"You can turn around now," Lorna instructed Jamie as he stood on the balcony of their San Diego hotel suite, already wearing his own tuxedo for the evening ahead, but under strict orders not to peek until Lorna pronounced herself officially ready.
"Wow," Jamie took in Lorna's fire engine red designer cocktail dress which technically covered everything improper while clinging just enough in all the right places to suggest otherwise. "If the goal of that outfit was to make every other woman in attendance feel like Cinderella's ugly stepsister then, may I say, mission accomplished."
"The goal of this outfit was to make you want to immediately rip it off of me so that we wouldn't have to go to this thing."
"You present a most tempting offer," Jamie admitted as, to sweeten the deal, Lorna proceed to ply him with kiss after dizzying kiss while her hands plucked at the buttons of his dress shirt. "But I think I'll defer it for a couple of hours; give you a chance to enjoy your well-deserved accolades and me to strut in with the hottest woman in the room on my arm. Maybe I'll even throw in a few very inappropriate public displays of affection, you never know."
"Think those banquet tables are strong enough to hold us?"
He clarified, "I was intending less of a homerun and more like some second base action."
"Feels to me like you're ready to take a swing right now," Lorna teased, leaning into Jamie with a wicked grin. "Unless that's just something in your pocket."
He cleared his throat, producing a strangled mix of laugh and groan. "As you have so ingeniously observed, I am quite... ready. But, now that you mention it, there does happen to be something in my pocket, too."
"Yeah..." Lorna's amusement faded when her fingers identified the mystery object as a box of some sort; ring-shaped, unless Lorna was mistaken. She snatched her hand away as if singed. "Why Why do you have that?"
He smiled, vaguely puzzled. "Is this a trick question?"
"Do I look like I'm joking?"
"You You look... not... happy. I'm sorry, Lorna, but it can't come as a complete surprise to you that I might be thinking about "
"Doing it here? This weekend? And no, that wasn't a trick question," Lorna added when Jamie remained silent.
"Give me some credit," he attempted another smile, struggling to keep it light and Lorna from looking even more terrified. "I've got slightly better game than to propose to the woman I love while she's on a weekend business trip. I just I got the ring and I kind of like carrying it around. It makes me happy to know its there."
"So I don't have to be afraid of you.... Doing that.... This weekend?"
"Absolutely not. You have my word."
"Thank God," she granted herself permission to breathe again.
"You know, this isn't exactly the reception I was hoping for. What am I missing, Lorna? We're already living together. We talked about kids on our first date. You've seen me naked. Is it just that you don't want to get "
"I do," she hurried to reassure him. "I swear to you, Jamie, I do."
"But..." He helped her out with a transition word.
"Not yet. It's not that I don't love you. I love you so much, Jamie, frankly, it's a little ridiculous. But, I just need a bit more time."
He absorbed her message, then double-checked, "I should definitely keep the ring, though, right? You don't need me to sell it on eBay or melt it down or "
"Keep the ring. I'll I'll let you know when."
"Think it'll be sometime in this century?"
"Soon, Jamie. I promise you. Very, very soon. There are just a couple of... issues... I need to straighten out first."
"Is this a bad time?" Kevin hesitated outside the door to his daughter's apartment, lest he be interrupting something.
"No. It's fine. Come on in."
"Where is he?" Kevin asked cautiously, following her inside.
"I don't know," Jen admitted. "He said something about going to see Allie. But, I'm not sure how well that'll play at the Cory manse."
"Are you okay?"
"Me? I'm fine. Nothing happened to me."
"Your boyfriend just found out that "
"He told me about Allie being pregnant on our first date, believe it or not."
"Wow. You're... open-minded."
"Yeah. Apparently, that's not such a good thing."
"What?" Kevin asked, taken aback.
"Forget it; Long story." She settled down across from her dad. "How are you handling being stuck in the middle? I'd ask if you were in on GQ being Hudson's father from the start... but, I know better than that."
"I spent most of last night and this morning on the phone with Rick and Mindy. They're terrified."
"I can imagine."
"I tried calling Allie and GQ, too. Neither one's gotten back to me. Jenny, has GQ indicated what he intends to do about...."
"He wants to talk to Allie, first."
Kevin nodded thoughtfully and, for a long moment, the two of them sat in silence, each imagining and already dreading the anguish to come. Finally, Kevin shifted awkwardly in his seat and admitted, "GQ was only one of the issues I wanted to talk to you about, today. Chase Hamilton called me prior to Gregory's funeral. He said the autopsy turned up morphine in Gregory's system. And evidence that it had been administered topically by injection. You guys had a doctor's help with this. No Don't even try to deny it, I read the report myself. Chase is determined to find out who that doctor was, and to charge them with Physician Assisted Suicide, which happens to be a Class A felony."
"Oh," Jen said slowly, managing to turn the single syllable into several.
"I know you didn't want to turn on your friends, Jenny. And I respect that. But, this is different. If you guys give up the doctor's name, I can pretty much guarantee your own charges being dropped. A medical professional would be a much bigger get for him."
"No," Jen shook her head adamantly.
"Jenny!" Kevin interrupted, then just as abruptly lowered his voice to plead, "I saw you at the funeral yesterday. With Alice. When did you two become so close?"
"She... We.... Don't... please, I "
"Alice was the doctor who helped you, wasn't she? Wasn't she?"
"I'm not going to do this. I'm not. You can't make "
"Jenny, please. I'm not just your father, I'm also your lawyer. I need all the facts in order to defend you properly. But, you have my word as your lawyer that I will not do anything that contradicts your stated wishes. No matter how much I may want to as your father."
"Thanks," GQ said awkwardly when, in response to his text, Allie snuck out to meet him on the edge of the Cory property.
She shrugged. "I figured you wouldn't want to come up to the house."
"I didn't think I'd be let in."
"Mom and Grandma think they're protecting me. I don't need their protection. Not anymore. I used to think I did. I used to think I couldn't take of myself. That's why I gave Hudson up. I knew I wasn't ready to be his mother. I knew I'd mess it him up, just like mine did."
"Why didn't you tell me the truth, Allie?" GQ honestly wasn't badgering or even accusing, he just wanted to know.
"Because. You said we were a mistake. That meant Hudson was a mistake, too."
"You know I would have stepped up, you know that."
"Not because you wanted to. Just like being with me. You wanted to be with me. You even said so. But you cared more about how it would look or what people would think. You'd have taken responsibility for Hudson because you thought you had to. Gregory did it because he wanted to."
"It doesn't work that way, Allie. I'm Hudson's father. You don't get to wish that away."
"Rick and Mindy wanted him, too."
"I want him."
"Why?" she challenged, also merely curious. "You're no more ready to be a dad then I was to be a mom. You've got your degree, your job with Steven, and don't tell me Jen wants to "
"Jen has nothing to do with this."
"Hudson is happy where he is. Please don't take him away from Mindy and Rick. They're great parents. I even picked them in particular because Rick, his daughter from another marriage, she's half-Black, too. So Hudson will have a sister just like him."
"You think that's all there is to it? Just plop a kid in the vicinity of somebody the same hue, and everything's a-okay? There's a lot more to raising a Black child than "
"Hudson doesn't even look Black," Allie pointed out. She thought she was being reasonable. The expression on GQ's face in response suggested otherwise. Allie elaborated, "And if he doesn't look Black, then all the issues you talked about before "
"Hudson is Black," GQ corrected. "Just because he doesn't measure up to some Home Depot color-wheel notion you've got about what qualifies a person as African-American, that won't automatically negate centuries of culture and heritage."
"I'm sure Rick and Mindy "
"Mean well," GQ finished for her. "Lot of people mean well. And a lot more don't. Someone has to teach Hudson to differentiate between the two."
"Rick and Mindy can teach him."
"No," GQ shook his head sadly. "They can't. They wouldn't even know where to start. Not like I would."
Posing in front of the podium with her newly bestowed award and a crush of people that Lorna supposed she should be somewhat more excited about meeting, she failed to keep her gaze from drifting off to the side as, accepting sincere and resentful congratulations all the while, she searched the room for Jamie.
As promised, he'd sat patiently through her entire speech, despite how uninteresting it had to be for him, eyes locked exclusively on Lorna, looking so proud and pleased to be there with her that Lorna ultimately had to deliberately glance away; his devoted expression proved too distracting. It kept reminding her that behind a podium in front of a sweltering room full of drunken strangers was not where or with whom she wanted to be right now.
"My girl is a rock star!" Jamie cheered once Lorna finally made her excuses and pushed through the crowd to arrive, not much worse for wear, back at their table.
"Autograph line forms to the left," she leaned over to kiss him, only to stop short at the sight of a disturbingly familiar buxom redhead who seemed to have pasted herself as close as humanly possible to Jamie's side without actually crawling into his tuxedo. "Meg," Lorna sighed, suddenly exhausted and most certainly in no mood to play their old, familliar game. It might have been fun once upon a time, but not anymore.
Meg's bogus smile of salutation mirrored Lorna's. She brazenly rested her head briefly on Jamie's shoulder, rubbed his bicep appreciatively and relayed, "I was just telling your delectable Dr. Frame here about our infamous after-hours party at the hotel's private pool. Better booze, cooler people, scantier dress code...." Meg stood up, adjusting her deeply scooped top as if to illustrate the point. "Hope you can make it. Both of you, of course." She bent over, offering Jamie yet another preview of coming attractions, and whispered in his ear, loud enough to be heard several tables over, and certainly by Lorna sitting half a foot away, "You're much friendlier than the last poor doctor Lorna dragged to this shin-dig. Sexier, too. Just how does our PR Woman of the Year get so lucky?"
"I'm not your first sexy doctor?" Jamie asked, unable to suppress his grin as Meg slinked away, Lorna grumbling at her retreating figure. "I am deeply shocked and offended."
"What can I say?" Lorna took a sip of water, trying to lower her blood pressure. "I'm a sexy doctor magnet. There are some hospitals in the greater Chicago area I'm not even allowed into anymore. Causes too much of a disruption with the staff."
"Oh, yeah, I think I saw that list in the last New England Journal of Medicine." Jamie bumped Lorna playfully with his shoulder, ducking his head, forcing her to meet his eyes until she had no choice but to laugh. "So. How do I measure up against the previous sexy, curative throng? Meg is under the impression that I'm much friendlier."
"That's because she got her feelings hurt when Morgan refused to take her hotel key."
"Morgan?" Jamie cocked his head. "As in Winthrop? Cass' brother, Morgan?"
"I don't know Freeman, Fairchild or Stanley so, yeah, Morgan Winthrop."
"Was this at the same time you were also with Grant?"
"Nah. Couple of years later. After we'd both left Bay City. We crossed paths again and..."
"How in the world did I miss this development? Felicia and Cass must have been doing cartwheels when they heard you two were dating again."
"Didn't tell them. They were way too involved before, and we didn't need them sticking their supportive noses into our business. Ended up being a good call, because whatever Morgan and I thought we were doing, it didn't work out. At least we managed to stay friends this time around, which is more than we could say the last time. Now. How about less talking and more of that promised inappropriate public display of affection? Meg thinks you're sexy? She ain't seen nothing yet."
"Jenny told me you were the one who helped the kids with Gregory," Kevin saw no point in beating around the bush with his grandmother.
Standing inside of her apartment when an agitated Kevin refused to take a seat, she'd done the same Alice took a moment to absorb his words, then nodded thoughtfully. "I see..."
"Please don't hold it against her. I really put the screws to... "
"No, no," Alice agreed distantly. "Of course not. I would never..."
"You know that Chase Hamilton is on a tear. He's determined to prosecute."
"Yes. I'd read that. What... what's the potential penalty for... "
"Twenty years," Kevin admitted.
Another nod. And then, "So, basically, in my case, a life sentence?"
He avoided answering by posing a question of his own. "I May I ask you something?"
"Why did you do it? Jenny told me she came to you. But, why did you agree?"
"Because," Alice said simply. "My great-granddaughter asked me for help. And because I wasn't able to be there for you when you so obviously needed me. The least I could do was be there for her."
For a moment, Kevin appeared unsure of how to react. And then, seemingly surprising himself as much as her, he took a step forward and hugged Alice tightly. "Thank you... Grandma."
She didn't budge. Alice was afraid that one wrong move, one wrong breath even, and she would shatter whatever it was that had come over him. Kevin didn't budge either. He clung to Alice silently. Until she was finally able to accept and, tentatively at first, then gratefully, return his embrace.
When they stepped back from each other, Alice had tears in her eyes. But, she refused to let that distract her from the critical issue at hand.
"So," she cleared her throat. "Now what? Do I turn myself in or "
"No! No, please don't do that."
"If he's got me, Hamilton might be motivated to let the kids go. Am I right? It's not just Jen. It's Steven and Allie and Sarah, too. I could help them all. Even GQ. Maybe he and Allie could quicker resolve this predicament with Hudson, if they don't have a jail sentence hanging over their heads."
"Don't do anything just yet," Kevin begged. "There are still a few things I want to try. Motions, appeals. Maybe we'll be able to get out of this without you becoming involved at all."
"I did inject Gregory with morphine. He was in pain. I'm not ashamed of that."
"I know. But, give me a few days to "
Alice smiled and unexpectedly filled Kevin in, "Spencer asked me to marry him. I convinced him to give me a few days to make up my mind."
"Are you going to say yes?" Kevin wondered.
"It wouldn't be fair to now, would it?"
"Do it," Kevin urged. "If that's what you want, do it. Don't put your life on hold over this. You deserve better."
"Stop fondling my award," Lorna warned her former colleague, Vaughn, while Jamie stepped away for a moment to pick up their drinks from the bar.
"But, it's so shiny!" He gave the crystal a final pat and sighed longingly. "Some day..."
"You want it?" Lorna asked casually.
"Yeah, right. Like you weren't going to sleep all cuddled up with it tonight."
"My days of cuddling up with my awards are long behind me, thank God. I've got a better option these days."
"So Meg tells me. He seems nice. A doctor, no less! Our little Lorna's done pretty well for herself. Frame, huh? Any relations to Dean?"
Lorna nodded. "They're cousins."
"Ah. So you guys going to swing by and see him while you're in the area?"
Lorna's stomach lurched. "What?"
"Bakersfield's only a couple of hours away. Now, granted, judging by the way you two were acting on the dance floor, I'd say you weren't planning on venturing much further than the ice machine down the hall from your room, but "
"Dean is in Bakersfield?" Lorna felt like she was getting her information in slow motion.
"Yeah. You didn't know?"
"What the hell is he doing in Bakersfield?"
"Keeping a low profile. Writing commercial jingles, or so I hear." Vaughn whipped out his Blackberry, hitting a few keys and pinging the information in his address book over to Lorna. Her purse chimed to confirm receipt. "He's done some work for a couple of my West Coast guys. Still talented as hell, but I guess he's in pretty bad shape. Your sister and all... I'm sorry, I didn't mean to spring it on you like that. You okay? You look like you're going to pass out or something... I just figured you knew..."
|Receive email notification every time www.anotherworldtoday.com is updated|