"What?" Ensconced within a guest room in the Cory mansion, Lorna, hair and make-up already professionally done for the wedding, though waiting to put on her dress until the last possible minute in order to get a few more breaths of unrestricted, unquenched air, grabbed her insistently ringing cell-phone.
"You sound stressed," Morgan diagnosed from across town.
"What do you want?"
"To say hello," he chirped. "And good-bye. It isn't every day I get to watch my ex-wife walk down the aisle to another man."
"Please don't make me regret inviting you, Morgan."
"I wasn't going to come," he revealed. "But then Amanda... you know about that us?"
"Matt told Jamie last night. What are you fishing for, an upgrade to the family table?"
"I just wanted to make sure it was okay with you."
"I'm getting married, Morgan. I can hardly object to you bringing a date. Although," Lorna figured as long as he was soliciting her opinion. "She really isn't your type, you realize that, right?"
She could hear Morgan grinning even through the phone. "At least one thing hasn't changed. You're still looking out for me."
"You're my friend," Lorna said simply. "Just because I'm in love with Jamie, that doesn't mean I've stopped caring about my friends."
"I don't know what I'd do without you," he confessed, no longer glib. "I told the judge that, in court."
"Yeah, way to break the mood. I've kind of been trying to suppress that entire incident."
"That's why I called, Lorna. I wanted to I wanted to say... I wanted to wish you the best. You, Jamie, the baby... You deserve to be happy. I'm just sorry I couldn't be the one to... " He sighed, breaking off yet another incoherent sentence mid-stream to merely offer, "Good luck today."
"Thank you," she said softly. "Thank you for everything. You were there when I really needed you. When I was completely at loose ends, you offered a lifeline. I'll never forget that, Morgan."
"I'll see you in a little bit," he said, and hung up the phone.
Rachel stood at the entrance to the Eastern Rose Garden, wearing the near-traditional, peach tea-gown that designated her the Mother of the Groom, greeting each of the guests as they arrived.
Carl hovered off to the side, straddling the fine line between being Rachel's husband and most definitely not the host of the occasion. It was his wedding gift to Lorna and Jamie. In addition to a 12-piece set of Royal Copenhagen dinnerware from the Flora Danica line. (Retail price: $1500. A plate.)
"Hello, Charlie," Rachel shook hands with Kirkland's date. "Don't you look lovely, dear," before moving on to the figure behind her. "Mr. Hamilton," Rachel said with some surprise, "Hello."
"He's with me," Lila explained quickly, shuffling Chase off to the side before either Rachel or Carl could think of a follow-up question.
Luckily, their attention was distracted by Amanda arriving, accompanied by Morgan.
"Everything looks beautiful, Rachel," he complimented Jamie's mother. "You've really outdone yourself. And on such short notice, too."
"Hmm," Rachel said, her eyes narrowing as she kept her hostess smile plastered on for all the world to see. To Amanda, she wondered, "Do you really think this is appropriate, darling?"
"If Lorna has no problem with it..."
"Lorna isn't the only one getting married today. Perhaps you remember that your brother is the other half of the happy couple?"
"If Jamie gets to usurp the spot where you married my father in order to exchange vows with the woman who broke up my marriage," Amanda's eyes drifted briefly to Carl. "Among other things. I should get to pick who I bring along to help me endure it. No?"
"That was rather bitchy," Morgan observed as they moved along, not so much judging as appreciating.
"That," Amanda corrected. "Was about as nice as I could make it. Do you have any idea how tired I am of being shoved aside for Jamie's feelings and Jamie's problems?"
"No," Morgan admitted. "But, I think I'm starting to."
"Morgan is here?" Lucas asked Rachel, as if he couldn't believe his eyes. "I knew that Lorna invited him, but I thought he'd have..."
"The grace to politely decline?" Carl offered.
Lucas didn't appear particularly thrilled to be on the same wavelength as Carl, but he did bob a brusque nod of agreement towards the sentiment's general direction.
"You look wonderful, Felicia," Rachel patted her friend's arm generously. As Mother of the Bride, Felicia had chosen what in her world was an unobtrusive, not meant to upstage the wedding party, lilac, floor length taffeta lace with corresponding jacket and broad-rimmed hat. And veil.
"As for you," Rachel knelt to acknowledge Lori Ann. "You are going to be just about the prettiest flower girl of all time."
Lorna's niece, dressed in a white, satin sleeveless dress with matching tulle sash and tie-backs, a crimson trim and flower pinned to the waist and headband, merely giggled to express her accord.
"I haven't had a chance yet to formerly welcome you home, Dean. It's terrific to see you. You look well."
"Thank you," he shrugged, still visibly ill-at-ease, but determined to rejoin the land of the living sometime, for Lori Ann's sake, if not his own.
Charlie waited until Kirkland excused himself to check in with his dad and Steven prior to the ceremony before she sidled over to Elizabeth, sulking in a corner under Carl's watchful and forewarning eye, and hissed, "It was you, wasn't it?"
"It is me," Elizabeth agreed, noncommittal, daintily biting into a salmon and red caviar canapé, frowning in advance of deciding, with some surprise, that no, it was actually to her liking, after all.
"You were the one who sent Lorna's old document to that stupid gossip site."
"BCZ.com happens to be the most popular and frequently visited web-destination in town. They don't accept just anything that comes across their transom, you know. It's an honor when they deem you worthy of spilling their cyber-ink."
"They love to publish dirt on anyone with the name Cory. I know it. You know it."
Dropping any pretense of innocence, Elizabeth jogged Charlie's memory. "I would have never even known about the legal fracas between my big brother and my bigger brother's hand-me-down if it weren't for you. You're the one who went rifling through that bitch's things over Christmas, not me. Why did you even let me see it, if you didn't intend for me to do something with it?"
"I don't know," Charlie confessed. "I was just so mad back then. At everybody, Lorna included. But, things are different now. Dean isn't going to take Lori Ann away from us after all. And, besides, that was before Kirkland and I... Before Kirkland and I started going out."
"You and Kirkland are going out?" Elizabeth looked both ready to send the latest item on to BCZ, or, alternately, pretend she didn't quite understand Charlie's meaning.
"I think so."
"You think so?"
"It's... kind of hazy at the moment."
"I thought you guys were just friends."
"So? What's wrong with that? People can... evolve."
"Nothing. Except, you know, I just think it would be kind of weird to make out with somebody you used to take baths with, that's all."
"That," Charlie snapped. "Was a long time ago."
"Still weird," Elizabeth advised, before moving over to offer her critique of the Baked Truffle Brie en Croute.
"Hello, Kevin." After Amanda's distasteful flaunting of Morgan, Rachel was forced to consider that Grant's lawyer/Alice's grandson didn't seem so bad in comparison. "I'm glad you could make it. Jamie mentioned you weren't sure when your previous engagement might end."
"Yes, well, that went a bit better than I expected." Kevin pulled his daughter forward by the hand. "You know Jennifer."
"Of course. It's nice to see you again. And under much more pleasant circumstances than in a courtroom."
"And her GQ." Kevin decided any introductions here were superfluous.
"Mr. Todd," Rachel said neutrally.
"Thank you for having me," he offered politely. "I realize, under the circumstances "
Rachel never actually thought she'd ever be this happy to see Alice. Or Spencer. But, the sight of Kevin's grandmother and her husband approaching meant that Rachel didn't need to respond to GQ's overture not that she had any idea how she might have, in any case. What exactly did one say on a social occasion to the young man who knocked up your granddaughter, rejected her, then dragged the poor girl into court against her will?
"Good afternoon, Alice. Spencer." Rachel nodded to them both, declining to make any physical contact, not even a handshake, which seemed to put everyone at ease. "Please come in. The ceremony is scheduled to start in a few minutes."
"It was very kind of you to invite us," Spencer said.
"I'd do anything for my son," Rachel noted pointedly.
"That's reassuring to hear," Matt popped up behind a departing Alice and Spencer. "Look who's here, Mom!" he beckoned his date forward.
"Jeanne..." Rachel purred, her face utterly unreadable.
"It's wonderful to see you again, Rachel. It's been a very long time."
"Not for me," Matt's mother corrected. "I'm a regular viewer of your news program. I wouldn't miss it for the world."
"That's very kind of you."
"You've been making quite a name for yourself at KBAY, Ms. Ewing," Carl interjected, staring Jeanne down until she at least had the wisdom to look vaguely unnerved.
"Just doing my job, serving the community, as is our public mandate."
Rachel reminisced, "I can't believe it's been over thirty years now since your grandfather, Charlie, married my mother. He was a good man."
"So I understand. I'm sorry I never really got to know him."
"Your mother was very important to me, at well. Your brother is named after my late husband, you know."
"I do. Know it, that is. Both my parents still speak of how kind you were to them when they lived in Bay City."
"And, of course, there's your Aunt Blaine and Uncle Sandy. I consider them both my children."
Matt wondered whether now would be an appropriate time to start humming the theme music from Roots, then decided against it. Instead, he merely smiled at Rachel and said, "We can all catch up more after the wedding. Jeanne and I better go find some seats."
"Please, my dear," Carl offered her his arm. "Permit me to escort you. We wouldn't wish for you to lose your way, possibly wander into a terrain whose dangers you have no earthly comprehension of. Do allow me to offer you a brief lay of the land. It's in your best interests, I assure you."
Matt expected Jeanne to shrink back from Carl's... proposition. Instead, she all but leaped forward, allowing Carl to hook his elbow through hers and, with nary a glance back at either baffled Matt or suspicious Rachel, lead her away.
"That," Chase told Lila as they observed the entire, multi-layered scene. "Was positively worth the price of admission." He leaned over to peck her on the cheek. "You have more than fulfilled my request."
"I thought you wanted to tag along so you could observe Carl, Spencer and Lucas' interaction. For the good of the city and all that, remember?"
"Oh, yes," Chase assured, winking, then moving to join Elizabeth by the hors d'oeuvres table. "That, too. Definitely."
"So, do we pass inspection?" Up in their dad's former bedroom, Kirkland and Steven presented themselves to Jamie, decked out in identical black tuxes, crisp white shirts, bow ties and burgundy cummerbunds that matched the trim of Lori Ann's flower girl outfit and the sash and bow of Jasmine's bridesmaid dress and shoes.
He looked them over sternly before breaking into a grin and pulling both young men into a hug. "You guys are fantastic. And the outfits don't look so bad either."
"At least Lorna has taste." Steven owned up, disentangling. "I was afraid we'd be stuck with something in powdered blue. Or worse, a top hat and tails."
Jamie asked, "Everything okay with Bridget and Michele?"
"Hard to tell. Obviously, they're upset about Marley being in the hospital. Don't know what'll happen when they find out she's going to be gone even longer than we thought."
"I didn't mean to dump everything on you like this. But, Marley wanted them to enjoy the wedding before she told them..."
"It's fine, Dad. They're my sisters. They're my responsibility. I'll drive them to the hospital after the wedding, and let Marley explain, then I'll take them home. No big."
"You want me to come?" Kirkland wondered. "For moral support?"
"Nah," Steven reminded. "Don't you have plans for after?"
"Plans?" Jamie zeroed in. "What kind of plans?"
"Just... plans," Kirkland hedged. "I figured you and Lorna don't want me around the house. Honeymoon and all..."
"Trust me, Kirk, Lorna and I are going to be so exhausted after all this..."
"Whatever, that's your business. La la la," he covered his ears. "Don't need to hear the details. Charlie and I were just going to go out afterward, maybe do a movie or... something, and then I thought I'd crash here till morning."
"Charlie," Jamie repeated the word knowingly, his eyes dancing.
"A movie or... something," was the part Steven found more interesting.
"Can we just focus here?" Kirkland demanded. "So are we good to go or what, Dad?"
"You look great."
"Fine. Then we'll see you at the altar." Kirkland, followed by Steven, headed for the door, only to be stopped by Jamie calling out.
"Thanks," he told them.
He swore, "For more than you'll ever know."
"Oh, we know, Dad, don't worry about that," Steven assured. "We knew it all the time."
Rachel came in as they were both exiting, taking only a moment to adjust Kirkland's tie and straighten the fit of Steven's jacket.
"You look great, Mom." Jamie offered, fastening the last button on his own tux.
"With Felicia as Mother of the Bride, I knew there'd be no point in competing. So I went with the understated look. I don't want anything distracting from you and Lorna today."
"I told Lorna the Rose Garden was good luck for you and Mac. I'm hoping it'll be the same for us."
"It took Mac and I a few tries, but, in the end, I can only hope you and Lorna will be just as happy as we were."
"I also told her it feels like he's here today. Mac, Dad, Grandma..."
"Oh, Mom wouldn't miss your wedding. I doubt even the Pearly Gates can hold her today. And Lorna! Mom loved Lorna."
"There was a time when she was just about the only one."
"It's been a long, complicated road. For all of us."
"Except, for the first time in a long while, maybe ever, it feels like I'm finally where I'm supposed to be."
"Lorna made you feel that way?"
"Yeah," he plead guilty.
"Then she has my eternal gratitude." Rachel said, "I heard you thanking your boys for more than they'll ever know. I think you actually realize just how much you mean to me. But, in case I haven't made myself adequately clear over the past forty years; I love you, Jamie. I gather popular opinion in Bay City is that I reformed my wicked, wicked ways thanks to the love of Mac. And he was a big part of it, I would never diminish the role Mac played in helping me to become a better person. But, the person that I wanted to become better for, that was always you. The day you were born, you changed my life. Same way your sons changed your life, same way your daughter is going to change it."
"Don't I know it!" Jamie joked, mostly to keep the tears at bay.
"I never regretted it. I never regretted you. I say that I understand what it must have felt like, growing up smack in the middle of the storms I was constantly creating. But, that's presumptuous. I don't really know what it felt like. All I know is... all I need for you to understand is, no matter how it may have seemed or not seemed, you were always the best part of my life, the best part of me."
Whatever Lucas thought he'd intended to say flew out of his head the minute he stepped into Lorna's dressing room and surveyed his daughter in her off-white, off-the-shoulder, off-the-charts wedding dress, her hair swept back and up under a curved diamond tiara and its diaphanous, shoulder-length veil.
"I never thought you could look more beautiful to me than the first time I saw you, when you were only a few hours old." Lucas approached, timidly resting his palms on Lorna's shoulders, minding not to disturb her make-up or overall, crafted look. "I was wrong."
Obviously less concerned about mussing her hair or anything else, Lorna hugged him tightly, whispering, "Thanks, Dad."
He leaned back, surveying her at arm's length. "Your mother thought about coming back here with me for a moment. But, she didn't want to upset you."
"Nothing can upset me today," Lorna swore, brushing aside the full implication of Lucas' sentence.
"I feel like I should say something momentous," he acknowledged.
Lucas thought about it for a moment. "I got nothing."
He grinned as Lorna speculated, "Maybe it's because, anything important we had to say to each other, we've already said. You remember, I think this was more than a year ago? It was sometime after I burned my arm, because I still had the bandage on... Do you remember me telling you my silly, stupid fantasy about what I wanted out of life?"
"Of course, I remember. Tall, Dark and Complicated wasn't that when we were first introduced?"
"Did you ever think for a moment that I would get everything I was dreaming of?"
"Yes," Lucas said firmly. "Because you deserve it."
Lorna laughed at his misplaced confidence. "Well, then, did you ever think it would turn out to be Jamie Frame?"
"Not for a moment," he confirmed, equally as confidently.
"I've been waiting my whole life to come home," Lorna admitted softly.
"Well, then," Lucas formally offered her his arm. "Allow me to escort you to him, right now."
"I thought someone from the hospital was supposed to escort me to Clareview," Marley looked at Grant, puzzled, as he guided her through the hospital doors.
"Since you are voluntarily committing yourself and not at the behest of any legal authority, I arranged to take you," Grant explained before hurrying over to the driver's side and slipping into his car.
"But what if someone finds out?" Marley continued to question, nervous and jumpy. "Lorna said she had people watching me. Alice, Russ, Morgan."
"Are not on call today. They're all at the wedding," Grant assured as he smoothly pulled out of the Bay City Memorial parking lot. "We're fine."
Marley let out a shaky laugh. "Maybe you are. I'm about to go on the run to God knows where with two young girls, wrenching them away from everything they've ever known. This isn't the first time they've been uprooted like this. First, Jake and Molly took them from that couple who raised them after Vicky died. Then Jake was killed, and Donna and I swept them off to Bay City. How much are they supposed to realistically take?" Marley trailed off as she surveyed the landscape beyond the passenger's side window, realizing this might be the last time she'd ever see it. "Michele and Bridget have a life here."
"The three of you can start a new one. A better one. Away from this misery. Together."
"Away from their brothers and their McKinnon cousins who they love and who love them. Tell me again why it's okay for me to put my relationship with the girls over everyone else's?"
"Because while Vicky may have given birth to them, you are their mother, and you and I both know from experience how important that bond can be to a child."
"We also know what happens when it's abused, exploited and tainted by a deranged, self-serving parent."
"That is not what you're doing, Marley. You are protecting your family."
"Steven and Kirkland are my family, too."
"It's more complicated with them."
"You mean I can't pull the wool over their eyes like I can with the girls?"
"Steven is Jamie's son. It's understandable that his loyalties would lie with Jamie, no matter how wrong he is. Kirkland...he'll toe their party line to keep Jamie off his back. But, once I explain "
"Explain what?" Marley sat up in her seat. "If you tell Kirkland everything... What I did, what we did "
"He'll understand. He's a smart boy. A good boy. A compassionate boy."
"Grant..." she intoned sadly.
"Marley, I told you, I'll take care of it," Grant purposefully avoided looking at her so as not to see the pity and doubt in her eyes. "What we need to focus on is getting you and the girls safely away, and the first step in accomplishing that is "
"Picking up the girls," Marley finished as she realized, with a lump in her throat, that they'd pulled aside the Cory estate, now festively decorated for the wedding.
Once upon a time these grounds had been decorated like this for me and Jamie. Marley couldn't help thinking of their long ago engagement party. And the disruptive presence Donna had proven on that particular occasion, as well.
"We're taking them from the wedding?" She stared at Grant in horror.
He nodded. "They're expecting a hundred guests, at least. The inevitable chaos gives us our best shot at getting away unnoticed."
"But there are dozens of people who would recognize you... wonder why you're there. How you got in..." Marley turned to Grant. "How will you get in?"
"Steven came to pick up the girls last night. They left their invitations behind. I took one from Michele's room when I was there earlier. It'll get me past security."
"But what about "
"I can be pretty stealthy when the job calls for it," he attempted to smile reassuringly.
"No." Marley refused to yield. "No, Grant. It's too chancy. I won't risk a scene. Not at Jamie's wedding, I won't."
"Fine," Grant said quickly, willing to compromise if it meant keeping her calm. "I won't go in. I'll... I'll text Michele she checks her phone every few seconds and tell her to get Bridget and meet us. And not to tell anybody they're leaving."
"She'll have questions. You know Michele."
"I'll tell her you're with me and that you'll explain everything. They'll come, Marley, you know they will. They'll do anything for you. Once they're out past the gates, we'll pull up, pop them in the car, and go straight to the airport. You three will be on a plane before anyone's the wiser."
"And then I'll have to explain what I'm doing," Marley swallowed heavily. "Why I'm kidnapping them."
"You are not kidnapping them! You are their mother," Grant slammed the wheel with his open palm. "They'll understand why this had to happen."
"How can you be so sure?"
"Because," Grant's voice cracked with emotion, surprising them both. "If I'd been given a choice between running away with my mother when she abandoned Spencer, and being left behind, I would have picked her. I would have picked her every damn time. And then maybe... Maybe she wouldn't have... cracked the way that she did. And nothing... Ryan... Me... Everything would have been different. I couldn't take care of her. I was never given the chance. Not until it was too late, anyway. But, I can take care of you. And Michelle and Bridget. Trust me when I say that whether you go to Clareview, or leave the girls behind for their own good to go on the run alone, all they'll know is that you left. And it'll hurt them. They'll never forget it. And they will never, ever get completely over it. No matter how many times people tell them they should."
Marley reached out, one hand taking Grant's, the other cupping his cheek in her palm and bringing his face up to hers, kissing him once, then twice, before lovingly, gratefully looking him in the eyes.
"Thank you for doing this for me...for the girls... for us. Thank you for not giving up on saving our family."
"I promised you I wouldn't," Grant reminded her with a small smile, before taking a deep breath in recovery, the hardened layers of bastard reassuming their position of protection over his more vulnerable core. "You ready?"
"Ready," she assured him.
Meanwhile, just down the hill, Cass and Frankie watched Grant's car as it slowly circled the Cory estate, wondering what was about to happen, convinced that it couldn't possibly be good, and certain that they should do something. The only question remained... what?
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