EPISODE #2011-130 Part #2

“Well?” Jamie didn’t necessarily mean to be lurking just outside the bathroom door where Lorna was taking the home pregnancy test he’d sped out to get her. But, he was rather invested in the answer, and somehow proximity seemed to help.

Lorna stepped out of the bathroom. She looked Jamie in the eye. She raised a single finger and informed him, “You – are a very dangerous man.”

He held out both hands, palms up. “Yes?”

“Yes,” Lorna sighed, unsure what precisely she felt at the moment other than exhausted and overwhelmed and, most importantly, stunned.

“Yes!” Jamie shouted and swept Lorna up in his arms, spinning her around at least twice – it was rather hard for her to keep track – before setting her back down on the ground, grinning ear to ear all the while.

“Oh, that’s a good idea, Dr. Frame, twirl the already nauseated woman around some more, why don’t you?”

“I’m sorry,” he swore. “I am so sorry, Lorna. I know how hard this is going to be for you, both physically and emotionally. I’ll try to help out more. I’ll get up at night with Devon, I’ll cook, I’ll clean…”

“You already do all that anyway,” she pointed out. “And I don’t, so…”

“But the main thing I’m sorry about is that I’m not sorry at all. I’m thrilled. Don’t you see what this is? Can’t you see the gift we’ve been handed? We have a chance to do this right. No secrets, no lies, no courtroom drama. No going to doctor’s appointments and staring at the sonogram in terror wondering what we might see because of the drugs you were given or because of any trauma that may have been suffered in-utero. This is our chance to enjoy a pregnancy like normal people.”

“Not to mention the first legitimately conceived Devon/Frame in how many generations?”

“I love you,” he swore, cupping Lorna’s face between his hands, kissing her. “I am so damned happy right now. But, I understand why you might be less – “

“I’m happy, too,” she reassured him. “I am, really. I just… I need a few minutes to get used to the idea.”

Steven pulled his hand away from Marley. He might as well have slapped her. “I need more than just words from you before I can even think about forgiving and forgetting. Grandmother was here to see you recently. Her name was on the sign-in registry. She must have told you what I’m planning to do.”

“Overreacting is Donna’s middle name.”

“Not this time.”

“So you really are planning to cut me out of my girls’ lives?”

“No. Unlike what you were planning to do, I won’t try to make them forget you ever existed. But I can’t trust you to take care of them like I could before. Not after everything that’s happened.”

“I was sick.”

“You are sick. Still. But you voluntarily committed yourself. Which means you could decide to leave today, and none of the doctors could stop you. Do you really think I’m going to just hand Bridget and Michele back over to a person who landed in here through a series of really bad decisions, but has now decided she’s well enough to come home?”

“I’d never check myself out unless I was sure I could be Bridget and Michele’s mother again.”

Steven slammed his fist on the table. “You are not their mother. Bridget and Michele’s mother is and always will be Victoria McKinnon. Not you.”

“You know what I meant, Steven. I raised them like they were my own.”

“Until you lost your mind and mowed down a pregnant woman, covered it up, lied to my father and everyone for months, then decided to hell with me and Kirkland – You know? Vicky’s other kids? The ones you also promised to love, protect, and never hurt? Everything good you did for us, you ripped to shreds that night.”

“So that’s what this is? You want to punish me for what I did? For hurting you and your father?”

“My stepping in to take care of my sisters isn’t about punishing you. It’s about trying to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself, with you screwing up their lives and their heads like Grandmother screwed up yours. Wouldn't you have liked someone – anyone – to have stepped in to protect you from her crazy all those years ago, same way I’m trying to do for Bridget and Michele now?”

“I am not my mother,” Marley said, her voice trembling for the first time.

“Lying, obfuscating, blaming everyone else as things go wrong and playing the perpetual victim? Dismissing the pain and confusion and anger of the people you’ve hurt or, even worse, playing apologetic sincerity until you get bored and go back to feeling entitled to do whatever the hell you want because ‘you’ve suffered enough?’ Now who does that sound like?”

“Not me. Not anymore.”

“You need to learn how to take care of yourself before trying to care for the twins. And they shouldn’t have to suffer through your growing pains.”

Marley pleaded, “Vicky and Jamie and Jake didn’t raise you to be like this, Steven. They didn’t raise you to be so cold and cruel and judgmental about other people’s frailties.”

“No, they didn’t. Having a mother die when I was ten did. Having Jake die when I was eleven did. Having an aunt who I’ve loved and trusted in spite of her hurting my mother break her promise and not give a damn about the pain she was causing did. Living through that can make you hard, yeah. But, it also makes you realize what’s important. Who is important. Who is worth your compassion and sympathy, and who isn’t.”

Marley swallowed the lump in her throat. “Is that it? I’m not worth it anymore?”

“If I thought that, Aunt Marley, would I be here right now?”

Upstairs in his bedroom, completely naked and with Sarah’s breasts cupped between his hands, Grant slipped both of her nipples into his mouth at the same time, greedily sucking first one, then the other, then in combination until he felt her shudder beside him and slip one leg over Grant’s hip, causing him to ask in wonder, “Did you just…”

She nodded, eyes dancing, eager to return the favor.

“You are phenomenal,” he gasped.

“Actually, that would be you, Senator. I didn’t do anything. Not yet, anyway…”

Knowing when not to fight City Hall, Grant pulled away just long enough to reach for the box of condoms he kept in his bedside table. In a flash of skin and limbs, Sarah slid over him, blocking Grant’s access

Laughing, she assured him, “You don’t have to do that. We’re cool. I’m on the pill.”

“Better safe than sorry,” Grant continued with his original motion, snatching a single square of compressed latex.

“But…” Once again, the sophisticated woman was gone, replaced by a confused teen-ager. “Isn’t it better? For you? You know… without?”

“Sarah,” he sighed, struggling to make himself understood, using words that, quite frankly would, once upon a time, have never even crossed his mind. “Our evening at BCU was the best night I’ve had in… in I don’t know how long. You are beautiful and desirable and there was a time when that would have been the only thing that mattered. But, I am trying very hard not to be that man any more. Because you are also young.”

“I told you, it doesn’t matter to me.”

“Well, it matters to me. And I’ll tell you how. I don’t want to just be with you, Sarah. I want to take care of you, and respect you, and I want to protect you. Your feelings and your health and your life. Remember how I told you we were going to take our time and do things right?”

“I remember.” She was smiling again.

“That means in every way possible. I’m going to look out for you, Sarah. I won’t let you down. I promise you that. I promise me that.”

“Please tell me this is some kind of joke,” Matt groaned after Amanda filled him in on the latest rap sheet of their supposedly reformed stepfather. Or at least her biased recount of Grant’s biased original account. “Maybe Grant was just being a jerk and trying to cause trouble?”

Amanda smacked Matt on the back of the head. “Why would he lie when he knows I can easily confirm his story with Jamie?”

“Did you?” Matt asked quietly, pained at the thought of his brother and nephew having suffered such a hellish experience while he was preoccupied with Donna, Jeanne and the farce of his wedding. The wedding their mother attended as if she didn’t have a care in the world. “Why didn’t Jamie tell us himself? We could’ve – “

“What? Stood around, wringing our hands, and created more targets while he was trying to get Kirkland back?”

Matt conceded her point with a begrudging, regretful nod. “How’s Kirk?”

“Grant said he’s coping. And from what I could tell earlier, he seemed okay. I didn’t want to dredge it up at the funeral by asking Jamie.”

“But you felt okay ripping Mom to shreds in the church parking lot?”

Amanda worked her jaw in irritation. “She started it.”

Matt gave his sister a knowing look. “She always does according to you. The two of you always push each other’s buttons. And this is hardly the first time Carl’s slipped off the wagon while Mom looked the other way.”

Amanda waved a correcting finger at Matt. “She didn’t just look the other way. She gave him the go-ahead to set up Spencer. She put our collective welfare into Carl’s hands and let him decide who was expendable and who wasn’t. What if Jasmine had been with Kirk when those people decided to grab him? He gives her rides places all the time.”

“Okay, I get it,” Matt gritted not wanting Amanda to venture further down that road. “Mom should have warned us. But it’s over now. They got their payback with Spencer. It’s over.”

“What if they aren’t satisfied with merely taking Spencer down, and they want to teach Donna or Carl a lesson next?”

“Donna?” Matt’s head snapped up. “Why would anyone – “

“Are you serious? Donna started everything. If they killed Spencer for his role in exposing them, what makes you think they won’t reconsider overlooking her? The woman has as big or even a bigger target on her back as Spencer did. She and anyone close to her are in danger. Which, fortunately, excludes you, since you came to your senses finally. But it, unfortunately, still counts half of Jamie’s family. Between Donna and Carl, we’re all still targets or, at the very least, collateral damage by association if things get stirred up again. The smartest thing we can do is move out of here and leave Mom to Carl, precisely the way she wants it.”

“Right,” Matt nodded distractedly, his mind still on what Amanda had said about Donna before his brain processed her words and he caught himself. “What? Move out? What the hell are you talking about?”

“Protecting ourselves and our children by putting as much distance between us and Carl as possible.”

“Don’t you think you’re overreacting?”

Amanda fixed her brother with bowel clenching look. “Go over to Jamie’s house and take a gander at Kirkland. Better yet, go pay your respects to Spencer’s freshly dug grave and then tell me that. Mom may have made Carl better for a time, but that’s over. Now, instead of making him better, he’s making Mom worse. She’s doing things that Rachel Davis would do, never Rachel Cory. Husbands and wives are supposed to bring out the best in each other, not the worst. Carl’s got Mom condoning murder!”

“Now you’re really overreacting. Mom would never stoop to Carl’s level,” Matt rolled his eyes in a feint of dismissal, even as he uncomfortably recognized Amanda’s words applying as much to himself, Jeanne, and Donna as to his mother and Carl. Between his two wives, Matt had bounced from blackmailing, scheming, and lying to near bigamy in the span of weeks. All because he loved Donna and wanted her in what he was starting to realize was the worst way possible. “We may not agree with her choice of husband, but it is her life,” Matt defended his mother and, unbeknownst to Amanda, himself and Donna, too. “She loves Carl and doesn’t want to give up on him. She wants to believe in him. We can’t make her choose.”

“Jamie did,” Amanda dropped. “He flat out told Mom that as long as Carl is in her life, she’s no longer a part of his. It was like a wall of ice between them at the funeral.”

“Jamie will cave. He always does.”

“Not anytime soon.”

“And you want to make it worse by turning our backs on Mom, too?”

“She turned her back on us first, when she married that man.”

“You were able to put up with him for all these years…why the sudden change?”

“Because our nephew was kidnapped and ransomed. Our brother could’ve been killed trying to get him back. Spencer was killed. All because of Carl playing games. Whatever reformation Carl was going through is over. He’s up to no good and he is dragging our mother down with him.”

“Well, if that’s true, then leaving her to him is not the answer. We should stay put. Try to make her see – “

“If Golden Boy Jamie couldn’t get through to her, what chance do we have? Jamie’s going the tough love route. We should do the same. Make it clear that Mom’s sticking by Carl is not just costing her Jamie and his family, but all of us.”

“And Cory and Elizabeth? What about them? What does it do to them to be caught in the middle of this family war?”

“It’ll suck for them. It’ll suck all the way around. But I’d rather take the less crappy option that doesn’t result in me or my daughter or anyone else I love getting a bullet to the back of the head. And that involves forcing the issue with Mom, taking a stand. It’ll hit her harder if it’s the three of us instead of just me and Jamie. Think about Jasmine. Think about Jeanne. Do you want to risk their lives to win brownie points with Mom and not ‘disappoint’ her? Or do you finally want to be rid of Carl from our house and our lives once and for all?”

Lying in bed, Jamie brushed aside Lorna’s hair to kiss her bare shoulder as he asked, “How’s that cognitive processing coming along?”

“Getting there…” she promised, rolling over to face him, saying the words out loud in an attempt to make them sink in. “Two kids in two years, Jamie?”

“Irish twins,” he said, then laughed out loud. “Damn it! Spencer! I’m not sure if it was a blessing or a curse, but considering the circumstances, I've got to believe he had some hand in this – from the other side.”

“Is he also planning to help us out with two babies? And then two toddlers? And then two teen-agers?”

“It’ll be tough,” Jamie agreed.

“And we are going to be seriously old by then.”

“My mother and Carl managed twins when they were a lot older than us.”

“And that’s exactly who we want to emulate in the parenting department,” Lorna said lightly, both of them deliberately side-stepping the minefield of issues lurking just on the other side of any mention regarding Rachel and Carl these days.

“To be honest, I was never thrilled with the idea of Devon being an only child.”

“She’s not an only child. She has two brothers.”

“Who are both old enough to be her father.”

“Another disturbing thought; way to go, Frame!”

“Sorry,” Jamie said. “No matter what you say, I’m sticking with my original assessment. I am really, really happy.”

Lorna lay on her back, staring up at the ceiling. “You know what I was thinking?”

“When will I stop talking and actually demonstrate some of that household help I promised?”

“In a way. I was thinking, maybe before the second baby makes an appearance, we should get around to baptizing the first? Morgan asked me about it in church today and…”

“And I just remembered the best part about this pregnancy. No Morgan.”

“I believe it is well past time you and I discussed your visit with Jamie the previous day.” Carl closed the doors of the study to underscore that there would be no dodging his request.

“It’s not your concern,” Rachel bristled. “My son, my problem.”

“Anything to do with you is my concern,” Carl pressed as he approached his wife. “What did Jamie say to you?”

“Given your reaction to my argument with Amanda, you won’t like what Jamie had to say even more. I tried to explain our thinking to him, why we felt we had no choice when it came to Spencer. He didn’t understand. He refused…” Rachel struggled with the words. “He told me he no longer wants me in his life… as long as you’re in it, too.”

“This is hardly the first time your children have reacted in such an excessive manner,” Carl attempted to scoff, despite fully comprehending the severity of the situation from Rachel’s reaction. “Once Jamie’s reflexive, self-righteous anger has cooled…”

“He has good reason to be afraid. After nearly losing Lorna and Devon, to nearly lose Kirkland…”

“But he didn’t. He won’t. Because of actions we took to protect him, his family, all of us. You would think he’d be grateful! I do hate to say it, my love, but I’m afraid your children, thanks to the sheltered lives they’ve led, are simply ill-prepared to thoroughly grasp the complexities of the situation we were compelled to deal with in this instance.”

“How about Cory?” Rachel challenged. “He seems to share Jamie and Amanda’s feelings.”

“Cory is young. And I won’t deny that we played a role in cultivating his naiveté…”

“You see naiveté. I see a boy who holds firm to what he believes to be right and wrong.”

“A rather rigid, impractical stance. And certainly not a survival trait. Look at the world of politics, for example. Great leaders very often suffer in popularity. Yet, they continue to make decisions for the good of the group. That’s what I am, Rachel. The head of this family, the one who must make the hard decisions. You understood that. Cory will learn to. As for Jamie and Amanda…”

“To hell with them?” Rachel finished for her husband. “They’re my children, Carl. Would you ever give up on Cory or Elizabeth no matter what they said or did? Did you give up on forging a relationship with Ryan despite all the bad blood and history between you two?”

“No,” Carl conceded. “But in the case of Jamie and Amanda… they’ve made their positions clear. Them or me.”

“Them or you,” Rachel nodded with sudden sadness as she examined a framed photo on the mantle – Rachel and Mac flanked by Jamie, Amanda, and Matthew – before looking to a second shot, a second family, she and Carl with Cory and Elizabeth.

“And your decision is?”

Rachel turned abruptly. “What do you mean? You actually believe I would consider – “

“You would not be the woman I know you to be, if you did not at least work through the cost-benefit analysis of staying with me over your children’s objections. As you repeatedly remind me, they are your children.”

“Yes, they are. But I refuse to be bullied by them. Verbally or emotionally.”

Carl smiled, wryly, “Ah, so you shall be sticking by me out of spite?”

“I didn’t say that.”

“Then is it because, at our advanced age, the thought of starting over yet again – “

“This is not a game, Carl!” Rachel reared at him. “I have plenty of reason to do what my children request of me. I’m ashamed to admit that Amanda was right with a few of her braying points. I did just expect her to move past any issue she had with you. I demanded that she pay you respect when you hadn’t earned it – at least not with her.”

“So you feel leaving me would pay back that debt?”

“If we felt that Spencer was due to pay back his…” Rachel reminded him. “And then there’s Jamie…as much as I’d like to deny it, I have put men ahead of him previously. A great many men. And to great consequence to our relationship.”

“He didn’t take your feelings into consideration when he welcomed Alice Frame into his life.”

“Alice Frame doesn’t have the history with our family that you do. She may have wished that I dropped off the face of the earth – “

“But she never actively plotted your demise.”

“No. And you do bring danger, Carl.”

“Donna Love was the one who brought evil to our door. I merely cleaned up her mess.”

“Donna’s actions were in response to a threat she felt from you. A threat that, at one time, was completely legitimate. The fact remains that you will always have ties to a world Mac never would’ve wanted his children or grandchildren remotely aware of, much less connected to. Jamie isn’t wrong to do everything he can to protect his family.”

“Then I suppose Lucas will be shunned from the family table as well?”

“I have no idea. It still doesn’t change Jamie’s point about you.”

“Jamie’s claim that your choosing him would be all it takes to protect his family is preposterous. You and I will forever be connected through Elizabeth and Cory. Anyone looking for me would inevitably head their way first, no matter what far corner of the earth I sequestered myself to. If Jamie were honest with himself – and you – he would admit that his ultimatum comes from a childish selfishness, nothing more.”

“It’s very tempting to believe that…”

“Believe it.”

“Why? So you can get what you want? Me staying with you and, as a bonus, a few thorns in your side get removed from our life, as well?”

“If having Jamie and Amanda in your life results in you being in this much pain…”

“Jamie and Amanda are not the things that pain me. It’s being caught between my husband and my children.”

“You knew that was a very real possibility when we married. That I would never be accepted by them. Ever. You still chose me.”

“Because I love you.”

“And has that changed?”

“No,” Rachel shook her head. “But you have. You’re not the man I married, Carl. You’re not the man who made Mac’s life hell, but you aren’t the one determined to completely turn over a new leaf, either. You’re something in between. Someone I love, but someone my children have real issues with. Someone I need to determine whether he’s worth losing them over. Because, regardless of who is right or wrong in all of this, it doesn’t have just a possibility of happening, it’s a certainty. And I’ll have to live with that. And, you, knowing what it will do to me to lose my children, will have to live with it too…”

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