven will be able to contact an ambulance. I... I never wanted her to suffer like this."
"Of course, you didn't," Jen said. "You didn't want to hurt her, you just wanted what was fair. You care about Allie," she hesitated. "I think you should tell her that. Right now."
GQ snorted. "I'm pretty sure I'm the last person Allie wants to see at the moment."
"No. That's not true. Gregory says one of the reasons she's having such a hard time is because she won't relax. She's tense. And the main reason for that is you. Go. Talk to her. Tell her what you just told me. Tell her you don't hate her. She actually believes that you do. Tell her everything is going to be all right. She needs to hear that now more than anything."
He hesitated. "I don't want to make this any harder for her."
"You won't." Jen smiled and pointed out, "At the very least you'll distract her for a few minutes. That's good, too."
"Another one of your brain experiments?"
"Sure. Why not? Maybe I can get a paper out of it: Ex-boyfriends as the ultimate in delivery room pain relief. We'll be bigger than Lamaze!" Jen tugged his hand. "Come on."
Allie was in the middle of a contraction when they came in, curled up in a ball, her head on Gregory's lap, teeth clenched to stifle the scream, Sarah digging the tennis balls into the small of Allie's back, trying to counter the pressure, Gregory bent at the waist, whispering soothingly into her ear.
Once it had passed, Allie fell back limply, opening her eyes to notice GQ.
"What?" she croaked out. "What the hell do you want from me now?"
GQ looked back at Jen, who nodded at him encouragingly.
"I wanted," he began. "I wanted to tell you that I was sorry, Allie. I never meant for things to get so bad between us. We were friends, once. We were more than friends. I I really did love you. I'm sorry if you thought I didn't."
Allie snuck a peek at Gregory, trying to gauge his reaction, but meeting only a neutral stare in return. Well, if Gregory refused to get offended, Allie figured the least she could do was get offended for him, snapping to GQ, "I wonder what gave me that idea. You generally treating me like crap, or specific things like wanting to keep us being together a secret because you were embarrassed by me? You know Gregory, he doesn't feel the need to keep me hidden away from his friends and family. Even now. Even like this. You know what he did? He stood up to his mom and dad. He defended me to them. And in that case, John and Sharlene were justifiably upset by something I'd done, not just something I was. Or is it something I wasn't? I wasn't good enough for you."
"I'm sorry," GQ kept repeating. "I was wrong, I never should have put you in that position. It's all my fault."
"You better believe it."
"Save it," Allie said. In response to the shocked look on GQ's face, she told him, "I don't care. I did once, but I don't anymore. I have Gregory now. I know what it's like to be with somebody who'd do anything for you. Somebody who loves me more than he loves some idealized, politically-correct, perfect, imaginary girl of his dreams. Though," she looked at Jen. "I admit, that's kind of how I pictured her, too."
Jen wasn't sure how to react to that.
Allie said, "You are exactly what he always wanted. Just make sure you never dare step out of that box he custom ordered you from." Allie informed GQ, "I don't care about your reasons, anymore. I don't care whose fault it was. I don't care why you dumped me. On the other hand," she twisted around painfully, facing Sarah now. "Your reasons, I would really like to know..."
"Did you have a nice time at the movies with Cass?"
"Luke!" Felicia startled. The house had been dark when she came in. "I thought you'd be..."
"I wanted to talk to you. I didn't like how we left things earlier."
"I didn't like your implication that I've been ignoring my daughter."
"You have been," Lucas said calmly.
"That's easy for you to say. You haven't had to spend the past seventeen years tip-toeing around Lorna and her multitude of grudges. She's a very prickly girl, Luke. God forbid you should say the wrong thing, or even the right thing in the wrong tone of voice, and off she goes. I have to weigh and consider every word that comes out of my mouth with her. It can get exhausting. I'm sorry if maybe, after everything that's happened with Jenna and Lori Ann and Donna, I have, temporarily, been a less than attentive mother. Mea culpa. Lucky for you, you get to sweep in out of the ether and play the hero."
If she'd been hoping to enrage Luke and end the conversation once and for all, Felicia's arrow had misfired badly. All he returned was, "You forgot her birthday."
"I did not!" Felicia insisted.
"You forgot that we'd planned to all go out tonight."
"Tonight," Felicia seethed, near tears. "Is not Lorna's birthday."
"What..." It took Lucas a moment before he realized what she meant. "Oh, come on, Fanny. You're not being fair to her. For twenty-three years, Lorna thought it was her birthday. It's the date on all of her legal documents. Of course she'll continue to "
"But it's not," now that the point of contention was out, Felicia refused to let go. "Lorna's actual birthday was two days ago. I certainly remembered it then. Which is more than can be said for her. I phoned Lorna two days ago. Several times. She didn't bother to return my call."
"She was working."
"So was I, today."
"I You're being petty."
"Am I? For twenty-three years, that date would come around on the calendar, and it was all I could do to keep from collapsing. Some years, I barely managed to get out of bed. All I could think about was my baby girl and how I'd lost her. And you. And myself right along with it." Felicia saw Lucas moving towards her and stepped away, refusing to be touched, refusing to be comforted. "And then, I got my miracle. You... Lorna... I finally had my daughter back. And I understood that they'd changed her birthday. I even understood her wanting to stick with it. Let's just pretend to believe what she said about it being out of habit, rather than as a deliberate slap in the face. Let's pretend that, ever since 1992, all of Lorna's slaps in my face have been inadvertent. After all, changing your driver's license is such a hassle."
"Have you ever told her this?"
"Has she ever asked?"
"Fanny... You can't... You're the adult, she's the child."
"She's no child. When my stepfather stole her from me and gave her away, he pretty much insured that Lorna would never get the chance to be a child. And what Noah Grady started, Carl Hutchins finished. Lorna is as much of a rational adult as I am, whatever that means. And she is just as much responsible for our relationship the good and the bad of it."
"This isn't the right time," Sarah told Allie, especially since she could see that another contraction was imminent.
Allie writhed through it, clutching Gregory's hand for dear life, groaning so agonizingly that everyone in the room winced in sympathy. However, as soon as the tremor had passed, she was right back on Sarah, telling her, "Actually, I think now is an excellent time. You all keep telling me I need to distract myself from the pain. I figure this has got to better than a bag of ice. Or a pair of tennis balls. Come on, Sarah, distract me. Now that GQ's made his confession, you get to tell me why you dumped me, too."
"I I'm not comfortable with this."
"Yeah, well, I'm not exactly having my best day, either," Allie noted. "Talk, Sarah. Or, so help me, next contraction, those tennis balls are going down your throat."
"Please, Sarah," Gregory said. "Don't upset her. It will just make things worse."
"Yeah," Allie agreed. "Don't upset me. Just tell me what the hell it was I did that made it okay for you to say I wasn't worth being friends with, anymore."
"Damn it, Allie..."
"Damn it, Sarah..."
"It wasn't you. It had nothing to do with you. It was me, alright?"
"Sorry," Allie said sweetly and jerked her head in GQ's direction. "He already used that line."
"Well, now we can make it unanimous. You didn't do anything. I was the one who was scared of you "
"You were scared of me? You were scared of me doing what?"
"Telling Steven that I really wasn't who he thought I was."
Now it was Allie's turn not to know what to say.
She just stared dumbly as Sarah continued, "I liked who Steven thought I was. I liked that he didn't know the real me. I wished I could be that girl. That nice, positive, innocent, non-manipulative, non-bitch. And I could. With him. But not with you. Every time I saw you, it just reminded me that I wasn't her."
Softly, Allie said, "I liked who you were, Sarah."
"Yeah, well, I didn't."
"So you just cut me out of your life? I would have never ratted you out, never."
"Not on purpose. But, I was scared you might say something without realizing it. Or you might mention to Steven the bet we made, a million years ago. Remember the Sarah Matthews-Wheeler plan? Boy, she really thought she knew it all, didn't she?"
Allie stared at Sarah for a long, unblinking beat. And then, her voice calm, though hoarse, she said, "Get out."
Lorna was still asleep when Jamie returned to his room after the unpleasantly illuminating chat with Carl. He'd demanded answers and his stepfather, along with a healthy dose of smug sadism, had provided them. Now, all Jamie needed was to decide what he should do about what he'd learned.
The answer was obvious, of course. But, he allowed himself a few minutes to pretend that there actually was some kind of choice in the matter.
For a beat, Jamie did nothing more than sit on the edge of the bed, watching Lorna sleep. She lay on her back, one open hand next to her head, the other clutched into a tight fist and pressing into her stomach, as if protecting herself from an inevitable, harder blow by self-inflicting the first punch.
Jamie wanted so badly to uncurl her fingers one by one, to soothingly stroke her palm until it relaxed, until it let go of the anger and the tension and the fear. He'd done it once before. In the guesthouse driveway, the night he'd kissed her. The night before everything fell apart in even more spectacular fashion than Jamie could have ever imagined. He remembered how she'd responded to his touch then, how her skin had quivered beneath his, how she'd allowed him to take her in his arms as if it were the most natural and obvious progression in the world.
He yearned to wake her up now, to feel like that that present, that alive, that optimistic again, even if it was only for a moment, even if it was for the last time. But Jamie knew it'd be unfair to both of them. For Lorna because, ultimately, Jamie would only end up lying to her, and she deserved better than that. For Jamie, because, deep down, he'd know he'd done it for a single, selfish reason the hope that she would talk him out of the inevitable next step. And that was yet another layer of guilt that Jamie just didn't need.
So instead of waking Lorna, he merely leaned over, kissing her so lightly on the lips that there was no way she could have felt it.
Except that she must have. She stirred, smiling briefly, before settling down. A smile that made Jamie ache to do it again. And again. And again.
He forced himself to stand up. He forced himself to grab his jacket and, without so much as a glance over his shoulder, to march downstairs, where Carl hovered by the door, holding out keys to the car he'd magnanimously offered.
Jamie grabbed them, the two men exchanging antagonistic looks that spoke of everything, but gave away nothing.
Twenty minutes later, just as the sun was rising, the GPS chirping directions for the quickest route to Bay City, Jamie dialed Mike Bauer's number. "Tell Hamilton he can call off the dogs. I'm coming to turn myself in."
By morning, Allie felt as if she'd screamed so much, she was gagging on it. The pain wasn't just in her anymore; it was all that was left of her. She could see it as a color, hear it like a sound, feel it move her around without Allie's being able to resist or contribute.
She heard Gregory, she felt him touching her, guiding her, encouraging, but he was just a small part of the din that was tearing her in half. At one point, she sensed more than saw other people in the room. Sarah, Jen. Gregory was showing them how to support her, to help her sit up when she didn't have the strength to do it herself anymore. She wondered where Steven and GQ were, but then forget or stopped caring.
At first, she'd begged for them to make the pain stop. But now she understood that was impossible and so she just gave herself into it, letting it toss her from place to place, moaning almost perfunctorily, understanding that nothing she did would make a bit of difference.
"Allie," somehow, Gregory's voice managed to briefly cut through all that, he was stroking her face, urging her to open her eyes, just for a minute, just for a second. She did. And he was all she saw. Even the room seemed to have gone blurry. "Allie, listen to me. You have to help me. You have to push."
"I can't," her throat was so dry, the words came out wrapped in sandpaper and bile.
"You have to. I said I'd take care of you, and I will. But you have to trust me and do what I say. Please, Allie."
"Can't... Too tired..."
"For me, Allie, please."
"For me," he prompted again and, as if by instinct, Allie did as he asked, following his directions without actually hearing the words, almost as if she'd moved aside and let him take control of her body.
The final moment, the one where she actually felt him tug and pull the baby out, and then the pain instantly, miraculously, unexpectedly stopped, Allie went limp. Her breath came out in short, hard pants, she couldn't seem to stop shaking. But even that wasn't enough to distract her from the look on Gregory's face.
He reached for the pocket knife he'd sterilized with some regrettably expensive alcohol earlier in order to cut the umbilical cord, and as he looked down at what she could only presume was her baby all Allie could see was a shock of damp, blood-stained dark hair curled up in a series of tiny spikes Gregory's eyes widened.
"What?" she didn't have the strength to lift her head, so Allie merely clamored, "What? What is it? What's wrong? Is something wrong?
Sarah peered around and quickly assured, "He's fine. He looks just fine."
"He's beautiful," Jen added, propping one hand under Allie's arm and helping her to sit up, so that she could see the baby Gregory had hastily wrapped in a clean sheet and was now turning around to show Allie.
An, as promised, just fine, blue-eyed, pink-skinned newborn infant.
The sight of Cass typing calmly on his laptop did more to jolt Frankie into wakefulness than any cup of coffee could have. (Not that she ever touched the stuff. Lori Ann's pediatrician had even nudged, "You know, Mrs. Winthrop, you wouldn't be so tired all the time if you'd just have a little caffeine in the morning.")
"Felicia," Cass sighed and shook his head. "Guess she couldn't sleep last night." (That makes two of us, Frankie thought.) "She sent me, it must be, what? a dozen links to party themes she thought would be appropriate for Lori Ann's christening. Not that she's looking to interfere or take over, of course, these are just suggestions for our consideration," Cass chuckled.
"Do they make christening gowns with boas?" Frankie attempted a joke, the better to stall what she really wanted to ask him.
"Of course. I believe it's called the Oh, Holy Night-Wear Collection." Cass grinned at Frankie, the expression slowly fading once he realized that she wasn't smiling back. "What's wrong?" He stood, facing her. "You know, we don't have to do this. Felicia thought a party to celebrate Lori Ann becoming a permanent part of our family would make you happy. It would prove how much she believes in you as Lori Ann's mother. But if you think it's too grand, or you just don't want to do it, we don't have to. We can have an intimate little celebration, just us and Charlie, and Felicia and Lucas, Lorna, maybe, Sharlene, Gregory, that's it. This wasn't intended to make your life harder."
"It's not the party, Cass," Frankie said.
"Then what is it?"
"I was on-line, last night." She hesitated. "I found a site you visited. Back in January."
"Was it the one offering Buxom Balkan Brides?" he teased. "Because that was just so I could write them a strongly worded letter explaining how I had no need for such things." When Frankie, once again, refused to crack a smile, Cass protested, "Come on, I'm whipping out my A-material, here."
"And I'm being serious," she told him. "I need to know, Cass. Why, a few weeks before Cecile was murdered, were you researching the drug that killed her?"
|Receive email notification every time www.anotherworldtoday.com is updated|