“So is Mr. Moneybags, here, footing the bill for today?” Steven asked jokingly as he, Jamie and Kirkland stepped onto the racquetball court.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Kirkland snapped on his goggles and turned to glare at his brother.
“I heard about your windfall from Grandpops. You’re loaded! Even more than before!”
“Yeah, well, I’m not even sure that I want to…”
Eager to terminate the discussion before it got out of hand – especially since Jamie had his own announcement to make – their father reminded, “It’s a moot point. Kirk can’t even access the money until he’s twenty-five, so today’s game is still on me; everybody cool with that?”
“But, you can access the money, right, Dad?”
“Only if it’s in your best interests.”
“So you could… you know… if I wanted, you could, like… get rid of it?”
Jamie hesitated. “I don’t believe that would be in your best interests.”
“Money makes people do crazy things. I mean, didn’t Spencer almost go to jail over how he got it?”
“Actually, in that case, he was covering for Grant.”
“See? And look at some of the stuff Donna has used her money for. Or Carl. It’s all messed up.”
“It can be. Doesn’t have to be, though.”
“What he means,” Steven interrupted. “Is that money by itself is just a thing. It’s the people who use it that make it good or bad or whatever.”
Jamie added, “Your grandfather came to America with nothing, and he made his fortune through a lot of hard work, determination and ingenuity. That’s a legacy to be proud of.”
“You left out the criminal parts, Dad. I’m not stupid.”
“No. You’re not. And neither was Spencer. I have to think that one of the reasons he entrusted you with this inheritance is because he believed you’d know the right thing to do with it. To live up to the ideals Spencer preached, but wasn’t always able to meet.”
“If he couldn’t do it, and Grant couldn’t do it, what makes – “
“Because it is possible. I know it is. Your other grandfather, Mac, was able to do a great deal of good with the money he accumulated. He’s still doing it, even now, long after his death. Mac left bequests to the hospital, to the university, to various art museums, to organizations that protect the rain forest. Because of Mac, I know that money can be used to make other people’s lives better. It can be used to enrich lives and even to save them. I’d like to give you the chance to learn that, too. You are exactly the kind of person who should have a fortune at his disposal. Because I know that, like Mac, you’d do the right thing with it.”
Self-conscious, Kirkland could only mumble, “Gee, thanks, no pressure, huh?”
“We’ve all got the shadow of Mac Cory to live up to,” Steven teased. “Why shouldn’t you?”
“You don’t have to make any decisions now, son,” Jamie reassured. “You have plenty of time to think this over.”
“Meanwhile,” Steven reminded. “Our court minutes are wasting away. Come on, let’s play, already.”
“Actually,” Jamie rested his arm on Steven’s shoulder to keep the boy from immediately serving. “There is one more thing I wanted to tell you two, today.” The boys exchanged worried looks and, realizing what they must be thinking – based on past, similar moments, Jamie hurried to reassure, “It’s not bad news, I promise.”
“For a change,” Steven growled, unable to express his immense relief in any other way.
“It’s good news.” Jamie looked from one son to the other. “Lorna is pregnant.”
“Again?” Kirkland spit out, incredulous.
“Yeah,” Jamie admitted sheepishly.
“Jeez, Dad,” Steven shook his head in mock condemnation. “Guess all those safe-sex lectures you beat us over the head with for years – “
“Don’t apply when you’re in your forties and married,” Jamie amended.
“It’s embarrassing,” Steven accused. “Having a dad who’s – “
“Getting more action than you?” Kirkland leapt on his opportunity for brotherly payback.
“Exactly,” Steven sighed.
“You want me to testify against Carl?” Rachel studied Jeanne in incredulous disbelief.
“Not at all,” she insisted. “This has nothing to do with Mr. Hutchins. This is all about Dean suing Donna for her part in Jenna’s death.”
“You know how I feel about Donna,” Rachel spoke slowly. “I couldn’t be happier to have that woman out of Matt’s life once and for all, and what she did to Felicia and Dean and Lori Ann was unconscionable.”
“She never paid for any of it,” Jeanne pointed out. “She walked away scot-free because the evidence – “
“Yes. It couldn’t be corroborated.”
Rachel said, “I asked Carl to come forward. When this all started and Felicia first realized there was nothing she could do to punish Donna… well, nothing the law could do… I asked Carl to step forward and help her. He said it was too dangerous for us. We would be putting our family at risk.”
“But that was before Mr. Hutchins helped shut down the compound. Back then, it was a matter of exposing them. Now it’s simply a matter of confirming what everyone already knows. If you testify that Spencer Harrison gave you that file, it becomes admissible in court. Dean can use it against Donna.”
“Are you working with Dean on this?” Rachel asked, more to change the subject and stall than anything else.
“I just gave him a few pointers. Some leads to pursue.”
“Why didn’t he ask me himself? Dean knows how much he, Jenna and Felicia mean to me.”
“He thought you might be more receptive if the request came from a family member. I suggested Matt, but…”
“Yes,” Rachel nodded briskly, needing to force yet another detour. “I understand.”
Jeanne reasoned, “You and Mr. Hutchins risked so much to bring down the compound. It would never have happened without your sacrifices and your selflessness. Now that the danger is over, you can be rewarded for your bravery. You can help make something good come out of everything you’ve already suffered. You can help Dean and Lori Ann finally get justice for Jenna. Prove, once and for all, to anyone who might still be in doubt, just what an immense service you and Mr. Hutchins did for Bay City, neutralizing the danger we were all facing, even if we didn’t know it then.”
“It’s not the damn money,” Grant raged at Lila back within the privacy of his home. “I don’t give a damn about that son of a bitch’s precious money. I’ve got plenty of my own. It’s that my father didn’t believe I was capable of looking out for my son!”
“Look at the date of the will,” Lila prompted. “He wrote this draft only a few days following Jamie and Lorna’s wedding, right after you – “
“Offered to let Jamie adopt Kirkland if they waived their right to press charges against Marley for either the attempted kidnapping of Michele and Bridget, or Lorna’s hit-and-run.”
“Your Daddy was pretty mad at you then.”
“He threw me up against the wall,” Grant looked over ruefully at the scene of the crime.
“That qualifies as mad, yeah. He’d have calmed down eventually, you know that. He wasn’t expecting to die just a couple months later.”
“When you throw in your lot with Carl…”
“Besides the point. No question that will and testament was drawn up in the heat of anger. There’s nothing you can do about it now.”
“He didn’t think I was fit to manage Kirkland’s interests…”
“Or maybe he was just daring you.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Way I see it, you got two choices here, Senator: You can either let your Daddy thumb his nose at you from beyond the grave while you can stomp about here calling him names and raising your blood pressure till you pop that vessel in your forehead. Or you can see this as Spencer’s last challenge. Man up and prove him wrong. Prove that you can too be the kind of father your son deserves, and the kind of man they could both be proud of.”
“Tried it already,” Grant mumbled. “You see where it landed me.”
“Try again,” Lila refused to cut him any slack or pity. “Try harder. Time’s running out.”
“I had to do it,” Felicia swore fervently. “I had to make Donna see that everything that’s happened to Marley these past two years has been her mother’s fault. The breakdown, the supposed suicide attempt, the attempted kidnapping, even her ludicrous alliance with Grant, Donna drove Marley to all of it.”
“But why?” Lucas struggled to understand. “Why attack her now?”
“Because she was here claiming she’d already paid enough for Jenna’s death. We both know how grotesque that assertion is. Donna hasn’t paid for anything. And because she had the gall to suggest that you and I were somehow responsible for Lorna’s accident. We almost lost both of our daughters because of Donna, and she wants me to sympathize with her pain over Vicky!“
“You shouldn’t have told her about our role in Marley’s disintegration.”
“Why not? There’s nothing Donna can do about it. She has no proof, nothing she could take to the authorities.”
“There is more than one way to seek vengeance. Donna hasn’t felt a need to rely on the authorities in the past. I doubt she’d start now.” Lucas fought to make Felicia see. “I’m not exactly proud of my actions where Marley is concerned. I am certainly not looking forward to being reminded of them. Carl and I conspired to torment an already mentally unstable woman for our own purposes. And Donna was right about one thing, our actions did, in fact, lead to Lorna’s accident, there’s no denying that.”
“You had no idea that would happen.”
“But, we knew something would happen. We wanted something to happen.”
“Marley would have never been vulnerable to Carl’s and your mind games if Donna hadn’t tormented her for literally decades. Think of everything she did to her own child. The child she supposedly loved. Michael’s child. She lied to Marley for years, and then she took away her identity. That is the key to all of Marley’s problems. Donna, not you. Not us. Marley never recovered going from being Donna’s sister to her daughter, from an individual in her own right, to a pale imitation of Vicky. And speaking of the Love women and their penchant for unfortunate car accidents: What about Donna nearly killing Marley with her own car? Donna's rash, petty, vengeful action resulted in Marley being forced to watch her old face living on in Vicky, while Marley was the woman with a new face, one whose looks didn't match the memories its owner held. It was if those memories belonged to someone else now. As if everything about Marley had been burned away and erased. And then, to make the ultimate loss even worse, Vicky dies, taking Marley’s identity with her. Look at Marley’s history. Look at all the men she and Vicky shared: Jake, Jamie, even Grant… Look at how she clung to Vicky’s children all these years. Tell me those are not the actions of a woman trying to live her own life, and that of her lost sister at the same time?”
“Life isn’t a romance novel. Real people aren’t as easy to peg and stick into boxes. Or psycho-analyze from the outside looking in. Or rationalize your behavior towards.”
“Marley was a deeply disturbed young woman long before either of us even met her. If we contributed in any way to her collapse, it was inadvertently and peripherally. Which is a lot more than can be said for Donna, whose actions directly contributed to our child’s death. That’s all Dean wants to prove in court.”
“Then let him. Why did you feel the need to get involved?”
“I wanted to hurt her,” Felicia said simply. “I wanted her to feel as helpless as I did, watching Jenna dying in front of my eyes, day by day, unable to do anything to stop it.”
“So now what?” Lucas demanded. “Are we just supposed to sit around, waiting to see what Donna has planned? An eye for an eye and the whole world ends up blind!”
“What more can that woman do to us, Luke? Honestly now? Jenna is dead. Lorna was hospitalized for months, both of our granddaughters were at risk because of her. What could Donna possibly do that would ever, ever cause us that kind of pain again?”
“You’re a regular celebrity, Al,” Sarah teased her friend as they sat in Sarah’s room at the Love house, Allie in no hurry to either go home or face the scrutiny of school. “Got the whole campus talking.”
“I wish they’d just shut up.”
“It wasn’t your fault.”
“The hell it wasn’t. GQ told me what would happen. Before we even came back to the US from Italy. He warned me. I didn’t listen.”
“Why should you have? GQ’s the coward, so scared of what some dumb racists would think that he wouldn’t admit he was in love with you, when it’s obvious he was. You were right to ignore it.”
“Oh, yeah, everything turned out really well, soon as I did.”
“You would have never lied to GQ about Hudson if he hadn’t basically made it sound like he was ashamed to be seen in public with you. Everything that happened afterwards – including your car getting keyed – was his fault, not yours.”
“You don’t think people have a right to be pissed off because I gave away my kid then said in court that he’d be better off raised white instead of Black?”
“Again, none of that would have happened if GQ hadn’t treated you like trash to begin with. Besides, who cares what other people think?”
“Easy for you to say,” Allie dismissed.
“If I were in your shoes, I wouldn’t give a flying crap what some narrow-minded prudes thought about my relationship. Who appointed them arbitrators of what’s ‘appropriate’ and what isn’t?”
“You don’t know what it’s like, having people talking behind your back – and in front of your face.”
“You’re giving them more power than they deserve. You’re playing right into their hands.”
“I’m not like you, Sarah. I don’t get off on causing trouble just to see what might happen next.”
“You really think that’s what I do?”
“It’s why you went after Steven, isn’t it? To make a point? I mean, would you have even looked at him twice, if it wasn’t about getting a reaction out of me – not to mention my mom and my grandmother, considering how they felt about your mom and your grandmother?”
“You don’t believe I really loved Steven? You think it was just some kind of game? Me hunting for attention, deliberately trying to piss people off?”
“I…” Allie looked at Sarah in surprise, reviewing what she’d just said and suddenly realizing that it might be taken in the wrong way. “I think you’re awesome, Sarah. I wish I could be more like you.”
“That would be a calculating, unfeeling bitch who uses men then tosses them away as soon as she gets bored?”
“I didn’t say that. But… Isn’t that the whole point of the Sarah Matthews-Wheeler plan? Getting what you want, having some fun, then moving on?”
“No!” Sarah snapped, much harsher than she’d intended, or even known she felt. “I – I’m not always like that. I have real feelings. I can be, you know, sincere. I can care about somebody without an agenda.”
“Okay,” Allie stood down immediately.
But, apparently not sincerely enough for Sarah. “I can,” she insisted.
“I believe you,” Allie didn’t want to fight. “But, even if I didn’t, I thought you didn’t care what other people thought about you, Sarah…”
“Thank you all for coming,” Rachel addressed Jamie, Amanda, and Matt civilly after securing the door to the living room.
“You made it clear over the phone, Mom, that this was a can’t-miss command performance.” Despite Jamie and Matt taking seats next to each other on the couch, Amanda preferred to remain standing, thank you very much. Righteous indignation flowed better upright.
“Come on,” Matt urged his sister, taking Amanda by the hand and tugging hard, forcing her to have a seat between her brothers. “You’ve had your say. Let Mom have hers. You might be surprised.”
With a grateful look Matt’s way, Rachel faced all three of her children, their expressions running the gamut from antipathy to apprehension to anticipation.
“Amanda, Jamie,” she looked from one to the other. “I have given your words a great deal of serious thought. Quite frankly, I’ve done nothing else for days. And I’ve come to several conclusions. One) No matter how valid of your grievances, I do not appreciate being bullied by my children. And two) I will not tolerate it.”
Amanda cocked her head. “Just checking, Mom: It’s still okay for you to bully us when it comes to your choice of husbands? Did I get that part right?”
“Cut it out, Amanda,” Rachel demonstrated how serious she was about her new policy. “I am not a bully. I am your mother. And make no mistake, the level of respect you owe me due to that simple fact alone, is not required to flow both ways.”
“Just let her talk,” Jamie advised Amanda tiredly.
“Thank you,” Rachel returned on track. “When it comes to the three of you, I shouldn’t have to remind – but I will, just in case – When it comes to the three of you, I have held your hands through many a trial and tribulation, not to mention the fall-out from choices you’ve made that I most certainly would not have advised, had anyone bothered to consult me. At the same time, I may have made my share of grievous mistakes with you all – I know what they were, and if I ever forget, you’re always happy to remind me. But those mistakes were never malicious, and they most certainly weren’t intentional. Furthermore, not a single one outweighs the support, love and patience I have showered you with for your entire lives. I don’t deserve the treatment you’ve shown me as of late. Which means enough is enough, the disrespect, the threats and the ultimatums end now.”
“That’s it?” Amanda double-checked. “You called us here today to, in effect, say: However you’re feeling, kids, get over it? And the best reason you can come up with for making us fall in line is: Because I’m your mother and I say so?”
“Sounds an awful lot like: Because I’m your daughter! Because I’m your son!” Matt countered. “Which is the extent of Jamie’s and your position.”
“Whose side are you on?”
“Everybody’s,” Matt clarified. “I’m on our family’s side. Look, you have got to admit that what you and Jamie are asking of Mom…it’ll do more harm than good. Meet her halfway, at least. As long as she admits that she made a mistake supporting Carl in his plan to –
“I’ve admitted no such thing,” Rachel cut him off. “And I’d appreciate you not speaking for me, Matthew. Now or ever.”
Matt blinked at his mother. “You… you don’t believe it was a mistake, your standing by Carl while he set up – “
“You don’t know what Carl and I were up against. None of you know how we agonized over our options. In the end, we had to choose the one that would do the least damage to our children, to your children. And if the three of you would take a moment to climb off your respective, self-righteous high horses, you would see that matters could have been a great deal worse, if Carl hadn’t stepped in when he did. Jamie, do you honestly think Kirkland would have made it out alive and unscathed without Carl’s intervention?”
“I wouldn’t say he made it out unscathed,” the eerie calm of Jamie’s voice proved much more terrifying than any hot-headed explosion. “And, Mom, do you honestly believe that my son would have been in danger to begin with, if it hadn’t been for your husband?”
“Kirkland wasn’t kidnapped because he was your son. He was kidnapped and used as a bargaining chip because he is Spencer Harrison’s grandson.”
“Spencer Harrison. Who Carl made it clear was responsible for exposing the compound.”
“He was! You know he was! That file! Damn it, Jamie, that file would have never even come into play if Spencer hadn’t tried blackmailing you over Kirkland’s custody. Have you forgotten that? Have you all forgotten how this began?”
“It began with Jenna,” Matt said quietly. “And Donna being so afraid of Carl that she gave away her own child – “
“You know it wasn’t that simple, Matt. You know Donna had other reasons – “
“She was so terrified of Carl, that she had to take drastic measures. All of which she learned at the foot of the master.”
“This is irrelevant!” Rachel snapped. “We aren’t here because of what may or may not have happened between Carl and Donna during their marriage. We are here because you three have decided to play judge and jury, and decree that the steps my husband took to protect all of us don’t meet some high-bar of standards you’ve all recently acquired. I have no interest in debating this with you further. All you need to know is that I believe in Carl and his judgment. Unlike you, I respect him. If Carl says the course of action he pursued was the only one available to him, then he made the right call.”
“Told you he had her brainwashed,” Amanda stage-whispered.
“I said enough!” Rachel roared. “How dare you speak to me like this? How dare you fail to give me any credit for knowing my own mind, or for being able to deal with my own husband as I see fit. My marriage is none of your business, or your concern.”
“Why are we here, Mom?” Jamie suddenly spoke from the couch, apparently done with observing the show and ready for them all to get to the point.
“So that she can scold us and tell us how unacceptably we’ve been behaving,” Matt suggested.
“So that I can remind you that I am your mother, and that I love you. But, also that I will not allow you to use that love to manipulate me. I am not someone for you three to teach a lesson to or to ‘save.’ From myself or from anyone else. You are here so that I can tell you that I – “
“Have chosen Carl over us,” Jamie finished woodenly, as if he had known all along, Matt and Amanda looking from Jamie back to Rachel, waiting for confirmation or denial.
“Yes,” Rachel nodded. “In answer to your unfair ultimatum, I have chosen Carl. Which means the next move is yours.”
POLL: How should Rachel’s
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