"Is it true," Kirkland wanted to know. "That sometimes people in a coma can hear what's going on around them?"
"It's a theory," Jamie admitted. "A little hard to prove one way or the other."
"Do you think Lorna can hear us now?"
"I don't know. Maybe. I hope so."
"Well, just in case," Kirkland reached into his backpack. "I brought The Great Gatsby. Lorna told me she never read it, but always wanted to. I have to write a paper on it for school. I figured I could read it out loud to her while you're in court today."
"Kirk..." Jamie began, only to be cut off by his no-nonsense son.
"Grandma can't come until later, and you don't want Lorna to be alone." Kirkland held up a hand to halt Jamie's inevitable protest. "I talked to Dr. Matthews and he promised to stop by as often as he could, and so did Dr. Frame Dr. Harrison Alice. She told me to call her Alice. Is that okay?"
"It's fine, but "
"So, Dr. Matthews and Alice will both check in on her regularly, and I'll be here the rest of the time. I've got this plan. I'll read to a real exciting part, then stop. Maybe she'll want to know what happens next so much, she'll wake up."
Jamie smiled weakly. "It's not the worst premise I ever heard. Still, I don't want you to get your hopes up. I'm not sure it'll do Lorna any good."
"Well, it won't do her any harm, will it? Me reading to her?"
"No," Jamie admitted. "It won't. But, you have school."
"First period independent study," Kirkland shot back. "I'd just be in the library, doing the same thing, anyway. I'd rather be helping you."
"You always help me, Kirk. You help me just by being yourself."
"Yeah, well, I figure I've been coasting on that bit way too long. Time to knock it up a notch. You know, actually do something useful." Kirkland used his book to usher Jamie towards the door. "Go on, Dad. Go. The sooner you get this mess with Dr. Winthrop settled, the sooner you can come back and take care of Lorna yourself. I'm sure she'd rather hear your voice than mine, any day of the week."
Jamie was about to do exactly that, when he paused at the door. "Listen, pal, if you have any questions about what's going on with me going to court..."
"Chill, Dad. Did you forget whose kid I am? I know that in Bay City, who you're married to, who you have babies with, and who you really love are hardly ever, ever the same person."
"I can't believe I'm hiding out from paparazzi in a storage closet at the mall with Dean Frame." GQ shook his head with a weary, if awed, sigh. "I mean, I've got some of your CDs at home."
"Really?" Dean marveled. "You don't seem like the type who'd... Oh!" he snapped his fingers. "Got it. Girls."
GQ grinned, only a little embarrassed. "What can I say, you've got a sound the ladies really love." He took a peek around the corner and double-checked, "You sure those photographers weren't after you? That would make a hell of a lot more sense."
"Nah. You're the man. You're news. I saw you on TV, the face of Grant Harrison's Fathers' Rights Task Force. Also, I already knew who you were from my Aunt Sharlene."
"And you still helped me get away from the press? I don't know what I'd have done without you. Probably just kept right on standing there, like a deer in headlights."
"Nobody deserves to be ambushed. Especially not when they're just minding their own business, trying to do some shopping for one apparently very lucky kid," Dean took in the bags GQ was holding. "And as far as my Aunt Sharlene goes, I wouldn't wish what she went through with Gregory on anyone. But, you were just trying to help him. That took guts. Cowards like me, we admire gutsy people."
"Hey, you just stared down the Fourth Estate for a guy you don't even know. That's pretty gutsy in my book."
"Oh, yeah, running away from a handful of photographers doing their jobs, that's Medal of Honor material. Trust me, running away is pretty much what I do best."
"I'm sorry... I don't follow."
Dean sighed. "You know how you're still fighting for custody of your kid even though everyone is pretty much telling you to give it up?"
"You really did watch my press conference with Grant."
"I kind of had a vested interested. I I've got some custody stuff going on myself, with my daughter. See, my wife, Jenna, she died."
"Aw, hell, I'm sorry."
"Me, too. Only I was so sorry for myself, mostly that I took off. My little girl was still in the hospital, they didn't even know if she'd live yet, she was so small and so sick, and I just... bailed. I left town, and I left Lori Ann. Christ, I didn't even stop by the NICU to see her first. I just signed some papers, told this lawyer, Kevin Fowler "
"I know Kevin Fowler," GQ groaned. "Way too well."
"Yeah, I guess he is the adoption go-to guy around here. I told him to make sure she was taken care of, and then I split. That was over a year ago. I only got back into town this past fall. I was kind of forced into it, if you want to know the truth. Meantime, Lori Ann has a new family. Two parents, a big sister... I was just going to visit her, at first. Well, I kind of got forced into that, too. But, then, I decided I wanted to be her dad. Not just on weekends and stuff, but full-time."
"Bet her adoptive parents were real thrilled to hear that," GQ scoffed.
"They were... okay. Not ecstatic, but, they agreed it would be best for Lori Ann. Also my mother-in-law and my sister-in-law, they're all for it, too."
"You're kidding." GQ shook his head, like he might be hearing things. "You don't need to go to family court? No social worker interviews? Home visits? No having to prove that you're up for it? I You're single, right?"
"Oh, yeah. Ever since Jenna... Yeah."
"And you've never raised a kid before?"
"Never even so much as changed a diaper. Guess I've got a lot to learn."
"Yeah," GQ agreed distantly. "Guess I do, too...."
"What kind of man are you?" Lucas demanded after managing to grab Morgan prior to their entering the courtroom, dragging him into an empty side-office and slamming him against the wall for good measure. "Lying through your teeth to get your way? Knowing people will suffer for it and not giving a damn?"
"I'm trying to save Lorna's life," Morgan bristled defensively, not so much pushing the older man away from him as jerking out of his grasp. "Besides, who says I'm lying?"
"I do. I know you're not the father of Lorna's baby. And you know it, too."
"I'm Lorna's husband."
"Only because of some self-pitying pact you two made during a medical convention in Vegas when you were both feeling lonely and battle-weary from your latest failed relationships. Yeah," Lucas glared at Morgan's shocked expression. "I know exactly what kind of marriage you had. I also know that, for a woman who supposedly doesn't want kids, the two of you did your damndest to have one of your own for a while there."
"How could you "
"Know? She told me, you jackass! She's my daughter; we talk. Did you think you were the only one she confided in?"
"Okay," Morgan nodded in concession. "So she's told you some things."
"She told me everything. How much she loves Jamie. How she wants to spend the rest of her life with him. My kid doesn't lie to me. How about you try doing the same and drop this before you do something you'll really regret?"
"You don't think it's killing me to do this? But, it's got to be done. If we want to save Lorna's life, give her the best chance to come back without any permanent damage... I'm sorry, Lucas. I am. But not as sorry as we'd all be if we caved into Jamie's hysteria."
"And you're the calm one, huh? The cool, collected, impartial M.D.? Your head isn't messed up? Your heart isn't influencing your actions? I heard you in there, Morgan. You love her. I'm glad about that. Really, I am. Given what she's been through in her life, the more people who love my daughter, the better. As friends. But, she's not in love with you. You are not the man she wants to build a life and a family with."
"So? What? You think I'm jealous? You think I'm just saying to hell with Lorna's kid because it's Jamie's?"
"The man who truly loved my daughter would fight for her and her child, no matter what. Jamie is the one who's been wronged here, by both you and Lorna. And still, he is in that courtroom, day after day, protecting Lorna's baby, no matter who its father may turn out to be. Do you really think that I want my daughter, when she finally opens her eyes, to face a world of pain, all of it perpetrated by the people who claim to love her the most?"
"Even if it saves her life? Come on, Lucas, you're no stranger to lies, deceits, or omissions to get what you want. If Felicia agrees with me "
"Felicia hasn't been right since Jenna died. She's vulnerable and scared out of her mind at the thought of losing another child, and you're taking full advantage of that fear; full advantage of her backing, to make yourself feel justified in what you're doing. You're a coward, Winthrop. Just like your brother. What do you think will happen when Lorna wakes up and wants to know what happened to her baby? Will you look her in the eye and tell her what you did, or lie and betray her trust even more?"
"You've got it backwards. If the most important thing to me here was how Lorna will feel about me once she recovers, then, Lucas, then you could accuse me of acting selfishly. I'm thinking about her. I will tell her the truth, and I know she'll understand."
"By working that Winthrop charm that your brother uses to keep my wife spellbound? What arrogance. Or extreme denial."
"It doesn't matter. As long as Lorna's alive."
"Bull. You need her, remember? But, no matter what you claim, you've got to know if you cost Lorna her baby, you'll be out of her life for good. No appeals, no explanations. You'll be dead to her. You, her best friend, will have taken away the family she's been aching for as long as she can remember. Because you weren't strong enough to be the man she needed you to be."
"I know," Morgan conceded in a quiet voice. "Same as I know that I'll regret hurting her like this for the rest of my life. But, not as much as I would regret standing by, watching her die, knowing that it was in my power to stop it."
"I'd ask what you think you're doing, but, truth is, I don't want to know. I just need you to cut it out," Marley advised Donna as her mother stood in the Love foyer, surrounded by suitcases. Fleetingly, Marley marveled that only someone in her family could attempt suicide, get sent to a mental institution, and return with a brand new wardrobe.
"I'm moving back in," Donna explained helpfully. "And I don't think I'm doing so, I know I am."
"I don't recall inviting you."
"You didn't," Donna agreed. "Victoria did."
"Excuse me?" Marley hissed, having expected pretty much any response short of that one. "Claiming invitations from my dead sister is hardly the ideal means for convincing me of your born-again sanity."
"I know that Victoria is dead," Donna reassured calmly. "What do you take me for?"
"Don't ask questions you don't want to hear the answer to, Donna, I'm begging you."
"Nevertheless, Christmas Eve, I felt her presence. Don't tell me that hasn't happened to you once or twice. Why, we would have never found Michele and Bridget if "
"Okay, fine. I get it. You're not insane "
"Thank you for noticing, my darling. As I was saying, I felt Victoria's presence on Christmas Eve, urging me that it was time to reunite our fractured family."
"Just insanely manipulate," Marley finished her initial thought.
"Whatever do you mean?"
"I mean that if you honestly believe you can use Vicky's memory as a battering ram to get me to let you move back in, then, I take it back, you are nuts, after all."
"Victoria is worried about you."
"You're Public Enemy Number One with Carl Hutchins and Vicky is worried about me?"
"She's afraid that your relationship with Grant "
"Oh, well, Vicky would certainly be an unbiased source on that subject. If she weren't, you know, still dead."
" Is having an effect that even you hardly have the stomach to defend anymore."
"What?" Marley snapped, the breath momentarily knocked out of her lungs.
Seeing that she'd hit a nerve and not wanting to give everything that she knew away at once, Donna carefully ventured, "Something has changed about you, Marley."
"This is according to Vicky, again?"
"It's obvious to anyone."
"Well, thank you, at least, for dropping the pretense. I especially enjoyed the detail about her coming to you on Christmas Eve. Very Dickens. I feel there's a Marley's Ghost joke in there somewhere."
"Are you saying that you haven't felt yourself becoming a different person?"
"We all have to grow up sometimes, Donna. Well, all of us except you, of course."
"You're right," Donna said, much to Marley's shock. "Your father was always calling me out on that. It drove him mad how I never seemed to learn from my experiences, how I kept making the same mistakes over and over again. Matthew was how many years younger than I? And he was still the adult in our relationship."
"So now you'd like me to follow in your footsteps? Stay the same? Never change? Forget Dickens, this is Tennessee Williams territory."
"There are changes for the better, Marley, and then there are change for the worse."
"So, in your mind, my finally learning to stand up for myself, finally taking a break from being scared of my own shadow, not to mention always living my life in someone else's yours, Vicky's, then as good, old, dependable Aunt Marley has been for the worse?"
"You've become... hard. No matter what happened, even the last time you were... sick, there was always a sweetness about you. An innocence. A vulnerability."
"That you certainly never exploited for your own means."
"I did. And I'm sorry for it. But, my past behavior is certainly no present day license for Grant Harrison to do the exact same thing."
"Whatever happened to," Marley affected her mothers trilling coo, "Grant is protective, considerate, respectful, doting..."
"I remember what I said the night of the election. If I had but known it would upset you so much "
"Who said it upset me?"
"I I can clearly see it's upsetting you now," Donna gulped at how close she'd come to saying too much. "The fact is, when I said all those things to you regarding Grant, it was before "
"Before what, Donna?"
She tried a different tack, pleading, "Please tell me what's wrong, darling. I can help you. I want to help you. If Grant is manipulating you into some "
"Grant isn't standing in my foyer, claiming Vicky sent him a message from the grave."
"Tell me, and I can't fix it. If you've gotten yourself into a situation that you don't know how to get free of, trust me, I'll figure out a way. Just level with me, Marley."
"So, let me get this straight: Vicky is worried about Grant and I, so you've come to save me from him. Did I get the gist?"
"I want us to be close again. You're the only daughter I have left."
"And whose fault is that?"
"I'm home for good now," Donna said calmly, hoping to defuse the situation and get back to her original point. "I'm not going anywhere. I am not abandoning you ever again."
"Ha!" was Marley sole response, arms crossed.
"I know I have a great deal of work ahead of me when it comes to regaining your trust. But, I hope you'll give me a chance. I hope you'll give us a chance."
"Fine," Marley said, offering Donna a sliver of hope before promptly dashing it. "Go ahead, move in, knock yourself out. Just don't expect me to welcome you back with open arms."
"I'd settle for a smile," Donna suggested optimistically, offering one of her own.
Marley deliberately kept her face expressionless as she turned and walked up the stairs.
"When did you learn of your daughter's marriage, Ms. Gallant?" Stacey addressed Felicia formally on the stand. She was, after all, also calling her own brother Dr. Winthrop.
"After Lorna's accident. Morgan told us. He told all of us."
"And what was your reaction to the news?"
"I was shocked, of course. On top of everything else that had happened... But, at the same time, it made perfect sense."
"Lorna and Morgan had a great deal of unfinished business. I'd always felt that way. I suspect they did, too. They came so close years ago, it was a shame things didn't work out. Then. I guess they both needed to grow up a bit more, to really appreciate the other. Also, it helped clarify a few things."
"What sorts of things, Ms. Gallant?"
"My daughter and I had been very close. Except, for the past few years. She suddenly withdrew, became distant. I couldn't understand it. It made no sense. Now, I see. She and Morgan were reluctant to let anyone know about their marriage."
"Any idea why that might be?"
"I have a tendency," Felicia smiled apologetically first at Morgan, then the judge. "To be a bit... overzealous when it comes to things like love. I am a romance novelist, after all. Lorna and Morgan knew if I found out my daughter had married the brother of my best friend in the entire world, well, I'd be beside myself. I would inevitably though with the best of intentions, I assure you impose myself on the couple, perhaps even become somewhat... overbearing. I know this, and yet, I just can't help myself! Understandably, Lorna and Morgan know this, too."
"So, you do sympathize with why they might have wanted to keep their relationship a secret?"
"I do. I'm afraid it was utterly my fault. They were, justifiably, sparing themselves a very enthusiastic, meddlesome mother-in-law."
"In other words, you have no doubts about the validity of your daughter's marriage?"
"None at all. This whole... arrangement is very Lorna."
"What about the relationship with Dr. Frame? Did that come as a surprise to you, in light of her being married to Dr. Winthrop?"
Felicia paused, then slowly shook her head. "I'm sorry to say, that's very Lorna, too."
"Could you elaborate, Ms. Gallant?"
"My daughter is a beautiful, intelligent, sophisticated, passionate young woman. Who has never really believed she deserves to be loved, especially by a decent, good man. As a result, she has a tendency to be her own worst enemy. She sabotages her happiness at every turn. She did it the first time around with Morgan. Dismissing someone who truly cared for her to pursue a destructive, masochistic relationship with a married politician who treated her abominably."
Kevin leaned over to ask Jamie, "Grant, I presume?"
"Who else?" he sighed.
Stacey prompted, "So the fact that Lorna was living with Dr. Frame "
"In no way suggests that she wasn't committed to Morgan," Felicia agreed. "If anything, it proves the opposite. Lorna only acts out when she senses that the man she's with is the real thing. Cheating on Morgan was practically the same as her admitting that she knew they were headed for the long haul."
"Say what?" Jamie huffed to Kevin. "Is she serious about this?"
"Ms. Gallant," Stacey broached tactfully. "Because Lorna isn't capable of speaking for herself at the moment, the court is obliged to make a very, very difficult decision on her behalf. Lorna's life might well hinge on whether we follow her doctor's recommendation and abort the baby she's carrying. Bearing in mind that this is not a responsibility taken lightly by anyone in this room, as her mother, what do you believe your daughter would want done under the circumstances?"
Felicia hesitated, her confidence obviously wavering as she first made eye-contact with Lucas, then deliberately glanced away, continuing to avoid Jamie in the same manner she'd been doing all along, focusing on Morgan and Morgan alone. He leaned forward in his chair, nodding ever so slightly, bucking her up and pleading at the same time.
"What Morgan said yesterday was absolutely true. For better or worse, Lorna has always been about Lorna, first and foremost. Due to some horrible crimes perpetuated against both her and me, she was forced to start taking care of herself at a tragically young age. Those who know Lorna, know she'd do anything she had to, to persevere. This isn't a theoretical. She's demonstrated as much time and time again. I have no doubt now that Lorna wants to live. And that she'd do anything necessary to assure her survival."
"Your witness, Mr. Fowler," Stacey said.
Kevin got up, unsmiling this time, the swagger he'd used to piss off Morgan earlier now completely absent. If anything, he seemed downright deferential.
"Ms. Gallant," Kevin appeared sorry yet nonetheless obliged to even be asking her such a question. "You faced a very similar dilemma with your other daughter, not even two years ago, am I correct about that?"
"You know you are," Felicia seethed, not caring how she came off. "You were there. Chasing ambulances, same as now."
"In that case, your daughter, Jenna, chose to deliver her baby, and died subsequently as a result."
"On Dr. Frame's advice," Felicia couldn't help pointing out.
"Your granddaughter, however, did pull through?"
"And how's she doing these days?"
"Wonderfully," Felicia beamed. "To look at her, you wouldn't even guess what a rough start she'd had, how horribly sick she was."
"That's good to hear," Kevin nodded thoughtfully. Then, as if the notion had just come to him, rather than being the premeditated centerpiece of his entire cross-examination, mused, "Ms. Gallant, knowing what you do now, would you trade the life of your granddaughter, if that meant you could have your daughter back again?"
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