"I told you, Donna, I'm fine. Leave me alone," Marley stubbornly shoved away her mother's ministrations, despite Donna having walked in on Marley, moist-eyed and raw-nosed, in the Bay City University Hospital Ladies' Room.
"I will not." Donna, proving that stubbornness was a well-worn family trait, wet a paper towel and reached over again to blot Marley's face, only to have her hand slapped away for a second time. "What happened, darling? What are you doing here? Is there a problem with one of the children? No one tells me anything anymore. This is just like when Steven was hospitalized. I had to find out from "
"Steven's fine. They're all fine." Marley snapped. "I came here to see Jamie. I wanted to check on how he was doing. How he was holding up after... everything."
"And how is he?"
"Down the hall," Marley yanked a compact out of her purse and began touching up her face. "Go see for yourself."
Anger always being proportional to hurt, Donna took a guess that didn't feel at all wild. "Did the two of you have a fight?"
"No. Just a.... tiny disagreement. Between friends."
"Regarding whether or not Lorna has been playing him for a fool. I voted 'Yes,' while Jamie, no surprise, voted 'No'." Marley paused from applying her make-up, turning to Donna with a sudden, all too controlled calm. "Lorna's pregnant."
"Oh." Donna groaned inwardly, knowing how much the news had to be hurting Marley. Desperate not to overreact for her daughter's sake; and well, her own, as well, Donna didn't want Marley projecting her unavoidable anger onto her she kept her voice flat and merely restated, "Lorna and Jamie are having a baby?"
"Not exactly. Lorna and Morgan are having a baby. But, it's okay. They're married," Marley explained to a confused Donna. "And have been for some time, apparently."
"But, I thought she and "
"Jamie. Yeah. Turns out Lorna was lying to him the whole time. Hence, my vote about him being played for a fool."
"Well, Jamie, he... he makes it all too easy, unfortunately."
"That's only because he has an open, loving, loyal heart. It makes him vulnerable to women who'll use and ultimately hurt him. Women like Lorna."
"Be that as it may, darling, it's not your place to... How do you know this? About Morgan and Lorna being married, I mean?"
"Jamie told me. He's taking Morgan to court to assert his parental rights."
"Well, then obviously Jamie believes the child to be his."
"Of course he does. He needs to believe that. Even after I told Jamie that I saw Morgan and Lorna together. She was kissing him."
"You did? When? Where?"
"It doesn't matter," Marley said quickly, twigging Donna's radar even further. "The point is, I saw them. When I told Jamie, though, he refused to believe it. He refused to believe me."
"Darling, the two of you... you haven't really been close for some time now. What with Jamie moving on to Lorna, and you with Grant."
"So what? So we both began seeing other people? Does that mean we can't be friends anymore? Jamie and I have been in each other's lives for over twenty years. What's his couple of months shacked up with her, compared to..." She checked herself. "Why am I even talking to you? You're the reason we're all in this damned mess in the first place."
"What? I'm sorry, Marley, I don't understand what you mean by that."
"Nothing," Marley dismissed, gathering her things. "Forget I said anything. Forget this entire conversation. Go back to whatever it is you do these days, and leave me the hell alone."
"No," Donna said firmly, even as Marley shrugged in response, doing her best to appear carefree, and blew out the door. Leaving Donna to remember the last time her daughter had stewed in a similar emotional state over a long-ago lost love, and the woman she saw as a rival for his affection. It had nearly destroyed their entire family then.
"But, never again," Donna promised herself. And Victoria, too. "Not on my watch..."
"We've got this down to changing-of-the-guard precision," Felicia thought bitterly to herself as, right on the hour, she and Morgan exited Lorna's room, passing by Jamie on his way in, barely a hairsbreadth between the three of them, all without a word or a look being exchanged. They hadn't discussed the schedule, it simply happened. After they'd realized they could no longer bear to share the same space at the same time without devolving into threats and accusations and, in Felicia's case, tears.
When she looked at Jamie now, she no longer saw her dear friend's son or even the doctor who'd once treated Lucas and Jenna. All Felicia saw was the man who might very well cost Felicia her child. It did grieve her to realize that Jamie probably viewed her in the exact same way.
But, there was nothing Felicia could do about that. Her priority was Lorna. Her daughter's life was on the line. This was no time for sentiment or even reason. It was a time for action.
Despite Morgan's presence, despite his steadfast support and his willingness like hers to do anything necessary to bring Lorna back, Felicia still couldn't help wishing that it were another Winthrop by her side right now. She wanted Cass. She needed him.
Apparently so much that, somehow, Felicia actually made him materialize in the waiting area before her.
She was too shocked to speak, too shocked to even let her jaw drop. Instead, Felicia stood frozen to the spot, just staring at him, dumbfounded.
It was Morgan who managed to put her sentiment into words. "What the f "
"Language," Cass wagged a finger warningly at his brother. "There are ladies present."
Alas, the lady in question could only point to Morgan and murmur, "What he said."
"I'm back," Cass told Felicia. "I'm back for good."
The rest of his explanation came out muffled through a rush of hugs, kisses, handshakes and repeated cries of "I don't believe it!" and "Spencer? Really?" until the three of them were sitting, facing each other, Felicia clutching both Cass' hands between her own to insure his staying put. Now it was her and Morgan's turn to explain what had happened in Cass' absence, Lorna's accident... and her heretofore undisclosed marriage.
"Frankie filled me in, but I kept thinking she must have missed something. I don't get it. Why wouldn't you tell us about you and Lorna? And now a baby? Your baby?"
Morgan ducked the question, focusing on, "Lorna and I had our reasons. But, it wasn't because we thought you'd have any objections."
"I should hope not!"
"It doesn't matter now in any case," Felicia swore. "The only thing that matters is we're all finally united to make sure Lorna gets well, and she can go on with her life."
"Count me in," Cass said. "My license to practice law may be revoked, but I still know a trick or two. If Stacey needs any help with research or grunt-work, I'm your man."
"Thanks," Morgan said, adding cryptically. "I don't want to leave any stone unturned. I intend to fight Jamie with everything I've got."
Cass picked up on the odd tone in his brother's voice, head jerking around. "And what's that supposed to mean, exactly?"
Morgan shrugged. "It means curling up and dying isn't my thing. Not when it comes to someone I care about."
"Like it was mine, you mean."
"Cass..." Felicia warned. "Morgan...."
"You could have fought," the younger Winthrop reminded. "You could have gone to trial, pleaded your case, spared Frankie and the girls.... "
"What? Spared them what? Sitting in court day after day, listening as my entire sordid past with Cecile not to mention a host of other sins was dragged out and dissected? Reading about my crimes in the paper? Knowing that everyone else was reading it, too? Hearing Maggie Cory cry about her dead mother? Should I have called Sandy and Jamie and Dennis to the stand? Forced them confess their secrets in order to protect my own ass? Should I have put their families through it, too? Cecile's death was on my hands, no one else's. I am the only one who deserved to suffer over what I did."
"But, you weren't, that's the whole point. Your speech is nice and noble. I'm sure you had a lot of time in the clink to get it just right. Too bad it's all a crock. You may think you did the righteous thing by copping a plea. But, you weren't here. You didn't see Frankie losing her mind, rushing around like a chicken with her head cut off, trying to keep her family together. You didn't see Charlie getting more and more sullen, more and more withdrawn, or Lori Ann crawling through the house, looking for you, crying when you weren't anywhere to be found. Face it, Cass. You took the easy way out. You chose to play martyr, instead of truly taking responsibility for what you'd done."
"I don't need this." Cass stood up, telling Felicia, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry you had to hear that. It's the last thing you need right now."
"It's alright. Please, Cass, sit down. Morgan was just "
"Being a self-righteous prick. That's nothing new." He bent to kiss Felicia on the cheek. "Please keep me posted about Lorna. Anything I can do, anything at all, don't hesitate to ask. I would never," he indicated Morgan. "Hold your daughter's lousy taste in men against her."
"Uh-oh," Lila observed while she studied Kevin's face when he stood up to greet her as she approached their lunch table. "You really meant what you said about us sharing the crappy parts of our lives with each other, didn't you?"
"I'm afraid so," he took his seat and proceeded to become deeply engrossed in the forks.
"I think I know what this is about."
"You do?" His head bobbed up nervously.
"Yes." She sighed, spreading the linen napkin across her lap. "It's Jasmine, isn't it?"
"She was very rude to you at Christmas."
"She was? I'm sorry, I didn't notice. She wished me a happy holiday, she wondered if she could get me something to drink, and then she went off to open her gifts. She even thanked me for the purse I got her. I hope she liked it. I confess I was a little stumped about what to buy. Then Jen advised that I remember her at twelve years old... and get the exact opposite."
"And what did your little girl want for Christmas when she was twelve?"
"A Skinner box," Kevin acknowledged.
"It's a testament to how low standards for manners have gotten these days that Jasmine offering the bare minimum comes off as above and beyond the call of politeness duty. I know my daughter. She can do better. She simply chose not to."
"I don't blame her. At her age, I was a million times worse."
"That was your grandmother's problem. Jasmine is mine. I'll speak to her."
"Please don't. She has every right to dislike me. Besides, after what I'm about to say, you'll have every right to dislike me, too."
"Oh," Lila said. "Oh..."
"I'm sorry, Lila. I am truly, truly sorry. I tried to put this out of my mind. But, I also promised to be honest with you. And I would hate for this to fester and come between us. When Amanda "
"Oh, Lordy, her again," she threw both hands up in the air. "What is wrong with the two of you? I've seen bitches in heat exhibit more self-control."
"This isn't We didn't It's not what you think."
"Then what the hell, Kevin? What did Amanda do now?"
"She had one of her reporters look into who made the anonymous phone call that got Alice arrested."
"The call came from the Cory house. And, except for Amanda and Allie, you were the only other person there who knew that my grandmother was involved."
"Thanks for the coffee," Jamie said to Alice, clutching a thermos of caffeine and sugar in one hand, his other remaining entwined with Lorna's fingers. "I think I've personally depleted the machine on this floor."
"I'm just sorry I wasn't able to stop by sooner."
"Don't worry about it, I remember the drill. Not that we don't believe in innocent until proven guilty, Doctor, but, until the... unpleasantness is cleared up, please refrain from setting foot in the hospital." He smiled weakly. "At least that mess has been settled."
"For us. For John and Sharlene, not to mention Allie.... Anyway," she maneuvered away from that minefield to indicate, "I brought you some food, too."
"Not really hungry."
"Even if I tell you that Kirkland chased Spencer's cook out of her own kitchen in order to get this ready for you over at our house."
Jamie scowled. "He shouldn't have done that."
"Don't worry, the cook got over it. She was even impressed by the end there. You have a very charming son. As for the rest, Kirkland wanted to. Frankly, it helped him, having something productive to do, since you won't let him come near here."
"There's nothing for him to do here."
"There's supporting his father."
"It's not Kirk's job to support me."
"No, it isn't. It's his right and his privilege, same as it is for all the people who love you. Only you're dead set on denying us. Russ told me how you all but shove him out the door if he dares inquire how you're doing. And I know your mother, Jamie. If Rachel had her way, she'd be staked outside Lorna's door, ready to supply anything you need."
"That would kind of make it awkward for all the other patients' families on the floor."
"I'm fine. Really. I don't need "
"Sweetheart, you know better than to say those words to me. I recognize all your defense mechanisms by now."
"Then you also know that I feel having people hover "
"Makes it harder for you to hide and keep your feelings contained. Which is the last thing you should be doing. You are under tremendous stress. Felicia and Morgan "
"Alice," Jamie cut her off, his voice sharp yet pleading, his eyes darting nervously to Lorna "Not now. Please. I'm trying to stay positive. If Lorna is listening..."
"I hope she is. Hearing what you're going through may prove just the thing to rally her awake, if only so she can slap some sense into you herself."
"Or send her deeper into a coma. Who'd want to wake up and deal with a mess like me?"
"If I know that the quieter you get, the worse off you are, don't you think Lorna knows it, too? Put yourself in her place, Jamie. Your silence has to be tormenting her. But there is nothing she can do about it."
"If Lorna wants to know what's on my mind," Jamie flipped Alice's challenge. "She can wake up and ask me herself. Or better yet, try to decipher the problem from one of my many trademark-pending Frame faces."
"Faces? There are several now?"
"So Lorna says."
"In that case, if I were to hazard a guess at what your face is telling us "
"That's for Lorna to puzzle out, Alice. Not you."
" I'd venture to say that you're scared, exhausted, and feeling "
"Don't." Jamie shook his head, knowing exactly what Alice was going to say.
She said it anyway. "What's happened, sweetheart... it wasn't your fault."
"I know. It was some bastard, probably drunk, definitely cowardly, who "
"And it's not some delayed punishment being meted out, either," she finished softly.
"I got greedy, damn it!" Jamie shot back, unable to hold it in anymore. "I forgot... I started to forget everything that's happened and I began to believe..."
"What? What did you believe?"
"That I could be happy. That I could... that the past was the past."
"It is the past. Jamie, what happened to Lorna is not a punishment or a reminder "
"I know how this sounds, okay? Lorna is the one fighting for her life, and I'm so egotistical, I'm making it all about myself. But it was too easy, Alice. How quickly Lorna and I... I should've known. But, I was fool enough to tempt fate. I got her a ring. I was going to ask her to marry me. The night she got hurt. I was going to ask her to marry me."
"None of this is your fault," Alice repeated staunchly, all but shaking Jamie for good measure.
"I made the call for an MRI over a CAT-Scan."
"A decision that Russ or I or any number of doctors would've confidently made under the same circumstances. Listen to me, Jamie. Lorna will recover from this. Not only for her sake and yours, but, most of all, for your baby's. Though until that happens, you are going to have to take care of yourself. You're going to eat, sleep, brush your teeth, maybe even take an occasional shower. And you are going to let the people who love you, help. Otherwise, you won't be in any shape to do what needs to be done for Lorna and for your daughter. Agreed?"
Jamie took in Alice's inflexible expression before conceding with a thankful, exhausted smile. "Agreed."
"I'm going to request something of you, Rachel," Carl began. "Something that you will undoubtedly, unequivocally abhor supporting."
"Well, when you put it like that, I'm all ears." Rachel pasted on a forced smile. Because the alternative would be to submit to her terror. And she was saving that for later.
"I am asking you to allow me to become what I once was, what I must be again, in order to adequately protect our family against enemies who may have already begun to strike."
Rachel's false smile fell to genuine bafflement. "What are you talking about? What enemies?"
"We've discussed previously the ramifications of Donna utilizing the compound for her schemes, as well as the potential danger of Lucas publicly rejoining the land of the living post his...exploits of the past decade."
"I was under the impression that you'd negotiated protection for everyone involved." She raised an eyebrow at his silence. "Are you saying the agreement has been broken?"
"Lucas believes Lorna's accident may have been a message meant for him. A reminder that his former associates have yet to settle the debt resulting from his betrayal."
"And what do you believe? Better yet, what do you know, Carl?"
"Accidents of Lorna's nature, especially ones with no easily discernible perpetrator, are not an unusual means of communicating or settling grievances," Carl hedged. "I am not a man to live in hope, I require certainty. If this was, in fact, an action undertaken by my old cohorts, I mean to find out."
"To what end?" Rachel asked and then answered with the obvious. "So that you can... diffuse the threat."
"So that I can see to it that our families, our children, never come to harm from that, or any other corner."
Rachel absorbed this for a moment before finally replying, "Do it."
Only a lifetime of Zen meditation and playing his cards close to the vest kept Carl's face expressionless as he clarified, "I am sorry, Rachel, what did you just say?"
"I said, do it." Her voice rang steely. "It's bad enough that Lorna was hurt. But, Jamie could have just as easily been in the car with her. Or Steven or Kirkland. Find out who did this to us, and then take whatever steps you need to insure it never happens again."
"Do realize something, my dear, if I engage a single enemy, I am compelled to engage them all. Toppling one merely allows another to rise. This, by necessity, must be "
"An all out war," Rachel finished grimly.
"Yes. Effective immediately. My mere inquiry into the matter will be perceived as a slight. It should be more than enough of an insult to incite my foes."
"Then don't insult them. Charm them. Persuade them. Make them understand that blood being shed won't benefit anyone!"
"I will do my best, of course. Alas, this element is unpredictable. Arrogant. Stupid. I will not lie or insult your intelligence by suggesting that my words alone might hold them at bay."
"But your actions..." Rachel choked out in disgust. "The old Carl..."
"Allow me to protect our family. And forgive me the sins I must commit in doing so."
"So, in a nutshell, you are asking me to condone "
"Anything. Everything." He swore, "I regret having put you in this position. But the choices and decisions that brought us here are long in the past. The only ones remaining are those before us today. To protect the family by any means at our disposal or to leave ourselves open to devastation."
"Us or them?" Rachel shuddered at the summation.
"Us or them," Carl confirmed.
"Ms. Love," Jeanne's voice trilled nervously over the phone in Donna's office at WOAK-TV. "I'm afraid we have a bit of a situation here. I'm wondering if you could come out and deal with it?"
Donna did as requested, stepping into the reception area to encounter Jeanne standing with Toni Burrell, who was holding a piece of paper she identified as a warrant.
Toni tapped the relevant passage with her finger and translated the legalese for Donna, "This states that you are to turn over all raw footage from the camera that followed Grant Harrison during WOAK's Election Day web-cast, in service to the ongoing investigation into the hit and run of Lorna Devon and Morgan Winthrop."
"And if I refuse to comply?" Donna asked, as if merely curious.
"Then you will be immediately charged with contempt of court. Which, considering your rather tentative legal status on a few other criminal matters, I would strongly advise you against doing, Ms. Love."
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