"You... and Kevin?" Morgan repeated, certain he couldn't possibly have understood her meaning.
"Got married last night," Amanda confirmed.
"What?" He stuck to single syllables. "Why?"
"Why does anyone get married?"
"Inheritance rights, territorial alliances, ascension claims, parental arrangements, medical proxies, shotguns..."
"How about: Because they're in love?"
"That still brings us back to why did you two get married?"
"Yeah, I'm a riot. And you still haven't answered my question. What the hell, Amanda?"
"You know how I feel about Kevin. How I've felt about him for a long time."
"I also know he's made it clear in a multitude of ways, also for a long time, that the guy doesn't want anything to do with you."
"He changed his mind."
"Apparently." Morgan pushed his way into her office and plopped down onto a couch, shoving some discarded cover mock-ups out of his way. "How drunk were you two?"
"Well, that explains something, at least. Though I'd have laid down money a cautious bastard lawyer like Fowler could hold his liquor better than that."
"Alcohol wasn't what did it."
"Dude lose a bet? Something to do with Allie's case?"
"Of course not!"
"You bribe him?"
"Spill it, Amanda. A week ago, he was making up excuses to avoid you, now you're man and wife?"
"Kevin was suspended from practicing law for six months."
"Ah-ha! So you offered him the opportunity to supplement his income."
"Why are you being such a pain about this?"
"Because, I'm sorry, this is downright painful. Do you honestly think the two of you have any kind of chance long-term? Obviously, he married you out of desperation and self-loathing and...and... boredom!"
"I had no idea you held such a high opinion of me."
"You, I happen to have a very high opinion of. Fowler, on the other hand... Hey," Morgan perked up. "Does this make you Mrs. Fowler for, like, what, the fourth time?"
"Doesn't count if it's a different man," Amanda insisted, obviously having given the matter a great deal of thought. "And you're wrong, by the way. Kevin married me because he finally, finally realized that I'm the only person he can count on. I've stuck by him, no matter what. Not like Lila. She dumped him at the drop of a hat."
"More like your dropping trou, but, sure, go on, whatever floats your boat."
"Everyone in Kevin's life has let him down in one way or another, going all the way back to Sally Frame. He's had a really hard time trusting people as a result. But, I proved to him that he can trust me. That, no matter what he does or who he is or isn't, I'll always come back to him."
"And you're proud of this, Amanda? Being some guy's doormat?"
"You have no idea what you're talking about."
"Wrong! I am an expert on the last-ditch, drunken, Hail Mary marriage, remember? And if there's one thing I learned from that bit of anesthesia-free root canal, it's that you are headed for disaster as long as the two parties in question have different expectations for what they're getting into."
"What makes you think that Kevin and I do?"
"Because you love him. And he doesn't love you. And because he never will."
"Not everyone is you and Lorna. Just because you two "
"Got married when we were feeling down and sorry for ourselves and didn't think we'd ever be able to do any better, so why the hell not?"
"Doesn't mean that "
"That's exactly what it means, Amanda. Mark my words. And get out now."
"So, have you been ordered to give me the 'Don't have sex until you're married or 40 whichever comes first' talk?" Charlie turned expectantly to her father, sitting in the passenger seat of their car. "Clever, doing it in the middle of a driving lesson. I can't exactly run screaming from the room, so I guess I have to listen."
"You could always crash the car. Which, please, don't. Not unless you want the repair fees to come out of your college fund."
"I know Mom told you about finding me with Kirkland."
"That she did."
Charlie's head swiveled towards Cass. "And?"
"Eyes on the road," Cass turned Charlie's face forward. "She also told me that you bought condoms to protect yourself. Thank you for being responsible enough to take the proper precautions and not make me a grandfather before my time. I am currently much too young and virile."
"That's all you have to say?"
Cass turned to look at his daughter squarely. "What more is there? Do you actually want me to tick down the cliched list of do's and don'ts?"
"Won't your Father of the Year card be revoked otherwise?"
"Fine. Do always, always, always use protection more than one form at a time is never overkill; don't ever give into pressure to do anything you don't want to do hurt feelings are nothing compared to the alternatives, which include pregnancy, disease and death; don't be afraid to have fun and explore what you like and what you don't like in spite of all that; do make sure you and your partner are on the same page since sex doesn't necessarily always have to be about love, but there are still feelings inevitably strong feelings involved all the same. Do your best to be sensitive to that. Anything else?"
"Nothing about how my virginity is a sacred gift I should save till I'm married?"
"You, Charlotte Frame Winthrop, are an indescribably special gift for the man or woman; let's be open-minded here who will ultimately be lucky enough to snare your heart for the long-term. But, there is also something to be said for dry running through a few relationships on the way to your soul-mate. It helps narrow down what you want and what you don't want, what really matters and what's a total deal-breaker, so that, by the time you do meet that special someone, you have enough frames of reference hey, see how I worked that pun in there? to know that they're definitely the one for you, and enough life experience under your belt the good, the bad and the ugly to make that most important relationship work out for the rest of your lives."
"So what you're saying is, basically, don't get too attached to you first?"
"Depends. I'm sure somewhere far, far, far away from Bay City the first person you fall in love with does end up being forever. But, most of us just aren't that lucky. To be honest, it probably is optimal if your first time is less about raging hormones and more about the person you're with. Is that the case here?"
"I think so," she admitted hesitantly. "Kirkland... he..."
"Is he's pressuring you?"
"No! Definitely not. Not at all. He's being all... respectful and stuff."
"Lucky you. Proves he really cares."
"But, I wouldn't... I mean, if he really cared, wouldn't he want to... show me?"
"You may have to show him," Cass ventured. "If I know Jamie, he's most likely had the same talk with Kirkland that I'm having with you now. And he's probably told him not to push, not to make demands, to let you set the pace, make sure you're comfortable."
"Don't boys always want to lead, though?"
"I can't speak for all boys, Charlie. All I can tell you is, if I had a choice between your being with a seventeen year old like Kirkland, or a seventeen year old like I was, I'd choose Kirkland every single time. Listen, sweetheart," Cass sighed. "Here is what this all boils down to: There is nothing wrong with having sex. The only thing wrong is if it's at the wrong time, with the wrong person, or for the wrong reasons."
"There are wrong reasons for having sex?"
"Only about a million of them. In no particular order: To get something, to prove a point, because you're bored, to piss off someone else, to feel better about yourself, to hold on to someone who doesn't really want you, to "
"Okay, okay," she wasn't sure whether it was appropriate to laugh. "I get the message."
"On the other hand, there is only one really good reason to have sex, and that is because you care about another human being so much and so...so... all-encompassingly that those feelings just eventually become bigger than you, bigger than both of you, until the logical and natural next step is to express how much by, well, frankly, losing yourself in them for a little while. Even if it's only temporary, it's pretty amazing while it lasts."
"Wow," Charlie said after a minute, somewhat stunned by the seeming sincerity, and downright poetry, of her father's words. Not to mention... "You're being really cool about this."
"When the alternative is you still doing whatever you want but maybe not as safely or as thoughtfully no matter how loudly I bellow and pound my chest? Yes, I have chosen to be cool about this. I'd rather you felt comfortable talking to me about anything, than hiding things because you think I wouldn't approve."
Charlie laughed. "I know I don't have to hide things from you."
"And yet you still try every now and again."
"Which you somehow always seem to know about."
"A father knows."
"I thought it was supposed to be moms with their intuition."
"Your mom has the best intuition of anyone I've ever known."
"Except about me."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"It means she doesn't know me. I mention sex, and she freaks out."
"As parents are wont to do."
"You're not freaking out. You're not treating me like some stupid kid who doesn't know where babies come from or how AIDS is spread."
"I was fortunate to clock more time with you than your mother," Cass gently reminded her. "I know what every snort, eye roll, and sullen smile means. Your mother needs more time. And the getting to know you goes both ways. Your mother's concern about what she walked in on with Kirkland doesn't mean she doesn't trust you or that she thinks you can't take care of yourself. It just means that, in her heart, you're still the little girl who needed help tying her shoe and braiding her hair. Just because she's been back for almost two years doesn't mean she's been able to let go of that."
"Will she ever? Will she and I ever be like a real mom and daughter?"
"Yes," Cass emphatically assured. "You both just need time."
"Like Felicia and Lorna?" Charlie challenged.
"Not that different from me and Mom. Lorna was only a couple years older than me when she found out Felicia was her mother, wasn't she? That was, like, twenty years ago, almost, and you see them now."
"I do see them now and they're... they're like every other mother and daughter."
"Want another take at that?"
"Forget Felicia and Lorna. Their issues are completely different. You and your mother will get there."
"Maybe. But, it won't be like everyone else. It won't be like you and me."
Jamie poked his head into Lorna's room to find her on her side, head propped up on an elbow, gazing down at their sleeping daughter, who lay spread-eagle on her back, tightly clenched fists by her ears, her tiny chest fluttering up and down with each breath.
"I can't stop looking at her," Lorna confessed. "A nurse tried to come in earlier to take her back to the nursery for some tests, and I almost decked her."
"She's a professional." Jamie pulled up a chair to settle next to the bed. "She should have known better."
Lorna hesitated for a moment, then admitted, "You're going to think this is stupid, but, there was this night, last summer, I was in your arms, we'd just made love, you were stroking my hair before we both fell asleep, and I remember I felt so... content. So safe and comfortable and just... at ease. I remember thinking: This is it. It doesn't get any better than this. I will never be happier than I am in this moment. But, this... This is... Can you believe it?" Lorna tentatively, cautiously stroked the baby's palm with her finger, smiling with delight as Devon dutifully grabbed it in her sleep, holding on with all her might. "Can you believe what we did?"
"You did all the heavy lifting," Jamie reminded. "I had the fun part."
"Oh, yeah, I'm sure sitting around, day after day, wondering whether either of us was going to survive, that must have just been a barrel of fun for you."
"It doesn't matter anymore. You're here. She's here. Every dream I've had for the past six months has come true. Now," Jamie bent over. "Do you think I might get a chance to hold her, or will you threaten to beat me up, too?"
"You're allowed," Lorna agreed magnanimously, passing Devon into Jamie's arms, only to suddenly freeze.
"What's wrong?" Jamie's adrenalin kicked in with a vengeance as, in the blink of an eye, he managed to blame himself for getting so complacent. "Are you alright?"
"I... I'm fine. Really. I just... I didn't think seeing you with her like that for the first time would hit me quite so hard. Talk about dreams coming true. I don't only have a daughter. My daughter has a father."
"For better or for worse, she does," he agreed, cradling Devon's head in the crook of his elbow, before tentatively venturing, "Listen, Lorna, Felicia and Lucas are outside. They're dying to see you, but I said I'd check if you were up to it, first."
"I'm up for it," Lorna insisted, pushing herself up to a sitting position, nodding her head enthusiastically even as, subconsciously, she instinctively braced herself as well.
Jamie crossed to the door, holding Devon with one hand as he opened it wide with the other, welcoming them. "Come on in, folks. Meet your granddaughter."
Felicia covered her mouth with both hands, gasping and laughing simultaneously as a dumbstruck Lucas could only bob his head up and down repeatedly in a sort of silent approval. Jamie smiled to show he comprehended and shared their speechlessness and gestured with his chin for the new grandparents to follow, as Jamie replaced the baby into Lorna's somewhat anxious hold.
"She is absolutely beautiful," Felicia gushed to them both.
"She looks just like you," Lucas told Lorna without tearing his eyes from Devon. "No offense, Jamie."
"None taken," he reassured. "Lorna and I had a deal. Any daughters we had would look exactly like her." The two of them shared a private look, remembering the context of their exchange on the subject.
"Well, then, you certainly held up your end of the bargain," Lucas couldn't get over it. "It's uncanny. The spitting image."
"Really?" Felicia and Lorna asked at the same time, each understanding that Felicia had never gotten to see her daughter at this age, that this was the closest she'd ever come to it.
Lucas nodded, "It's her, Fanny. When I saw her in the hospital, this was our baby girl..."
Now it was Felicia's turn to merely silently bob her head up and down, doggedly fighting back tears, determined not to make this miraculous moment about her.
"Have you two picked out a name yet?" Felicia injected gaiety into her voice through sheer, steely force of will. Which was a bit of a contradiction in terms.
"Devon Ada Frame," Lorna announced proudly. It was the first time she'd said it out loud to anyone other than Jamie, and Lorna couldn't help sneaking a peek at the baby, as if to gauge her take on it.
"Devon..." Felicia repeated slowly. "That's... It... Devon?"
"You don't like it," Lorna was quick to pick up.
"I like it," Lucas attempted to cut them both off. "It's strong, confident, no-nonsense, but lyrical too, it flows perfectly. Devon Frame. And remember, I'm a branding expert."
Felicia said, "I wasn't aware you were considering... It wasn't on that spreadsheet Steven had, remember? On your birthday, you showed..."
"It sort of came to us at the last minute," Jamie explained, like Lucas, trying to keep the peace without making it obvious. "We'd settled on Ada as a middle name pretty early in the process, but then we kept trying to honor everyone in our combined families, it just got too complicated. I mean, we definitely considered Jenna, but..."
"The poor kid would have had more names than Bob Geldof's brood," Lorna inserted, though she was actually the only one in the room familiar with FiFi Trixibelle, Peaches Honeyblossom, Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily, and Pixie.
"And then we thought, what could be more simple and to the point than just combining our last names? Devon Frame, that's exactly who she is. And it includes everybody."
"This way, my name gets to stick around too, just like you said you wanted, Felicia." Lorna prompted, recalling how upset her mother had gotten when she mentioned intending to become Lorna Frame after she got married.
"That shouldn't have been your name to begin with."
"It shouldn't have been her name, Luke! I should have gotten to name my child, and I should have gotten to see her when she was a day old. Me! Not some dim-witted cleaning woman so blinded by Noah Grady's fire and brimstone that she was willing to steal "
"My grandmother wasn't to blame for what your stepfather did to you!" Lorna interjected, furious.
"She could have come to me! She could have stuck her head out of the sand and asked if giving away my baby was really what I wanted! If Helen gave a damn "
"What about you," Lorna challenged, squeezing Devon closer until the infant began to squirm uncomfortably. "How about you giving enough of a damn to look for me?"
"What?" Felicia gaped. "How could I have.... They told me you were dead. I didn't know..."
"How could you not have known?"
"Lorna..." Lucas tried reeling her back in, all the while knowing it was way too late.
"How could you not have known?" Lorna repeated. "I would have known. I may have only been a mother for a couple of hours so far, but there's no question I would have known. It didn't matter what anyone told me, I would have known. If somebody took my baby away from me, I would have moved Heaven and Earth to find her. Bay City may have been smoldering rubble by the time that I did, but I would have found her. And it wouldn't have taken me over twenty years."
Of all the unwanted and unexpected and undeserved visitors he'd received over the past twenty-four hours, the last person Grant expected to show up was Sarah Matthews-Wheeler. And yet, here she was, looking as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as only someone less than a quarter century old could.
"Hello," Grant answered cautiously.
"Can I come in?"
"In? Yes. Sure. Come in, Sarah."
"Thank you." She smiled at him. "I dropped Michele and Bridget off at their day camp fencing, riding... I asked Steven if he was training them to be knights or something?"
"Hm," Grant said, wondering if more was expected.
"So I had some free time, and I thought I'd stop by and see how you were holding up."
"Hm," he repeated.
"You got pretty piled on yesterday."
"You don't know the half of it," Grant drawled.
"Thank you." He realized he wasn't being very forthcoming. But, he also realized that this was the most surreal conversation Grant had engaged in for quite a while. Usually, he was capable of figuring out what was wanted from him on any given occasion. Right now, he had no earthly idea.
"And how are you, Sarah?"
"I'm alright. Oh, I ended up telling Steven that he needed to add me to the list of people allowed to see Marley, so I can supervise the girls when they visit. He took care of it."
"So, you know, if you need me to pass on a message or something..."
Her finally coming to the point stunned Grant into a moment of wordless shock. "I That's Thank you."
"I figured a little Friar Laurence action might liven up my summer," she offered.
"And if it deliberately circumvents Steven's stated wishes..." Grant wasn't born yesterday. Now that he'd figured out her angle, he felt much better about the entire exchange.
She shrugged innocently. "Bonus."
"You really are Iris' granddaughter, aren't you?"
"You know my grandmother?"
"She and my father were romantically involved for a time. A period neither one of them recalls particularly fondly, I'm sure."
"Healthy relationships aren't exactly my family's forte."
"Nor anyone's, I'm afraid."
She cocked her head. "And here I had you pegged for a romantic."
"A romantic dreams of the ideal precisely because he understands it's unattainable."
"Why bother then?" she parried. "Why even play the game?"
"Why did Napoleon march on Waterloo?"
"To keep the English, Russians, Prussians and Austrians from joining forces against him and putting an end to the political liberalization initiated by the French Revolution. Or maybe it was just to get his wife and son back from Dad-In-Law Emperor Francis."
"Don't be. Thanks to my mother needing someplace to dump me periodically, I am disturbingly well-educated. It doesn't mean anything."
"In that case, see how well you do with this one: Without hope, we live in desire."
"Dante's Inferno. The first circle of Hell."
"You're amazing!" He laughed out loud.
"That and an extra-large trust fund still leaves me alone for the summer."
"You'll find someone," Grant reassured. "Brilliant young woman like you..."
"Oh, yeah, guys just love a chick who's well read."
"You don't need guys, Sarah. You need one guy. The right guy. And believe me, he'll appreciate your mind along with everything else worth appreciating."
"Is that the romantic in you talking?"
"No. That was the realist. Girls like you never stay single for long."
They might have gone on talking forever. It certainly was the easiest, nicest, least concerned with enumerating his shortcomings conversation Grant had experienced in a very long time.
If only it weren't for the door opening, and Kirkland stepping through. If the boy was surprised to see Sarah there, it still wasn't enough to distract him from what Kirkland had come storming in to accomplish.
Without so much as acknowledging Sarah, he shoved a document into Grant's hands. "The adoption papers are ready."
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