"Two days old," Lorna looked down at Devon, making sure not to squeeze too tightly this time, no matter how badly she may have wanted to. "And you've already heard how your mom can pick a fight."
"Devon had ears in utero," Jamie gently chided. "She knew what she was getting into."
"I was hoping the amniotic fluid might've muffled my more colorful words. And please don't tell me my freak-out was just typical, postpartum crazy-talk."
"You," Jamie stroked her face with the back of his hand. "Are anything but typical. On the other hand, there's no getting around it, plunging hormone levels can make even the most well-balanced "
"I didn't even know I felt that way until the words were coming out of my mouth. But, I I really wanted her to be happy for me, Jamie. For us. And I know it's stupid, I mean, who cares what she thinks of Devon's name? She's not her baby, she's ours, and we I guess I was just hoping..."
"For her approval?"
"She's my mother." Lorna shrugged. "Though, to be fair, I am a bitch of a daughter and... damn it... there I go swearing in front of a baby, again. Seriously."
"I'm no expert. But, in my experience, mothers and daughters can be... prickly."
"I don't want that with Devon, though. Here I was, panicking over being mom to a girl over stuff like books and toys and dolls and clothes, when the real problem is... look at the havoc I wreak around Felicia on a regular basis. If I can't make things work with my own mother, how am I supposed to do it with Devon? I don't want her to hate me."
"Oh, yeah? Damn it, Jamie, you look at me like I'm the most spectacular woman in the world. And I can't tell you what it does to me. You see me the way no other person has ever seen me. Problem is, out there in the real world, I don't play well with others. On a good day, people tolerate me. And I used to not care about it one way or the other, but now..." Lorna looked down at Devon with near dread. "How do I not screw this up? Screw her up? How do I make it so she doesn't run away from home when she's thirteen years old because anywhere has to be better than with me?"
"Ask yourself what would Donna Love do and then do the opposite?"
"You are not going to screw this up. Which doesn't mean you and Devon won't fight, and it certainly doesn't mean you'll never make any mistakes. I'm going to let you in on the best-kept secret in parenting and I know this from experience, both as a parent and as a child and, frankly, as a grandchild, too, considering my mother's relationships with Devon Ada's namesake, here. Deep down, your kid can never, ever hate you. No matter how many times they say they do."
"It's the truth. No matter what she says, or how many times she stomps up to her room and slams the door so you feel it vibrate your molars, Devon will always, always, always know you've got her back. Which means that, at some point, you'll be able to cackle "
"Cackle?" Lorna frowned even as Devon stirred, opening her eyes and offering a meow of greeting to her parents. "How old will I be before this happens?"
"Old enough to cackle. And to say, "I told you so," while Devon," Jamie picked up his daughter's tiny fist and waved it in the air mockingly. "Will seethe, but ultimately accept that her mommy knew best all along."
"And that her daddy really knows how to talk me down off the ledge."
"It's a gift. That I expect to be drawing on a lot in the future."
"Let's hope not." Lorna swore, "I can't promise anything, but I am going to try my best to act less insane once we get home."
"Well, according to your doctor, that's tomorrow." He grinned. "They're ready to check you both out."
"Really? Everything's... okay? With Devon? You're sure?"
"You've both been cleared for discharge."
"So, why then are you wearing one of your Frame faces?"
"You mean, my happy, relieved and grateful one?"
Lorna bit her lip, hesitating before admitting, "I didn't ask you this before. Because, honestly, I was too scared to hear the whole truth, and I just wanted to focus on getting better and giving birth without any complications. But, Jamie, you'd... you'd tell me if there was something wrong with Devon?"
"You know I would."
"You looked so terrified in the delivery room. Like you were expecting something to go wrong."
Jamie shook his head, smiling reassuringly. "I was concerned, but, in the end, everything turned out fine."
"Why were you concerned?"
He took a deep breath, letting it out slowly before explaining, "We had to give you a whole host of drugs while you were comatose to treat your brain injury. Several of them are not recommended for pregnant women. But, there weren't any alternatives if we were to save your life," Jamie added to make himself clear.
"They might have hurt her?"
"But she's fine, as far as you know?"
"Yes," Jamie smiled down at his yawning daughter. "She is. For now."
"For now," Lorna repeated, forcing herself to ask. "But, in the future... What what could we be looking at here?"
"An assortment of developmental delays," Jamie told her bluntly. "Learning problems. Mutations of certain genes that could cause a wide variety of diseases down the line that we don't even know about yet."
"But, whatever happens, whatever she needs, we'll get it for her, right? If it's special schools or treatment, or... we'll take care of her, no matter what."
"No question," Jamie reassured. "No matter what happens in the future she's going to be fine. Better than fine. You and I will make sure of that."
Swallowing her fears, Lorna gave a curt, decisive nod. "Damned straight."
"What have you to say for yourselves?" Carl, Rachel by his side, their children across from them, Cory and Elizabeth's end of year report cards laid out on the mahogany dining room table in between, asked in a voice not unlike God's... or his immediate superior's.
Elizabeth and Cory exchanged furtive looks, each wondering what he could be referring to, and running the numbers regarding what to confess, what to deny, and where to plead ignorance.
"How do you believe your term went?" Carl generously offered them the rope by which they might opt to hang themselves.
Rachel, never particularly comfortable with Carl's parenting in this regard, attempted to put both a bit out of their collective misery by reassuring, "As long as you did your best, your father and I will be proud of you, no matter what."
Carl's lips crinkled in distaste at her breaking ranks. They had agreed, when the children were still small, that Carl might be in charge of their primary years' educations. He had the classical background, after all, and Carl knew precisely what he wanted each of them to glean from their years at Bay City Latin. Despite having the advantages of Mac's money, none of Rachel's offspring had managed to attend an elite university (which made even Jamie's MD rather suspect in Carl's book for all he knew, the boy had matriculated at a veterinary college). He refused to doom his son and daughter to suffering the same, mediocre fate.
"Your science and mathematics grades, Cory," Carl began. "They depressed your overall average."
Cory shrugged, looking his father in the eye, but pleading the Fifth.
"What about my average?" Elizabeth interrupted, partially to shield her brother, partly to shift attention back her way.
"4.0," Carl said, face grim. "I'd hoped you might challenge yourself this term with some advanced classes, like we discussed."
"She has plenty of time for that," Rachel said. "What I want to talk about, Elizabeth, is one teacher's note about your being disruptive in class. She says you are constantly contradicting and correcting her, making her look like a fool in front of the other students."
"It was Mrs. Krakauer, wasn't it?" Elizabeth appealed to Carl. "I don't care if she has a Master's. Her knowledge of Shakespeare is cursory and plebian, not to mention overly influenced by postmodern theory."
"The child isn't wrong," Carl confirmed to Rachel.
"Yes, she is. She is wrong to be correcting her teacher."
"I'm trying to help!" Elizabeth objected. "You want everybody else in my class to be getting important facts wrong for the rest of their lives? They're not all lucky like me, having Father to clear up the inaccuracies."
While Carl beamed, it took the bulk of Rachel's self-control to keep from rolling her eyes and telling Elizabeth to kindly give it a rest. Rachel snuck a sideways peek at her husband, wondering if Carl Machiavellian, brilliant Carl was honestly falling for this? But, then again, that's how it went with fathers and daughters. God help them all.
"Besides," Elizabeth most certainly wasn't giving it a rest. "Who cares about some stupid comportment grade? I got all A's otherwise."
"American A's," Carl sighed. "Are hardly indicative of any sort of mastery or even proficiency in a given field. Have you looked lately at where this country ranks in overall academic standards? It's a travesty."
"Actually," Cory piped up. "When controlled for parental income and native language proficiency, America does just as well on standardized tests as any other Western nation. Statistically speaking, Elizabeth and I are not at risk."
Carl turned his head slowly. He'd been making a point. Cory interrupted him. Carl did not appreciate the contradiction.
"Be that as it may, rising to the top of your class in an American school is the equivalent of being its best football player. Fine if you intend to stay provincial your entire career and wallow in false accolades, hardly up to par with the rest of the world."
"But..." Elizabeth faltered, confused. "Bay City Latin is the best school in town."
"Correct. Which is why your mother and I have given it some extensive thought, and we've decided the two of you shall be better off attending boarding school in Europe beginning with the coming academic year. Perry, for instance "
"No," Cory said calmly. "I don't want to."
"Me neither," Elizabeth said, loath to go against her father, but equally as loath to leave him. "I'll do better next term, I promise."
"Your options in the States will always be limited, poppet. My goodness, the country is barely 200 years, they've hardly descended from the trees, yet."
"That's taking it a bit too far, don't you think, Carl?" Rachel interjected. "Everyone we know is a product of the American school system, and we somehow managed to muddle through just fine."
"Certainly. And if fine were purely our end-all goal with the children...."
"We won't go," Cory spoke for both himself and Elizabeth. "We I have friends at Bay City Latin. And we're starting high-school in the Fall, that means I can finally try out for teams."
"You'd sacrifice a world-class education in favor of mindlessly hitting a ball with a stick for four years? Think of your university options. A degree from Eton or Le Rosey will hold you in much better stead than anything you could earn domestically."
"We're not going," Cory reiterated, crossing his arms and meeting Carl's eyes without a trace of hesitation or fear.
In profile, their faces, down to the flowing curls tucked behind their respective ears, were absolutely identical, and Rachel, for the first time ever, couldn't help wondering whether her husband might have finally come upon his match.
"Hey..." Sarah said softly. Hearing the door close, she'd cautiously peeked out of the study, coming to stand behind Grant, who was by the window, back to her, watching his son pull out of the driveway, signed adoption papers tossed on the passenger seat. "You... okay?"
"No," Grant choked out.
"I'm sorry." Sarah raised a hand, wondering if she should rest it on his shoulder, then changed her mind and slowly, awkwardly withdrew it to her side.
Grant pivoted, having missed her aborted attempt at comfort, and appeared surprised to even see Sarah there. "Your parents," he said abruptly. "You didn't want to call them when you were arrested."
"No," she confirmed.
"What'd they do to make you cut them out of your life?"
"Nothing. That was kind of the point. My mom was busy with her dancing career. My dad was busy with... who knows, really? It wasn't what they did so much, but what they didn't do."
"Maybe I should have taken a page from Olivia and Dennis' book," Grant sighed wearily. "Seems like whenever I actually try to take action, it all ends up going tragically wrong."
"Yeah," Sarah said. "I know the feeling."
He smiled weakly her way, the pair sharing a moment of utter understanding, tinged with sympathy and respective regret. But then, Grant, recalling Lila's pep talk, pulled himself together and announced, with a great deal more conviction than he actually felt, "I'm not going to take this laying down. It doesn't matter what Kirkland decides to dub himself or whom he calls Dad. He's still my son. He will always be my son. A notarized piece of paper can't change that."
"You might want to give him some space, though," Sarah offered tentatively. "Just for a while. Let him cool off some. Let him start to miss you a little, then make your move."
"You're right," Grant nodded fervently. "You're absolutely right. I should give Kirkland some space, not pressure him, make it look like I've accepted his decision. That's good advice. It'll also give me time to get the rest of my affairs in order. Marley," he looked to Sarah with fresh eyes. "Did you mean what you said before, about passing her a message from me next time you take Michele and Bridget to visit?"
"Sure. Yeah. I meant it. What can I do to help?"
Grant hesitated, realizing that it needed to be done, but already not relishing being the messenger, even once removed. "Marley needs to hear about Jamie and Lorna's baby. That she's healthy. That they both came through alright. I know she's been on pins and needles, waiting."
Sarah nodded, agreeing that Marley would want to be filled in, but, nevertheless, realizing, "It'll be tough on her, Dr. Frame having a baby with somebody who, you know, isn't her. And a little girl, too. I guess, for a while there, she was expecting me to..."
"Yes," Grant cut Sarah off, even more aware of the potential for heartbreak than she was. "But, I still think she'd like to know."
"Okay. I'll do my best to break it gently."
"Thank you, Sarah," Grant smiled, unlike her, feeling no qualms about reaching out to gratefully squeeze her hand, holding it perhaps a single beat longer than necessary, but Grant felt it imperative she understand just how much he appreciated her aiding him in this time of need. "You've been a godsend. I don't know what I'd have done without you."
"Your dad planning to be at the hospital all day?" Charlie asked, sitting next to Kirkland on the edge of his bed, one of her hands tucked into his, her chin resting playfully on his shoulder even as Kirkland stared straight ahead, paying her little mind.
"That's what he said," Kirkland confirmed absently. "Told me he wouldn't be back until tomorrow with both Lorna and the baby."
"Good." Charlie kissed Kirkland's chin, moving down to his neck while her hand crept up his chest. "Gives us plenty of time."
It took him a moment to register what she was suggesting and doing. Kirkland shook his head, pulling away. "Look, Charlie. I'm not really... I've had a crappy day."
"I know," she said with sincere compassion and total understanding. "I'm sorry you had that scene with Grant. I bet it really sucked."
"It did," Kirkland confirmed with a sigh. "Big time."
"So let me make you feel better. That's the whole point of being together, isn't it? Helping each other out?"
"I just... My head's not... I guess I'm not really in the, you know, mood."
"Really?" Charlie asked innocently, unzipping his shorts. "Bet I can change that."
"Come on, quit it," he took a not-particularly convincing swipe at her hand, which only empowered Charlie to keep going.
She kissed Kirkland's shoulder, proceeding to move downward all the while assuring, "I'm ready for us to do this. We've got the house to ourselves. We probably won't get a better chance for a long time. What's the point of waiting? I know you like me..."
"I do, Charlie. Really, I do." He gasped as her tongue flicked inside his navel.
"I like you, too. A lot. That's why I want to show you. There's nothing wrong with that. It's what you're supposed to do." Her mouth dipped lower and she pulled down Kirkland's shorts with her free hand.
He jerked away, no longer ambivalent, rolling off the bed and away from her. "I said cut it out," Kirkland shouted, his voice, ironically, cracking in the middle.
"Why?" Charlie sat up, embarrassed beyond words, and thus also equally furious.
"Because I said I didn't want to. Not right now, anyway."
"Is it because I'm not hot enough? I don't get you going? Do you think you can do better for your first time, is that it?"
"No!" He shook his head, confused, wondering where she could possibly have gotten that idea.
"You said you liked me," Charlie accused. "Even just now, you said it, right now."
"Then what's wrong with me?"
"Nothing." He zipped up his pants, stammering, "Why are you acting like..."
"If you really liked me, you'd want me, everybody knows that. That's what liking somebody means, for Pete's sake. I told you it was okay. I want it, too."
"I'm sorry, Charlie, I "
"Are you a fag, is that it? You're probably not even into girls. Probably just faking it, messing with my head, laughing about it later."
He blinked, stunned by the attack, not to mention Charlie's utter misunderstanding of the situation. She stood up from the bed, smacking Kirkland with both hands in the chest, prompting him to take a step back or lose his balance.
"What the hell is the matter with you?" Kirkland demanded, as flabbergasted as he was now livid. "What do you think you're doing?"
"What do you think you're doing?" she spat back, wiping the tears off her face with the back of her wrist, seething. "What gives you the right to treat me like that? Nothing gives you that right! You can't just lie to me "
"I wasn't lying!"
"Then you're crazy," she insisted. "Any normal guy would've jumped on you think I just go around giving it away to anybody? You think I'm a slut, is that it?"
"No! I "
"I wanted you to be my first. Because I thought we really cared about each other, and that's what normal people who care about each other do. But, you're some kind of freak, I can tell. You need serious help. No wonder Grant couldn't wait to dump you. Bet he noticed there was something wrong. Nobody wants a deviant for their kid."
"What," Rachel asked cautiously, indicating the new, shiny gold band on Amanda's fourth finger. "Is that?"
Her daughter, already halfway up the stairs, paused, looked down at her hand, and smiled, unable to hide her giddiness. "It's a wedding ring, Mom."
"You and Morgan..."
"No." Amanda shook her head, looking stunned that anyone could have even thought such a thing. "Oh, no, not Morgan."
"Then..." Rachel was out of ideas. "Who?"
"Kevin," Rachel repeated the name slowly, articulating every letter. "Kevin Fowler?"
"We got married."
"Just... like that?"
"More or less?"
"What?" Rachel waved her hands in front of her face, as if the answer to her confusion might materialize out of the ether. "What were you thinking, Amanda?"
"That I loved him. That I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. Funny, Jamie and Lorna didn't get this third degree. Jamie and Lorna got an all-expense paid wedding in the Rose Garden."
"Jamie and Lorna didn't meet twenty-four hours ago!"
"Actually, if you want to nitpick, Kevin and I were involved before Lorna even came back to town, so there goes that argument. What else you got?"
"Watch your tone," Rachel warned, reeling Amanda back before she got too far out of hand.
"Sorry," the younger woman backtracked quickly, if grudgingly. "But, I don't get the double-standard. Is it because he's Alice's grandson?"
"Of course not." To be honest, Rachel hadn't even thought of that detail until Amanda brought it up. "It's because... You two broke up over a year ago!"
"And now we're back together. You know, like you and Daddy? More than once?"
"This isn't the same thing, and you know it."
"Kevin and I, we worked through our issues."
"In record time, it seems."
"Yes. In record time. Because, deep down, we both knew we belonged together. It just took him a while to come around."
"Do you hear yourself, darling? Only yesterday, I was advising Allie not to confuse wanting to win a man with loving him "
"Why were you and Allie talking about that?"
"Maybe if you'd been home, instead of making impulsive choices of your own, you'd know."
"Who was Allie talking about? GQ? Please, don't tell me it was GQ."
"You may ask her yourself when you get a moment," Rachel suggested gently. Then returned to the point at hand. "I didn't realize the person I should have been speaking to, was you."
"You don't believe I love Kevin?" Amanda did her best to keep her voice from trembling, or her stomach from twisting into knots at the answer she might hear in return.
"I believe you have feelings for him. Complex ones. He was so much a part of Allie's ordeal, both with Hudson and Gregory, you couldn't help growing somewhat dependant."
"So now I'm needy, clingy, and delusional. Did I miss anything?"
"I love you very much, Amanda."
"And easily distractible."
"If I thought this new relationship of yours was worthwhile "
"How do you know it's not?" Amanda challenged, this time sounding so surprisingly reasonable that her query brought Rachel up short.
"You're right," her mother said abruptly, realizing that she was changing on a dime, but deciding to follow her instincts, nonetheless.
"What?" Amanda wasn't so quick to get with the program.
"You're right," Rachel repeated, working out her stance even as she spoke. "I'm thinking of you and Kevin at the beginning, when you lied to him about being Jamie's lawyer and he lied to you about being Alice's grandson. Hardly the best basis from which to launch a successful relationship, I'm sure you'll agree?"
"Well, yes. But, we're both way past that now."
"Alright. In that case, don't you think I should have a chance to start fresh with my new son-in-law, as well? Where is he, anyway?" Rachel feigned a peek behind Amanda's back, as if she expected him to be hiding there.
"He's at BCU, telling his daughter about our marriage."
"Ah. So I needn't feel like the last to know. Have you told Allie?"
"Not yet," Amanda hedged. "I was actually just heading up to look for her. But, Allie's always liked Kevin. I don't think it should be a problem."
"Good. Then maybe all of us; you, me, Kevin, Allie, Jennifer, might have a nice, family dinner. Get to know each other in our new roles. A fresh start all the way around."
"I have a better idea," Amanda offered, primarily due to there being safety in numbers. "4th of July is right around the corner. You're having your party again, this year, right?"
"I was planning to."
"Perfect. Kevin and I will be there. With Allie and Jen."
"Well, that wasn't exactly what I had in..."
"And Alice." Amanda's eyes twinkled. "We've got to invite Alice. And that means Spencer, too. It can sort of be Kevin's and my very casual wedding reception. For the whole family. Mine and his. What do you say, Mom?"
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