"Because Gregory wasn't Hudson's real father," Allie said, and although, a second earlier it had seemed as if all the assembled mourners waiting for their cars on the sidewalk were busily engaged in their own individual conversations, as soon as the words were out of Allie's mouth, it were as if an off switch had been flipped, and she made her confession into total silence.
Rick and Mindy registered the implications of Allie's words first, exchanging horrified glances, then hurriedly looking around, as if hoping that perhaps no one else had heard.
Everyone had heard. Even the people whom it didn't concern in the slightest.
As for the ones whom it did...
Amanda's eyes widened with shock, but, instead of turning to Allie, she latched on to Kevin, who was standing off to the side with Lila, all but shoving her out of the way to ask, "What's Allie saying? Is it true? Kevin? Did you know about this?"
"It's true." Sharlene's voice rang frigid through the humid Indian summer air as she strode towards Allie. Her face unreadable, her demeanor utterly confident. She came to a stop only a few inches in front of Allie. Rachel, who'd been standing behind Allie, attempted to intervene, but Sharlene ignored her, focusing exclusively on the girl who'd helped her son die. "And it explains everything. Why you didn't keep him. I wracked my brain, trying to reconcile how Gregory could so cold-heartedly give up his own flesh and blood, the only child he was ever going to have. But, it wasn't Gregory. It was you. You, I have no trouble imagining being that cruel."
"That's enough, Sharlene," Rachel ordered, her sympathy for the occasion not enough to stand by while her granddaughter was attacked.
Sharlene looked at Hudson in Rick and Mindy's arms. For a moment, it appeared she might say something. But, then she simply turned and walked back towards the hearse, instructing the driver that they were ready to leave now.
GQ watched Sharlene tread past him without a second glance. Ever since Allie had said what she'd said, GQ had stood rooted to the spot, Jen clutching his arm in a combination of support, concern and restraint, peering up at him, waiting for some sort of reaction.
GQ was waiting, too.
He was waiting to think of the right thing to do, the right thing to say. He was staring at the oblivious baby boy in the striped yellow jumper, gurgling happily in his car seat. And at the terrified couple now holding on to him as if for dear life.
Finally, reluctantly, GQ shifted his attention to Allie.
She met his eyes, her expression a muddle of affirmation, defiance, apology, indifference.
GQ let go of Jen's hand and approached.
Once again, Rachel appeared ready to leap into the fray, but Allie shook her head. "It's okay, Grandma. I'm okay."
GQ wanted to say something. He wanted to pelt her with questions, to shake her, to demand to know how she could do this to him, how she could have lied like this, and why? Why did she feel she had to? Hadn't they... once upon a time....
But, when he opened his mouth, all that came out was, "Not Gregory's?"
Allie shook her head.
She hesitated, looking apologetically at Rick and Mindy, then nodding curtly just once.
Once was more than enough.
"My... son?" GQ repeated, gesturing from her to the baby.
"Our son," Mindy corrected. "Hudson is our son. I'm sorry but we "
"I never said it was okay." GQ looked over his shoulder at Kevin and demanded. "Isn't that right? If I never gave my okay.... "
"Then the adoption isn't legal," Jen finished in place of her temporarily speechless father.
Kevin regained his voice in time to suggest, "This isn't the time and it most certainly isn't the place. Let's all take the afternoon to calm down. Sleep on it. Tomorrow, we can meet in my office and straighten all of this out."
"He's six months old," Mindy said quietly, more to herself than anyone else. "You said the adoption would be final at six months. I've been waiting for such a long time for...."
"Not now," Rachel gestured towards the hearse carrying Gregory's body as it pulled away from the curb, followed in turn by Lucas and Felicia's car, Lorna and Jamie's, Frankie, Morgan and Charlie, Matt and Jasmine, Marley and Grant, Alice, Nick and Remy, Josie and Gary... all folks eager to not merely accompany the procession to the cemetery, but to get away and fast from the scene on the sidewalk. Only Carl, Steven and Sarah reminded, observing without comment, though not without personal opinion.
Despite what was going on in front of her, despite GQ and Rick and Mindy bearing down, waiting for Allie to say something, her attention was locked onto the hearse. She blinked her eyes and bit down on her lower lip, watching it disappear into the distance.
"I'm taking Allie home," Rachel made the decision when nobody else would. "She isn't up for this. Not now. Please, can't you all see that?"
GQ opened his mouth as if to say something, then thought better of it and merely shook his head, allowing Jen to lead him away as Rachel hustled Allie towards their car.
"Wait a minute," Rick called after them. "This isn't what about "
"I'll call you tonight," Kevin promised the Bauers. "We'll talk it all out then. I'll... explain your options."
"Options?" Mindy whimpered, as if it were the most dreadful word ever uttered.
"I'll see what I can do here," Kevin swore under his breath. "But, you two had better go."
"Would you like to tell me why you just did that?" Donna caught up to John sitting in the front seat of his car, watching his son's funeral procession pass by across the street, making no move to join them.
He smiled, utterly without merriment. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you."
"Try me, John." Donna was too emotionally exhausted by this point to feel amused by much of anything.
"It was something Carl said to me."
Donna was wrong. Apparently she did still possess the reserves to react. When it was something worth reacting about. "Are you out of your mind?"
"Probably," he conceded.
"Listening to Carl about anything..."
"He's lost three children to my one. Makes him an expert."
"What in the world did he say to you?"
"He said that blaming himself for his children's deaths... At least for the circumstances that led to..." John explained, "It's the only way he has to hold on to them."
"What?" Donna struggled to absorb the implications of Carl's unsolicited wisdom.
"It made sense, in a warped sort of way. It occurred to me that if everyone in that room knew that Gregory's death was my fault "
"It was not your fault," Donna resolved to never stop reiterating. "Your son had a horrible, degenerative, progressive disease. Nothing anyone could have done would have ultimately stopped it, and you know that."
John ignored her. "Then every time from now on that I bumped into one of them, I would think: They know... And it would be a connection between them and me and Gregory. Even if it were for just a split second, we'd both be thinking about him. He wouldn't be forgotten."
"Oh, John, no one will ever... "
"They will. I don't doubt that everyone who came to Gregory's funeral today was genuinely sorry for me and for Sharlene, and that they hated hearing about Gregory's death. Their tears were real, and so were their condolences. But, Gregory was not the center of their world, like he was mine. They are going to forget him. All of them will, even Allie. She probably doesn't believe that now, but she will. She's young... "
"And not very bright," Donna couldn't help adding.
John sighed, "She loved my son. A part of me has to be grateful to her for that."
"Sharlene won't rest until Allie is in prison. Steven, too."
John turned to look at Donna, pained in an entirely new way. "I'm sorry," he whispered. "I totally didn't think about Steven and... you."
"There was no reason to. Steven is your nephew. Gregory was your son."
"Sharlene seems to think that locking the kids up in jail will somehow make thing better."
"It won't," Donna shrugged helplessly.
"I know," John sighed. "But, I just don't have the strength to fight her. We each need to deal with this in our own way. If lashing out is even remotely helpful to her, if it takes away one iota of her pain..."
"You're a good man, John," Donna said and indicated the last car in the procession disappearing around the corner. "Now let's go and honor your son the way he deserves."
Sarah watched Rachel herding Allie into the car and told Steven, "We should go see if..."
"You want to talk to Allie, be my guest," Steven turned his back on the entire scene. "I'm going back to the dorms."
"Are you serious? Allie's our friend. She's your cousin. She could probably use "
"I don't particularly care what Allie could use right now. And, for the record, GQ is my friend, too."
"Oh," Sarah thought she finally had it figured it out. "So you're going all bros before ho's on me?"
"Bros before..." He shook his head in disbelief. "She lied to him about his own kid!"
"You have no idea what Allie went through. You don't know what it's like to be knocked up and jerked around by a guy who's made it clear he doesn't want you."
"You're right. I don't. What I do know is what it's like to have a mother who plays games with her kids' lives all because she doesn't like who their fathers turned out to be. My mom did it to my dad, and boy, did she do it with Kirkland. Like Allie, she decided that Grant wasn't father material. So she hid Kirk with Jake and Paulina. Scratch that: She dumped him in the backseat of their car while she borrowed another poor kid and tried to pass him off as Grant's. Guess as long as it wasn't her baby he was warping, she was fine with it."
"I'm sure your mother thought she was doing what was best for Kirkland."
"Jesus Christ," Steven exploded. "Do you have any idea how tired I am of hearing that same excuse over and over? No one ever means for things to explode in their faces. I'm sure my grandmother didn't mean for Jenna to die. I'm sure Sharlene and John didn't mean to push their son away. And I know none of us meant to cause them any pain by helping Gregory, but we did!"
"Allie isn't your mom," Sarah cajoled softly. "Don't we owe it to her to hear Allie's side of the story before we rush to judge anybody?"
"How about Hudson's side of the story? Does anyone care about that? You want to know what kind of Hell is in store for that kid now? Take a look at my brother."
"Kirkland seems fine," Sarah observed timidly.
"He's got two dads, three homes, and no mom. Every day, Kirkland still pays for the rotten choices our mother made. And it'll be the same with Hudson. Whatever Allie was thinking, it wasn't about her kid or what she was setting him up for by starting Hudson's life out on a lie."
"I hear what you're saying, I do, and I understand. But could you look at it from Allie's point of view? Just for a minute? Look at everything she's been through over the past few weeks. I wouldn't be surprised it it's only beginning to hit her now what's she done and how many people she's hurt. She's going to need her friends and her family to give her support. I'm not asking you to pick sides."
"Sure sounds like you are."
Sarah asked, "Do you hate your mom for what she did to you and Kirkland?"
"I don't hate my mother," Steven said slowly, deliberately, and so coldly that it made Sarah wonder if she'd gone too far and pushed him further than Steven could take. "I do, however, hate what she did. To all of us."
"Exactly," Sarah pressed on, even as her stomach churned beneath Steven's cryptic gaze. "You may not have liked what Vicky did, but you still loved and supported her. Can't you do the same for Allie?"
"Why is this so important to you? Allie has Amanda and Grandma and a trust fund for legal bills... I'm pretty sure she doesn't give a damn whether or not I've got her back."
"Because," Sarah said. "Maybe if I hadn't frozen Allie out last year, if I'd been there for her, none of this might have happened. The least I can do is be there for her now. If you can't do it for Allie, do it for me. Help me help her. I know it's asking a lot, but she's my friend. And you're... I love you, Steven. I don't know if I can do this without you."
Amanda arrived back at the house only a few minutes after her mother and daughter, but it felt like she'd walked into a conversation that had been going in circles forever.
"I wanted to go to the cemetery," Allie pouted. "You should have let me go."
Rachel took a deep breath, seemingly to keep from strangling the girl Amanda was uncomfortably familiar with the impulse and reiterated through clenched teeth, "Allie. You are my granddaughter, and when it comes to outsiders attacking I will defend you to the death. But, considering the bombshell you just dropped on Sharlene, you showing up at the burial would have been grossly inappropriate."
"I promised Gregory..."
"Did Gregory know?" Amanda interrupted. "About Hudson not being his?"
Allie nodded. "He knew. He's the one who offered to take responsibility. I didn't want him to, at first. He talked me into it. He was the most amazing person I ever met, Mom."
"Can you explain to me, Allie, why you felt it necessary to lie in the first place? And, while we're on the subject: Why is this the first I'm hearing about you and GQ? I certainly hope you didn't think we'd be against it him because he... because he's... "
"Black," Allie prompted. "It's okay to say the word."
"Of course it's okay to say the word," Amanda fired back, embarrassed. "I didn't mean Why didn't you tell me you and GQ were... dating?"
"Because we weren't. Not really. I mean, in Italy.... "
"This has been going on since you went to Italy? That was over two years ago!"
"And unless you have the gestation of an elephant," Rachel said dryly. "I'm going to guess that something also happened back on American soil."
"It did," Allie admitted. "But... I had my reasons, okay?"
"For lying to a man about his being the father of your baby?"
"Guess it runs in the family."
"Allie!" Amanda rebuked sharply despite more or less having thought the same thing.
Rachel remained unperturbed. "I've made a lot of mistakes in my life, Allie. And I've suffered the consequences. I'd hoped at least one benefit of my suffering might've been you getting the chance to learn from it."
"How is me, GQ and Gregory any different from you, Mitch Blake and my grandfather?"
"That's none of your business," Rachel stressed. "And not the issue at the moment."
"You know what I don't get? If I'd gone ahead and gotten an abortion like Mom pushed me to, GQ wouldn't have been able to say boo about it. But, if I want to give Hudson up for adoption on my own, I can't. That's pretty messed up, if you ask me."
"Feel free to petition your congressmen," Rachel suggested. "In the meantime, that's the law, and you've broken it. You are in very big trouble, Allie."
Driving back from Gregory's interment, Lucas momentarily took his eyes off the road to ask, "Are you alright, Fanny?"
"No," she shook her head. She told him, "With Jenna, I was too scared to leave Lori Ann. I honestly believed my sitting there, breathing every breath along with her, was the only thing keeping her going. So, I didn't even do a memorial service. Just a quick, private burial. Me, Lorna, Cass... Dean was gone by then. We tried to find him, but.... "
"I wish I could have been there for you."
"Poor John. He and Sharlene should be supporting each other through this, but it looks like they can't, each one wrapped up in their own private Hell."
"You and John were... close... at one time," Lucas wasn't so much asking as confirming that he knew.
"So were you and Sharlene," she reminded.
"That wasn't the same thing."
She shrugged. "It doesn't matter."
"It does," Lucas insisted. "Just not the way you think. You wouldn't be the woman I love if you were capable of turning your back on someone you once cared about. John is suffering right now. If you feel you need to reach out to him, don't hesitate, certainly not on my account. I don't want you to think that you have to hide aspects of yourself from me. That's not how I intend for us to live out the remainder of our lives. What you told me earlier, about Lorna and... "
Felicia shook her head. "I can't believe I said that. I was sitting next to her a few hours ago, looking at Gregory's coffin and at John and Sharlene and thinking: How could I have said such a horrible thing about my own child?"
Lucas revealed, "I saw you take her hand."
"I couldn't believe she let me," Felicia confessed.
"We are going to make this work, Fanny. Finally, after forty years, we are going to make you, me, and Lorna work as a family."
"You have no idea how much I want that," she swore, while simultaneously dismissing from her mind the earlier conversation with Carl and how his plans for Donna could possibly upset everything.
It wasn't until they were getting ready for bed that Rachel gently prodded Carl, "I saw the look on your face as Allie was telling GQ about Hudson. You didn't say anything."
"It wasn't my place," Carl pointed out.
"Earlier today, Allie compared herself, GQ and Gregory to me, Mitch and Mac. But, I suspect you were thinking of a different scenario."
His face darkened and it took a moment of extra effort for Carl to regain control. "The parallels are there. Naturally, I couldn't help noticing them."
"Allie says she had her reasons for doing what she did."
"I have no doubt about that. Justine had her reasons. Donna...."
"I had my reasons, too," Rachel said softly.
"You see yourself in her actions?"
"How can I not? I lectured Allie about learning from my mistakes. But, I certainly didn't. After everything I put Jamie through with Russ and Steve, a couple of years later, there I was doing the same to Matt and Mac and Mitch. I can't pretend both of my sons didn't suffer because of me. I'd venture to say, on some level, they're suffering still."
"Except that, in Allie's case, there's a third element: The Bauers."
"They didn't do anything wrong. And they might end up paying the steepest price of all for Allie's deception."
"Mr. Todd did make a point of stressing that his parental rights had been violated."
"It was practically the first thing he said," Rachel agreed. Then, nervous primarily because she suspected she already knew what Carl's answer would be Rachel asked, "What would you do if you were in GQ's shoes?"
Carl seemed surprised that she would even raise the issue. Nonetheless, he answered honestly and automatically. "I would go to court and I would see to it that my son was returned to me post-haste. And then I would focus on... dealing... with his mother."
The entire afternoon and evening following Gregory's funeral, GQ couldn't stop talking about Allie.
Not Allie and what she'd done with Hudson, but the Allie GQ had known back in Italy.
"She didn't used to be like this," he swore to Jen even after they'd returned to her apartment. "She used to be this really sweet girl. I don't think she ever lied to me, not once, the whole time we were together. One of the reasons she got so mad at me in the first place is because I wanted to keep our relationship a secret, and she didn't like that."
"You wanted to keep your relationship a secret?" Jen double-checked. "Why?"
"Because I was embarrassed," GQ admitted, part sheepish, part defiant. "All my life I talked a really good game about how Black men in America are turning their backs on Black women; one of out every ten marrying outside the race. Add to that how there are currently more Black men in jail than in college, and the chances of an educated African-American woman finding an African-American man of her intellectual and social level are miniscule. There is so much disrespect going on. I swore I wasn't going to be part of the problem, that I'd be part of the solution."
"So," Jen indicated the two of them. "This... We're... what? A social service?"
"No! No, I didn't mean it like that!"
"You doing me a favor, then?"
"Could we not play this right now, Jen? Please? You're about ten times smarter than me on my best day. This is just kicking a guy when he's down."
"Sorry," she backed down immediately, rarely aware that she was being a bully until it was actually pointed out to her. "You answered my question. We can parse it out later."
He smiled gratefully and finished his original thought. "So, after all my self-righteous declarations and grandstanding, what happens? I go to Italy for a semester, and I fall for this white girl. This beautiful, sweet, warm.... I really did fall for her. It wasn't simply a matter of me being in a strange place among strange people, and her being a reminder of home. I kept telling myself that's what it was for the longest time, but it wasn't. I saw Allie back in Bay City and, bam, I had to face it: What we had was real. I missed her. I I still loved her."
"But, you wanted to keep it a secret."
"Yeah. I guess you could say I wanted to stay in the closet." GQ remembered his conversation with Chase Hamilton on the subject and imagined the D.A. would get quite a kick out of his most recent confession. "Allie got offended."
"You don't think she had a right to be?"
"Allie is a lot of things. But, she isn't exactly hip to the way the world works. This was as much for her protection as for mine."
"Oh, get over yourself. I've dated plenty of white guys "
"You ever date any Black ones before me?"
"No..." Jen stumbled only briefly, refusing to be knocked off course. "But, we never had any problems. Well, those kind of problems."
"Sure. Because that's a familiar scenario. Nobody minds the plantation model "
"Are you kidding me?"
"It's different when the guy is Black, just trust me on that. White men see you as a threat. And some of them aren't shy about expressing their displeasure."
"I'm sorry, but your playbook is way out of date."
"It's not," GQ insisted. "You grew up in New York. The rest of the country isn't New York. I know the kind of world my son is going to grow up in. I can prepare him for it. The Bauers, no matter how well-meaning, can't."
His mentioning Rick and Mindy stopped Jen in her tracks. Hesitantly, she asked GQ, "Does that mean you've made up your mind? Are you going to take Hudson away from his parents?"
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