"I'll take care of Donna," Carl swore to Felicia over the phone. And then, after a pause, almost solicitously, he asked, "What did she say to you?"
"She never loved her." Felicia's voice trembled with repressed fury. "Can you imagine it? A beautiful, devoted, caring, warm, brilliant girl "
"One any soul would be proud to call their daughter," Carl agreed longingly.
"Exactly. And Donna didn't feel a thing for her. She told me so herself. To my face. Right now. She said she had a child because it was the appropriate thing to do under the circumstances, the expected thing. But she realized quickly she didn't want her. Because she wasn't Michael's. And all Donna truly wanted was Michael. And their daughter."
Carl gripped the phone tightly, needing to take a deep breath to steady his voice before demanding, "Then what was all that nonsense about protecting her from me? If she truly didn't give a damn "
"She was protecting herself. Not Jenna. She knew if you found out, she'd be tethered to you forever. And that you'd never forgive her for keeping Jenna from you."
"Well, score one for Donna," Carl hissed. "Bella finally got something right."
"What are you going to do?" Felicia asked, hesitant, fearful, but resolved to know.
Carl only said one word. "Marley...."
Frankie gave Charlie what she believed to be an appropriate cooling off period before, after scooping up Lori Ann from her nap figuring a cute baby intermediary never hurt anybody; she knocked respectfully on her older daughter's door and asked to come in.
A grunt that may have been permission was the best Frankie received in return. She chose to accept it as an open invitation, and boldly stepped inside.
Charlie sat at her computer, immediately reducing the image she'd been looking at as soon as Frankie entered.
"How did your visit with Jasmine go?" Frankie wondered innocently, as if the little girl hadn't come crying down the stairs a few hours earlier.
"How'd yours go with Lila?"
"Fine," Frankie told the truth. "It was very kind of them both to stop by."
"You don't think so?"
"Buy a clue, Mom. They were here to gloat. You kicked them out of the house "
"I did not. Lila left on her own. I actually begged her and Jasmine to stay."
"Right. They were going to stick around after the love of Dad's life cheated death so she could be with him again. Just 'cause she's got an accent, doesn't mean Lila's stupid."
"And just because Jasmine loves you unconditionally is no reason for you to be mean to her."
"What did the little brat say I did?"
"She didn't say anything, Charlie. She was protecting you to the end. But the heaving sobs kind of gave it away."
"She takes everything too personally, she always has."
"Was she supposed to interpret your accusation about her coming here to gloat in some other way?"
"It's what she was doing," Charlie stuck to her guns. "Why else would they come? To remind us that now we've lost Dad, too."
"She came because she was worried about you. And because she missed her big sister."
"I'm not her anything, anymore, okay? I wish I was, but I'm not, so why pretend?"
"It's alright, Charlie," Frankie reassured her. "It's normal to miss Jasmine. It's normal to wish for "
"Is it normal to wish that everything could go back to the way it was before?"
"Of course, it is." She shifted Lori Ann to her other arm so that Frankie might reach out and embrace Charlie, as well. "You don't think I wish that too? More than anything?"
"I wish that things could go back to the way they were before Cecile showed up." Charlie wriggled out of Frankie's attempt at a hug and, looking her mother in the eye, confessed, part guilty, part challenging, part hopeless. "I wish that things could back to the way they were before you showed up, Mom."
"Whatever you said to cheer Jasmine up," Lila watched her daughter in Grant's backyard, gleefully swinging a golf club taller than she was. "You have my sincerest gratitude."
"I like Jasmine. And, in an unprecedented development, she seems to like me. For me."
Lila rolled her eyes. "What did Miss Marley do to poor Grant now? Don't try to deny it I know a walking bruised ego when I see one."
"She kicked me out of bed this morning." Grant's tone reached for an air of 'ain't that the darndest thing?' But failed miserably. "For Jamie."
"Uh-uh," Lila clucked. "We all got a glimpse of what's on Jamie's dance-card these days. Poor little Cory still hasn't recovered, I don't think. Try again."
"We had a fantastic 4th of July," Grant revealed. "Marley actually left the Cory shin-dig and drove over to see me. I didn't even ask her to. Didn't want to push; figured she'd prefer spending the holiday with the girls. She came of her own accord. And it was... nice. It was normal. We had dinner, we talked, we made love "
"You can skip the details. I get it. A good time was had by all."
"And then, one text from Jamie... She claimed she didn't want me making a scene when he dropped Michele and Bridget off."
"Ooh, wait, let me guess the rest. You threw a fit, accused her of still being in love with Jamie, she called you insecure, you issued an ultimatum and stormed out. How'd I do?"
"You couldn't be more wrong," Grant informed her. "She was the one who issued the ultimatum. Right after calling me insecure and right before I stormed out."
Lila would have laughed in delight at her prescience, but Grant just looked so damned sad, he took all the fun out of it. "So? What were her terms?"
"Accept Jamie as a part of her life as a friend; or we're over."
"That sounds doable. You and he already share custody of Kirkland "
"Not for long if that boyfriend of yours would just file the necessary papers already."
"Those who fail to remember history are doomed to repeat it," Lila intoned.
"And a penny saved is a penny earned." He looked at her, baffled. "What's your point?"
"Ain't this how you, Vicky and Ryan started? You got the girl signed, sealed, delivered and legally hitched; but you were so jealous about her ex "
"Does everyone have Ryan on the brain today?"
"Well, I was married to his corneas." Lila reminded facetiously, before sobering up to sincerely tell Grant. "Marley is already hurting you. I don't like it."
"We're fine. I told you how normal everything felt last night. Well, normal couples fight. We'll get through it."
"You're her rebound guy."
"So what?" Grant snarled, defensive. "Isn't that how you and Kevin started out?"
"And now I've got a thorn in my side, name of Amanda, that I wish would hop on the next plane out of town. She's constantly throwing herself at Kevin, drooling on his shoulder about Allie this and Allie that; like she'd even have noticed the child were missing if Sharlene hadn't gotten all up in her face about it. But, I'm staying mum. I certainly ain't issuing Kevin any ultimatums about who he can and can't be friends with."
"What is it with Rachel's kids?" Grant mused. "Clingy bastards, every last one of them."
"You got visions of Marley long-term dancing through your head? You go and you apologize to her, promise you won't be dictating any of her relationships no more. And you be sincere about it, too. Truth be told, I'm not convinced the two of you belong together. Not now, anyhow. Marley needs to spend five minutes by herself for a change, figure out what she wants out of life that doesn't including pining over one impossible man or another. And you! You, Senator, have got a bit more growing up to do before you can thoroughly fill out your fancy, big boy clothing."
"Sarah thinks," Gregory began once Allie returned to the cabin. "Sarah thinks maybe you should go home to Bay City."
"Why?" Allie looked, confused, from him to Sarah, then back again.
"Because you're facing jail time, that's why. Gregory's mom wants you arrested."
"She does?" Allie gulped.
"I didn't think she'd go this far," Gregory admitted. "Usually, my dad can talk her down from stuff like that."
"Your dad agrees with her," Sarah said. "He's out for blood, too."
"I didn't want to get you into trouble, Allie. I honestly thought if we could just get away from everybody, it'd be okay. Once I was dead, there'd be nothing my parents could do."
"Wrong!" Sarah announced triumphantly.
"You should go," Gregory said. "I can manage on my own."
Allie bit her lip. For a moment, she didn't move, didn't so much as acknowledge either one of them. Then, she perched on the bed across from Gregory, leaned over, and kissed him. "Wrong..." Allie said, softer than Sarah, but nevertheless similar in tone. "I'm staying here. I gave you my word."
"That was before you knew "
"It doesn't matter. I gave you a bunch of chances to back out, too, but you stood by me."
"You didn't ask me to risk arrest."
Allie raised an eyebrow.
"Oh." Gregory remembered. "Right."
As unsure of what they were talking about as she was indifferent, Sarah urged, "You should both come back. Kevin is willing to help you fight your parents. And Steven's dad, he's on your side, too. He told us he could give you drugs to make you more comfortable. You wouldn't have to suffer."
"No hospitals," Gregory insisted. "I know what happens there. I watched too many people... It's brutal. Violent. And, in the end, futile."
"Your parents deserve the chance to say good-by to you," Sarah insisted.
"Not if they refuse to respect my wishes."
"You're being petty. And selfish," she reiterated.
"You're right," Gregory conceded. "But they made their choices. I never got to. I didn't choose to get sick. I didn't choose to undergo pointless treatment for years. And I didn't choose to die. I don't get to decide when or if. The only choice I have left is how. And I'm taking it. Selfishly."
"Lights out!" the prison guard bellowed from his union-negotiated, safety distance somewhere down the hall, well beyond the metal bars of Cass's cell. A moment later, darkness diffused through the cellblock, and Cass was left alone how clever of him to call ahead and order a private room with just his thoughts, and the shadows.
"My, my, my. I'd have laid good money down on it taking you a spell longer to crack," Cecile cooed into Cass' ear, materializing out of the shadows, out of the darkness itself. "But then again, I cracked you a long time ago, didn't I? That's why you're here now."
He realized she wasn't there. He knew she wasn't there. He was alone. Without Frankie. Without his children. Cass was all alone. He had no intention of
"Giving me this kind of power over you?" Cecile chuckled, no longer outside of his ear, but rather inside his mind. "Oh, Cass, honey, darling, sugar buns, when will you realize that I've had the power all along? Since the beginning."
"You're dead," Cass hissed, hating himself for even entertaining the fantasy, suspecting that he'd have no peace until he did. "You can't hurt me anymore."
"I don't want to hurt you." Could a desperate, loneliness inspired hallucination sound offended? Apparently this one could. "I want to help you. Help you to see reason, and realize that you and I were meant for each other all along. We were destined to be together for eternity. Except that, for some reason, you chose to be stubborn and cling to that... thing you call Mary Frances."
She's not here. You're not here, Cecile.
"So this is how you treat a new roommate, Cass? So unlike you. I remember a time when any woman who crossed your path was made to feel most welcome. Have you not gotten it through that adorably curly head of yours that escape is impossible? You made certain of that when you killed me."
Get out of my head!
Cass addressed what he still knew was a delusion, but if addressing her it was the only way to get rid of....
"Never, lover," she clucked with satisfaction. "We're bonded now. Some marriages are till death do us part. Quitters, that's what I say. You and I, Cass, we're bound together into that great unknown well, to you; I, of course, am currently up to speed beyond death. Isn't it funny? Mary Frances thought she was in touch with the universe, but you and I, we're the ones who made it into the next realm. All these years, I threw out everything I could think of to get you to come back to me. But, in the end, it was you who found the perfect means for us to be together.... Forever..."
Go to Hell!
Cass sat up on his cot with a start. Cecile was gone.
But he had no doubt she'd be back.
"Am I interrupting something?" Felicia looked cautiously about the guesthouse, not sure what she was expecting to find, but proactively guarded all the same.
"Just another brilliant Public Relations campaign for a product nobody needs, but it's my job to convince them they desperately want," Lorna laughed, opening the door and letting her mother all the way in. "You have great timing. I could use a break."
Felicia tentatively tapped her purse against the couch and, without further preamble, admitted, "I went to John's. I finally spoke to Donna."
"Oh... Wow..." Lorna's buoyant mood of a moment earlier instantly dissipated like the last trickle of a tangled garden hose. "Are you okay?"
"I am very, very much not okay," Felicia revealed.
"What did she say to you?" Lorna reached out and guided her mother to take a seat on the couch, Lorna perching next to her.
"She said that she never loved Jenna." No matter how many times she repeated it, Felicia couldn't make the words come out of her mouth without a whimper. "She never gave a damn about her except in regards to herself. Jenna's existence put Donna in Carl's line of fire. That's the only thing Jenna ever meant to her. As a problem to be dealt with in order to protect her own pampered, egocentric, selfish hide."
Lorna took a beat to allow Felicia's words to sink in. And then she said, "For the first time, I'm happy I didn't kill her."
"I'm sorry? What?"
"Because, if I had killed her that night I went over to the Love house, we might have all continued to labor under the misconception that Donna, in her own twisted way, had tried to do right by Jenna, that she'd made some noble sacrifice to protect her from Carl, that she'd harbored an ounce of human feeling towards the baby she'd given birth to. This is much better. We know the truth now. And we can make her pay without a single tweak of conscience."
Felicia glanced briefly over Lorna's shoulder towards the kitchen. "Should I be hiding the matches?" she asked, jokingly. And a little bit seriously. By the swinging door, her eyes fell upon a stack of piled up boxes sealed with masking tape. Felicia twitched her head in their direction and asked, "Going somewhere?"
Lorna nodded, unable to hold back a smile. "Jamie's bought a house. He's moving out. And I'm moving in with him."
"Oh..." Felicia nodded mechanically, observing, "That's pretty serious."
"We're serious, Mom."
"Yes... At the pool party, I thought I heard Jamie tell Rachel.... Did he say that the two of you were trying to have a baby?"
"More like we're not trying to not have one. But, yes. I'd like that. Jamie would like it, too."
"Isn't this all awfully sudden?"
"Not to us." Deciding that now might be a good time to get everything out into the open, Lorna pressed on, "Jamie is a terrific father. I know he'll be a great one to any kids we might have. And I think he'd be a pretty good one for Lori Ann, too...."
"My favorite flowers," Marley arranged the bouquet of pink and lavender tulips in a vase, then popped a white-chocolate truffle in her mouth. "My favorite candy. What are you up to, Grant?"
He cleared his throat and, like a child being shoved to the front of the room, recited, "I'm sorry that I overreacted this morning in regards to Jamie."
"Yes. And?" she prompted.
"I won't do it again?"
"Got any proof of that?"
"I could take a solemn oath," he offered, raising one hand and looking around for a bible.
"In Donna's house?" Marley laughed. "Book would probably burst into flame. Oh, no, wait, we have Lorna for that."
Glad, though a little surprised, to find her in such good humor, Grant continued sincerely, "Old insecurities die hard. I'm sorry if my "
"My tantrum this morning suggested I didn't have faith in your feelings for me. After all, if I expect you to trust my declarations, the least I can do is return the favor."
"The least you can do," Marley confirmed, breaking a second truffle in half and tucking the smaller piece into Grant's mouth. "Jamie and I had a very nice chat this morning. Despite everything, he is still committed to being my friend. I don't intend to do anything to mess that up. Again. So consider yourself on notice."
Grant swallowed, licking the remnants of chocolate first off his lips, then hers. "This calls for a celebration."
"We're celebrating Jamie and I being friends again?" Marley teased.
His eyes twinkled. "We're celebrating you and Jamie being friends again... and my managing not to fly off the handle about it for," he checked his watch, "Almost a full minute now."
"Your Herculean powers of self-control are truly swoon-worthy."
"You don't know the half of it," Grant pulled her into a kiss.
She cocked her head. "You've been holding out on me?"
"Only one way to find out." He sighed regretfully. "Unfortunately, we don't have time right now. I promised Lila and Kevin we'd meet them for dinner at TOPS."
"You must have been pretty confident I'd accept your apology," Marley pointed out.
"Either way, man's got to eat."
"Did I forget to mention Rule #3? Don't make plans for me without asking."
"It was Lila's idea."
"Ah... She wants to check us out."
"You up for it?"
"With you, Grant," Marley told him cryptically. "I'm up for anything."
"I really underestimated you all these years," Rachel damned Alice with faint praise after dropping by her apartment unannounced.
"You didn't," Alice assured. "I've changed. Thankfully."
"How dare you do this to Amanda? I know what you feel about me, but she's Mac's child, too. You claimed to love Mac once. Why would you want to hurt his daughter?"
"How in the world am I hurting Amanda?"
"Encouraging her to pursue Kevin."
"She loves him."
"And he's made it clear he isn't interested."
"Men have been known to change their minds in the past. Especially given the right incentive. How is Jamie, Rachel? I'm afraid I haven't spoken to him in weeks."
"He's fine," Rachel snapped. "I don't think he and Lorna have come up for air since he was let out of prison, but he's fine, if probably a little malnourished by this point."
Alice smiled. "I'm happy for him. For them. Please give Jamie my best the next time you see him."
"It didn't matter that I had Jamie," Rachel stopped beating about the bush. "Steve still loved you. He pined for you. And, ultimately, he went back to you. I spent years on the outside looking in, beating my head against the wall, hurting you, hurting Steve, hurting Jamie, hurting myself. All for nothing. I don't want that for Amanda."
"Refresh my memory, Rachel. Where was Steve driving to when he got run off the road and killed?"
"We were on our way to be married," Rachel dismissed.
"Yes, funny how you left that part out of your recapitulation. Guess all that butting your head against the wall finally paid off."
"I was Steve's second choice. I was always his second choice. If you hadn't run away again we never would have "
"Exactly," Alice stressed. "I ran away. That was my pattern and I take full, utter blame for it. I ran away to Paris when I found out about Jamie. I ran away to New York when your piece-of-work father made me believe you and Steve had resumed your affair. And I ran away to Chicago when I became convinced that, no matter what he swore up and down to me, Steve would never completely get you out of his system. I was a coward. I didn't stay and fight because I was too well mannered, too timid, and too damn scared. And so I lost the love of my life. We both lost him. If he hadn't been on the road that night with you.... I have cursed myself for it ever since. You say you don't want Amanda stuck on the outside looking in? Well, I don't want her looking back on her life and regretting not having done everything in her power to acquire the love she wanted, the love she deserved. When you first stormed in here, I was going to defend myself by saying this isn't about you. But that's not true. This is about you, in a way. This is about everything you taught me. Everything that I am now trying to pass on to Mac's and your daughter."
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